A friend of mine, Liz, set up an enrichment centre last year. It's called BlueTree Education. Muffin went there in December for Santa Camp and they all fondly call it Santa School, which has a nice ring to it. Anyway, I've always liked all the stuff that they did there. If ever there was coveting for enrichment classes, this was it. Not because it would explicitly guarantee them good grades but because the classes seemed to framed around the creativity, critical thinking and imagination. All things I believe in. Then Liz asked if the twins wanted to try out their Math programme.
I hedged because the twins have a very packed school week. That and the fact that although an educator, I don't want to buy into the tuition culture more than I have to (the 'I have to' part is the Chinese) . Eventually, my curiosity got the better of me as well as Jordan who has actually been bugging me for Math class, we went to pay Liz a visit one early Saturday morning. Liz doesn't actually teach the class. The class is taught by another ex teacher.
I dropped them off and ducked out, happy to have 90 minutes to do non-kid related things. When I got back to get them, they were chomping on a chocolate chip cookie each and looked extremely disappointed that I was there.
By the time I managed to wrangle them out of the centre I'd blown my 10 minute grace period with parking,
So what did this have anything to do with why we pulled them out of Nazi Chinese School?
1. It showed that enrichment centres/ classes weren't made equal.
2. It showed that classes could be engaging for the children and they could actually want to go to class and have fun there.
3. It showed that there were different ways of teaching children and to build their confidence.
4. It showed that learning didn't have to happen by rote and didn't require beating the child down to do it.
And why I liked the BlueTree Math specifically?
1. They used manipulatives. Both Jordan and Evan are visual learners though Evan is able to do rote a little bit better. But nothing helps them understand the concepts and apply them as manipulatives do. I've always been a big fan of manipulatives and spend a lot of time looking at what to get on Amazon.
2. Math games that teach both speed and accuracy.
3. Not a ridiculous amount of homework but a doable set. On top of that, the homework set they take home is consolidation of what they've done in class. Same sort of questions, different numbers and different levels of difficulty. So there hasn't been excuses of "I don't know how to do my homework!" and much more willingness to practice. That's also meant they've become more confident with their Math and the positive cycle going on now is nicely self-perpetuating.
4. The teacher is encouraging and affirming of their efforts. Evan used to come out of Nazi Chinese ecstatic. But his ecstasy came from the fact that the 2 hours of torture was over. Evan comes out of class here beaming, telling me what games he's played and how much the teacher encouraged and praised his effort.
5. Jordan, who has always felt that her strength has been in English has become bolder with her Math because it is explained in a way that she understands and as a result, she gets them right. That makes her dare to try more challenging questions. It makes me smile to see her take on her Math, that she struggled with a little bit more than Evan and it reminds me of this ad about reminding girls that they can be pretty brilliant too.
All good things.
So for now and while they say it's fun and they want to go, we'll let them do Santa School (BlueTree Math) and learn something while they're at it.
BlueTree Education is very kindly sponsoring the twins' Math class with them for a term. If anyone is keen to try their stuff, they offer free trial classes. I love what they do at English and Current Affairs Club too but for now, the twins need more play time than classes.