Friday, 5 July 2019

Renault GRAND SCENIC BOSE - Truly a family car

When Renault offered us the use of their newly launched 2019 GRAND SCENIC BOSE edition, I was hesitant to take up another review with my hectic schedule. However, with 2 newly minted drivers in the family, the older girls were quick to shout, "Let's give it a try!"

The first thing that struck us was the ultra-modern technology. Yes, we have been rather spoilt with keyless entry on most cars where we simply press the button on the remote control or on our door handle. With Renault's GRAND SCENIC BOSE, they go one step further, and I don't have to press anything at all!

The sensors pick up my palm motion around the door handle and it unlocks as I am about to open it! In fact, with the remote control key in my handbag, as I approach the locked car, the side mirrors open up to welcome me. And when I arrive at my destination, I walk away and it locks itself automatically!

That's the overall feeling we get with this car. You feel pampered. You know it's been designed to make your life easier. 20 years since Renault invented the world's first compact MPV, they have never stopped innovating and have pushed frontiers in areas of performance, fuel efficiency and safety.

They move with the times, recognising our busy lifestyles and I really appreciate the little luxurious touches. Over the week, we didn't even manage to explore all the special features built into the car!
Renault GRAND SCENIC BOSE
When we entered the car, the feature that captured our attention was the inbuilt BOSE Premium Sound System. We use a BOSE system in our house, so it got the nod of approval from the family. To have it fitted in an MPV was an unexpected bonus!

The 11 high performance speakers strategically positioned around the car made the teens very happy. They immediately plugged into their playlist on their phones, started singing, and that put them in an excellent mood. These days, it's not easy to get them together on a family outing unless it's for a good meal or to someplace really fun but with this car, they were happy to go anywhere. 

Then I heard them exclaim, "Wow! There are 2 phone outputs for us! Plus 2 more in front for mum and dad." Loving the well thought-out little details not only for the driver but for the rest of the family as well.
At the touch of a button
It also surprised us to see that the GRAND SCENIC BOSE was fitted with solid 20" sports rims. Not only does it make the MPV look way cooler, but it improves the ride and helps with better fuel economy. Definitely plus points for me.

At the start of the school holidays, we bought Kate a new 2-wheeled bicycle and she was excited to go for a good ride. With the press of a button, she managed to get the seats down and was able to load her bicycle in the boot independently. With the last row fully collapsed, and 2 seats in the middle row down, we had no problems getting in an adult-sized bicycle, Kate's bicycle and a folded scooter.
Ample space
Off we went to the Marina Bay area and had a carefree time cycling with the wind in our hair. It really felt like the holidays were upon us.

To be honest, I'm not a car person. For me, a car was simply a vehicle to get you from Point A to Point B. But with the Renault GRAND SCENIC BOSE, it seems to be so much more.

They have cleverly balanced practicality and safety with the personal touch, to give the whole family comfort, luxury and the promise of adventure. It even has massage features on the front seats!
Wheee! Life is great!
Their cutting-edge technology could be seen in the revolutionary multimedia system with voice control and drag and drop functions, to name a few. I love how we were able to customise the profiles for the 4 of us. Depending on who was driving, all we had to do was to select our own profile on the touchscreen tablet and the driver's seat would move into our desired position and individual driving mode selected.

For the hubs, the first consideration he has for MPVs (or most cars for that matter!) is the performance of the car. As we regularly have a full load of people and the fact that MPVs are heavy, the car needs to have enough power so it doesn't crawl up a slope.

He likes it on Sports Mode to optimise the performance, while I prefer to put it on ECO Mode, which is better for fuel consumption and keeps environmental footprint to the minimum.

Apparently, Renault's GRAND SCENIC BOSE has unrivalled fuel efficiency and the friendly Marketing lady even challenged me to finish the full tank of petrol over the week. We were astonished to see that there was still more than half a tank of petrol despite us going out to several different events everyday!
Large touchscreen interface
It's no surprise that the New Renault GRAND SCENIC BOSE has been clinching awards such as "Best 7-Seater MPV" from the 2017 ST-Torque Awards and "Best MPV 2017" from the UK Car of the Year Award, and emerging as the ultimate Reader's Choice in The Straits Times 2017 Car of the Year.

I've grown quite attached to it, and love the Carmine Red model I've been driving around.
Family fun and antics!
Buying a Renault was never on our radar but I have to say we were impressed by the experience. Check it out for yourselves and go for a test drive. You will be as awed as we were!

The All-New Renault GRAND SCENIC BOSE is retailing from $133,999 while the standard variant of the GRAND SCENIC is retailing from $113,999.

Renault Singapore
28 Leng Kee Road
Singapore 159105

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post. All opinions are my own.


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

Thursday, 16 May 2019

A Mother's Day Letter from my 6-year old

My teens have been writing me lovely heartful letters on Mother's Day. I can't quite recall when the childish drawings evolved to long letters and elaborate handmade gifts, but it must have been around the age of 12 or later.

For the past week, Kate has been showering me with her little doodly Mother's Day cards, gifts bought from her school bookshop, and cut flowers beautifully arranged in vases. But what surprised me on Mother's Day itself was a letter of gratitude.

Dear Mom,

Thank you for: putting me to sleep.

Thank you for: making me dinner.

Thank you for: trying to earn more money to go on a holiday just for me.

Thank you for: playing with me.

Thank you for: staying at home and making me lunch.

Thank you for: paying a lot of attention to me when I was a baby.

Thank you for: being my mom from a baby until now.

And have a Happy Mother's day!!!

I'm surprised that it comes so naturally for Kate to be aware and able to articulate the things she is grateful for at such a young age. 

Years ago, when one of my older girls finished her O levels, they wrote a letter of gratitude to their parents which was presented on graduation day.

