Educating Evan

A few weeks ago was the parent-teacher conference in my 4 year old’s pre-school. A parent-teacher conference is when the teacher will hand in the student’s report card and have a 15 minute one on one discussion with the parents, done twice a year (at least in Evan’s school). I learned that my son is generally doing very well and in fact here is the teacher’s comment in her report:

“Evan continues to surprise me with facts that he knows. He is an eager and quick learner. I am happy to see his progress in adjusting to school and how he makes friends. It’s a pleasure to have him in class.”

However there are three things he needed to work on: no interest in cutting, no interest in writing his name and no interest in putting his coat/shoes on when going to a different school building for his gym/music/computer class. I wasn’t really surprised. Evan has never really shown any interest in doing projects, just like me when I was smaller, even in coloring (because I was bad at it). Although I did like to draw, in fact one of my earliest memories was me drawing spirals when I was over 3 years old – but Evan never sat down and attempt to draw any figures like I was doing when I was his age.

Evan proudly holds his drawing of R2D2, something he did on Day 2 of our drawing lessons.

But I was just waiting for him to have a change in attitude. One time in the school hallway I heard another mom, commenting to her daughter while stuffing papers inside a backpack, “wow, Bridget you are just a coloring machine!” I remarked ruefully that I wished Evan would like to color but Bridget’s mom assured me that this was just recent for her daughter too. I was comforted because Bridget was around 9 months older than Evan.

Evan’s self portrait. I showed him how to draw the curves and angles of a face on a different piece of paper and he follows on his paper. Day 3.

I got the same feedback last year from his teacher but back then even she didn’t want to make a big deal about it and I agreed. Kids at 3 years old should play more – they learn through play. But this year was different, I want Evan to be prepared for kindergarten. In pre-school they have 2 teachers for 20 students. Next year it would only be 1 to 20. Besides I had long planned to have short learning sessions with Evan in the afternoons but never got around to doing it. Now I was motivated.

That week I took out a long buried Cut & Paste Kumon book then invited Evan to have fun cutting. What do you know, he wouldn’t let the scissors go until it was well past sunset. It helped that I showed him how to hold the scissors correctly so he had an easier time. Another thing that helped? The Kumon book had nice pictures – so he enjoyed that very much.

I also got out a Tracing book given by a friend. We went through it fast that I bought more Kumon/Gakken books from our bookstore. I also get him to trace his name once or twice a day. Like the scissors, I had to constantly remind Evan to hold the pen correctly and that it was easier for him if he does it they way I showed him how. He initially resisted (he doesn’t like following instructions) but he listened when I told him that was how my mom told me to do it and that is why I can draw well. At times when he gets frustrated I tell him that even Luke Skywalker had to be patient, work and train hard in order to be a Jedi or the same with Aang and mastering the 4 elements. Worked every time.

The most surprising thing about this is that whenever I ask Evan to do any of these was that there was no resistance whatsoever. I also did time it when he is not busy playing and when he’s acting or says he’s bored. Although sometimes he would say “later” but would willingly do our activities when I ask him again.

Encouraged by his receptiveness to the sessions, I have revived our reading lessons and I can confidently say he can read now. He doesn’t read his books on his own yet but he can read/understand the words/phrases/sentences found in the book I am using for our lessons. I am amazed how he absorbs new words like sponge and remember them for the next day.

Darth Vader was very challenging. We had to switch to pencil and broke my no-erasing rule. But after we drew Darth Vader’s head and his light saber Evan was already very excited and wanted to show it to his dad. I had to convince him to finish the body. Day 3.

I have also started to teach him how to draw. I was most surprised how well the drawings turned out considering his lack of interest prior to this. One important discovery in our lessons? It teaches him how to listen carefully – just like his karate lessons. He still has to come to me and say he wants to draw but to quote the infamous Tiger Mom “you can not enjoy what you do not do well,” so who knows maybe his interest will happen when he gets better at his drawing.

Also Evan is now a champion at zipping up his coat (and proud of it) and can confidently count to 10 in Japanese (something he has to learn for his karate class). He is very much into puzzles too which I see as helpful in learning to draw.

The past 2 weeks has been very rewarding for me. Two times I’ve had glowing reports from Evan’s teacher at his improved attitude in doing cutting projects and writing, so with putting his winter get-up to and from the other school building. Yesterday when we went out to lunch with his classmate and her mom, it was heartening to see him trying to dominate a game in a book with markers in hand. I really think our 30 minute mixed lessons at home has boosted his confidence with anything related to writing.

Next on our agenda is tying his shoelace and piano lessons. I am excited.

P.S. As I was editing this Evan comes to me to say he wants to draw Luke Skywalker. =)

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6 Responses to Educating Evan

  1. Ed says:

    Congrats. It seems like Evan is one smart cookie. I got L.A. a easel that has a white board on one side, a chalk board on the other and a roll of paper that she can pull down and clip onto the board and paint with poster paints. That has done wonders with her interest in drawing. She still shows no interest in reading though she knows all her letters and can spell a handful of words. Like you said, I just wait for the time to come when she is more receptive. Right now she is big into numbers and can add most numbers under ten and is starting to get a hang of subtraction. I just roll with it and fill up her white board every morning with simple addition and subtraction to work on over the day. Still, I wish she would start showing interest in reading.

  2. Ed says:

    P.S. The easel was from Melissa and Doug in case Evan might be needing one for his birthday.

  3. Loraine says:

    Those are very good drawings.

    Parenting is a lot of work, no?

  4. geri says:

    Ed, I am nervous about the numbers part with Evan because that is not my forte – hopefully Evan will get his dad’s smarts on that one. Love those Melissa and Doug products – yes, love those roll up paper, will sure get Evan one, one of these days =) Heard all children will be one the same reading level by the time they are 6 so I think that just might be the case for Little Abbey.

    Loraine, true but a 4 year old is way easier than a toddler. My neighbor has a very active 18 month old and I have forgotten what a lot of work that was. The funny part is I do enjoy our “study” sessions with Evan especially since the reward is almost immediate – if Evan doesn’t enjoy being around with other kids so much I would have considered homeschooling him =)

  5. emilie says:

    Din, I very much agree with the 30 minutes a day routine. It is pretty amazing how these little minutes in a day could have such visible effects in such a short time. With Julia, it made me discover and know her a lot more..like finding out that she takes her mistakes too seriously.

  6. geri says:

    Em, so so so true. The reason why I took a long time to do these sessions because I dreaded forcing Evan to do something and the possible butting of heads because I know him to not like following instructions or being told what to do. So I am very surprised and relieved with this turn-out. It heartens me to know I have in fact helped him in a problem that he hadn’t voiced to me. What he projected to be indifference in doing crafts project in school was actually frustration or lack of confidence to do it. Poor kid!

    The past few days he is actually the one who seeks me out for stuff to do whether tracing, drawing or cutting – amazing turnaround kaayo.

    During the first days of our session Evan would sometimes mutter while drawing/tracing – “it has to be perfect.” I always respond with no, it doesn’t have to be that way that it’s okay to make mistakes what is important is trying hard, focusing and practicing always. I am so glad I caught this “problem”.

    Isn’t it funny na we are doing the same stuff with our kids? Stage moms jud ta hahaha

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