Colour it nicely!

11:40 AM

3 years old in Ishi’s school do get homeworks on weekends, while I still find it questionable I have to admit that the activity books in which she has to do a few pages a week is somewhat within grasp of nursery kiddos. They review concepts like opposites, similarities, and even start learning the Alphabet and number. The exercises are simple enough, they have to colour certain objects on the page according to the guidelines, and there are some pages where the need to link objects together such as “Link each animal to their home”, a good way to practice deduction, thinking and refine motor skills. Some of the sections are a bit too advanced for a toddler, spot reading for example, at this age a kid links the word to an image, so they know what a cow looks like if you show them a picture of a cow, but the book wants them to recognize the actual word “COW” in it’s whole form and link it to the picture…that is a too abstract concept for a young kid, and Ishita not so surprisingly doesn’t get it at all…in fact talking to some of the moms in her class, turns out none of their kids do!

Where this concept of homeworks goes seriously wrong however is not in the book, it’s in the way teachers place high expectations on the kids. Week after weeks the completed homeworks come back to me with the annotation: Please colour it nicely. What it means is “Please colour in the lines” which is impossible to do for a 3 years old, not on his own, not without the parent locking the hand firmly into place and moving it themselves across the picture, at this point it would be more the parent doing the colouring rather than the kid.
And again it comes as no surprise that all parents report that they are told to “please colour it nicely” and that yup their kids are are colouring challenged as my own 3 year old (a relief I must tell you). My mom who was a pre-school and kindergarten teacher in her days told me that expecting a child that young to colour in the line, or even understanding what colouring means is ridiculous and isn’t even developmentally within grasp of a toddler, at this age they are for some just starting to hold a pen with confidence and start differentiating between circle doodles and straight line doodles. Colouring nicely comes at around age 5 not before for your average kiddo, yet Ishita’s teachers seem more concerned about the fact that she didn’t colour the Astronaut nicely rather than check if indeed she understood the word Astronaut in the first place! Or that yes she got that a cat is indeed a pet and not a wild animal (which she didn’t, because she love all animals, so I was the one to guide her hand on the correct animals to colour as pets).
And when she does colour it somewhat nice enough, I get other remarks like “Please use crayons” because how horror she recognized the numerical 2 and coloured all the boxes containing it with a Crayola…MARKER, had me scratch my head big time, wasn’t the purpose of the exercise to recognize the numerical 2? Hasn’t she fulfilled the requirement? Why would a blue children art supply marker be cause for scolding the parents via crazy comments?
Or the time she had to colour both a fire engine and a bunch of cherries with the colour red, only to loose patience after the fire engine and throw the crayon away, prompting me to call it quit for the day and colour the cherry later, at which point the box had only one red crayon left which we used and to get the comment “Please colour it red” the next week, at which point I peered carefully at the cherries, realising that how damnation of damnation we used a red crayon with a slight, very slight raspberry hue about it! Surely that wasn’t red! Never mind that most cherries in real life aren’t even fire engine red in the first place, and of course never mind that for a toddler, both fire engine red and raspberry red are well…hum…RED which means that my daughter actually grasp the purpose of the exercise again: identify the red colour.

Week after week I am dreading the freaking activity book, simply because the annotations are not meant for my daughter, she can’t read, the comments are meant to scold me for not complying to whatever standard they set. so much so I am now wondering whose homeworks are these supposed to be? My daughter’s or mine? Am I the one being tested on colouring or is it Ishita’s ability to understand concepts such as small and big that is put to the test? What are their priority? Having a perfectly neatly colour activity book, or should it be that she learned that yes an elephant isn’t a pet? I am so irritated by this whole thing that I actually plan to ask them at the next PT meeting if they even dare broaching the topic of her not colouring in the lines in her activity book. More disturbing though, is why oh why do they insist on 3 years old to draw and colour like 5 years old even if it is developmentally impossible for most to do it?

This weekend one of her homework was to pick her favourite colour and colour the butterfly in the picture. I asked her what her favourite colour was and she happily grabbed the purple crayon screaming: PURPLE!!!!!!!!!!!!! And went right at it, colouring the butterfly, to be fair the butterfly is colour in its integrity, and even has a nice purple aura all over outside the lines, but I see it from there, next Friday when the book comes back to me I’ll be told to “Please colour it nicely” Never mind that my daughter did follow the instructions: a) she chose her favourite colour, she even told me the name of said colour, which isn’t even one of the colour they have covered in school yet, and b) she DID colour the butterfly entirely, the whole butterfly area of the page is purple, and so what if it went outside the line? As far as I know she could have coloured a glowing butterfly and therefore required an aura of doodle around it! The activity book’s instruction didn’t say “please colour in the line” the teacher thinks it should be done that way. And I seriously question that doing, I want a well rounded and age appropriate developed kiddo, not a performing monkey or robot, so of course I refuse to hold her hand firmly and colour it myself, I explain and guide her, and she will figure it out, it’s trial and errors that makes us smarter, not having someone do the work for us when it proves to be out of our grasp. If I hold her hand and colour myself, it’s not developing her fine motor skills, but letting her slowly figure it out herself does! You would think a teacher would understand that!


  1. Akshaya6:18 PM

    Welcome to Indian education system Cyn. Thanks for reminding me how it's done in India. Now I know why my in laws are criticising my parenting in aus :D and why the local childcarer thinks I am pushy mum. My parenting is about good of both the worlds... Which confuses the less travelled ppl.
    Yes you are expected to hold ur child's hand while completing their homework. Yes the teachers in India have never seen exotic fruits like cherries, peaches, prune, nectarines in real so they will follow their old book and expect their pupils to do the same.
    Just wondering if you have thought of doing homeschooling in India? Many young Indians (who are fed up with Indian rote system)
    Are trying this option and have community too.

  2. yes indeed welcome to the Indian system, DH who grew up in that system is still finding the teacher's comment completely and utterly ridiculous though.
    I wondered about homeschooling, but realistically i am not sure I am cut for it, I tend to lack patience and it requires a huge amount of dedication from the parents I am not sure I posess. My plan is to ready her slowly for the system, but make sure her creativity and free thinking is nurtured at home so she ends up getting an all round education just the same.
    I believe in discipline and good behaviour at home, so when I say something it goes, and Ishita knows it, she does challenge it like every 3 years old, but I hold my ground, stuff like asking for a differnt food because what's on the plate isn't to her liking simply doesn't fly with me, but it does with my SILs when their boys ask. Clearly if Ishita is not going to eat her food, then she isn't hungry enough especially on a day like today where the menu was potato salad and chicken which she usually likes...want yogurt instead? Too bad it's not happening :-)
    But asking a 3 year old to colour nicely, nope no dice I refuse to get pushy on that, and I refuse to hold her hand and colour it for her, it's not me going to school it's her :-)


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