Monday, November 30, 2009

What's with the brag -fest?

I am often encountered by parents who ask me why my son is not in Kumon or Abacus or some such thing! I want to say "He is in school you know?" and sometimes do try to explain to them why! All parents want the best for their kids. And we know that the first few years of the child's life is when the brain grows the fastest. And this is why some parents think it is absolutely essential to make sure their kid is "2 grades ahead" like a friend said!
I must admit that the thought crossed my head too. My son was 3 and people all around me where teaching their kid new tricks while I was struggling to let my neighbor understand why I did not care if he did not color between the lines! Then it occured to me, that my son would probably be behind in the "rat race" as Sumana put it. Noon also talked about this in her blog post and brought back memories of this time. So I picked up the phone one day and called the Kumon center and almost went to look it up! Meanwhile I spoke to a few people and they told me Kumon was about repetitive learning.. now I have no clue if this is true or not or what they really teach at Kumon. But while I was researching all this, I got thinking. If my son's brain is developing so fast in these years then so is his personality right? Would I rather he be academically strong or be a more rounded individual? I never got around to the Kumon classes.
A friend asked me a year back when she was choosing a school for her kid what I would reccomend? I said "I would look for a place that has the most toys, that gives the kids the freedom to explore and have fun and that is very secure"! "But what about the curriculum" she asked! "Your kid is 3 for heaven's sake, let her learn to love school before worrying about academics and grades" I advised. Well I was probably the only one who told her that, later she said she actually gave it a lot of thought and followed my advice. My son started full time school only this year.. till last year he would go only 3 days a week.
This year he started Kindergarten and I was really finding the homeworks he lugged home rather strange and amusing, but learning to live with it! Till one day he brought back a paper home with a grade on it. It said A+. I smiled and put the paper away, soon this became a routine thing. They had graded tests in school and I was starting to get mildly annoyed. Still I assumed that they probably just gave all the kids an A+. Then one afternoon my son came home very upset and worried. He was worried that he had not drawn a zebra right and would not get an A+ in his paper. I was so incredulous.. what now they are grading zebras? After assuring him I did not care what his grades where as long as he was having fun I had a talk with the teacher. Turns out they never did grade the zebra. After a lot of thought I gave my feedback to the teacher and then the director that they should stop grading these children and guess what they agreed with me! Some kids had got B- and D's and had been so upset over that! Like I said "This is a pressure they can live without.. atleast not at 5!".
So back to the Kumon classes. Recently a friend asked me why I was not sending my son to Kumon and lectured me about how the brain develops at lightning pace these years! I asked her, "So tell me if that is true then by sending him to school and Kumon and focussing so much energy for academics you are letting only one part of that brain develop arent you?" Cheeky is a sports fan and goes to a sport camp once a week. We are waiting for the dawn of the new year to start him on Taekwondo (that earned me a snigger from some parents too.. you want to teach your son to fight?)! And in summer I want him to join a music class and swimming lessons. Maybe some tennis too if he can fit it in.. however, I take the cue from my son and these are all the activities he has chosen for himself! At this age I want him to have maximum exposure to all aspects of personality and physical development. There are somethings you can't leave till too late and personality is one such thing!
Meanwhile I must say that Cheeky does work on some workbooks at home. He is also encouraged to do puzzles and mazes, word search, and word puzzles. He has learnt to handle money and tell time, read fluently and do advanced math problems for his age. However he does all this because he enjoys it and has fun while doing it.. it is not another exercise to do, it is a fun activity to do! We miss our afternoon soujourns to the park (what with more long school hours) but we love to get out on weekends and give our legs a stretch!
This post is to all those parents out there who have to ask "So why is your son not in Kumon?" I am sure they have their reasons too.. and I am sure their kids have enough fun too.. atleast I hope they do! Mine is having a blast! What say?

25 comments:

Galadriel said...

You made the right call! :)

Preethi said...

Galadriel - hehe!! To sum it up.. I am just sheer lazy :P Too serious a post wasnt it!! Sheesh.. am losing my touch!!

sraikh said...

I am going to assume your desi friends are pushing for Kumon. And if not my apologies. My experience has been the same, all the desi moms send their kids to kumon and they have to do homework and I dont. But hey my oldest is TAG(talented and gifted) and your's isnt... i actually said that to one mom and she was pissed at me..:)

I then said I think we do enough learning at home. And then I said I dont have $100 per month to waste on Kumon. If I send one, then the rest would want to go and I dont have $400 lying around...

I hate the Kumon discussions. hate it with a passion.

2 B's mommy said...

Midway through the post, I had to double check if I am at Preethi's blog or landed somewhere else :D

I used to think your way too when my kids were around that age and I still believe that there's no point putting so much pressure at such a young age. But slowly as the kids are growing, I am getting a bit worried about their laid back attitude towards studies..

Preethi said...

