Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Surviving the countdown to PSLE Part 2

So with all the extensive preparation the kids are already receiving for PSLE, what more can parents do? I thought I'd share what I've been doing for Lesley-Anne's PSLE preparation:

Nothing. Zip.

Sorry for the anti-climax. Let me explain: since she was already getting so much work from school, I haven't assigned her any additional work from Term 3 onwards. After her prelims ended on 28 August, I told her to drop everything and play for the next two weeks, till the end of the one-week holidays. But as it turned out, the school still scheduled supplementary lessons on three days of the holidays and dished out more homework @*%&$@&*!! So anyway, apart from that, Lesley-Anne spent the bulk of last week playing computer games, reading her favourite books and watching tv. Am I the best mum ever or what!

I can imagine what some parents are thinking: "Of course lah! She got DSA already, can relax what!" I admit getting DSA does take away some of the pressure but here's the thing: I'm not one of those cool as a cucumber mums (like some who have commented that they're taking it easy for PSLE - kudos to you, you're part of a small minority and I'm glad this blog attracts so many of these mums!)

But for me, I still get kancheong, I still want Lesley-Anne to do well for PSLE and she feels the same. Of course I can't speak for all kids who have gotten DSA but I suspect many of them share this feeling. You may think these kids will now bochap and stop bothering about PSLE but going by Lesley-Anne's classmates, this is not so. It's a matter of personal pride. Not to the extent of being ugly competitive, but just to do well. Nobody wants to be the one who got into a good school DESPITE a poor t-score.

For example, Lesley-Anne sat for the final Social Studies exam in end August. Passing the paper is one of the pre-requisites of keeping the GEP status but the grade is of no consequence. Before the exam, she was poring over the her Social Studies notes and files. Concerned that she was working too hard, I told her, "aiyah, Social Studies pass can already, right! No need to study so hard." Her reply was "Yah but want to do well, otherwise your results so koyak and your friends all do well, so embarrassing!"

Peer pressure. Amazing what it can do.

Anyway, getting to the point, what I'm trying to say is that my asking Lesley-Anne to take a two-week break from studying is not a yaya papaya attempt to act cool because her t-score doesn't matter anymore. (Yes, I'm aware there are many such annoying parents out there. My eyes are rolling as I speak.) Believe it or not, it's actually my strategy for her to do well.

I've used the analogy of the marathon and the sprint before. Right now, the kids can see the finish line. But it's still somewhere in the distance. If they have been accelerating since the start of Term 3 (or some even more kiasu ones, the start of this year) without halting, there's a chance they're going to peter out just before the PSLE, which is the worst possible time. Common sense tells me it's difficult to maintain such a feverish study pace for four months straight. Already towards the prelims in end August, I could see that Lesley-Anne was appearing mentally saturated and exhausted.

It's just not sustainable. There's such a thing as over-preparation. In fact, Lesley-Anne said that her science teacher was musing over some of the class's test papers, "Why is it that the more you do, the more mistakes you make?" To me, it's a simple case of burnout.

Rest and play are not time wasted nor opportunity lost. They are legitimate parts of optimal performance strategy. Just ask any sportsperson. I think Lilian had the right idea - she took Brian for a short vacation during the holidays. Hopefully, the time-out will let the batteries recharge before the final surge, peaking at just the right moment. I think four weeks is enough time to regain momentum.

If you have a p6 kid, I realise that this advice might come too late! Not to worry, just make sure your kid has enough scheduled rests and breaks during these four weeks, sports is great too for letting out steam. Of course you'll need to adjust according to your child's temperament.

So that's my layman opinion on how best to gear your kid up for the PSLE. I'm no child psychologist so if you follow my advice and your child doesn't do well, don't blame me! But I believe it's a kinder, more humane approach and I'm sure your child will be grateful for it.


Lilian said...

Great advice as always!

Like you, I'm not sure if I'll be as cool without DSA but I think the approach would have still been the same. I needed the vacation break more than Brian did!

Sometimes, when I feel gancheong-ness creeping up, I have to tell myself out loud, Stop it! He's already gotten his school, relax! Getting a good score is now really for ego's sake.

Frankly, how he did at prelims is probably the best he would be able to do, no amount of extra drilling at this stage would boost his scores significantly. I think no matter how hard he worked after prelims, the difference would have been a mere few points on the T-score, and a lot still depends on his performance on the day of the real exams, some days you clinch it, some days you don't, so the scores would go either way, maybe +/- 5 points?

That being the case, there is little point in setting a punishing schedule now. Unlike L-A, who's self-motivated, Brian needs nudging before he moves (away from the computer), and I'll probably have to start rev-ing up the gear a week plus before PSLE starts. For now, he gets to hunt as many mice as he has time for (after finishing school work of course!).

breve1970 said...

Guess what, Mon? I think its a great strategy to avoid a burnout. I will make sure that I remember this when its time for Hannah to take her PSLE.

breve1970 said...

Oh Congrats, Lilian. Didn't know Brian got through DSA as well... So happy for you.

Anonymous said...

Just to share a story of a true-story burnout told to me by a friend. A brilliant boy in Math came home one day with shocking results of his Math paper. He got zero. His parents could not believe and neither could he and they requested to see the examination papers. Upon checking, there was only his name written all over the paper and yet he could not remember. Then he went to seek help. This was sad because he did not even remember what he did in his paper.


monlim said...

Lilian: Mouse Hunt is a terrific distraction to take minds off exams. And not just for the kids!! LOL

Ann: When it's your turn, we'll all rally behind you and remind you ok? I'm sure you'll do just fine - Hannah is so mature and sensible.

QX: that's a scary story. I've heard similar stories too where the kids who were previously so brilliant end up as psych cases. It's sad that it has to come to that stage before some parents will come to their senses and see what they're doing to their kids. Let's not ever get there!

Lilian said...

Thanks Ann :) We are incredibly relieved...and of course most thankful for the blessing!

Mon: Brian's school had someone come in to talk about stress this week. Thing is sources of stress may not come just from parents. Some kids place very high expectations of themselves...then there's also stress from peers...and a few more, I can't remember. And of course, the society we live in. In Moscow, the general attitude amongst Brian's friends about exam results is "Who cares?" LOL! Really jialat...but stress-free!

Anonymous said...

Hi Monlim,
Slightly off topic, how do you think of the 2009 Prelim top papers for the 7 schools (the current package available in the open market)? Especially the 2009 Prelim Maths papers from Nanyang and I also wonder why there are no Prelim papers from St. Hilda Primary in the open market? Have you tried the 2009 Nanyang Prelim Maths paper? Care to share your thoughts and wish your daughter all the best in her PSLE LC which is tomorrow.


monlim said...

Anon: I haven't looked at any test papers, basically I've been quite hands-off this year. I also don't buy other school's test papers. Not sure if L-A would have done the 2009 prelim papers in school but in general, I know that the Nanyang maths paper is one of the toughest. I've no idea why St Hilda's papers are not in the market! I guess it depends on whether the sellers have "kakis" in the schools who can get hold of the papers :P

breve1970 said...

Yes Mon and Lilian, please please remind me when my time comes!

Anonymous said...

Don't fret and don't forget to let her run and play. Really helps!

Karmeleon said...

This is our 2nd run with PSLE, but each child is so different. This 2nd time, and in a different school, the preparation is so much more intense and has been almost throughout this year. How can I even add more to his load? Impossible. I can only try my best to make sure his schedule is properly arranged with enough time for rest/play/study. 15 more days!

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