Tag Archives: children

Empty Guns

I was watching some documentary on National Geographic Channel last night, about the government of Istanbul, trying to build underground train rails and stations, and found that most of the engineers working there were foreigners. There were local citizens but most of them are working as labors, executing orders from some European engineers, they obviously have bigger risks, but were paid lower salary.

It is the same case with a 35 year-old male taxi driver in New York city, escorting a 35 year-old NASA physicist who turned out to be his high-school friend, but is now on his way to a scientific convention to fulfill his career as the keynote speaker. They’re both Americans, they are at the same age, they even came from the same high-school, but somehow their life (and career choices) is very different.

As a parent, like anyone else, we obviously wish for our children to be the engineers, or the NASA physicist, instead of being the taxi driver, or the low-paid labor.

Question is, what can we -as parents- do? Is saving our money for a good/reputable college will be enough? Does a good university guarantees your children to have excellent communication abilities, superb character, and unimaginable creativity like Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg or the late Steve Jobs?

Education, which is delivered to our children through formal institutions called “school” is not the only thing parents must provide. More importantly (but somehow not everybody realized this, including myself), we need to motivate our children to utilize those knowledge in order to actually achieve something.

As a new parent, I always thought that the most important thing to do, in order to “secure” your children’s future, is by providing them good education. Perhaps it is true, in the case of engineers and scientist that I mentioned on the above story. But a good education serves only as a bullet to what made a full-package weapon to be deadly. Knowledge, is like bullets. If you don’t fill your brain with knowledge, you will be like an empty gun. Deadly on the outside, but can’t be used to kill anyone (or anything) because it lacks the basic ingredient: the bullets.

this is the result of a good education

So I guess we all need to make this our personal parenting homework. Just because you have enough money and have successfully registered your kids to a reputable school, it doesn’t mean that you’re done. You’ve created bullets, but if you fail to find the appropriate gun for them, there’s always the possibility of dropping out and your kids can end up driving a taxi. Or worse, you can fail in preparing the money for high education and find your kids working in an underground project covered with mud and being at risk of landslide.

Learning, knowing, understanding something is NEVER enough. You need to push your children to have the motivation to use what they know in order to create, achieve, and do something for themselves, and for others. And like it or not, even though good education might not guarantee anyone being successful in their life, but it obviously provide greater, better opportunities for them. It all depends on whether or not they have the ability to take advantage of the opportunities in front of them.

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Kids & TV: You Name It, He Watched It!

I’m a TV addict. And I let my 2 year-old son “Bintang” to watch TV for almost 12 hours a day. From Barney & Friends, to Thomas The Tank Engine, Pingu, Ava-Riko-Teo, Mr. Maker, Boogie Beebies, Teletubbies, In The Night Garden, and everything else, you name it, he watched it. Since he was born, we live in a small house and put the TV in our bedroom. We were pretty much attached to it, so badly, that we -almost- always fell asleep every night with the TV still on.

..and the TV watches us sleeping..

But last January, my husband and I were finally able to buy our own house, and while moving in, we have made a tough decision to no longer put the television in our bedroom, and moved it to the living room instead. We made a deal that, if, we can’t survive with this condition, we will move the TV back to our bedroom. To make the transition even harder, we also began sleeping separately from Bintang, whose bedroom is right next to ours, with a connecting door, in case he needs to sneak-out at night.

It wasn’t a major change but I was terrified and thought, “this is not going to be easy..

It wasn’t easy indeed.

For me.

As for Bintang, he instantly fell in love with something else:

Books.

The first night I took Bintang to sleep on his own room, I was confused as hell. How the hell am I going to make him feel sleepy, since there is no TV around?

I guess, there’s always the first time for everything. Suddenly I find myself trying to imitate what other parents (and what all the articles about bedtime story say I must) do: read him a book.

And there he was.. Loving each and every moment of it. A lot!He laughed every time I imitate funny voices from the book’s character. He pointed his fingers to every interesting pictures available on the book, asking me what it was and why do the characters show certain facial expression. Is he sad? Is he mad? Why are they laughing, why is he crying?

I read to him, a story about how a little boy bravely go to the dentist. About a worm who just moved into a new neighborhood. About a tiger who doesn’t want to go to sleep and got lost in the woods.

