Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Student + dying = studying

When it comes to study methods, my kids are as different as night and day (ok, who am I kidding, my kids are different, full stop.)

Lesley-Anne is methodical and focused. She makes her own notes using multi-coloured pens and highlighters, and annotates her texts almost religiously. If there's something she finds difficult to remember, she tries different ways to jolt her memory, like redoing notes in other formats or organising them in little post-its which she sticks on her wardrobe. During exam periods, she holes herself in her room and emerges only for toilet and food breaks.

Andre, on the other hand, will simply stare at his books with a pained expression worthy of a Brazilian today after the World Cup semi-final match. When I catch him goofing off, he'll reluctantly read and re-read his textbooks. I tell him that reading the textbook is a very ineffective way of studying and force him to make notes, which he obediently does. Unfortunately, he copies down stuff in a notebook but without any form of processing so that when I do a random spot check and shoot him a question about something he'd just written half an hour ago, I'm usually rewarded with a blank look.

During exam periods, I suddenly behave like I have a multiple personality disorder. You'll hear me calling out to one kid: "Why don't you take a break? Like, really, take a break!" while screeching at the other: "Go study now! Enough with the breaks!"

Andre was supposed to study 50 成语 (idioms) during the school holidays. During the last week of the holidays, I asked, "Have you studied them?"

Andre: "They're very hard!"

Me: "I didn't ask you whether they were hard! I asked whether you studied!"

Andre: "But they're really very haaaaaaarrd! Even my friend who's very good in Chinese says they're IMPOSSIBLE." (Translation: he didn't do squat).


Two days before school reopened...

Me: "So do you know your 50 成语?"

Andre: "I think not bad. I roughly know 32."

I didn't dare ask what "roughly" meant.

Meanwhile, I asked Lesley-Anne whether she'd finished studying for her block tests, which were sadistically scheduled right after the June holidays.

"Well, more or less but you can never really finish studying for GP." And she scooted back to her room to do more revision.

How on earth did I spawn these two kids? I bet God is laughing at me right now.

These anecdotes make for a funny story but as parents, there's the underlying concern that our kids are not motivated to do well in school. I can keep nagging at Andre to study harder but my personal belief is that by the time our kids hit secondary school, they're too old to be hand-held and constantly told what to do. The motivation to study needs to come from within. They need to take ownership of their actions and understand the consequences, because at the end of the day, it's their life.

For my kids, I feel it all boils down to the fact that Lesley-Anne sees meaning in what she's studying whereas Andre doesn't. Over the past six months or so, Kenneth and I have had chats with Andre about his future and what he wants to do in life. He's told us in no uncertain terms that he's tired of all this mindless studying for subjects which he feels has no bearing on his future.

I've always believed that as parents, our role is to help our kids identify their dreams and goals in life, then provide the guidance and support to help them achieve these goals. The thing about kids is that they often don't know what opportunities are out there so their mindsets are pretty limited. So for Andre, what we did was to consider his personality, his abilities and interests, and show him what the possible options are. We showed him websites, let him talk to various people and the upshot of it is that he's now very keen on going into a particular industry.

I won't disclose what it is yet as it's still early days and things can easily change but for now, Andre's eyes light up whenever people talk about working in the industry. Even though it's a long way for him before deciding on a career path, having a goal such as this is good for kids like Andre who find school dull, because it gives them purpose. It also gives them direction which has immediate value for charting the education journey (eg. what subjects or courses to take). Andre now knows for each next leg of his schooling path, what he needs to achieve, which is more tangible than just "study hard and get good grades".

Little steps but hopefully in time, we'll get there.


k said...

Second time posting here. You might not remember my first. Again, I want to say how similar your kids are to mine. So it is very reassuring to read your posts on their polar opposite characters. My daughter is very much like Leslie and my son is just like Andre! Haha.

I just had my BP shoot up during dinner time just now because the son just plain refused to do his work and learn his 听写。 He kept getting distracted by everything and assured me he knew the words already. Of course when I tested him, he couldn't write anything at all. "It's all inside my head. I know." was all he said. Argh.

My girl, during the time where the boy 'learnt' his 3 词s for 听写, had already done her worksheet, learnt her spelling and practised piano, all without prompting.

I am also trying to motivate him by using his passion, which is well, food. He dreams of being a chef. Nothing to do much with academics haha. When he is older, he is free to pursue non-academic interests, provided he is not deluded about his capabilities. But right now, he just has to learn perseverance and focus, whether he likes what he is doing or not.

monlim said...

k: Wanting to be a chef is a fantastic goal! A friend's daughter has similar interests and she's looking to join a culinary programme at a poly before going to uni. I think there are more diverse pathways these days and I'm not just saying it, but I sincerely believe that having a goal in mind is better than simply plodding along in studies without any idea where one's passion lies.

Having a goal means you can help your son chart his course, which in the meantime means getting good enough grades in school, of course, to get to where he wants to eventually.

