Thursday, April 21, 2011

Blowing My own Trumpet a Wee Bit

A few commenters on my last post happened to say that I worried needlessly about Ayaan clearing the tests and indicated that since he was a bright child, he would have made it anyway.

I beg to differ. I don't want to take away credit from him. He is definitely a smart boy and in the end, he went into a room without me and delivered the goods. But I'd like to talk a bit about the run-up to these tests and way that I prepped Ayaan for them, which I do believe made a big difference.

Both the schools that required him to take a test were kind enough to provide a curriculum. The things that had me worried were Hindi, addition, subtraction and spelling numbers up to 100, none of which he had been taught in his Mumbai school. I mean, come one, in the English section you say you expect them to know three and four letter words - then how the hell are they supposed to know how to spell words like nineteen and eighty eight?!

The Hindi part was easily solved. Once we told the schools that he hadn't been introduced to written Hindi at school, they said they would not count the Hindi section when scoring the test. But the rest of the stuff, he had to know! Teaching it to him was easier than I thought. We had already been working with fingers to add small numbers - I just taught him to draw a short line for each number and then count them for addition and cross out lines when it came to subtraction. His number spellings were a bit dodgy but he got them phonetically right (thurteen) most of the time, so I left it at that.

A bigger part of my effort went into emotionally preparing him for the test. Knowing him as I do, I knew that that would be the clincher. Here are some of things that I think worked:
  • I played on his excitement of moving to a new city. I told him that we couldn't move unless he got into a school by clearing a test. I told him that he needed to practice doing some tests before the real ones and he was really charged up and was practically nagging me to set the tests for a couple of days before I got around to doing it. Overall, he was as invested as I was in the goal of cracking those tests.
  • I set him about 7 tests that he had to sit and do, one a day for a week. I drilled it into him that I would not be there to help him. The first day I sat in the room with him - I was available for clarifications, but not answers. On the second day, I stayed in the room but I sat in a corner and read my book - he was not allowed to ask me anything and was told to leave questions that he didn't understand or know the answer to. The rest of the tests he had to do alone in his room, and for one, I timed it for when I was out of the house.
  • Ayaan does not deal well with failure. A difficult puzzle or a craft activity that does not go as planned can be the cause of a severe meltdown. The first few times he didn't know the answer, he got awfully upset and he actually crumpled up one of the tests in a fit of rage. But towards the end, he learnt to accept that he would not know all the answers and peacefully move on to the next question.
  • I set pretty elaborate tests. There were fill in the blanks, sums, pictures to be labelled, match the following, and a whole lot more. I think he was pretty familiar with almost every type of question that was finally asked in both the tests. 
It worked. At the second school, the teacher who took Ayaan in gave me very pessimistic vibes saying that there were only a couple of seats left and unless he scored over 80%, he didn't stand a chance. There was a marked change in his body language later and he told me that the boy was intelligent and he was very impressed with the confidence with which he left my side and went in for the test. He said most kids at this age tend to cling, whine and even cry.

So yes, I am going to take at least some of the credit for Ayaan acing those tests. I am not saying that he wouldn't have done it without my help. But it would have been harder for him, intellectually and emotionally.


  1. Hey, good job done! It was indeed a neat effort by mum and son :) And I'd bookmark this post for future use ;)

    Funny story for my own pre-KG "interview": The teacher asked me what colour my hairband was (back in the 80's we were lucky to get away with lame ass questions like this), totally expecting me to struggle with taking it off and figuring out. I, sure of my mom's matching-matching-outfit-and-accessories-for-my-daughter tendencies, coolly looked at my dress and said "Blue!" And got in too.

  2. Wow Ro...I am impressed...seriously for the fact that Ayaan agreed to go through this...and secondly and more importantly you worked so hard on make the test papers, go through it, teach him everything amazing! I wouldnt have done it..honestly..I would have just told R to get admission wherever she got...when I did the seven schools in one city, I remember giving tests in two of them and I really dont remember my mom working so much on are awesome!and you asked na why seven schools living in the same place...pata nahi honestly..we moved houses, I didnt want to be in the same school as mom, dad was with IPCL, so got admission after an year of being in some other school in the IPCL school,passed class 10 from a school that didnt have 11 and 12 (we have 11/12 as school there instead of junior college) etc etc..funny na!