My daughter was going through a rebellious phase then, and she found the whole exercise extremely superficial because they were given a template to follow and she felt 'forced' to write it and had to hand in the letters to the teachers to be checked before they were given out.

I remember that it was awkward for her to write that letter, and it took her a long time to reflect on what she was grateful for.

Another one of Kate's letters read:

Dear mom,

Thank you for being my mom. I know it's hard to be a mother for 5 children and me. And trying hard to earn money.

Have a Happy Mother's Day!

At the age of 6, she is able to see another person's perspective and acknowledge how tough it must be for me. Wow!

I gave her a gigantic hug, thanked her for her cards and letters and told her that no matter how hard being a mum is, it is all so worth it.


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

Sunday, 14 April 2019

Our helper has gone home

Jane has been with us since Kate was born and it was time for her to return to her own 2 children. Our family was sad to see her go, and the girls made gifts for her and drew beautiful pictures in a keepsake book telling her how much they appreciated all that she has done for us.
Handmade necklace
5 weeks before our new helper arrives, and we have survived 2 weeks! It was pretty fun the first couple of days, with everyone chipping in and being enthusiastic about doing the dishes, laundry and throwing out the trash. Kate even invited some church friends over and she made lunch - her signature quesadillas.
Little chef at work

#2 has been such a darling and knowing that I have so much on my plate, she volunteered to wake Kate up in the mornings to fix her breakfast and wave her up the bus. She did that for the first week, but as she finishes her cafe shift at 10.30pm it was tiring to wake up at 5.30 when she only gets to bed at 1am. So now I do 3 mornings and she does 2.

Because everyone is on a different schedule, with one at work, one in Uni, one in poly and 3 in school, we have a tag team going, depending on who is home at what time. Someone will load the washing machine at 6am, another will hang it to dry at 8am and one will bring in the dry clothes in the afternoon.

Lunch and dinner duty is split between me and 2 of the older girls. One evening, #3 realised that it was only Kate who was having lunch the next day after school. She tried her luck:

#3: Kate, you love watermelon right? How about watermelon for lunch?
Kate: No thanks.
#3: Hmm.. then what should I make for your lunch?
Kate: Oh, Auntie Merz said that if I don't have lunch, I can go next door for lunch.
#3: Ha that's settled! You go over for lunch tomorrow.

But to be fair, for dinner duty, she did make an effort to do a good meatball pasta, and customized it for those who didn't want cheese toppings.

One evening, I returned home from work and was busy preparing dinner and ensuring that there were clean uniforms for the 3 younger ones. Kate said, "I can help to do the ironing."

I thought that was too dangerous, and re-directed her to other chores. She finished folding the clothes, sweeping the garden, tidying the shoes in a row and helped to wash the dishes left in the sink. She saw the pile of clothes and kept repeating that she can do the ironing.

Finally I thought to myself, is it really possible for a 6-year old to do ironing? As an occupational therapist, we assess people on their activities of daily living (ADLs) and we guide them towards independence. I thought, ok, I'm going to assess how she does it, without turning the iron on.

I was surprised at her motor skills, and she ironed like a pro, knowing how to turn the clothes over and doing each section bit by bit. "Where did you learn to iron like that?"

Kate: I didn't learn. I just watch auntie Jane everyday.

My oh my. In our society where we have helpers and it is easier for us to get things done ourselves, much quicker and cleaner, we have stopped giving our children the opportunities to pick up so many life skills. We tend to be over-protective and shield them from all potential dangers when this is the age where they naturally want to help out. She finished ironing all her siblings' clothes and uniforms and even her daddy's pants.

I explained the dangers of the hot iron and that she had to be extremely careful when using it. I also told her that she is not to use the iron when I am not around, and she can only do ironing under my watchful supervision. (and no, we did not run out of clothes and have to wear CNY clothes, this was on international friendship day. We are on top of our laundry woohoo!). I don't want to encourage her to do the ironing as she is still very young, but I'm glad to know that in future, she will be able to handle household chores independently.

It's been 2 weeks, and I've reached my threshold. It's really not easy to work, tend to the kids, cook, clean, ferry elderly parents around and run errands. I've been very busy at work, with several preschools approaching us to run our program in their centres.

My Sunday was crazy, with church in the morning, visiting an elderly, conducting a parents' workshop and helping my team to prep for one of our student's birthday party, and coming home to do chores before cooking dinner.

Kate saw her food and said, "I don't want to eat this."

I would have expected it from my son who has always been a picky eater, but coming from Kate, I got really mad. I snapped at her, "If you don't want to eat, go up and shower and go to bed!"

I stomped around the kitchen trying to prep for tomorrow, thinking about what to put into her lunch box for recess, her snack box for class break, and what to give her for breakfast. I didn't have time for a supermarket run this weekend and there wasn't many options.

I took out a pack of "wang wang" japanese biscuits, put 2 into her snack bag and said, "Since you like to buy these for recess, you can bring these to school tomorrow." For good measure, I threw the whole big packet on the kitchen counter and said, "You know what, you can have all you want for breakfast."

Such a bad mummy moment.

What happened last week was that on Friday, I was running out of food for her lunch box and she said that she will buy food from the canteen. When we asked her what she bought, she said too cheerfully, "I bought a bowl of fishball noodles and also roti prata."

Immediately, we knew she was telling a lie. She confessed and admitted that she bought a wang wang biscuit from the snack stall.

I was still snap-pish at the older kids but told myself to take 3 d-e-e-p breaths. Kate finished her dinner (with her sister's help) and washed her utensils. I took her up to shower and she said, "Mummy, I'm sorry." I gave her a big hug and asked her what was she sorry about. "I'm sorry that I didn't want to eat your food."

I asked if she knew why I was upset? "Because you cook for me." I explained to her how it took me effort to make a healthy dinner for her, and was sad that without even trying a bite she refused to eat it. I apologized for my harsh words and we talked about what happened and both of us felt much better. She went to bed happy and me? I went back down to the kitchen to find something wholesome for her breakfast tomorrow.

