Tag Archives: development

Live and Learn: Helping My Child at Home


How can I best support my child’s education at home?

By Michel Thibeault, Head Teacher

Michel Thibeault, Panyaden School Head Teacher

Relax, have fun together, share your passions and give your child lots of space to be his own person!

Contrary to popular belief, it’s not the time spent helping with homework that is likely to make the biggest difference in our children’s education. In fact, research shows that only high school students benefit from doing homework, while elementary school students gain little or nothing. What does make a positive difference then? Well, “Relax, have fun together, share your passions and give your child lots of space to be his own person!” seems to be what is needed!

The usual “What did you do at school today?” rarely yields more than the monosyllabic “stuff” or the extended version, “I don’t know”. What we would like of course is for them to share the exciting moments of their day, the learning highlights but also the challenges they faced and the way we dealt with them. In “How to Talk so Kids will Listen & Listen so Kids will Talk”, Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish suggest we simply talk about our day first and model what we would like them to do! Don’t get discouraged if it doesn’t work right away. Staying relaxed and avoiding interrogation sessions is likely to do the trick over time.

One of the key elements of the Panyaden approach is support the development of the wonderful Wise Habit of Chanda, the love of learning for its own sake. This requires that we create an environment that will be conducive to inquiry, that will support creativity and make discovery and learning a fun activity. Pressuring students takes them in exactly the opposite direction. Whether it’s from Buddhist principles, new data on how the brain works or research by people like Carol Dweck or Alfie Khon, the conclusion is the same: feeling pressured and stressed kills creativity and limits our learning potential1.

Besides modeling, there are many small things that can help boost our children’s learning:

  • Make sure they get enough fresh air and opportunities to run around after school.
  • Avoid high sugar and other unhealthy snacks.
  • Read to them, never mind how old they are.
  • Read yourself and do it in front of your children: children will follow their parents’ example.
  • Work together on home activities.
  • When there is homework, provide a set time and quiet environment for it to happen. Patiently help out if needed but don’t feel you have to do the teacher’s job. Send a note to school to inform the teachers if you encounter any problem.
  • Look up information together when you’re not sure about something.
  • Listen to his ideas and respect the level of his attempts.
  • Understand and accept that while the goal is always mastery of a concept, skill or knowledge, we can only take the next step today. Tomorrow might take us closer to the goal.

img_3178 (1)If your child is reluctant to do his work, it might help to ask him to estimate the time needed for various sections and set a timer to see if his prediction was accurate or not, “how long do you think it will take you to read the text?”. The next questions, after the text is read, could be something like “how long do you think it will take to answer the first 5 questions?”. You could also build in an incentive such as “dinner will be served as soon as your homework is done”. Or “I hope you’ll be done before I go to your uncle’s house because I would like you to come with me”. In this case, dinner is not withdrawn, nor is his chance to go to his uncle’s house but it’s clear that something else must happen first. The child then has to decide by himself to do his homework and reap the benefits or not do it and assume the consequences. The wording is important to make sure it is not perceived as a reward. It’s best to avoid statements such as “If you do … you will get …”

If, as the saying goes, “practice makes perfect”, let’s allow our children as many opportunities as possible to practice making decisions. If they feel they have a choice – even if it has to be limited – about when and where they do homework or other duties, when to have a break and so on, they are more likely to feel empowered…and from there Chanda will follow.

So, relax, have fun with your child, share your passions and give him lots of space to be his own person!


1See also recent New York Times article by Adam Grant: “How to Raise a Creative Child. Step One: Back Off”, January 30th 2016

Summer School: Course Details





This year’s Summer School will be five weeks of fun and educational activities based upon experiencing, appreciating and taking care of our environment. With a focus on learning through experience, using our hands and hearts as well as our minds, we will explore and appreciate the key elements of nature.


The Summer School will be taught in three groups:

Group I: Nursery and Kindergarten 1 (2 – 4 years old)

Group II: Kindergarten 2 to Prathom 2 (4 – 7 years old)

Group III: Prathom 3 to Prathom 6 (7 – 11 years old)


Week 1: Love the Earth

Week 2: Water

Week 3: Earth

Week 4: Air

Week 5: Trees


Students will become aware of and understand the key elements of nature and how these support life. They will learn how to interact with them wisely, to save not exploit.

Our activities will focus on 4 aspects of your child’s development:

1. Intellectual Development

2. Physical Development

3. Moral Development

4. Emotional Development



1. Experience how our surroundings consist of different elements of nature.

2. Improve fine motor skills.

3. Make friends with each other and nature.

4. Feel the calming effect of nature.


1. Identify man-made and natural aspects of our environment. Show appreciation for time spent in natural surroundings.

2. Develop fine motor skills, physical coordination skills, agility and balance.

3. Be capable of working together with friends in pairs and small groups.

4. Develop personal awareness of, and love and care towards, living things.


1. Use creativity and independent thought to identify ways to use and save the environment and avoid exploitation of the environment.

2. Improve physical coordination skills, agility and muscle strength and learn how to take care of the body.

3. Be capable of playing the role of both team member and team leader and be able to positively influence people; be able to explain the global aspects of changes in nature.

4. Be able to explain why it is important to use our natural resources efficiently and demonstrate good habits and self-discipline in regards to consumption.


