Monday, 25 April 2016

#2's literature assignment

#2 was chatting with me about a Literature assignment which she did well in, and I was surprised to see how progressive the curriculum is.

Fan-fic?

They sure are keeping up with the times!

The students were asked to write a fan fiction based on their reading material "Cry, the Beloved Country" by Alan Paton, a teacher who went on to become the first president of the Liberal Party of South Africa in 1953.


Fan fiction is a work of fiction written by fans for other fans, taking a source text or a prominent character as a point of departure.

Scope:

Fan fiction takes a lot of forms and does a lot of different things. Some fan fiction seeks to close loopholes in a source text or to explore character motivations. Some fan fiction turns minor characters into protagonists of their own stories, or uses minor characters' eyes to see a different perspective on the major characters.

Assessment criteria:
  • Your story must be unique and original.
  • Your story must illustrate some form of purpose e.g. explore an issue.
Cry, the Beloved Country
The following is what she wrote, which I thought was pretty excellent!

Absalom,

We have come far. The rally at Alexandra was a success. Soon, we will have higher wages, better hours, a greater step towards justice. It all lies with the scripts now. Jarvis will have them ready tomorrow at 9am in Parkwoods. Do me proud.


John Kumalo.


.

Absalom stood over the plantation, the racing pulse in his right temple visible just below the tiny droplets of sweat beading up across his forehead. He had the letter clenched tightly in his left hand; it was the last of the many he'd received from his uncle over the years, yet was far from what predominated his mind. Of greater importance was the revolver he gripped in his other hand and the two empty spaces in its chamber that had been occupied less than an hour ago.

He dropped to his knees and started to dig, the butt of the weapon the shovel for its own grave. Ironic, but absolutely fitting, considering the entire incident had made him feel like doing something just so.

The ordeal had begun the morning of the letter. As dictated by John's neatly inked instructions, with his partners, Matthew and Johannes, he was to meet Arthur Jarvis under the large Oak tree in Jarvis' yard to receive the script for John's final rally. He thought nothing of the task; bearing the secrets upon which the cause was precariously balanced had become a normality for them.

He blamed himself now for his blitheness. He should have noticed something had been amiss from Johannes' devious eyes, the weapons he'd carried in a dark, lumpy sack over his shoulder, the too-lithe spring in his step as he walked. Johannes was only ever happy when he was in power, and power was something Absalom knew to fear.

They had been passing through the street next to the one of Jarvis' residence, an hour early for their rendezvous, when Absalom finally built up the courage to inquire into the revolver Johannes held. The older boy had smiled secretively and reassured, "It is for safety."

"And the bar?" Absalom questioned, looking to the thick iron rod Matthew was armed with, with what was almost nerves, for it was clear whom the superior of the trio was.

Johannes answered for Matthew as they entered Jarvis' yard through an unlocked gate left slightly ajar for them. "It has been blessed." His humorless tone and stony eyes told Absalom he had the last word.

Absalom had uneasily accepted his answers as the truth, but nothing could have prepared him for the next moments to come. In a spiraling whirlwind of macabre events, he was made to watch in horror as Matthew knocked an inquiring servant unconscious and Johannes shot Jarvis when he came down the stairs. The image of the fear on the white man's face a split second before he was murdered haunted Absalom as the revolver was thrust into his shaking hands and he was told to run and meet them in Alexandra in six hours. So he had.

He stood now, surveying his work, his breathing rapid and guilt overwhelming him. His mind sped to trace back to how it all started, how all his little desires had manifested into one big pandemonium in which he was kept prisoner. From the letters his uncle had sent him from Johannesburg throughout his teenage years, detailing the racism and the protests against discrimination which had developed in the big city, he'd grown up exposed and wanting to make a difference in the lives of his people. He'd jumped at the chance of leaving Ndotsheni when the need to find Gertrude arose. His uncle needed someone he could trust to hold goods and run secret errands, and that responsibility soon came to rest on Matthew's, Johannes', and his own shoulders.

He shook his head at himself; he had been so naive. John's letters had depicted their team as genuine, uncorrupted. They were the higher power with the bull voice and the intelligent brain and the pure heart. They were unstoppable. Or so John had said.

Like he had, the natives bought into their act like it was truth itself. They respected John especially, for he was the voice and the face of the movement. What would they do if they discovered that all of John Kumalo's incredible speeches had been written by a white man, none other than Arthur Jarvis himself?

But as it was to his younger self, Absalom could not blame them for their blind innocence. Beggars could not be choosers, and they had known nothing but empty bellies and broken minds all their lives.

