Reminder to Self: Joy of Learning

When Baby1 started Primary One last year, I got her to write a weekly journal at the end of the first week of school. The mantra to her was “so that you’ll remember what had happened, and to brush up your writing”.  But the real reasons were multi-fold:

  • improve on writing
  • improve on spelling
  • improve on grammar and expression
  • improve on speed
  • aka masked “English revision”
  • to pen down milestones like tests and events, and sometimes
  • as punishment to write down her wrongs

In the beginning, it was very painful.  Baby1’s spelling was horrible; I literally had to spell out every single word for her.  And she took forever just to complete that week’s entry, resulting in me scolding and nagging and chasing her all weekend, sometimes spilling to the weekdays too. She cried, when her mind goes blank with nothing to write about; my temper flared, when her work was utter rubbish.  I learnt to open-one-eye-close-one-eye, this is after all merely a collection of her memories and progresses.

By the time Baby1 started Primary Two, you can see that she has improved tremendously. I got her to write down more of her feelings rather than details of what happened, I incorporated what she had learnt in school on combining sentences and omitting repetitive words, and I pushed her to write 1 page in 15 mins rather than the usual 1 hour. For the first time since Primary School, one day she proudly declared that she got high marks for composition.  I happily chirped in and attribute this to her weekly journal writing plus consistent reading.

When a child gets higher marks than her ‘smarter’ peers, she feels immense satisfaction. That reminds me of the words by a Caucasian elder who had been in the education sector for many years.  For her, she got her kids to do homework for the next grade throughout the whole holidays. At first, I thought “ang mohs are so kiasu too?”  But her kids turned out to be more inquisitive in class when they had already known the work that the teacher was teaching.

Does that mean that I’ve got to start teaching Baby1 algebra (which is taught from Primary Five, I believe)?  I shudder to.  I’m pretty sure that my tempers will flare very high so let’s not go down that path.

Instead I console myself that what I’ve been doing so far (for Baby1) is alright. I’ve printed and pasted the periodic table in the children’s room, and resolve to refer to it when there’s learning opportunities. I think Baby1 has some inkling what H2O which frequently appears in my recipe books, is, because of my short hand writing, opps.

Borrow more books from the library, and not slacken in our bedtime stories.  Spend at least 30 to 45 mins on reading. Yes, I need to remind myself and not give excuses on this.

But for Baby2, here’s the dilemma: I’ll want her to enjoy her preschool years, but there’s increasing pressure from all over to hasten her learning.  Multiplication will be brought forward from P2 to P1, there’s still no spelling from her school, her numbers and words are still written on the wrong side and increasingly she’s displaying more anger management issues.

*Breathe*

Singapore’s society is really too demanding, our children are being expected too much at a younger and younger age.

*Breathe*

I gotto remind myself that all kids are unique and different and we shouldn’t compare or benchmark any of them. Let them all enjoy the process of growing up, in our warmth and love.

Baby1 seems to enjoy playing the “teacher” to Baby2.  On one hand, it reinforces what she had learnt in school, on the other hand, Baby2 learns higher level methods from her “teacher”.  She is quite proficient in the Primary One method of addition, and is at subtraction now.  “Ms Tan” has plans to move on to multiplication, then division by the end of the year to prepare Baby2 for Primary One.

Onwards!

  • Dear2

 

 

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Common Sense Parenting

Baby1’s school organised a series of parenting talks based on Common Sense Parenting last year and I attended a couple of them.  Boy, these talks and the book were really very useful!

First and foremost, you need to identify THE problem.  Obviously (or maybe not very obvious), the child is NOT the problem.  It is the behavior which can be heard, seen or measured.  Thus it is not the naughty/ noisy/ good child that is the problem; it is a particular behavior.

Children being children, they do not know the ways of life yet, hence adults will need to teach them first.  We need to teach them to say the “please” and “thank you” first if you want them to say “please” and “thank you”.  Contrary to social norms, social skills need to be taught.

Then, we need to do Preventive Teaching so that the child knows what to say or do in future situations (ie know when to apply what).  Parents need to (1) calmly describe and (2) let the child see why she needs to do that.  Then (3) practice it.  I find that Preventive Teaching is the crux, because kids really need to understand the rights and the wrongs. For parents, this greatly helps reduce stress by preventing old behaviors from occurring again, or are especially useful for new situations like a dental visit.

