A visit to Hils Learning enabled me to see first hand what the centre does and consider how children can become happier learners.
There is a belief that school days should be the best of your life, a time when you can be carefree and happy. Learning should and can be fun, indeed, it frequently is but as a teacher myself I know that it can be difficult to engage every child in a classroom however much you try, frustratingly there are always one or two who however hard you try seem to slip through the net. If you feel your child might not be doing as well at school as they might and are not happy, you might be as pleasantly surprised as I was to know that there is help, right here in KL (Mont Klara, in fact).
Hils Learning is a small, warm learning centre that helps children who have lost the natural desire to learn we all are born with to get their learning happiness back. As Hilary Craig, founder of the 6 year old company explains, Hils helps kids who have “fallen through the cracks:’this maybe due to learning difficulties such as Dyslexia or Aspergers Syndrome, or perhaps because of low self-esteem or bullying. When it comes to learning, Hilary, who has 28 years of in-school experience believes that “confidence is key”.
Unlike schools, the more personal and smaller scale Hils Learning centre is able to individually assess the needs of each child; and with a firm belief that no two children are the same, the team of caring and skilled professionals tailor a unique programme of support for them. The emphasis is helping children build confidence and reignite their desire for learning, which can be extinguished very early on in a child’s life. ‘One-on-one learning is the magic that makes it happen’ it is this that enables the Hils teachers to try a variety of different teaching styles until they find one that works for the pupil and to create individualised learning plans for each child.The hope is that Hils is seen as a “time out” for pupils from mainstream school and the services on offer can be used to support a pupil attending school, for those who are being home schooled or children currently not in the school system. For whatever reason children attend Hils, the key is that they enjoy their time there – that they want to go back.
For the majority of Hils’ pupils the overall objective is to get them back into mainstream school a more confident and happy person, and the strategies used are clearly working. Hilary talked with joy about a 6 year old boy classified as suffering with ADHD, who arrived at Hils having been dismissed from 3 schools in Singapore and turned down by every International school in KL, yet after spending time with Hilary’s dedicated team he was finally accepted at one school here with no one in his class even knowing his previous problems all this without medication. Another young boy with Autism spent a year at Hils before he too was accepted into an International school and was described as the most popular child in his class by his teacher. A third child had extreme separation anxiety and with the Hils teams’ help also now attends school full time. What is most striking when discussing these children with Hilary is the fact that her satisfaction is so clearly gained from the fact that all these examples and many more are now happy children and as she says,“lf l have a happier child; I have a happier family.”
How Can You Ensure Your Child is Happy?
For all children, Hilary gives advice on how to make sure they are happy in their learning: Be happy with your children remembering that all children are different; enjoy your children and have fun with them and believe in yourself as a parent, as we all know children are great mimics! They will pick up on your sense of confidence and this in turn will aid their learning. If you see your child is not happy – they seem moody, don‘t want to go to school or if you notice a change in them – this could mean they are having social or learning problems. If you do suspect that your child needs help, Hilary advises that you investigate the help and services that are available in your community and visit them. She considers it vital that any help Hils offers is suitable for the child and supponed by the parents – use your gut instinct to assess if the support is right for your family.
Another key to that Hilary believes unlocks learning happiness is praise. She is clear though that praise should be meaningful and specific. When praising children be truthful and make it clear to them why you are praising them, exactly what is it that they have done that is good.
Ensuring your child has adequate sleep is also an important aspect of how Hilary believes children become better and happier learners. We all know how we feel after too little sleep, patience and concentration become challenging and as adults we can rationalise the fact that how we feel is related to lack of sleep, imagine how lack of sleep would affect a young child.
Finally, how did the name Hils come about? ln case you haven’t worked it out yet, it‘s an acronym Happiness is Learning for Success and a child Hilary was working with thought of it when they were playing an acronym game with their names. The happiness comes from helping kids who for whatever reason feel inadequate, improving their self-esteem and confidence. At the end of a very enjoyable morning at Hils, perhaps the biggest lesson I could take away is that the most important aspect of education, whatever academic success is achieved, is that children are confident and happy.