Absalom began the trek out of the plantation slowly. He knew what was waiting for him in Alexandra and was in no hurry to face it. The many similar meetings he'd been to had painted an image in his mind; he could picture the masses of people under Johannes' leadership that would be gathered in one of the dirty fields out in the countryside, could almost feel the vibration of stomping feet beneath him, almost hear the chanting cries of youths begging for the overthrow of John and Dubula's names at the top of the cause against racial discrimination. As if they knew better.

They, under Johannes' and Matthew's guide, would talk about fear and power. The fear of power, and the power of fear, and fear and power as its own. Absalom had to agree that the fear of power was very real, to himself more than others. He feared the white man's power, and his own power to do harm and, most of all, Johannes' immense power to ruin lives, for certainly his poorly thought out strategies to achieve his so-called 'equalized revolution' through violence and pure force would cause just that.

Absalom's steps slowed. John's twisted portrayal of his team had been a disappointment, but no doubt were they doing something great for the natives of Johannesburg. Principally, never once had he heard John or Dubula say a thing about equality or violence. Higher wages, better hours, a greater step towards justice, had been John's exact words. Equality through violence? He could almost hear John laughing at the absurdity of the idea. Impracticality was a worse trait for a leader to have than empty boldness.

Yet, in spite of his irrationality, today Johannes had shown he was to be taken seriously. Today he had silenced the real voice of the movement. Today he might have just destroyed John's chance to succeed.

With this change of thought, Absalom began running, this time towards the vague location of the police station in town that he'd crossed maybe once or twice before. A plan was forming in his mind; he had been given the opportunity to help his people beyond anything he'd ever imagined and was willing to sacrifice himself for it. They would suffer under Johannes' ridiculous schemes to create what he thought to be equality for them all, and Absalom could only hope that turning himself in for the fatal crime they'd committed together would bring the leaders of the new aggressive resistance down with him.

He could only pray that John's team would be able to rise above Jarvis' death and suppress the wild schemes Johannes had left in his wake. Perhaps after he had accompanied Johannes and Matthew to Pretoria, Johannesburg would see a new justice for the natives, after their long fight against white supremacy.

For what better way to fight power, but with more power?


__________

#2 does have a bit of a flair for writing fiction, doesn't she? But then again, most mums are biased ;)



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

Thursday, 21 April 2016

Atlas coffeehouse @ Bukit Timah

I've been wanting to check out Atlas coffeehouse for breakfast as I heard that it is opened by the same people behind Assembly, which has since closed its doors.

Several friends who had gone mentioned that the standard of the food was rather disappointing.

However, it's just one of those places which seems to beckon when you are looking for a good breakfast early in the morning.

So try, we did.
The ATLAS Super-Bowl $18
I opted for a healthy dish as my girls and I are on a mini "pre-detox" diet of eating more greens and avoiding processed foods, and it turned out way better than I had expected.

I have to admit that I usually zoom in on the full works with bacon or sausages, but this bowl of Oven-roasted Squash, Zucchini and Shimeiji mushrooms with Peanut sesame pulled chicken was delicious.

And the toasted quinoa had a much nicer bite than my sad, soggy boiled quinoa which my kids refuse to eat anymore.
Salmon Soba Noodles $18
The poached salmon went well with the home-made yoghurt dressing and this noodle dish was healthy and hearty too.
Pot of tea
Nice little touch serving the pot of tea on a slab of stone.

I don't know if it was because we were hungry or because we went with no expectations, but we were pretty impressed with the food.

When we left at noon, the place was packed, even though it was a weekday.

Another cafe to add to our breakfast list!
Atlas Coffeehouse

Atlas Coffeehouse

6 Duke Road
Singapore 268886

Tel: 63142674

Opening hours:
8am - 7pm
Closed on Mondays


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

Sunday, 17 April 2016

School Stories #17: No more T-score. Now what?

After waiting almost 3 years for more details, MOE has finally released some information pertaining to doing away with the PSLE aggregate score.

During his 2013 National Day Rally speech, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced that the PSLE T-score will be replaced with wider scoring bands, like the O and A level exams, in a bid to reduce stress levels by not sorting the students so finely.

Now we have a date. 2021.

The first batch of pupils to be affected will be this year's Primary 1 cohort.

Parents with children from P2 to P6 can heave a sigh of relief at finally getting an answer, and continue with their current strategies.

In the meantime, the other parents are second-guessing what is in store as more information will only be released in the coming months.

The big question being, how is MOE going to address the issue of allocating places into secondary schools when they will clearly get many students with similar grades vying for that last spot.

