No tuition for champ

No tuition for champ
Nicole Lim (in pink), 10, and her family (from left), Madam Dawn Ho, 39, Mr Lim Chee Koon, 42, and her younger brother, Ryan Lim, seven. Nicole is the first female winner of The Big Spell in three years.

Nicole Lim, winner of this year's RHB-The Straits Times National Spelling Championship, has never had a day of tuition in her life.

This has not stopped the 11-year-old Singapore Chinese Girls' School pupil from making it into the top class of her Primary 5 cohort.

She says: "I hear of cases where people have tuition but not enough time to complete their tuition homework."

However, she will not rule out turning to tuition if her results fall below the targets she sets herself.

Her parents are happy to take the cue from her on such matters. Her father, electronic engineer Lim Chee Koon, 42, says: "As long as she's happy and motivated, we find it good to let her learn at her own pace."

This was the case, too, when she prepared for the spelling contest. Picked by her school for the competition, she did not receive special help from her parents until she qualified for the final.

And her mother, Madam Dawn Ho, 39, an adjunct lecturer at Nanyang Polytechnic, helped her practise only when she asked for it to avoid giving her daughter too much pressure.

"I think I was more nervous than her," says Madam Ho, recalling the day of the final. The family, including Nicole's eight-year-old brother Ryan, turned up to root for her.

This is not her first time taking part in the competition. Last year, she did not make it past the zonal rounds.

Madam Ho quips: "I'm surprised that she knows how to spell so many words, actually."

Nicole, you are an avid reader. How many books do you read in a week?

Nicole: Usually I'll borrow six to seven books, and maybe a few comics as well. I finish them in one to two weeks.

Madam Ho: We used to buy her books, but we realised that we couldn't keep up with her reading habit, so we decided to go to the library.

Nicole: I read all kinds of titles, from encyclopaedias to comics to novels. I usually borrow novels. One series I like reading is The Hunger Games.

Do you worry about Nicole's eyesight as she reads so often?

Madam Ho: We do. We know that there are options such as wearing special lenses to sleep, but she's happy with her glasses, so we just go with her wishes.

Nicole: I started wearing glasses only in Primary 3.

Madam Ho: She has a tendency, when reading or writing, to put her head quite close to the book. We're still trying to correct her.

Who is Nicole closest to in the family?

Nicole: I'm not very close to anyone. I'd rather keep some things to myself.

Madam Ho: She shares what she's comfortable with and she knows that we are there when she needs a listening ear.

She and her brother had different interests when she was younger, but recently, they are spending more time together.

Mr Lim: They picked up cycling together. They also go swimming together on the weekends.

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