PSLE results came out last week. My youngest son Aaron did well enough to qualify for any school in Singapore, including top school RI. On his vision board (yes, mom’s influence) next to his bed, he has a photo of RI on it (as well as a very expensive sports car which he hopes to drive one day). But he’ll not be going to RI, instead he has selected HCI, his father’s JC alma mata.
Aaron is in the GEP stream. I was told a gifted child is often curious about everything. How does one raise a gifted child? I’ll give my two cents worth here. Having a stay-home-mom is one advantage, as can be observed in many households with GEP kids. Mothering is truly very important in pre-school age. (Having said that, I wish to correct myself – actually at any age, even teenage.)
I stop work when Aaron was four months old, becoming a full-time mother to him and his two elder brothers. Being the youngest in the family has given him a wide exposure to many things his family members enjoy: food, countries, books, sports. As often as possible, we try to include him in our adventure, giving him the options to participate or refuse.
To his credit, Aaron was often game enough to try any food we put in front of him – mee pok with chili padi, curry, crabs, sashimi, pigs offals, duck wings…By the tender age of five, he had developed a taste bud so mature we often get an audience watching him eat.
I first took him travelling when he was seven months, to Queensland on a self-drive holiday. Many people say taking a child on vacation is a waste of money as the child cannot remember anything thereafter. Well, I can’t too. All I want on a vacation is to live in the present moment. And that’s why I try as much to take the kids with us as possible. Not all trips are luxury. I took Aaron and his brothers on a seven hours train ride to KL when Aaron was just one. When he was five, we went on a three days hike to stay with the hill tribes in Chiangmai. A two-hour cave walk in Ipoh was also a memorable experience that he still talks about now. Of course, he grumbles that he can’t remember the trip to Disney World or the visit to the Amish community when he was barely two, but he relishes the two whale watch trips he saw, once in Maui and once in Gold Coast. There are some things he declined to join, to the teasing of his brothers : Snorkelling in Tioman and Sabah. He was not that comfortable in sea water yet.
That changed when he took up swimming at four and by the time he was in primary school, he was selected for the school swim team and participated in triathlon.
To my delight too is his appetite for reading. He devours books of all genre, fiction and non fiction, classics and modern. I encourage this by buying him all kinds of books from warehouse sale, even books which I find boring myself. Now, his reading has exceeded mine. Recently, he watched Social Network on HBO and told me to borrow the book The Accidental Billionaires from the library and I was amazed he could tell me the book was much better than the movie.
Two of my relatives who had GEP kids told me that enrichment classes are very important, especially the ones that aid reading and counting. I did not have the time nor energy for that with my two older sons but I enrolled Aaron in as many classes as possible. Being a November child has an advantage as he could start classes earlier than his peers. He started I Can Read at two plus, mental arithmetics, piano and swimming classes at four, art classes at five. It is true that kids learn the fastest before the age of six because by the time he is 8, he is good enough to stop all enrichment classes. (except for art.)
Game time is also an important learning opportunity. At three, he could play chess and Chinese chess with his brothers (ok, often losing to them) and father. I play Mastermind with him(even with his colour blindness), and games about countries and capitals, Scrabble, but I decline at Monopoly, his favourite. To prepare him for the GEP, I also played IQ games with him, books with patterns and number sequences.
Compared to his two older brothers who each owned game boys and many PC games, Aaron did not have that, until he inherited them from his brothers two years ago. The boys were also not allowed any TV at home during school days, something I was often criticized for. But look how much time it left Aaron to pursue many other things?
There is the question of nature vs nurture. Ivan, my second son laments that if I had stopped work earlier, he could probably have been a GEP kid. Probably, or not. My neighbour, who raised two GEP kids, tells me the amount of time she spent teaching them when they were toddlers. My Aunt, mother of a GEP, had painstakingly highlighted vocabulary on paperbacks for her two-year-old then. Parenting a GEP child, or any child for that matter, is not easy. There are sacrifices parents have to make.
As Aaron embarks on his teenage years, I shudder to even think about that. My best years of parenting is now over.