Thursday, 28 January 2016

Diary of a PSLE mum: Targets and Action Plan

People have been asking what's my strategy on handling my kids during their PSLE year.

How I can stay calm and relaxed, yet manage to bring their dismal scores to straight As, with the kids enjoying the ride. Sounds like a tall order, doesn't it?

I've decided to chronicle #4's P6 year, which would also serve as a beautiful journal for her last year in primary school.

I believe that the first step is their mentality. If they are motivated and willing to work hard, half the battle is won.

#4 is all psyched up and excited to embark on this final year, where the scores do matter to a great extent.

There's a sense like finally, now it's my turn!

She had spent the December holidays getting her room in order, personalising stationery and making sure everything is neat and tidy and conducive for studying.
PSLE diary
So where does she stand?

She scored 74 for English, 44 for Chinese and 61 for both Math and Science.

Yup, lots of room for improvement, especially Chinese.

My expectations for her are to get an A for all 4 subjects and here's why.

English:

She has always been reasonably strong in English and I hope that she can get a high A to help pull up her overall aggregate. She has never had an interest in reading and the only thing she reads is my blog and some of #5's books which I don't really approve of.

Action: Encourage her to read daily, with a wider variety of genres. Their English tutor who handled the older 3 girls has agreed to teach #4 so that's settled.

Chinese:

All my kids are weak in Chinese because we don't speak the language at home so she needs to put in a lot of effort this year. She has dropped to lower Chinese and hopefully in this banded class, she is able to progress with students of her similar ability instead of struggling with higher Chinese last year.

Action: She definitely needs Chinese tuition asap to brush up on her oral skills, composition and comprehension. Their aunt has done an amazing job tutoring the older 3 and managed to pull up their grades from borderline passes to As, so I'm hopeful #4 is able to achieve it as well.

Math:

She needs to keep pace with what is taught in school and not let her confusion with certain topics escalate. A lot more time has to be spent on drills to improve her accuracy and speed.

Action: Her aunt will be free to coach her once a week after Chinese new year and give her individual attention to spot her weak areas and explain concepts which she is unable to grasp in class.

Science:

From experience with the older 3 kids, I realise that to do well in the Science paper, not only do they need to understand the concepts but they have to be guided on the key words to use when answering the questions in order not to lose marks.

Action: I am keeping an eye out for a good Science tuition for her to recap the concepts learnt from primary 3 to 5 and to guide her in tackling the paper.

So far, the amount of homework given has been reasonable and she still manages to squeeze in 1 hour of playground time and get to bed by 8.30pm.

The year is going to move along very quickly and I hope her enthusiasm and stamina holds out!

Related posts:

6 things to do in the PSLE year

What I expect from a good tutor




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

Monday, 25 January 2016

Kate said "I love you" to a stranger?!

One weekday afternoon, I took Kate and #5 to our neighbourhood playground.

As usual, she would go on her balance bike while I brisk walked next to her.

She tries to cycle as much as possible on the pavement, but for most stretches, it is hardly possible and she ends up having to cycle at the side of the road.

From afar, we saw a car turning in and she stopped.

I instructed her to come closer to me as we tried to find a space between the parked cars to nip in.

The car slowed right down, and the elderly man wound down his window.

Uh-oh.

I could see what was coming.

The man started telling me how dangerous it was to allow a little girl to ride on the road, and that she should be on the pavement, that sometimes drivers can't stop in time, are not concentrating fully, or their reflexes might be slow.

I kept quiet and allowed him to go on.

Yes, I could have answered back with all my excuses.

That I'm sure he has never tried cycling on the pavements in our area, as he would have noticed that they are blocked by dustbins, flower pots or cracked pavements due to the tree roots.

When both sides of the lanes are clear, she is able to keep close to the pavement and if any car passes by, they have enough space on the other lane.

However, right where we were, cars were parked on one side of the road, which left only one clear lane.

