Minus the tension

When I was a student all my friends were taking tuition for some subject or the other. My grandmother who was a school principal was horrified by the very idea. Children should not study after school hours she insisted and if you needed to study beyond your classroom your teachers needed to be shot. In spite of much begging and pleading, I wasn’t allowed any. I didn’t really need it – it was just the cool thing to do. You got to meet your classmates out of uniform (very big deal in a small town!), you got to hang out with the opposite sex (even bigger deal but not really my incentive since I got to do that anyway) and the coaching you studied at was a matter of status – it defined how cool you were. Yes, I realise how small town this is, but there you have it.

As the years passed, I began to struggle with Math in earnest – might have been a combination of shitty, disinterested teachers and plain phobia, but I’d break out in a cold sweat the day before the exam. Even so, coaching was out of the question. It had never been done in the history of our family and what would the neighbours say? That a child from our family actually needed extra help? Unheard of. Finally my grandma caved and a guy some years my senior would drop by and teach me Math every second day and earn some pocket money. But that is where it began and ended. No coaching centres for me. And her basic rules were dinned into my head until I could say them in my sleep –

1. No one with any brains needed coaching.

2. If you paid attention in class in the first place, you wouldn’t need help with your homework.

3. If your parents had half a brain and some time for you, they’d be able to help you and you wouldn’t need coaching.

Right. With that engraved on my brain it is no surprise that I was convinced my kids would never take coaching. No sirree. We have a family tradition to uphold. And what is with children in class 1 taking tuition anyway? Often it’s just parents sending their kids to the neighbourhood aunty to do their school homework.

Thankfully the Brat and Bean’s school doesn’t give too much homework, but the little that they do, is a struggle. For no reason other than that the Brat tunes out. Half way through he’ll look up at me and say, How do astronauts drink water on the moon? Does it fly out of the glass? And I glare at him, ‘It’s almost 7 – you need to finish this page of writing, not worry about gravity on the moon.’

In theory I want to be the smiling, unruffled mother who pours him a glass of milk, hands him a biscuit, pats him on the head and homework forgotten says, “About gravity, son…”. But in reality I’m the mother who looks at the time and panics. Dinner and bedtime lie ahead and I don’t want this to overflow into the next time slot. So astronauts can worry about thirst, I have my own rather practical issues at hand.

One of the first being, that while Class 1 math or english is no rocket science, there is a certain way they’re being taught in school. And I hate to confuse the kids by teaching them in my own way. Teachers are after all trained professionals. They know what they’re doing and there is a method to the madness. For me, it’s less racking of the brain and more torture on a rack as I try to explain to him evaporation and why S sounds like Z when writing cheese and please. Not everyone is meant to teach kids, not because we haven’t learnt it or understood it, but because not everyone can come up with innovative ways to teach and make learning fun.

This by itself is a good reason to send a child for tuition – so that they are taught they way they are meant to, without any confusion on the basics. But I’ve decided not to let this break me down. As long as I can, I’m going to work with the teachers, find out how they are teaching and also read up and find fun ways to teach the alphabet, numbers and everything else. Wish me luck.

Anyway, getting back to the present, I didn’t realise that my tension was coming across to him. And I have no idea when it started. All I know is that it gets exacerbated when we’re doing Math. Mostly because even though it’s only primary level math my own fear of the subject plays on my mind even while I explain it to him. Am I doing it right? How do I explain this to him in a simple way so that he gets his basics clear unlike mine? How do I not screw him up? And children being perceptive the way they are, he’s twigged on to it. I struggle for words and don’t realise how my tone has changed. How he can sense the desperation and tension in my voice?

A few days ago we were doing Math home work and after 15 minutes of explaining to him and watching him do his work I felt the fear ease out of my body. I sat there and watched the little head bent over the table and miniature-OA-stubby-fingers holding the pencil and forming the numbers. And then he looked up at me and said, “Mama, you’re not angry with me anymore, are you?”

To actually experience the moment you need to know the Brat. Skinny rat though he is, he has the sweetest, curved baby cheeks that give him the innocent face of a younger child. His big brown eyes don’t hold half the edge of the Bean or even another child of his age. He reminds me of what you’d get if you crossed a sad-eyed puppy with a tub of melted butter. Soft, gentle, quick to step back if he thinks he is hurting you, parenting him is a walk on egg shells. I worry that he worries. And he worries that I worry.

I looked at him in surprise,”I’m not angry, sweetheart. What made you think I was?”

“I don’t know. You just looked angry and sounded angry and your body was angry.”

And there you have it. I’ve already done it. Passed some of the tension on without trying. He already thinks Math = angry mother.

