Thursday, 30 March 2017

How I am preparing Kate to do school

Right from my eldest child, I've always believed in real learning, not just drilling them with content or making them good test-takers. I've come a long way in envisioning something beyond what our schools can offer and am now able to give kids that headstart at my enrichment centre.

Having Kate go through our programme, my insight into kids and learning has risen a notch! It is amazing how every child has different strengths and giftedness yet even the bright ones have their own unique learning issues.

In Janaury, Kate had The Executive Assessment (TEA) done and I expected her to score well as she speaks fluently and seems smart enough. However, I was surprised that her TEA score was 10 out of 21, and it was an eye-opener to discover her weak areas.
The Executive Assessment
I have sat through countless parent-teacher meetings with my 5 older kids but have never received a holistic assessment of their learning. In pre-school, feedback was usually about whether they were well-behaved (my 4 girls) or mischevious but creative (my son), and I would be updated about their reading and writing progress. In primary school, the focus would shift to their grades, on matters such as if homework was handed in on time and about their general behaviour.

On several occassions, teachers tell me, "Your child is smart, but if he can focus better/be more motivated, he will be able to reach his potential."

But nobody tells us exactly how to do that!

With her assessment done, Teacher Jim was able to zoom in on her gaps and guide Kate to bridge them so that she can get the most out of whatever she is learning, both in school and in her other enrichment classes.

I found out that despite her chattiness and street smarts, she is not a strong learner and these are the foundational skills she needs to develop to prepare her well to cope with the demanding curriculum in primary school.

Increase her attention span: The most basic requirement to learn well is to have a good attention span to stay on task. She did not manage to complete some of the activities as she gets easily distracted by others or her mind will wander. The demands of K1 is increasing and she needs to concentrate well to absorb what is being taught in class. By disguising our activities as play, Kate happily undertakes them and manages to stay focused longer each time.

Train up her cognitive processes: In the animal stroop activity, they were instructed to say the colour of the animals in time to the metronome beat, but halfway through, she drifted from colour to name. With weekly practice, her processing speed and mental stamina will be enhanced and she can take on higher levels of difficulty.

Improve her working memory: Kate has no problems with her memory and can remember places we've been to and recall incidences, but I've never tested her working memory. Now that I'm aware it is weak, we need to tackle this if not in primary school, by the time she finishes reading the math problem sums, she would have forgotten what the question was asking for.

Develop her ability to self-monitor: After each activity, they are asked to reflect on how they had done and ways they can improve. Kate would gayly declare that she did fine even if she had gotten most of it wrong. I do love her positive and happy attitude though! Hopefully she will inculcate good habits of being able to check her own work and spot mistakes so that she does not need to constantly rely on her teachers (or me).
Growth mindset?
Develop a Growth Mindset: Sad to say, Kate has a fixed mindset and gives up easily. I assumed that since I have more of a growth mindset, so will my kids! Faced with a difficult activity, she simply said, "I don't know. I don't want to do it anymore" and refused to try. When Teacher Jim asked the kids, "Who is ready for a challenging round? Thumbs up if you are!" The other kids enthusiastically raised their hands, except for Kate. Finally she managed a half-hearted thumbs up, seeming to say fine, I will give it a go. Still, baby steps!

Term 1 has just ended and we're heartened to see good progress in most areas. What's more interesting is that Teacher Jim has unearthed some of Kate's deep-seated habits and attitudes and is working on guiding her to un-do them.

She doubts her own ability and often cannot resist giving herself an advantage by peeking at others instead of thinking and being confident of her own answers. So much so that she has honed the skill of being able to copy discreetly. At 4?? Gasp. (And yes, I managed to catch a shot of her in action. I couldn't quite believe my eyes.)

He also noticed that whenever a question is asked, Kate waits for others to answer and immediately follows and shouts out the answer as her own. No wonder we always thought of her as a smart child! Aware of this, he encourages Kate to think carefully and come up with an answer, to build up her confidence in her own ability.

Her strengths and weaknesses are clearer to me now and with awareness, I can work hand in hand with her teachers to guide her to reach her learning potential.