Even though she looked like she was riding in the middle of the road, she was actually trying her best to keep to the side.
No, no, she doesn't go to the playground in a frock
But I knew where this man was coming from.

He was concerned about the little girl on a bicycle.

After he was done with his little tirade, Kate waved to him and said "Ok uncle. Thank you uncle. Bye bye uncle. I love you, uncle."

The elderly man broke into a smile, waved back and told her to take care.

#5 who had watched in silence exclaimed incredulously, "Who says I love you uncle to a stranger in a car!"

"I mean, who does that?!"

Kate passed him with a big smile on her face.

She could smell care and concern from the elderly stranger.


What struck me was how I felt after that.

If I had had any altercations with him whatsoever, it would have left everyone in a negative mood.

Instead, by biting my tongue, listening in humility, and acknowledging the concern the other party had, the exchange ended peacefully and none of us had to walk away with an unpleasant feeling in our hearts.

Kids have so much to teach us, don't they?


Other lessons

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 ~

Thursday, 21 January 2016

Bed bound, again

Last Friday, I had a sharp pain in my back and it got progressively worse to the point where I could not move.

I had to lie in bed and couldn't even turn right or left.

By Saturday, the pain became unbearable and when I sat up for more than 10 minutes, I became breathless and had to lie down again.

My dad-in-law, aunts and my mum advised me to go to the A & E. I saw no point in it as I knew it was either a muscular or nerve problem, although I couldn't figure out why I was hyperventilating.

I had already called my physio and the earliest he could see me was on Monday morning.

I just had to suffer through the weekend.
Bed bound
The last round, when I had complications from my caesarean, I could not walk and was homebound. I thought that was bad enough not being able to go out and do the things I needed to get done.

This time it was much worse because every little movement resulted in intense pain and I was literally confined to the bed.

The feeing of utter helplessness was extremely frustrating. 

The hubs had relatives from abroad staying with us and instead of being able to attend to them, his aunt who is a retired nurse ended up tending to me!

Everyone went out for dinner and I was left in the dark and silent house.

Made me think this is how it feels when we get old, become wheelchair bound and stuck at home while everyone gets on with their lives.

A pretty depressing thought.

Monday morning came, and boy, I will never see Mondays the same way again!

Thankfully, the physio was able to identify the problem and start treatment. After the first session, a whole lot of pain was relieved and I could walk again.

The hubs wanted to know what caused my sudden intense pain.

The physio explained what was happening in great detail but basically what I gathered was that the muscles from my neck all the way down to my hips were strained to the point that they were inflamed and in spasm.

The things I did over the preceding days must have been the straw that broke the camel's back, such as lifting Kate, sitting with a poor posture and perhaps using the new back support seat the wrong way.

As we talked further, it was apparent that all those years of neglecting my back cumulated in the severe pain I was experiencing.

When I had the first few kids, I didn't know anything about sleep routines. Whenever they fell asleep in my arms, I would be afraid to move them in case they got woken up and started crying, and ended up holding the babies in all sorts of awkward positions.

And when the kids were sick with fever and very whiny, I would try to pacify them by rocking them to sleep on the rocking chair, and ended up sleeping through the night on the chair.

Add to that the half dozen kids that I carried over the years, always on my right side, which put my body off balance and resulted in my hips being rotated.

So yeah, I can clearly see why my back is busted.

I'm so glad for all the help that I have received over the past few days. My sisters-in-law for covering my taxi duties, my parents for taking the kids to run their errands, my dad-in-law for buying me the very expensive back brace which he swears by, the hubs for settling Kate and taking over all my other tasks, and my dear friend Sandra for being there at the right time, meeting me at the carpark when I started hyperventilating and waiting with me throughout my second physio appointment.

As I left the carpark, a lady who was dressed in work attire saw me struggling with the heavy doors. She asked with such concern in her voice, "Are you ok? Do you need any help at all?"

It was not what she said but the manner in which she paused, and stood there to see if she could render any assistance, that startled me.