I pulled my chair closer and wrapped my arms around him and rocked back and forth, at a loss for words. “I’m not angry at all, sweetheart,” I croon. He was too smart to comment and just buried his face in my neck soaking up the mommy love. I felt his trust pass into my body and the tension in mine ease away. It’s hard not to fall under his spell.

A few seconds passed and we both pulled away and without a word got back to the math homework. The crisis had passed and I had a lesson tucked away for the future. Math and motherhood don’t have to add up to tension. I can do it. And so can he.

Just to remind you of the kind of heart-wrenching Brat he is, here’s a picture of him gently kissing my best friend’s four month old. He fed him his bottle of milk along with the grandmother and told the older lady – “When you reach half way, don’t forget to stop and burp the baby.” ROFL!


70 thoughts on “Minus the tension

  1. Bah tuitions! I think they’re only necessary for older kids where the parents really cannot help the kid… given that the teachers at school are hardly stellar (at least ours were a varied bunch) and class sizes are so large. This may not be the case now, one hopes. I did Hindi and Marathi tuition since my mum really couldn’t help us with our homework and Math in the tenth (because, like you, I’m allergic to it). Actually, both my Math and Hindi (changed tuition teacher in the tenth) helped me understand and like the subjects better which I think it quite a good outcome, considering tenth is supposed to be all exam focused.

    I also took French tuitions which was quite unnecessary but yeah, this was the cool tuition to go to and eye the boys. I used to skip a lot to watch GI joe of all things though 🙂

  2. he is so cute. if its any consolation, its goes the other way too… i LOVE math. LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE math. so now the monkey tells me ‘dont try to make me do all this extra stuff because you love it’ or she will be angry at me for not letting her read so she will say ‘I hate math. So take that’ Am with you on the no tuition funda. At least thats what I tell myself as I struggle with all the jilebi like scrawls that are tamil. dammit.

      • With Kenny here – Love Math, always loved it, and it came easy to me. And naturally my daughter decided he doesn’t really like math – though she’s fine with it at her present level – she isn’t excited by the cool things one can do with math, and thinks I am crazy when I croon about how something math-related is so cool 🙂 And I worry that she’ll develop a girls-dont-do-math attitude. Sigh.

  3. Maybe it’s the culture difference here, but kids only really get tuition here for the final two years of highschool that will determine their mark to get into university. Everything else, it’s your own brains and the parent’s help. Not to say there is a market for kids and parents alike who want to get their children ahead – we have coaching classes for schools that have an entrance exams/scholarships only based on the fact that these schools churn out kids with the highest highschool mark. Sigh.

    The thought of sending children to coaching in grade one is really strange!

    • I think its a culture difference Sig. And you know, in the small town I grew up in, many of the parents really weren’t educated enough to teach their kids or even help with homework. I can’t use that excuse. Now the only reason would be if I were back at work and didn’t have time for homework. I see parents come home late at night and try and teach kids at 8 in the night when the kid is dying of exhaustion and sleep. I think that is when I might finally bend and send them. 😦

  4. Tutions…*sigh

    I always thought that sending kids to school was enough. and i stubbornly hung on to that, till we moved back here to India. Even then I assumed my 14yrold would manage. He couldn’t, and wouldn’t even admit it. Finally, much against my will, I have put him into tuition and sadly also found that he finds the reinforced learning helpful. I also realized that the higher the classes, the faster and rushed is the teaching in school. There is this hurry to finish the syllabus and the playful ones get left behind 😦
    You are also right about the different methodologies used in teaching, esp Math. My 9 yr old does his addition and multiplication in such convoluted ways that I just hope that in future when it comes to quick math skills this method does help them! I managed pretty well with the rote way of learning my math tables!

    and MM, its nice to read this space again…and comment too :))

    • No of course it helps. Class sizes are big and very few teachers are dedicated. Most teachers I meet are women trained to do other things. Then they decide to take up teaching because it fits the husband’s frequent transfers and suits their hours – two months of summer holidays is more than any other job offers! Naturally kids need more and more help from beyond school.
      And hey, its nice to have you back here too.

      • I held on for long too but gave up this year now that they’re in grade 5 & 7 .And the Maths gets to me too.A joyfilled Christmas to you & the mad family:)

  5. Your description of tuitions fits perfectly well with the small town in TN where I ended up doing my 10th and 12th standards. Thankfully (or not) my parents refused to budge. I ended up taking Physics tuitions in my 12th, where the guy who taught me told me people like me who do not plan to pursue an Engineering degree ought not be wasting his time; and that no one in their right minds would choose a non- Engineering/ non- Medicine degree. I laughed at him then and I continue to laugh at him even today! I did not particularly like Math either, for the longest time. CAT happened and when I was preparing for it, this Ph.D student happened to coach me on and off – and that, was an eye- opener in every sense. The intense love story with Math that began 8 years ago, now continues, and how!
    As for the Brat, like I always say, he is the most adorable heart- tugger I know. (There is a painting that always reminds me of him. Will send you the link to that picture in a bit). Give him a hug from me, please?