2 down, 3 more weeks to go!


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



Thursday, 28 March 2019

Why a co-ed school was the wrong choice for my son

My son had his first Sec 1 PTM and having experienced regular complaints from his teachers in primary school, I was dreading the meeting. From a co-ed primary school to an all boys school, I had no idea what he was getting up to in school. Fights? Bullying? Bad behaviour? Getting information out of him is like pulling teeth. I get scanty details which I have to piece together.

I approached his 2 form teachers, gave my son's name, and waited with bated breath. After scanning the master sheet, the first thing Mrs Teacher said was, "Oh, he did ok, you didn't have to come, you know?"

Yes, #5 had told me that his grades were fine and it was not compulsory for me to attend. However, I wanted to have a talk with his teachers to find out how he has been behaviour-wise, and to see if he is settling in well as it was a huge transition for him.

Mrs Teacher gave me a smile and said, "He is an interesting boy. The things he says are quite different from the usual answers." Hmm, I couldn't quite decipher if that was a good or bad thing, but drawing from her grin, I don't think I should be too concerned. "What about his behaviour? Is he naughty in class?"

"No, not in my class. Sometimes he tries to wriggle out of doing work, but he knows when I mean business and he will get my work done nicely. No issues at all. However, he has some scratch marks on his face. Is he cutting himself? I also notice he yawns in class, he must be tired." I told her that he wakes up at 5.30 to get ready to take the bus to school, but he goes to bed by 9pm. And those scratch marks were done by little Kate.

I was surprised at how they are genuinely concerned about the whole well-being of the child, not only the academic aspect.

Mr Teacher started to talk, and I was keen to hear from a male teacher's perspective. "I don't have any problems with him in my class either. In fact, he scored 100/100 for art! He is a very creative boy and you can tell that he is bright. He pays attention and is very focused when he is doing his work. Looking at his overall results, the only thing that is worrying is his Chinese. He scored 16/100 and that will pull his average down. You may want to speak with his Chinese teacher. She's a very experienced teacher."

I thanked them for their time and Mrs Teacher got up and escorted me to his Chinese teacher as the hall was crowded.

I felt much better knowing that everything was going fine and he was in such good hands. The last concern was Chinese! I was expecting the same-old, like the past 6 years, where his Chinese teachers tried to tell me (in too cheem Mandarin) how bad his Chinese was, that I had to encourage him to read more Chinese books, sit with him to revise the words he didn't know, or hire a tutor for him.

Mdm C was a pleasant, smiling lady, and we conversed in English. She started off by saying, "Your son is a joy to teach!" I almost fell off my seat.

My son? Chinese? That was impossible! Was I hearing wrong? Wait a minute, she probably got the wrong child. I scanned the list and pointed out his name.

She was concerned at his score of 16/100, but showed me his compo. "Look at what he wrote. Not bad at all. 2 pages, good sentences, neat handwriting. He's a bright child, but his foundation is very weak. His standard is below his peers, and sometimes they will laugh when he doesn't understand even the simple words, but I tell them not to laugh at him because he is trying to learn."

I asked if she had trouble getting him to pay attention in her class, and that previously he gets bored and would fold origami under the table or disturb his friends. She was surprised to hear that, and assured me that he concentrates in her class and tries his best to complete her work.

What a nice change, that unlike Primary school, she did not handover the responsibility of revision to me nor ask me to outsource to a tutor, but took full responsibility and said that anything that had to be learnt will be discussed with the students directly. She reassured me that he had a good learning attitude and will try her best to help him.

I left his school on cloud nine. Can you imagine how I felt?! To have had teachers complaining about your son for 6 years, with only 2 or 3 out of 20 who had positive things to say about him, and finally finding a school where the teachers accept him and are able to bring out the best in him.

I texted our family chat group with the good news and the girls were so proud of him. One of them said, "Lol, he's in a boy's school now, so that is just normal boy behaviour. For years, he has been judged by girl standards at home and in school. He's given up trying to be good a long time ago."

For years, he was labelled as naughty simply because he couldn't pay attention, talks too much, disturbs his friends when he's bored, and as a result, constantly punished by being made to stand in the corner. All because his Executive Function skills like attention and impulse control were weak and he just could not sit there and take in this "teacher talk, student listen" approach for long periods of time.

An experiential approach is needed for children with such profiles, especially when they are in lower primary. Instead of viewing these kids as disruptive, they are the ones who will be most needed in the changing future landscape where we need creators, inventors, innovators and entrepreneurs.

It was only after 5 years that his first male teacher Mr Tan understood him and told me that he is simply an active boy with a quick mind who gets bored easily and when he gets excited about a new idea, he talks too much, too fast and too loud. Mr Tan made the effort to build rapport with him, and would remind him to tone it down instead of punishing him, and thus could gain the cooperation of #5 to behave well in his class.

I have seen it in the neighbourhood schools and now in a boys' school, where because these students are the norm instead of the exception, teachers have found ways to handle them so that teaching can be done. And most importantly, teachers seem to understand that there is a difference between learning styles, developmental needs and discipline issues, thus handling them differently. Sadly, he may have enjoyed the learning journey better over the 6 years of primary school if things had been different.

Nonetheless, I'm extremely grateful for his dedicated teachers and I'm sure they have been and will continue to be instrumental in developing the students who come through them into contributing adults with character, and to give them a fair chance to succeed in our traditional classrooms.

School Stories:

#1 - When your son gets into fights in school
#2 - My son the loan shark
#3 - So kids can't play once they start school?
#11 - How #2 topped her level in English
#12 - DSA. Yet another initiative parents have warped
#13 - Tuition - First line of attack?
#14 - Why do exams have to be so stressful?
#15 - First day mix up!
#16 - The day I forgot to pick my son from school
#17 - No more T-score. Now what?
#18 - Tackling the new school year
#19 - She did it, without tuition.
#20 - So who's smarter?
#21 - Why I do not coach my kids anymore.