In our world of frantic rushing, that gesture from a kind stranger put me in such a delightful mood even though physically I was not feeling so great.

I am also really glad that Kate has been taking my immobility in her stride and never demanded anything from me over the past few days. Never once did she whine for me to play with her, make her food, carry her, take her to the playground nor put her to sleep.

In fact, she was ever ready to help by handing me my painkillers, running downstairs to get a straw or covering the blanket over me properly.

Some moments she was rather insistent and kept asking, "Do you want more medicine, mummy? I open for you some more?"

Perhaps she thought the more pills I consumed, the quicker my recovery.

When I returned home after my physiotherapy session, I told her that it was better if I did not carry her anymore.

She replied, "Ok mummy. If not you will hurt your back again, right."

I hope she keeps to her word!


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



Monday, 18 January 2016

The kids finally got their first puppy

The kids have been begging for a dog for the longest time.

Like for 10 years. Especially #1 and #3.

I do want the kids to grow up with a dog. I really do.

But dogs are hard work, and they come with so much responsibility.

As if we weren't busy enough trying to manage way too many kids to add pets into the fray.

I wasn't going to be taken in by their cute little pleas promising to be responsible and all that, only to have them grow tired of the novelty of having a puppy and relegating the long term care of the dog to the helper.
Our new puppy in our garden
As a baby step, I did allow them to have terrapins and hamsters.

They were mildly responsible but finally gave them away to enthusiastic friends when they grew tired of looking after them.

A dog was a bigger consideration, and we would have to factor in time, space and money.

But do you know what was the real reason I was so opposed to them getting a dog?

I was simply terrified of dogs!

You see, my mum refused to let us have any pets when we were growing up because her dog died when she was young and she was adamant not to let us go through the same pain.

I had no contact with pets and became very afraid of them.

The thought of having a dog running around the house was unimaginable to me.

Of course, the kids never gave up on their dream and every year or so, they will badger the hubs, who loves dogs.

I reminded them of their previous pets and they vehemently protested, "a dog is different, mum!"

Over Christmas, they went at it again.

About how they are much older now and will promise to be responsible and how "all normal kids are allowed to have their own dog".

Yeah, lay the mummy guilt on me.
I have to admit she's an adorable pup
Over the past 2 years, we have frequently gone over to my sister-in-law's house and her border collie is so well-behaved that I started to think that it is not so bad having a dog in the house.

He doesn't growl at people, doesn't bite nor bark, is toilet-trained, and does as he is told! He doesn't bolt out of the gate nor wander up the stairs. He is such a sweetie and would come over to sit next to you.

Now that I have a much better impression of dogs, I was more open to the idea and gave the issue serious thought.

The kids are older and definitely more responsible than when they were little.

Besides, there are so many of them to share the work load of managing the dog.

We also have a much bigger space which can accommodate a dog, alongside the troop of kids.

I told them a pet is for life and even took them to SPCA to impress upon them the fate of dogs who get abandoned.

Coincidentally, the hub's had a friend whose dog gave birth to 3 puppies and he was happy to give one to our kids.

The girls were simply elated!

Their dream had finally materialised.

The first few days, it was almost like we were welcoming a new baby.

The hubs was the pied piper and they were all fussing over the pup, watching her lap water from her bowl, taking her for her shower, teaching her to poo and pee at the right places.

Their friends came over after school to play with the puppy like how they did when Kate was small.

#3 said, "Mum, see, don't you think you made an excellent decision this time? We are all down here instead of being cooped up in our rooms with our gadgets."
Kids' best friend
It's been 2 weeks since the puppy has become a part of our family.

Their lives have changed.

They have a cute, loving pet to call their own and they fully understand the drudgery of taking care of a young thing.

After changing the soiled newspapers and wiping the floor for the umpteen time, #2 commented, "Mum, she's like a baby, just a bit worse because she doesn't pee and poo in her diaper."

My life has changed too.

I am a quasi-prisoner in my own living room, and gone are the days where I can leave the sliding doors open for ventilation.

