Tuesday, 18 September 2018

9 more days to PSLE?!

That's what happens when you reach your 5th child. I flipped through my diary yesterday and was shocked (yes, shocked!) to see that PSLE is in 9 days. I had written down the dates, but being bogged down with a myriad of problems, I lost track of time.

We have been focusing all our attention on #5's Chinese because his social studies teacher showed them the grades of last year's students and told them they would retain if they failed Chinese. However I have clarified that with the people at MOE and they assured me that he will not have to repeat a year just because of failing 1 subject. The overall aggregate will still be taken into account. I think his teacher was trying to scare them, and I have to admit that it worked.

Besides his Chinese, the rest of the 3 subjects were on track as he was placed in small classes of 8 students so we decided not to pile on any more tuition and to maintain a sensible pace of life.

He got back his Math Prelim results and it had plunged from 66 to 50. Gosh, another subject to worry about! I'm not sure what happened, but the strange thing was that he scored full marks for Paper 1 but Paper 2 was almost entirely wrong.

What do we do? Too late to search for a tutor and the hubs and I are unable to coach him (we found that out after #1's PSLE and decided that we had to outsource if they could not cope instead of wasting time spending a whole afternoon to solve just a few questions).

Good thing that there are so many older siblings right? But I didn't want to impose on the girls unless they are willing to, as they are up to their necks preparing for their Os and As and it's not easy teaching #5 as he gets distracted easily. #1 has just started her degree in the Arts and is swarmed by assignments and already sleeping at 1am every night. #4 tried to help but Math is not her strong subject plus her own exams start next week.

#2 was the obvious choice as she scored an A* at PSLE without any tuition, but then again, being able to do Math doesn't necessarily mean she knows how to teach it. She generously offered to skip her night study in school and came back at 5pm to tutor him. #5 knew better than to be mischevious and he sat obediently and listened to his sister. He even remarked, "Impressive!" when she could solve some problems which stumped him.

Seeing that they made progress, she promised to do that for the next 9 days. Last night, I saw her studying till 1.30am and felt bad as she has to wake up at 7.30am for school. But I reckon her willingness to put her brother's interest first at his time of need is something to be happy about and encouraged.
Kate just had to be in on it
His Chinese teacher gave me a call to let me know that he has been diligently looking for him at 6.45am every morning to work on his weak areas and was happy to see that he is putting in a lot of effort in his Chinese. He advised me how to guide him for this last week and told me that I could give him a call anytime.

He also shared that #5 has a tendency to go off track at the end of every compo. He would start off well, sticking to short simple sentences. But his stamina would wane and his impulse control would reach the limit, and he would end off the last paragraph with some irrelevant and silly twist of his brand of childish humour. He does that for both English and Chinese compos.

At dinner, we spoke to him about it and none of his sisters could understand how he can do such things in his exam papers. He roared with laughter, excitedly showing them his compos and felt that it was a humorous touch that everyone should appreciate and enjoy, just as he enjoyed writing it.

His writings were indeed full of suspense and slapstick humour and the girls couldn't stop laughing, both at the content and at how his poor teachers had to mark such things and give sensible remarks to his ridiculous nonsense.

Finally, they told him, "Boy, you have your whole life to write whatever fiction you want. You can write comic books, joke books or be a cartoonist in future. But for this 1 paper, please control yourself and end off properly."

I am finally at peace. It's a huge relief to know that even if he failed his Chinese he wouldn't have to repeat a year and I don't have to be in worry mode for the next 2 months awaiting his results.

It would be a nice reward for his efforts if he could make it to the Express stream, but we know that his Chinese score will pull his total aggregate down and are prepared for him to enter the Normal stream. I'm not worried about it as the neighbourhood school that #4 attends takes a hands-on approach to learning which suits him. And there is the possibility of moving over to the Express stream if he matures and buckles down in Sec 1 and does well. If not, I heard about the Foundation Poly year and have no qualms about him doing that after N levels.

While searching for a suitable degree for #1 to pursue when she completed her diploma, we discovered that there are plenty of pathways for this generation of children and I'm not worried at all about #5. In fact, the future looks exciting for boys like him with curious and inventive minds who enjoy tinkering, creating and exploring. The good thing is that his interests and aptitudes are very clear, which makes it easy for us to narrow down his choices for the next phase of his learning journey.

I'm glad he has come to the end of his Primary school education. The outdated method of rote learning and narrow margin for answers does not suit his learning style and it didn't do him good to have teachers who told him to stop asking so many questions and just learn what needs to be learnt to do well in the exams. That is the only gripe I have about the PSLE, where the focus of many teachers in the upper primary is on studying to ace exams instead of encouraging curiosity, developing a hunger for learning and making learning experiential and relevant. It's good that MOE is working on it and moving in the right direction, and though none of my kids including Kate will see the fruits of this education reform, but I'm hopeful that all our voices put together will hasten the change in mindset all round.