Already, super kiasu parents have been pre-empting the announcements and are padding their children's resumes in the event that non-academic achievements can be used as the tie-breaker.

This would be an unfortunate scenario, as instead of alleviating the current high stress levels, it will add even more stress to the children as parents push them to achieve in these other areas as well.

Furthermore, it will widen the gap between the haves and have-nots as wealthy parents have more money and time at their disposal to ferry their kids to the best enrichment classes around, some who can even "guarantee" good portfolios.

Worse, I hope that we will never see a day when parents drive their kids even harder to attain the next band up, instead of just the next point up.
The GREY HANDBOOK
What are the changes?

So far, I'm in agreement with everything that has been announced.

- that "the new system will no longer depend on how pupils do relative to each other", as has been with the T-score.

Strange that this system has gone unquestioned for so long. If I scored an A, it shows I have a good grasp of the material, and I'm satisfied with the effort I put in. Not only will it beget contentment and equanimity, but is a healthier mentality than thinking, "I have to score an A* to beat the others."

- that it will only be implemented in 2021 as the ministry needs a "few years to work through the changes carefully, developing and testing the new exam and secondary school posting systems".

Such a major overhaul is going to throw up unforeseen challenges and ample time is needed to consider how the herd will respond, so that unintended consequences can be carefully smoothened out to ensure this change is indeed for the better.

- that "a five-day OBS (Outward Bound Singapore) expedition-based camp will be compulsory for all Sec 3 students from 2020".

Brilliant. I have always believed that the outdoors is a terrific teacher, in more ways than one. More opportunities to spend time in the great outdoors is necessary especially in this age where our kids are so sheltered and spend way too much time indoors, and on their gadgets.

- that "more will be done to match students' interests with their course of study" and "up to 12.5% of the polytechnic intake, starting from next year's cohort, will be admitted via the new Early Admissions Exercise (EAE)". "The EAE will assess students' suitability for admission on the basis of their aptitude, talents and interests in the courses they are applying for. This could include interviews, aptitude tests and portfolios".

Tertiary education admission is an important part of the whole equation, as parents would be reassured of the chances of their children entering their chosen fields, and has to be carefully administrated.

All good changes in the right direction. But how does that solve the problem of the high stress levels and parents' unrelenting chase for sought-after-schools?

Nothing will change if mindsets don't change.

It baffles me how on one hand, parents are waiting with bated breath to see what alternatives the MOE will come up with, yet whenever new policies are introduced, they will try to find ways to maximise their child's chances and look for loopholes to squeeze their children into schools which they perceive as 'good'.

There will always be a tier of parents who are aiming for the creme de la creme list, believing that the elite schools and the benefits that come with them will outweigh any cost or sacrifice, whether on their part or their child's.

So be it.

However, for the great proportion of parents who wish there was a better way, a way where they can walk away from this academic arms race, yet not short-change their children, here's what can be done.

Make the majority of schools desirable to the majority of students and parents, to spread out the demand.

What do I mean?

Let's just pretend that this year, #4 were to score 250 for her PSLE. I would strongly encourage her to go to the same school as her 2 older sisters even though the cut-off point is 230.

I have witnessed first-hand how the school has shaped #2 over the past 4 years, and as a Parents' Support Group volunteer (aka opportunity to watch her interact with her peers, have informal chats with her teachers and even her Principal), I have journeyed with her closely to know that she has imbibed much more than academic knowledge.

From their specialised Learning for Life programme which every student went through from Sec 1 to Sec 4, to the vast number of leadership opportunities to nurture them, the dedication of so many caring teachers (which I can write a whole post on) and the "looking-out-for-one another" culture amongst them, I have been converted to a loyal supporter of their school.

The branding and identity of each school has to be that strong.

This entails a two-pronged approach.

The first aspect would be for every school to have a specialised programme which benefits every single one of their students, not just a select few, and the second but equally important part, is to market these programmes well to both the students and parents.

And guess what?

All our secondary schools already have these wonderful unique programmes running!

Surprised?

Here's what else our Acting Education Minister Mr Ng Chee Meng announced recently:

"(The next few years) will give parents and pupils the chance to understand and adjust to the new system. In the process, secondary schools will develop strengths and specialised programmes. This will allow students to choose a school that is a good fit for them"

In 2013, then Education Minister Heng Swee Keat said that all secondary schools will offer two distinctive programmes by 2017 to develop students beyond academics.

One is an applied learning programme to help students see the relevance of what they learn and the second, a "learning for life" programme to develop character and skills such as teamwork through activities like a school expedition.