My house slippers are either missing or have saliva on them and I'm slowly getting used to having my toes chewed on when I'm working on my computer.

I get a mini-panic attack when I come down and can't find her, and run around with Kate frantically calling her name and looking under the sofas and in every nook and cranny, all the while praying that she didn't bolt out of the gate.

She's just a puppy and hopefully all that will get sorted out eventually.

I wanted to name her Seven, and was voted out. But of course.

Guess this little pup will grow up with them and be the silent listener to all their joys and sorrows.

How fortunate.

The kids, and the puppy.



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



Thursday, 14 January 2016

Wild Honey @ Scotts Square

An old schoolmate is in town and we did the tai tai thing and had a luxurious breakfast at Wild Honey while the kids were tucked away in school.

While writing up this post, I showed #1 my photos and she exclaimed with mock indignation, "Wild Honey? And you didn't take me along?!" My kids are indeed growing up.

Their breakfast menu is rather extensive and as usual, we decided to order a range of dishes and share everything.

For something different, we were recommended the Tunisian, which was a surprisingly interesting savoury dish.

Sizzling pan of spicy shakshouka (onion, tomato, bell pepper & red chilli), Chorizo, baked eggs. Served with signature brioche and Israeli salad.
Tunisian $22
The buttermilk pancakes were nice and fluffy and came with a berry compote and maple syrup.
Canadian $20
We just had to order the classic English fare with the full works. Starving mummies after doing the school run.

Scrambled eggs, Canadian back bacon, Cumberland pork sausage, dad's baked beans, sautéed mushrooms, breakfast potatoes, grilled vine tomatoes & signature brioche.
English $25
The Spanish was so-so. Diced chorizo, house Corned beef & potato, two perfectly poached eggs & Hollandaise sauce with signature brioche.
Spanish $24
Love the ambience, especially the comfortable sofa seats which my trusty friend called to reserve as they were mostly taken up by 10am.
Lovely ambience
At Wild Honey, they take breakfast seriously and their breakfast dishes are served all day long.
Wild Honey
A pricey breakfast no doubt, but the perfect place to yak the morning away until it was time to pick the kids up from school!

It's days like these when being a SAHM seems like the best job in the world.

Wild Honey

#03-01 Scotts Square
Scotts Road
Tel: 6636 1816

Opening hours:
Sundays - Thursdays: 9am - 9pm
Friday / Saturday: 9am - 10pm

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

Monday, 11 January 2016

A brother's love

A couple of days ago, I was surprised to see #5 coming down the stairs in tears. As I was trying to find out what had happened, Kate bounded down behind him with a strange expression on her face.

Was that a smirk?!

Me: What happened?

Kate: I beat gor gor.

I went over to #5 and asked him where Kate had hit him. It must have hurt for him to be in tears.

The hubs heard the commotion and couldn't believe what he was hearing. Besides, #5 has always been the big bully.

Hub: You are crying because your 3-year old sister hit you? You are 9! What's the matter with you?

#5: She hit me on the head with a stool. It's very painful.
gor gor always to the rescue
The hubs couldn't understand how he could have been so silly to allow Kate to continue hitting him if it was painful.

I figured out what it was.

He was not silly.

He just loved his little sister so much that he could not bear to retaliate.

It was the first time she had done this and he probably did not expect that she could hit with so much force.

I gave him a big hug and told him that of course he was never to hit back, but next time, he should restrain her gently and tell her to stop because it hurts.

I called Kate over and gave her a stern look. Before I could even open my mouth, she quickly said, "Sorry mummy. Sorry gor gor. I love you gor gor."

#5 brightened up and said, "it's ok" and took her to find some toys to play with.

Little sisters.

I can see her walking all over him.


