Predict Your Future

CNA screened a documentary “Predict My Future – the Science of Us” recently and I curiously tuned in.

The Dunedin Study tracked and studied 1,000+ babies since their birth 39 years ago, and continued to monitor them until today. Some of their results are astonishing to me, and some are what you and I probably know at the back of our minds.

Kids’ personality are broadly divided into Confidant (28%), Reserved (15%), Well-adjusted (40%), Inhibited (7%) and Under-controlled (10%). The Study shows that the temperament of a 3yo equals that of a 23yo. Wow. While we often have an inkling that an adult individual’s temper is similar when he was younger, the Study points out that a reserved child today will likely remain as a reserved adult when he grows up.

The Study then asserts that for a 4yo, Intelligence is not a predictor of success in later life; Self-Control is. Using the Marshmallow Delayed Gratification Experiment, some children have the will power to resist 1 marshmallow for 2 later; some crumple under the temptation. Luckily, the ability to Self-Control is not fixed and can be improved for all personality types.

The Study also revealed that all teenagers will break the law; some will get caught, and some will not. Applying this statement to myself and others, this result is shockingly true. How to make teens come out of it and limit him to an “Adolescent-Limited” and not “Persistent” criminal is through Love, Relationships, Jobs and Responsibilities.

Another finding is that some people are born with the negative gene (for violence, depression, schizophrenia), and environment can amplify this. “What makes us who we are is largely dependent on our early years. So if you want to make a difference in someone’s life, start early at the early years.” This really tugs at my heart as increasingly I’ve heard of how behaviour, psychology, physiology and nutrition builds the foundation of an individual since young.

The Study also tells that lonely children grow up to be socially-disadvantaged, psychologically and physically, which leads to mental and health issues when they become adults. Can there be something done about isolated kids then?

Lastly, kids who grow up in farms, in large families with many kids or urban families with pets are less likely to develop asthma. It is not dirt, but microbes that matter. We should expose ourselves to a large range of microbes so as to develop our immune system. So open up the windows or go outdoors for fun instead of cooping up at home all day long.

– Dear2

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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

 

 

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

Swimming for Kids

Dear1 and I believed that swimming is an essential skill that all Singapore kids need to have, for obvious reasons that Singapore is but a small island surrounded by waters.  But we waited till Baby2 was old enough so that we can have both Baby1 and Baby2 in the same swimming class, and save us having to make 2 trips for 2 swimming lessons.  :p

After much procrastination, I finally got around to look for a class for Baby1 and Baby2 at the beginning of the year.  Found a class with Baby1’s friend, at Bukit Batok Swimming Complex which is a two bus-stop walk away for us, and on a weekday evening so that it’s not hot nor crowded and with cheaper entrance fees too.  Fantastic!

We had our first lesson on the first week of April, and before the end of September, Baby1 had already went to take the Stage 2 Exam, skipping Stage 1.  Whoosh!

Baby1 had progressed so much in this 6 months.  Initially, she was the one whom I worried more, as she seemed to have more fear than Baby2.  With their back floats on, Baby2 is the one who felt more at ease splashing around and dipping her head into the waters, but Baby1 was so scared of her head in water that she cried.  And you shake your head knowing that a crying child definitely will find swimming even more laborious.

I tried to be assuring, so I’d waved and smile and nod to them every time they finished their laps.  I tried to help, by making them practice their swimming and breathing techniques at home on dry land.  I tried to be encouraging, and gave them prep-talk all the way while walking from home to pool.  When nothing seemed to work, I pretended to be nonchalant and put a book in front of me and my earphones on and told them that I’ll not be looking at them, so just “follow the teacher’s instructions” and swim.

Somehow, something must have clicked within Baby1; either she finally grasped the realization that “teacher is really always right, so just follow teacher’s instructions closely”, or her water confidence has risen when Teacher “threw” them all into the deep deep pool and made them swim back to the pool edge, or she does not dare to defy the sometimes-stern-sometimes-kind teacher.

I must say, Teacher is a very experienced teacher too.  Most other swimming teachers with smaller kids usually start the lesson at the shallower pool, but our Teacher teaches directly at the big pool.  For Baby1’s Swimming Test, Teacher told us not to let Baby1 know that she’s going for a test, cos he knows that she gets scared when she anticipates for it.  On the actual test day with 10 students lined up in queue, she was half oblivious that it was a test and just did her normal routine following the teacher’s instructions.  And cleared Stage 2, phew!