The problem is, not many parents are aware of these programmes.

I still remember the process I went through with #1 and #2 when we had to pick 6 schools after the PSLE results were out.

We took out THE GREY HANDBOOK which listed all the secondary schools alphabetically.

As with many parents, the order to select a school went more or less like this:

1) Brand name (Let's just see.. WOAH!)

2) Cut-off point (We'll flip around and highlight those that are close)

3) Distance (Narrow down the search of eligible schools by distance)

4) CCAs (Check that the shortlisted schools have CCAs he/she intends to join)

5) Details of programmes (Read about the specialised programmes and awards. With 165 pages of details of schools, we were overwhelmed and read only those we shortlisted)

6) Friends (All the better if possible to be in the same school)

We visited the various open houses and surfed the websites of the schools we were keen on. Problem was, we didn't know exactly what we were supposed to be looking for.

I casually interviewed the neighbours in my condo with secondary school going children and most of them gave me vague answers such as, "The school is not bad. The Principal is quite nice. The teachers seem ok. The friends so far also ok."

Not once did anyone mention, much less rave about any outstanding programme they knew about. Yet their own kids were studying in the school!

One neighbour did mention that her son's school has a rock climbing wall. "Since your kids like to do rock climbing, they can consider this school."

Come to think of it, I do not even know what specialised programme #1's school had and she has already graduated!

Perhaps MOE needs a better marketing communications team.

Enough of "Every school a good school."

It's like saying "Every parent a good parent".

Don't we expect every parent to be a good parent?

We need to face the fact squarely that every school is not the same, just as every student and every household is not the same.

The message should be more along the lines of Every school has a unique programme. Which one fits your child?

While writing this post, it dawned on me that if #2's school has such a wonderful programme, all the other schools must have one too!

I started pouring over the tiny print in THE GREY BOOKLET and lo and behold, I am intrigued.

What sort of specialised programmes are we talking about?

If you look under the innocuous heading of "Special Student Development Programmes" in THE GREY HANDBOOK, you will see that they run the gamut from Social Entrepreneurship training, to Eco-sustainability, Robotics and Engineering, Effective communication/public speaking, Business & enterprise/Essentials of Marketing, Leadership with service to the community and even applied learning through Aerospace!

I had actually gone through the handbook twice, once with #1 and again when #2 had a different aggregate score from her sister, yet none of these remarkable programs caught my attention.

There is a lot of information and jargon to sieve through and it is easy to get overwhelmed.
Specialised programmes
We were given 7 days to make our selection of 6 schools and as a result, we defaulted to the more easily defined match of cut-off points, potentially missing out on wonderful opportunities to discover other schools which may have been a better fit.

Then there are the niche programmes.

All schools have been building up their niche programmes, be it in sports, science or the arts.

That's an excellent way not only to distinguish themselves, but to pool resources and groom our youngsters who show aptitude and interest in a variety of arenas.

However, say I live in the East. Would it be practical for my child to travel all the way to the West for a niche sport?

It has been physically and mentally draining for my 3 older kids as training in their niche activity took up 3 days per week. One mistake I made was not factoring in peak hour traffic.

For #1, it took her 20 minutes to get to school by bus, but an hour to get home because during peak hour traffic, the buses were full and did not stop. By the time she got home it was 7.30pm, which left her hardly enough time to finish her homework and get to bed at a decent hour.

The more realistic scenario would be to look at the schools in the vicinity of our homes, consider their cut-off points and keep in mind the niche areas.

If there is no good fit, that's where the level-wide Learning for Life programmes would come in to distinguish one school from another.

Branding Every school

For many years, I've seen a strange phenomena going on in my older children's previous primary school.

It is a popular school with frantic volunteering and balloting as it is consistently in the top 10 ranking.

However, after a few years of having their child in the school, the parents are wondering what all the hype is about, and can see no significant advantage the school has to offer. And the most dismal realisation is that the stellar results were achieved via excessive tuition.

How's that for successful branding?

I still remember vividly an article about a school which allowed their entrepreneur club students to run the drinks stall in the school canteen. I don't remember the details as it was many years ago but it stuck in my mind.

Parents need to hear about exciting events and experiences that go on in the schools and the media can play its part.

How will we know we have succeeded?

We need a paradigm shift from the prevailing method of choosing a secondary school to this scenario:

Mum: These 10 schools (with a various range of cut-off points) have niche activities or specialised programmes that you would like to pursue, and ethos which our family aligns with. Instead of spending 6 hours a week on tuition for several subjects, let's allocate 2 hours for tuition on your weak subject and spend the rest of your time on family activities or other pursuits.

