Wednesday, 28 September 2016

PSLE is finally here!

The English paper starts tomorrow. #4's PSLE journey has been quite different from her 3 older sisters. I have a broad strategy for them, which includes private tuition for all subjects to plug the gaps during their primary 6 year.

For #4, she tried a few tutors in the early months of this year, but their teaching style did not suit her so she only had Math and Science tuition and relied on her school teachers. She was cruising along fairly well, and was excited to take her mid-year exams.

However, when she returned to school after the June holidays, her spirits seemed to falter. I think part of it had to do with the rather ridiculous workload and the expectations of her teachers and peers.

As we felt that the amount of work and pressure from school was more than sufficient, we decided to stop tuition altogether, and replaced that time with fun activities to relax.

On hindsight, I find that being in an elite school is not for everyone, because our philosophy can be quite different from the PSLE culture of the school. Some days, she was given 4 mock papers as homework, and struggled to complete them.

Her classmates were discussing which schools they were aiming for, and they were all top schools. When asked, she said she wished to go to her sisters' school, which none of her friends have even heard of!

I was wondering how all these kids are so certain of scoring above 250, and she told me simply, "Mum, they have tuition everyday. Some of them have 2-3 tuition classes per day, and each lesson is 2 or 3 hours."

My dear child on the other hand, is struggling to finish her homework while making time to play with her little sister.

Talk at school constantly revolved around the PSLE as though it was some kind of doomsday, and I think it does become rather depressing and stressful. I find it strange that the focus is on this one exam so much so that the students themselves start to question what education is all about.
Grilled salmon
Since the school was doing too much, I decided my role leading up to the PSLE was nothing of the academic sort, but instead, to provide her with nutritious meals. Not only will it help to give her brain and body the necessary boost, the fact that she saw me put in so much effort everyday to prepare a healthy, balanced and yummy lunch put her in good spirits.

I drew up a special 'exam menu' for her, and the other girls have been coming back for lunch everyday as well, and brought some of their friends home too. How I wish I had more time, and could set up a home kitchen for my kids and their friends.

In fact, the kids commented that my cooking has improved by leaps and bounds!
Prawn & potatoes on a bed of quinoa
My cooking is really random, and I use a variety of grains like quinoa, buckwheat and wild rice as a base, and sprinkle herbs, wheatgerm and soaked chia seeds for a boost of flavours and nutrients.

When they get bored of the same, I jazz things up with something different like savoury crepes. I must have stood over the pan pouring batter and flipping crepes for almost 3 hours as the kids streamed home. It is all worthwhile, seeing the kids tucking in and telling me, "This is really good, mum!"
Chicken and mushroom crepes
For a nutritious snack between papers, I have prepared cheery boxes packed full of dried fruit and nuts. I added in cranberries, apricots, white mulberries, cashew, almond, pistachio and macadamia nuts. Her bff gets a set too!
Snack box
Besides eating well, I am getting her to sleep earlier so that she will be well rested and alert. This time, being the fourth time round, we are at the same time excited yet calm.

To fellow P6 mums, we have done all we could to support our kids. They are probably feeling very anxious right now, so just reassure them. Now is not the time to nag or give them more pressure.

For all P6s who will be taking your first major exam, even though your parents may not say it, they love you very much and are proud of you. Relax, sleep early and enjoy the exams.

All the best!


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!


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

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

How do you respond when your child falls?

Kate's teacher related an incident at school, and commented that she is very brave.

She had accidentally dropped a toy on her toe and it bled.

She winced but did not burst into tears.

Her teacher noticed that whenever she falls, she would just pick herself up, and asked me if that was because she was the 6th child. Tough and resilient.

I think how a child reacts has a lot to do with the way the adults respond.

Kate was a few months old when our helper, Mary, came. Every time she fell, I don't know who shrieked louder. The child or the helper. Sometimes, Mary's loud scream scared her even more than the fall itself. Mary would run over, pick her up and sayang (pacify) her effusively.

I told her not to do that as her response only served to make her cry even louder so that she will be showered with more attention.
Tripped and fell
Thinking back, my mum had an even more ridiculous response when the kids fell and cried.

Once, one of the older kids knocked her head against the side of the table and cried uncontrollably.

When all soothing words failed, my mum tried to distract her by hitting the table loudly saying, "Naughty table! You hurt my little girl." Grandma and toddler ended up hitting the table repeatedly together, scolding it for her mishap.

As that response worked to stop the child from crying, my mum would do that whenever any of them fell and cried. Be it the floor that was naughty, the door, or some poor innocent toy. I can still picture in my mind's eye many a ridiculous scene with grandma and toddler admonishing some inanimate object.