#5 has come a long way this past 9 months and to witness such a huge turnaround in his attitude and effort is nothing short of a miracle! Whatever aggregate he gets is secondary.

All the best to our P6s and the supportive mummies and daddies across the island dealing with this first big hurdle!

PSLE Diaries
No more T-score. Now what?
PSLE results: Good or Bad, what do you say?
My 5th PSLE child - My son
Mum, just get me exempted from Chinese
3 new teachers after CA1
A huge jump in SA1


Tuesday, 10 July 2018

A huge jump in SA1

After a really bad showing for his CA1 this year, #5 was placed into smaller classes for 3 subjects. He barely passed his Math and Science and failed his Chinese miserably. I asked him how that worked and he told me that he stayed in his original class for English but had to take his bag and move to other classes for the rest. His classmates also moved around, so he had different classmates for the 4 subjects but they meet at recess to eat together.

I asked him how many students were there and was surprised to hear that there were only 8 students per class! Wow, similar to being in a tuition centre.

I wondered where they had the extra manpower from and was enlighted recently. I attended a tea session with the Communications and Engagement personnel from MOE and the perennial question of our too large classes was raised.

Mrs Tan Wai Lan, ex-principal of St Nicholas Girls' explained that after doing the calculations, if they were to spread the additional teachers across the board, it would result in a marginal reduction in the number of students per class. Instead, they have allocated extra teachers which the schools are free to deploy as necessary. Hence in #5's school, these teachers are able to take the lower performing students.

I had no doubt that the small class size will benefit #5, as he is bright but easily distracted and in a class of 40, he can get away with a lot more without being detected. But we were really surprised at the tremendous improvement in his mid-year exams.
Bored of sitting at the table
He went from a 56 to 83 for Science and 51 to 66 for Math. Even his Chinese, which I didn't expect to see any improvement as it takes time to master a language, went up marginally from 27 to 32 which still deserves acknowledgement for his efforts. His aunt has been working with him every Saturday for the past few months, but because his foundation was very weak, it will be a tough trek towards a pass, and we are encouraging him every step of the way.

Unfortunately, his English dipped from 71 to 67 and I'm not sure if he would have done better in the hypothetical situation where he was placed in a class of 8. Which leads to the question of where the line should be drawn; at what mark would the students be given access to a smaller class size, and the parental wish that if only all classrooms could be capped at say 20-25 kids to optimise learning.

If only there was some way education could be revolutionized. Because it is not that these kids can't learn or don't want to learn. The conditions for learning are unsuitable for them. Sitting for long hours in a large class of 40 students listening to a teacher talk at the front of the classroom is not the best way that they learn.

If the early childhood scene can be transformed, from traditional classrooms to more play and exploration, I'm certain a solution can be found for the primary school years. The search for change should never end.

I am hoping that #5's positive attitude carries through to his PSLE and am thankful that in this last year of his primary school journey, he has finally experienced joy in learning which has been made possible by the attention his teachers are able to extend to them in a small class.

His aunt was astonished to see that he was keen to know what went wrong in his Chinese paper, and he went through it with her of his own accord! And he was disappointed in some of the questions where he could have gotten the right answer. For the first time, he cared!

In May, when we saw the tremendous improvement in his results, I decided to give up my search for a private tutor for his other 3 subjects as it would be best to leave it to his school teachers after seeing how well they have worked with him. Besides, having a better understanding of the neighbourhood school which #4 has entered and their niche programme, I have no qualms about #5 following along.

Last night I was mentioning to Kate and him how stressed #2 was about her upcoming drama night as her teacher had asked her to rewrite the entire play just a week before the performance. He remarked, "Oh how come she is stressed? I am taking my PSLE which everyone says is very stressful but I don't feel stressed at all. It's like any ordinary time."

I'm glad my boy is unfazed by this, and the pressure in school has not affected him as it did my girl even though life goes on as per normal in our household.

But I did enlighten him that #2 was taking an even tougher exam than him - the A levels, and on top of that she has big responsibilities for the drama night, not only to rewrite the play, but she was also directing and acting in the play.

In that light, his PSLE looked like child's play.

PSLE Diaries
No more T-score. Now what?
PSLE results: Good or Bad, what do you say?
My 5th PSLE child - My son
Mum, just get me exempted from Chinese
3 new teachers after CA1


~ www.mummyweeblog.com - A blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore ~

Wednesday, 6 June 2018

Have we lost ourselves to LIFE?