At times, I will hear her spontaneously chirp, "Don't give up! Keep trying!" while sticking with a task and I can see the growth mindset slowly being internalised.

It will take time, but I'm glad she's only 4 and already on the path of closing her learning gaps one by one and building a strong foundation of positive learning habits to excel in school.

Trial classes at The Little Executive are conducted every Saturday which includes The Executive Assessment.

Trials at $48
Suitable for N2-P2
1.5 hour session
Trial classes are parent-accompanied.

The Little Executive
144 Bukit Timah Road
Singapore 229844
(between Newton circus and KK Hospital)
www.thelittlexecutive.asia
Tel: 6908 1889
Email: knockknock@thelittleexecutive.asia


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

Friday, 24 March 2017

What a day out with #1 taught me

Continuing on from my car-less saga, I spent last Saturday with #1 around town. She accompanied me to a book launch after which we grabbed a simple lunch followed by a trip to Spotlight.

We ate at a hippy-looking eatery, and the self-service ordering process was so complicated that #1 had to decode his questions and ended up making the decisions about what toppings, sauces or sides I wanted.

Too many choices to be made under pressure in dim surroundings. All too much for me. I felt like an auntieBut it was a lovely mummy daughter meal sans little kids blabbing non-stop.

After making our way through spotlight, I was beat and ready to head home. At the bus stop, she checked her phone and announced that the bus would be coming in 7 minutes.

Oh yes, bus apps. That was nice to know.

The bus came promptly in 7 minutes, and after chatting for a bit, I fell asleep. What a nice change from me driving and people falling asleep behind me! I was gently woken up by #1 whispering, "Mum, wake up."

I opened my eyes and noticed that it was pouring.

Oh dear. It was a far walk home and we didn't have an umbrella.

"Don't worry mum, I've already called an Uber and it will be here in.. (checking her app) 2 minutes."

Surprised at her quick thinking, I was glad, but wondered if it was a waste of money since it was just a short ride in to our estate.

Reading my mind, #1 added, "It's just 1 cent! There's a promo."

Really?! Wow.

I looked up at her.

Suddenly, I felt small. My kids can now take care of me?

The way technology is taking over our world, soon I will be reliant on them, and not the other way around.

It was a humbling moment.

The memories of those years of screaming at them and punishing them in mean ways go stand outside the door if you cannot abide by the rules of this house! or no going to the playground for a month! where I was boss and they were at my mercy, came flooding back.

I was a monster mum.

It was only many years later that I learnt the proper way to discipline them. To guide them gently yet firmly, and always with love.
Ice cream night
Thank goodness children are forgiving.

I still trip up at times, and just last night, #5 was testing my patience, refusing to pack his bag and get ready for bed and I ended up yelling at him, something I haven't done in a long time.

Kate came next to me and said, "Mummy, don't shout. You will lose your voice and then you cannot talk to me."

That calmed me down instantly!

I need to constanly remind myself that the other kids are watching and how I respond will be they way they learn, imitate and treat their younger siblings and children in future.


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
Tip #11: Who has the energy to discipline our kids?


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

Monday, 20 March 2017

Shaped for a Purpose by Sherena Loh

At 2am, I picked up the newly published book Shaped for a Purpose by Sherena Loh, planning to read one or two chapters before going to bed. Before I knew it, I had reached the final chapter and it was past 4am! I was drawn to the story because through her sharing, it gives one hope that anyone can rise to triumph above adversity, drawing strength by finding and fulfilling our life's purpose.

Sherena has Muscular Dystrophy, a debilitating disease in which the muscles progressively weaken. Doctors told her that she would only live until 25 years old. But many years later, she is still alive - and living a full life. She was one of the founding members of the Muscular Dystrophy Association (Singapore) (MDAS) and now serves as its Executive Director. In her book, she mentioned her late sister Shook Fund, whom many fondly remember as Mrs Tan, ex-principal of Fairfield Methodist. I'm extremely proud yet humbled to call them my cousins.