Another way to look at it is if the child is very talented in a particular field and sets his sights on a certain school with that niche area, it would be a great motivator for him/her to work hard to achieve the necessary grades.
Hard to study all 165 schools' information

Time to update the way THE GREY HANDBOOK presents the information.


Now that our secondary schools are rolling out interesting and successful programmes, it is time to make the information easily digestible by parents.

I had the misguided impression that the "Special Student Development Programmes Offered" paragraph was simply acclaiming their school's merit, with jargon like highly effective programme, balanced academic curriculum, and various mentions of awards, that I gave it a cursory glance.

The way the information is presented seems to be at the discretion of the schools, and for some, it was not clear if the programmes / overseas trips mentioned were for the whole cohort or a select few.


It would be immensely helpful if parents could have a separate summary booklet of all the schools' unique programs, in a consistent format. And after shortlisting the schools, they can refer to the handbook and the websites for more information.

A cheat sheet like this would be useful (the following information was randomly lifted from the grey handbook).

Nearest MRT: Ang Mo Kio

Type of school: Co-ed / SAP / IP

Mother Tongue: Chinese / Malay / Tamil

Learning for Life programme: (For All students) Design Thinking

Aims: To prepare students for the complexities and challenges faced in this digital age of social and economic revolution and innovation.

Sec 1: Integrated learning journey with holistic learning experiences

Sec 2: Leadership camp

Sec 3: Overseas adventure camp

Sec 4: Whole school youth carnival cum learning fiesta

Programme for selected students based on aptitude: Design Thinking focusing on Health Sciences and Technology, in partnership with Science Centre Singapore.

Niche area: Hip hop dance (I'm simply picking one CCA out from their list, as it is neither listed in the grey handbook nor on their website or I'm just not enough of a sleuth.)

Special mention: The students' work in designing and making rehabilitation equipment for real-life nations with wrist injuries, has been showcased at MOE ExCEL Feast 2013 and the PS21 Convention 2013.

Many parents hold the mindset that academic comes first, and all else is secondary. However, I can see how these concurrent programmes actually help to motivate them in their studies, and give them vital skills which would not only serve them well in the school setting but more importantly, laying a strong foundation for them as they move on to tertiary education and beyond.

If you ask any child, they will likely tell you that the fondest memories they hold of their secondary school life are the school camps, overseas trips, or organising of events with their friends.

Why wait till Primary 6 to hand out such important information about the  secondary schools and what they offer?

This information should be made available to parents much earlier. Or at least an abridged version.

Parents can then watch out for the budding interests in their children over the years, perhaps join some CCAs in primary school or externally to see if their interest is sustained, and start to make their plans accordingly.

If more details can be provided about what the secondary schools have to offer, parents can make a more informed decision as to which school would best fit their child instead of solely relying on brand names to equate with quality education.

With more parents loosening up and not joining in the fray to enter the perceived 'good' schools, whatever new system that will be implemented to sort the pupils by a wider band will have a chance of success at what it aims to do: reduce the stress of this high stakes exam.

A simple analogy.

Instead of trying to use genetic modification to make all fruits look like apples (or durians, the King of fruits), shouldn't we embrace the fact that together, the different fruits make a dynamic fruit basket bursting with colour?

Changes are happening very rapidly and our children will be facing challenges which they have to rise up to and conquer.

Are they prepared?

As a nation, do we want to be shackled by the single-minded pursuit of chasing that last mark as can be seen by the billion dollar tuition industry?

The next few years will be extremely interesting, to see how parents react to the new measures and if there will indeed be a shift in mindset.

Oh well, we will have no part in this academic arms race and go on our merry way as we have always done.

The good news is, now I know what to look for, and the secondary school landscape is looking much brighter for #5 and Kate. I'm going to study THE GREY HANDBOOK to mark off some suitable schools for my son!

Related posts:

When this announcement was made in 2013, I wrote a post "So who's smarter". By a policy shift, #2 who scored 3As and 1A* would be deemed smarter than #1 who scored 4As, although #1 had an aggregate 10 points higher. Much food for thought, isn't it?



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

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



Friday, 1 April 2016

A week in the life of a Blogging Mum

When people hear that I have 6 kids, they want to know how I manage.

I've heard that question so many times that I simply smile.

They look at me expectantly, almost demanding an answer, like "Tell me the secret, now!"

I ask them to read my blog because, where do I begin?

"You still have time to blog?!" comes the incredulous reply.

