Tuesday, April 24, 2007

On the Job Training: Motherhood - Managing Expectations

"She's really smart, but she doesn't apply herself."

I heard this phrase throughout elementary, middle and high school. My parents were pushing me and teachers were encouraging me. I got A's in certain subjects that interested me, but I remained B+ in subjects that didn't interest me, namely math. I received my first A in math my junior year and I credit the teacher for communicating it so well.

I'm in a situation now with my daughter - a mere Kindergartner - and the teacher tells me she's not doing well in math. She dreams or she chats, doesn't speak up if she knows the answer and doesn't complete assignments on time.

This is so familiar to me. I had trouble finishing college exams on time and had to learn how to do that. So, I do not want this pattern to repeat in her.

We all know Indian parents who push the child into math, science or engineering majors. They shuttle kids to spelling bees, enrichment classes and other tutorials to make sure the child is above average. Kids are punished for getting 95, not 100 on exams.

I heard this commentary, "In Praise of Normal Kids" by Ayelet Waldeman yesterday on NPR. The story she said about bemoaning that her 1st grader was reading only at the 1st grade level hit home with me.

I'm not out to make my daughter a super scholar. I want her to be at the level I know she can be. She's very sharp, logical and curious. She likes to draw her own conclusions.

To hear that she's not doing well in math, or have her cry that the boys are good at math breaks my heart and infuriates me.

Frankly speaking, I feel the problem is with the teacher's style. I'm not about to change schools or anything. However, my plan is to reinforce her understanding of math with home practice and build her confidence. I had a horrible teacher in 6th grade. I had gone to India for an extended vacation and when I returned, she never sat with me to explain fractions. I failed tests. My father sat with me and explained quietly how this worked. Suddenly, everything made sense and I did very well. I'm still shocked at that woman's attitude.

Anyway, I had decided to speak my daughter's language. I pulled out her tea set plates and said, "We're going to have a party and invite 5 friends. Now Hannah and Rachel are coming. How many more plates do we need?"

She counts the plates, "Seven!"

"Ok, now Hannah and Rachel are not coming."

"Why are they not coming!! I want them to come!!" she cried.


So, I'll try more games. I've found worksheets on line. I've found magnetic pieces for counting.

However, is this right or too much? What about her peers who come to school for 2 hours of KG? They go home to play, while mine is in supplemental KG program. People are talking about Kumon and summer enrichment classes.

I don't know. We'll just do this one step at a time.


Anonymous said...

You had the right idea trying to teach Annika math through a tea party and other examples, but face it, math SUCKS, even at a kindergarten level (although truth be told, I liked it until the 8th grade when I sort of learned Algebra)
Annika is obviously very smart since she learned this at such an early stage.

AlterinG Abhishek said...

Annika is a nice name!

maths eh!!
1. well a kid is a HUGE budle of a lot of energy and can be directed

2. Yes affected by (genes, maybe!!)

3. Acha,Aisa hai, Ki all you have to do is, figure out what really really catches her attention and subtle-ly bring in maths

4. Ur doing great already in that!!

5. Key lies in being subtle!

Nice blog!!

Anonymous said...

Thanks J - we have such a long road ahead that I can't have her be tired at the first step!

Abhishek - thanks for your comments! What I've learned so far is that something may work a few times, but then they get bored or jaded. Then you have to come up with something new.

Sometimes I feel like I'm on a stationary cycle, but then something will happen and then I feel like I did move a bit.

Oh - I talked to my friend last night. She's hearing the same thing from her son's teacher. She acknowledges the teacher is right, but has no idea what to do with her son's lack of focus. And, she's a child psychiatrist!!

I'm not alone. :-)

Anonymous said...


We understand that many parents going through same BUT to take it as "chalta hai"(its okay!) would be bad idea.

I am myself not parent so can't suggest you for sure but what i know is you are educated and creative person so i hope you invest your possible energy and time in your daughter learnings.

Talk to kinder garden level parents and teachers. Ask them how to resolve issue. Get the idea how possibly it could work. Not necessary that you have to tell them you daughter is not doing well in math. You as a parent talk to them, figure out how possibly it could work for your kid.

Kids at this level turn the way you want them to turn. Most of the time i agree with parents who guide kids in accessive learning and study time. I would say any mother can be best teacher. Requirement is just put your heart and soul into your kid's future. Guide them best. Even for them if you have to become a kid, be it so. Give all what it requires her to be improved.

One day she will sure thank you for your hard efforts. One thing more i want to tell you is: This is long journey. don't give up otherwise kid will be "sandwiched"/"confused". So if you decide to spend more and more time in future then it would be very good for the kid.

I check out more on this and let you know because this is same issue with my brother's twins. So yeah you are not alone but please spend more time for her future and prepare her well for tomorrow's competitive world.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for your encouragement. I agree that a parent can be the best teacher. As long as we have KG math, I can help - we'll see about high school calculus! :-)

Yes, I am talking to other parents. With desi parents, Kumon is very popular - but it's repetition. At this age, I'm ready to support the repetitive learning - 5+1 always equals 6, as does 1+5. So, I've found worksheets at www.math-drills.com and will try them out.

Oh, I have talked to friends who are teachers, too. I've received other advice from them reg child development.

BTW, earlier I said I feel like I'm on a stationary bike.. I have to change that. Sometimes it feels like my bike is wheeling downhill and my feet are lifted off the pedals! Ride is thrilling, scary, but fun - and out of my control!