Sraikh - Spot on.. it is mostly the asians (desi and otherwise) who just love Kumon!! Most of my other friends either do not think that way, or are easier to convince ;) I seriously have big doubts about Kumon but have reserved judgement.. if it is repetitive learning like they say, can it really be the wise thing to do? Are you motivating intelligence or cramming? But since I really do not know much about Kumon I think I should reserve judgement!
2BM - Lol.. so unlike me right.. I am almost feeling guilty!! As for the laid back attitude.. that was partly my point. If the education system was more interesting wont the kids want to do more.. not accusing you or anything! Just a thought!

Sumana said...

Hmm so there it is Kumon. Sure, here too i have told my daughter to learn karate and she wants to give it a try. My son already talks about basket ball and cricket. I agree a well rounded personality is what is required, not just academics which is why we send them to school for.

Bhanu said...

Loved your blog. Guess we, parents in India have no choice. Here stress is given on academics & noone concentrates on overall personality development.

Sandhya said...

My husband and me were ridiculed at a get together for not knowing about Kumon! WTF, if you like it do it, why judge others??

Pavi!!!! said...

Warning : I have much to say !!

2 weekends back..Sis n I were discussing the same thing. About the kind of things schools teach children and the kind of stuff they lay focus on. Her son turns 4 this Dec.she recently moved from Chennai to Blr and now he is in a temp school.
She is going thru the process of getting him into a full-time school..but that’s another topic for another day.

His school in Blr apparently gives him homework EVERYDAY! Even the diwali wknd..they had sent him homework. It was all numbers n coloring, math probs n stuff. She was so upset by it…n was saying pretty much the same things that u have said. That she wants all-round personality development for her child and how his life is not going to change drastically just b’coz he learns to write the alphabets at 3 instead of 4. She was saying that him singing the Vande-mataram or dancing on stage w/o fear makes her more proud than the 25/25 that he got in his spelling test! Couldn’t agree more!
When he was 2.5 yrs old, they had a performance review for the child n said that he needs to pay more attention in class and complained that they have to force him to write n stuff. My sister was soooo stressed out by it..’coz she cldnt u’stand how or why a 2.5 yr old child was expected to stay put at his desk and enjoy writing for 3 hrs straight.
Fighting the system is soo difficult! Its hard to find a solution for this problem.

Preethi said...

Sumana - Well said
Bhanu - Forget the schools for a minute.. the parents only add to the stress. Outside school the kids can learn something fun right? But I have to agree with one point about Indian education system though, the point Pavi makes - they kill these kids with homework!
Sandhya - :D You did not know about Kumon? How could you!! lol!!
Pavi - It is very sad about some schools in India. At 2.5 yrs my son started school in the US. I would stand and watch for a few minutes every morning.. at circle time when the teacher was trying to say something to the class, my son would sit showing his side or back to the teacher. At nap time he was caught under the table, whispering to his friend. When asked to write at 4, he fibbed that he was not feeling too good and was let go! I have a truant on my hands!! I was amazed at the amount of writing my niece does in India. And she has had written exams since age 3.5, its absolutely ridiculous!

Swapna Raghu Sanand said...

Bulls-eye. In Delhi, the competition is between parents, not the kids, even at kindergarten. It shocks me that parents keep asking why other parents are not opting for a global school and not a local playschool because these questions are actually intrusive and not constructive. Parents know what's best for their kids so why do other parents continuously question it? Leave them alone!

In Delhi and Bangalore, this trend has crippled the kids overall development because they learn to be academic and studious when they are not even three years old! How fair is that?

I liked your advise about opting for a place with toys, the freedom to explore and have fun and security. That is what kids of that age really need. They aren't sitting for IAS or IPS are they? Its parents who really screw up their kids' lives by treating them like prisoners forced to run a rat race. I see so much of it in Delhi that its nauseating how parents actually brag about it!

Grading zebras? How cruel and insensitive can the educational system become!

Your post is amazing. From today, I'm following your blog.

rayshma said...

totally agree with you. it's a pressure they can do without!

noon said...

Hey Preethi - am so sorry for the delayed response. So much happening here during the day that I fell asleep earlier than usual - and it is during nights that I get time to sit and write...tomorrow morning too we have to leave early for the booster round of swine flu shots.
Reg Kumon etc - I guess you know from my post how I am doing this. KB is permanently in fantasy land and comes down to earth just to eat etc. He is always imagining all kinds of stuff. I just let him be. Give him plenty of time to just be. But all the same I feel the peer pressure a lot when it comes to Kumon or how fast he can read on his own etc. I don't dismiss Kumon as wasteful - some parents find it useful and think it helps their children who enjoy meeting their friends at Kumon and winning their little trophies etc while learning Math. Kind of outsource the problem. I just don't want to spend money on simple addition problems. Plus it seems too boring. KB as it is when we sit with pencil and paper says, let's play dominoes and prefers doing it mentally...But my problem is different - I hardly find the time to sit with him w/out being interrupted by KG. I don't know how other parents with kids close in age deal with this. I try hard to give him 15 min of some "work" time a day. Well, we succeed only about 3 or 4 days a week. His school teacher/pediatrician etc have told me he is super bright but when I see other Indian kids who are able to do a lot more academic stuff just from going to five full days in a Montessori and add to it Kumon math and reading classes, I do get worried - what if I am not going the academic way and he is behind in this kind of Desi/Asian competition in public school..they all come to the same home schools anyway. Anyway - finally somehow my style still prevails - I swallow the stress but continue to let him be...take him to the park as often as possible and read to him a lot, order all the books he asks for and let him jump and run and play with his sister...go to fun basket ball classes and such...
I guess if your kid is doing well in school, you don't have to worry...it is if by chance he is behind in the competition that one has to worry - what if I didn't push him enough in the academic route...you know what I mean...my friend's son was not doing well in KG - she finally put him in Kumon reading - she said it actually did help him in gaining confidence in reading...he was a rote learner.
I should have written a sep post in response to your post/comment. Thanks for your long/interesting comments!

