Sorry YY, hope you don't mind that I'm putting another of your comment up front again. I will be reading this comment-post of yours again and again, lots of lessons for us all. You know, I've read in the papers of kids who attend 3 different kindys a day, and kids who say they hate school, but personally, I don't really know any of these kids. I feel for your stepkids, and am so glad they are both doing great now.
Yours is the third anorexia/nausea-related story I've heard in recent months. One of these was a high-achieving niece of my friend; she was extremely intelligent but was put under extreme stress by her parents.
Like your son, my boys love school (Sean has his bad mornings, but there haven't been many of these this year). Brian would get really upset on days when the driver can't take them to school, eg, when my husband needs the driver during school pick-up, or really early in the morning (usually when someone important is in town). I mean really, really, really upset. I've had to ask my friends to help with pick-up, which I don't like to do cos Moscow traffic is so bad that their journey home could be delayed by an hour or more just for making this detour to my place. My Thai friend here told me that her sons feel the same way, they hate missing school, cos school is fun.
Okay, I've gotta add. While Singapore's education system is undoubtedly high-strung, parents need to examine their own attitudes as well. The worst are the parents of kids who are already excelling but still push their kids so much. My friend Slim has 2 kids in Nanyang GEP who are so relaxed, laughing all the time, just happy kids, cos she doesn't expect her kids to top their class in GEP.
As I always say, C'mon if your kids are in GEP, they are already amongst the top 1-3% of the cohort, why push them some more? It all boils down to parental attitude, we've gotta know our kids and what they are capable of. Push your kids beyond what they can take, you'll be pushing them over the edge. And yes, they may still perform at top-notch level, but other symptoms will appear, eg anorexia, bulimia, facial tics, migraine.
Enough of that, on to your unintentional guest-post.
YY's comment on the Assessment Book post:
WARNING: LONG STORY AHEAD, HOR
Talk about hating school:-
- hubby recounts to me that some years ago a survey was done amongst some P3 Nanyang Pri kids (my 2 stepkids were there) and >90% of them hated school! In contrast Sgp parents here in Vancouver tell me that kids here LOOK FORWARD to going back to school after the summer hols!
- That’s what I mean by being ‘age-appropriate’ I guess— First of all the system must not allow ‘learning’ to be associated with that gut-wrenching face-draining adrenaline-sapping feeling of dread of failure & having to be all geared-up for some Extreme Challenge.
- I used to ace the system all the way up to ‘O’-levels (got 9 A1’s leh, at that time in mid-80’s was the highest score around), but I recall when in P4 I actually vomited in class once during a test because I was so stressed out :-( [in psychology terms, that was a ‘hyperarousal’ reaction i.e. raised heart rate, blood-pressure, stress hormone, that fight-or-flight response]. I remembered in Pri school every morning while on the way I had to deal with the constant feeling of needing to retch. Perhaps I was in a home-environment that emphasized performance & over-conscientiousness (my parents were teachers!), & with my temperament (perfectionist, super-conscientiousness & hyper-sensitivity) it was a bad fit. In Sec 1 even as I topped the standard, during the weeks around the final exams I suffered from nausea, loss of appetite, loss of weight, sleeplessness… all ‘conditioned’ physiological responses to extreme stress. Such symptoms would plague me to greater or lesser extent in all examinations thereafter, and they are worst during ‘practical’ exams (like in my final year of Uni, or even taking driving tests and such like!!!).
- I think my stepdaughter was a lot like me, but not having had a good head-start (there was a family tragedy when she was in P1) she fell behind very quickly and her perfectionist self coped with all that mess by simply shutting it off and not caring much about it at all.
- My stepson topped P1 & P2 in Nanyang Pri. He was suspected to be ADHD for which they assessed his IQ amongst other things; it was found to be around 145-150 and they figured he was simply bored. Came P3 his strong-will put up a great fight against the rampant expectations and he pronounced to his parents: “Whether I get into GEP or not is MY decision and you cannot make me do it!!!” And he chose not to get in. The next yr his mom got cancer and I wonder to this day if he’s still not suffering from misplaced guilt & recrimination. Up until last year he still blamed his dad for having ‘done nothing’ to stop the incessant academic grilling he was put through AT HOME. He went like: “…even on my BIRTHDAY I was having to memorise this & that in the car!”. I’m glad from Sec 1 I laid my hands off my stepdaughter so at least she won’t blame me for THAT.. 0_o. But my stepson is doing really well now (after all he’s at genius-level IQ), since Sec 1 he was left entirely on his own to figure things out for himself and is ace-ing his Comp. Sci course here with scholarships covering nearly all his course expenses. He is also nearly completely financially independent since last year, when he had been working 3 days a week and handling the full course load as well! Kids here learn to be independent really early. From age 18 on the society addresses them as ‘men & women’ (as reflected in newspaper articles too when they would say, for instance: “…a 17 yr old teenager & an 18 yr old man were found…etc.”
What’s happening here in Vancouver with my grade-schooler is that doing ‘math-&-science’ at home (i.e. Singaporemath.com stuff) has fortuitously become an activity where he can get the best kind of undivided attention from mommy!! He often nags me for it when we haven’t done it for a few days.. ;-\ haha, lazy mommy.. I think he also associates doing ‘math-&-science’ at home with fun intellectual stimulation & meaningful accomplishment, a feeling he doesn’t get at school :-) . I have little problem getting him to cozy up in bed with me (oh, that’s too indolent surely!), relak and do ‘math-&-science’. But these sessions seldom exceed 20-30min and as soon as it starts to be a drag I would switch to something different. I also don’t want to beat myself up about it lor, what for?
He also seems to truly enjoy the social exposure he gets at school, often telling us with glee the variety of kids he played with during recess & lunch-break, and the kids he plan to make play-dates with. What is so precious is that here they’ve made school something kids really look forward to, with no feelings of anxiety or dread associated that is caused by the system per se (excluding cases of bullying, of course, but that’s not endemic to the system). In Sgp the system itself has become the Big Bully for many kids that do feel they’re drowning in it, but against which they have no recourse and even no permissible language to express their anxiety.