There are many milestones that parents reach with their young children. First words and first steps are classic moments. The day that the toilet-training potty seat is retired is life-changing for everyone. And, this month, there is a significant step within the educational career.
It has many local parents stressing out.
My daughter, who is 6, is preparing to go to elementary school. She is guaranteed to get into the neighborhood school, but, like the other parents who have jammed virtual meetings with the more advanced programs of Brno, my wife and I would like to get the best education possible. That means entrance exams, which, apparently, are something more like interviews with multiple teachers.
It is a strange event for someone who is not native to the Czech Republic. I can only imagine the scene: My daughter, wearing a pretty dress, is escorted by a nice woman into a room, the doors close behind them and you sit, maybe pace the floor, as your child’s fate hangs in the balance.
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I think my kids are intelligent and creative and age-appropriately mature. But, the American in me — think: capitalism, competitiveness, dog eat dog, kill or be killed — has been a little bit worried about whether we should have done some preparation. After all, you don’t want to be playing catch up from Step No. 1.
Yet, we’ve pretty much done nothing besides the alphabet and basic mathematics. Instead we’ve held back on our instincts to be a tiger mom / dad or a helicopter parent. We figure that it is best for the kids to want to learn on their own with the belief that coming to a realization by yourself is much more powerful and lasting than being force fed information.
In essence, our parenting strategy has been to have a constant conversation and just provide a good model. Respect books. Read the newspaper. Work hard on tasks. Keep things organized. Deal with adversity. Tell stories. Walk off little aches and pains. Get your ass out of bed in the morning (the teenage years are going to be terrible!). These are things that our kids have observed and, I believe, these are the aspects that they will incorporate as they move forward in their educational careers.
The one thing that we have been strict about is language. We’re fortunate to have a bilingual household and we want to make sure to take full advantage of it. The kids get Czech by osmosis at school and around mom. Then they practice English when I am around. The result is that my Czech suffers, but at least they can switch back and forth with ease.
Now, soon, we will get the first public results of our parenting strategy.
Which, of course, will be followed with many more tests: entrance exams for gymnasiums; qualifications for university; getting a good job; getting married and having kids and living happily ever after.
So it begins.
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If you are a parent, how have you dealt with the different phases of your child’s education? If you are a non-Czech, how different is the local educational process from that in your native country? Are you a Tiger Mom or a Helicopter Parent?