Sunday, 23 April 2017

5% is the lowest

I sent J to buy a drink during lunch as he did not have his water bottle with him. He came back with a large cup of milk tea.



Me: You bought large?
J: Ya, I am sharing it with An. I chose 5% sugar level.
Me: (in shock) 5%?
J: Ya. 5% is the lowest. An cannot take sugar so I chose the lowest sugar level.

We had told him when An was much younger that babies could not take sugar, so he chose the lowest sugar level available since he was going to share the drink with her. How heartwarming. :)

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Chinese Woes

I was coaching J in Chinese last week and am very sure that Howard Gardner was right in proposing his theory of multiple intelligences. Some people are predisposed to certain domains while being lacking in others.

As I have mentioned before, J grasps math concepts pretty quickly, yet he forgets how a Chinese word is read in a matter of seconds. We have been going to the SEA aquarium often and I have told him that the aquarium is 水族馆 in Chinese. On our latest visit, which was very recent, I saw that the translation given by RWS is 海洋馆 and told him so. During his oral exam, he told his teacher that he has been to 胜淘沙的鱼园. I almost fainted.


In the school's oral notes, the students were told to decide on a pronunciation for a word they do not know. The advice given was to 有边读边,没边读上下 . When J read the word 烤箱, he pronounced it as 烤木 because he recognised the  木 in the word 箱! 一盘面 was read as 一船面,because 盘 shares a similar character with 船. I have to pray hard for him whenever he has a Chinese exam.

I have read this suggestion from parents which I think should be seriously considered: Calculate each student's PSLE aggregate with and without Mother Tongue (MT) and take the higher of the two scores into consideration when streaming. This will please those who are strong in MT and also cater to those who do well in other subjects but have no aptitude or little home exposure to the MT language. Those who are strong in three subjects but very weak in MT will not be denied of a chance to get into their schools of choice because of a second language. However, in order to still maintain a certain proficiency in MT, a caveat can be imposed: the student needs to get at least a B grade at PSLE in order to take MT at the express level in secondary school.

Do you agree?

Friday, 21 April 2017

A Year of Ballet

Dearest Little An,

You have been learning ballet for more than a year now. You have just outgrown your first pair of ballet shoes and I thought I would write about your progress since your first lesson.


When you first started ballet last year, it was in a parent-accompanied class and I had the privilege of attending it with you. Then, you tried your best to follow instructions, but got distracted at times.

I no longer attend classes with you, but at a recent mini concert that your class put up, you were confident and constantly had a smile for the audience. You knew the steps well and your rhythmic sense has improved. Your teacher wrote this about you:

Papa, Gege and I really enjoyed your concert even though it was very short. Keep up the enthusiasm you have for dance and in everything you do. :)

Love,
Mama. :)

---------------------------------------

Here are some things I learnt when sourcing for a ballet school for a two-year-old:

1) It is better to start off with a parent-accompanied class when the child is younger so as to ease the child into the class. Also, I could help remember the steps and practise with An at home.

We did try a drop-off class at another school before I found this school. I witnessed two little girls colliding into each other during the class and they started crying. The teacher had a hard time managing as she was alone with eight young girls. She did not even tell the parents of the girls what had happened after class even though one of them had an apparent bump on her head. I lost confidence and decided to send An to another school.

2) Teachers are important! The teacher at the first school we tried out did not find out the girls' names and when she needed their attention, she had difficulty. At this current school, An has had two different teachers. The first teacher she had began each class with a round of introduction. Each girl got to share one thing about herself every week. The current teacher is also good with names. Both teachers, as well as a substitute teacher, are lively, encouraging and make dancing fun. It would be good if a parent can observe how a teacher teaches before signing up for an enrichment class.

3) I considered if I was hot-housing An at such a young age. When I saw how much she enjoyed dancing, my concerns were quelled.

Sunday, 16 April 2017

The Easter Story and the Hope it brings

This year, I had the privilege of sharing the Easter story with the toddlers at Sunday School again. We enacted the last supper and the children learnt that the bread represents Jesus' body and the wine represents his blood. May communion not be just a ritual to the children, but a powerful reminder of what Christ did for us on the cross. 

During the second lesson, the children learnt that Jesus died on the cross for them. I made a crown of thorns using plasticine and toothpicks and cringed as I imagined how much Jesus suffered for us. As I read about how the people called for the well-known prisoner Barabbas to be released instead of innocent Jesus, I balked at the injustice. At the part when the curtain at the temple was torn from top to bottom, I rejoiced in appreciation for we can now be reconciled to God the Father by just believing in Jesus.

The final lesson was about the resurrection. Each child was given an empty Easter egg and told that the egg represents the empty tomb. Jesus is no longer in the tomb as He is alive! We made this craft which I found online:


We have hope as He is alive! Those who loved Jesus wept when they witnessed His suffering, but their sorrow was replaced with hope when Jesus was raised on the third day. Similarly, some circumstances in our lives may bring sadness, but we can have a spirit of rejoicing, just because He lives.

