(First of three parts)
Failing is a normal part of learning,” says Theodore Julius “Teddy” Tan. “It motivates me to do the challenge again. I want to retry it when I know what I did wrong. Not fixing a challenge feels like letting an opportunity go to waste. I am curious about [technical things], I find them accessible and learning is fun for me.”
Teddy is neither a psychologist nor a professor. He is an 11-year-old who, together with his father Wilson, created an ultraviolet disinfecting kit that appears sturdier than those in the market.
Unlike several children his age who complain about online learning, take studies for granted, or rely on tutors, Teddy teaches himself math, biology and physics from YouTube videos, and connects lessons to real life.
Undaunted by problem-solving, Teddy taught himself to code, which “forces me to think of solutions. I have fun coming up with these solutions and it is satisfying when I get them.”
“You can do it if you can find a way,” agrees older brother Ian Angelo, 14, who helps Wilson solder electrical devices. Through online videos, the boys learned to repair their Nintendo Switch controller, change batteries on their iPhone, clean the air conditioning units in the home.
“It’s fun to spray each other with water after cleaning the aircon,” says Ian.
Do-it-yourself projects minimize physical contact in these pandemic times and “save us money because we don’t have to bring these to the shop,” he adds.
Grit, love of learning and learning from mistakes are not inborn traits. They are also often not taught in school. Parents are our first teachers and early on, Wilson and his oncologist wife Marina Chua Tan decided to be hands-on parents, not just in word but also in deed.
“Wilson and I were both brought up by yayas, so were our siblings and many of our friends,” says Marina. “We were lucky to have good faithful yayas who took care of us and loved us unconditionally. Until now, I support my yaya and her family in the province after her retirement.”
But these are different times. “Many caregivers in the older generation have close families and strong moral values,” says Marina.
“Unfortunately, today we hear horror stories from some friends whose helpers abuse or neglect their charges, perhaps due to broken families, negative social media or peer influence, or other things. So we decided not to depend on any yaya and to raise our children ourselves.
“Changing our children’s diapers, bed sheets, blankets; sleepless nights breastfeeding; watching every step to minimize injuries; preparing meals; bringing them to and from school; communicating with teachers on their progress; transitioning to home schooling two years before the pandemic; and eventually overseeing their virtual lessons and activities during the lockdown: Everything has been rewarding. Wilson and I have no regrets.
“We want our kids to enjoy their childhood without excessive pressure [solely] on academics. They are only going to be children once, so let them cherish the experience. We encourage their interests, but we also [guide them to be accountable].”
When Teddy asked for a violin at age 4, his parents made him a deal: if they buy it for him, he would have to take it seriously. Now he is extremely advanced in Suzuki techniques.
When I watch recordings of the boys’ recitals every few months, I marvel at the amount and speed of progress made.
House rules are adapted for the benefit of all. Before the pandemic, the boys could not play with gadgets on weekdays, only on Friday evenings after schoolwork and on weekends after extracurricular activities.
These days, the kids have laptops for virtual academic lessons, coding, home projects, interests (violin, orchestra, art). Gadgets for leisure are now allowed, but only after all schoolwork and activities were done for the day. On weekend nights, the family bonds through board games and strategy video games. INQ(To be continued)
Queena N. Lee-Chua is with the board of directors of Ateneo’s Family Business Center. Get her book “All in the Family Business” via Lazada and the ebook on Amazon, Google Books and Apple Books. Contact the author at [email protected]
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