I had three panic attacks last week


So this is how the story goes …

Last week, my friend posted on Facebook about the spelling test in both English and Chinese Language that his son is having at K2. For English, the spelling test starts from eight words in Term 1 to three sentences in Term 4. Even in Term 1, the eight words are not short words like one, two and three. Some of the examples are like ‘breakfast’ and ‘restaurant’. Wait, I haven’t talk about the Chinese spelling test yet!

Admittedly, I panicked a little when I read her post. It’s not because Edison is having a similar spelling test, but rather because he is NOT having any spelling test in school! I began to wonder if his school is missing out something important. Is spelling test a norm for kindergarten now? Oh, please tell me that it’s not.

Last year, I had my first attempt of doing some simple spelling tests with Edison at home, and it turned out pretty well. I stopped after a while, because I wanted to focus on his literacy skills instead. Spelling is more on memorization, and I think he can do it if he reads, writes and memorizes them every day.

With this being said, I think I’ve to restart our home spelling test since he isn’t having any at school.

The second panic came after I read this post about a Primary One English worksheet posted by a parent on Facebook. I nearly fell off my chair! Again, please don’t tell me that these are what our kids are supposed to know at Primary One level. I don’t think Edison can even understand the questions, not to mention the answering part of it.

Later on, I realized that these questions are not the typical stuffs learnt at school. They may be something drafted out by the teachers to identify gifted students. I immediately heaved a sigh of relief!

Then, the third panic attacked (real one!) when his Chinese teacher at school expressed her concern over his complete inability to speak in Chinese. So, this is a real issue and I acknowledged that. She suggested that we can enrol him with some Chinese enrichment or speech and drama classes, so that he can learn to speak in Chinese with confidence.

She also mentioned that it will be a huge problem if he is still unable to speak in Chinese when he goes to Primary One. I agree with her, and I can’t get away from this problem now. So last week, I was frantically searching for a Chinese enrichment class for him.

School A offered me their Chinese story-telling class which is aimed to cultivate interest and boost confidence in speaking Chinese Language at preschool level. It’s not very ‘academic’, so I thought it should be quite fun and interesting for him. The only concern is the location, which is quite far from our home.

School B suggested that we can put him at their K1 class first and start from the basic level, then gradually promote to K2 when he’s ready. Lastly, School C said that we should start with K2 class because he needs to start learning Han Yu Pin Yin this year. If we put him at K1 class, he will not be learning that.

According to School C, most kids have already mastered Han Yu Pin Yin by the time they enter Primary 1. Seriously, I thought that Han Yu Pin Yin is only taught from Primary 1 onwards. I was quite surprised to learn that kids these days have mastered it even before they enter P1.

Considering the location and class timing, we finally enrolled him with School C. “Welcome to the rat race!” I told myself. The overly-advanced and competitive nature of our education system has begun to slap hard on my face.

I can’t imagine the day when I have to prepare him for his PSLE, O’ Level, A’ Level, tertiary education and national service. And finally – to prepare him for life in the real world.

Ah, being a parent is so stressful!

Recommended For You


Dominique Goh January 20, 2013 at 5:11 PM

They do teach very fast when they start Chinese in P1. By the end of Term 1 they are expected to know all the AEIOU etc of the hanyu pinyin.

Emily January 21, 2013 at 5:14 PM

Hi Dom,
Just started to teach my son the Pin Yin after his first Chinese enrichment class yesterday. I had a hard time trying to recall them. Haiz. I really admire you for being able to introduce foreign language to your kids. I’m still struggling with my own mother tongue! 🙁

Ai Sakura January 21, 2013 at 12:28 AM

I feel the stress from just reding your post! :p welcome to the rat race but hope he still remembers to stop and smell the flowers sometimes 🙂

Emily January 21, 2013 at 5:15 PM

Hi Ai,
Yeah, this is insane, but I’ll make sure he still have time to stop and smell the flowers. The kids are really stressful these days, as compared to our times.