I admit, I used to have second thoughts about TV and books. That watching too many TV is not harmful as long as I am there with him, and after all we are watching children-dedicated cartoons, but I never realize how powerful a regular “Bedtime Story” is, until I took him to playschool trial class last week. My son, who (I thought) is withdrawn and shy, was considered “highly communicative” by the school tutors.

He also mastered extensive amount of vocabularies which makes his language ability higher than other kids at the same age.

I guess all the funny voices and the so called “grown-up-alike” conversations I have with him prove to have some results.

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But this doesn’t mean that we hate our TV now, on the contrary, we love it even more (especially The Big Bang Theory, my personal favorite, among others), -although- we do try to limit the time we’re being attached to it. And replace it with doing something else instead. Reading books, playing bicycle outside, making a mess in the living room with play-dough and crayons, water-color, and scissor practices, are just some cheap (and yet so much fun) alternatives that we enjoy so far!

After two weeks of sneaking out to our bedroom in the middle of the night, my 2.8 year old Bintang is now finally sleeping on his own bedroom until morning! But hey, he also decides that he will not go to sleep until I tell him stories from -at least- 3 or 4 books.

So I read to him. In between yawning, and my funny voices..

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Picture credits : Digital Journey

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2nd Playschool Trial at Sanggar Kreativitas Bona

The successful student is one who learns how to use research materials, libraries, note cards and computer files, as well as knowledgeable of parents, teachers, older students and classmates, in order to master those tasks of schools which are not transparently clear. ~ Howard Gardner, on “The Unschooled Mind: How Children Think and How Schools Should Teach.”

Last Friday, I took my son Bintang for the second trial-class at Sanggar Kreativitas Bona (SKB). This time, all children age 2 to 4,5 year old were joined together in the same class. There were around 10 children and they were given free time to play anything they want, alone or together with others, for approximately 30 minutes. The class started at 09.30 AM, two assistants were present, so one of them can handle the more-active kids without interrupting other children.

After 30 minutes of free play time, the teacher then continued the day with dancing lesson using a very traditional Javanese song of “Cublak-Cublak Suweng” along with relevant hand and feet movements. Bintang loved this activity a lot, and practices the moves again at home. Now I’m thinking to buy music CDs with traditional songs because I no longer remember the words.

After jumping and singing, everyone washes their hands and eat the snacks they brought from home. Unlike the 1st trial a couple of days before, this time I’ve prepared Bintang with cheese bread and milk. After finishing their meals, children take turns to sing any song they want. Most of them sang “Bintang Kecil” or “Pelangi, pelangi” and we clapped our hands afterwards.

Then the class assistant took two hand-puppets (Bobby and Angel), and began telling a story about independence (that smart kids should enter the class by themselves instead of being accompanied by their caregivers). Again, my son loved this scene a lot, he even asked “Where is Bobby?” after the puppet show is finished.

At almost 11 AM, everyone clean the classroom, threw away snack covers to the trash-can and returned the toys to the boxes, sat together in circle, and began singing a song about gratitude. Everyone thank God (in a universal way, not just according to a certain religion) for having played, learned and ate, and now they want to go home safely.

Bintang enjoyed this class so much, but I’m still having second thoughts about it. I’m still planning to take another trial-classes at other playschool and see which one he likes the most.

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Playschool Trial No. 1: Sanggar Kreativitas Bona

I know.. I know.. All of you might think, “What the hell is wrong with this mom? First she said she won’t go, now she can’t get enough of trying out all different kinds of playschool ?”

Fine, I apologize.

Now can we all move on?

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Yesterday, I finally accept the invitation from Sanggar Kreativitas Bona (Bona Playschool, or I will say SKB to make it shorter) to attend their free-trial class with my son Bintang. I’ve been avoiding their text messages for more than a month, but after I read the article about how the preschool kids spent their time everyday in Finland, I change my mind.

I’m a working mother who left her son everyday, from 8 AM to 5 PM, from Monday to Friday, which is why my son spends most of this time at home, ALONE with our nanny, and eventually (after having too much) got bored with the TV. I was always in such dilemma thinking whether playschool is going to be good for him, or whether he’s not ready to socialize with other kids or adult (the class assistant). But based on yesterday’s trial, I was completely wrong.

I’m writing this blog to keep in mind that there are important things to consider when choosing the right playschool for your kids, and to keep a record on my son’s first days at school.

So here it goes!

