School isn’t just about textbooks, tests, and academics! It’s also about the valuable life lessons that come with the learning process. From teamwork and time-management, to learning how to respect others, the list goes on.
Michelle Chaplin, Head of Junior School at Australian International School Malaysia (AISM), shares about the importance of nurturing these skills at school, and key tips for furthering this at home. Read on for the pivotal life lessons that your child can (and should) be learning at school:
1. Curiosity and Intrinsic Motivation
Remember that curious kid in class who always had a question, or constantly wanted to know more about a topic? In all likelihood, that child probably went on to become an avid lifelong learner! Schools play a crucial role in showing our young that learning is a continual process, and that knowledge gained is more important than a 100% test score.
Setting the foundation early is important, says Ms. Chaplin, as children are beginning to “communicate not just their needs and their wants, but their passions; the things that they’re really loving and enjoying about life and school.” Capturing their interests early on can facilitate the spiral effect, where “the more they want to know, the more self-motivated they will be.”
She cites an example of a young AISM student, who had a fascination with snakes. His teacher picked up on his interest and incorporated it into his learning by encouraging him to rewrite a book called”Wombat Stew” to include a snake in his story. “Preschool is really about tapping into the passion of students, and building a love of learning,” says Ms. Chaplin.
Bring the learning home: Make learning fun! Take your children to museums, parks, hiking trails, and libraries, and motivate them to explore their passions. Find out more about their interests by asking open-ended questions and utilising conversational prompts to kindle their inquisitive minds and encourage fruitful discussions.
Were you the baby of the family, or spoon-fed by (well-meaning) parents? For many of us, school became the primary place where we learned to grow as independent individuals, regardless of our family situation.
But how about our tiny tots, who are just developing their separate sense of self? According to Ms. Chaplin, the early school years are when children “start to learn to trust their little friends and teachers, and trust that people outside of Mum and Dad can also make life better for them”. Once they view the world as a positive, safe space, their confidence will be built, along with their willingness to attempt to do things by themselves.
“Many of these big skills are skills that our little kids can only learn when Mum and Dad are not by their side,” says Ms. Chaplin. As an example, she shares how many of the little ones in AISM’s Early Years programme are already able to get themselves independently changed into and out of their swimmers. On top of teachers encouraging their students to “always have a go by themselves”, learning within a school can also occur “by osmosis” (e.g. when kids simply watch each other – “Oh, William can do this, I can do that too! We’re big people at school now!”). Having your kids in a supportive space where independence is valued provides them with the opportunity to learn through positive peer pressure.
Bring the learning home: Give your child opportunities to practice independence, such as by getting them to order their own food at a restaurant. Encourage your kids to do things for themselves, and resist the urge to jump in and takeover to speed things up.
Remember the times when you were struggling with a math problem, or were trying to understand a difficult concept, but didn’t give up? That was perseverance, and it helped you develop the resilience you needed to succeed in school and beyond.
Academic rigour and a growth mindset are important to ensure that our kids don’t give up in the face of adversities, but are willing to push through and excel instead. Ms. Chaplin explains how young students at AISM are supported to understand that it’s “fine not to be able to do something and to ask for help”, while understanding that it also “takes practice to become good at something.”
The Early Years classroom utilises a card system, allowing children to choose one of three cards to place on their table to show how they feel about a task. “I’m an expert” shows that a child has mastered the task, “I’m learning” shows that the child is working hard on a task, and “I need help” means assistance is needed. Moving through the cards requires hard work and perseverance, and children are always told that “it doesn’t matter how many times you get it wrong, or how many mistakes you make; have another go and you will eventually get there.”
Bring the learning home: Leverage on the power of “yet”, and incorporate this powerful little word into your daily conversations with your kids. Explain to your child that just because they haven’t achieved something yet, it doesn’t mean they won’t be able to in the future- they just need to persevere through. For example, you could reply to a child who says, “I can’t swim” with “You can’t swim yet“.
4. Emotional Regulation
Can you recall that sinking feeling when we were asked a question we didn’t know the answer to? Or the pressure we felt from assignments that piled up, or those awkward social situations we faced? Our time at school taught many of us how to navigate tricky situations, preparing us for the challenges of adulthood in the process.
Some of us invariably found it harder to cope with the stressors in life than others. However, one of the key things that makes a difference in the nurturing of emotional regulation skills (especially during the early years) is the personalised care and support of teachers.
Ms. Chaplin shares how AISM “teaches little strategies which can be different for every child”, and how children are able to take “little green ticket cards” to get a “little bit of thinking time”. The younger children will have access to visual picture cards (of a sad face) instead, and can then take these cards to the teacher when feeling upset. This helps them identify their feelings and makes it easier for them to seek support, when feeling overwhelmed. The teacher will usually then respond by asking prompting questions such as “Why?”, “How can we make you feel better?”, and support the child in regulating their emotions and developing problem-solving skills.
