I hope you all have had a restful and happy break. School starts soon and I am sure you all are looking forward to another year of learning. The coming week will be a flurry of activity for all of us – buying school supplies, reworking schedules, looking up recipes and stocking for school lunches.
At this busy – and expenses filled- time, it is natural for all parents to reevaluate their children’s after-school activities as we seek value for money and optimum time utilisation. We all want our children only to be involved in activities where learning is engaging, adds to their skill set and has powerful positive impact on their academic and general life.
UCMAS can do all of these for your child. I am not saying this as a business owner seeking continued business – but as a parent who has seen brilliant results the program has had on both my daughters. My elder daughter is a UCMAS graduate and most of you have seen Fatema attend classes at the centre. Believe me, it has been just as difficult for me to get the girls into class as it is for some of you. We spend the week days arguing over HW and the weekend struggling to get to class on time. There have been days both have hated me for abacus; told me it was the worst thing ever etc etc. Today Shaheen recognises the benefits the course has brought to her. For Fatema, the realisation is yet to dawn and our fights continue!
So, why am I writing this mail? Well, just to highlight some things I have learnt about abacus on my journey as both parent and teacher.
1. Advantages of Abacus
There are plenty of white papers that list the advantages of Abacus on brain development. I am attaching a few for your review. You can go through these when you have the time:
2. Academic Improvement Guaranteed
I see the results of UCMAS in my own children – Fatema has been the Grade topper in her school for the past 3 years consecutively. Shaheen is always in the top 5. Their scores in Math and Science are perfect. Teachers tell me they grasp concepts very quickly; second explanation not needed (Masha Allah). I attribute their success to the Abacus program. I know there is more to education than mere academic achievement but it cannot be denied that in Asian societies, academic achievement is highly prized.
3. Too Much Abacus HW is a Myth
Many parents tell me the abacus HW is “too much”. I disagree with this. Only in the first level does the HW take up to 30 minutes. As students progress, by the mid of level 2, HW time comes down to a mere 8 to 10 minutes or even lesser. The children who take an hour to finish a page at home; finish the same page under the teacher’s supervision in less than 5 minutes. I feel the long HW time is more due to the fights that happen to convince the child to do the HW and not the actual work itself! To ease the HW pains, we will offer complimentary HW assistance classes once a week. Please call us to book a time and day convenient to you. My teachers will be happy to ensure the HW is done in least possible time with minimum fuss. (P.S – In my experience just telling the child they have to come back to the centre do HW with me works wonders. You wont believe how fast the page is completed!)
4. Complete Learning Cycle and Accountability through HW
Abacus HW teaches children accountability. My children to go a UK curriculum school. They never get HW and the rare time that they do, it is never checked by the teacher. School instructs us to not “force” the child. I think this causes 2 major issues – learning break when the child comes back home. There is nothing for him/her to do. A device remains the only resort to while away time. There is no revision of the day’s learning; concepts are not reinforced. Also, since there is no check, children are not motivated to do HW. They know it’s “OK” or “cool” to not do their home learning as there is no consequence to their action (or inaction).
If we do not teach our children to persevere or work hard now, then when will we teach them? We have to force them to work so they learn that success comes only with hard work and effort.
5. Hands Are Not Just for Tapping & Swiping
It seems to me the only thing kids can do well with their hands is ‘swipe’ and ‘tap’. I haven’t seen motor skills going down as rapidly as they are nowadays. This year, I was shocked to find out some 8 year olds cannot colour or cut because they don’t know how to! Colouring in ‘one direction’; following lines for cut-outs – it’s all alien to them. But they are extremely good at tapping and swiping at the speed of light! So, is that all we want out children to do with their hands?
Hands are the instruments to intelligence. The hand reports to the brain; the brain guides the hand; the cycle continues, resulting in the development of the intellect. Neuroscience is filled with evidence of the strong connection between the hand and the brain.
I cannot think of a tool better than the abacus to develop a child’s intelligence. Manipulating the abacus, while holding a pencil and writing down the answer at the same time involves much dexterity. Its a complete hand workout!
6. The World Isn’t Waiting
Fatema often asks me why the abacus HW is timed; why she can’t do it at her own pace? No one in school is rushing her. Only Ms.Meena and I do with abacus. My answer to her always is, “There is a world outside school and that world will not wait for you. You have to be fast; you have to manage time and this is my way of teaching you that.”
Frustrated with the everyday fights, some parents tell me they want to discontinue the program. Their child isn’t interested anymore and they don’t think its right to force the child to do something against his/her wishes. In this situation, I ask the parents to think of Abacus as spinach or broccolli or any other healthy food your child hates eating. Would you discontinue nutritious food just because the child disliked it? Or would you try to teach them about its benefits and motivate them to eat it? Perhaps you would pair the hated veggie with a much loved dessert? That is the same approach we need to have towards abacus…. after each page done, reward the child with a small treat. Motivate them and give them the confidence that they can do it.Abacus is an intensive program. I do not deny this. And I believe this is our opportunity to teach our children to not give up just because something is difficult…
I look forward to welcoming you to Minds Ahead.