Tag Archives: education

Less Instructions = More Creativity

After 2 weeks attending playschool, today my son Bintang made a scene. This isn’t the first time he did something weird  because couple of days ago, when the teacher told everyone in the classroom to sing “Bintang Kecil” my son refused and yelled “No! let’s sing Gundul-Gundul Pacul instead!” .. which made the whole class sing Gundul-Gundul Pacul first… and then Bintang Kecil.

Today, the whole class played outside the classroom and took a trip inside Carrefour for “practical life” lesson about grocery shopping, healthy food vs junk food, and payment issues. After the trip, all kids took part on “Doughnut Contest” where the fastest kid who can eat a doughnut, wins. Bintang, who already ate breakfast with a glass of milk, did nothing but stare at the doughnut. He was focused on something else instead. The “kereta kelinci” (small train) in front of Carrefour which is ready to take everyone for a ride around their playschool.

Up to the train ride, Bintang was “okay” as in enjoying the whole outdoor activities, although he refused to join his friends and teachers standing in front of the train for a photograph, and asked to take their pictures instead.

During all those activities, Bintang was excited and his nanny was there with him all the time. I wasn’t there until the train ride has finished.

And then.. the next schedule was one of the big moment: performing “Cublak-Cublak Suweng” dance, in Carrefour’s stage, in front of a bunch of people, where everybody paid their attention to the s-t-a-g-e.

Bintang totally refused to perform. And I got upset. So both mommy and son were emotionally exhausted, right in front of the school teachers, and other mommies as well. What an embarrassing scene it was!

😀

According to the teacher, there were three reasons:

1) Because I was there, he choose to spend time with me, instead with his friends and teachers.

2) Because he got scared with the idea of “performing in front of a crowd

3) He never enjoyed following other people’s instructions.

For reason number 1 and 2, okay I will accept my son the way he is, and try to be more patience.

But for reason number 3, I got confused.

One of the great things about children is how much creativity they have. And we, as parents, were sometimes got blown away by the funny things they said, or by the unexplainable (but cute) things they did. And one reason behind all this amazing development is due to their free will. Their initiatives. Their imaginations run very wild because they are free to think about anything, and this is very important in any kids’ healthy development.

Now let’s talk about instructions. Structure. Obligations.

I don’t mean to refuse the idea of giving instructions to a 3 year old like Bintang, but I also couldn’t understand the point of it. I want my son to have the courage to walk towards the stage by himself, I really do, and I must work on this matter. But to have him dance in accordance to the teachers? It’s okay if he want to, or if he can imitate the moves of his friends or teachers, but I wouldn’t blame him if he choose to perform his own movements. I will be proud of him, a lot!

I know it will be awful to look at, a bunch of kids, dancing around with different moves one from another, but come on people, they’re only 3-4 years old! We should be focusing on their courage to perform in public, and enjoy their creative moves, instead of being frustrated by the fact that they don’t follow their teachers’ moves/instructions.

And that was the thing I realized after having my own emotional meltdown today. I simplify my duty to support Bintang to have more courage in public, to have fun on stage with friends.

I will give less instructions, and allowing him for more initiatives.

After all, that is the root of their self esteem and creativity.

🙂

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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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The Old Times

Time, have surely change. If 20 years ago, when I was 13 years old, my parents got mad at me, it was because I didn’t come home straight after school, but went to my friend’s house instead, to hangout and play basketball until 6 or 7 PM. But yesterday, my nephew got into a terrible fight with his dad, because he came home at 9 PM, and admitted he had been at his friend’s house after school, browsing and playing games, on the internet.

Twenty years ago, instead of spending hours and hours staring at a computer screen pretend to carry a gun and shooting terrorists through an internet-connected games, I spent hours playing basketball under the hot sunshine, and fell down, hurt my legs under the rain. From hanging around in my friends’ house, I’ve made more new friends whom I know face to face and introduced myself through a handshake instead of sending a “buzz” or a “ping” in the messenger applications.