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

Wednesday, 16 January 2019

Settling into P1 and Sec 1

Kate has entered Primary 1! On one hand, she was really excited to finally be a 'big' girl like her siblings, yet she was apprehensive about the new changes and environment. The night before, she couldn't fall asleep and had lots of worries. The good thing is that she is able to voice out her fears and I can help her to make sense of them.

She had a multitude of worries, from being afraid of getting lost, to not being able to understand her Chinese teacher fully, to not knowing where to go when her school bus drops her off. However, many of her fears were allayed as the parent volunteers did a wonderful job of helping the children to settle in. She comes home happy and tells us that she has made new friends. She still doesn't understand everything her Chinese teacher says and sometimes feels sleepy in class and once she closed her eyes and was scolded by her teacher!

The second day of school, she lost her water bottle. She put her school bag next to her on the school bus, but when the bus jerked, her bottle fell out and rolled away. They were told to wear their seat belts and she could not pick it up. By the time they reached school, the bottle was nowhere to be found. Poor girl did not have her bottle, but she said, "I was very thirsty so I told my teacher I needed to go to the toilet and I quickly went to the water cooler to drink water." The bus uncle had placed her bottle in the Lost and Found, but Kate doesn't know where to go to find it!

Overall, she is adjusting very well. When I get home, her bag is packed and she has seen to the instructions of the day and is able to relay messages and relate her day's events.

As for #5, my oh my. Every afternoon, we are holding our breaths.

We have chosen a wonderful school with a focus on character development and community service. The school is quite a distance away but he has a direct bus there. He used to take the school bus in primary school, so during the December holidays, my mum took him on a trial run on the public bus.

The night before, I pre-empted him. Boy, you may fall asleep on the bus. If you do, look around to see where you are. Stop as soon as you can, where you can see another bus stop opposite the road. Cross over the overhead bridge or at the traffic light and take the same bus home.

All scenarios covered, I went to work in peace. As #1 hasn't started school, I told him to text her if anything happened.

Day 1:

During recess, he was about to buy food when he realised that he had left his money in his school bag. He went back upstairs but all the classrooms were locked! He had not made any friends yet so he went hungry.

School ended at 2pm and he took the bus home. He was tired and fell asleep soon after boarding. Suddenly, he jolted awake, looked out, saw unfamiliar surroundings and thought he had missed his stop. He quickly alighted and texted #1. While he waited for her reply, he wandered around. He chanced upon a pizza hut, ordered takeaway and used up his whole week's allowance!

Finally, he and #1 figured out that he had alighted only a few stops away from school and he was still a long way from home. He walked back to the bus stop and took the next bus home.

Day 2.

I got home at 5pm and found #5 in bed. This time, he did not fall asleep on the bus, but stopped 1 stop too early. He started walking home but halfway through he could not go any further and took a rest at the playground. He fell asleep at the playground!

When he woke, he texted #1 to come out and get him but by the time she saw the text and went to look for him, she saw him about to hail a cab. She called out to him and told him not to enter the cab. He was having a fever and was too tired even to walk the rest of the way home with his heavy bag.

Day 3.

He was sick, stayed home, and rested over the weekend. He is starting to get used to the routine of sleeping at 8.30pm so that he can wake up at 5.30am.

Day 4.

Boy: Mum, are you at church?
Me: No, why?
Boy: I just passed it. Thought you can pick me. I think I missed our stop.
Me: Quickly alight now. Cross the road and take the same bus back.
Boy: I can see this condo called xxx
Me: Press the bell and alight! Now!

Silence for a while. Meanwhile, the girls and I were sitting in suspense.

Me: Boy, where are you? Have you alighted? Can you see a bus stop across the road?
Boy: No still on bus.
Me: Why? I told you to get off the bus.
Boy: Too crowded. I tried. Can't squeeze out.
Me: Just say excuse me and go towards the door!

Silence.

I texted #1 to see if he had texted her. He hadn't, and she also tried to reach him.

Me: Boy! Where are you? Answer me! We are getting very worried.
Boy: Bus interchange.
Me: So far! Ok, get off and look for the same number and take the bus back.

Silence for a long, long time. Meanwhile, we were getting extremely worried. But deep down, I had a feeling that he should be ok.

Finally, after an hour and a half, he breezed into the house.

Me: BOY! What happened? Why didn't you answer us? We were so worried about you.
Boy: Oh. I saw a mall so I went in to take a look. Then I took the bus back. My phone is in my bag. I walked very slowly because I'm hungry.
Me: Next time, you don't go silent on us ok? All of us were super worried! You must update us.
Boy: Ok!

Day 5.

At 2.30, we got a text.

Boy: Lost my bus card
Me: Search your entire bag again
Boy: I did. I cut my finger because the safety pin can't close properly.

Me: Pay with coins
Boy: No coins
Me: Pay with $2
Boy: Don't have
Me: How much do you have
Boy: 0
Me: Why
Boy: Spent everything on food

Me: Ask a friend
Boy: No friend at bus stop
Me: Ask a stranger
Boy: No
Me: Your sister did that once, and a kind lady gave her $1. She met her again many weeks later and returned the $1. Can you ask?
Boy: Nobody

#2 said she will call a grab for him, but because he was at a bus stop I thought it was better he walked to hail a cab. He walked a long way because all the cabs were hired.

When he got home, I told him to be more careful, and that I had just topped up his card with $40 and his carelessness cost me the cab fare plus the $40. I was about to give the general office a call to see if anyone had found it.

Boy: Wait a minute! Maybe it is in my shorts! Just maybe!

He ran to his school bag, pulled out his school shorts and whipped out his bus card.

He was beaming.

Me: What!?

