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Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Ah... Take Photo!

The evening sun bade its final farewell as it retreated behind the wall of thick grey clouds. Nonetheless, the skies still retained the colour of day as the world was not yet ready to welcome the night. In the land of Singapore, in a little corner of the island, a young boy dashed out of the elevator. It was as though he had been cooped up all day at home (which he had been), and that he was now raring to flex his leg muscles. Behind him trailed an older man, tired after a long day of work, and slowly pushing a little infant child in a light-weight stroller. The little boy's footsteps came to a sudden stop. He stood transfixed at the majestic palm tree with its luscious leaves swaying in the twilight breeze. All at once a wave of inspiration seemed to hit him, and the boy exclaimed his desire to capture that moment in time forever. "Ah! Take photo!" he said.

Our older son Z began his love affair with palm trees from as far back as we can remember. But it was only in Phuket, Thailand, that our son began to articulate how much he loved these special plants. We remember then that he would remember the exact location of every palm tree from the road to the entrance of our resort, and stop at every single one to marvel and enjoy its beauty. Recently, our 2/1/2-year-old has taken this fascination to a higher level. He has realised just how special photos can be, and that the camera has the power to capture precious moments in time, instances which he loves and cherishes. There have therefore been many moments when the little boy would suddenly come to a stop, point to a particular object, before exclaiming excitedly, "Ah! Take photo!" This has resulted in all kinds of photos - of palm trees, of his art, of the pink spotlights in church, and of the Singapore Flyer, among other beloved items.

We are thankful that our young child has developed a love for new experiences and to cherish the little adventures that he encounters. There have been many times when we have taken out a photo and asked him if he remembered the events depicted within. If you could look at his little eyes you would see a smile creep onto his face, and he would proudly proclaim where the photo was from and what it was about.

Is it true then that children do not form accurate memories until the age of three of four?

We have taken Z for many trips overseas. Some people have questioned why we have bothered to do this. Their argument is that children will never remember what they have seen as a toddler, and that such trips are therefore a "waste of time". This reasoning is typical of conventional wisdom that there is no need to "educate" a child until he or she is old enough to learn - and this is equated with the teaching of functional tools such as alphabets and numbers. 

Our son's fascination with photos and his ability to recount the memories associated with these photos clearly proves otherwise. We believe that he has incorporated all his various experiences as part of his learning journey as a person-in-training. For instance he is very sure of the way to both of his grandparents' homes and can tell us whether it is the "correct" way there. And every time we head towards the expressway, he would declare, "Ready!" with great gusto, preparing for the moment when the car would zoom by the Singapore Flyer and when he would be able to enjoy that one minute of astonishment and wonder.

After all, learning is more than knowing all the letters of the alphabet (we are glad that our son at least knows three - the letter "Z" for his name, the letter "M" for Mummy, and the letter "A", which is the first official letter learnt during homeschooling). Learning is more than knowing all the numbers (for the record he can count to 20 and recognise at least 1 to 3). Learning is about piecing together your entire life experiences, to complete a compound picture of beauty.

For a photo depicts more than a thousand words...