Learning History

I came from a generation where History was taught in lower secondary school as a compulsory subject. I remember my history teacher vivdly. I could remember her slouching posture as she sauntered into the classroom, her squinty eyes behind thick glasses and her murmuring from the textbook. Her lesson was undeniably one of the most boring one but surprisingly, I did well for the subject. My husband on the other hand failed his history miserably.

I credit my good History grade to my ability to memorize and rote learn, my husband on the other hand, hated to memorize anything.

I could memorize 5 essays and spit everything out on the day of the exam (provided I memorized the right essays). Unfortunately today, I couldn’t remember a thing I learned during my history lessons.

For a long while, I questioned the relevance of learning History. Why would anybody need to know about William Faquhar and Sir Stamford Raffles ?

It was not until much later did I understand how history has shaped the world we are living in today. From hard sciences to philosophy and politics. If you think that you have thought of something new, look into history and chances are that someone has probably thought about it before.

Even so, I wasn’t convinced that a 9 year old kid will be able to appreciate or see the relevance.

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9 months ago, I found out that the schools here teach History in elementary school. I was prepared for Malcolm to be like me, not remembering a thing he learned, or hating the subject like his Dad.

I couldn’t be more wrong. history turned out to be one of Malcolm’s favourite subjects.  He knows more about history here than Singapore’s and I could imagine him telling the story of Alabama over a cup of kopi-O or teh-O siu dai

So what happened?  What was wrong with my premise? Why was I proven so wrong?  I realised two things

First, the teachers explained to the kids how history has shaped life here today.

Malcolm found it fascinating that the ocean levels changed and allowed ancient peoples to cross the Bearing land bridge and migrate all the way to America.

He found it interesting that one of the first White Houses of the Confederate States is still standing in here.

The teacher explained to them how water gushing naturally out of artesian wells led to the forming of a town near us, and how you can still get free and fresh drinking water today from these wells.

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They brought them for field trips to historical places to reinforce what they learned and visit the traces of history. In class, the lessons are conducted in an interactive manner where students get to speak up and share their experiences. It was never purely worksheets or memorizing facts from the textbook.

Teaching history without explaining or discussing its relevance to the present day encourages children to rote learn.  At best, they would do well in exams like me but have no inkling as to why they are learning history.  As worst, they would turn disengage and give up that subject altogether.

The second thing I realised was the teachers provided an interesting environment to learn history.  Who would have thought that craft and play could be used to teach history?

I wouldn’t.

I remember thinking long and hard on how History could be taught so that kids would find it interesting. I came to the grim conclusion that there probably isn’t a way. It has to be a boring subject through and through. Which kid would care about what happen hundreds or thousands of years before him ?

So I was wrong.

While they were learning about the native American tribes, the class was split into 4 groups and they were given sticks, twigs, tape and craft paper. The students brought scraps from home and they built replicas of the structures and weapons of the various tribes.  By doing so, they imagined, they created and they internalised what they learned from the textbook.

Bottom line, it was fun and that was the best way to learn, even for a subject such as History.

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An engaging teaching plan will go a long way to spur the students’ interest in history and I was dastardly wrong that teaching history to a 9 year old is a waste of time.

I think that most Singaporeans, including me, do not have a healthy enough respect for their own history and how knowledge of our own history could empower us.

‘Study the past if you would define the future’ ~ Confusius 

I think that the first place that we should start to remedy this is in school. We should teach history in school and we need to teach it the right way.


A Pictorial Of Our Weekend

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Woke up to this beautiful sight. Some said they are dogwood, some said they might be almond blossom like the ones Van Gogh painted. I am still trying to find out.

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Went to a cultural event, where the adults pigged out and the kids hung out having fun talking about poo .. oh well, boys !

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Headed for the Big Red Barn but too much of the poo talk made us missed the carnival

Sunday morning was wet and perfect for snuggling up with Dad who had just came home.

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The weather cleared up during noon, so we headed out for lunch. On the way home, we spotted a lovely sight, so we pulled over the car for this.

It was St Patrick’s week  and my 4 year old learned a great deal in school and we learned a great deal from him. He told us about ‘shamrock’, which is essentially the Irish word for ‘young clover’. It is a type of weed that usually has  3 leaves. If you ever find one that has 4 leaves, it would bring you good luck.

We came home and had the best doughnuts for tea, the Krispy Kreme kind that melts in your mouth,  and Dunkin Donut just can’t beat.

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So it was our 11th wedding anniversary and instead of 2 new rings, we bought ourselves 4 new ones. The little one helped the Dad put everything together while his elder brother busied himself with some secret mission.

We later found out that he was working on a video for us, compiling pictures downloaded from this blog, completed with our wedding march in song. He can be this sweet !

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And of course, we had to have a family portrait on this special day.

It was a quiet sort of happy day.




After Book 1 Of LOTR

They were still crazy over Star Wars and we were trying to search for Star Wars books but found out that George Lucas only wrote ideas for the film but not any of the novels that came after.

Unlike other great movies such as Lord of The Ring and Harry Potter, Star Wars was not made from existing books. George Lucas never had 6 scripts sitting there on his desk to be made into movies. All he had was his story outline that he evolved into the scripts for the 6 movies.

So there was essentially no great literary Star Wars fiction book before the movies came out.

Then last week, Malcolm came back from school with a torn and tattered book. It was a 2nd edition of The Fellowship of The Ring he found in his school’s library.

I was surprised he did because I remember him hiding his face behind cushions during most part of the movie when we watched it a couple of years back. But I guess not having find any great books on Star Wars had made him desperate enough to pick up Lord of The Ring.

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Since then, he had been either burying his head in the book or watching the movie on DVD. Then a few days ago, he came to me with this long list of inconsistencies, and it really reminded me of the time when he watched The Hobbit

1. in the movie, the dragon fireworks was launched by Mary and Pinpin,but in the book it was Gandalf that did it as a signal for supper.

2. in the movie, Frodo left right after Bilbo did, in the book it was 17 years later that Frodo left.

3. they skipped 3 chapters of the story on their adventure to the Prancing Pony.

4. in the movie, there was no Tom Bomberdil, in the book he was an immortal who helped the Hobbits to speed up their journey to the Prancing Pony.

5. in the movie, Gandalf went to Helms Deep but in the book he did not.

6. in the movie Gandalf and Sauroman fought at Isengard, in the book they did not.

7. in the movie Gandalf did not meet Radagast, the brown, in the book he did and it was Radagast who told him that Sauroman would hlep him.

8. in the book, Aragon was referred to as Strider.

9. in the book, the Hobbits did not trust Aragon until Gandalf sent a message via a person named, Butterbur to tell them to trust him.

10. in the movie, Aragon’s sword was not broken but in the book, he carried a broken sword around because it was a heirloom passed down from thousands of years ago.

11. in the movie, Elrond was there when Frodo woke up after being stabbed by a mogul blade, in book, he was not there.

12. in the movie, Gimli tried to destroy the ring with a hammer, in the book, he didn’t.

13. in the book the entrance to Moria was invisible.

14. in the book to stop the Balrog Gandalf said “you shall not pass” 3 times, in the movie, he only said it once.

15. in the book Gandalf broke his staff when he was stopping Balrog.

16. in the book Gollum was following the company.

17. in the book there was no battle at the end with the orcs

18. in the book Boromir did not die.

19. in the movie they shortend the peacful parts and added more violent parts and made the violent parts longer.

20. in the movie they skipped the first meeting wth elves

This list continues but the bottom line was that he enjoyed the book more than the movie as it was less violent.

With this and The Hobbit, I wonder whether he will ever watch a Peter Jackson’s movie again.

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