Here are lyrics of a song I used to sing a lot:
Love crucified arose
The risen one in splendour
Jehovah's soul defender
Has won the victory
Love crucified arose
And the grave became a place of hope
The heart that sin and sorrow broke
Is beating once again
I always sing this song with gusto as I am filled with pride of Christ's victory over death and it gives me much hope.

Incidentally, I watched a musical on the life of Joseph with J and An on Good Friday. Joseph was thrown into a pit by his brothers, sold to Egyptian strangers, accused of seducing a woman who in reality seduced him and thrown into prison when he was innocent. Despite upsetting circumstances, Joseph declared that though his brothers meant their heinous act for evil, God meant it for good.

Regardless of what we are experiencing in life right now, may we remember that we have hope in Jesus and that God is in control. Christ is risen, He is risen indeed! Blessed Easter. :)

(I am leading worship this Tuesday and I am feeling conscious of my voice which I think is horrible. Please pray that God's presence will fill the place and may I decrease as He increases. Thank you.)

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Parenting Reminders

Last Tuesday, I attended my last class and submitted my final assignment for this semester. I heaved a sigh of relief, but the relief was short-lived. I discovered that my to-do list was still long and the tasks ahead required perseverance. May the Lord provide all that I need!

Aside, I have still been feeding myself with words of wisdom from the Clarksons. I read a few chapters from Different , which was co-written by Sally Clarkson and her son Nathan. In it, Nathan shares his struggles with a host of mental difficulties: OCD, ADHD and more.


The hand of God upon Nathan's life is evident and in the chapters I have read, I was touched by the point made that everyone of us has a purpose on earth, no matter how we are like. I was also impressed that Sally was ever so patient and creative. Upon finding that Nathan could not sit still to read, she provided materials to engage him while they read. For instance, he would draw out the scenes from the stories so that his hands were occupied. This enabled him to connect with the stories which impacted his life.

I also attended a talk by Professor Andrew Brown from UCL. He was supposed to speak about the link between theory and practice in education but ended up sharing his life story. It turned out to be inspiring. He showed a hippy picture of himself when he was in his late teens and it looked nothing like the present him. He dropped out of college after six weeks as he did not like what he was studying nor his environment. He also revealed that he could not read till he was eight years old and yet now he was a professor in the field of education.

Professor Brown also mentioned that teachers tend to view parents like how they view their children. A parent with two children, one high-performing and one misbehaving, found that the teachers of her high-performing child treated her with respect and thought she was a wonderful parent while the teachers of her misbehaving child thought she was a bad parent, when she was the same person.

These things resonated with me as I am sometimes caught in worry for my children: Little An can only read a few words and J is quiet at school (even though he is very confident with us and can run errands and serve guests at home well). I am reminded to commit their needs to the Lord and to creatively provide opportunities for their strengths to be developed.

I also unconsciously wonder how others view me as a parent and this may put unnecessary stress on my children. I am reminded to parent according to God's word and not be bothered by the judgment of others. I also pray that I will have patience, as it frequently wears out with urgent demands of school.

May the Lord continue to mould us so that we can be His salt and light.

Thursday, 6 April 2017

Ilovereading.sg

I was given a set of four magazines by ilovereading.sg for review purposes and this post records my opinion of three of them.

Storytime
Age Group: 8+


Storytime is a monthly publication by Luma Works in London and ilovereading.sg is an exclusive partner of the publication. The issue I received contained eight familiar stories, including The Wizard of Oz, The Gingerbread Man and The Lion and the Mouse.

The magazine is like a treasury of stories, except that it is much thinner. We own a number of story treasuries, but I often think twice about bringing those out of the house as they are very heavy. However, I found it very convenient to pop Storytime into my bag and it came in handy on car rides and when waiting for food. I had an enraptured audience of two as I read aloud.

Besides stories, there are activities at the back of the magazines. There is also a word bank containing the definitions of difficult words. What I like most is the Story Magic page. It encourages creativity and thinking. An example of a task on that page is to think up a mnemonic to help remember the points of a compass.


Although marketed for children 8 and above, I think the stories can be read to preschool children and they will be captivated as well. Three-and-a-half-year-old Little An is an example of a young 'reader', who asked for Gingerbread Man to be read a number of times.

I
Age: 10+


The I magazine covers a range of topics, which includes Chow Down (Yum!), Sports and Games and Dance, Music and Drama.

It was interesting to read about how Roti John was created and how its name came about. I also drooled at the picture of the said dish and made up my mind to whip up the dish myself soon as the article made cooking it sound so simple.


I was also motivated enough to attempt the Tease Your Brain section of Chow Down. I did not believe that there was only one possible answer at first and spent time considering other options, only to be convinced that the answer given was the sole solution.