SKB playschool is different from other similar institutions because they’re focusing on only three areas of a child development: (1) Gross motor skills, (2) soft motor skills, and (3) mental/emotional well-being. Their slogan is “promoting creativity and children independence” and they only have classes for kids from 2 to 5 year old. They are operating under the close observations of Kompas-Gramedia group (a reputable printing company in Indonesia), and they held annual exhibitions on which the kids from SKB got the chance to perform their abilities in dancing, singing, playing drama/acting, or to show their creations (art & craft), and so on.

Here’s what happened during the two-hours class for 2-3 year old children.

(1) At 10.00 AM, all kids entered the class, they pray together in a universal (not-religious specific) way, and then the teacher begin to deliver today’s material by telling a story. Yesterday’s story was about day and night. This session was performed forΒ + 30-45 minutes.

(2) Art & craft time. Because the theme was about day and night, all children was given a blank paper, some square papers, some stars, and a circle (as a moon), and was told to create a house at night, using a glue. Complete with stars, a moon, and other papers, all must be glued to the paper. This was performed for around 30-45 minutes as well. My son enjoyed this session very much, because he loves playing with papers and glue.

(3) Meal time. After playing with glue, all kids must wash their hands. Then the kids were given around 30 minutes to eat their snack and drink. After meal time, all kids were told to clean their table and throw any trash to the garbage can. Then wash their hands again.

(4) Coloring activities. Kids who already finished their meal, can start coloring various animals, shapes, and other characters. Also around 30 minutes. If, at home, my son usually refused to do this, it was totally the opposite yesterday. He took a crayon and colored the elephant nicely, and ask the teacher to check out the result over and over again!

(5) Free time! At around 11.30, all kids can grab any toys they want, and play alone or together with other kids, while the teacher write about the kids’ progress and activities in their daily-report book. My son, beyond my expectation, played together with other kids! He even have the courage to ask the teacher to give him some balls.

(6) Praying. Everyone sit at their chair, singing and saying thank you God, for today’s lesson and we are going home now. The class is dismissed at exactly 12 AM. My son repeated this song again and again at home.

From the whole session, I found some interesting facts and guidelines about what kind of playschool is appropriate for my son. The arrangement of one session to another was okay, but perhaps kids doesn’t need to listen to the teacher’s story about day and night. Perhaps this should be replaced with watching a video or something else more attractive to increase children’s interest.

Second, there were only one teacher for 7 kids. So while she was telling a story about night and day, at the same time she was also screaming calling out names of other kids who are running around the classroom. I feel bad for other kids who already seriously listened to her, and got distracted by that. There should be one more class assistant to handle those highly-active kids.

I think that’s about it. I am still feeling a bit euphoric because my son’s reaction was far better than I assumed. Although, during the whole class activities he didn’t allow me to leave the classroom! Which is, as I have expected. But he was communicating, interacting and socializing with the teacher and other kids whom he just knew for a few minutes, and I am so happy for that!

I’m still taking some trials elsewhere, and hopefully can obtain more experience to talk about here. Let’s just wait and see!

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I Was Wrong About Early Education

Okay, so first of all I have to admit that until yesterday, me and my husband was planning to postpone this preschool thing until Bintang is 4 years old next year. We thought, instead of paying some amount of money NOW, for activities which only lasts for 1 year, why not keep the money and use it to add our primary school fund later. And second, I personally believe that my son is just not yet ready for a regular activity in a classroom, with tutors, and friends..

But I guess, you can all call me a hypocrite for changing my mind, or.. well, simply realize that as a parent, changing our minds is very normal when it comes to deciding what’s best for our kids.

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So after thinking too much about it, I finally decided to take my son yesterday, to Sanggar Kreativitas Bona (Bona Creativity Class) and experienced a marvelous two-hour class of fun, friendship and now I can’t erase them from my mind! I was also heavily influenced by how the 3 year-old kids in Finland spent their time everyday, and was being fascinated by the Finnish education system, so badly, that I plan to give my son the same opportunity, even though it’s not going to be free here.

There are also other reasons such as this book by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman, especially on the chapter titled “Searching for Intelligent Life in Kindergarten” and the introduction of Tools of The Mind Program which can develop children imagination as well as teaching them on how to self-regulate themselves through better managing their executive functions.