I believe it'll all work out eventually :)

k said...

Monica: Yes. I like his aspiration to be a chef too. Been cooking with him and just bought him a real chef set for kids for his 6th birthday. And he had a couple of rounds with it. He loves it.

Being a chef has been his goal for almost 2 years now and he hasn't wavered. But then, he is only K2. Haha. I am salivating thinking of all the good food he can whip up for me next time.

monlim said...

Haha, k2 only - a really long way to go! But if the goal sticks, it's a great one. And lots of side benefits for the parents :D

Rachel Tan said...

I'm sorta, ambivalent on this post though I love the writing, as always.

It is often said that a parent's role is to help a child discover his interests and inclinations, and to support the child's development and pursuits in these areas.

Oh dear. I'm one of those aimless people in life. I do think many children (and possibly adults), so not have areas of especial talents, or perhaps, even strong interests and passions. Even if I were to relive my childhood again, I wouldn't be able to identify the career path I would want to pursue. Neither am I exceptionally talented in anything. (Admittedly, a pretty ordinary folk who studied fairly hard.) I have a broad range of interests, and I guess academically, results have always allowed me options to pursue a range of courses.

So I don't quite know how to help my kids. For us, it's been about keeping our kids grounded, teaching them the values of contentment and hard work, explaining (and hopefully living it out to them) that man proposes, God disposes. Of course I wish my kids would know better what they want to work towards, that would make things easier for us!

It's perhaps Asian thinking to hope that each generation will surpass and outdo the previous. We haven't passed that pressure on to our kids yet. However we are cognizant that the standards of living may stagnate for a while now that Singapore is a developed country.

Also, we have a tendency to despair at the child who isn't performing as well academically, or who isn't as capable, and to marvel at the achievements at the brighter one. (Well, I don't have twins!) I'm sure I am guilty of it myself. But sometimes, it isn't entirely due to capabilities - one child might just have had a more nuturing educational experience, better opportunities for leadership and contributions, perhaps even positive peer influcence, which in turns helps to motivate the child. I guess it's for us as family to encourage and make it up to the other lagging child, never to compare and judge, and to help the child remain mentally and spiritually strong.

monlim said...

Rachel: Don't be mistaken, I'm not suggesting that every child has to his/her passion this early in life. In fact, I always tell L-A not to limit her options and decide too early cos she doesn't know what's out there. So my advice to her is to study what she enjoys, then explore whatever turns up and experience life before making a decision. It's definitely true that not every child can have a calling that sticks out - their interests and abilities can change anyway.

What I'm saying is that for kids who are less academically inclined and are less motivated in school, it can helps if they identify a field of interest that they would possibly like to pursue a career in cos that would give them a goal to work towards. It's all about giving meaning to their studies. To me, it's more incentive to work hard if you know what you're working for.

But for kids who don't have this problem, by all means, explore and enjoy the educational experience and see what life has to offer!

Rachel Tan said...

Yup - whatever works to tide the child through schooling years meaningfully.

I hope that when the time comes, will be magnaminous enough to allow my kids to study what they enjoy!

Anonymous said...

I really don't know what I want to do in life. I have no interest in any of the subjects at school and cannot study for the life of me! Please help me...

monlim said...

Anon: It's a little difficult to help you when you haven't given any details...

Unknown said...

Very funny!!!

Anonymous said...

Dear Mon,

As a writer and parent and Christian, what are your thots on the recent NLB saga? Tks.

Long time no write, Grace

monlim said...

Grace: Long time no hear! I definitely have strong views on the NLB saga but I thought I'd refrain from commenting as I don't relish contributing to the controversy :P

Anonymous said...

Mon, I did not read the details of post and comments of your post up there but 87 comments is record breaking for the NLB saga.

Anyway, just wanted to say, L-A is so disciplined in the way she studies. Amazing and well done!
It is a blessing to have such kids!


monlim said...

QX: L-A is very disciplined. Sometimes I wonder how she became that way, cos I was sooo lazy at her age, lol!

Vivienne said...

Reading this post remind me of my #1 who is in P4...he was asking me whether those Maths problem which he dislike will it be of use when he is older. He told me he wants to work in gaming industry, crazy about games now though he is allowed ipad or computer hours only during the weekends. Hubby was saying gaming industry is getting bigger now in S'pore. As a parent, it is really tough, at times you want to give them the freedom to choose but yet if your child tells you he wants to learn for example, some skills based courses which we can get in ITE, we will still hesitate. I am not saying skills are not good, in fact they are and is releveant but old thinking die harder as in ITE is not as mainstream as secondary education.

monlim said...

Vivienne: I wouldn't worry about it cos your ds is only in p4. At that age, the industries they know are extremely limited so they only zoom in on what they are familiar with. As he grows older, he'll discover many more areas he's interested in and can work towards :)

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