    • I’ve had so many people tell me they planned their babies after reading about the Brat. I have a feeling I’ve balanced it out by giving stories of the Bean that are enough to make people celibate 😉

      • You wish! Here I am, dreaming about babies, wishing for a baby girl ESPECIALLY like the Bean (and all this, without a man in sight!). If I have a baby within a year of being married, you know who I am going to blame, for the hurry! :p

      • Arre I empathise with the Bean. Me and my brother alternated between being monkeys just to drive my mother right off her head, if my family wasn’t already dysfunctional enough

  6. Kids some how never get the urgency. They suddenly get lost. In spite of telling them again and again to do something because it’s getting late, they remain lost. And we end up losing our paitence. And then we feel guilty. We are all in the same boat MM 😦

  7. A heartbreaking story again. The sweet baby that Brat is. Can we have the kinda babies that we read about while being pregnant? Just a thought 😛
    And talk about tutions. My parents were like yours, though mom wasn’t able to help when I was in 12th and I succumbed to tutions for Math/Physics/Chemistry. Can’t say it helped me a lot to learn, but it did help me focus coz of the mad numbers in which people turned in the tution class. I’d go bonkers and study harder. If only I knew 12th exams are not the end of the world 🙂 Lets try not to churn out more Engineers please!!!

  8. We finally get to read a post on Brat. He is so intelligent MM, I am surprised that he knows about gravity and all that stuff. I dont remember reading all this at such younger age. You must be so proud of him. It is just not his intelligence I am talking about, the way he feels for others, I have never seen a kid like this.

    Maths was/is my favourite subject. I used to buy extra practice books and follow my Maths sir everywhere. I was so crazy about it that one day my Science teacher actually warned me that I am paying more attention only on one and ignoring the rest of the subjects.

    I am with you on the tuitions…my sis and I never took tuitions until we reached 10th grade and I think we managed pretty well on our own. Times were different then, and I see there are many institutions that are specialised in one thing or the other(ex. Kumon for Maths, phonics classes for nursery kids). I am not sure if I would be sending my son to these classes in future. I know, I am a very confused mom. That is the reason I look up to you for tips on raising kids.

  9. Aww! that picture…Brat is *such* a sweetheart.

    On tuition-There is so much discussion on NOT sending the kids to school, yet I see 4yrs old carrying thier bags,giving up precious play time and walking to tuitions 😦

    God! You scare me, My tension of a subject passing on to the son? And here I was thinking that he’s turning 2 and growing up-so things are going to be less stressful… 😦

  10. Hey…I landed up on your blog over the weekend and fell in love with it :). I grew up with no tuitions, except in 12th grade where a couple of my uncle’s friends who were college professors came home to help me out with math and physics (they were not professionals in teaching high school curriculum). My mom taught me everything. With my sister (who was six years younger), we did tuitions but still, mom was her main tutor.

    I now live in the US and even though my kiddo is not yet school age, I know how the system works here. No tuitions. We have kumon but more n more people are turning away from it. I feel overall development of personalities is better here…with a lot of extracurricular stuff thrown in (some parents overdo it but that’s another story). I have nieces and nephews who are excelling in school/college as well as other stuff – like piano, tennis, etc.

    Personally, I feel if parents invest enough time and energy along with good teachers at good schools, then tuitions are not necessary. I saw that in my case, and have seen it with many others as well.

    I read some of your older posts, and I loved your writing and got a feeling of genuineness. I will be checking in often and learning from you as I’ve just begun my parenting journey :).

  11. First of all, what is this statement ” I have a feeling I’ve balanced it out by giving stories of the Bean that are enough to make people celibate “. I protest – The Bean makes me want to have 18 daughters, tu chup. Secondly, I share your distaste for it. I know tuitions have their place in Indian education but it has also contributed to tons of problems. Come higher standards, teachers know everyone goes to classes so they phone it in. In fact they become tuition teachers themselves since that’s better money, not that they shouldn’t. My biggest beef with it, is that it just prepares the child for exams. It’s systemic of what our system has become – how to make that 98, 99 and how to make the 99, 100. I went to an elite engg college in Mumbai based on my stellar 12th board marks and let me tell you my foundations sucked. I wasn’t stupid but it was more economical for me to practice scores of past exam papers than really sit and understand the subject. I am ashamed to say that maybe after eight standard, I studied for knowledge and pleasure during my Masters in the US at the age of 21. I sat up nights researching books for my thesis and didn’t know where the time went….bliss.

