2017 was a milestone year for our family as our children entered Primary School. The second half of 2016 was undeniably anxious and stressful as I wondered if the kids would be able to make friends, pay attention for long stretches and pay the canteen vendors correctly. And yes, I ate my weight in chocolate while musing on all these things! We have had our fair shares of ups and downs, and each situation has been a valuable learning experience.
Lesson 1: The value of slowing down
On starting Primary School, our children had to deal with significant changes to their daily lives. In addition to an early wake up time, they now had tests and reviews on a regular basis. While I welcomed the system of smaller mini-tests that helped to monitor their learning, rather than the twice-yearly larger exam that I had to contend with in school, we also had to fight the impulse to schedule our lives around these tests and revision.
While we plotted test dates into our family calendar, we decided that we would focus on revising work at a gentler daily pace, rather than frantically cram just before the test. Another valuable strategy for us was to schedule more downtime as a family, especially when an important test date drew near. I observed that the boys seemed more focused on lessons in school, because they knew they had a board game or cycling session around the park to look forward to when they got home.
Schedule more downtime as a family, especially when an important test date drew near.
Lesson 2: Building resilience
While school has been a positive experience so far, it has also been uncomfortable — as a parent, I’m learning that these two feelings are not mutually exclusive! As the children navigate new friendships and resolve conflicts in a classroom, manage their time without multiple reminders from me, and receive correction and discipline from their teachers, they’ve had many opportunities to flex their resilience muscle. I’ve noticed that they’re much better at bouncing back from difficulties and are also more resourceful in finding solutions to problems, compared to the start of the year! As a family, we’ve learnt to ‘lean in’ and embrace these uncomfortable times, trusting that things will work out.
Lesson 3: Teachers make a difference
When the boys started school, my biggest concern was that they would get lost in the chaos of a classroom. After all, how can one teacher get to know and manage over twenty students? Or so I thought.
Our biggest asset this year have been the supportive teachers at school. To my surprise, within the first two weeks of having my younger son in her class, his form teacher had a good understanding of his personality and character, and gave me helpful pointers on how to motivate him at home. Despite their hectic schedules, my children’s teachers showed sensitivity towards them, praising them in front of us parents, but sharing areas of concern out of their earshot. As the children felt respected and heard, they also tried hard to co-operate with the teachers in school.
Despite hectic schedules, my son’s teacher gave helpful pointers on how to motivate him at home.
Lesson 4: We are beginning to reap what we have sowed
My husband and I believe in training a child in the way he should go, like equipping our children early with organisational and study skills to learn independently. In their pre-school years, this seemed like a thankless slog as we had to slowly teach each skill, give countless reminders, and hold them accountable for their actions. While it seemed never-ending, I’m glad we persevered. we’ve seen some signs of the pay-off as we observed the boys being motivated to learn on their own, and even setting personal learning goals for the year. Indeed, it was time and effort worth investing.
Lesson 5: Getting involved is worth it
Even as I saw my children benefitting greatly from their school experience, I felt it was important to reciprocate meaningfully. Thankfully, my employer prioritises the value of work-life harmony, and I have been able to work flexible hours, which lets me volunteer at the school while managing my workload. The few times I helped out as a parent volunteer have been invaluable, and I highly recommend it! There is a sense of community that can only come from working together for a common purpose – and ultimately, the children benefit from this too.
2017 was a great learning journey for us as a family, and the lessons learnt will stand us in good stead as we prepare for the year ahead.
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