Oh mum, when I alighted from the bus this morning, I put it in my pocket. But we changed into PE shorts!

Me: You should have been more mindful and remembered where your card was! You just wasted me $16.

Boy (with a grin): But I saved you $40!

I really don't know what to say about this kid. It's become a daily family anticipation with many face palm moments.

I don't think anything more can go wrong.. fingers crossed.

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

Thursday, 13 December 2018

PSC Scholarship? Wow

When #2 told us she had received the PSC Provisional Scholarship we were truly surprised. Aiming for a scholarship has never crossed our minds and she had to google it! A quick search revealed that there are 4 or 5 President Scholars each year, and about 70 or so PSC Scholarships are given out. She discovered that her JC has never produced a scholar which on one hand meant that her chances are really slim, yet she mused, "It'll be cool to be the first one from my school."

Surely, we must throw a huge celebration then.

On hindsight, I'm glad I didn't dismiss this option. After her Os, I was apprehensive about her decision to choose the JC route. I had heard that the stress levels have increased tremendously and weekends are spent catching up on sleep, homework and doing projects, which leaves hardly anytime for family or a balanced lifestyle. What is more worrying is the upward trend of depression and suicidal ideation which is worsened by the academic demands of the A levels.

However, she could not find any course in the polytechnics which deeply interested her and since she has a love for Literature and English, that made the choice easier. Besides, the 2 extra years may give her slightly more clarity in what she wants to pursue.

It turned out that JC life was even more gruelling than we had expected. Academically, it is very demanding as the timeline is short. But what compounded it was the extra activities that she took on. In JC, the students become a lot more involved and run all the events by themselves while the teachers play an advisory role.

She headed the committees to organise the investiture and Open House events and stayed in school till late, sometimes 9 or 10pm and by the time she took the bus home, had a bite and showered, it was close to midnight. That's when she started on homework.

I was really worried at this unhealthy schedule, but when I met her home tutors after the first exam, they were very pleased with her and praised her ability to juggle both her studies and extra activities well. It seemed to be the norm that sleep has to be sacrificed because the workload was about to get heavier.

It was a whirlwind after that. She became President of her CCA and besides the three times per week practice sessions, it was her responsibility to ensure that everything was running smoothly. Most evenings, she was busy texting her core team and her teacher in charge. It became stressful when performances were approaching, because not only did she have to schedule in extra practice sessions, she had to ensure that her team was on top of their responsibilities, logistics was flawless, morale was kept high and unexpected situations were handled swiftly.

She was so busy she hardly had time to study. But guess what? She took on a second CCA! They were short of a guitarist and needed help. That meant early morning practice sessions. Some days she was in school from 7am to 9pm. She worked even longer hours than me.

I made her healthy and filling salads to take to school if not she would be too busy to eat, I listened when she aired her frustrations, but more often than not, I had to deal with her not wanting to talk much because she was just too tired after all that went on in school that day.

On top of that, there were assignment datelines, essays to write, loads of texts to memorise and it was not unusual to see her still studying at 1am. Not only was it mentally demanding, it was also physically and emotionally draining. She was fortunate to have a lovely, polite, caring bunch of friends, but it was also the teenage years where they are finding their identities and navigating many changes. 

I was really concerned and told her that something had to give, but she told me that as she had taken on the commitments, she had to see them through.

I happened to speak to her Secondary 4 teacher Ms Sandra and she laughed, "That's good practice for her, and if she's going to have 6 kids like you, she will have no problems juggling everything."

Mums will always be mums. When you see your 17-year-old sleeping 4 or 5 hours a night and looking exhausted, you worry. And you want them to slow down. To take it easy.

As though all that wasn't enough (for her poor mama's heart), she participated in a slew of ad hoc activities. She signed up for a mission trip to Vietnam and got accepted. Ah, this was one which I whole-heartedly supported.

It was an eye-opener for them to see how the children lived and studied in the mountainous regions. She recounted how the weather suddenly plunged 20 degrees overnight and their toes were frost-bitten in their converse shoes. As they trekked up the mountain hand-in-hand with the children, these kids nimbly and happily made their way up to school despite being in slippers.

When she moved on to JC2, I assumed she would ease up on the activities and buckle down to some serious studying. How wrong was I. She took on even more!

On top of gearing up for their concert at the Esplanade, she was an Orientation leader for the incoming JC students. She missed a whole week of lessons and came home hoarse from all that shouting.

I was really curious and couldn't understand why she was still taking on so much when she knows that she needs to focus on her studies this year.

"Mum, there are all these exciting things going on. Everyone signs up hoping for a chance. I so happened to pass all the interviews." Anyhow, I told her that it was really quite enough and she shouldn't take on anything more.

Kids don't listen, do they?

She came back one day and told me excitedly that they had passed the auditions for the rock band competition. Music and singing have always been her passion and they had formed a girl band. They spent Sunday afternoons over at our place practicing their harmonies. Despite me shaking my head at this extra of extras, I must say it was really lovely to hear them jam.

Then came Project Work submission. I found out that it wasn't projects they were working on. It was a compulsory subject called Project Work where they are assigned into groups of about 4 and there was both a written and an oral component. They worked on a real-life issue and I suppose it is to develop applicable life skills such as critical thinking, working collaboratively, inculcating creativity in application and focusing on the process.

Weekends were spent meeting up to discuss and work through it as a team. With any group work, frustrations with teammates are quite common. She was upset that some of her group mates turned up late for meetings or handed in their part past the deadlines with sloppy work. As she was aiming for an A, she put in many extra hours to edit their parts and rewrite the scripts. Her group mates were so thankful when results were released.

The last event of JC2 was Lit Nite. It was a big event for the Arts students. She ended up writing, directing and acting in it. Again, many late nights in school to prepare. A week before the performance, the senior literature teacher watched their play and asked her to rewrite half of it. She was really stressed at the short deadline. She worked late into the night to perfect it and spent that week with her team polishing up their play. It was wonderful that their efforts were rewarded with a win.