With Kate, I have stopped my mum from doing that and explained that it will teach her to adopt a blaming or victim mentality. I got hurt, it's your fault. Always somebody else's fault.

The hubs, on the other hand, has his own method of dealing with it. He would try to console them for say, 10 seconds, but if they continue to sob, his patience would run out.

"That's enough. You're a big girl/boy. Stop crying. It's just a little cut." And that was that. They would have to get on with it, no matter how much it hurt.

It might stem their crying quite quickly, but it is not very healthy for them emotionally as they will bottle everything inside.

My teens and I were having a good laugh recently when they read something off social media.

When a child falls, the caucasian mum will go, "Honey are you alright?" Followed by hugs and kisses.

A Singaporean mum would scream, "Run la! Run some more!" (rub it in, shall we!)

I've had a lot of practice dealing with their scrapes and scratches, and with Kate, I'm now as cool as a cucumber.

She was running in the mall and fell face forward on the ground. The s-p-l-a-t kind of fall. The adults around her gasped and waited for the wail to follow and the rush of hands to grab her up.

Silence.

For 3 seconds, no one moved.

Kate looked at me, and I gave her my yes, I know you can pick yourself up look.

She got up, dusted herself and came to me for a big hug.

I asked her quietly "Does it hurt?" She nodded, and because her hurt was acknowledged, she didn't need to cry loudly to make it known. "Where is the pain?" She pointed to the few places where she hit the ground.

I kissed her to make it better and she was as good as new.

The adults looked at me and smiled. Seriously. They stood there and watched the whole 'show'.

I guess the bigger lesson for them to learn is that even if in future, they fail or fall, they will be able to pick themselves up.

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

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

When mummy goes to work...

Now that I work most Saturdays, my mum has happily assumed her weekly grandmotherly role of seeing to their lunch and taking them on errand runs.

She checked with me if it was alright to take #4 to get her ears pierced as it had closed a few years ago and they were discussing it recently.

Apparently, the older girls were having an intimate chat with grandma about the distribution of heirlooms.

After I gave my mum the go ahead, she casually asked if it was ok to let Kate pierce her ears if she wanted the same as her sister, as Kate usually tags along where the action is.

That hasn't crossed my mind as the rest of the girls had theirs done in primary school when they were more aware and asked for it themselves.

I was hesitant but my mum pressed on. "You had your ears pierced when you were 4 and Kate is almost 4, so I don't see a problem."

It was one of those conversations where there wasn't a definite conclusion, but I remember telling my mum that in the event that Kate really wanted her ears pierced, they had to let her know what it entailed.

I went off to work and didn't think much about it.

Mid afternoon, I received a text from #2.

Mum! Kate had her ears pierced!!
shiny like a princess
I had the story related to me when I stepped into the house.

Apparently, when they reached the shop, my mum asked Kate if she wanted to have earrings, and being in the phase of wanting to be adorned with sparkly ornaments like a princess, she said yes!!

I would have thought my mum would let the older sibling go first, but obviously, she had an agenda.

Once Kate agreed, she plonked her on the hot seat.

#4 started getting worried and asked her por por, "Are you sure we should be doing this? We need to ask mummy first."

To which my mum confidently answered, "Your mummy has already agreed."

Punch. Kate cried. Like really, really, loudly. That grandpa had to walk away as his poor heart couldn't take her heart wrenching sobs.

And up till that point when I reached home, she did not want anyone to touch any part of her face. Or shoulders. Or even her hair, for fear of it getting entangled with her earrings.

Perfect. Just as I had expected.

After the girls were done relating the whole story, my mum calmly reminded me that I had to clean her ear lobes properly with the antiseptic lotion every morning and night, lest it became affected.

That night, she screamed as I tried to wriggle the cotton bud soaked with stinging antiseptic lotion on her earlobes.

The next morning, she tried in vain to ward me off as I brandished the bottle and cotton bud.

As you can imagine, it became a daily nightmare. Both for her and for me. I really didn't need this.

On the 4th night, Kate was playing with #3 after dinner and when I told her to get ready to shower and prepare for bedtime, she asked if she could shower and sleep with #3.

I was about to say no, but had a much better idea!

I allowed it, and told #3 to clean her earlobes after she showered.

"Sure mum, I will."

I braced myself to hear her cries.

Lo and behold, there was none!

The next night, when I brandished the cotton wool, Kate started crying and screaming. I couldn't make out what she was trying to tell me.

Finally, when she calmed down enough to speak audibly, I heard her desperately yell, "Just drip. Just DRIP!"

"Just drip? Is that what you said?"

"Yes! I said JUST DRIP!"

I tilted her head and dripped the lotion onto her earrings.

"I told you. Just drip!"

"Who taught you that?"

"Jie jie."