  3. I so agree on the three letter words and the nineteen and Forty four etc. Hyderabad's syllabus is a little more in UKG atleast, I had done some comparisons in the beginning of school year

    I had palpitated when I first saw A&A's syallbus for the UKG. But simply showing interest and being in sync with the teacher's thinking helped. Good job you two! You seem to have a knack for methodical approaches to everything like my husband. The cookie crumbles too fast for me :)

  4. blinkandmiss1:29 pm

    Great job, Ro!

    I love it how you had Ayaan eating out of your hands. I mean which kid runs around begging the mother to set test papers!

    No questioning the child's brilliance at all. But turning it in the right direction needs effort and thought, without which all the talent is wasted.

  5. He's one lucky little boy to have a mother like you! For the only entrance test my little fellow ever went for, all I did to prepare him, was to pray. Real hard :) However I can definitely use these tips (esp. point no.2 ) to get him to do his homework independently of me, which at the moment is just not happening. Thanks for sharing :)

  6. Very thorough prep, Ro! Am hoping tho', that my kids will not have to face this...for my sake, not theirs! :P By the way, was Ayaan answering these tests for admission to UKG or 1st std?

    The syllabus at my kids' school is pretty relaxed up to UKG, when it suddenly starts becoming voluminous, this post reminded me to get more serious about working with Dhruv at home! so, thanks!

  7. I think you should definitely take credit for the coaching. Being brilliant and doing well in admission tests are two different things. As evidenced in the case of my sister who mostly flunked in admission tests each time we moved cities and schools. This would be followed by parental pleading for admission. Then she would join her school and crack the scene and all the teachers would be amazed.

    On a different note, reading this was a huge reality check on what a competitive world it is out there if so much effort has to go into smooth sailing for a UKG/Class 1 admission. Egad!

  8. Anonymous8:56 pm

    Holy cow - those are some serious tests! Good for you and Ayaan...


  9. Preeti9:28 pm

    Oh My God! Am seriously impressed... just to echo some of the posts above, I would never have put in this kind of effort!!! I wouldn't even have known where to begin... so I guess that's a hint as to why u bullet point your posts sometimes:)

    But kudos to both you and Ayaan for all the efforts that you put in and glad that they paid off and gave you the chance to pick and choose the right school for your child (in other words YOU got to reject the schools that put your son thru these tests)

  10. Oh well done you!! Of course Ayaan deserves hugs and congratulations but so do you! As a mom, I know what it means to invest yourself in a (for lack of a better word coming to me right now) 'project' of this magnitude and importance, so seriously, great job!

    Three cheers to both of you!!

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  12. CONGRATS to you and him. I am so happy for you guys - bet you will love the school you have finally chosen. In case you want I will put you in touch with folks who were there before (finally got hold of them since mom and dad are here).

  13. You definitely deserve a lot of credit of course.

    Mint and I usually always argue over this issue. I do believe genetics play some role in shaping your intelligence. Because from what I've seen, intelligent parents usually have intelligent kids. And he believes genes have nothing to do with how intelligent you are. All babies are born with the sme brain. It is only about the environment you give the child, and how intellectually stimulating it is, especially during the formative years. That is what determines how they learn to think, grasp and adapt. I know he is right to a huge extent, but I don't totally dismiss the role of genes either.

    Either ways, if Ayaan aced the tests, you had a lot to do with it :)

  14. Anonymous12:25 am

    I am so glad that I am following your blog. Ayaan cleared exam and we all wawed him, but we forgot to gave the credit to you. You did so much, I am so surprised how efficiently you handled the whole situation, like motivating him with new place and practice...I am so glad you shared this story here..Well you deserve the credit Roh..Well done..

  15. Excellent job done Ro! Kids aged 6 are that way ..not handling failure very well, getting frustrated easily et al ..kudos for the emotional prep as much as the academic one!

  16. Very impressed with the thought and preparation you put in, a lot of times parents invest emotionally in this sort of a challenge but never intelligently, patiently and smartly enough for it to work out. I am bookmarking this for when I need to go through this sort of a thing!