Perhaps I’ve read to much, and was pretty curious on how my son would react to playschool activities. What ever it was, yesterday’s experience kinda blow me away. To my surprise, my son turned out to be very communicative to the teachers, and he did everything the teacher told him to do. He played with other kids, talked to other kids, asked (a lot) of questions to the teacher, and when the class is over, he refused to leave!

I am sinful for underestimating my own child’s capability. The fear that my son will be quiet and scared during the two-hours of classroom activities.. It didn’t happen!

And I admit that I was wrong about neglecting the importance of early education, at some part. I will tell you more about this playschool that my son tried yesterday on separate blog.

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Present Comfort, and Sacrifice

I’m an easily-bored kind of person who always seeks for new opportunities in almost anything, and right now I am thinking to get a new job. I’ve been surfing through the internet to check out some new job offers and have submitted my applications as well.

So far, I have caught the eyes of 2 (two) big companies, which I already had an interview with but still haven’t been called for further tests or more discussions. One is a second biggest tobacco company in Indonesia, and the other one is a Switzerland-based power generation company.

I should be grateful ? (Google Images)

Like any other jobs, all of them have positive as well as negative sides. Compared to the condition in my current company, I surely will be more busy, will have to wake up earlier in the morning, and possibly arrive more late in the evening. In short, I probably gonna spend LESS time with my son..

😦

But on the other hand, I will have a better salary to pay everything in my monthly expenses, including his school fees and hence (in the long run), provide a better future with better opportunities for him.

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So in the end, sometimes.. as a parent, or as a regular human being, there will be times when we have to sacrifice our comfortable present, in order to pursue a better future, for ourselves, or for our children..

If life is the distance between what we have right now and what we hope for in the future, then how is the best way to take the path towards the future?

How much do we have to sacrifice to make the journey meaningful for us, for our family?

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A School is..

Smart children are those who do well in school. Who can pass tests, and got good grades.

Oh yeah?

Well, I’m not against test.

It’s just that we need to have the right kind of test, to measure a child’s capability, skills, and to find out which are his/her strengths/weakness.

We can’t use standardized test to every child in order to determine whether they are smart or stupid, whether they deserve to move to the next class/grade or to repeat at the same grade, to pass or not to pass. Every child is different, unique and have their own skills and interests, and school tests are supposed to be adjustable to this.

Children who do well in sport or art subjects, have the same opportunity with children who do well in mathematics or linguistics. Both are equally smart, but they are different in the areas of strength.

Apparently, school and the whole system have failed to see this, but we, as parents, must put it in our mind and help our children to regain their self-esteem.

Every children have their own strength and weakness, they are unique, special, and deserve the same opportunity. And yet, there are educational institutions (even the most expensive ones, or especially those expensive ones!) who is using a standardized test to determine whether a child belong or doesn’t belong to their school.

Yesterday, I did some research to three kindergartens in my neighborhood. My son will turn 3 this May, and maybe I will send him to a pre-K institution. I have to admit, I got disappointing result because all three institutions are focusing on introduction to numbers, alphabets, enforcing reading ability, and mathematical ability as their main target, and forgot other areas which need to be emphasized as much as numbers/alphabets.

This is pretty common for early education institutions to be focusing on math and reading as the main subject, dominating 70-80 percent of their curriculum. The remaining 20 percent of the curriculum, goes to other areas such as musical ability, socialization, art/craft, sport activities, and technology/computers. This is so wrong for me, because I want my son to learn (more appropriately, to play) in an institution which have equal/balanced curriculum between academic and non-academic.

It will be a heaven for parents whose children are talented with numbers, alphabets, math and linguistics. But for kids who haven’t got any interest on numbers of alphabets, they will obviously be considered as “less smart” just because they love to draw pictures, able to swim, ride a bicycle, play lego, or sing a song perfectly on pitch.

Not only they will have lower self esteem due to their slow ability in learning numbers/alphabets, the pressure from friends, teachers, and even parents will ruin the child’s entire schooling experience.

So it’s not enough for us to constantly demand the correct education system, to send our children to expensive schools or courses, we must open our eyes as wide as possible and spent enormous quality times with our children to understand what their interest are, what their skills are and what areas are their strength/weakness.

In the end, school as a place to learn will have “some” responsibility to teach certain things to our child, but the belief that “I have sent my child to a reputable school with great program, great curriculum and great teachers. I am sure the result will be satisfying, and I can relax a little bit..” is WRONG. School is one source of knowledge, but it’s not the only one.

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