My life has been transformed, in 11 days.

The past 12 months have been the hardest in my 20 years of parenting. I was running at full speed but struggling to keep all the balls in the air.

People assume that because we have a big brood and they generally look happy, we are awesome mums and are naturally nailing it. So not.

It is a huge challenge finding enough time to see to the individual needs of the kids. And I can't say it enough, but the teenage years are a very trying time and we are back to square one, figuring out how to parent them. Add to that the stress of their PSLE, Os and As coming up, along with emotional crises and the daily squabbles of the 2 younger ones and my hands are full ensuring everyone stays sane.

It doesn't help that with your own business, your mind is never switched off and the work doesn't end. I've been fighting fires at work, at home, and dealing with family conflicts. I was exhausted and heavy-hearted.
Silence in the wee hours of the morning
Heal Ourself

I went on a pilgrimage to Italy where we traced the footsteps of St Francis of Assisi and his mission of peace. He was the son of a wealthy merchant but was disillusioned with a rich superficial lifestyle and yearned for something deeper. He gave up everything to dedicate his life in the service of the poor and needy, following the example of Jesus Christ.

I woke up at 5am and went for a morning stroll. No kids to tend to, no work to rush off to. I do so love the early mornings! The unbroken silence and stillness in the air. I walked out of my hotel to find a beautiful sight before me. Green grass stretching freely on both sides and the majestic basilica in the distance. As I sung hymns, something stirred in my soul and the tears flowed freely. I could feel God's presence intensely and knew that for the past months, I have been so burdened that I was unable to let go and trust in God to provide.
Contemplative silence
Time in nature

Our lives are fast-paced and noisy and we need to detox our mind and spirit from all that clutter. Wish I could spend more time in solitude, to reflect and recharge.

As I pondered our lives, I wondered why we have allowed ourselves to buy into this Bigger and Better rat race. We have moved away from leading authentic fulfilled lives and it doesn't seem wrong anymore to live superficial glossy lives for the world to see.

What has life become for us? We are so distracted by LIFE itself and have lost the courage to go deep within ourselves to search for its meaning. It scares me to think that I am running at breakneck speed, but at the end of it all, what kind of a life do I have to show for it?

Was it real enough? Have I touched people along the way? What legacy am I leaving to my children? Have they learned how to love, give and serve? These were the ideals I held on to, but have I been waylaid by the busyness of life and things that don't matter?
St Francis' bare room
Simplicity

St Francis' message of peace, love and poverty is still so relevant today. Coming face to face with his bare room, and how he and his brothers lived in extreme poverty yet were ever joyful, it was stark how far we have come in this material world that when things are taken away from us, we feel upset. Though we may begrudge not having enough, we already have too much. Yet we chase after more, but at what cost?

I've always had this dilemma at the back of my mind, wanting to live a simple and minimalist life yet finding it hard to give up material comforts and excesses. The past few months have been very rocky for us and I feared the uncertainties of the future, but I'm not worried anymore.
Hermitage caves
Who am I?

We had time to sit in the caves where St Francis and his brothers spent days in prayer and contemplation. I used to seek out secluded spots to spend time alone when we take the kids to beach resorts and now I know it's not an odd thing to do, but precisely what my soul needed!

As we did our Camino walk in silence, I contemplated the question "Who am I?" Surrounded by bare nature, nothing of our modern lives mattered. Not our titles, where we lived, what car we drove, what bling we wore.

I was reminded of my time volunteering at Assisi hospice where witnessing the experience of those close to death helped me to put life into perspective. Yet we forget easily and need constant reminders about what life is really about.

It was a tough trek on our long walk, and just as I was feeling tired and wishing I was back on the bus, I came to a fork and a fellow pilgrim was waiting for me with a bright smile and a flourish of her hand to wave me down the right path before hurrying off to catch up with her friends.

The uphill walk was a mirror of life. We are pilgrims on this journey and as we face the vicissitudes of life, we are here to make that journey that much easier for one another. Be gentle. Be kind. Be helpful. If we may be blessed with abundance, extend a helping hand to those in need.
Camino walk
Our response is Love

On the last day, my kids texted me an SOS! I called them and they told me what had transpired with a neighbour's dog. Our dog saw a passing dog and ran out of the gate. She must have been excited and nibbled too hard, drawing a bit of blood. The neighbour went home and brought her mum back and they had a row with my kids. A few hours had passed since the incident, but my girls were still riled up about it. #1's response was anger, and she argued back when the lady shouted at them. #2 attempted to use logic to win the argument while my mum was trying to keep everyone calm, saying that my kids were just kids and the dog was just a dog.

