UPDATE [Feb 2017]
Time flies. It has been a year since I wrote this post. Ayd is in Primary 5 now, and I am happy to say that he is doing well - well in terms of adapting to a new class, new friends, new teachers and coping with the extra workload that comes with being in Primary 5.
Over the past year, I will be lying if I said I did not consider how he would have turned out had he joined a GEP school. Did the wifey and I shortchange him by not allowing him to achieve his potential? Probably, but I guess we will never know.
And I don't want to know.
Because what I do know NOW is he is happy. He enjoys going to school and learning new stuff. On our part, we try our best to stimulate his appetite for learning by encouraging him to pursue his interests. At one time, he was self-learning coding online and now, he loves tinkering around with Excel. Yes, that spreadsheet software. Amazingly, there are plenty of fun and weird things that one can do with Excel and I have to admit that he is now better at Excel than me!
And I'm perfectly fine with that. :)
One and a half months into the new school year and everyone in the family is getting used to the familiar weekday routine once again.
Although things may have been a whole lot different had Ayd changed school.
You see, Ayd was selected for the Gifted Education Programme (GEP) in November last year.
As GEP pupils are perceived to be advanced in their mental capabilities, the GEP curriculum is an enriched one that is pitched to challenge and stretch them. To be honest, when Ayd first passed me the famed brown letter from MOE's GEP Branch, my insides were a bundle of happiness, shock and fear.
Happiness for obvious reasons. Growing up, he was always just that little different from the rest of his peers. He doesn't like socialising much but hand him a book, and it'll keep him enthralled for hours. He peppers his conversations with facts and do-you-knows. One memory that will always stay with me is when I wanted to reward him with a present for doing well in his exams 2 years ago and asked him what toy he would like, he replied that he wanted a Math Olympiad book instead! So I'm absolutely happy for him that he was chosen to be enrolled in such a programme that would challenge his mind.
Shock because I really never thought he would be chosen. There are 2 rounds of quizzes that one must clear, with the first round being open to all Primary 3 students. I was confident he would clear that round but Round 2? Apparently only 1% of the entire cohort is admitted to the programme so yes, Ayd being selected was something I least expected.
But above all, I was fearful. Simply because for all of Ayd's mental prowess, he is someone who takes an agonisingly long time to adapt to a new environment. He took almost close to 2 years to adapt to primary school life. It was heart-wrenching to hear from him how he felt like the loneliest person in school because he found it hard to make friends. Classmates would not include him in their games during recess and he spent many recess breaks during the first 2 years wandering aimlessly along the corridors while waiting for the bell to ring. Those admissions by him totally broke the wifey's and my hearts. Fortunately, his form teacher assigned a 'buddy' to him during P3 and he has been improving ever since.
So I am not certain if changing to a new school will be asking too much of Ayd. On one hand, I know for a fact that he will relish the many beyond-the-textbook learning opportunities but on the other hand, I am worried if he will crumble under the challenges of being in a new school and environment, with new friends and teachers, increased workload... and being away from his older brother.
Yes, that last bit is highly significant too. Both boys are extremely close (even though they can get on each other's nerves at times!). They share the same interests, love the same cartoons, crack the same silliest jokes and I can even hear them chatting in their room well past their bedtime.
So if Ayd were to change to a GEP school, both of them will definitely miss one another terribly. Already, Ash was subtly sowing the seeds of staying put in Ayd's mind throughout the month of November last year!
For me, I would be lying if I said I did not wish for Ayd to take up the new challenge. We went for the GEP Open House and I was struck by the amount of interesting research and work that the students are put through. I could see Ayd was a little moved after the Open House but the wifey and I decided to leave the final decision to him.
We gave him a few days to make up his mind and in the end, he decided not to take up the GEP programme.
There were a few reasons behind his decision:
1. He was not sure how he would adapt to a new environment with new teachers and new friends.
2. He would be separated from Ash.
3. He was worried about the increased workload. (A typical school week will see students stay back to 4-5pm for at least 3-4 days)
BUT the one reason that he gave which totally floored the wifey and me was this:
4. He was afraid... that the new school's canteen will not sell fried bee hoon that is as yummy as the current school's.
Always trust Ayd to give a non-standard answer when you least expect it.
And so, that's all about there is to it really.
Of course, there have been numerous occasions when I had questioned myself if I had made the right decision in letting Ayd make the choice himself. Should I have pushed him a little more to accept the GEP? Am I short-changing him by not enrolling him in the programme? Will his potential be forever left untapped?
Well, no real point in dwelling on the what-ifs.
I'm certain that the GEP has its merits but I believe getting into the programme - or any school for that matter - is only the beginning. It is most definitely not the finish line. If Ayd is not able to handle the additional stress of being in a new environment or cope with the workload in a highly competitive environment, the GEP might do more harm than good for a young mind like his.
Sure, stress is all part and parcel in the life of an adult and it is something that our kids will have to learn to cope with. But until then, I do not wish to kill his joy for learning - especially seeing how much he enjoys going to his current school now.
So as much as I secretly wish that Ayd did take up the GEP offer, I also know that his happiness is the ultimate thing that matters. Because if there is one aspect of parenting I learnt after all these years, it is to never let my kids be the victims of my unfulfilled ambitions.