Each section also contained a composition-like article. As a former primary school English teacher, I must say that there were quite a number of good words and phrases used in the articles, and the usage of extensive vocabulary seems to sit well with composition markers in Singapore. The meanings of these words and phrases are given in the word bank. However, my qualm is that the plots of the 'compositions' seem predictable and I did not have to read the whole pieces to know how they ended. Don't trust my opinion though! Do grab a copy of the magazine to see if you agree with me. :)

Another feature of this magazine that amazed me was the inclusion of materials for oral exams. I have not checked out the video stimulus, but it sounds like good material for Chinese oral practice.


I also enjoyed the rebus puzzles at the end and thought that the advice given to instil confidence were sound, unlike those given by agony aunts of trashy magazines.


I Think
Age: 14+


I was most excited when I saw that the I Think magazine invites readers to send in their essays and selected essays are paid for. I used to send in essays and book reviews that my students wrote to a now defunct magazine and I was always very happy for them whenever their writing was published.

Aside, I Think includes thought-provoking opinion pieces and invites readers to critically think about the issues raised. In the example below, the writer opined that while there are pop singers like Selena Gomez who supports charitable organisations, the majority of pop artistes propagate undesirable themes in their choice of songs or even run into trouble with the law. The reader is asked if they agree with the opinion and not to simply accept what has been written.


I was glad for the choice of the above article. Personally, I have never been into pop music, but as I have joined an exercise class which uses such music, I became acquainted with some pop songs. Upon listening closely to the lyrics, I have been horrified and embarrassed at the themes that are being crooned. It is good to make teenagers think about their choice of music. 

There was also a mention of Singapore's Teng Ensemble, a cool group of musicians who play an eclectic mix of instruments. I chanced upon a YouTube video of the group playing Disney pieces previously and thought they were innovative and interesting. This is certainly music that is wholesome, in contrast to some songs that top charts today. 

At the end of the magazine, there are some worksheets based on the articles, which the diligent student may find useful. 

I enjoyed reading all three of the magazines and will be recommending some of the articles to my son to read. I think he will be interested in the puzzles in I and the word banks in the various magazines will be helpful to him.

Do visit ilovereading.sg for more information or to get your copy today. 

Thursday, 30 March 2017

Farm Outing

Dearest An,

Papa and I accompanied you on your school outing to Kin Yan Agrotech Farm. It was a fruitful trip. The moment we arrived, you watched a demonstration of aloe vera being cut. You got to taste the aloe vera and you grimaced when the jelly-like substance was placed on your tongue. It did not taste anything like the aloe vera pulp we find in desserts, reminding me of how much sugar our desserts contained.

The highlight of the trip came soon after the cutting demonstration. Every child was given a tray of soil to grow their own wheatgrass! You were taught how to prepare the soil by adding water before placing a layer of seeds on top.


You were told to water the grass twice a day and also learnt that water and sunlight are needed for plants to make food. You will learn later that chlorophyll and carbon dioxide are needed for the food-making process too. Science is interesting. :)

At the farm, you also saw different kinds of mushrooms grown. The onsite mart sold a variety of organic vegetables and each of you was given a packet of dou miao and a drink to bring home. The hosts even cooked the vegetables and invited us to taste the dish.

It was wonderful to see our wheat grass growing a few days later. I was happy to see you faithfully watering the grass every day and you and Gege were delighted to see the grass growing taller and taller.


We harvested the wheat grass after 8 days from the outing and Papa has been blending wheatgrass with fruits to make refreshing juices for the family.

Thank God for a memorable experience. :)

Love,
Mama. :)

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Crazy Classics

Dear family,

We had so much fun watching Crazy Classics with Sid Bowfin that I had to record our experience.


Something uncanny happened before the concert. I had watched this YouTube ad for the concert and was mentioning to J that in it, Sid Bowfin played snippets of Eine Kleine Nachtmusik by Mozart and Spring by Vivaldi. I was trying to recall the third piece when J suddenly said, "I know! He played this!" J, you put on a CD we had and played song number 3. The piece was Hungarian Dance No. 5 by Brahms and you were spot on! Of all the millions of classical pieces, you chose the right piece! We were all so intrigued.

As I had told you that we were watching a performance by a violinist who was a comedian, you were pretty excited. Sid Bowfin proved to be a real entertainer. Not only could he play well, he impressed us with tricks like balancing his bow on his nose and playing Rondo Alla Turca whilst standing on one foot! The concert was highly engaging and many in the audience got a chance to be on stage. J and An, you volunteered enthusiastically whenever Sid Bowfin asked for volunteers. Neither of you were chosen, but that did not dampen your mood. You danced and clapped to the music and J sang the solfege of Can Can by Offenbach when it was played! J, you are learning to play Can Can on the piano and were overjoyed when you realised that was the encore piece.