Despite her own limitations and challenges, Sherena gives of herself so generously as she journeys with the families of children and youths who come through MDAS. That is how Sherena is, and at our family gatherings, she is always cheerful and positive, radiating joy to both young and old.
Shaped for a purpose
This book is not meant for people with disabilities alone, and it is just as inspiring for us able bodied, as all the more, we should be asking ourselves if we are living life to the fullest. At times, we may feel that life is tough and the challenges around us are insurmountable. However, after reading her story, it puts things in perspective and I feel ready to face my own uncertainties and obstacles without hesitation.

Here's an exerpt from the chapter Fell down? Then get up.

I fall so often that I can say I have a Masters degree in falling! I have accidents in many novel ways, and I have learnt just as many ways to recover from falls.

My most frightening accident happened when I was about 20 years old. At that time, I was still walking. However, my legs had a mind of their own. At unexpected and inappropriate times, they would go 'soft' and I would simply crumble to the ground. On this occassion, I was cutting through a private housing estate to get to a bus stop. As I reached the bottom of a slope, I saw a pack of huge dogs. There were about four to five dogs in this pack. I was shocked and suddenly my legs gave way. Oh no! Unlike other people, I cannot scramble to my feet after a fall. I would need somebody to help me up, or hold onto nearby furniture to pull myself back on my feet. "Help!" I called out. The dogs had, by this time, quietly come down the slope and gotten closer to me. In fact, we were at eye level because I was seated on the road. They looked into my eyes; I could see their tongues lolling from their open mouths.

I saw a pedestrian. "Help!" I called out to her. Incredibly, she asked "Why?" and gave me a wide berth. I felt that even the dogs scorned me, because they eyed me a little longer and went on their way. I was alone again. There was no help to be had. I had to do something to get myself out of my pathetic situation. I crawled on the ground until I came to a stone kerb. Using the low support, I used all my strength and might to pull myself up. I was frightened, exhausted and humilated. I still had to walk to the main road to hail a taxi before I could get back to the safety of my home. Struggling physically and emotionally in the taxi, I had to remind myself not to give in to self-pity and lose focus, because I could not afford to fall again!

Later, at home, I tearfully recounted my harrowing experience to my mother. As I untangled my thoughts, I realised that I was not upset by the fall or the dogs, I was most affected by the callous attitude of people who turned away from a person in need.

But not every passerby responded to me with indifference. I remember another occassion when I fell in public. Again, I could not get up without help. A lady hurried up from behind. Both of us struggled as she tried to heave me to my feet. When I finally regained my balance, I turned to thank her and only then did I realise that she was pregnant! I was touched by her incredible kindness in risking her unborn child to help a stranger.

Sherena ends each chapter with words for us to ponder:

Are you going through a season in which you feel like you are falling and failing? What would make you a failure is if you quit. But as long as you don't quit, you have not failed yet. Everyone knows Thomas Edison as the inventor of the lightbulb, but few of us know that he was branded a failure before that. Nevertheless, he was not daunted by his setbacks or criticisms from others. He said, I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work."

I have found 10,000 ways of recovering from a fall. And I hope you would too.

Another takeaway I got from her story was the pivotal role of her mother, my aunt. Besides the agony of seeing her own child suffer an incurable illness, their family faced many tragedies, yet my aunt and cousins remained courageous and united in the face of despair. We mothers are the anchors of the family, and it is not so much the circumstances life deals us, but our responses and how we guide our children to make sense of them that is important.

Sherena was blessed to have the unconditional love of her family, and she writes:

Is there one thing in your life that helped to make things bearable? Something that built a core of resilience in you, although you did not know it at that time? For me, it was my family. They were my harbour in the storm of life. They nurtured my self-esteem even as it was taking a bashing in the open sea. I am grateful for the advantage that my family gave me.

My family showed me love. They accepted who I was, including my limitations. My younger siblings could have sidelined me as I got physically weaker while they got taller and stronger, but they continued to show me respect and henced bolstered my self-esteem. My parents could have chosen to see my disability as a burden on the family, instead all I felt was their love and concern as they searched tirelessly for a cure for me.

Being a voice for the disabled, Sherena sheds light on how we can help them in practical ways.