I listened and was surprised that I felt no anger towards the mum and did not feel the urge to take sides or retaliate. I simply repeated, "Peace be with you, girls."

I told them that instead of responding in anger or making excuses, let our first response be love. They were stunned into silence hearing something so radical.

I was sharing the stories of my pilgrimage with my staff and they said, "Wow, even for us adults that would be hard!"

We try.
Keep praying
Back to Reality

The hubs took good care of Kate and the older kids left me alone for the entire trip and did not bug me with any problems except to ask if I was enjoying myself.

But it seemed like they had saved all their troubles till I returned and on my first evening back, one swallowed a fish bone, one had her wisdom tooth pushing out and her gums had split, one came down with a fever and my helper cut her finger.

Instead of going into a frenzy, I was surprised how calm I was. It was as though I was wrapped in a bubble of peace. I got them to say a prayer, then walked them through the steps. And in my heart, I knew that everything will be alright.
Daily Mass
For 11 days, time stood still. I am going to take a long hard look at our lives and eliminate everything which is unnecessary. I have decided not to continue looking for tutors for #5 as he has been showing improvement this year in a smaller banded class and whatever PSLE score he will get, we are prepared for it. The time saved rushing him to and fro will be used to live life at a more leisurely pace.

I will be guided with a different compass, and though life will continue to be messy and problems will arise, more so in a huge family like ours, I have found renewed strength to walk this path. The world as we know it could crash but we will be fine.
Wonderful lunch stop
Our Camino walk ended at La Verna, where an extraordinary event happened. St Francis had followed his calling closely and at the end of his life, he prayed that he would experience the same immense love that Jesus felt when he suffered and died on the cross. He received the stigmata - the same wounds pierced in his hands, feet and side.

As mothers, from the time of labour, we go through pain and suffering for the love of our children. And through the lifetime of our children, their pain will be our pain multiplied manyfold in our hearts. My whole perception of pain has been reshaped.
Mount Alvernia
Finding our Calling

Not many of us have found our calling, but as long as we do something about it and start moving towards it, clarity will come.

I get lots of emails from mums telling me how inspired they are but I don't usually get much encouragement. I have been blessed by many on this trip who have shared their words of advice and stories of similar adversities and I am uplifted.

I now know how much my sharing could mean to another new mum struggling to make sense of this parenting journey or be the beacon of hope that there is light at the end of the very long tunnel.

Let us support one another in this journey of life.
Rainbow in a bright sky
It is so good to get away every year or so to rest our body, mind and spirit.

This sense of deep peace.

With stress lifted from your shoulders.

Of feeling connected with people around you.

With joy replacing worries.

Contented with what you have.

Your mind completely free to be present in every moment.

It is so elusive but I've found it.

And I hope you will find your peace too.


Other lessons (which I've learnt the hard way):

Lesson #15: What are we worth, mums?
Lesson #16: What do you do when you get sick of parenting?
Lesson #17: The tragedy of our society


~ www.mummyweeblog.com - A blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore ~

Friday, 4 May 2018

Magical Marvelous Me! Camp - A review

While we are busy focusing on academics, we must not forget the emotional and character building aspect of our children. Here's what Charlene, a mum with a P2 boy loved about The Little Executive's Magical Marvelous Me! Camp.

Like most parents of a firstborn who’s recently entered the formal education system, I have been keeping my eyes peeled for a programme that would foster a positive attitude, an indomitable spirit that would rise to challenges instead of “saying die” and perhaps even some planning and organisational skills. At the same time, I was concerned about burdening my 7-year-old with yet more activities to his already punishing days.

Then I came across The Little Executive’s Magical Marvelous Me! Camp, which was to be held during the March school holidays. This camp is centred around Dr. Seuss’ inspirational book on life “Oh, the Places You’ll Go”.

I was sold – it would be a meaningful holiday activity without burden to his stretched school term schedule. He was thrilled – what a welcoming change to his routine of school!

“Today, you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.” – Dr. Seuss
Let our dreams soar
A Journey of Self-Discovery

The camp kicked off with a series of physical and team activities that seemingly served as ice-breakers but in reality, offered opportunities for the children to explore their personal qualities.

The games over, the children were led through their personal written reflections on their own strengths and qualities. I was pleasantly surprised to see the self-reflection of my 7-year old in his personalised camp journal.

·      Going Places through Goals

The children conducted a goal-setting exercise in their journals, with an added component of thinking and planning through the resources they needed to get there.

This is actually an important life lesson! While people set goals quite readily, even in the workplace, oftentimes they forget to consider the feasibility of these goals by not examining the required resources or what they have already going for them.