noon said...

Hey Preethi - am so sorry for the delayed response. So much happening here during the day that I fell asleep earlier than usual - and it is during nights that I get time to sit and write...tomorrow morning too we have to leave early for the booster round of swine flu shots.
Reg Kumon etc - I guess you know from my post how I am doing this. KB is permanently in fantasy land and comes down to earth just to eat etc. He is always imagining all kinds of stuff. I just let him be. Give him plenty of time to just be. But all the same I feel the peer pressure a lot when it comes to Kumon or how fast he can read on his own etc. I don't dismiss Kumon as wasteful - some parents find it useful and think it helps their children who enjoy meeting their friends at Kumon and winning their little trophies etc while learning Math. Kind of outsource the problem. I just don't want to spend money on simple addition problems. Plus it seems too boring. KB as it is when we sit with pencil and paper says, let's play dominoes and prefers doing it mentally...But my problem is different - I hardly find the time to sit with him w/out being interrupted by KG. I don't know how other parents with kids close in age deal with this. I try hard to give him 15 min of some "work" time a day. Well, we succeed only about 3 or 4 days a week. His school teacher/pediatrician etc have told me he is super bright but when I see other Indian kids who are able to do a lot more academic stuff just from going to five full days in a Montessori and add to it Kumon math and reading classes, I do get worried - what if I am not going the academic way and he is behind in this kind of Desi/Asian competition in public school..they all come to the same home schools anyway. Anyway - finally somehow my style still prevails - I swallow the stress but continue to let him be...take him to the park as often as possible and read to him a lot, order all the books he asks for and let him jump and run and play with his sister...go to fun basket ball classes and such...
I guess if your kid is doing well in school, you don't have to worry...it is if by chance he is behind in the competition that one has to worry - what if I didn't push him enough in the academic route...you know what I mean...my friend's son was not doing well in KG - she finally put him in Kumon reading - she said it actually did help him in gaining confidence in reading...he was a rote learner.
I should have written a sep post in response to your post/comment. Thanks for your long/interesting comments!

man in painting said...

it has to change.do we all ahve a choice.it is very difficult to change from this way of education
poor kids.
liked your simple post

PG said...

Loved reading your post. I think, you are doing just the right thing. I also rather spend money for learning asports or musik which also plan to do now, as he loves singing and has been asking me that he want's to learn piano, i don't know how he got this idea.

Living here i don't hav to worry about any such things as Kumon and the likes. In fact, here they don't expect a kid to do anything until it starts its first class. Which he will do when he is already 6 1/2 Untill then it is all having fun and play. Which, I admit, is worrying me as he's also started reading and loves doing calculations and all. And I have to do it with him at home, as he comes to me every evening with his abacus and book. I rather have teachers doing all this with him than me at home with him.

rm said...

hey hey now i know why i read you blog. it was really great of you tell the school to stop grading. (claps). completely agree with your philosphy.

Subha said...

good post...
Zebra and grading...good you brought up this issue...Funny buut...
Aryan's mom

Suma said...

i am quite laid back...i never went to umpteen classes and my personality is pretty good...*i think...

and whatte post, preethi! good one

Subhashree said...

Totally with you on this post.

Cantaloupes.Amma (CA) said...

My daughter is not going to Kumon and it was a conscious decision. For one I am not ready to spend money on simple maths which I think I can teach but more importantly because she gets bored of doing repetitive stuff. She easily gets bored. Its such a challenge for me to come up with new things that interest her at the same time help her academically. Sometimes I do cross the border of fun and it seems forced on her ... but I am still working on that .. not to be forceful. Its hard ... the parent pressure around doesn't make it any easier.

Mama - Mia said...

i am doing catch up with preethi's blog thing today! hpfully! hehe!

quite a sensible post! parents have been going nuts at Cub's school about admissions in big school. i said i will let him continue at the play school for another 'coz he wont even be 3 in June. one mother piped up saying "but they take at 2.10 in some schools!" gah! i said id rather he be oldest in his class and catch up with stuff with ease than be the youngest and struggle!

in the long term will one year delay make anny difference?

cheers!

Aryan said...

Where have u disappeared..

Compassion Unlimitted said...

So somebody has been away for long time fro Blogs..hope everything fine
TC
CU

Sumana said...

hey preethi,
Long time no posts. Everything fine?