Bring the learning home: Try playing a game of “freeze dance”, where your child can practice deep breathing and relaxation techniques during the “freeze” moments. During the “freeze” moments, you could incorporate a progressive muscle relaxation exercise, where everyone will have to focus on tensing one muscle group at a time (such as their arms, legs, or neck) for a few seconds, before completely relaxing it. Everyone will have to move on to the next muscle group until they’ve relaxed their whole body, turning into a “jellyfish” at the end!
5. Teamwork and Social Skills
From playing our favourite old school playground games, such as Pepsi Cola and Eagles and Chicks, to team sport activities and group assignments, we learned the skills for effective teamwork, right from our early years. Through such opportunities, we began to share ideas, compromise, and work together with a diverse range of individuals.
To illustrate this, Ms. Chaplin highlights the range of learning that can occur from a simple group tower building activity in the classroom. Building a tower at home may have its benefits, but building a tall tower together with a group of friends in school can give rise to an entirely different (and beneficial) experience – with children “developing language skills by talking to each other, taking turns, negotiating, cooperating, and learning that sometimes, they can do things together that may not be possible on their own.”
Bring the learning home: Get your kids involved in chores. For younger children, work together at the same time to complete a common goal (such as preparing dinner), so they can visually see how each member of the family plays a role in the success of Team Family. Do also rotate responsibilities, so everyone gets a chance to try different tasks!
6. Responsibility and Organisational Skills
This is definitely something all of us mamas are grateful for! From meal-planning, to school runs and work, responsibility and good organisational skills are crucial for our sanity and for the smooth(ish) running of the household. We have our schooling years to thank for – with all the assignments, extra-curricular activities, and tasks we had to juggle. Thanks to ample practice, we are now able to manage our time more effectively, prioritise tasks, and stay on top of things, even when life gets hectic.
Ms. Chaplin understands that often, it is hard for parents to “have high expectations of your child, because it can sometimes feel like you are disciplining your child [instead].” Expecting your tiny tot to clean up after themselves, tidy their toys and get their space organised may seem demanding, but if it’s something that the school has already successfully taught and your child is doing at school, the same can be done at home. “And whilst they may not even be able to talk perfectly yet, and are not completing the tasks fully, it’s simply getting our kids to learn that they have responsibilities,” says Ms. Chaplin.
Bring the learning home: Give your child age-appropriate tasks to build their independence and responsibility. Hang up fun visual aids around the house, like pictures of things to do before leaving the house in the morning, or use a colourful calendar to keep track of important dates. Remember, doing less for your kids now can mean doing more for their future success!
7. Respect and Character Building
School taught us to respect others, whether it was our classmates, teachers, or other members within the school community. Of course, for some, the fierce headteacher may have used fear (and the rotan!) to demand respect – but we now understand how respect that’s driven from a place of compassion instead can carry much greater impact. These lessons have laid the foundation for building strong relationships, molded our character and helped us manage the complexities of the world beyond the classroom.
Instilling positive values in young children will help them adopt them as a way of life right from very beginning. At AISM, the “R.E.C.I.P.E” values (representing Respect, Excellence, Communication, Integrity, Passion, and Enjoyment) are at the core of their school’s culture and community. These terms are always used around the school, not only within the classroom. For example, a teacher may ask a child who snatched a toy from another student to reflect: “When you just took his toy, was that showing respect? Was that valuing him?”
Respect is “the most important thing that you show to your friends, to your teacher, to your mum, to your dad, to everyone,” says Ms. Chaplin. “And if you respect people, you learn more about them, you find them more interesting, and you celebrate the fact that we are all different.” Lessons by way of the Australian mindfulness programme, Smiling Minds are also carried out fortnightly, covering topics such as respect, gratitude, self-awareness, empathy, and diversity, to help children integrate mindfulness practices into their daily lives.
Bring the learning home: Have your child keep a gratitude journal, where they can write or draw things they are thankful for each day (or week) to develop a greater appreciation and respect for the people and things in their life.
This is a sponsored post by Australian International School Malaysia (AISM).
If you would like to find out more on how the Early Learning Centre at AISM can help foster such critical life skills from an early age, enrol your little one during their Open Day on the 30th and 31st May 2023 to be part of the diverse AISM community, and save more than RM10k with no enrolment fee – 100% application fee rebate & 100% admissions fee waiver!*
The little ones will get to have a blast at the ELC Fun Learning Day activities happening from 10:00am to 11:30am, with activities such as “The Three Billy Goats Gruff” storytime, puppet-making, arts and crafts and action stations. Kids will also get to bring back their artwork as special mementos from their fun morning out!
[*Terms and conditions apply]