Part of goal-setting and the execution includes planning and prioritising which are pre-skills for young kids’ learning and development in other aspects of their lives, resulting in positive behaviours which they also exercise towards their families and other environments.

Taking stock of their resources would probably help the kids set realistic expectations and lessen any potential disappointment. That said, when this still fails and the kids are…

·      Losing track of the way

They learned to conduct self-monitoring first of all by examining and thinking through what would happen if they did not succeed.

Tied closely to this, the children learned how to manage their emotions as well should they not succeed. They each made their very own beautiful calming jar. Filled with glitter in a liquid suspension of their favourite colours, the gradual falling patterns in the jar would help the children to calm down whenever they are anxious or upset.

“Kid, you’ll move mountains! Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting. So get on your way!” – Dr. Seuss

Moving mountains through teamwork

The children were led in team activities like a treasure hunt and constructing and getting through a maze. These taught them invaluable lessons that many minds and hands are better than one, as success hinged on alternative ways of doing things, and splitting up the workload.

Precision and Accuracy

Craftwork such as building a hot air balloon develops their skills of paying attention to detail, planning and prioritising. They learnt to crack codes which taught them the need for precision and accuracy to get it right.

“And will you succeed? Yes! You will, indeed!” – Dr. Seuss  

Parent Presentation

Attending the culminating event for parents in the last hour of the camp - I had 3 indications that the children were taking forward strides to success.

·      Confidence, ownership, leadership

In a show and tell format, all the children – even the littlest ones aged 5 - recounted their experiences and shared what they have learned. And they did it with so much pride and gusto that I felt so proud of each and every one of them!

The children also served as guides, leading and cajoling parents around the maze that they built. There was a lot of joy and satisfaction as the children discussed strategies in handling the challenge of the maze.

Friendships forged

When it was time to leave, the children were all gathered in the doorway, unwilling to go. They took the time to arrange informal play dates. This is surely a sign of how well they got on with friends they had made over the short few days!

Putting it all into practice

When Term 2 started, I noticed my son applying his 3 P's:

Persistence - He had a more positive attitude towards schoolwork and exams. Even when faced with a deluge of homework, I saw how he staunchly tackled the pile, to the point of falling asleep on the table twice within a week!

Problem-solving - One day he was all excited with his own creativity, telling me that he had organised some personal items by colour for easy differentiation.

Prioritisation - He started to think through his tasks and homework with new eyes and would share occasionally why he chose to do things in a certain manner. I realised then that he was mentally evaluating the worth of each task and putting them through a hierarchy of priority.

I wouldn’t say that his priorities or solutions necessarily align with mine, or that he is always on track with his focus. But I would like to think that all these skills learned could be refined given time and more practice!

“You’re off to great places! You’re off and away!”

The next run of Magical Marvelous Me! Camp (for K1-P3 kids) is on 30 May - 1 June 2018, 9am-5.30pm at The Little Executive, 144 Bukit Timah Road Singapore 229844 Tel: 69081889 / 84835354 Email: knockknock@thelittleexecutive.asia www.thelittleexecutive.asia

~ www.mummyweeblog.com - A blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore ~

Tuesday, 24 April 2018

Kate's final 'childhood' year

When I started working longer hours, I moved Kate to a full-day childcare for peace of mind and flexibility to pick her up late. It was a tough decision as we were happy with her (then) current preschool.

We checked out several childcare centres and initially, my priority was to put her in a reputable school to get her ready academically for primary 1 as the K2 was a crucial year.

However, the more we looked around, the more I felt sad seeing little kids sitting at desks doing lots of worksheets.

Witnessing my 5 older kids stuck in this system where they have to keep running and have no way to get off the 'hamster wheel', it dawned on me that the K2 year was the last window of opportunity for her to play, explore and have a happy childhood with her friends in a safe environment.

I finally chose an international preschool where the emphasis was on learning through play.

My sis-in-law with a child the same age as Kate started worrying for her. "More play? What's going to happen to her when she enters P1?"

It was a difficult decision to make as I watched mums around me sign their kids up for more and more enrichment classes to prepare them for P1. But when I saw how happy Kate was, interacting with friends of different ages and diverse nationalities, I know this will give her a good lens to view the world.

The children spend a lot of time outdoors, having water play, sand play, free play and games in the garden. They bake bread for tea and grow their own vegetables for lunch. The older kids who have dropped their naps are given the responsibility of patting the toddlers to sleep. Such smart teachers haha. Kate came home and was proud to share that the little girl under her charge slept very fast! I do love the chill 'kampung' vibe of the school and how they are taught to respect one another.