Other discipline tips (which I've learnt after having 5 kids):

Tip #8: What do you do when your 2-year old lies?
Tip #9: When the gramps can't say 'no'
Tip #10: 6 tips to stop tantrums in toddlers


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


Friday, 8 January 2016

No appealing if you miss PSLE cut-off point

During the December holidays, MOE passed a new ruling that secondary schools are not to take in transfer students with PSLE aggregate scores lower than their official cut-off point.

So what exactly does that mean?

Basically, students who did not make it into a school via the Secondary 1 posting exercise need not bother to appeal.

Even those who miss by 1 or 2 points, just too bad. The sorting process is going to be more cut-and-dried.

Photo source: The Straits Times online
As one principal shared with me, this was the best Christmas present ever.

It takes the onus off principals to have to make the very tough decision of letting one student in over another based on arbitrary criteria.

Although it seems like a move backwards towards unrelenting meritocracy, I can see the rationale behind this. Transparency, objectivity, stopping the unnecessary hopping, minimising principals having to justify to pushy parents why another student was offered the place instead of their child.

I remember during #1's time, she missed by 2 points to get into the school of her 1st choice.

During the decision making process, she had studied the book, looked at the various cut-off points, weighed the pros and cons (distance/friends/CCAs/perceived image of the school) and convinced herself that it was the best choice.

Lo and behold, the cut-off point increased by 2 points and she did not make it in.

Experienced friends told me, "Don't worry, go and appeal. Got chance."

I made a trip down early in the morning and easily spotted the "Appeal Box" placed on a table at the entrance of the school, and it was already filled to the brim!

Feeling extremely daunted, I went ahead and asked for the appeal form as my daughter really wished to enter that school. We had to answer questions on her achievements and awards, and not surprisingly, we did not get a call.

#1 was admitted into the school of her 2nd choice. I felt it was an excellent school, but she always had the "what if" thought at the back of her mind.

With #2, her aggregate was lower than #1's even though she had better overall grades.

This time, I was wiser.

The image of the burgeoning appeal box stuck in my mind. As my kids have hardly any awards, I decided to play it safe.

For her 1st choice, we shortlisted a few schools and finally chose a school with a cut-off point a few points below her aggregate.

She got in comfortably even though the cut-off point had increased.

With #3, I was very keen on her following in #2's footsteps as I was impressed by the way her principal helmed the school. Full of heart and very student-centric. It was obvious that they put values above academic paper chase.

Even though her aggregate was barely scrapping the bottom, we decided to try our luck as the siblings were looking forward to being in the same secondary school.

Guess what? The cut-off point rose again and she missed it by 2 points.

This time, I was very disappointed. The hubs said, "Go and appeal. She missed by just 2 points. Say her sister is there too. Valid reason. And next time if they need, let's go and help out."

I stared at him. He thinks we are still living in the old days, kampung spirit and all.

The girls were devastated and I told them we would try to appeal.

When I submitted the form, I was told that it could take anywhere up to the 3rd week of school to get a response while the musical chairs went on.

As the days drew nearer to the start of the year, #3 said that if she does not get a place before school starts, she does not want to transfer anymore. She would be happy to stay put, make new friends and start fresh with everyone else.

I could also tell that the uncertainty was unsettling. To write her names on the books or not. To alter the uniforms to the right length or not. To familiarise herself with the bus route and neighbourhood of which school?

Based on her sporting abilities, she was called in for the try-outs a few days before school started and got accepted immediately via the DSA vacancy with the understanding that she would participate in their niche sport and would not be allowed to transfer to another school for the duration of the 4 years.

As fate would have it, she sustained an eye injury in her first friendly match and is now unfit to continue in her CCA. The twist and turns of life can be stranger than fiction!

So, what now, for #4?

With this new directive, I would have to be more careful in selecting the school of her 1st choice after the PSLE results are out. It would be prudent to give a 2-3 point buffer from the previous year's cut-off point just in case it increases due to demand.

Well, that's just me, being the ultra chill mum that I am.

However, I can already hear the buzz going on.

Last year's batch of parents were literally caught off-guard. They will be sharing their war stories with the next batch of parents and we can expect the latter to take it up one notch.

