Friday, 23 June 2017

Cello Lessons Update

Since this post, J and An have attended another two cello lessons at Juzmusic Academy. Teacher Ren continues to guide them patiently and J has asked if he could attend cello lessons during the next holiday, after he realised that it was difficult to fit cello into his regular schedule. As for me, I think I have fallen in love with the deep mellow sound produced by the cello and may pick up the instrument after retirement. :)

Image source
During their third lesson, the children continued to learn the variations of Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star. J grasped the fingering quite quickly, but still had to be corrected several times for his posture and bow hold. By this stage, Little An had difficulty stretching her fingers. Teacher Ren tried to engage her in plucking the open strings and I was impressed that she was persistent in involving the little one.

By the fourth lesson, I had ascertained that the cello was too big for Little An to manage, so I requested that Teacher Ren teach J while Little An observed. J practised the Twinkle variations and was taught a new piece. Teacher Ren played the notes while J mimicked the playing. It was great that by four lessons, J could play two pieces.


Towards the end of the lesson, Teacher Ren took out two dice. One contained letters and the other contained note values. Little An was roped in to throw the dice and she happily obliged. J would play the note shown and hold it for the right number of counts. The role was later reversed. The children threw the dice and Teacher Ren played the notes.


During one of the lessons, I noticed that Suzuki concepts were displayed on a notice board. I have always known that the Suzuki method stresses on early learning and parental involvement. From the posters, I was reminded that encouragement was necessary. I am rather impatient with the children during practice as music comes naturally to me so I need to be really conscious in issuing more compliments.


J has enjoyed all four cello classes and An enjoyed the activities that Teacher Ren has ingenuously incorporated into the lessons. I am grateful to have been offered these four trial lessons as my children had good experience with a new instrument. If you are looking for a cello teacher, do check out Juzmusic Academy. The schools are located at Parkway Centre, Tanglin Mall and One KM.

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Playeum: Making It Home

This was our third visit to Playeum and each visit had left me impressed with the creativity of the set designers. The children were suitably engaged and J was reluctant to leave when it was time to.


As its name suggests, the whole play area is designed to be a home with different rooms. J's favourite area was the kitchen, where he spent much time fiddling with the pipes, funnels and sand. This aptly represented the kitchen's washing area.


A table top lined with sand probably represented the dining table. It invited us to add our artistic creations to what others had contributed before and Little An was too glad to participate.


J also enjoyed the central space, which was laden with pipes and connectors and beckoned children to construct whatever they liked.


Little An liked the living room. There were coffee tables with magnetic surfaces and she enjoyed creating pictures with the magnetic buttons and strips provided.


There was also a magnetic board representing the TV. During our visit, we did not see many children at this board, but I thought the 'TV' was an ingenuous idea that was actually conceived by children.


Also in the living room was a memory game, creatively designed using floor drain covers. Little An found thrill in opening all the covers and she actually completed the whole memory game with me. Yay.


While we were at the Playeum, there were people comfortably lounging in the bedroom, which was filled with fabrics. The fabrics encouraged visitors to enact their dreams. Little An promptly went for the blue cloth and draped it over her shoulders to play act her favourite princess.


Besides what I have described, we hung our own 'laundry' at the laundry yard......


and attempted to construct a playground at the Playmaking Space


An hour and a half flew by quickly and I only hurried the children out when the staff began to pack up. 

I would like to thank Playeum for the interesting visit. The Playeum is located at Gillman Barracks and is opened from Tuesdays to Sundays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. The entrance fee for each child (1 to 12 years) is $22 and is free for the first accompanying adult. For more information, please visit their website

Wednesday, 31 May 2017

A Memorable Day at District 21

The kids and I had an enjoyable time at District 21 in Putrajaya. We started out at the trampoline section and ten minutes was all it took to work out a sweat.


We proceeded to explore the rest of the unusual playground since there are a number of trampoline parks in Singapore and we wanted to maximise our time at District 21. Little An spotted a school bus and we agreed to climb it with her. I got 'stuck' in the slide connected to the bus and had to propel myself downwards due to my massive weight, but the kids zoomed down the slide easily.


Our next adventure was at the tubby slide, which was exhilarating. We have gone on similar slides in Penang and Melbourne. This one was shorter but steeper and I held on tightly to Little An as I was afraid she might fall off the donut. She was fearless and requested to slide again.


J was very interested in the maze, but Little An did not meet the minimum height requirement of 120 cm. J attempted the maze by himself but got lost midway and decided to retrace his steps. Later, we saw some boys entering the maze and J followed them in. This time, J emerged from the metallic structure beaming. He navigated the rest of the maze quickly and declared it was fun.

