Should I be flash carding my baby?

“I’m not going to have children. I love children… I help to look after my nieces but it’s too stressful in Singapore. Breathe in.” My waxing therapist said.

I breathed in.


“You need to give them tuition, because all their friends will have it and if they don’t they will feel left out and weird.”


“On the first day of Primary One, I sent my niece to school, and there was a really beautiful girl in her class. Future star. Really pretty. One year later, I saw her again, and she had all these pimples on her face, and she looked so sad. Not pretty any more. Her mother said that she was too stressed in school and they were migrating to Australia. Pimples! Eight years old!”


I’d heard this before. I don’t want my future children to be stressed out by the PSLE, so I think I’ll stop here / not have any children. I’ve always called bullshit on that, because it sounds so preposterous.

But there is a PSLE. And many, many years of grueling Singaporean education which I dread having to relive vicariously through each of my children. I am 31 years old, and I still occasionally get exam nightmares. You know, those nightmares where you are taking a Math exam in two days, and you haven’t done a thing to prep.

You don’t get exam nightmares? You’re not Singaporean then. Or you were a slacker in school. Both of which apply to my husband, by the way.

“We’ll just send Michael to international school. Or homeschool him,” says Ralph. He has heard enough about the PSLE to respectfully fear it.

Usually I quickly change the subject at this point because one of those options would mean spending the equivalent of a university education on each of our kids before they are ten years old, and the other means I could possibly go insane. I prefer to think, completely unrealistically, that I will somehow be able to fend all this crazed competitiveness off. Construct a little psychological bubble for me and my children to shield us from the horrors of growing up in a country where school vacations primarily mean “phew, now we have some time to revise what we’ve been learning in school, with the aid of assessment books and extra homework”.

There is a tiny shop in my neighbourhood which sells only past year papers. These are actual Primary 6 examination papers from other schools (preferably the good ones) which you may purchase to inflict upon your twelve year old child. I did so many of these, growing up.

past year papers

Wrong on so many levels.

Also, ten year series.

I fear for this sweet, innocent young life, who has no clue what’s about to hit him in a few years:

baby reading on bed

baby eating book

Lately, despite myself, I’ve been wondering if I’ve been doing enough to stimulate Michael’s burgeoning intellect. At the moment we are on a curriculum of nonsense songs and half hearted “What does the cow say?”s which I only engage in because it amuses him. I mean, who really cares what the cow says? And who really cares if he can’t wave hi or goodbye yet, even if all the other babies of his age group in my condo can?

Yes, I’ve noticed.

(But I comfort myself that he is a good eater. Ha ha, your baby isn’t enjoying her little bowl of puree? Michael would gulp that down that like it’s an amuse bouche, ha ha ha!)

I’m not a competitive parent. I think. I hope. Who knows? The test will come when my child comes home with his first test, with the score circled in red on the first page. God give me the wisdom to respond in a sane manner, when that happens.

In the meantime, seriously, should I be trying harder to educate my 8 month old baby? Teach him the words for things? It’s awfully annoying though. Repeating “Bird! Bird…bird…bird…bird!!!” while pointing at said bird just bores me silly. I like to think that he will naturally learn English/French by sheer osmosis.

Until the other babies in the condo start chirping “Bird! Tree! Flower!” of course. When that day arrives, I’m going to be purchasing a stack of flash cards, damnit.


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