Finally, everything came to a halt a few weeks before Prelims. I asked her how was her preparations coming along and if she needed tuition as the syllabus was not easy and most of her classmates had tuition.

She is a really considerate child and said that she wouldn't want to waste money unnecessarily if she could manage. She revised on her own and had some study sessions with her friends and they helped one another on concepts they missed out. She even offered to tutor her brother who was struggling with his PSLE.

I kept reminding her to have enough rest and the hubs and I reassured her that if it became too stressful, she could take an extra year and we are completely fine with it.

We knew that she had spent her 2 years gainfully and there was a lot to catch up on. Many of #1's friends who went on to University said that the 2 years in JC were the toughest and some had to retain 1 extra year because they failed or by choice.

She put her mind into those final weeks before the Prelims, studied hard, and did really well for the exams. Phew. She was offered the provisional scholarship based on her excellent prelim results as well as her portfolio of activities (so glad all that counted for something!)

Many friends were curious to know how we did it. They know my chill education philosophy - no tuition, no assessment books, no ten-year series, no nagging.

What's the secret?

I have always believed in making them self-motivated and self-initiated so that they take ownership of their own goals and efforts instead of me pushing them every step of the way.

Instead of drilling them academically, I have been giving them opportunities to develop skills such as getting organised, being able to plan their time, knowing what their priorities are, having the discipline to stick to it, trying different methods when things fail, learning not to give up but to persevere. All these are executive functioning skills which become increasingly important when the demands start to increase. The child needs to be able to manage themselves well to take on greater responsibilities and roles.

We have no idea how she will do for her actual A level exams because she is worried that she may have peaked during Prelims. The papers were tough and many were crying as they left the exam hall.

I'm just relieved that the 2 years have come to an end and I see her so much more now. She has time to pursue her creative interests like painting, writing novels and playing the drums.

Whether she receives a scholarship or not, we are already so proud of her. The skill sets she has developed and the challenges she has surmounted are invaluable experiences. So long as she keeps an open mind and a hunger for learning, she will keep progressing. She has a long way ahead of her, and this is just the beginning!

School Stories:

#1 - When your son gets into fights in school
#2 - My son the loan shark
#3 - So kids can't play once they start school?
#11 - How #2 topped her level in English
#12 - DSA. Yet another initiative parents have warped
#13 - Tuition - First line of attack?
#14 - Why do exams have to be so stressful?
#15 - First day mix up!
#16 - The day I forgot to pick my son from school
#17 - No more T-score. Now what?
#18 - Tackling the new school year
#19 - She did it, without tuition.
#20 - So who's smarter?
#21 - Why I do not coach my kids anymore.


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

Sunday, 18 November 2018

Kate's own Grad ceremony

Kate has officially graduated from kindergarten! She is the only K2 student in her school and we were joking with her Principal that it should be called Kate's Graduation instead of K2 Graduation.

Such a lovely gesture that despite having just one child graduating, they had a proper ceremony with a video montage showcasing her milestones. It was rather amusing and we felt a little pai seh that all these parents had to watch an entire video featuring her. But it really shows how each and every one of the children are respected as individuals, well-loved and so precious to the teachers.

Several of the parents congratulated us, and many still remember her as the new kid at the beginning of the year who cried for an entire January before settling down. They commented that she is now a confident child, striking conversations with them and having made many close friends of all ages and nationalities.

She has really grown and blossomed in one year. When she left her Montessori after K1, she was well-prepared academically and could read and do Math. However, she was afraid of new experiences and challenges and would shy away from trying new things or would make excuses to escape from things she felt was too difficult.

How fortunate that I found this gem of a school. Her teachers spent time to talk to her, walk her through her fears and to empower her with a can-do attitude.  They gave her responsibilities like patting the younger children to bed and she was a big sister to many of the toddlers.

Now that the end of the year is nearing, we have been preparing her for the big transition as I know she is not one who takes transitions easily. She was really excited to follow the footsteps of her older siblings, packed her big new desk with files and stationery all lined up neatly, and told me that she will be able to wake up at 5.30am to take the school bus.

Yesterday, she went for her P1 orientation where they were brought to their class and met their new form teacher and classmates. They spent the 2 hours doing simple worksheets, singing songs and listening to their teacher explain some basics about next year such as "If you need to go to the toilet, you have to raise your hands."

Last night, she stayed awake in bed for a long time. Finally, she said to me, "Mummy, on the first day of P1 can you come with me?" I sensed that she was anxious.

I assumed that because she has been to the school many times to pick her brother up, it wouldn't be too unfamiliar. But she said, "The school is very big, what if I get lost?" Comparing her current school to her new school, that must be really daunting.

Today, she asked me many questions about P1 and when I asked if she is afraid, she teared and said yes. I have forgotten how long it took her to settle into her childcare at the beginning of the year! Poor girl, for some children like her, transitions are hard.

I've decided to take her out from childcare for a few days and send her to my centre for our P1 prep camp. I thought she was all set for the transition as she is academically ready and classroom ready. But she has a lot of anxieties and fears about the big change.

The camp will be good for her as they get to practice new and unfamiliar things to gain confidence. Taking on responsibilities like being the class monitor, learning to read the timetable and how to pack their bags, sharing about their anxieties, discussing what to do if they are bullied, and brainstorming ways to solve problems like getting lost will help equip her and make her less anxious. The kids at camp will be put to the test as they have to make decisions like whether to spend money on food or cute stationery and I'm keen to know what she will do!

We were chatting over dinner last night and it feels so strange that #2 is graduating from JC 2, #3 from Sec 4, #5 from P6 and our darling little Kate is embarking on her very first day of formal education come January.

One of my teens asked, "Oh mum, you have to go through this all over again! How does it feel?"