The metallic structure is the first part of the maze. It looks straightforward but the path goes up and down. 

The rest of the maze is in the open. The ball section was the toughest to us.

At this point, we were supposed to meet up with my mum, so we left the grounds to wait for her. When she arrived, Little An forgot all about her desire to climb the walls as she spotted an art shop next to District 21. She knew Popo would oblige her request to decorate an art piece and she was right. J and I returned to District 21 while Little An and Popo went to the art shop.

J immediately challenged me to go on the maze with him. I was sceptical as some parts looked narrow but I took on the challenge. Indeed, I had to squirm my way through some sections and I was perspiring profusely by the middle of the maze. Nevertheless, I was glad to have tried out the maze with J and he was encouraging along the way.

My favourite section was the Power Station. Singapore's equivalent would be the Clip and Climb at Tampines Hub. With plenty of walls and a restricted number of people at each entry, I managed to scale up three walls and could have done more, but I was preoccupied with cheering J on and taking photos of him.


J's confidence on the walls improved gradually. At first, he only wanted to climb to the middle of each wall. Then he realised that it was actually manageable, so he went higher and higher and completed three walls. He even climbed the structure below to the top many times and I was so proud of him.


We stayed at District 21 for 2.5 hours in all. It was Malaysian school holidays, so I had expected the place to be very crowded, but it was not. The only section we had to queue at was the Power Station, since only a fixed number of people were allowed in at each entry.

Both J and An said they enjoyed themselves but as for An, she was proudest of her art piece and she clutched it tightly wherever she went that day.

Sunday, 28 May 2017

Cello Classes

J and An have been offered four trial Suzuki cello lessons by Juzmusic Academy. They have attended two sessions so far and J has already requested to continue learning the instrument despite his busy schedule.

The cello teacher is Teacher Ren. She has a music degree from Germany, with a specialisation in cello.


The first lesson was an introductory one. Teacher Ren went through the parts of a cello and the parts of the bow with the children. She also told them that the four strings of a cello were C, G, D and A, before teaching them how to sit and stand in rest position and how to hold and put down the cello. Teacher Ren was helpful and patient towards Little An when it was evident that the cello was too big for her to manage on her own.


In the last fifteen minutes, Teacher Ren varied the activities and got the children to identify the notes she was playing. They had to throw a beanbag at the correct letter name. She made the task more challenging for J and he had to throw the beanbag with his back facing the letter names. As J performed this more advanced task, Little An got to pluck the strings of the cello for J to identify the notes. I must say Teacher Ren made it a point to engage Little An suitably. The children enjoyed themselves.


In the subsequent lesson, the children were taught to play the accompaniment for Pop Goes the Weasel and the D major scale. They played the open strings in the rhythm of titi titi ta ta (or busy busy stop stop). The children were familiar with this as Little An is in a Suzuki violin class in another music school and practises almost daily at home.

The fingering on the cello was similar to that on the violin, so J could play the scale fairly easily. However, Little An found it difficult to stretch her fingers. The strings were also thicker and needed more strength to press on. Teacher Ren gave Little An an interesting gadget to help her sense how the cello hand should feel like. She also concentrated on correcting J's bow hand as he was used to slanting it at an angle for the violin whereas the hand should be perpendicular to the bow when playing the cello. She frequently reminded him to maintain a good posture and I think this was very necessary at the beginning. It would be deplorable if the student becomes used to the wrong posture as it will be harder to correct him later on.


Teacher Ren is patient, encouraging and tailors the class to suit the needs of the children. The children are looking forward to their next cello lesson. Check out the blog for more updates in two weeks' time.

For now, if you are interested in Suzuki classes, Juzmusic Academy offers Suzuki violin, Suzuki cello and Suzuki piano classes. It offers regular classes in other instruments too. Check out their website for more information.

Saturday, 27 May 2017

More Chinese Woes and Thoughts about Assessment

During a recent meet-the-parents session, J's Chinese teacher, who is also his form teacher, asked us how we felt about J's results and what we were going to do about it. She said that if he could perform well in a difficult subject like mathematics, he could surely do well in Chinese. All it takes is reading more. She went on to say that no one can help him except himself and that he needs to work hard.

Perhaps J has not been studying smart, but he is certainly working hard. Even last week after exams were over, he took his 4B Chinese textbook out and asked if I could go through one of the passages with him. His teacher had gone through the passage in class that day and he still could not understand what it was about. I thought that attitude was applaudable. Exams were over and he initiated learning. We went through the passage together and I found it was true that he did not understand most of the phrases. He patiently wrote down the meanings of words he did not know and tried to make sense of sentences after knowing meanings of some phrases.