I almost regretted my decision of putting her through another transition in her last year of kindergarten as she sobbed so pitifully every morning for almost 2 months. Thank goodness she has settled in well and strides confidently into school now, eager to see her friends.
At pick up time
Next year, she will have to wake up at 5.30am, carry an oversized schoolbag, sit behind a big desk and get into the routine of homework and tests.

No more luxury of waking up naturally at 7am, taking a quick ride to the market with daddy and coming back to watch him cook a simple breakfast for us before heading off to school.

It's happening all too fast! Soon it will be time to register her for P1 and the baby of our family will enter formal schooling like the rest of her siblings.

For now, I'm going to let her enjoy every last bit of her carefree childhood.


~ www.mumyweeblog.com - A blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore ~


Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Are we prepared for the teenage years?

We all know about the dreadful teenage years. Of raging hormones and irrational behavior.

But do we really know what to expect? Are we prepared for it?

Just as we start to enjoy the freedom of independent kids who can function without us, the next phase descends without warning.

As I started to navigate my way around unchartered waters, I reached out to those with teenage kids/young adults for advice.

What a vast difference from when the kids were little. We could relate to one another with similar rants of bedtime battles and sibling quarrels. Bonds were formed with fellow mums as we shared tips and supported one another through those long and tiring days. We could rope our other halves in, the helper plus grandparents to ease our load. We were not alone.

But this. This was entirely different.

Nobody talks about the worrying problems facing our teens. No two situations are alike, and there are no easy solutions.

As I spoke to other mums, the conversations were done in hushed tones. The seriousness of the issues poured out gripped me with fear. They were too real. Not something you read about in the newspapers. Some were lucky that their kids did not give them sleepless nights. But many others shared personal tales of a time shrouded in darkness.

There were stories of eating disorders, self-mutilation (sometimes in groups), being the victim of cyber bullying, peer pressure, depression, obsession with their looks and self-perceived inadequacies, inhaling harmful substances to get a high to escape from reality, relationship issues, negative influence from classmates, staying away from home for days, attempted suicide and other sombre tales.

Having to face just one of these issues can wreck havoc in a teen's (and their family's) life.

In some cases, it can be to the most heartbreaking extent where as a parent, you have to turn your own child over to the police after discovering something like drug abuse.

The tough decisions parents have to make.

It really is the most difficult job in the world. Nurturing children to walk the right path and being strong enough to face the pressures from so many aspects.

Nothing prepares you for the things you will come face to face with. With a heavy heart, you witness the consequences of the choices they make.

As a mother, their pain is your pain magnified a thousand times.

At this age, they are hard to decipher and you are unsure what to say or what not to say.

I've discovered a sad truth from opening up to other mums. Beneath the surface of good grades, affluent lifestyles and superficial answers lie secrets many mothers carry in their hearts.

They are yearning for a confidential ear to listen to their worries. And when the storms have finally passed, they are more than willing to share their experiences and offer advice to others.

Just because they don't have the visible signs of toddlers hanging off their arms, it doesn't mean they are not burdened.

Yet more importantly, what about the teenagers?

Beneath their sullen look and curt replies could be a torrent of emotions they cannot handle, the demands of school and life which they cannot live up to.

Be the supportive village they are so in need of. If you do not know what to say, it is better not to say anything. They are very sensitive creatures at this point in their lives.

To mums of teens, hang in there. It is going to be a bumpy ride. It takes a strong heart.

Be ever vigilant. Teens are so good at covering up what they don't want you to know. Don't take things lightly. No matter how busy you are, keep an eye on them.

Don't be afraid to open up and share with other mums of teens. They may not face the same issues but will understand what you are going through and can provide the much needed support in troubling times.

A wise friend with grown-up children shared this:

Never give up on them, never cease praying for them. Keep on loving them especially when it is so hard to do.

Some moments, I wish they were little again. When I could scoop them in my arms and life was so much simpler.


~ www.mummyweeblog.com - A blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore ~

Tuesday, 27 March 2018

3 new teachers after CA1

Term 1 practically flew by. January saw them settling down and getting acquainted with their new P6 teachers as only his Math teacher followed them up from P5. February was a short month with CNY festivities and before we can catch our breath, CA1 was upon us and we've come to the end of March!

The homework load was as expected, with daily homework from most teachers.

The good thing is that #5 does his homework very quickly. Unlike his sisters who waste a lot of time in the lead up to homework (tidying their desk, taking out pretty stationery, filing their notes neatly, choosing the perfect pen from a bulging pencil case, chatting with their siblings), he whips out a pen, thinks quickly and gets through one worksheet after another without dawdling. 

