Curious Toddler Goes Back to School

After postponing our eldest son’s supposed formal entry to school, my husband and I finally hopped on a call with the school administrator here in our village for their “new normal” enrichment programs for kids. For a good year, I was in denial and felt like we can postpone the schooling until normal days come back again. It does not look like normal days are coming back anytime soon.

The assessment call lasted for an entire hour and it looked really promising. My son was already showing signs of irritability and lack of intellectual stimulation with the prolonged lockdown this year. Socialization is still not possible with the new normal but at least we can get him to learn new stuff and have fun with his teacher.

The teacher was discussing the approach which was mainly going to be play-based. I was totally on board with this non-traditional idea of getting him to learn stuff. I am not really the Tiger Asian Mom type who goes crazy over the nuts and bolts. I prefer that my kids will grow up loving learning for the sake of learning. My higher priority is that they are helpful and kind human beings. They don’t necessarily have to be the smartest person in the room. It will make me more proud if they were the most loving, or the most helpful.

Laidback Momma, but Ultra Grade-Conscious Grad Student

Strangely enough, I hold myself to a different standard. While my kids are not expected to turn in perfect grades all the time, I tend to expect that from myself while I finish my master’s degree. I am currently maintaining a 1.15 grade point average (in a Philippine educational tertiary system that has 1.0 as the highest possible grade).

But this is not to “prove” anything to others. My husband initially thought that my being grade-conscious is a form of issue. I gave it a lot of thought. What’s driving me to hit this grade thing?

It’s a challenge I made to myself, really. My grades in engineering school were not exactly what I wanted them to be. I had to make some compromises at the time as a working student. I am currently testing my new capabilities in a different stage of my life. I want an awesome grade point average just for the sheer delight of achieving something. Can I do it even if I am twice my age when I was in college and I have a job and kids to mind? There’s the challenge.

Sure, two epidural shots from Caesarian surgeries had an impact on short-term memory and I still suck at objective 8-point quizzes that require matching terms to definitions. But I still believe that my brain can still thrive with the stimulation and challenge. It’s not a “just to pass” type of thing. It’s an “excel to the maximum extent possible” kind of thing for me. And it’s the one endeavor I have which I truly enjoy day in and out, outside of my role as wife, mother, service provider, and whatever other people expect me to do for them here in suburbia or beyond. My intellectual stimulation has always been my duty to myself and it’s a non-negotiable part of my self-care regimen.

In case it gets crazy, I will practice some newfound exercise in self-compassion and tell myself that Sanity is greater than Grades. Until then, I’ll keep doing my bestest best and see where I end up. I am excited.

Circling Back to Play Methods for Learning

I think that whole concept of playing to learn is not just exclusive to kids. I found it handy as I navigate grad school in my midthirties. I use the elements of fun and play to retain important concepts. I observed the same phenomenon when I was reviewing for the board exam around 12 years ago.

It’s just different when you are having fun with something. Time flies, the flow state happens, and you just retain so much more. You basically play what Simon Sinek calls “The Infinite Game” when you are in this optimal zone of absorbing, learning, and creating. And I realized how much I value growth. No matter how hard things can get, I don’t postpone any opportunity to grow in my personal and professional life. I am sometimes even willing to take pay cuts or discomfort if it means that I will grow in some way. The only tragedy in life is not a surplus of walls and trying circumstances; it’s when you stop rising after each fall.

For the next 12 weeks, I have 2 subjects to work on: Ethics (Human Perspective in Analytics) and Analytics Algorithms. It’s a beautiful balance between technical and humanities dimensions. I truly made the right choice enrolling in this grad school program. I could go for another technically intensive program like my college degree but at this stage in life, I needed to temper my mathematical side with something else that can add more meaning and beauty to what I do day in and day out.