Now that there is no more room for showcasing their childrens' CCA credentials via appeals nor any arm twisting, what are they to do?

Probably put more pressure on their kids academically as the PSLE aggregate becomes more critical because even 1 point makes a difference whether the child can make it into their school of choice.

The DSA route would also be more fervently pursued since the appeal option has now been choked off.

For the sake of the children I hope that the DSA initiative would be scrapped soon as the impact has become contrary to what was intended, and that our new education minister would push through more details with regards to replacing the PSLE aggregate with grades, as promised by our PM 3 years ago.

I was tempted to do my homework and start asking the parents I see around my neighbourhood to recommend some good schools with values which align with mine, with a more modest cut-off point just in case.

But as I thought about it, I can see that with her abilities, #4 should be able to make it into #3's school if she goes in with a fighting spirit and gives it her all this year.

I have confidence that she will rise to the occasion. Sometimes, our believe in them is the little extra that they need.

To fellow mums with P6s, we are all in this together! It is going to be a year of challenges, excitement, and joy of watching them set targets and strive to achieve them. Jia you!

Based on past experiences with my older 3 kids, here are 6 things I will do for #4 in her PSLE year.

Here are 6 tips to choose a secondary school that is right for your child.


More related posts on school & such.


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



Tuesday, 5 January 2016

School Stories #15: First day mix up!

As it was the first day of school, I made the effort to wake up at 5.30am along with the kids to prepare #4 a lunchbox.

They were all in high spirits and excited to go back to school.

At 5.50am, #4 noticed that #3's schoolbag was still on the chair.

#4: Mum. M forgot her schoolbag!

Me: Quick, run out and pass it to her.

#4: (Running back in.) Their school bus has left!

Me: Hmmm, strange that she would have forgotten her bag. Maybe this is an extra bag she brought down.

(I wasn't too perturbed as #3 is a survival and takes everything in her stride. She wouldn't feel bad borrowing what she needs from friends, and even if she gets scolded by her teachers, it doesn't affect her badly.)

#4 started ruffling through the bag.
new school bags for Christmas
#4: There's a storybook... pencil case... notebook... HER WALLET AND HER PHONE! It's her real bag!

Her tone started to rise. I could tell she was feeling worried for #3 that she had indeed forgotten her bag.

#5: What? M didn't bring her school bag to school! How's that possible? That's just crazy!

And the boy being a boy, dissolved into peals of laughter.

Suddenly, #4 shrieked:

"MUM! MUM! She took my bag! My bag is gone!"

She was almost hysterical. Her bus was arriving any minute.

"I need my bag! My teacher will scold me!"

She is in P6 this year, and the teachers expect them to hand in all their activity books on the first day. And as is usually the case for this important year, lessons start rolling from the get go.

I grabbed my phone and called #2. Both #2 and #3 are in the same secondary school and they take the school bus. I asked her where they were and was relieved that they were still in the vicinity picking up some other students. I told her to inform the bus uncle to wait where he was.

As I was speaking, I grabbed the keys and jumped into the car. I sped over to where they were, and suddenly realised that in my hurry, I didn't take #3's bag along for the exchange!

No choice.

I told #3 to hop into my car and I will have to send her to school.

#3 could still find the humour in the situation and apologised, while relating how she was just commenting to #2 in the dimly lit bus, "Didn't realise my new bag is that big. And it does feel rather heavy." She unzipped it and burst out laughing that she took the wrong bag! Such a chill child.

While rushing back home, it occurred to me that if #4's bus had left, I'll have to ferry the both of them to school. In different directions.

Thank goodness #4 was still waiting for her bus and they quickly swapped bags.

As I drove off, I told #3 to call #2 to see where they were.

Luckily, they were about to emerge from the estate and the bus uncle picked her up before making his way to the expressway.

What a start to 2016.

I hope the rest of the year is not going to be as dramatic as this morning.

Ah well, all's well that ends well!

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?

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