The bad thing however, is the quality of his work. He has given up asking us for help when he's stuck because the hubs and I spend a long time trying to figure out each question, and his siblings are either too busy studying for their Os or As or they themselves have forgotten how to do it and it becomes very time-consuming. He goes into their rooms and the few of them will be huddled around his worksheet and he emerges 45 minutes later, and there is still other homework to be done.

So far he only has Chinese tuition on Saturdays at his aunt's place and I'm still in the midst of looking for a good private tutor for Math and Science.

Based on his CA1 results, he has been moved to another class for 3 out of 4 of his subjects. When I spoke to his Principal recently, I brought up the issue of #4's PSLE year, where it was quantity over quality and I asked what would be done to help students prepare for the PSLE instead of shifting the responsibility over to parents and tutors.

She promised that they will be keeping a close watch on the P6s this year and true to her word, these kids who need more help have been placed in smaller classes of around 10 students.

I was delighted but did have one more concern - yet another change in teachers and 'wasting' time getting to know each other as we are approaching the start of April which leaves us 5 short months before the PSLE (haha, parents are difficult to please right?).

Thus when his dear Chinese teacher sent me a final Dojo message that he will no longer be in her class and updated me on how happy she was that he is now participating well and willing to try, I voiced out my sadness especially since he had been making steady progress under her. She reassured me that she had shared her observations with his new teacher who is the HOD of Chinese and that #5 should continue to see improvements under his guidance.

It was not easy for #5 to come to like his Chinese teacher and I was not hopeful that he will find another teacher whom he can quickly build rapport with.

Lo and behold, he came home and declared that he likes his new Chinese teacher!

He related how his teacher was very friendly, did not give them homework, and even told them to write down his handphone number and that they can call him anytime if they needed help. Not just for homework, but if their mothers are angry with them and scold them, they can reach out to him.

I was flabbergasted but I guess as HOD he is concerned and has to be especially vigilant with the P6s. Over the years, I have personally heard of several situations where students go into depression, or their minds go blank during the PSLE, and even students going missing because they feared going home to face their parents and police had to be called in.

The PSLE is a very stressful year for most kids, sometimes too stressful for 12-year olds to navigate and as parents, the hardest thing is to find the balance between stretching them to reach their potential yet not pushing them over the brink.

I have been in close contact with #5's teachers this year, and am really heartened to hear that he has had a shift in attitude and gradually adopting a growth mindset and willingness to push on.

His aunt has set him an even more realistic goal for Chinese. Instead of telling him to aim for a Pass, she turned it around and told him "Let's aim to not fail too badly." That took the pressure off him and he now enjoys going to her place every Saturday for Chinese tuition.

After going through so many PSLEs and O level exams and now able to look at the big picture, I am more concerned about the mental and emotional health of my kids. So long as he is starting to take his work seriously and has a good attitude towards learning, I am contented.

In a way, I'm glad he is still a simple child, joyful (no doubt still mischievous), eyes brimming with excitement and animated when he talks about subjects he loves.

One term down, 2 more to go. Jia You all P6s!!

PSLE Diaries
No more T-score. Now what?
PSLE results: Good or Bad, what do you say?
My 5th PSLE child - My son
Mum, just get me exempted from Chinese

~ www.mummyweeblog.com - A blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore ~

Saturday, 10 February 2018

"Mum, just get me exempted from Chinese."

#5 started failing Chinese in Primary 4 and he had absolutely no interest in the subject.

On hindsight, his weak foundation started in preschool. I had placed him in a Montessori in our neighbourhood. It was run by an Indian national and as most of his classmates were expat children the Chinese teachers spoke English to them. We did not suspect that he was not picking up much Chinese as he was able to read the readers he took home. They had complex words like "mangosteen", "durian", "grapes", "monkey", "elephant" etc and we were impressed! I have since realised that it was because he saw those complicated words with many strokes as a picture and memorised them as an image.

When #5 entered P1, his classmates were rattling off Mandarin verses while everything seemed new to him. His Chinese started off in the 80-90 range but as his foundation was not strong his grades begun to slide year after year as the syllabus became tougher.

I tried hiring a private tutor but none worked out. He has a short attention span and is difficult to teach. Moreover, the native Chinese teachers were strict and did not spend time building rapport with him.

I did not panic yet as my older girls managed to score As despite not having much external tuition and assumed that he would eventually buck up. What I did was to hire a tutor to read to them stories in Mandarin for an hour a week since their grandparents did not speak the language.

After his P4 year-end exams, I had a talk with him and asked him what should we do about it. I was intending to work out a study schedule with him and was taken aback by his response. "Mum, just apply to let me drop Chinese."