When there’s a positive behavior, praise cost $0 and is effective.  Praise for the things that the child is already doing well; praise the child when there’s small improvements; praise the child for trying new skills, and also praise her for her honesty (even if it’s something bad).  But do be mindful to show your approval with sincerity, and remember to describe the behavior.  Use this chance to reinforce it in her so that it clicks/ appeals with her and that she appreciates it. You may optionally offer a *reward (read: may not necessarily be monetary or material).

When there’s a negative behavior, we need to do Corrective Teaching.  Teach as it happens.  Give a #negative consequence.  Describe calmly what is expected.  Practice it.  And follow up.  Act with love, be brief and clear, be consistent, and be on the same side as Daddy.

Even though this is called Common Sense Parenting, I find that these are not common sense at all.  Let’s constantly remind ourselves:

“Keep calm and parent on”

How apt.

  • Dear2

* Positive consequence such as touch/ attention, words, activities or special treats.  Which one appeals to the child most?

# Negative consequence includes taking away something that the child likes, things that she don’t like and wants to avoid, or adding a chore

Photobooks

Ever since digital cameras and digital photos got exploded, Dear1 and I have been taking maaaany photos of Baby1 and Baby2.

Photos are the perfect way to capture the moment, and to help us remember events/ things/ people/ faces/ sights, even smells, taste, experiences and emotions.

But when there are toooooo many photos, developing and storing them cost-and-space efficiently becomes a headache. After a couple of photo albums full of Baby1 and Baby2 when they were babies, I got too lazy and tired to sieve out and develop the oceans of photos in our computers.

One day Dear1 got to know about Shutterfly while he was printing cards for his games, and he got a free photobook to gift. Since we just came back from an overseas flight trip with the cousins, I decided to collate the photos and make a photobook.  Wow, the product was impressive. 20 colouful pages of photos with some accompanying text descriptions.  It was a good way to remember those fun and memorable times.

I got hooked and made a second photobook for the Legoland trip which we had with the cousins the year before.  Baby1 and Baby2 relived the happy trip memories they had with the cousins when they flipped through the books.

I decided to make a third photobook for our own short Club Med Cherating trip.

And after that, I decided to make a photobook for every one of our holidays. :p

It was very tedious to sieve through the thousands of photos and select the nicest ones.  And it was very time consuming to cut and crop and adjust and background and stickers and font type and font size when you make a photobook. Because I wanted to make a photobook for every one of our holidays, I still had a backlog of 6 trips to do after painstakingly completed two.  As those two trips were super fun and super many photos, I cussed and harbored the thought to quit a few times.   Something clicked after our 18-days Cairns to Sydney trip last December, and I managed to finish all 3 books (6 trips combined) in one shot within 2 months, yeah!

We placed the photobooks on the bookshelf, and Baby1 and Baby2 will flip through them every now and then, reliving the (usually) happy and fun moments of the trips. As there are text too, Baby2 gets to brush up on her reading skills too.

Making photobooks is not cheap; a 20-page hard cover book costs USD 29.99, plus shipping from US to Singapore is about USD 8, which works out to about SGD 50 for each book. But for being able to frequently relive those moments, especially for the kids, I think it’s worth it.

And I guess I’ll be sticking to Shutterfly, for I am now pretty proficient in its program.  I’ve tried other Singapore websites, hoping to reduce the shipping charges, but they’re simply not as easy to use.

To more trips, and more photobooks.  Cheers!

  • Dear2

 

The 5 Love Languages

  1. Words of Affirmation
  2. Quality Time
  3. Receiving Gifts
  4. Acts of Service
  5. Physical Touch

Dear1 and I read the book <The 5 Love Languages> recently and we decided to improve our love relationship with this.

A human’s deepest emotional need is the need to feel loved. When a person is married, the person we would most like to love us is our spouse.  Just as when a child really feels loved, she will develop normally, but when the love tank is empty, she will misbehave.  When our spouse’s emotional love tank is full and he feels secure in our love, the whole whole looks bright, and our spouse will move out to reach his highest potential in life.  But when the love tank is empty and he feels used but not loved, the whole world looks dark and he will likely never reach his potential for good in the world.

Nobody can demand love; we can only request love.  But when the-love-that-I-know and the-love-that-you-want are of different languages, we feel like we are room-mates rather than lovers.

