The co-founder of a right brain learning centre in Singapore tells MH about her journey to being the best mother for her children.
INTERVIEW LOW LAI CHOW
Agnes Ng, the 36-year-old principal and co-founder of Heguru Method Learning Centre@Fusionopolis, a right brain learning centre in Singapore, is a very busy lady.
Never mind that the to-be mother of three (she has two toddlers aged six and four, and is due for a third child this August) says she works just three to four days a week to run the learning centre with two partners… her schedule for her days off already sounds like a whole lot of work!
On the days she doesn’t work, she wakes up early to get them ready for kindergarten, does some morning exercise thereafter (“jogging, swimming or a walk with my hubby”) or grocery shopping at the market, heads home to prepare lunch, picks up her children from school, spends time with them to coach them in their homework and piano practice, prepares her children for their afternoon nap (“I insist on their afternoon nap as children need enough sleep for their brain development”) while she takes time out to reply her work emails. It doesn’t end there. When evening rolls around, she has a family dinner with the kids and her 36-year-old director husband, plays some games with them such as Monopoly or Junior Scrabble, prepares them for sleep, reads to them when they’re in bed, waits for them to sleep at 9pm, catches up on some personal reading (“I enjoy reading books on children development and parenting”) and emails.
Finally, at about 11pm, she heads to bed.
“On the days that I work, like Wednesdays, I will still prepare the children for school and drive them to the kindergarten before going for work. When I am working, my parent-in-laws help care for my children.”
The holder of a Masters of Education specialising in early childhood from NIE said her interest in early childhood was piqued while she was expecting her first child, Kayla: “I was reading a lot of books on infant and toddler development… at the same time, I was keen to learn how I could help
my child in her learning and development in the early childhood years.”
Then working in sales and marketing, the industrious learner resigned from her job to enrol for further studies in the area. Halfway through her Masters, Agnes became pregnant with her second child, Ethan. It was also around this time that she was also setting up the centre with her two partners. Agnes admitted this was a time in her life when she was tempted to call it quits in both her work and studies to take care of her children.
Family Comes First
“During the time I had to juggle my pregnancy, caring for an infant and my (then) two-year-old toddler Kayla, my Masters programme and the newly set up learning centre. I missed certain milestones of Kayla and Ethan. I remember being so stressed to complete my thesis in the final term and at the same time having to work on the learning centre and having to meet family demands that I broke down,” she divulged.
The support she gained from her husband, parents, parents-in-law and business partners, however, enabled her to soon find her ground again. To this day, she confessed to still feel guilty about not spending enough quality time with them: “Sometimes I work from home. Even though I am physically at home with my kids, my mind is preoccupied with un-replied text and email messages. It does affect quality time with my kids and family.”
The solution? Abstaining from screens at home. “We have set aside a rule not to be preoccupied with smartphones from the time we are back from work to the time our children sleep so that my husband and I ensure that we have quality time to read and play with the kids after work. Of course it also means no TV time for my kids. My husband and I believe it takes time away from family bonding.
“Reading books creates a better bonding time than watching TV.”
Top Tips! Stimulate Right Brain Thinking in Your Child
As a mother who wants the best for her children, Agnes said she started right brain training on Kayla when she was just four months old: “I remember at around ten months old, Kayla was able to pick up the animal flashcard cards even though she had not reached her speech milestones. It dawned upon me that even though Kayla was not ready to speak, her brain was ready. She could follow instructions and was able to pick the right answers.” From there, she said that Kayla was able to recognise words when she was just over two years of age, started reading when she was three (as well as reading Chinese without the help of hanyu pinyin), and got started on piano studies when she was three and a half years old as she could sight-read music notes. Likewise, she said that Ethan, who used to be a hyperactive baby, soon learnt to focus and also showed great progress in his literacy and speech skills about eight months into the programme (he was a year old when Agnes started him on the program).
She has three tips on getting started… and it involves doing just one thing!
#1. Introduce sight words and flash cards
“Start with sight words and flash cards. Sight words are words that appear so often in books and yet no images can represent them. Simply by flashing the sight words consistently, the children will recognise them, and as you complement it with reading books, they will be able to pick up the sight words and bridge literacy skills.”
#2. Start young, very young
“Start with flashcards of images from young. Infants and toddlers below three years of age are most receptive to images.”
#3. Do it consistently
“With the flash cards, just do it for one to two minutes per session and a couple of sessions a day. Remember, it is not about how long you do it each time as infants and toddlers have short attention span. It is about how consistently you persist in flashing the cards to the child.”