Honestly, I feel excited! So much promise. So many beautiful years lie ahead for her.

I hope she will enjoy her years of learning, make good friends for life, and meet teachers who will touch and inspire her.

All the best, little Kate!

For K2 kids who need a little boost to get them prepared for Primary 1, check out The Little Executive's practical P1 Prep Camp which runs next week, and another round in December. Wishing you the very best to all K2s in your new and exciting journey ahead!


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

Tuesday, 16 October 2018

Our education system is starting to get exciting!

I can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel! Things are coming together nicely and more changes are in the pipeline.

16 years ago, #1 entered kindergarten. It was a popular school and many of the kids came from affluent families. Little did I know that we were in for a shock. Her English teacher made her stand in the corner when she couldn't come up with a word that begins with the letter 'S'.

Something was wrong.

Didn't I send her to school to learn such things? Why was she being tested and punished for not knowing? That was the first inkling I had that our system was too skewed towards testing vis-a-vis learning.

Even more disturbing, one day she finally had the courage to tell me that her teacher had dragged her to the N2 class and got a boy to complete her worksheet in front of her. She felt dumb and humiliated. I pulled her out of the preschool and put her in a church-based kindergarten where the teachers were caring and they focused more on character development.

Since then, moving them through various preschools, primary and secondary schools, I have found that it is not accurate nor fair to generalise.

There will be good systems with teachers or principals who are not aligned. There will also be narrow systems with passionate teachers who go the extra mile to help our children learn.

It is wonderful to see that the early childhood scene has proliferated over the past 10 years as child development research continues to unravel how children learn best. I have found a holistic international preschool for Kate where they play outdoors twice a day and the kids are taught how to resolve conflicts by themselves and learning is fun and experiential.

Unfortunately, that comes to a halt the moment children enter Primary 1. These 6 & 7-year olds are expected to sit in a classroom with 30 other students to learn in a one-size-fits-all system. It's great that there will be no more exams or weighted assessments for the P1s and 2s, and a foray into experiential learning has been introduced, but there is still much room for improving the way lessons are conducted.

While in University, I was curious to know why our classmates had markedly different strengths from us Singaporeans. We were good at researching but they were brilliant at presentations and thinking out of the box. My classmates shared that their lessons were very hands on. If the topic was on gravity, the teacher came into class and tossed balls around. What follows would be an in-depth discussion with questioning and prompts from the teacher to ignite their thinking, instead of spoonfeeding them with concepts and content.

Returning to Singapore and raising my kids with the mindset of an occupational therapist, I asked myself constantly, "what is the rationale behind this activity"? I questioned the purpose of education and looked ahead 20 years because that would be the future landscape my children would be stepping into.

As my 5 kids moved into the primary and secondary levels, I was disappointed that there wasn't a significant difference from our generation. It was only in the past few years that I started seeing the changes gaining momentum.

I was worried that our education system was not equipping them with the right set of skills to get them ready for their future. Too much time was wasted on testing and learning how to answer questions with specific key words and drill methods.

We had to strike a balance with what the schools could not provide and to guide them in the other aspects of education myself.

To be curious thinkers, to dare to try, to fail and try again, to learn to work together, to be creative, to come up with their own opinions and substantiate them, to know that there are different ways to solve a problem, to believe in themselves.

Along the journey, there were times when I had to guard against letting school extinguish their love of learning. It seems that the objective of completing curriculum and pressures of exams which teachers have to accede to outweigh the silent need of the seeds of curiosity to be watered and tended to.

It's good that there have been changes in the exam papers, reflecting MOE's push towards application, but the problem with change at the testing level is that students need to be taught how to think.

It is not as simple as adding thinking questions into the comprehension or Science papers and expecting teachers to be able to draw it out of them. These type of skills we are trying to inculcate are best started even as early as the preschool years and built upon year after year as they move on to higher order thinking skills.

The roadmap drawn out in the School Work Plan looks fantastic on paper, however, to equip the whole teaching force to be well versed to teach children at this deeper level will not happen overnight.

It is not difficult to deliver content. But to get the class to be engaged, to ponder thinking questions and to steer them towards having a fruitful discussion on the topic at hand, the teacher has to be skilled and it takes up a lot more time.

A few months back, I was invited to a small group session with ex-Education Minister Ng Chee Meng and these other lovely ladies. We were discussing how important it was to develop 21st-century skills lest we have a generation of children who are ill-equipped to take on jobs of the future. I asked Minister roughly what percentage of our primary school curriculum is currently targetted at inquiry-based learning and developing such skills? He did not have the numbers but hazarded a guess at about 5%.

I was flabbergasted.

He explained that we have a good system that has been consistently producing strong results. So while they recognise the need for equipping our children with a new set of skills to meet the demands of the future, they need to figure out how to carve out more time without overloading our children further.

How do we free up more time?

Curriculum. Education Minister Ong Ye Kung explained at the Schools Work Plan Seminar 2018 that curriculum has been cut twice, by 30% in 1997 and by 20% in 2005 and is comparable to other countries and further reduction will risk under-teaching. Since curriculum is at its bare minimum, they have to look to other avenues to free up time.

Removing mid-year exams in the transition years of P3, P5, Sec 1 and Sec 3 will free up an extra 3 weeks every 2 years.

From the Work Plan 2018:

"I hope schools will use the time well, for example, to conduct applied and inquiry based learning. In applied and inquiry based learning, our students observe, investigate, reflect, and create knowledge. And that will naturally take up more time."

I am extremely pleased to read this. That is how I have been teaching my children when it comes to any form of knowledge and how we have been educating children in my enrichment centre.

However, in reality, this approach to learning will take up much more time than an extra 10 days per year. Teachers need to brainstorm, create lesson plans, share best practices and implement. It is a good start nonetheless and we are moving in the right direction.