I should just relinquish some of my duties to my teens.

Friday came around quickly enough and #3 reminded me that they had to return to the shop for a follow-up the next day.

I called my mum to pass on the reminder to take them for their earlobe check up, and for the first time, I was happy to escape to work.

I wonder what surprises will await me week after week...

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

Friday, 2 September 2016

What makes a good Teacher?

Despite my crazy schedule, teachers' day is always a significant event in our yearly calendar, and I make time to mark this day. Teachers are such a big part of my children's lives, and besides the heartfelt words of thanks throughout the year, this is one day we can formally show our appreciation to these very special people.

The flurry of activity started the day before in our kitchen as #3 and her bff spent the whole afternoon making cake pops. This year, I decided to use a fairly simple chocolate chip recipe to bake cookies for Kate's teachers so that she could do most of the steps with minimal assistance from me.

It was dinnertime by the time the last batch of cookies were done and she packed them into little boxes and used her name stickers to seal them. All set!

In the morning, I taught her to hand the boxes to each of her teachers and she giggled and gave them hugs while wishing them.
I can bake!
After depositing her in school, the hubs and I prepared to go over to #2's school as she was performing a solo item! Unfortunately, before her act, the hubs had to rush off to pick Kate up. That's how it's like when you have too many kids.

We were extremely proud of her for the courage to want to go up on stage to sing on teachers' day. It wouldn't have been possible if the teacher in charge did not back them up, allow them this opportunity, and give them words of encouragement as their nerves took over.

Despite the hurdles of not having rooms approved for her, the pianist and the drummer to practice together, and of being in the middle of prelims, they pressed on and did a good show to wild screams from their peers.

It didn't matter that the singing wasn't spectacular, but such spirit! One seemingly small step of a student going up on stage to sing. But the message was strong. Nothing is impossible. Dare to dream. Have the strength to persevere. I'm sure they will remember this for a long time to come.

And who knows? Many may have been inspired to step out of their comfort zone and rise up to challenges as they leave this school and embark on the next phase of their lives.

As part of the parents' support group, we were invited to the teachers' day celebrations where we showed our appreciation on behalf of all the parents by handing over the gifts we made, and thanking the teachers for their hard work.

Together, we prayed a beautiful prayer for teachers,

(Teachers:)
May our gift of teaching;
Awaken minds to new ideas, and expand hearts beyond boundaries.

May our love of learning;
Lead students to awe and wonder at their participation in our sacred universe.

May our story-telling inspire imagination and creativity;
And our example lead those we teach to be generous and noble.

(Parents:)
May your desire to educate;
Evoke the unique gifts of each student, and the deep desires of each heart

And, as you bless your students on their way;
May you delight at the gift your life offers to the future.

What struck us mummies was that teachers' day celebrations in school are a far cry from what we had in our day.

Students from the media CCA groups came up with video montages and the young teachers gamely posed, danced and lip-synced to the delight of their students.

They also had a fun segment where awards were given out to teachers amidst much cheering, and it was heartwarming to see the camaraderie between the teachers, students, Principal and VPs.

We had a late lunch with their friends before coming back to the other kids.

#4 related an oral practice session they had in class and the topic was "What makes a good teacher?"

Given how much I had been hearing about their teachers piling them with homework prior to the PSLE countdown, I half expected things like, "A good teacher is someone who doesn't scold us" or "Someone who gives us less homework."

However, I was surprised how matured these 12-year olds were.

These were the top 8 traits they listed, ranked in order.

1. Someone who is patient.

2. Someone with the ability to make lessons interesting.

3. Someone who is understanding.

4. Someone who is fair to all.

5. Someone who is approachable.

6. Someone who is helpful.

7. Someone who is kind.

8. (She couldn't recall what the eighth trait was).

My faith has been renewed in children! We tend to think of children collectively as being from a spoilt, 'me-first' generation.

It probably takes a saint to have all of those traits all of the time!

To all teachers, we wish you a very Happy Teachers' Day! Enjoy the long weekend with your family and loved ones. We appreciate the good work that you do, day in day out.

And now that I run an enrichment centre, I have a team of teachers!

Let us never forget the why behind what we are doing, and besides enjoying teaching the easy and teachable kids, when the going gets tough, when the children are challenging, may we remember that it is a calling to be an educator, a responsibility as much as a privilege that we must never take lightly.

And not only is it the job of educators, but we parents are our children's first teachers. I leave you with this prayer, which we ended the teachers' day celebration with:


Enable me to teach with wisdom for I help to shape the mind.
Equip me to teach with truth for I help to shape the conscience.
Encourage me to teach with vision for I help to shape the future.
Empower me to teach with love for I help to shape the world.

HAPPY TEACHERS' DAY!


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