Baby1 is now officially the best swimmer in our family.  She knows freestyle, breast stroke, thread water, diving, and is learning backstroke now.  Conversely, it’s the turn to be worried about Baby2 now.  She’s still reliant on the back float, and cries almost every lesson.  Time to give her lots of hugs, and lots of practice on dry land.

– Dear2

Home Improvement Program

Finally, we get new toilets!

It’s been exactly 10 years since Dear1 and I moved into our own house.  When we did renovations 10 years ago, our ID mentioned that Bukit Batok should be doing HIP soon, so we did not change our wood door and the toilet windows.  10 years on, and it’s finally our turn to do HIP.  -_-  We also don’t know why we allowed our ID to con us into thinking that having the washing machine discharge pipe at the toilet door is acceptable; we’ve tolerated with NOT being able to close the toilet door for the past 10 years.  @_@

Finally it was our turn to do HIP where we changed our 2 toilets, and what a depressing 12 days that was!  I was getting used to the constant LOUD drilling sounds from the neighbors’ houses, but did not anticipate the huge amount of dust and sand, and the inconveniences of being confined to the sole clean room in the house.  It was a messy, gloomy 12 days, but hey, we’ve experienced some sliver linings too. :)

For the first time in 10 years, I spoke to many more neighbors than I have in the past 10 years.  We asked each other about the progress of our toilets; we groused about the massive cleaning afterwards; we offered toilet paper when we bump into each other at the temporary toilets at the void deck.  Wow.

Baby1 and Baby2 also displayed kindness to Dear1 and I when they offered to exchange their comfy beds with our hard makeshift mattresses.  After the first night, Dear1 and I experienced blue blacks on our hips from sleeping on the floor.  Baby1 offered to exchange beds first, and also persuaded Baby2 to continue sleeping on the floor for the rest of the HIP.  Such sweetness from the kids, aww…..

Being holed up in the kids room the whole time also made me slow down my “fast-paced” SAHM life when there’s literally no housework to do.  I become soooo bored that I started to take out the kids’ coloring book to color.  I also made various beautiful flowers with the kids’ construction blocks everyday.  That’s why they say kids need to be bored, so that they can find creative ways in a limited situation.  Same goes for adults I guess, heehee…

Not cooking for 2 weeks also make me appreciate my own cooking.  I was hung up on cooking homecook meals 5 days a week.  So much effort put in but so little appreciation.  During the HIP, we had no choice but to eat out every meal every day.  Though food is literally right across the road for us, but after 12 days of eating out, homecooked meals is still the best. :p

The best thing that happened because of HIP must be the throwing out of the spare sink that we’ve stored in the storeroom for the past 10 years.  We had an extra sink as we did not install it in the kitchen toilet.  We’ve faithfully kept it in the store for 10 years, you know, just in case we’ll ever need it.  Now that we have a brand new sink, so adieu you sink, and stop taking up precious storeroom space!

It was a difficult 12 days of HIP, but I’m glad that we have gone through it well.  We took care of each other, and the kids were so sweet to Mummy and Papa.  Now our toilets are always bright and privacy included!

– Dear2

Food, Food, Food!

I have a super love-hate relationship with food.

All of us need food; for energy, for nutrients, or for comfort.  How nice if we can eat all the nice and yummy foods all to our hearts content.  But the problem with food is that it adds bulk, and yummy foods tend to create all the health problems.  “You are what you eat” cannot describe this better enough.

As a SAHM now, I tried to take it upon myself to prepare home-cooked meals for Dear1, Baby1 and Baby2.  They say home-cooked foods are healthier as you know what you put into the food.  I say, provided you choose to put only wholly organic, wholly unseasoned, and wholly unprocessed foods onto your plates.  Theoretically, this sounds like an awesome healthy plan; practically, you’ve got no idea how tedious this is!