    It’s so funny hearing you talk about your HW, dinner, bed etc – I like how you don’t want HW to enter the next time slot. We are looking at pre-schools and I am deciding where to apply based on whose times match my daughter’s nap. I want her to still have lunch at home, nap in her bed, get on with her day. I feel like it’s a unnecessary obtrusion to an otherwise carefree life..I wonder how I am going to deal with home work, coaching and all this tension!

    I am in Bbay btw, will call if it’s not a disturbance. Love.

  12. Oh MM – the Brat. He melts my heart! Your body is angry! Man, they say it in such simple words that could not be clearer! I wish I had it in me to homeschool the kids. And do all the fun classes homeschooling groups do for social stuff. I don’t like so many things about school, authority, the way they treat children…feels like prisoners who are made to follow rules sometimes. Anyway – I totally relate to the whole “I have homework due tomorrow, never mind, but tell me about gravity on the moon now” thing. I just got KB’s progress report – he has O’s in everything but check marks for listening and the teacher already had a meeting with me to tell me that he is thinking about things so deeply at the wrong times that he is not responding to instructions in class and sometimes she has to call his name thrice for him to hear her. I got worried enough to even get his hearing tested. His Kindergarten teacher said the exact same things to me and he had the same issues then too. What can you do with children like these? I honestly wish there was a system that would better cater to such dreamers. At least KB’s teacher was nice enough to tell me “We need people like him. Who can think. And can think deeply. But he needs to know there are situations where he is being tested and he needs to respond quickly”. I know that I am going to face difficult situations with school and grading because of his nature. Not all teachers respond kindly to these situations. They single out the child and start branding them as being tuned out. Anyways – I keep telling myself I have to have faith that things will turn out OK.

    • SAME for the Brat. Pays no attn in class, isn’t faring too brilliantly, tunes out. But left to himself will want to know about dinosaurs and gravity. Bean on the other hand is way ahead of her class and most days finishes her assignments before the class starts theirs. I am terrified and in my heart of hearts believe that she is getting very bored with her batch and should have been one batch ahead 😦

      • I don’t know how it is in Delhi schools…I hear teachers are not like old time strict teachers – they do respond well to parents etc. But here, despite everything I find it hard to clash with their opinions. With the no child left behind act I feel it is always catered to the low performers. To bring them up to speed. There is no alternative curriculum for kids who think and learn/comprehend at a level or two more than their grade levels. You have to go to private school for that. Public schools with 30 kids of completely different abilities – the teacher can handle only so much. KB’s teacher is a very nice person but I can’t blame her if she does not have the time to challenge some of these kids individually. And KB says he gets bored in class. He goes to school for recess/play times mainly! He tunes out even at home deep in thought sometimes. What can I do to help him, I don’t know. Even if he aces through the academic tests and what not finally what stands out is the fact that he tunes out in class. I feel guilty sometimes to be sending him to a place (one amongst the best public schools in my area) where he is not making the most of his abilities…where his precious morning hours are not being spent in a way that he feels stimulated…When you see a check mark for listening over and over how can you not worry about it. I tell myself I should not worry but it is a little upsetting.
        Can’t you send Bean to the next higher grade? For KB that is also not an option for me – he is emotionally very much a first grader. Very sensitive and gets anxious etc. These are the reasons why I sometimes wish I had the courage and the patience to homeschool him.

      • OMG the bean reminds me of me. And I dont mean to scare you, but I got very bored very early in life. Its something I still haven’t quite figured out or found a way around. I get bored easily, move on to new things, get my fingers in a dozen different pies, can’t keep up, and then get bored all over again. Its a vicious cycle. Trouble with school back then is I got branded as being “over smart” for just being plain ahead of the rest of my class. Rather than give me something new to challenge me more frequently, the teachers chose to brand me as the oversmart one, to get out of their incompetence. But from what little I know of the Brat and Bean’s school, it caters to individual children, rather than entire classrooms of children right? Without expecting them to fit a fixed mould? Either ways, I think all that you do at home makes a HUGE difference. And that’s all that kept me going 🙂 When it got too hard to handle, my folks pulled me out of mainstream school. Even though I was half way thru 9th grade. So you can imagine.

      • Can’t the Bean skip a class and move to the next level? I was like the Bean as a child and the nice school I went to, decided to move me up a grade. It helped to some extent though midway through the term I’d lose interest, as I was done reading all the texts, even before school terms began.

        • I don’t want her to. Emotionally she’s in the right class, with other 4 year olds. I worry about her being pushed into situations that she is emotionally unprepared for. Tambi was pushed up a class when we were kids and survived, but I think times are different.