I pretended not to know what he was referring to, and he elaborated. "Some of my friends are exempted yet their Chinese is even better than mine! I'm sure I can get exempted too." I was shocked that he had this mentality as we have never spoken about the topic of exemption before.

I explained that his classmates must have some sort of learning disability, hence the exemption.

"No, they are normal. Why don't you ask their mums how they did it?"

When I checked with friends and kids from various different schools, it surprised me how an elite school like theirs seem to have a disproportionately high percentage of exemptions. Many parents knew about this "loophole" and had lots of advice for me. No certainty of getting an A/A* for Chinese? Better to drop one laggard and protect their overall aggregate, which also leaves more time to concentrate on the other 3 subjects. If you can afford it, why not give it a try? Brilliant strategy, until it seemed like MOE started moderating the number of exemptions they granted.

It was a tempting backdoor, but I didn't want to send the wrong message to my kids. If you are not good at something, instead of pressing on and trying your best, let's find a way to wriggle out of it. And I was afraid that after going through all those sessions of testing, what might he think? Maybe there really is something wrong with me.

I have to admit that I did consider that option for #5. I spoke to the hubs and in his characteristic straight way told me, "What are you thinking? He is a bright boy and there is nothing wrong with him. Are you letting him take the easy way out? Find him a good tutor. All he needs is to put in much more effort. I'll give him a good pep talk."

I'm glad he had swiftly put a stop to it, and ended my dilemma of taking the big step to get him tested.

That was in P4 and I did not think about it again until now.

Looking at his devastating P5 results, the reality sunk in, and my fears were heightened. What if there really is cause for concern and my child had a genuine difficulty in picking up Chinese? It would be unfair to him to let this slide.

I finally made the decision to send him for an assessment.

On the way there, it suddenly occurred to me that this cheeky boy might intentionally get it wrong because he badly wanted to be exempted from Chinese.

I told him, "Make sure you do your best. Don't think that by getting it all wrong will you get an exemption."

He thought for awhile then said, "How will she know?"

I told him that it is not easy to get an exemption and it has to be shown that he is capable of learning the other subjects but not Chinese."

Sometime after that session, I went for the consultation and the psychologist told me that there might be grounds for exemption and a few more rounds of testing were needed to further assess and substantiate his learning disabilities. He would also need to be referred to a practitioner in another field for further assessment.

However, what was puzzling was that his results had a great disparity in a few components which tested the same aspects.

Strange as it sounded, I was glad to know that he may have some issues and could be exempted!

When I told him that the results were out, he beamed, "So how? I got exempted right? I purposely did one whole page of questions wrongly! And when she was testing the numbers, I jumbled them up." He was jumping around excitedly.

I stared at him. Goodness. That explained the huge variances in his scores!

He had figured out which bits to do right and which bits to do wrong in relation to learning Chinese.

I was mad.

Then I calmed down and thought about it. In his juvenile mind, that was his goal.

For a few moments, I was conflicted. Should I let him go ahead with the next rounds of testing, knowing that he would likely foul it up, and perhaps have a chance at exemption? I can't believe how desperate I was to "help" him.

But I would be reinforcing that he can try to think up ways to outsmart the system instead of putting in effort to work on his challenges.

The answer was clear.

I told him: You know what? The results show that there is absolutely nothing wrong with your brain nor your learning ability. In fact, you are a bright boy and you will have no problems learning Chinese if you put your mind to it. I will take you to your Aunt every weekend for tuition and she will help you improve.

Strangely, he accepted the conclusion, as though he had given it his best shot but now that avenue was shut.

I explained to the psychologist what #5 had admitted, and we decided it was best to end the testing there.

Even though he is starting from ground zero at P6, this will be a hard lesson he will have to learn.

He will have to find it in him to fight this battle, tough as it may be. And I will not succumb to letting him take the easy way out, but to stick with it.

The good news is that his Chinese teacher has given me feedback that his attitude has improved tremendously this year and he is putting in a lot of effort.

She sent me a message on Class Dojo:

"He has put in a lot of effort this week and was able to pronounce the words when I went through revision. Everyone was truly happy for him and I took the opportunity to praise him. He is starting to show interest and I think that is a very important step. As long as he continues this good attitude towards learning, I believe he will improve."

I am so thankful for his teacher and her willingness to walk the extra mile with him to encourage him. It feels like we're all in this together!

We have set a realistic goal of achieving a Pass for his PSLE.

I know I made the right decision.

PSLE Diaries
No more T-score. Now what?
PSLE results: Good or Bad, what do you say?
My 5th PSLE child - My son


~ www.mummyweeblog.com -  A blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore ~
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