Assessment. Personally I feel that the PSLE should stay because we need a national exam to sort the children at the end of 6 years instead of moving them straight through for 10 years of education. In fact, I find that the 6 years of primary school is the most narrowly defined approach, and it gets better once they get sorted into secondary school and beyond.

Take the tiny sample size of my 5 kids who have finished their PSLE. There is a stark difference in their learning styles, aptitudes, interests and pen and paper academic abilities and it would not be equitable to them if they were all bundled together.

#2 is the most academically inclined of the lot, and placed in a class of 40 or even in a lecture hall of 150, she is capable of learning well. However, #5's learning style is experiential and he has been doing much better this year in a class of 8 where their teachers try to adapt the lessons to suit them. I have observed how the 3 different secondary schools my girls went through offered different niche programmes, learning approaches and pace.

Having said that, the mechanics of the questions in the PSLE and what they hope to develop in our students have to be re-examined.

More importantly, the way the PSLE has evolved to become a stress-inducing high stakes exam has to be unwound and mindsets need to change.

I am all for removing the 2 mid-year exams in primary school and 2 in secondary school as there is an urgent need to carve out more time. There will no doubt be a push back from parents who are afraid they will have no certainty of knowing how their child is faring and it will take time for parents to align with the big scheme of things.

One gripe I have is that too much time is still spent on preparing students for the PSLE. In many schools, preparations start from P5 onwards, and the entire P6 year is geared towards tackling the PSLE by drilling them with an avalanche of past year papers. That is 2 years of precious time that could be used for real learning instead of preparing them to be exam ready. I hope to see the day when these 2 are congruent - where real learning leads them naturally to be exam ready.

Many kids tell me honestly that they study only for the exams, and don't ask them any concepts after that because they have forgotten what they have learnt.

Is that true education? If we measure our education by the yardstick of applicable knowledge, we have failed in our objective, and we have failed our children.

Removing class and level positions. This is a change in line with PSLE scoring no longer being in relation to their peers from 2021. It sends a strong message and will hopefully shift the mindset of parents from competition to learning for learning's sake and to work towards the aim of advancement.

But as Minister Ong said, "the report book should still contain some form of yardstick and information to allow students to judge their relative performance."

This is very necessary because of the wide variation in the standard of examinations set, thus the mark on an exam paper is not indicative.

During #1's P5 year end exam, she scored 50+ for her English and I was very concerned as English is her strong subject. At the PTM, I was told not to worry as she was one of the top scorers and most of the other students had failed.

If schools are able to set consistent standards, and parents can be assured that an A means a child is doing well, a B means there is room for improvement, a fail means he needs extra help or hasn't put in much effort, and so forth, then we can make sense of their marks. But if a score of 58 placed her in the top 85% then we do need the percentile of the cohort as a gauge as it paints a clearer picture. 

Joy of learning. Minister Ong says "They must leave the education system still feeling curious and eager to learn, for the rest of their lives."

This is a lofty goal. It is sad how children enter preschool bright-eyed and full of ideas, yet they leave P6 either as robots churning out good grades or with their zest for learning squelched.

Several reasons contribute to it. High parental expectations, an overload of school work plus tuition, non-inspiring curriculum in the upper primary years, and teachers. At the end of P5, #5's Science teacher told me, "You need to get him to conform. Don't ask so many questions. Leave all that for secondary school. It's time to wake up and focus on the exams. He is a bright child with so much potential, but look at his grades." The irony is that he loves Science, and has been doing well in it, except the year when he was in her class.

At the same discussion, his male form teacher agreed that the PSLE was important, but he assured me not to worry as he feels that #5 will go very far in future, with his innovative and creative flair, natural leadership ability and eagerness to help his peers. He asked if I would be sending him to an international school as that would suit him better.

With MOE trying to do what's best for our children, parents also have a part to play in this equation. New initiatives are rolled out to resolve problems or to enable. We have a choice how we want to react and respond to new policies.

We need to shift from teaching to the test to focus on learning to learn.

In the coming years, there is bound to be more changes, and I will be worried if there isn't! We need to take a broader overview instead of being myopic. It starts with us parents who need to be comfortable with change. The world is changing rapidly and we will be overtaken if we don't stay relevant.

I'm reassured to see that MOE has been planning ahead instead of being complacent as we are consistently top of the charts in international rankings. I am certain that together, we can do it! We will refine our education system into a truly world class system, and educate a whole generation of resilient learners who are not afraid to chase their dreams and have the skills and ability to do so.

Equip them right and let them fly. I have never placed emphasis on their results, only on the process of learning and #2 is testimony that they haven't been short-changed. We were overjoyed to hear that she did really well for her A level prelims. Her home tutor called her in for a meeting and her name has been sent up for a PSC scholarship as she has not only managed to achieve stellar results but has held a full spectrum of leadership roles over the past 2 years in JC.

By equipping her with the right skills, perseverance, and support, she is ready to go far. I'm sure the rest of them will find their strengths and purpose and soar in their own time.

Tertiary Education. I am not worried even for my kids who are the round pegs in this square system. There are so many exciting courses in the polytechnics and local universities that they are having difficulty choosing just 1. And they don't have to. It will be a lifelong journey, and our role is to guide them with wisdom. So long as they continue to want to learn and to improve their skills, the world is their oyster.

School Stories:

#1 - When your son gets into fights in school
#2 - My son the loan shark
#3 - So kids can't play once they start school?
#11 - How #2 topped her level in English
#12 - DSA. Yet another initiative parents have warped
#13 - Tuition - First line of attack?
#14 - Why do exams have to be so stressful?
#15 - First day mix up!
#16 - The day I forgot to pick my son from school
#17 - No more T-score. Now what?
#18 - Tackling the new school year
#19 - She did it, without tuition.
#20 - So who's smarter?
#21 - Why I do not coach my kids anymore.


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