"Yes, and I am also working on 2 start-up businesses!" My excitement can hardly be concealed.

That is when they give me a look of utter incomprehension.

3 years ago, I gave birth to my youngest child, Kate, after a break of 6 years.

Close friends were joking that they can't imagine what it is like to raise so many kids, having to start all over again, and the financial obligations we were putting ourselves through.

They suggested that since people are always coming to me for advice on parenting, I should start a blog and put it all down without needing to repeat myself.

They enticed me into the world of blogging by saying, "Bloggers get a lot of free things! Who knows, you may be sponsored diapers and milk powder."

That was how I became a mummy blogger, and for the record, we still haven't been sponsored diapers nor milk powder, although the journey has been nothing short of amazing.

The community of blogging mothers I have met, the people I have interviewed for my {101 Paths to Success} series, being on TV and radio, giving talks, being invited to pen a chapter in a parenting book and of course not forgetting the exclusive events we get to attend!
Our slightly large family
Last year when Kate started preschool, I finally had freedom after devoting 17 years of my life to my kids.

Having not had a 'proper' job for that long, I prayed that opportunities would open up and I might find meaningful work which I would enjoy doing.

Things couldn't have turned out better and I met people whom I connected with immediately, bringing synergy to ideas we had individually.

I am in the midst of setting up an enrichment centre with a speech pathologist. In all my years, I have never seen an approach like hers.

With my background as an occupational therapist, one main concern I always have is that the programme must be developmentally sound for the child.

Readers who have been following my blog would know that I don't subscribe to the drilling-and-pumping-kids-with-more-tuition path, but believe in the acquisition of fundamental skills and real learning that stays with them.

In her work with children over the past decade, she has successfully crafted a curriculum to bridge our educational gaps and we are so excited to share that with other children and impact the way they learn.

I have also been roped in as Editor for a crowd-funding social enterprise start-up which hopes to rally and inspire the community one story and one campaign at a time.

After hanging around little people for so many years, it is refreshing to sit with adults and brainstorm new and creative ideas, and have the time to actually work on them.
Cosy catch-ups at home
Even though I have taken on paid jobs, my priority is still the children and I work everything around them.

This is what a typical day looks like for me.

#1 is in a polytechnic and runs on her own schedule. The subsequent 4 kids are in primary and secondary school and they get themselves ready to board their respective school buses at 6am.

Kate wakes up automatically at 7am and gives me a peck on the cheek as my cue to get up and start the day with her.

She goes off to school at 8.30am which leaves me with 4 hours to do as I please.

My precious mornings. My mornings are all specifically allocated. I find that working on a strict routine helps me to be more productive.

Mondays are reserved for meetings for my enrichment centre, Tuesdays for the social enterprise, mid-week is Yin yoga with a group of mummies, Thursdays are for breakfast with the hubs, and Fridays are for catching up with other mummy friends.

These regular gatherings with other mummies help to keep me sane as we discuss issues our kids are facing and give one another support. That is also where I get inspiration for my blogging!

In a week, I usually get 2 mornings free when the hubs is away or when a meeting is cancelled and that is allocated to working on my enrichment centre or social enterprise.

12.30pm Already? I run off to pick Kate and my niece up from school.

Kate has lunch with her cousin who lives right next door (yup, the convenience is unbelievable) and that buys me time to prepare lunch for the other kids.

I try to accede to their requests and cook their favourite food as usually only 2 or 3 come back for lunch each day. Some days, everyone is back only at 4pm and that gives me 3 extra hours to work on the computer.
Best pals
2pm #4 and #5 come back on the school bus if they have no CCAs or supplementary classes and I make it a point to be home for them everyday after school as that is the best time to chat as they unload the events of the day.

Meanwhile, Kate is shooed off to shower and the hubs will settle her for her nap.

She is at the age of resisting her naps and daddy is way more successful than I am in managing that. His bait? 15 minutes of TV followed by "just a small nap".

Some days, #2 or #3 might bring their classmates or CCA mates home and will let me know a day in advance so I can prepare something special for them, usually Tacos or Mac & cheese bake.

I enjoy sitting down and chatting with the teenagers, to get a sense of what is happening in their world. These chats give me new perspectives and also spark new ideas for my posts.
Simple lunch
Kate usually has a 1 - 2 hour nap and if the older girls have friends over, I get a break as they love to entertain her when she wakes up.

The smartest thing I have done was to set up my work station in the living room so that when I get pockets of free time with no one needing me, I can work on my blog, creating content or writing reviews.

