Ps&Qs

I constantly swing back and forth from amusement to annoyance when helping my son with his homework. Especially his language homework.

My own language “skills” are middling to not-bad-at-all and my pronunciation of words (especially the word pronunciation) is usually correct. Of course Red did tell me that I’d been pronouncing ‘Audi’ and ‘apropos’ wrong my whole life and then sniggered his pert behind out of the room. In my defence I’ve hardly ever pronounced apropos; mainly used it in my emails and writing so there!

Anyhoo, the offspring gets help with learning his words phonetically. And while saying them out loud every now and then his eyes glaze over and I know he’s in the land where Korra the Avatar exists and his mother’s voice correcting him is a drone that he can relegate to the background and forget. And while doing so he mispronounces a sound he’s been saying 10xs over in the last few minutes. That’s when my angry eyes come into play…

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See, the thing is this…I was taught English (my adopted 1st language) by crusty nuns who had no compunction about rapping delicate young knuckles HARD with their even harder rulers and following that up with DAMN-YOU-TO-HELL looks for mispronouncing words or not speaking the Queen’s English; never mind that the grand dame hadn’t been our queen since well before we were born or the nuns themselves were supposed to embody compassion and not be more like her! Psst….follow arrows down

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My flesh and blood warbles while he reads, fluctuates between accents (courtesy yours truly and Youtube) and affects a sing-song reading style which would have earned me an entire class on my knees had I dared to read things any differently.

For those of us brought up on Wren&Martin ,English (the British variant) correctly isn’t a matter of choice. It’s a way of life. Add to it a few years of English literature classes where you’re liberally applying your penchant for poetry and prose with panache while being taught by teachers wearing a pince nez and you are stuck with correcting peoples’ pronunciation for life.

And you know it’s a bordering a disease when you’re correcting it in your head when you can’t do it aloud.

Alliteratively Yours,

Moi

P.S: This bit from My Fair Lady is rather apt for this post methinks…

School Shopping

We’re shopping for a new school for MLM. He’s going to 1st grade in 2015 and we’re a bit worried. Correction- Red is a bit worried. Am anxious.  Anxious because when I was going to school at his age and even at an age older to what he is now, there was usually one or the other choice. And now there are choices galore! Ergo more and more chances to screw up his proper introduction to academia.

The more schools there are, the more parents turn up; kids in tow. The more parents turn up, the more schools pop up. It’s the strongest symbiotic relationship I’ve seen in a long, long while.

Each school promises to nurture your child while not over burdening or even mildly burdening them with any academics and letting them grow in a manner befitting their innate personality and the visions the founders of the schools have held true while establishing the school. HORSESHIT!

A school is a business. A business can be started on noble principles but nobility isn’t going to pay dividends long-term so you get with the program and start adding academic gloss via whatever seems to be trending. And while what might seem cynical the fact of the matter is that the methodologies we studied in weren’t bad at all. The people who implemented them might have been sub-standard but the syllabus wasn’t and we just need to take a look at our own achievements and where we are in life to be cognizant of the fact.

We end up obsessing about teacher-student ratios, ventilated-classrooms, AC in school buses, travelling time to school et al and all of these are valid points to ponder upon. But I don’t consider any of them a make or break thing barring the school distance in the case of a small child.

Here’s what I want for my kid-

  1. patient teachers who like to teach.
  2. a school that has enough open space to make the child feel GOOD about where they will be spending 80% of their childhood.
  3. an understanding of a child’s learning styles so the academics can be pitched accordingly.
  4. a capable administrator as the head of the school who doesn’t just look at numbers but also wants the kids in the school to actually KNOW and UNDERSTAND what’s being taught.
  5. a decent ratio of classroom vs. outdoor activities.

No school will be able to influence or enhance a person’s native intellect. It is what it is. But if they make a child happy, especially a small child, the kind of commitment towards learning they will get is nothing short of phenomenal!

Fingers crossed this particular bit of shopping around doesn’t entail any returns.

Lordy…tough times ahead.

Knowing When The Anvil Is Hot

People talk, a LOT, about teaching kids values, “good” things and how getting an early start is usually beneficial. I agree. To some extent. As parents, we often forget that while there are milestones that a majority of the kids attain at relatively the same time, there are outliers here as well. Some children reach certain milestones earlier and some reach them later; without any disability hindering them. It’s like the marathon or climbing something uphill…you’ll get there, but someone will always get their ahead of everyone else and there’ll always be the person who reached after everyone else. But they reached. And that should be celebrated. Especially with kids.

Now to take all the ambiguous talk out of the way and illustrate my point more clearly.

I have been trying to get MLM to switch off lights, fans when he exits a room for a longish period. Also to run the taps slowly and shut them off so water isn’t wasted. Same with food, take a small amount, finish it and then take some more. Basically trying to teach him to pace himself and also see to it that things don’t get wasted. But then crops up every parents’ biggest bugbear- THE WHY.

Why do I need to switch off the fan? What is waste? Why can’t I keep the water running as long as I want? The whys are endless and there’s a good reason for it- he doesn’t understand consequences yet. He has experienced consequences but he doesn’t know *what* they are. And usually the kind of consequences he’s experienced has resulted in a broken toy, a time out or a spank on his backside. Those are *bad* things to a child. They will try to avoid them but to get them to understand consequences of wastages of natural resources is a toughie at a preschool/primary school age.

Up to an age relying on the “Because I said so” response to their numerous whys has to suffice. Of course changing the tone and words of the phrasing help in getting things done. I’ve been falling back on, “Please do it because I asked you to”, “Please do it for me”  at times.

One of the most critical aspects of education is also knowing when to teach rather than relying mainly on  what to teach. As parents we need to have the pulse of the kids and know how much our child is capable of comprehending before we look at milestones set up by doctors and educationists and give ourselves sleepless nights thinking about where the child is lagging according to norms and guidelines. But those guidelines are important. They not only let you know what a child of a particular age is capable of, it also helps us understand how much deviation there is. Deviations help in identifying disability vs a mere delay.

I read this blog post from a mom I admire and whose posts I read eagerly. Her older son knows the names of birds I have never heard before. And not just knowing the names, he can identify them at any given point of time and can demonstrate that HE HAS ACTUALLY LEARNED something. A concept. And those are things which will stay with him always. So performing on demand and showcasing the extent of his knowledge shouldn’t be the main criteria for an adult to gauge how far along a 3-year old has progressed.

My child is very expressive and affectionate and his protective instincts are very strong. He is empathetic and champions the cause of those whom he perceives as the underdog or those he feels are being dominated. Sometimes he’s wrong in his perception viz an older sibling hazing a younger one isn’t always full of malice…you’re supposed to be pinched and shoved. But it’s quite a revelation for me to see him exhibit these facets of his personality at this age. What does a typical 5-year-old know these days anyhow? Spiderman? Lays chips? Ice cream and his alphabets. Basically still quite young and innocent.

This morning a few things made me smile and look at how my child processes information. He was trying to read the milk packet. He sounded the letters out phonetically- Mmm-Iii but by the time he got to L he said lollipop and said kite for K. He’s got his theory in place but a little tangled up. But he remembers. And what he remembers he will recall and eventually understand the way it’s meant to be understood.

We need to do more than just keep the child safe…we need to see what kind of learners they are, what interests them, what is fun for them. We also need to be aware of their intrinsic traits like compassion, affection and help boost them. A child can learn a good value later on in life too. He needs to learn what he’s capable of learning, to start with. The rest will all fall into place later on.

Here endeth the lesson.