Academic Success or Childhood?

How is giving a child materials that challenges him depriving him of his childhood? By igniting a child's passion in learning what he is passionate about, what he is good at, we actually give him a better childhood.

"The ministry's view is that they need to have a chance to grow up and enjoy childhood" These words rang in my ears for almost a month now. That was the response I got from a MOE senior staff when I asked her about the ministry's view of acceleration.

So this thought has been lingering in my head: are we really robbing a child's chance to grow up when we allow him to learn at his own pace and give him work that really challenges him?

I can never understand Grade 1 and Grade 2 work for many children who have already attended kindergarten. We teach at kindy reading, addition and subtraction, yet, when they get to Grade 1, we find ways and means to reteach them the same things, with different or prescribed methods, termed 'the syllabus'.

Little One did not learn to read nor add by the time he went to Grade 1. His kindy teacher was super worried, I wasn't. I was more curious how many of the rest of the 30 in his class already knew addition and had to relearn what they knew.

It doesn't matter if they know how to add 3 digits, do simultaneous equations or percentages accurately by Grade 1, but as long as they do not show the right workings or use the right prescribed methods, they are marked wrong. Their self-esteems get a hit, and some get confused, some get anxious.

What if, instead of reteaching a new method, we give a child who already knows how to add, a chance to explore and materials that challenge him to stretch his mind? Does it really stop him from enjoying his childhood?

Well-meaning educators advise us that acceleration must inevitably be accompanied by a lot of school work. Concerned parents think the kids' brains must be bursting from all the knowledge that is being squeezed in on a daily basis. Cynical friends think that there must be some short cuts they wished they knew, so that they too can hot house their kids. The media like to sensationalise that such prowess must somehow be compensated.

Admittedly, I am a recipient of all of the above, having chosen to allow my kids to explore wherever their minds' eyes could see, instead of what is prescribed to them. I allow them to do whatever they are capable of, instead of allowing the system dictate to me what they should be doing. I allow them to be civil disobedient to the education system of the world.

How about forgetting about number bonds for kids who already know how to add and subtract? How about letting a child who already knows how to tell time do something else rather than relearning what is 7 o'clock and half past six?

Here's the reality. My kids do not spend more than 1 hour doing homework outside of school hours. When they were homeschooled, they spent 2 hours studying everyday. I simply don't believe in teaching a same concept in 5 different ways, and doing 100 pages of the same thing after the child already knows it well.

Education is not just academic. I saw my responsibility inclusive of building their life skills. The kids are able to fix their own meals since five. The boys do their own laundry weekly and iron their shirts on Sundays. The girls sew their own dresses and shorts, and bake to share with their friends every week.

They do sports with pride and integrity and are expected to take responsibility of their music talents from young with four finishing all their grades by 11. No, they don't study 24 x 7.Far from it.

So I have a thought again whether I deprived my children of their childhood. Hm... I'd to think that I used their childhood to learn to be lifelong learners, and not only for academic pursuits.

Every once in a while, I do secretly compare my kids, who are all accelerated academically four to seven years, to those who have to spend hours and hours in and out of tuition centers, enrichment centers, pools and courts, and music studios.

I have a pretty good idea who has a better childhood. It is because (and not in spite) of our choice to protect their childhood that they have gained academic success.