After lunch, the older kids will retreat to their rooms to tackle their homework, while I get one-on-one time with my youngest.

I either arrange a playdate for her at home, at a friend's house, or we simply paint or do craft together, followed by playground time.

On Friday afternoons, I take her to church where she attends faith formation class while I volunteer as a cathechist. The quiet, spirit-filled environment not only grounds her, but is a weekly reminder for me to slow things down.
Faith formation session
Everyone sits down for dinner at 6pm, except for those not back from CCA.

7pm Time to wind down. I get #5 to shower and into bed and he falls asleep within 15 minutes as he is totally exhausted from waking up at 5.30am to catch the school bus.

I used to get both Kate and her gor gor to prepare for bed together, but they would end up laughing and playing for the next 1 hour which drove me up the wall.

It's one of those parenting mysteries why kids seem to get along the best just before bedtime, while they can't even get through 30 minutes without squabbling during the day.

My strategy is to stagger their bedtime and conquer them one by one.

1 down, 5 to go.

I fly through the corridors, doing a quick check to see that all mobile phones are at the charging docks and pop into the teenagers' rooms (for those who were back late) to ask if there are any urgent issues, signing of forms, which require my attention.

The hubs will keep an eye on the Sec 2 and Sec 4 girls to ensure they are in bed by 10pm.

I get Kate into the room and do some simple tidying while she goes through her very prolonged bedtime routine of pyjamas, brushing teeth, putting oils for bruises or bites, arranging bears and doggies under the blanket, story time, prayers, and hugs and kisses, before finally turning the lights out.

I lie with her, and usually end up falling asleep as well.

I struggled with this sort of haywire sleeping pattern for the longest time, sometimes being jolted awake at 1am to continue the day's unfinished work.

However, my yoga instructor told us that according to the TCM body clock system, it is healthy to go to bed early, at around 9pm, as that is the optimal time for our bodies to detoxify and rejuvenate.

Now, I sleep a good uninterrupted 7 hours of sleep and when my body is rested I automatically wake up, and if the clock shows that it is 3 or 4am, I jump for joy!

I make myself a hot mug of milo, get organised by writing my list (ok, I have not 1, but 3 to-do lists) and settle down to joyfully tackle the items one at a time.

It's unbelievable how 17 years of motherhood has changed my perception of bliss.

Working on the computer in the dead of night without anyone interrupting my thoughts is something I look forward to. And ticking off those to-do lists one by one... Ah!

That is on a good day.
Silent nights...
On a crazy day...

While I am trying to get ready, Kate decides to get cranky.

Much whining and tears later, I drop her at school and head off for a 9am meeting. The day has barely started and I'm already feeling drained.

Thank goodness we decided to have our discussion over a proper breakfast instead of eating on the run.

Serious multi-tasking. As #1 is on term break, I take her along as she is studying a relevant course and I like to make learning alive for my kids as much as possible. Her schedule is very tight with school and part-time work, so this is another way of squeezing time in with her.

Besides, I love to try new cafes so that I can share them on my blog with fellow mums who are also looking for early breakfast places.
Casual business meetings
Our meetings are very energising and lots of new ideas are thrown up. We have to wrap it up by 12 noon so I can go and pick Kate up.

We get home and I am all prepared to make a nice lunch for the kids.

Somedays, I start with grand plans to make a fantastic meal, but the cooking just goes downhill.

I am stationed in the kitchen for hours as they stream in every half hour or so, but somehow the starving kids are grumpy because they were expecting something nice for lunch but have to eat what they term "Mummy's sometimes yucky food."

(Yes, improving my culinary skills is on my bucket list.)

That really gets to me.

You know those days?

The ones where you have envisioned something nice for your family, tried your best, but the results are disappointing and you just want to throw in the towel and head upstairs for a good soak in the bathtub or a good sleep to escape from it all.

As if it couldn't get any worse, Kate is getting really whiny and going on and on like a broken record saying, "But nap is so hard."

Some days, I have more patience but on other days, I would be yelling at her by now.

The hubs is away and I have no energy to deal with it. Our helper takes her upstairs kicking and screaming while I try to regain my sanity.

Deep breath.

I make myself a hot cup of tea and guess what do I do to relax?

I blog.

Yup, it de-stresses me and I am calm once more.

Kate wakes up all too soon and insists on a cookie baking session, for her "picnic".
An assortment of cookies
I am always for hands-on learning and try not to turn them down. Afterall, there is so much math concepts and fine motor skills going on there. And who can resist the smell of freshly baked cookies?

Halfway through, I have to head out to pick #5 after his CCA.

