Here are series of previously published articles on FAMILYPLACE, might be useful to some. FamilyPlace is the predecessor of Learning Beyond Schooling when our children were very young and reflected our thoughts as young(er parents).
At an age where three-year-old kids ought to be exploring their world (both imaginative and otherwise) with all their bodily senses, most kids are being robbed of their childhood by being put into this or that highly structured “learning” programs that promise to accelerate their learning or enhance their thinking skills. Early childhood programs are growing and prospering all over the world as more and more young parents subscribe to the belief that “the earlier the better” in the realm of structured learning. But we need to ask ourselves: Is it too early for so much structure in the young child’s life? Are we programming them too early for the eventual rat race that starts from school right to working life? Do we want to program a highly efficient “rat” or do we want to be pleasantly surprised by our child with what he or she is going to turn out to be?
During my school days, the preferred jobs for girls were teachers, nurses or air stewardesses! Now, when my mom tried to advice my daughters on the noble vocations that they could choose to do, their response was the typical youngsters’ response: “BORING!” That did not go down too well with their grandmother as she turned to me and started her lectures on me instead!
As parents, we should leave our kids’ career choices open so that they can incorporate their various interests and passions into them. Our kids have the ability to surprise us with their hidden or inherent talents if we give them the space to grow and to discover themselves. Amongst my daughters’ talents are in the areas of music and singing, dancing and drawing and swimming and running. They want to be pop stars, ballerina, artists and designers, writers and illustrators … the list goes on! And they do not want to wait until they are adults to do all those stuffs! And we should be supportive of them and their choices as long as they are not harmful or unlawful.
So, back to my little boy! He is a happy-go-lucky chap who likes to climb up anything he can get his hands on, like my doors and windows! I let him hone his climbing skills as long as it is not dangerous. He also likes to run, jump and crawl on his fours like any typical boy his age would do. On the whole, he is quite athletic and we will probably let him develop his athletic skills further as he grows older. He does not display any special fondness for writing or drawing with a pencil although he likes painting with a paintbrush – a messier alternative but artistic nevertheless! And he enjoys being read to but has not displayed any special reading skills at this point in time. It is okay. Just let him be. I have adopted a rather philosophical approach to reading and writing. Some have it in them and some don’t. Not everyone is going to be great readers or writers but all kids should benefit from being read to because it is fun, it expands their imagination and it helps in the bonding of the parent and child. Anything more than that would be a bonus! So, no, I shall not be enrolling him on any special reading programs, thank you!
He is now playing and laughing in the garden with his older sister. I can also hear him calling his best friend, Suria, who lives opposite us, to come and play. This is what play is all about – unplanned, untimed, unrestricted! It is so natural and fun for the kids. We adults do not need to plan everything for them. Just give them a bucket of water and some containers and they would know what to do! Let them get a little dirty and wet and clean them up afterwards. At least, they would have experienced what water or sand feels like and how they can be altered in shapes and sizes. Another neighbor keeps the children indoors all the time to prevent them from getting dirty and messy. But they look so pale and delicate! And they are missing out on all the fun of playing outdoors on a beautiful breezy morning! Everyday they are chauffer-driven to a kindergarten to play and learn in a clean and protected environment and goes back to a clean and protected home. But they never get to play outside or to get dirty for a change! This kind of over-sanitized environment can be rather restricting and children who grow up this way may be missing out on opportunities to explore and experiment with the real world out there. It just feels too unreal to be real sometimes!
So, let kids get a little messy sometimes, so that they may experience hands-on, what it feels like having paints on the hands, or mud on the body or water in the hair. Let kids be kids so that they may grow up happy and fulfilled inside and outside. The world would be a happier place if kids are allowed to be kids and not be rushed into doing adult things too early in life. Let them learn happily, naturally and unhurriedly! That is the best thing any parent can do for their kids!
The problem is, once a kid reaches school-going age, tuition, homework and exams take over the child’s life, and fun and play gradually take a backseat. Parents need to understand that this need not be so. We do not need to push our kids into little Einsteins. We should just let them be kids and have a good childhood. This would impact their future greater than any amount of tuition we send them to. When your child grows up later, he or she is going to thank you for giving them a good childhood to remember by, but not the tuition classes they had to attend!
Chong Wai Leng