J spends at least four afternoons a week learning 听写. Every week, his preparation method is the same. He learns five phrases a day and by the day before the 听写, he will have learnt all the phrases and memorised the sentences for 默写. Sometimes, he forgets the words he has learnt the very next day and starts learning from scratch. On good days, he scores 90 plus. On not so good days, he gets 70 plus. There are times he writes all the words correctly at home but blanks out when he is in school.

J's Chinese teacher also asked if J reads his textbook, Chinese storybooks or ebooks from dudutown. Actually, he has. Not every day, but whenever possible - if there is still time after all the tingxie rituals and school activities. He does not understand most things from dudutown and I realised that from his marks in the comprehension test after each story. His teacher suggested that if he keeps reading, he will eventually understand the meaning.

Personally, I have struggled over some subjects as a student, even though I easily obtained As in others. Even when I was pursuing a Master degree in Statistics, I scored A and A- in a number of modules while I just could not understand Generalised Linear Models for the life of me. I diligently pored through the textbook but I just could not comprehend anything no matter how many times I read. I can understand how J feels in his learning of Chinese and will try to encourage him to persevere in this arduous journey. Lyndon has found some strategies to help him too and J has been very willing to oblige his papa.

Before I close, I was envious to read ST's feature on the Finnish education system (Finn and Fun) a few days ago. This was an excerpt from the article:


School assessments are not forgiving towards mistakes like:


For me, I am contented as long as I can see understanding. Comprehension is shown in the above question and I made the effort not to fret over the two marks lost. (The same kind of mistake happened in J's math exam too and I jokingly told him he needed to attend remedial lessons in shading the OAS). 

I am very happy for the school break (and break from tingxie) and pray that J will have a fruitful time catching up on Chinese and doing things that he enjoys. :)

Saturday, 20 May 2017

Coding

J loves robotics and coding and was absolutely thrilled when Tink Tank offered a 3-hour workshop to him. Despite being taught Scratch in school, he was happy for more opportunities to tinker around with the programming language. My boss (and the Prime Minister) have conveyed the importance of learning coding, so I gladly signed him up for the session.

He attended the Tink Tank workshop in March. When I picked him up, he was playing the game he had created and asked if he could attend more workshops. The other boys at the workshop looked similarly engaged.

Tink Tank has prepared nine different workshops which will be conducted this June and July.


If you have yet to draft your holiday plans, you may want to consider their workshops.

After you have decided which workshop to attend, you may click the sign up button at the end of each workshop profile and complete the sign up on the designated Eventbrite page. Payment is through Tink Tank tokens, which can be purchased here. You will receive a confirmation email from Tink Tank once you have completed the registration and have made full payment.

Hope your children enjoy the workshop(s) if they do attend. :)

Thursday, 11 May 2017

Deliberate counting of blessings

Some circumstances led me to feel like a lousy parent today, but instead of wallowing in self-pity, I have decided to count my blessings in this blog post.

1) Little An and J have been making Mother's Day cards and gifts for me. So far, I have received one card from J with his profession that he loves me a lot. That card contained scientific information for the advancement of my knowledge!



In addition, J made me three paper aeroplanes. Haha. I was also blessed with several cards from An decorated with child-like scribbles.

2) We have made it a point to exercise in the evenings whenever we can and the fresh air amidst exam revision has done us good.

3) J has been quite good about studying and even requested for more revision papers. May the Lord bless his efforts.

4) I enjoyed a short outing with Little An today.

5) The family enjoyed the gyudon I cooked today.

Once I get started on counting my blessings, I realise I have been so blessed and one unpleasant situation should not dampen my mood and make me doubt myself. Also, He is my guide and I am just His instrument in this parenting journey. May He continually guide me as I continue to train them in the way they should go. :)

Sunday, 7 May 2017

Funny Things They Say

#1

I had a hard knock on my head recently and suffered a number of dizzy spells thereafter. One day, I told the little one that my head was spinning. She touched my head worriedly and said, "No, it doesn't feel like your head is spinning to me."

#2

The little one has difficulty falling asleep at night. She told Papa, "Falling asleep is very hard. First, you have to lie down. Then you have to close your eyes. Then you sleep. There are so many things to do."


#3

Not too long ago, we attended the wedding of a friend who is of the same age as me. When J found out the person is as old as I am, he said, "So she can't have children." We realised that we had told him that I was too old to have any more kids and he assumed the same of that friend!

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?