Let us first better understand what the 5 languages of love are:

1) Words of Affirmation

Mark Twain said, “I can live for 2 months on a good compliment.”

Verbal compliments, words of appreciation, encouraging words, kind words, saying positive things about our spouse when he is not present – these are instances of words of affirmation.

Encouragement requires empathy and seeing the world from our spouse’s perspective. Most of us have more potential than we will ever develop; what holds us back is often a lack of courage.  A loving spouse can supply that catalyst.

2) Quality Time

Quality Time = Giving someone your undivided attention. These exact 5 words totally embody the whole concept of what it means by “Quality Time”.

One of the common dialect is “Quality Conversation”, which means listening sympathetically and asking questions not in a badgering manner but with a genuine desire to understand his thoughts, feelings and hopes, and NOT to analyse problems or offer solutions.

Another dialect is “Quality Activity”, which includes anything that one or both of you have an interest in.

3) Receiving Gifts

A gift is something you can hold in your hand and say, “He was thinking of me when he secured this and gave it to me.”  Such gifts are visual symbols of love.

There is an intangible gift that sometimes speaks more loudly than a tangible gift and that is the “Gift of Self/ Presence”.  This means the physical presence of your spouse.

4) Acts of Service

“Acts of Service” means doing the things that you know your spouse would like you to do; doing the things that will be meaningful to her if you want to express your love to her.  But do be cautious of the dialect “doing things for her, but not the most important ones”. This can make you do a lot of household chores, but yet she does not feel loved at all.

5) Physical Touch

Need there be more elaborations on this?  Since time immemorial, physical touch has been a way of communicating emotional love, from newborn babies to whatever age.

We need to know our primary love language, and the primary love language of our spouse.  Once this is established, we can choose active expressions of love in the primary love language of our spouse, because love is a choice. We choose to speak the primary love language of our spouse, whether or not it is natural to us. We are not claiming to have warm, excited feelings; but we are choosing to do it for his or her benefit.

So, learn your spouse’s and your own love language today, and start filling each other’s emotional love tank now.

– Dear2

PS: Here’s our primary language in order of importance with scores.

Dear1

  • 9 – Words of Affirmation
  • 9 – Quality Time
  • 8 – Physical Touch
  • 4 – Acts of Service
  • 0 – Receiving Gifts

Dear2

  • 9 – Acts of Service
  • 8 – Quality Time
  • 6 – Physical Touch
  • 4 – Receiving Gifts
  • 3 – Words of Affirmation

 

Gotta be 1 Year Wiser

Urgh, I’ve been feeling very moody these past few weeks.  Experienced mummies say it’s from breaking up the constant fights during the school holidays.  I guess maybe.  Sometimes I feel like I keep going on repeat mode.  Not twice, but thrice, when Dear1 every now and then frustrates me too.  Urgh!

It’s so hard to constantly be on a positive mood, and I’ve learnt that if I am glum, everyone seems to hear me better.  It’s no use when I tell you things nicely; it’s always here-in-there-out.  But when I put on a glum face, plus a killer stare, instructions are heard perfectly the first time.  I suddenly recalled what my trainer taught us last time: No thoughts, no feelings.  Perhaps I need to put on that self now.

And it also dawned upon me that you really can’t change someone.  Not to the extent that A leopard cannot change it’s spots, but more like if someone is like that, he/she will likely be like that even with age. How many of us have tried to change someone, or hoped that someone changes, only to be disheartened when he/she doesnot?  Your ex-boss, your ex-colleague, your mum/dad, your spouse, your child?  Probably tons of them.

So, no, you really can’t change someone easily.  Unless you are a super religious person, or a super inspired person, a mere mortal like me is unlikely to change someone.  Shape, guide, steer, yes, if you managed to find the right way to do it properly. Change, no.  The easier way is to change your own mindset rather than change the other person.

I’m gonna be 1 year older soon, so I need to be 1 year wiser.  I need to strengthen myself, especially on the emotional end, cos my ambition remains to be a chio mummy.  I need to be a chio mummy whom my 2 girls can look up to, and not a mummy who is always weeping.  How can I tell the kids that crying does not solve problems, when I am always wailing in desperation?  I need to change my mindset to see more good things.  Even though Baby1 frequently sets me off, I need to see the good inside of her, because she really is a good child.

