More on ‘Tiger’ Parenting

Reading another book now called ‘Beyond the Tiger Mom’ by an Indian who was in the USA doing her degree and subsequently teaching for about 15 years before moving to Singapore. She was comparing the different types of education styles she observed in both places and her take on the benefits and shortcomings in both. There is a lot more literature on western style parenting and I’ve read similar research on how to create a literacy rich environment. I never thought it was a western culture. It was something I knew I wanted my child to have – the pleasure of reading. Deep down, I felt that a person who reads widely and voraciously will do well in their life. So my first goal in educating Calvin was to introduce him to the joys of reading. I showed him soft cloth books from when he was just a few months old and we read and read and read tirelessly every day. In fact, reading has become a calming activity for him. Sometimes, when he feels upset and out of control, I’ll send him to his room to calm down and I will find him reading to himself. When he is calmer, we can then talk about what went wrong and how we can do better. So on that front, I think we’ve done a good job.

I don’t restrict the books that he reads either. I grew up learning to read by looking at comic books with no words (老夫子),then to comic books with words (小叮当) and finally to picture books and novels. I was lucky that my family reads. All of us are faithful readers of martial arts novels (金庸的武侠小说). I was lucky to be enrolled in a Primary school that emphasized learning in English and that had a whole collection of Enid Blyton books right in my classroom which I can borrow. My mum would bring me to the 2nd hand bookstore to rent English books that I like. It felt really natural to be reading and I thought it’s normal for kids to do it. Now,  I’m not really sure if most of my classmates in Secondary school really reads the way I do. Reading is such an important part of my life, I remember telling myself at age 18 that if I ever marry, it must be with someone who loves to read.

I never realized the need to have a math rich environment. I instinctively loved the STEM toys and building toys and acquired those for Calvin. Calvin is the proud owner of a humongous tub of Lego and many other building toys (wooden blocks, Knex, Trio blocks, marble machines, Magformers). I did little to teach him basic counting and arithmetic. When he finally started school last year, I realized that his math was at best at grade level by American standards, which is piss poor by Singapore standards since those kids have been drilling their subtraction and addition since preschool.

Even though I grew up in an environment of rote learning and worksheets, I was worried that if I pushed him hard to complete lots of worksheets, his natural interest will be snuffed. I’ve since adopted a more balanced view. While repeated practice can be boring, it has a place in gaining mastery.

So we spent K year working on mainly getting used to doing homework every day. I started teaching math as well as language arts, except I realize that I didn’t know anything about teaching and I went on to read many books about how to teach both.  Like how math has to be learned from concrete to representational to abstract. Or how to teach phonics (which I’ve never learned). I’m proud to say that we are now on track to keep up with SIngapore’s math and Calvin still thinks of homework with me as being fun even if he sometimes wishes he could just go off and play.

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