1. Empower, not overpower

People generally are kind and wish to help when they see a person with disabilities. However, some people may not know how to help appropriately. There is a temptation to overpower rather than empower a disabled person. Instead, it might be more helpful to ask, "What would you like to do?" rather than make decisions for the MD person.

2. Give space for wheelchair users

When I was exiting the train, I had to reverse my chair. I checked around me and said "Excuse me," before I set my chair on reverse. Suddenly, I felt a smack on my shoulder. A lady snapped that I had hit her foot, although I hadn't felt my wheels going over an obstacle. I was shocked by her slap. Through this incident, I have grown to be more sensitive to others in public areas. Sometimes, it is not any party's fault; so if we can be tolerant and forgiving, it will make it much easier for people to live harmoniously in the same environment. From then on, whenever I have to reverse out of a train, I would say, "Excuse me, I need to reverse" in a loud voice, so that people around me are forewarned. I would also add, "I don't want to roll over anybody's foot." The last sentence really gets people's attention, because nobody wants a smashed foot!

3. Volunteer for MDAS Flag Day

Their annual flag day is on the 1st of April 2017 and it would be a meaningful way to spend a Saturday morning with the children and expose them to volunteerism. The young ones will get to hold their own tins and people usually do not reject a cute, enthusiastic tin bearer! (details at the end of this post).
Book launch, with Sherena & co-author Pauline Loh
Above all, Shaped for a purpose challenges us to reflect if we have indeed found our purpose, and it gives those of us who feel we might be "different" or "special" in any way optimism that our uniqueness may indeed be a blessing.

Although it was written with adults in mind, one of our nieces who is 9 brought the book to school for silent reading. Her classmate became interested in it as well, and our niece was saying how she can't wait for her friend to return the book so that she can continue reading!

I have asked my kids to read it too, especially the teenagers as this is the age of questioning and searching for their purpose in life.

I recommend everyone to go out and pick up this book, not just to support my cousin, but to be inspired to live life meaningfully, with a renewed sense of purpose. And no matter what physical limitations or brokeness we may have, may we be able to embrace it.

Personally, I hope that one day, we can call ourselves an inclusive society, as I believe that in God's masterplan, both the weak and the strong have a part to play. And in this march together down the path of LIFE, if we can walk side by side, supporting one another, how beautiful life will be.

For the disabled may indeed be the ones to pull us up, maybe not physically, but in ways we were blind to.

We were all made for a purpose. Let's find our purpose and let our light shine, as Sherena has.
MDAS

MDAS Flag Day

Date: 1 April 2017 (Saturday)
Venues: Bishan, Tampines, Woodlands, Jurong Point
Register: www.mdas.org.sg/flagday2017
Email: flagday2017@mdas.org.sg

Shaped for a Purpose is available at all major bookshops including Kinokuniya, MPH, Times and Popular Bookstore, retailing at $18 (before GST). Publisher: Armour Publishing, ISBN No.: 978-981-47-6559-6.

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

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Sinar Eco Resort in Johor, Malaysia

I like the kids to spend time in nature, and besides the usual zoo and bird park which my parents take them to every so often, I have discovered the Turtle Museum and Farmart.

Kate enjoyed feeding and patting the small animals that I decided to take it a notch up. An overnight kampung experience sounds about right for my urban kids.

I did our booking via Whatsapp (+60 14 2523678) and it was fuss-free.
Sinar Eco Resort
To be honest, I never intended to blog about the weekend, but their hospitality was so sincere that I just had share about this gem of a place tucked away in nearby Johor.

Once we arrived, the kids couldn't wait to be let out of the car having been cooped up for so many hours due to the causeway jam. We plonked our bags in the rooms and headed straight out to feed the animals. It costs RM$1 per packet of feed.
Feeding the chickens
I was apprehensive about entering the chicken enclosure, but put on a brave front and cheerfully ushered the kids in. We taught the kids to splay the chicken feed as far as they could so that they wouldn't come too close to peck us.
Horses
The horses were up next and I was surprised Kate dared to feed them. The handlers taught her to place the carrots on her flat palm and allow the horse to nibble on it.
Rabbits
We had another round of animal feeding on Sunday. Horses, cats, rabbits, cows, goats, fishes, chickens; the kids fed them to their hearts' content.
Fishes
Cats
Meals: All the activities cease at 6pm and they start preparing for the BBQ dinner. The premium BBQ is at RM$70 and one portion is big enough to be shared with a kid. #5 really enjoyed the BBQ and I seldom see him eat so much!

