Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Everyone is Born Creative, But.....

The idea that everyone is born creative is not new.

Recently an article in The Guardian reported that 'Everyone is born creative, but it is educated out of us'.

Just examine the current Primary School curriculum and it will be very obvious that there is very little focus on training creativity. By creativity, I am not referring to training the kids to be artists or to pursue the arts.

I am talking about nurturing creative thinking and encouraging creative imagination.

Creativity should not be limited to the Arts. But even in just the department of Arts, I am sure the schools can do a lot more.

Take the example of my boys' school. I must say I am very disappointed with the quality of art lessons the school delivered in the past 6 years, in both the weekly Art periods and during the CCA hours (M chose Art as CCA when he was in Primary 5).

Art lessons are given such low priority in this school, that the periods were often sacrificed and given to other subject teachers to catch up on the curriculum. During those weeks when the Art periods proceeded as planned, the kind of art work taught and done were also of appallingly poor quality. I am not referring to the quality of my sons' work, but rather, the lesson planning and execution.

I recalled with horror how the Primary One's art lessons included colouring a pre-printed fish?! Not even to teach the 7-year-old children to draw a fish or create its background! The instructions to kids were to bring along colour pencils and just do colouring!! Each year, there were only a maximum of 2 to 3 pieces of art work done which the kids brought back only in November. Though I did not expect masterpieces, but there was nothing to give the kids a sense of achievement either. If the kids had learnt some drawing or painting techniques, I could live with it. It was only in upper primary level that they got to dabble with pottery for a term, batik painting in another and that was it.

To me, the real big shame is how the school art teachers have managed to turn my boys, who both love to draw and paint and very curious about all art forms before they started Primary school, into two kids who dread school art periods.

I wonder what my Dolly's future art teacher would say if she were to produce a piece like this in Primary school.

My 4-year-old had drawn numerous mermaids in the last few months. But one day, she decided to draw one who was slightly on the heavy side. And why not? In fact, I love it that she did not think all mermaids must have hourglass figures. I love how she dared to imagine something differently.

From the feedback my boys gave, it is not just the art teachers who discouraged creativity. It is the same with Science teachers. You may either get ignored or told off if you give creative, imaginative or unexpected answers.

I get it that teachers have time constraints and need to finish the curriculum. I also get it that art teachers may have to get kids to colour a fixed shape or complete a batik painting piece in certain number of hours. I get it too that Science teachers have to teach concepts and no time to answer extra questions outside the syllabus, even if the child is curious enough to ask and the questions are a result of the child's reflection of the topics taught.

Still, it is disheartening to hear my Primary 4 boy tell me his Science teacher told the class they have to raise hands before they can ask any questions and it has been 9 months but his teacher has never ever picked him though he had questions to ask nearly every week. It is sad to see how my Primary 6 son who used to ask hundreds of questions a week at home as a preschooler, now tells me it is pointless to ask anything in school because the teachers don't answer them. He just shrugs with a resigned look and a quiet comment, "why bother?"

So what can I, as a parent, do?

I feel compelled to work doubly hard at home, to fuel their curiosity and provide them with stimuli to spark their creativity and imagination and to encourage them to keep questioning.

While academic excellence is always expected, since I strongly believe no one rises to low expectations, I work hard to ensure the fire I ignited in my kids when they were just wee tots and preschoolers doesn't get put out because of the six years of formal schooling.

Sometimes, I do regret not homeschooling them instead and wonder if I should just homeschool Dolly.

Monday, September 26, 2016

A Mother's Dream

(taken in Dec 2014)

(taken in mid 2015)

Sometimes, I look at my beautiful little girl and wish she will remain this age forever. 
Small enough to be carried and young enough to want to follow me everywhere. 

When I was in my 20s, I knew in my gut that I wanted to be a mother of three. 
By the time I had my second child, I thought (secretly) that I could handle four kids. 
In the last two years or so, I had been asked umpteen times if I would have another. And my usual reply would be, "If I were 5 years younger, I would love to have 5 kids!"

But no, before all my friends and regular readers start to speculate... 
No, there is no baby #4. 

I just really, really miss having a little baby in the household sometimes. 
So I shall have to be content with babysitting others' little bundles of joy. :)

Friday, September 23, 2016

My Lapbooking STYLE and WHY It Works!

Since we started lapbooking in 2008, I have made over 120 titles of literature-based lapbooks. Majority of these were for the different age groups of toddlers and preschoolers I taught in my Bright Minds Lapbooking classes

My boys learnt primarily from my lapbooking activities throughout their preschool days, up till they were in Primary One. Not assessment books or tuition classes.

Varied Lapbooking Approaches
There are many ways to approach lapbooking. You may create a lapbook of your child's favourite topic or theme, e.g. elephants, or a topic that you like to teach, e.g. a country or the four seasons. And just proceed to gather content and printables from free resources, teach your child to complete them and glue these pages into a lapbook.

However, these are NOT my lapbooking style.

My Lapbooking Style
I have three key beliefs when it comes to nurturing young minds.

1. Raise them in a language-rich environment. This influences the way I read, interact and discuss with my kids and students.

2. Young children do not interpret their world in categories such as English, Math and Science. They learn best when information, issues, problems and content presented to them are trans-disciplinary. To learn what trans-disciplinary means as a teaching approach and the benefits, read this.

3. Curiosity is the single most important trait to nurture and develop. In fact, research has consistently shown that curiosity is as important as intelligence in determining success. Teach the skill, and the child will learn all kinds of content easily.

Hence, my lapbooking style is very different.
  • I begin with a quality literature, which can be a well-written picture book or storybook. 
  • A big part of the lapbooking activities are specially designed as scenarios, issues and problems to be discussed and solved. 
  • The focus is on fostering a culture of inquisitiveness and independent exploration. Teach students how to ask questions and how to think, so they learn to ask questions and reflect, instead of giving answers to questions asked.
  • All activities are abilities-based. I adapt lapbooking activities to challenge every child's abilities. At any one time in class, there could be several variations of the same activity, tailored to suit the competence of each child.
If a child is already capable of reading and writing passages, I ignite her love for the language through complex stories with hidden meanings and explore with her the possibility of creative writing.

If a child is fascinated with advanced themes and capable of asking questions that reflect deeper understanding of the topics, I give her the opportunity to lead the discussions and be the role model to others.

If a child has the passion to draw, I present her with scenarios where she can express through drawings to solve a problem, lead her peers and sharpen her presentation skills.

WHY my lapbooking style WORKS
Even within every quiet, shy, unmotivated or frustrated child, there is one quality that is universal -
Every child craves to be excellent. Every child wants to achieve.

Once we are able to identify their sensitive periods of learning, with an effective method of coaching and a systematic way of guiding the child to overcome his current weaknesses and challenging him to aim and achieve more to further develop his strengths, we will increase his motivation.

As long as we remain steadfast in coaching them towards excellence, we will fuel a lifelong love for learning in every child.

How we deliver the content and how engaging our coaching approach is to our young ones is KEY to ensuring that they learn whatever we set out to teach. 

One of the most popular lapbooks documented on this blog must be 'How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World', simply because I shared a lot of details of the lapbooking activities in a three-part blog posts.
'The Carrot Seed' Lapbook is another one that I shared on this blog.

Our term 4/2016 classes are nearly full. Priority registration for Term 1/2017 classes will be given to existing students and their siblings. Do check out From Tiny Acorns to register for Term 4/2016 or be on wait list for Term 1/2017.

Be sure to follow our Facebook page for coaching tips, research, videos and ideas that I only share with our Facebook followers. We will announce a surprise for our Facebook followers when we have reached a milestone! 


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