Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Tuition for mummy

It’s no longer just children who attend enrichment classes. Parents are jumping on the bandwagon, too.

Elaine Koo has a day job as a secretary, but for two consecutive Friday evenings in February this year, she revisited the classroom of a phonics course by Lorna Whiston. The 40-year-old is considering taking up a longer four-week course in the subject, which will culminate with a certificate from the school.

Her two daughters – Melissa, six, and Fiora, five – are also students at Lorna Whiston. Melissa takes an afternoon English enrichment class every Wednesday that focuses on grammar, sentence formation and simple composition writing. Fiora attends a Monday evening class where she learns vocabulary, practises pronunciation and takes part in story-telling sessions.

Elaine is not alone. Judy Tan, a 38-year-old mum whose five-year-old son, Keith, attends preschool at Lorna Whiston, is another involved parent. She’s attended reading seminars organised by the school and is looking for more. She is keen to attend the Primary 1 preparation workshop next.

Lorna Whiston, founder and joint managing director of Lorna Whiston schools, estimates that about 70 per cent of students at her school have parents who attend the workshops she conducts for adults.

Helen Marjan, joint managing director and director of studies at Lorna Whiston, observes that today’s children are much more of a challenge to bring up. Thanks to exposure to the TV and Internet, kids are very savvy and well informed. They no longer do as they are told without questioning, especially if they feel it is unjustified – which is why parents are turning to such classes to help them coach their kids better.

Learning for life

The mums agree. Judy explains: “They are learning new things all the time, and the best way we can help is to know it ourselves.”

Elaine says the chance to socialise with other parents is one of the highlights of attending classes: “It’s not enough just to read books and learn from there. I want to get expert help. In the adult classes, besides learning phonics, we also learn how to guide our kids. It was also useful to interact with other parents. There are so many different ways to help our children and we exchanged ideas with each other.”

While getting child guidance tips from workshops is a good idea, Lorna feels that they should remain just that – as guidance. She thinks it is still better to leave more formal methods of instruction to the teachers. The education system has changed over the years and parents can no longer expect their children to learn the way they did. She feels that this may lead to unrealistic expectations, which would affect the parent-child relationship.

If you’re unsure how you could start home learning with your child, a simple, yet always fail-safe approach is to encourage reading.

"Reading opens up so many doors for children. It helps them develop a wide and expressive vocabulary, builds up their understanding and general knowledge, nurtures their curiosity and feeds their mind. It’s also an enjoyable experience that the parent and child can share in a relaxed manner," says Lorna.

30 years ago Now

The students

30 years ago
“Around half of our students knew almost no English and did not speak it at home at all.”

“Today’s children know more English and have more confidence. They are not afraid to express an opinion and try something new. We no longer have to coax them to participate.”

The teaching focus

30 years ago
“Almost none of the P1 students had started to read, so getting them to talk, understand and read was a priority.”

“Nowadays, students can speak English, so we are looking at upgrading their skills in conversation, debates, written competence, grammar skills and reading to a first language level.”

The parent’s role
30 years ago
“Parents issued instructions and children carried them out. They were not often asked for their opinion because a child’s opinion was considered relatively unimportant.”

“Parents should listen to their children’s ideas, talk to them in a two-way conversation, encourage them to listen to the news and express opinions.”


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•Young Parents published by SPH Magazines is available at all newsstands now.
•Ho Yun Kuan is a writer with Young Parents magazine by SPH Magazines.
•Check out more stories at Young Parents online,

Ho Yun Kuan | Young Parents | Wed Oct 6 2010

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