Breakfast was a simple but adequate affair. Adults went for the nasi lemak with curry chicken while the kids had cereal, eggs (hard boiled/scrambled) and rice with ikan bilis.

For lunch, you can ask for the menu after breakfast and let them know what time you will be eating so the kids don't have to wait a long time for food to be served. The kids had chicken chop with fries (RM28) while we had fried rice (RM18) which comes with fried chicken wing.
Up close and personal
gor gor to the rescue
On Sunday we went horse riding, but as the kids are still young, we simply trotted around the paddock. There are options to ride around the farm or if you are an experienced rider you can take the horse out.

The kids asked to go on the river cruise again as it was a different exprience from going out in the night. #5 enjoyed the night cruise as it was such an adventure going out in pitch darkness! Pity we didn't see any fireflies. The 30 minute ride costs RM100 per trip for the whole group.
RM30 for 2 rounds
What made our stay memorable was the service. The manager Devaa tried to accomodate our many little requests for the kids, and I have to commend a most helpful staff, Mohammad. He happened to assist us with many of the activities, and even though we couldn't communicate fluently, he was kind and considerate of the childrens' needs. Nothing was too much trouble, and he attended to us with patience and sincerity. It made the stay a happy one for all the kids.
Thrilled
He carried the kids one by one up to the driver's seat, and though they could only pretend to steer the tractor, that made their day. Kate spotted the cows in the enclosure and asked to feed them. He obliged, and also showed us where the milk collected was stored. That day, Kate finally learnt where her "supermarket" milk came from!
tug of war
Accomodation: The kids' reactions when they unlocked the room door and burst in was quite anti-climatic. Looked, paused, and finally let out a "Huh, so small?" followed by "How come the TV got no 313?"

For me, so long as it's clean, I'm ok. This farm resort was opened last year and the rooms are new and modern, albeit small.

What I loved was waking up at 6am, stepping out and hearing the stillness of the farm. Shortly after, the kids were woken up to the sound of cock-a-doo-da-doo, and it was not coming from an electronic book.
Container rooms
We stayed on the ground floor and it was convenient, without having to climb the stairs every time we needed to grab something.

All in all, I really enjoyed the slow weekend away, and it was definitely an eye-opener for the kids.

Such a lovely family-run farm with the guests' experience at the heart of it. Every sheltered Disney/Lego-land kid should try coming here once.

Maybe I'll book a whole week the next round. I'm sure to hear cries of "there's nothing to do, we want to go home". And home they will return to, with a grateful heart and rested spirit.

Just a few things to note:
- Insect repellent is a must. We protected ourselves with patches, arm bands and liberally spraying repellent.
- Slap on sun block and bring a cap.
- Wifi is available, but slow if too many people are logged on.
- We were lost getting there and ended up in a dumpsite (a first for the kids), but Devaa said it was just us. We keyed Pekan Nanas on our GPS, but it is a surburb, not a street, and our GPS decided we needed an adventure. I'm sure you'll have better luck. Thankfully, on our return drive, it took us a mere 30 minutes to reach the checkpoint.

Sinar Eco Resort
Johor, Malaysia


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

Thursday, 9 March 2017

The day I had no car

We had car troubles and I couldn't send Kate to school. I asked her to wait for her cousin to pick her up to go to school together.

"No mum, let's walk to school!" she said excitedly.

So off we left at 7.45am with me dragging my feet. What an irony.

I was half prepared for her to complain that she was tired or ask for rest stops along the way. The last time we walked out to take a bus was a year ago, and it took us a good hour to reach the bus stop!

Surprisingly though, it turned out to be a really pleasant morning stroll. She was in such high spirits and pointed out lots of interesting things along the way.