  13. much as i love the Brat, i wish my son would be more like the Bean. i cannot/do not want to deal with such a heart breaker. i’d cry, and he’d cry, and we’d cry together…. all for joy!!! one of the reasons i whooped with joy when i passed the dreaded end date of the Taurus zodiac. sonny boy arrived 4 days later.

  14. it’s nice to read about brat again. he reminds me so much of my son. who made this generation’s boys too gentle n girls too smart? a pay off for the previous generations of women exploited beyond limits?!! i share ur grandma’s opinion on tuitions n never had them in my life till graduation where i missed a term in college and was forced to seek help for a difficult subject. but it scarred me bcoz my teacher was a youg man who found a 18 yr old’s innocence worthy of some damage! it was not exactly sexual abuse but bordered thereabout n if i was half smart as am today, i’d have slapped him n let my parents know.

    since i’ve learned my lessons v well (!!) when my daughter needed help i got someone home instead of sending her out n kept v close watch. well, i guess however much we try to protect our kids, they will eventually face the darkness of life just the way we did. like i heard recently, wisdom is a collective word for the mistakes u made mishaps u suffered and lessons learned in most bitter ways!
    anyway what i intended to say was innocence n fragility we see in our kids is quite scary bcoz u know world will crack tht code in a minute v soon!!

  15. i resisted tuitions for the same reasons you spoke about. in my time it was not something one bragged about…needing help. my older will give her boards next year. goes to a school which was in the news for ipads recently, but the icse board. its a factory, 50+ kids a class, for the 9th 10th there are 10 divisions each!!! and like someone commented earlier, the teachers are a harried bunch with a extensive syllabus to cover. thye do not have time to dwell on a poem and explain its beauty (they have not done any figures of speech, cannot analyse a poem yet!). grammar is done in bits and pieces, no step by step following of wren and martin/or any book. they do not have time to write atleast an essay a month!!! coz they have to finish the portion! same story w/ math and science, no time to savour or learn smoething in depth. in this melee, the top 5% breeze thru, the other hv to struggle real hard and its no fun! i feel like pulling my kid out of school and teaching him myself, i have over the years of doing science figured where the pitfalls of comprehension are. math was a monster till a teacher in 10th made it a thing of joy! but my teaching takes time which she doesnt have right now, its like they are always studying for an exam, never reading to “learn”. sigghhh i dont see an option to this system. the IB schools have a social culture i cant put my kids into.
    thats why i had earlier mentioned the need for anything that will help her deconstruct the “learning “process, workshops etc. teach how to enjoy…we could do it coz our education moved at a leisurely pace, we picked it up on the way.
    the teachers make a killing on the tuitions here, charging ~20k per subject per year. and the reason to send them is they know what the exam/examiners expect. and the teaching is geared towards that! pfffttt!
    a friend had pulled her kids out of school and moved towns to go to the cfl (centre for learning). but not everyone can do that!

    • We moved to Gurgaon so that the kids could go to a better school. I quit my job, we left behind all the cultural opportunities, a lovely neighbourhood, great friends, and the OA now commutes about 1.5 hrs one way. Education is something I am not big on. But school atmosphere is important I believe 😦

      • mmmm! true!
        what i meant was shifting to another state was out of question. the school system remaining same in the vicinity. i picked the social aspect (of middle class peers) versus the education.
        le de ke the 3 boards here, ssc/icse/cbse are all the same. competitive, fiercely. and that comes from having only a few good colleges. and a zillion kids vying for those few hundred seats! thats where the stress comes from.
        there are a few new schools, that follow the steiner method and such, but they are in their infancy, and i have recently seen 3 such schools not get recognition by std 8-9 and the students run to shift schools at that point!

  16. Awww what a sweetie, God bless him and MM, how do you make grown women get teary?

    As for Math and such, tell ya what, just treat as a chance to learn. I do it all the time – seriously, am finally getting an education.

  17. Hey hug that handsome boy of yours for me…please. he is just adorable. have been reading your FB updates on Beanie and her antics. you have your hands full with her dont you? good for her…she is a firecracker. your kids personalities are very much like mine. my boy is quite, laid back, in his own world, my girl is just the opposite, has an opinion about everything.

    Merry X-Mas to all of you!