99% of whole foods taste bland without any seasonings. “Is the food nice?” is a very subjective question, and nowadays I find it meaningless to ask this question. If the food is nice, it’s probably because of the ample amount of seasonings used to bring out the flavour; if the food is not nice, it tends to be healthier because less seasonings are used but most people will shun and go “bleh”.  The most depressing role of a SAHM is when you spend efforts to cook up a healthy meal, only to get rated “thumbs down” by Baby1 and Baby2 for blandness.  You only deal with 3 customers day-in-day-out everyday, and only Dear1 is supportive of natural sweetness, so that’s pretty demoralising KPIs.  Letting the kids eat their favourite wonton mee from the market everyday sounds like a more sure-proof way to get them to finish their meals fast, everyday.

To get the kids to appreciate food (or the efforts used in preparing food), we’ve recently started to get them to say thanks at the dining table. The one thing that I like about Korean culture is, they always say thanks.  Thanks to the person who spent efforts to prepare the food, and being appreciative of the food (I mean, how fortunate that we get food, what’s more yummy food on the table; think about the poor people in third world countries).  The kids are just getting the hang of this.  Hopefully this makes them appreciate food + effort more, and don’t waste food.

Recently I’ve also started to teach Baby1 to cook too.  Since young, she likes to play with cooking toys, so instead of playing, let’s do some real cooking!  It’s heartening to see how eager she wants to do all the hands-on work, and the pride on her face when we say thanks to her (only) when she single-handedly prepared her first ever roast pork long bean rice for dinner.  She’s fascinated watching MasterChef Junior too, but I’m not entirely prepared for her to be one yet; can I trust her to handle all the sharp cutting, hot oils and pans, electrical appliances, as well as food hygiene?

You are what you eat.  I know, I should cook more at home, cos it’s really hard to achieve the healthy plate when you eat out.  It’s so convenient to dabao, especially when food is literally available right across the road.  Hawker food tends to be loaded with more carbo and flavourings, so home-cook can better achieve that healthy plate of half fruits and vegetables, one quarter proteins, and one quarter carbo.  PM also says we need to tackle the problem of diabetes, so I guess we really need to change our mindset of eating bowlfuls of rice/ noodles, and exercise more.

– Dear2

 

Grit

I came across a video on “Grit” recently and was blown away by it!

Grit. What I know of grit is like dirt, sand. But Teacher-turned-Psychologist Dr Duckworth singled out the defining factor between successful children/ people and the others is, not IQ nor talent, but grit. Grit is motivation to achieve your long term goals, day in day out, not for weeks or months, but for years; to achieve the future that you want.

At the end of Term 2, I’d blogged that both Baby1 and Baby2 were highly praised by their teachers during their respective PTMs. Dear1 and I are not worried about both our little girls coping in schools, because both them enjoy learning and enjoy being one of the best students in their class. We are not sure if we have been doing some things right, or what right things; nevertheless, Dear1 and I are just chill parents when it comes to our kids’ learning.

Especially for Baby1 now that she’s in Primary One, she strives to get 100 marks for all her spellings, and she always try to get high marks for all her tests and assessments. In the academic scene, sometimes I do worry, what if she gets 100 marks in lower Primary, but grades drop when she goes to the higher levels? There has been so much press about the stress of our Singapore kids in this education system, so I want to constantly mantra myself “the joy of learning” and not kill it.

So for Baby1, she enjoys getting high marks – Good. She enjoys being the Monitress – Good. She’s looking to be a Little Prefect next year – Good. She had some difficulty in swimming lessons earlier, but now she’s looking forward apprehensively to every swimming lesson to learn new strokes – Good. She doesn’t like piano as it’s really getting more difficult now, but she got a Merit in her recent first piano exam, and she’s looking to get a Distinction next year – Good. She even calculated that she could get her Grade 8 by the time she’s in Secondary One – Good (LOL).

Grit. No matter how much a parent pushes or force her child to learn or do something, if the child does not want to do it, it is futile. The parent can force the child to write a whole page of Self-Reflections, but if the child does not feel remorse, he does not learn. The parent can force the child to write 100 times corrections, but if the child’s heart is not on learning the correct spelling, he still does not learn the spelling.

Self Motivation. The child needs to want to do it right, or get it right. The child needs to WANT IT.

So, how to make the child want it? In the video, Dr Duckworth says she’s unsure, but the idea of Growth mindset seems to work well. Essentially, it’s helping your child see that:

1) You need practice, and practice makes perfect (aka Perseverance and Effort)
2) You may need to overcome challenges/ failures (aka Resilience)

Let’s continue to nurture our children.

– Dear2