Monday, April 9, 2012

How to raise happy & creative children

Last weekend, I had the opportunity to go to a talk by Mdm Teoh Poh Yew on "How to raise a happy & creative children".
It was a full house. There were quite a number of homeschooler's parents there too. She introduced herself as a born teacher. She grew up aspiring to be a teacher. And end up as a teacher. And she enjoys being a teacher. She is very passionate in maximizing the potential of a child.

Some of the things she presented were nothing new, especially if you have been religiously reading parenting and education books. But it's her sharing and her perspective on education that makes the whole session really worth it. What amazes me is how she makes up for the flaw of our education system and nurture her kids to their best potentials. There are lots of thoughts brewing in my mind. Listening to her reaffirm some of them.

Few weeks ago, during some random talk with Mr O, I realized that in 2-3 years time, Luqman will leave the nest and start living on his own. My only son will leave the nest. And I will see him less and less. No more daily nagging.
It's freaky. I was like....erkk!! So fast meh??? Yes. Can't keep them forever right? He's sitting for his PMR this year. Mr O & I have been discussing a lot on what's the next step. What is his direction next year. The more we talked about it the more convinced I am I should homeschool him next year.

Luqman never like school. I thought he will change once we move him to a private school. Unfortunately, he doesn't. He's a very smart boy. Unfortunately, he's fully aware of it. And unfortunately, he conciously make the decision to be mediocre. I have been hearing the same comments from his teachers. Year after year. For the last 8 years. Luqman can do better if he puts more effort. Yes. That's the problem. It stressed me out. Simply because in my life, I have seen so many examples of "smart" people who wasted their talent due to their attitude. Despite their IQ & talent, they screwed up.

Luqman is the type of guy u would love to hate. He usually cruise through exams. Almost effortlessly. He seldom study. His knowledge is purely from what he gained in class. So I usually see very direct correlation between the teachers and his grades. Those subjects that he screwed up, are usually taught by his least favorite teachers.

Since last year, he slowly participates more in school. Though not by choice. His friends and teachers were probably tired of his lame excuses of why he cannot participate that they would just put up his name for competitions without even asking for his consent. And because he talks a lot in class, the friends assume he loves to be on stage too...much to his chagrin. Despite that, he still won.

Last week, he proudly showed me the 2 plaques he won during the BM week. No big deal actually. But big deal to me coz he usually couldn't be bothered to participate in anything.
And it convinced me he can be quite good on stage. The boy whom I thought is an introvert, is actually getting quite comfortable on stage.

PohYew spoke about the importance of parents being very sharp and diligent in finding the strength of the child. Sometime it might not be so obvious. I only observed Luqman loves to perform from the trip to KidZania.  She shared the story of her 2nd child who eventually found her passion in art. When she was small, her daughter couldn't even colour properly. And her artwork was never as good as the precocious elder sister. Until one day she figured out her daughter is talented in a different kind of art. Her talents are more towards cartoon, comic, and doodling kind of art. Her daughter scored 12A's in SPM and today the girl is pursuing her passion in art in one of the colleges. I know many parents who will not be comfortable to let their high flier kids pursue art as their major in uni but she believes her daughter should pursue her passion.

I totally agree with her. One of the reasons I want to homeschool Luqman next year is I want him to have few gap years before going to college. If he decides to go to college. Few years where he can study O level at his own pace and have time to explore his interest in art & design further.

Poh Yew spoke about the importance of creating goal setting. She shared with us her technique of creating goal setting with her kids. Goal setting gives the kids purpose for learning. I can see that with Luqman. Despite his laid backness, he will put more effort in things that he's interested in. He loves drawing and comic. I have been pestering him to pursue the interest further. He thinks he's not ready yet. He needs more time. bla.bla.bla. I think your artwork has no value and u cannot improve yourself if u don't show people your work.

In May, there will be Malaysian Games & Comics Convention in KDU. One of the promotional activities to kick start the event is the T-Shirt design competition. So I thought it will be a good platform for him to start. At least start something.
It was a busy week for him. PMR workshop. Homeworks. And another round of exam this week. But he managed to squeeze in some time to draw. And I have to give him credit for finishing off the design. Mr O submitted his design few minutes before the deadline.

There were so many problems. At first, we thought he can just draw manually and scan it. Then we figure the image will not be sharp. And the colours will be very poor once we scan it. So he has to resort to drawing softwares. Start from scratch again. We have bought the Wacom tablet for quite some time. But he has not use it before. So it was his first time fiddling with the software. So he has to deal with all the trouble shootings. It takes a bit of nudge to get him to persevere. But he did finish it off.
I think his design was quite good. I love his idea. The design was a bit messy coz he ran out of time. But really not bad for first timer. Right?? But again, I'm his mom...ha3. Anyway, if u like his design, help him get through the qualifying round by voting for him here. Pleasssseeeeeeee!! ;-)

Voting is until 13th April. Share the link with your friends and get them to vote too. Thank u for believing in him and boosting his confidence. U had no idea what it means to the young man (and his mommy...hahaha). Thank u ;-)
Poh Yew also spoke about her slow learner kid. She has 3 kids. 2 are "above average", and 1 is "below average". When she was assigned to the worst student, like a 17yo who can't do basic multiplication, she strongly believe something has gone really wrong. Nobody wants to be in that situation.