  17. Yayyyyy! You aced it! both of you! I doubt that I'd have done this much prep. You're an ossum mother. And Ayaan is ossum in that he was asking you for tests!!!! :-D

  18. Totally impressed with your effort. These things really pay off Rohini. The child cracks the comfort and contentment bit because you are seriously involved at every step.

    His intelligence am sure took care of actually solving his papers. Just associating the word tests, papers to a 6 yr old makes me squirm. Unfortunately our education system doesn't feel that way.

    I am going to save this post for future reference. Thanks so much!

    BTW, I really want to know how Tarana handled the situation when Ayaan had to spend some serious alone time on his test. I have trouble even reading a page to my 6 yr old without my 2.5 yr old trying to grab my attention.

    Sorry! I do look up to your blogs for some pointers, and if you have any here, do help!!!

  19. Ro - you do deserve to blow your own horns on this one - because it is true - even if he was smart just prepping him for what was inevitable (even if you didn't believe in taking tests at this young age) is the smart thing to do...rather than send him cold turkey and make him cry there. Really well done.

  20. - Wow! Thumbs up
    - Good Work Mom..:)
    - Picked up some valuable tips.. thank u :D

  21. Chitra8:35 am

    Hi Rohini,

    Have been a regular at your blog and love your writing.

    It also happenes that Shalini(unilever) and I are close friends and she mentioned that her friend was moving to Hyd. It struck me just a couple of days back that she was referring to you.

    I've been in Hyd for the last 5yrs, so incase you do need anything/any help etc do let me know. Or just mail me at

    Regards Chitra

    PS - Sorry about the long comment. Couldnt find your email id and hence the comment.

  22. [The Soul...] Lovely story about your school interview - brought a smile to my face :)

    [R's Mom/ BlinkandMiss/ JLT] I was totally surprised by Ayaan's reaction too. I thought it would be an uphill struggle to get him to do the practice tests but he was super-excited about it. Weird kid.

    [AA_Mom] My husband is the cookie crumbler in the family, so I have to be the methodical one :)

    [Zainab] I am not sure he would agree about the lucky bit. I have many flaws as a mother, impatience being at the top of the list.

    [Starry] 1st Standard. If I had known that we would get the school of our choice, I wouldn't have made him take the test at all. But we needed to have these as our back-ups.

    [Anita] Yeah, school admissions should definitely go into the 'cons' columns of your 'whether to have kids' decision :D

    [M] Really! I was shocked at what they expected 5-year olds to know!

    [Preeti] Heh. The irony!

    [M4/ weourlife/ Neera/ Gayatri] Thanks :)

    [Choxbox] Hey thanks. I managed to find a couple of parents whose kids are currently studying there, so don't worry about those contacts.

    [Pepper]. The age-old nature-nurture argument. I think it's a bit of both, who knows how much of which.

    [Nandita] Once an MBA, always an MBA :p

    [Sai] The first few tests, when I was present, I closed his door and let the maids handle Tarana. When he had to do it on his own, I was with her and kept her entertained and away... And stop staying sorry. I am super flattered that you asked :)

    [Noon] Yes! I think making sure that the process was as less traumatic for Ayaan as possible was as important as him doing well on the tests.

    [Chitra] Small world, huh? :) Will mail you in a bit.

  23. wow to both of you! doffs her hat for Ro! :)

    and at 5 they expect a child to know SO MUCH? you mean in another l'il over a year they would expect Cub to know how to spell one to hundred?! brrrrrr!!!

    have always thought you are a rockstar mum! :)


  24. Wow Rohini - very neatly thought out. I can relate to it quite a lot - my daughter too has a somewhat similar personality where failure/unexpected things send her into a very difficult state, so my biggest worry about her taking an exam was more about her mental attitude on that particular day, more than what they would ask in the actual test!

    Did try some preparation, but we lucked out - the school we were interested in didn't conduct tests this year :) only interviews for parents!

  25. [Abha] Awwww..... thanks. Cubby still has a year. They expected Ayaan to know this when he is just a few months short of 6 :)

    [Aparna] My kind of school! I hate schools where they test young kids