My brain is constantly buzzing like that. What day? What time? Who? Where? When? Someone I need to pick? Everyone accounted for?

Thank goodness I have a trusty wall calendar with 6 slots and that has been my life-saver for the past few years. Everything goes there and I never miss any event or activity. Well, except for the one tiny time when I forgot to pick my son up from school...

I rope #3 in to carry on supervising Kate.

Uh-oh. Looks like somebody got flour in her eye.

It's only 4.30pm? I can't believe only half a day has gone by. The cookies are in the oven, and Kate starts preparing her picnic. She wipes the table, fills up the tumbler with water and lays everything nicely.

We bought this adorable little set from Tupperware and the little one has been setting up her picnic every day for the past 2 weeks and 'forcing' everyone in sight to sit and join her.

Her picnic is over as quickly as it started, and Kate starts wringing her hands asking, "What do I do now? You tell me?"

#5, ever ready for some action, declares that he has no homework.

Like a movie, at this point in time, #4 trots down the stairs on cue, announcing to anyone who bothers to listen that all her homework is done, done, done!
Kate's picnic
Suddenly someone shouts, "Let's go swimming!" Followed by a chorus of "Woohoo! Swimming!"

Before I can utter a word, Kate runs to our helper and tells her, "Auntie Mary, quick get my costume! We are going swimming!"

And just like that, the agenda is sealed.

Again, I am ever an advocate for fresh air and physical activity, especially after a long day of school.

I give instructions to our helper to push dinner back by half an hour and off to the pool we go for some splashing fun.

While the older kids take care of Kate in the pool, I take out my notepad and scribble down ideas for work. The outdoors is always a great place for me to think and come up with fresh perspectives.

We get home and everyone has a quick shower, which leaves me with 10 minutes to sit with them for dinner as I have another meeting to attend.

Before I head out for our parents' support group meeting in my girls' school, I put the older girls in charge and remind them to get the younger ones in bed at the right time.
Evenings at home
Everything under control. It is always heartening to see the kids rise to the occasion if you give them the responsibility and trust that they will do a good job. No fights between them and no calls to me!

I reach home at 10pm and check in on the kids, and see the 5 of them asleep, huddled together all in 1 room.

I pause at the doorway.

It's simple things like that which gives me a deep sense of contentment.

The hubs is away and I stay up to wait for #1 to come back from her waitressing job.
The house is quiet and I love this special time all to myself.

It might sound strange, but I reflect and sieve through the day's events by blogging.

It's cathartic.

I usually get carried away and continue to put in 2 or 3 hours of work and have to remind myself to call it a night.
Stand-Up Paddling
Unhurried Weekends. Gone are the days when I try to squeeze too many activities into our weekends.

Now that the kids are older, their school week is very hectic and they need the weekend to rest, recharge and decompress.

Blogging events mean family time. I have come to love media invites and sponsored activities simply because with the fixed dates, everyone is booked in advance and we get to spend time doing unforgettable things like Stand-Up Paddling or having a good meal with fantastic views.

As the events are usually exclusive or something i wouldn't normally pay for, even the older kids are keen to join in, like the recent Disney on Ice show where we were given VIP tickets.

Our weekends are rather disorganised as it is hard to get everyone free at the same time.

One way we try to make things work is to get creative with how we can fit our activities in.

For example, Kate had a birthday party to attend in the evening, so we cycled together, with the treat of getting frozen yoghurt to entice the older kids, and Kate and I attended the party while the rest cycled home.

Extended family support. My folks come over every weekend and while Kate is occupied with her baby cousin and grandma, I have time to plan the week, settle the bills or just relax.

Grandpa is on hand to ferry them to their classes or to send them to run their errands.

Every Sunday morning, I look forward to going to church as that is where I draw strength from, and we would visit the homebound in our community after church.

With our weekends free and easy, I have time to nip out with the kids individually or in pairs to spend time with them doing simple things like shopping for their friend's birthday present, while the hubs whips up delicious meals.
Jacob Ballas Garden
The paradox is that the more I work on things I am passionate about, the more energised and alive I feel, and that's the engine that keeps me going.

One thing's for sure, there's never a dull moment around here!



This post is part of a blog train hosted by Singapore Parent Bloggers and everyday throughout the month of April, you will get to peek into the life of a mummy or daddy blogger.

Next up is Diana Ruth, a wonderful mum of 4 who blogs at Mum Craft. Hop over and see what a typical week looks like for her.

Related posts:

Here's what a day in the life of a stay-at-home-mum looks like on a typical school day in our household.


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

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