MieVee @ January 22, 2013 at 2:15 AM

The part that confuses me is why isnt’ the current Chinese teacher at school teaching him to speak in Chinese with confidence? Isn’t that her role?

Anyway, to learn a language with ease, the basic step is to hear it often. Then progress to speaking, reading and writing. Try playing lots of Chinese songs, poems, audio books via CD through the day while he’s playing. (I transfer these files into iPod for easy organisation and connect to a speaker set for playing / looping.) Works for all languages. We’re learning English, Chinese and Bahasa since we’re in Malaysia, and this method is very efficient plus effective.

For good Chinese audio files, try 37.2 ???? series, available at Popular.

All the best!

Emily January 25, 2013 at 12:41 PM

Dear MieVee,
Thanks for your recommendation. I’ll check out at Popular. Actually, his Chinese teacher’s concern is we ain’t speaking Chinese at home (we’re to be blame actually). That’s why he still refuses to speak Chinese at school. His teacher has been encouraging him to speak the language with confident, but he is still stubborn.

Homeschoolsg January 22, 2013 at 1:45 PM

Just to share my own experience wih you:
I too enrolled my son to a Chinese class hoping to up his conversational skills in mandarin. But after a few terms i realised they are focusing a lot more on word recognition less on oral. As you shared, now at k2 level, they are teaching hypy, which means little emphasis on spoken mandarin again. My son can read well but cant speak well. That made me realise these are 2 different matters. The point I’m driving is that most enrichment classes focus more on word recognition, hypy etc. I recently learnt that the correct course, particularly for conversational, is to look for Chinese speech and drama class. So now I’ve end up signing two chinese classes for my k2 boy, one for vocab/hypy and another for speech drama. It sounds like the school you chose is more to prepare him for ‘paper’ work and less on the oral bit. Just be mindful they are 2 different things and you may need to look for speech drama class asp. :p

Emily January 25, 2013 at 12:45 PM

Hi Homeschool,
Yes, you are right. If our focus is on conversational, speech & drama class is more effective. Last year, his Chinese teacher recommended me to try the Chinese speech & drama class at the Hokkien Association at TPY. But unfortunately, I was too busy and I didn’t really check it out.

But my son is also weak in word recognition, that’s why I choose the enrichment class over speech & drama. Signing up for two seems like a little stressful for him, so we just try the enrichment first and see how it goes.

Conversational wise, we’re trying to speak more Chinese at home. Hopefully, it helps.

Libby January 25, 2013 at 5:43 AM

I find kids nowadays are weaker in Chinese as compared to English, I think because they find chinese words very complicated and difficult to write and recognise. My students need me to tell them the English translation or the han yu pin yin of the chinese words before they can know how to read. So different from our times.

Emily January 25, 2013 at 12:46 PM

Hi Libby,
It’s definitely easier to write the ABC than Chinese. My son hates Chinese writing, and he always forget the strokes and its sequence.

MieVee @ February 8, 2013 at 11:06 PM

Agree with the speech and drama part. I joined Chinese Drama as my ECA during secondary school days and the training really drilled my pronunciation very well, and widened my exposure to Chinese literature. When preparing for performances, we trained hard to learn all the words in the script and perfect the pronunciation. Everyone learnt to speak good Mandarin plus it was very enjoyable.

Emily February 9, 2013 at 9:18 AM

Hi MieVee,
I never joined any Speech & Drama classes during my school days. I don’t think my school had it. But besides practicing on pronunciation, it also help to train on public speaking with confidence. Something I find useful to be instilled since young.

CE May 23, 2013 at 9:38 AM

Reading well is not enough if they don’t have enough vocab (be it Chinese or English). There’s where the daily conversation of the language will help. My girl gets frustrated reading Chinese articles or stories with phrases she doesn’t understand.
As for hypy, I tried to start off my K2 by just casually saying to him those ??. I would say a word and let him guess which ??. And recite sound like ‘d t n l’ etc. All these done casually on the way to car park or school.


Leave a Comment