Where’s my childhood?

Straits Times Forum Page, 26 March 2012

When I was a kid, I didn’t care very much for school. My sole reason for getting up in the morning was so I could join my friends, before class started, to play football. And we did – before class, during recess, and after school. I thoroughly enjoyed every second of it and I have very fond memories of kicking a ball around with my friends, even today.

Sure, my grades suffered but that wasn’t entirely due to time spent on the field. It was more because I really didn’t like opening a book and cramming facts and figures into my head.

Anyway, years later, sometimes I do wonder how I would have done – academically – if I’d applied myself to my studies more seriously. But that’s water under the bridge.

Back to the present. 

The above letter by Dr Sandra Tan echoes the views of many parents I have met. Their kids are inundated with school work, the teachers are overwhelmed with it, as well as parents who feel hapless and are forced to go with the flow.

But it is all leading to madness – and lost childhoods for our kids.

I remember when I was a kid, the world was a wonder. Besides football, we’d explore the forests to catch spiders, played marbles, we would go out into the rain, or lay hand-made paper boats in the drains after the rain just to see how they flowed downstream. We would go to the parks such as MacRitchie and Pearce Reservoirs just to run around. My father would bring us to Changi Beach and we’d spend the entire Sunday there, even as my parents worry about the next meal.

These occasions stirred my sense of wonder, so much so that my form teacher once wrote in my report book (when I was Pri 4) that “Andrew is a dreamer”. And it’s true. I’d daydream even when I was in class. My friends called me “Lone Ranger”, a nick I proudly wore. Didn’t wanna be like everyone else.

I wish kids nowadays have the same time to daydream and take in the wonders of the world around them – instead of having their time sucked up incessantly by mundane school and homework.

Dr Tan is a parent crying out in desperation – which I suspect is the situation many parents are finding themselves in.

Excessive homework for our kids is destructive, not only for family time and bonding, but also for the kids themselves.

Leave our kids some time to wonder, daydream, experiment and explore the world around them. Leave the weekends to them free of homework. Don’t let them grow up and wonder, when they’re older, “Where’s my childhood?”

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One thought on “Where’s my childhood?

  1. I wonder if it will take situations where children develop extreme behavioural disorders or the youth suicide rate increases for this situation to be more seriously addressed. I’ll admit as an Aussie that the education system here can be pretty lax and there are the same problems even in our higher education system where people can slack off and still pass, and I would like it if the Australian education sector could take on some of the rigour of those found in Singapore and Japan. But I agree Andrew, kids should be kids, they should be able to experience the world around them, spend quality time with their families and not be squished into being stressed out and tired and ‘adult’ in their formative years! It must be even more stressful for those kids who are not particularly strong academic performers or who do not have the support of their parents to cope with the mountain of work set before them.

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