Apparently, for some people, “change” can not be embraced in a positive way, including my 22 year old nephew “Nina” who recently got her diploma degree in midwifery. Her mother, a principal for a public-elementary school in the village of Condong, Probolinggo, East Java, who is also a PNS (civil employee) insisted that Nina should become a PNS and start working as a midwife in the nearest village. Nina’s mother have already prepared IDR 125,000,000 to pay the local government officials to “secure” her daughter’s position in the PNS “industry.”

She was pretty angry when Nina refused this plan and wanted to continue  studying in Surabaya, to get a Bachelor Degree and joins a program to become a lecturer. Nina’s mother told me, “I don’t understand Nina, she has this dream to educate other people because Indonesia is very poor when it comes to education. While for me, her dream is useless because she lives in Indonesia!”

This particular clash between a mother and her daughter is very rare, especially in villages of East Java. Everyone “adores” PNS and will do everything they can to be one. They invested their money in cows, gold jewelries, rice fields, and plantation, just to sell them all one day in order to pay government officials and seal-the-deal for a PNS status. Nina’s parents have already done this 2 years ago, when Nina’s older sister graduated from college and became a midwife (with a PNS status) at a nearby Puskesmas (village hospital).

Some things from the old times were much better than today, but the great PNS status is definitely not one of them. As for Nina, she will have to keep fighting her own mother, and repeatedly saying, “I don’t care about the PNS status. I can find my own money which I earn with dignity” which should make a mother proud, although in her case it was completely the opposite.

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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?

😀

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 for + 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.

😀

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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So Very (Too) Fresh – College Graduates

One of the female staff in my office is 7,5 month pregnant. She is the secretary for administration department. Pretty soon she will deliver and we will need a temporary staff working for 3 months during my friend’s maternity leave.

pregnant, and working

We have received some applications and currently we have picked three female candidates to fill her spot. They all came from highly reputable university in Surabaya, and some of them are fresh graduates. Today, I have the privilege to watch all three of them doing an interview with my boss.

The first candidate, graduated from Airlangga University in International Studies, and continued management program at University of Surabaya, where she earn her post-graduate degree. She’s only 26 years old but already have an “M. M.” title behind her name. To complete our fascination, she also have a “3-point-something” GPA. But to my surprise, she showed up in something that I can’t understand, until my boss said, “her academic achievements does not match her appearance and working abilities.”

I thought to myself, “Girl, you might be smart, but you need to know that those outfit you wear, might be suitable for college, but not for work!

The second candidate, just finished her final assignment in the faculty of Communication and Public Relation at Petra University. She looks nice, confident, and friendly. I thought my boss will choose her instantly, but I was wrong.

“She might came from a very expensive university and her major is communication but she have no idea how to be engaged in an English conversation…” said my boss.

What ??? Doesn’t know how to speak or write English?

The third candidate, currently a stay-at-home mommy who graduated from University of Airlangga, majoring in International Study. Two-point-something GPA, used to work as Guest Relation Officer in several hotels, good appearance, fluent in English, but… showed up late for more than an hour..

During her lateness, she vanished from the face of the earth, we were unable to contact her mobile phone and local number. She finally showed up, looking good and did well in the interview. But punctuality is something that my boss (and pretty sure all companies) consider very important.

So my boss is kinda angry and feel a bit disappointed today. For a position that is relatively simple, an administration staff to manage office expenses and e-mails, all three candidates doesn’t have the very basic skills we needed: (1) Good appearance, (2) English capabilities, and (3) Computer skills (Microsoft Office Word, Excel, and e-mailing).

Yet, let me remind you that all of them came from a very reputable universities, have high GPAs, and were pretty actively involved in their university organizations.

Another bitter reality for me, considering all of them have spent enormous amount of (their parents’) money but are not ready to make (money) on their own. This surely is a valuable lesson for me as a parent. And this is one fact that must be deeply, thoroughly, think about, for all of you studying in college right now.

Are you sure you’re going to get a job easily after you graduate, or are you just like most college graduates who does not have any idea on how to prepare yourself in order to be ready for work?

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