Kate: Mummy! Look at that! Is THAT a dinosaur print?
Me: Do you think it is? How big were dinosaurs?
Kate: Really big!
Me: So could that be a dino footprint?
Kate: No. What is it?
Me: It's the footprint of a... *suspense*
Bird!
Her eyes were glistening, as though I had pulled a bird out of a hat.
Kate: Yes!! It is! It is!

And the questions came fast and furious.

"How did the footprint get into the ground?"

"Why did the bird fly down? Was it looking for food?"

She was so absorbed in the moment, marvelling at the discoveries around her.

Ah, what it's like to be a child, with the gift of wonder.

Hearing her questions made me smile. I did not give her answers but guided her and gave her space to arrive at her own conclusions.

I love her thinking mind and hope that her curiosity never gets dampened.
Best view up front
Even though it was a long walk out, she was hopping and skipping and enjoying herself. Her cheer was infectious and it lifted my mood. Instead of trying to hurry her and deposit her off in school so that I could head in to work, I decided to enjoy the time with her.

A mindset shift from this is wasting my time, I have so much on my to-do list to being present to her and enjoying the morning made me feel much better.

Oh well, I could change my plans and work from home.

When we finally reached the bus stop, I told her we were going to take the bus to school as it was still a really long way away and she was overjoyed. To her, it was more interesting than being in a car.

After dropping her off at school, I made my way home and found #1 in the kitchen trying a healthy recipe my friend had just taught her.

Just mash some ripe bananas, crack an egg in, and stir in flaxseed meal. Viola, healthy homemade pancakes.
Yummiest strange looking pancakes
I realised how rare it was for me to have breakfast with #1 alone, and rarer for her to cook for me! We had a lovely conversation and I was reminded how time flies. In almost a blink of an eye, Kate will be standing before me like #1, grown up, with her own life, own opinions and thoughts.

Our kids are ours only for a short time, to shape and to guide. I hope never to have regrets of not being there enough for them as they are growing up.


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

Monday, 6 March 2017

Farmart - Animal Corner

Ever since we discovered the little known Live Turtle and Tortoise Museum, we've been back to feed her turtle friends so many times that I've decided perhaps it's time she was introduced to new animals!

I've heard of all these far away farms and finally plucked up enough courage to venture to Sungei Tengah, near Choa Chu Kang. The teens politely declined the invitation to tag along. "Mum, we have more important things to do, like homework?" Ah well, I shall protect Kate's childhood and even if I have to take just 1 kid, I will make the effort.

And the verdict is, we've found a new place to feed a variety of animals to her heart's content!
Farmart
We purchased a basket of food for $5 and she headed straight to the rabbits. After feeding and patting them, she asked if we could take one home. I told her about the responsibilities of raising a pet and she concluded, "Ok mummy, I'll do all the rest, and you just have to help me with cleaning the poo and the pee."

Good try, but no go, dearie.
Rabbits
I thought she might be afraid to feed the pumpkin seeds to the birds directly, but after watching an older child, she followed suit. It was amusing to hear the parrots say, "Hello" and "Goodbye".
Colourful birds
There were terrapins in this farm as well, but they were much smaller compared to the giant turtles at the Turtle Museum and she wasn't keen on them.
Terrapins
There is a little pond with catfishes and she fed the pellets one at a time, watching how they opened their huge mouths and swallowed them one by one.
Catfishes
Finally, she was left with the green leafy vegtables and the long beans and she proceeded to feed the goats.
Feed em'
Pat em'
All in a day's work
She enjoyed feeding them so much and asked if she could buy another basket of food. This round, she was concerned about the animals at the back of the cages, and ensured that all the sidelined animals were fed.
Sheltered
The Animal Corner is tucked in a corner of Farmart, and next time we might try coming in the evening to see what else is going on. We were there on a Saturday morning and by the time we left at about 11am, there were some adults prawning, but the food stalls and the rest of Farmart seemed quiet.
Farm in Singapore
Farmart Centre
67 Sungei Tengah Road
Singapore 699008
Opening hours 10am - 10pm
www.farmart.com.sg


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