  18. I did the “lalala no tuitions for me everrrr” till I was 15. Then I realized that I’d flunk Math without help 😐 But if I had to do high school again, I’d work harder on my own and study with friends rather than ruin every evening with a two hour class I could barely keep up with (Math eventually wound up meaning coaching for all the sciences)…in my city kids take tuitions starting for playgroup to post grad level, so yeah, I wasn’t alone. I never went back to the coaching class atmosphere after high school, and did much, much better. So, kudos to you for working with them rather than outsourcing it.
    My nine year old niece doesn’t take tuitions, either. It helps that my sister (and her mom) is a primary school teacher herself. But the amounts of homework I see her doing is just insane. I remember daydreaming my way through Std IV. This intense pressure/deadlines is just wrong.
    Also, your Brat is a sweetheart 🙂

  19. Ah tutions ….. ! I really believe that younger kids : those in primary don’t need tution , may be middle school onwards, but when things get more complicated ? I hated Maths in primary , it used to be all tears, but in middle school it went on to become a favorite!

    In high school there was just a bunch of us who didn’t go for tutions. I later realised those who did , went to hang out with others after school and gossip. The learning wasn’t much really . Also , some of the teachers from my school, were touted as the best “extra classes” teachers in the city. The would leak out pre board/internals exam questions as assignment questions during the extra classes . This was I think a way to get more students in the school to attend the classes too and earn extra moolah . So yes they were the best , may be they were , but once I realised what they were upto , I lost a bit of respect for them. Those who did badly would still badly when it came to the board exams.

    So yes, am not saying tutions don’t help, may be they do. But am all cynical seeing what I have Sigh !

  20. You know I heard of coaching classes only when we came to big city bby. The small city i grew up in -tuitions were for those who could not cope. So, although i had moved many school boards , and through totally different syllabi- 9th standard in bby and i was probably the only kid who did not go to a zillion tuition classes. My folks said- try as hard as you can, do your best- we are not interested in the ranks and the top scores as long as we know you are doing the best you can. So there i was, mighty pleased that i was a dude who did not need “extra coaching” – but fully aware that no way would i max the papers. It was drilled into me- understand, internalise, DO NOT MUG UP the stuff. Yes, i always lost marks because i would ‘explain in my words’ rather than spill out the definition as written in the textbook. Ofcourse this ensured i was not material for ANY competitive exam, luckily i was not interested so it all worked out.

    So – to cut a long story short- i truly believe in going against the grain and not getting into tuitions. I hated maths too. But i am bloody sure I can help my kid better understand what the teacher has taught. There is no way you could be confusing your child, even if you are using a very different system to explain things. And tuitions in 1st std- what is that all about??? The kids in my building come down to play after 8 pm because they are busy with tuitions. A mother told me only yesterday, my kid is busy with school work all evenings, so to compensate i take her to the mall over weekends so she does not miss out on playing!!! What is play, what is school, what is work, and what is a child- could these be more messed up???

    TMM, you are doing right – talking to your kids, playing with your kids, teaching/learning with your kids! i dont see parents involved in any of this – all these tasks are contracted out -including cooking, organising holidays and birthday parties. So what ARE WE DOING with our kids- shopping, going to malls, and probably eating together.

    Its okay that he has understood maths= tense mother, you will probably enjoy the journey through numbers together. ( while explaining concepts to Sanah I am forced to go into the basics, the core principle on which it is all based – i could have gone through school loving maths 😦 dammit! and i could have maxed my maths paper and still not done my engineering – that would have been truly cool)

  21. Awww such a sweetheart. I don’t believe in tuitions either and actually here the concept is not very prevalent. But then again I am not a very patient teacher either. Yesterday I spent more than an hour just making my eight year old practice a piano piece. I was feeling terrible, she was unhappy but at her age I see it is easier to give up when things get difficult than stick to it. Only I need to learn my limits, which I am finding really difficult.

    • I know what you mean. My mother was forced to do practice her Bharatnatyam as a kid and was a fantastic dancer. As a result when I began music lessons and hated practicing she let me drop it – she felt she’d lost out on many play hours. Today I’m glad she let me make the choice but I do feel like starting music training again. She on the other hand would rather be dead than ever dance again. It’s so hard to know where to draw the line 😦

  22. But what do you do when the teachers aren’t simply good enough for the competition – I studied in a school that had a very relaxed environment – and more importantly, it was one where you were appreciated if you were a good human being – It was good to be a topper/ star at sports, but being a good person was more important. I loved it there.

    Until my 10th std, I did not go to tuition. In fact, tuition was something I was threatened with when my parents thought my behavior wasn’t polite or good. But in std. XI, I wanted to do engineering, I knew I had to survive the competition to make it to the top colleges – the teachers who taught us the core subjects(Math, Phy, Chem) were good, but the level of practice the other school kids were getting was really scary! And this is an exam where you’d go behind by a 100 ranks if you scored 0.25 marks less. So I joined tuition, got ample practice, and because there was choice, I could go to people whose style of teaching and coaching suited me – I wouldn’t have gotten the marks I did if I hadn’t gotten the extra push and practice. The commute was draining, and it was sometimes tiring to listen to the same thing twice(once at tuition and then in the class), but I think it worked for me.

