1. What is the Happy Train programme about?
The Happy Train programme is a brain stimulation and development programme conducted in English and Mandarin, therefore the child learns in a bilingual environment. It is uniquely designed to allow children to develop memory skills and cognitive abilities such as IQ, EQ, numeracy and literacy in a non-stressful and fun environment.
This programme is put together by several instructors with many years of teaching experience, especially in the field of brain development and stimulation. The team of developers are also qualified early childhood educators and have done intensive research on the curriculum.
2. What is right brain training or whole brain training? Does my child need left brain training specifically too?
The concept of right and left brain thinking was only developed in the late 1960s, when an American Psychobiologist Roger W Sperry discovered that the human brain has two very different ways of thinking.
Right brain training is to activate the right brain and guide children to using their right brain as the right brain is a lot more powerful. Our right brain is able to process a large amount of data and is able to recall complex images instantly. The right brain is visual and processes information in an intuitive and simultaneous way, looking at the whole picture then its details. The left brain is verbal and processes information in an analytical and sequential manner, looking at the pieces first before putting them together to get a whole picture.
In all our classes, we activate the children’s right brain through various techniques such as relaxation and visualisation. Whole brain training is to train a balanced brain because right brain training alone is not sufficient. We also need to help them connect the 2 hemispheres of their brains to achieve the result of whole brain development.
3. What is your centre’s teaching method and mission?
Our mission is to develop good learning attitudes and abilities in children and to ensure that the learning experience is always fun and fulfilling.
We strongly believe in the importance of nurturing lifelong learners, as learning should be a continuous practice throughout life. Our classes are carried out in three different languages over a cycle of 3 weeks. Each week, the teacher will conduct the class either in English or Chinese. Children receive further stimulation when they hear an unfamiliar language. They are able to master and retain the new phonemic sounds, as their brain remains malleable. Moreover, the ability to learn a second language is the highest between birth and 6 years old. We believe that introducing new languages to a child will stimulate his/her phonemic awareness and thus help them to recognize a wider range of sounds.
4. What is the teacher and student ratio in the class?
Our class size is kept to a maximum of 6 students per class, to ensure ample attention from the instructor for each student. The instructors are carefully trained on engaging the children in the activities so they can focus and learn effectively.
5. How will brain training help my child in the exams?
In Happy Train, we believe that there are other fundamental skills that a child needs to develop to perform well in school. The right hemisphere of the brain is actively stimulated when the activity presented is new, challenging or emotional. Once the right brain is activated, children are able to remember and recall large amount of data. They are creative and therefore will try to solve problems creatively with alternative solutions. They will also find it easier to grasp difficult concepts such as mathematical theories as they are used to learning difficult subjects from a young age. They will also learn the importance of success visualisation. By using this method, they can visualise their success in any endeavour.
6. Is it difficult to input foreign language to my 1 year old child? If I don’t understand, will he understand what’s going on in class?
It is not difficult to input any language to a young child. However, if parents are unable to speak that certain language, it is the parent who faces the difficulty. Parent may not see the child understanding the language because the child is unable to speak yet. However, young children absorb all information like a sponge. The child can pick up information through the non-verbal (body) language of the instructor. The challenge lies in the parent to be able to trust that her child is learning.
7. How do we practise the different languages? Does pronunciation and intonation of the language matters?
We have a Home Support Booklet every term to help parents practise the keywords and songs learnt in class. By attending the class together with you child, both parent and child are learning the foreign language together. Pronunciation and intonation are definitely important.
That is why we select all our teachers with great care and stringent criteria in their ability to deliver in class.
However, parent must bear in mind that Happy Train is not a language school per se. We are not grooming the children to be able to speak the languages fluently. It is to keep their minds stimulated, to develop keen interest in different languages and culture, as well as learn some useful common words and phrases of the different languages.