“沒有不好的事情, 只有不好的心情”

Dear1 says if we learn and grow 1% daily, that amounts to 37x growth in a year.  37x sounds incredible, and I don’t think I have that strength now to grow that much.  Perhaps just 0.2% growth daily is good for me.  I need to strengthen my heart, cos I really want our family to be a loving family where all of us can count on one anoother.  For that, I’ll need lots of Dear1’s help too.

– Dear2

Teaching Baby1 programming

Several months ago, I had a few hours with just Baby1 at a Subway restaurant while waiting for Dear2 and Baby2 (they were at a gathering with Dear2’s friends). So, Baby1 and I sat down and began our first programming session.

I had always viewed programming languages, math and music as another form of communication, just like English, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, etc. Therefore, I want Baby1 and Baby2 to have an appreciation of programming languages.

Programming is something I do on a daily basis, so there’s no need to send the children to programming classes. I will teach them myself. :D

Rather than using popular child friendly starter languages such as Scratch, I thought I would jump right in with an easy to understand language. And we would build a simple game of math so that it would help Baby1 in her Primary 1 & 2 as well. To this end, I chose the LÖVE framework which is based on Lua.

I started by teaching Baby1 basic concepts of strings, numbers and variables, and simple if-then-else control flows. Then, we got down to designing the look and feel of the game. While doing that, I taught her general concepts as such the coordinate systems, what are pixels, RGB values, how a circle is defined by its radius, etc.

Meanwhile, Baby1 had to type quite a bit on the keyboard, so she is picking up keyboard skills and spelling and reading skills as the same time.

We’ve had 3 sessions so far, here are the results at the end of each session.

End of session 1

sess2

End of session 2

sess3

End of session 3

Looking forward to continuing building this game with Baby1. Jiayou!

-Dear1

Tuition or not Tuition

It’s scary to see the crowds of parents waiting outside Berries or Tien Hsia or Mindchamps on weekends in the malls. And it’s even scarier when the kids come out and you realised that they are only 6/ 7 year olds!?

It’s becoming a national hobby for Singapore families to send their kids for enrichment classes at a young age.  Traditionally, we have tuition classes for the students who cannot cope with school work from school.  In today’s times, tuition classes are the norm; students go for tuition classes whether or not they are able to cope with school work. Tuition classes become the CCA, the core curricula alongside with the school’s teachings.  And enrichment classes are becoming the necessary necessities if you want to up the ante.

There’s enrichment classes for English, Chinese, Math, Science, creative thinking, speech and presentations, money management, etc etc, and we are talking about classes for pre-schoolers.  Pre-schoolers, mind you!  5, 6 year olds who unknowingly “learn” while “playing” in these lessons.  And of course, for every enrichment lesson, time is spent and money $$$$ is spent just so for the kid to learn more things in a structured, fail-proof environment.

I’m glad that at home, Baby1 and Baby2 are exposed to a bit of all these “enrichment programs” through our daily interactions and free play.  The National Library is a good source of knowledge and information so we get a bit of English, Chinese, Math, Science, Money Management etc enrichment through our nightly bedtime stories. And with not-many toys at home to play with, leaving the kids to play with whatever household items they can lay their hands on, creative thinking and speech and presentations are involved. So I really am not too sure why parents will still send their kids to such costly (time and money) enrichment classes?

So far for this past year, I have been coaching Baby1 in her school work.  I’m not really in line with how the teachers conduct their teachings, and very often I merely supplement the curricula with my own style.  I get Baby1 to explain to me why she does her work in that manner, and she’ll tell me “teacher say blah blah blah, blah blah blah”.  Tada, coaching is done!  I’m glad that Baby1 is attentive in class and is eager to learn. And when these pay off in her high scores in tests and assessments, her confidence gets an even bigger boast and she continues to find joy and fun in learning.

So yeah, I am their tuition teacher, yet I am not a tuition teacher. I supplement their quest for learning by sharing with them my knowledge, experiences and values, and I supplement their joy of learning by making learning fun and “invisible”.

As Baby1 and Baby2 grow older day by day, I hope that I can continue to nurture and guide them in their learning journey, in a cool and calm manner (exams are over now so it might be easy to say that now; wait till we enter the academic year again!!!).  For now, I need to continuously “upgrade” myself so as to better fulfill this role.  Gambatte Mummy!

– Dear2