    For my civil services exam, I had to study the school books all over again – and I was amazed to find that I had not forgotten much – and very specifically, the XI and XII std. books, because I understood the syllabus cover to cover.

    I get very sad when kids as small as three y.o having to do extra classes, though. They look very tiny and forlorn sitting in a cramped drawing room with 20 other kids(very common scene in all the small towns I have lived in. I don’t know if the set up is fancier in cities) But when the parents have long hours of work/commute, I wonder if they have a choice..

    • That is the entire point, right? That teachers don’t do their job. See the first part of my quote. If teachers taught well, why would a child need to study again? They go to school for 8 hours, sleep for 8 hours. The remaining time should be reserved for recreation and meals. I’m sorry you had crappy teachers, but that brings me back to point A! And yes, kids sitting in coaching classes is awful and I honestly don’t know about parents having no choice over commutes and work hours. you make a choice to have kids and its only fair that you choose to give them priority. if you bundle them off to a tuition teacher at age 6 because you have no time, i’m at a loss for words. at age 16 if you can’t understand that level of science and they are unable to understand what is being taught in school, it makes sense.

      • no, they weren’t crappy, they were good and sincere – it’s just there was no way they could have given us the level of practice my tuition teachers were able to give me – like say, i used to write 3 hrs paper tests every weekend – and a school teacher just has no way to correct 120 students’ 3 hrs test papers every week – that’s where the coaching and the tuition helped me. and again, this is way different from small kids having to spend long hours in classes(tuition/school), I understand that.

        • This leads to a whole other situation – why is it that students need a certain level of competence that is not available in schools?
          Is it too high a standard?
          Are the class sizes too large? Why aren’t the students getting enough attention? Do we need more schools and colleges? The answer to the last couple of Qs might be a yes.
          Are the students appearing not good enough/not interested often – following from the argument that if you understand it well enough you don’t need tuition? Or are the basics only so badly taught that you dont have a good enough foundation?
          After all I dont know of kids abroad going for Career Coaching and IMS papers etc – its a lot of self study. Only in our country have I heard of IAS coaching classes that go on for years!
          And finally, you said it – a lot of difference between small kids going for coaching to finish their school homework and late teens/early twenties going for some extra help for a highly competitive entrance.

          • yesssssssssss! mm…you said it..all this ails the system…how come the guys who are incharge of the system…forget the babus..even the teachers in schools…the principals do nt see or maybe admit this!
            you put every thought i have had about the education system so well! thank you thank you! now, dear one more thing…any idea how we can get the powers-to-be to see this too? i am sooo waiting for the revolution!

        • The 3 hrs test paper is extra work that you are doing. That is perfectly fine I think. Either the parents/teachers or in your case a teacher out of school is doing that. In our times we had this Brilliant Tutorials and Aggarwal which did not have face-to-face teaching but sent us loads of study materials and test papers for the joint entrance exam preps.
          If the child needs/wants to do extra work on top of school work for whatever reason that is a separate issue. But taking tuitions to do the exact thing that you should have done in the 6 hours you spend in school makes no sense.
          BTW if anyone is interested you can check out http://www.khanacademy.org. Excellent example of tutorial if you want to learn more or better.

  23. Not a big fan of small kids getting tuitions at all, but don’t miss the bigger picture here. The situation with schools and teachers is what it is. Probably not easy to fix in the short term. I would want my kids to be taught by someone who passes on enthusiasm and curiosity, both for the subject and the process of learning. My mother was ace at Maths, but an absolutely awful, impatient teacher and I’d be lying if I said that it didn’t affect my approach to Maths in my primary school years. When I was 14, I was tutored in Maths by a teacher who made me fall in love with the subject, who gave me such a sold foundation for understanding mathematics and I ended up doing calculus in the 11th and 12th for the love of it. My biggest disappointment when I started college was that there was no way to combine to Maths and Literature. I would have done it in a heartbeat.

    I wouldn’t judge a parent who did not spend afternoons/evenings teaching their child. Sure, you choose to have kids and you have a responsibility, but if all you’re doing is passing on anxiety and stress in the process, then you’re not contributing in a constructive way to their learning. Then, I think, it makes sense to let them be tutored by someone who may be able to teach them to engage with the subject in a more positive way.

    Probably not at age six though:-/

  24. I am with you on the tuitions part. At least till Std. 9th or 10th. After that, maybe, a child might need help with some difficult parts that his parents might not be able to provide on their own. For instance, me. I was hopeless in Maths and Science in Std 9, and my teachers in school were equally hopeless. My parents had a private tutor come in to teach me the two subjects twice a week. I am happy to say he taught me well, and not just for the heck of it. I am glad I did not undertake tuitions as early as Std 1st, as many of my classmates did. That really amazes me!

