My one-year stay in Pittsburgh has forced me to spend quality time with my two boys, which I would have otherwise used to earn more money. In the end, I learnt valuable lessons that money cannot buy. I embrace a new thinking and become more receptive of new ideas.
When I first returned home about two years ago, I attended a talk by a educator who retired as a vice-principal. She shared with us her approach in teaching her children - who are now grown-ups each with a successful career. One key take-away is that a man's lifespan is more than 80 years, what's one year of failure in school? With this thinking, she actually encouraged one of her children to focus on his passion - to hold leadership position in his Co-Curriculum Activity (CCA) which would not contribute to his grades, at the expense of an "A" level subject. This was a very bold move then as the thinking was then "only those who cannot made it drop an 'A' level subject." Her decision turned out to be a wise one. Her boy was offered employment even before graduation and now is doing well in the States.
Before I touch on how to teach your kids, what is more important is to ask yourself the what - "what do you want your kids to be?" To be ace examination or to be successful in life? I opt for the latter. And I adopt the "FAR" approach. FAR is the acronymn for Foresight, Agility and Resilience. To equip the child with foresight is to equip him with the knowledge - that's formal education is for. But this is not enough to be successful in life, we all know that things in life will not always be rosy. Hence, we need to be agile and flexible to adapt to today's changing environment. And when things get tough going, we need to have willpower to be resilient.
Now the how. Different people learn differently. But there are three main ways a person learn - "SHE". The first way is "See", second is "Hear" and third "Experience". Most people learn primarily through seeing - I suppose that is why we say "seeing is believing". The second majority learn through sound or hearing and the last group (or the minority) learn through experience or kinesthetic. Michael Phelps belonged to the last group and that was why his primary school teacher has so much trouble to try to keep him still.
Knowing how your kid learn will help you to formulate the right strategy to engage him in the learning. My elder boy learns through both sight and sound. He pays most attention when I tell him a story. My younger son loves to play. I get him to learn through staging a play like "Scrooge" or "The Little Match Girl". They will then take on the different characters in the story. The key thing is that we try to prompt them to think. For example, in the story "Scrooge", I asked my boys why was it that Scrooge was such a miser? I would then guide them along - it was due to the tough childhood and devastating blow of also losing his fiancee who died from an illness. Then I would tell them that what Scrooge could have done, was not to dwell so much into the past which has brought him so much bitterness. Instead, he could focus on how he could help others like him.
As a further example, just a week ago when I was supposed to test my boy his spelling. I composed a funny song and sang it instead of the usual testing method (texts in bold refer to the 16 spelling words). We were tumbling with laughters and my boy asked me to pen it down for future reference:
Music : Yesterday Once More
Yesterday, the thunder roared and the raindrops pattered. It was such a sunny day in the morning when it became so windy. In the afternoon, I looked at the calendar to see what festivals to celebrate. But the sky turned cloudy come evening and I was very gloomy. The weather soon became rainy, stormy with lightning. Oh, it was such a sombre sight and I decided to take an early night.
For younger kids where we also need to build their knowledge base, my focus is more on phonics and also reading. There are a number of free websites available - starfall is one of my favorite, another is readinga-z (with free worksheets for young children).
Have fun :)