Panyaden Summer School will run from 28 March to 6 May 2011 with a one week break between 11 and 15 April. The School will open at 08:30 each day until 15:00.


For more information and details on enrolment, please contact

TEL : 080-078 5115 and 085-484 6095

E-mail : info@panyaden.ac.th

Website : www.panyaden.ac.th




“The Realization Of Potential”

Neil Amas, Director, Panyaden School (English school Chiang Mai, Thailand)

A conversation with Neil Amas, Panyaden School Director

The Human Spirit

Identifying and creating opportunities in order to realize the true potential of people is what motivates Neil Amas in his life’s work. Neil is the School Director of Panyaden. He has been involved in education, research and humanitarian work in Thailand and the UK for 20 years.

Neil’s career history includes running an English literacy and language program and serving as a School Governor for a London primary school. He has also worked in refugee camps, as a health and social care manager and as a radio journalist. His varied job experience has taught him much about the human spirit.

“What continues to motivate me most in life is observing in both myself and others, the realization of potential. I have been fortunate on many occasions to have been able to contribute to removing barriers and identifying opportunities towards that realization.

I have seen that a child is naturally curious, eager for the playground of knowledge and experiences that life provides. As parents, as teachers, as adults, the very best we can do for the next generation is to enable and encourage this natural desire to learn.”

What is your role at Panyaden School?

“My role is to help with the day-to-day management of the school, liaising with parents particularly foreign parents, supporting foreign teachers, cross-cultural management, and to bring my own life experience to the school and its curriculum.”

What kind of life experience do you bring to the table?

“I hope I bring international experience and knowledge to the table. I have a long history of working with children and young people, of developing people’s capacity to improve themselves, of leading and developing organizations and of cross-cultural management.”

What you are saying seems to point to a bigger picture about developing your own mind, about what ‘real education’ should be. Would parents have a cause for concern that their children will not be taught the syllabus properly?

“My answer to that is two-fold.

1. We are not just teaching life skills like growing your own food, using resources carefully and so on. That will be there but we are still teaching Maths, Science, languages and all the required academic subjects. We will ensure that we are academically competitive and meet the standards of the Thai Ministry Of Education. How we teach those will be the difference.

2. No matter which school you are heading to, here or in the UK or America; to university or grade school, the best preparation is for you to be able to think for yourself, to be well rounded, and most of all to be happy within yourself.

We will ensure our pupils leave Panyaden with these attributes as well as the required intellectual capability. That’s my answer to the question. It might take some convincing but I think people will appreciate this.”

How are you going to teach these attributes? What is the teaching method?

“The focus is to develop a child’s natural curiosity and initiative through experience-based learning. For example, instead of telling children ‘This is a hammer, this is a nail’, start by saying ‘Here are some objects. What do you think they are used for? Show me how you might use them, create something.’ By doing so, we are trying to develop children’s natural curiosity and to encourage them to think creatively.

This style of teaching also applies to academic subjects like science when children may be taught how plants grow by observing the process for themselves, planting seeds, exploring what happens when you add or take away light and so on.”

Is this what’s unique about the Panyaden style of education?

“I see Panyaden School as the perfect environment for this process of development and learning.

Firstly, the approach is about natural learning, encouraging children to question, to think for themselves, to be independent, to work things out, to get outdoors, to get dirty, to use their minds and their hands, to create. I see these things in my daughters. I want them to be in an environment where their natural creativity is allowed and encouraged. Panyaden is offering something different. Both as a parent and as a member of the staff, I see it as a fantastic opportunity.

Then there’s environmental mindfulness. Some people may have the idea that a ‘green’ school means a return to some sort of idyllic, pre-industrial age. That’s not true. It’s about nurturing people who care about how we interact with the environment. I would never discourage people’s natural motivation to learn about and develop new technologies. The crucial thing is that we use them responsibly.

Thirdly, the school’s Buddhist approach. I like the fact that Buddhism is not dogmatic. Buddha didn’t say you must follow this or follow that; on the contrary, he urged us to question any theory and to verify it for ourselves. It makes a lot of sense.”

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Is it possible to integrate Buddhist principles into a modern education?

“Yes, experience-based learning is at the core of Buddhist thinking as well as of many modern educational approaches. Buddhist principles are as relevant now as they ever were and will continue to be. If today’s school children are tomorrow’s leaders, then we have a duty to teach them to be mindful of themselves, of others and the environment, to use what they know responsibly. This can be integrated with a modern education because after all, it is about encouraging people to be good citizens which is a key role of education, Buddhist or not.”

This style of education seems very different from what we are generally used to in Asia. What are some challenges the school will face?

“New ideas always offer a lot of challenges but I strongly believe that unless you put it out there and lead, you can’t change anything. I expect challenges, I expect children and parents to raise their eyebrows and ask ‘Why?’. If you go back in history and research any new idea someone has come up with, people have said “this is weird; this is strange”. It takes time to change people’s minds.

Some parents may challenge the way we are doing things. I think they will eventually support us as long as it is clear that children are not only learning how to speak and write good English and Thai and so on, but also learning about themselves, about inner happiness, about how to become well rounded adults.”

Note: A summary of Neil’s teaching & management experience can be found on Panyaden’s website page, Our Team.