Saturday, July 11, 2009

Addendum on Introspection

I'm in love with Jason Mraz's song "I'm Yours". This verse rings so true for me:

I've been spending way too long checking my tongue in the mirror
And bending over backwards just to try to see it clearer
But my breath fogged up the glass
And so I drew a new face and laughed
I guess what I'm be saying is there ain't no better reason
To rid yourself of vanity and just go with the seasons
It's what we aim to do
Our name is our virtue

Friday, July 10, 2009

The New 40

So, Jennifer Aniston, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Jennifer Lopez, Renee Zellweger and myself have something in common. Memorable red-carpet fashion moments? It’s possible, but that’s not it. We all turn 40 this year.

I’m not one to hide my age. At the gym, I always entered my real age into the elliptical machine; weight, you can lie about, not age. Every year that I have accrued is worth remembering. I’ve always been mistaken for being younger than I am. I’m always happy to show my ID.

At the stroke of midnight on January 1st this year, I lost it. Now I realized that 40 is here. My friends keep reminding me “Age is a number. It’s what’s in your heart.” “Oh, 40 is the new 30”.

For me, I’ve always had 40 as the definitive marker. “When I’m 40, I’m going to do..” “When I’m 40, I’ll finally be able to..” It’s here. And, I’m not ready to or haven’t done all those things. I was upset because the finish line came and I’m not ready for it. I cringed when my friends asked me about the big “4-0”. I’m on the verge of tears on the treadmill punching in my real age. Since I was 10 years old, I always upgraded myself to the next year one month prior to my birthday. Now, I was telling people, “I still have 7 more days to be in my 30’s”. My daughter gave me extra time as a gift "It's only 1pm. You're not 40 yet because it's not 9 o'clock, when you were born. You're still 39."

June was a fabulous month for me as I definitely enjoyed celebrating with different friends and family through series of events. More assuring and powerful was the love and affection I received from everyone. If I look over my shoulder, I see 40 years of wonderful people behind me, and I’m blessed to have those stepping beside me and others leading me.

I also realize now I need to adjust my goals and not put an age on it. And, practically speaking, there have been some changes from where I was in January to where I am in June. My career and personal goals have been more refined, and become more attainable. Doors that were closed are being opened. It’s up to me how and when I enter.

Also, I realize I don’t want to be 30 again. I want to be the new 40.

Now, where's my Oil of Olay eye gel?

Kumon, You're Killing Me!

When I tell you we’re doing Kumon this summer, you will have one of three reactions:
1) What took you so long? You should have had her enrolled before she started kindergarten!
2) Are you kidding? What do you want - a little robot? It’s repetition. Rinse, lather, repeat.
3) Kumon? What is that? Does it come with wasabi?

Usually the third response comes from people without children or non-Asians. Kumon is extremely popular among Asian parents because it reflects the method of teaching effective in Asian countries. Memorization and repetition is the way many people were taught. One million Asian engineers and techies can’t be wrong, right?

In our public schools, EveryDay Math is being taught. We were confused by subtraction methods this year, and asked the teacher about it. She pointed out they show children different ways to tackle a problem and one method may work better than another for the child. So many options! So many confused parents!

I resisted Kumon wave for some time because I didn’t think it was necessary to pay $100 a month for 1st grade math. If I have to sit with my daughter to make sure the work is done, we can just do worksheets. However, second grade moved quite quickly and the teacher emphasized the need for her to solidify her basic math skills. Her report card reflected this as a weak point. So I conceded. We want to make sure she stays at the right level, consistent and confident. If she gets discouraged now, it’ll be a hang up for always (actively raising my hand as someone who knows!) Plus, in 3rd grade, the standardized testing will start and she’ll need to perform well within a timed situation. She can’t daydream her way through this.

Other parents have told us how their child surpassed their peers thanks to Kumon. Others raved over the structure and discipline, which helped set the foundation.

Our friends’ daughter works at the local Kumon center as a teaching aide. This would be one positive aspect for my daughter feeling comfortable there. The deal with Kumon is that there is homework every night and center visits twice a week. There’s no vacation from it. There’s always homework, which takes about 15-20 minutes.

The reality is that it’s really tough. The homework is annoying – 4+6, 5+6, 8+6. There are 10 pages of the same problems. So, obviously she complains she’s tired of 6’s. They start the child at a lower level so they can build their confidence.

She hates Kumon. She’s whined, cried, stalled for time, offered to help me pull weeds instead. Yes, just about every trick possible. I’m trying to use some of our positive motivations from Suzuki violin. I don’t want the “Just do it because you have to do it.” I don’t want her to feel like this is a punishment.

Some things that have worked:
- chocolate cake, ice cream or a dessert at the completion
- reciting the answers aloud (she does different accents)
- using the timer on my iPhone (I would surprise her with different ringtones at intervals)
- sitting with her and doing the same problems and comparing answers
- doing the homework into different rooms, changing up the environment.

I don’t see this as a long term commitment as I’m taking one session at a time. Let’s get through the summer and maybe a month or two in the fall. Yes, she doesn't like it and I probably sound like a mean parent. But, seriously, I used to have to sit with my father at night to review fractions and math problems, all the way until high school calculus. I hated it, but I needed it. I do want her to find the drive herself to want to do it.

I’ve been greatly disappointed that I haven’t found any resources online for Kumon parents. If you have suggestions, please let me know.