She asked us;
"When u have gifted child u feel u deserve it. Why is it when u have below average kids u feel bad about it?"

She reminds me of Emily and my continuous struggle with dyslexia. If u r not careful, u can get really overwhelmed with the science of it. Whatever condition your child has. Dyslexia. Dyspraxia. Asperger. Autism. Down Syndrome. ADHD. etc.etc.etc. Information overload that makes it so technical. Hence, you miss the big picture. The child.

Poh Yew shared few stories on how seeing the positive in everything that her children do helps her bring the best out of her children. She has the knack of "finding good even in the lousiest thing".

One of the thing that Emily always look forward to is her forthnightly art class in National Art Gallery with one of the residence artist, Mr Fathullah Luqman. I learned a lot from Fathul. How he analysed Emily's character from her drawing.
Fathul thinks Emily has the trait of a great artist. I see SLOW. My favourite word to Emily is probably "Hurry up". Fathul thinks she is meticulous.
Poh Yew mentioned in her talk, if we continue teaching our  children just like the way we teach them how to talk and walk, nobody will fail. Very true huh???!! Lots of positive reinforcement. Not easy. I have to admit. But not impossible. I am very upfront to my kids on my weaknesses. I don't know how to praise my children. So does Mr O. We r totally crappy at it. Kids know it. Sometimes they tease us about it.

Both me & Onn are first child. And neither of us is the favourite child. So we don't grow up with lots of praise. Our relationship with our parents are very technical. The first child always have the responsibility to set the standard. To get things done. You don't talk about your feelings. You just get on with stuffs. It's ironic how u tend to raise your kids the way u were raised. Although u hate it. Changing our mindset is probably the hardest thing to do. At least that's what I discovered when I satrted homeschooling Emily. We must make our child believe they can excel.

It's the responsibility of the parents to design an environment conducive for learning. It's the responsibility of the parents to learn parenting. Every child is born with talents. It's up to the parents to discover the talents of the child.

Poh Yew's eldest daughter is a very talented girl. She showed us some of her artworks that she collected over the years. She communicate with her children through art. Handmade cards. While the audience were going "ooohhh and aaaahhhh" over the daughter's very nice elaborate handmade pop up cards, she told us genius are trained. Her daughter didn't come out with the idea all by herself. She used many reference books to gain info on how to create all those artworks.

Geniuses are made by loving people: mothers, fathers, grandparents and other adults who spend their lives sharing their goals, wisdom, and love with the future light s of the world.
- Andrei G. Aleinikov -

The 2 geniuses side by side. Einstein & Tagore.
"When I began my life as a poet, the writers among our educated community however took their inspiration from English literature. I suppose it was fortunate for me that I never in my life had what is called an education, that is to say the kind of school & college training which is considered proper for a boy of respectable family. Though I cannot say I was altogether free from the influence that ruled the young minds of those days, the course of the writings was nevertheless saved from the groove of imitative forms." -Rabindranath Tagore.

The guy who dropped out of school at 13yo. Coz he argued that the typical schools could have crippled his creative growth.;-)

Poh Yew also doesn't believe in punishment. She thinks the only thing u will gain from scolding and punishing your kids is the next time the kids repeat the same offence, they will not tell u. Try reasoning with the kids. Never highlight the kids' mistake. Being tactful is important. And we need to master the art of reframing. Instead of highlighting everything that is wrong with the kids, learn to describe what they have done right and what else need to be done.

But she also doesn't praise her kids for their gifted talent. She believes kids should be praised for their effort. Talent is given. Effort is not. Mr O bought Hajar a new laptop. As a reward for her UPSR. It was what we promised her last year. Luqman can't understand why she's getting rewarded when she didn't get 5As. We feel she deserved it for her effort. And we hope the reward will motivate her further to reach greater height. Insyaallah.

If u want to learn more from Poh Yew, u can attend her workshops.

You can get more info from her website. Trust me, u will not be disappointed. Check it out ;-)


  1. Mellymilly,

    Just discover your blog.
    Thank you soooooooooo much for your kind recommendation,

    Let's continue to lean from each other.

    Poh Yew

  2. You are welcome, Poh Yew. I am very2 blessed and privileged to learn from u. Thanks for the opportunity ;-)