Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Heguru - in general

Ok, let's talk about Heguru. I have received a number of queries on the programme so I hope this helps to shed some light.

To start off, let me describe a typical Heguru class.

Rachel is in the Infant and Toddler programme, which, at the moment, is the only programme offered by Heguru schools in Singapore. The class is one hour long and is conducted by a head teacher together with an assistant. The head teacher does all the talking while the assistant's main task is to help the head teacher prepare the next activity, distribute materials to the parents for each hands-on activity and collect the materials after the parents/children are done. The two teachers working together help to move the class along at a brisk pace. This is typical of right-brain training, where the right brain is provided as much stimulation as possible by showing the children different visuals at high speed.

From attending the Founders' seminar, I understand that, in the Infant and Toddler programme, Heguru aims to devote 80% of the activities to right brain stimulation and 20% to left brain activities. Most of the right brain activities are simply presented to the children very quickly and all the children have to do is watch and listen. Apart from that, no active action on the children's part is required. This means that the children spend most of the class watching the teachers "perform a show", and hopefully this translates to the right brain receiving lots and lots of stimulation.

These are some of the class activities: greeting teachers and classmates; going through the day, date, the weather and temperature; the time and the clockwise direction of the clock; introduction to chemical symbols; reciting a moral phrase (eg. "Charity begins at home"); reciting Di Zi Gui; reciting English poem; reciting Chinese poem; eye training (focusing on a picture attached to a string on the end of a rod, which the teacher swings about); image/visualisation training (storytelling with deep breathing; image manipulation); mandala; iroita; tangram; flashcards; exposure to mathematical concepts (such as shapes, angles, addition, multiplication, relative quantities; equations); use of abacus, dot bar, nummer katsen; link memory; peg memory; physical exercise; dancing; foreign song (Mandarin/Spanish/Malay); phonics song; alphabet song; story telling; moral song (eg. "Don't tell lies"); language activities; tracing and writing activities; ESP games; some general knowledge (science, history, geography); etc. There is also a segment when the children come up to the front of the class and introduce themselves. At the end of each class, the head teacher will spend a few minutes sharing with the parents about what the parents can do with their children at home to reinforce the learning and what to watch out for.

I must point out that you should not go through the list above with a fine-toothed comb and try to compare and contrast the activities with those in other programmes. Some of the activities change from time to time and, like any right-brain training programme, there really isn't any sort of substantive syllabus, so there isn't much point in comparing the right brain stuff. The point that should be noted instead is that all the fundamentals of right brain training are covered.

We started Rachel off in January this year when she was a few weeks shy of 6 months. I think she is still the youngest in her class at the moment. Despite her age, she is the most mobile and she is the one who is constantly on the go, investigating new things and exploring new territory in the classroom. Last class, she crawled up to the tub of flashcards and pulled it off the trolley. (That's my girl!)

She certainly does not keep still and pay attention throughout the one hour. She has a healthy curiosity about her surroundings and it will take time before she is satisfied that she has checked out everything around her, whether it is the tub containing the flashcards, the cushion that she is supposed to sit on (last class she was wrestling with it) or the crayons that she is supposed to draw with (they always end up in her mouth). I actually regard her active and curious nature as a sign of intelligence (yeah, yeah, I know some of you are rolling your eyes at me!) and it actually makes me quite happy to see her looking around for new things to investigate. Nevertheless, I do expect that, when she eventually completes her explorations in the classroom, she will then settle down and watch the "show" for longer.

Now, she does pay attention to certain segments of the class, but this varies from week to week. Some weeks, she likes the flashcards segments and squeals in excitement as she watches them. Other weeks, she can't be bothered. Some weeks, she enjoys the storytelling; other weeks she'd rather rummage through my handbag. Most of the time though, she does enjoy the musical segments and of course the dancing.

It is also not easy to get her to give up the materials and return them after we do a hands-on activity. This is perfectly normal for a child her age (I remember Ryan went through this stage too) and she will learn the routine after a while. Anyway, for now, she is not actually able to do the activities - usually I will demonstrate it and hopefully she will absorb something from watching me.

Okay, that's quite a lot for now. These are pretty general comments which will give you a general but good enough picture. I do have further and more specific thoughts on Heguru but one post can only be so long before it gets too much so I will write more in future posts. Do let me know also if you have any specific queries and I'll try to address them as well.


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