I was also very impressed by Sid Bowfin's knowledge of classical music. There was a segment where kids were asked to randomly suggest a piece for him to play. During the show we were at, the choices were Gavotte, Canon in D, Nocturne by Chopin (!) and Carmen by Bizet. We had to vote for one song and Carmen was our choice. Sid Bowfin briefly told us about the opera and played the piece competently! It was amazing. Of course, if you two children had been called upon to suggest your pieces, they would have been Imperial March from Star Wars for J and Let it Go from Frozen for An. Disney rules in our family. :p

That was a summary of our very enjoyable afternoon at Crazy Classics. We managed to take a shot with the inspiring violinist at the end of the show. Now that you kids and I are learning to play the violin, it is my hope that we will be able to do a trio one day. Maybe we can start with Twinkle Twinkle Little Stars.

Love you,
Mama. :)

Note: Sid Bowfin will be in Sg till 12 March and Crazy Classics is well worth attending, in my humble opinion. :)

Monday, 27 February 2017

Fun with Art

Dearest An, 

I love doing art and craft with you as you are often enthusiastic and earnest in the tasks assigned to you. 

Recently, we re-read stories from the Adventures of the Rainbow Fish and we painted fishes. I drew the outline and you painted the fishes with water colour. I think you did a great job painting within the lines and making the fishes attractive with different colours. You also helped to put the shiny scale on each fish. I hope the shiny scale reminds you to share what you have with others, just as Rainbow Fish shared his shiny scales with his friends. 


Here is an earlier craft we did on fishes: 


You patiently stuck the sequins onto the yellow fish and made it as beautiful as you could. Great job!

We did more painting after our visit to the Bird Park and after we read 'Let's Go Shopping, Peppa!" You chose to paint owls and flamingos and some of your favourite fruits during the painting sessions. Here are the products: 

Owl and flamingo

Onions, bananas and watermelon

I really think you put in commendable effort to paint neatly. Keep it up! 

We also had fun with plain old round stickers.  


I told you to create pictures using the stickers and as you stuck them on the sheet, you explained what you were making. At one point, you started to connect the stickers together and said you were doing a dot to dot activity. Then, you said you were forming a long choo choo train. You also made balloons. On the left side of the page, I was less imaginative than you and made minions, caterpillars and Elmo. At the bottom of the page, I tried to make an owl but you said it was a Cookie Monster Owl because it looked like a hybrid of Cookie Monster and an owl.


So you see, I really had fun doing art with you. Looking to more of such sessions with you. 

Love you, 
Mama. :) 

Friday, 3 February 2017

Hectic January

It was an eventful first month of the year. I became a student again (whilst still working) and experienced tackling assignments till wee hours, just as I did as a teenager and in my twenties. Thankfully, I am interested in the content of my studies so looking up information and thinking insightfully in these areas were actually exhilarating.

While being busy, I was reminded to take time to sit at His feet. One day, I only had 15 minutes to complete a task. I prayed and amazingly, an idea was conceived in that short time and I was able to look intelligent. May I not neglect to commune with Him daily. 

Home-wise, the Lord has also been gracious. I am thankful that Lyn engages the children in my absence. My ever kind aunt comes and helps with housework and I am appreciative. Sweet J has much more homework than before but he has been very eager to learn and I am gratified. Even Little An sits at our newly-purchased study desk and does her colouring work independently. J has been playing well with An recently and just yesterday, when playing a Bible Trivia for children, J encouraged An and gave her hints to her questions. An spontaneously said, "I love Gege." That was such a heart-warming moment. 


We also managed to include some family outings even though we all had added responsibility. We went on a Maritime Trail and found out that there was a lighthouse atop an HDB flat in Marine Terrace. We also saw how a flagstaff on Fort Canning was used to signal boats and learnt who the first five kings of Singapore were through an interesting comic strip by Lat. (The trails run every first and second Saturday of each month. More information can be found here.)


The Escher's exhibition at the Art Science Museum was also fun. We attended a workshop on tessellation and created an art piece each. J was intrigued by the 3D works displayed. After visiting Escher's exhibition, we went to Future World again. We could never tire of seeing our art work appear on walls and creating our own hopscotch. 


Our walk at the Botanic Gardens was a wonderful Science lesson. We saw a buffy fish owl perched on a tree, a heron, a water monitor and heard the white-breasted water hens creating a ruckus at the Foliage Garden. 

Photo by Lyn
We made pancakes a number of times and also a jelly hearts cake. 


Lastly, we visited relatives whom we have not met for sometime. A former student came to visit and it was nice meeting him again after 16 years. He said so many nice things about me which I could not remember at all but I was glad that I made a small difference in his life. Teaching is fulfilling. :)

It was a very busy month indeed, but we were happily busy and I thank God for that. :)