    The Brat is such a sweetheart. I am still laughing my heart out at the ‘Burp the baby!’

  25. Did you have a good Christmas MM?? belated xmas wishes from me to you & your beautiful family! love the snowflake thingy on your blogpage- the first time I saw it I thought the page had some tek-ni-kal prablem and I went chasing the dot..tee hee!!

  26. Your son sounds soo adorable.
    And about the tution-when I was living in Kerala, after a certain age everyone got tution. It didn’t matter whether you were good at the subject or not. Of course, it seemed-and still seems-like a terrible waste. But I guess they follow the reasoning that this way they won’t be unpleasantly surprised when their child turns up with bad marks in a subject after the exam. And if he does, then comes the famous “How can you be so bad at this when I spend money for tutions???”

  27. So beautiful. So very, absolutely and totally beautiful.

    This line, in particular, made me weep, “He reminds me of what you’d get if you crossed a sad-eyed puppy with a tub of melted butter.”

    As for tuition…well, err, ummm…

  28. Finally it boils down to the fact that our teachers are severely underpaid compared to a lot of professions and our education system needs a serious overhaul. Neither is teachingconsidered glamorous nor will the compensation or the rote system attract the truly talented or interested.
    I am passionate about teaching and taught in India post masters (engineering/physics). I loved teaching but it just got boring and I didn’t have the energy to take tutions
    I chucked it and came abroad to do a PhD, the educational system here and the freedom it gives you has been one of the best experiences I have had.
    My first love is still teaching/research and I am in the process of going back to India to join academia but frankly the salaries at even the top institutions is pathetic and academia is loaded with red tape, fortunately I am in a situation where money is not a criteria but I can’t see the best out there being attracted by these jobs especially given the growing inflation. The running of a society or system cannot be based on the promise of idealism, it has be to be practical and realistic.
    This is the scenario at top schools, one can well imagine the situation as it percolates down.
    Of course a more detailed discussion on the education system can take place. I have just scraped the surface.

  29. Exactly a month since you posted last :(…Am checking your blog at least twice to see if there is an update. Hope all is well and you will post very soon.

  30. Hi MM,

    Happy New Year. How are you all? are kids ok? How was your dad’s 60th birthday celebrations ? did you shift houses? waiting for the updates… Take care

  31. Happy New Year 🙂
    Your son is so cute, I feel an ‘Awwwwwwww’ moment, seriously.

    I am in two minds about the tuition thing. When we (my brother and I) were in school in Dubai, it was acceptable to go for tuition from the 9th grade, but any thing before that and your and your parent’s capabilities (or lack thereof) were looked on with pity!

    For my daughter, though we have put her in a regular CBSE school (can’t beat that system for preparing kids to survive in this competitive world), we have been homeschooling her in reading, science and math since before she was one, as my husband hates the way schools teach these subjects. Now she loves these subjects, because in her mind it’s a game that she plays with mommy and daddy, but I’m not sure how it’s going to turn out as she gets older. For conventional subject matter, I may send her to a tuition class a few years down the line, for the simple reason that she loves learning in a group and has absolutely no company at home.

    Sorry, if I seem a little confused, I’m a totally non-maternal and unconventional mommy, who has a lot to learn 🙂

    Sanjana has been telling me to read your blog for ages and she was so right, I love it.

  32. Dear MM,
    My comment here will seem totally unrelated to your post but I just have to tell you this –
    You and your family, the way you are bringing up your two kids is my inspiration when I think of ever having a family of my own. You are motivation for me.
    I am actually fighting against a lot of forces now which are trying to decide for myself what would be the best. Nice contradiction isn’t it? External forces deciding for me?
    I am fighting those forces with my back against the wall, alone, completely alone. No family, no friends, no co-workers no nothing.
    I need you to include me in your prayers if you do pray i.e. If not, then just send some good wishes my way.
    Thank you in advance. And as I said, you and your family is my inspiration.

  33. coming back here after aeons. don’t worry if they need to take tuitions. we need to live in the system. and if it helps so much the better. tuitions do not mean that one is dumb or useless !
    jia made it up on the strength of his tuitions because he just would not focus in class – his mind was always elsewhere. and which kid wants to work hard these days ? as for me – maths was my lifelong horror – until my MBA where i cleared QT 1 with a B – which even IIT grads are known to flunk in their first attempt. and QT 2 – was a breeze and gave me a CGPA of 3.8 on 4 – my highest ever score. so anything is possible 🙂 hugz to u 4…

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