By continuing to attend the programme you and your child will be able to hear and learn to correct pronunciation and intonation. Parents are only required to practise the keywords learnt in class and not do a whole session of home practice in a foreign language.
8. Can the child see the flashcard when you flash so fast?
Although the speed of our flashcards can be quite fast, the child is still able to see the cards. Even when the flashcards are shown at high speed, we do not compromise on the accuracy of the pronunciation of each card. The flashcards have to be shown quickly to stimulate the right brain that processes at a high speed. Flashcards also help to connect the left and right brain. When a picture is shown, our right brain works at capturing the visual. As the word is said at the same time, it connects the left brain by giving meaning to the picture (language skill).
9. What if my child does not want to look at flashcards when I flash at home? How often do I have to change the flashcards?
Have you been showing your child the same set of cards? Try to change at least 1 topic per week. Parents can also think of different ways to arrange the flashcards or different topics they can rearrange the cards into.
10. How many times do I flash the cards per day?
If parent is able to do flashcards on a daily basis, 200 cards of 20 topics per day will be ideal. There should be 10 cards in a topic and it is important to have a title card as that helps develop the child’s cognitive skills.
If the child is unable to focus on all 200 cards, parents can separate them to a few sessions. For example, 100 cards in the morning, and the rest in the afternoon.
9. How do we do home practice? Is there homework given?
Every week, the teachers will advise the parents on the various Home Practice topics. These ideas will help to reinforce all the areas covered in the class. Some of the homework given can be worksheets, and some are ideas for games that they can play with their children at home. We strongly encourage parents to do home practice on a daily basis and the worksheet given for aged 2 and above is a good guide.
10. How often do we need to do home practice? How long per session?
Ideally at least 30 to 50 minutes per day. It may not be a full continuous session of 30 minutes if the child is unable to concentrate for that long.
11. Do we have to do home practice in all the languages? Do we do it separately?
Home practice allows the parent to reinforce the knowledge learnt in class, but parents do not need to conduct every session in different languages. Parent can choose a most fluent and comfortable language but practise the songs and keywords in the different languages. This is the best time for parents to the 2 languages for the child.
You do not need to separate them into 2 different sessions, unless you are flashing cards in 2 different languages.
12. How soon will I see the results?
That depends on the age the child starts the programme and the progress of individual child. Although we do not expect to see obvious results for children under 2 years old since they are not able to verbalise what they know. It is common to see children improve just after one term. These improvements could be better concentration, ability to follow teacher’s instructions or enthusiasm in participation.
13. My kid can't sit still. How do I know if he's absorbing when he's running around the class?
Everybody has their own way of learning and some children may have a kinesthetic learning style. Therefore they are able to learn while they are on the move. It is common to have children aged between 15 months to 22 months old who like to walk around the classroom. However they are always attracted to the new activities presented and will return to their seats thereafter.
14. Would brain training help my child to catch up with her peers?
Definitely. That is because our curriculum is set out ahead of the expected developmental achievements for the particular age group. By going through brain development courses, the child is able to learn at a higher speed and is able to process and recall large amount of data easily.
15. What is the best age for a child to start the class and why?
The best age to start will be between 3 to 6 months old.
Neuroscience discoveries have brought attention to the importance of nurturing newborns.
In the first few months of life, the brain is busy wiring connections between axons (transmit signals) and dendrites (receive signals) to form synapses. The connections within the brain can only be strengthened through experiences. When the weaker synapses are not used, they will gradually be pruned off when the child reaches around 10 years old. Taking advantage of the plasticity of young children’s brain, we should provide them with rich experiences in class that facilitate the steady growth of their brains. We strongly believe that parents should not miss the “windows of opportunity” in every child, and should make use of this opportunity to create a strong passion for learning. By age 3, 75% of brain growth will be completed. And as the left brain develops, it becomes harder to bring forth the abilities of the right brain. However, the human brain is organic and is always learning. Although it gets more and more difficult to “train a child’s brain” as they grow older, it is still beneficial.