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

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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

@#$%^& In, @#$%^& Out

I don’t know about you, but my 4yo and 6yo seem to pick up what mummy and papa say quite well. And sometimes they remember words from last time too.  Omg.

They say don’t talk down to kids, and don’t lie to kids.  Dear1 and I have been consciously trying to do that since Baby1 was born, and we’ve maintained the same stance to Baby2 too.  We always try our best to talk the same level with them, and we rack our heads to warp the unmentionables into factual statements so as to avoid telling any white lies. But at the end of a tired day, or when you are in a rush, tempers flare, your own emotions run high and @#$%^& comes out from your mouth unknowingly. Don’t think kids don’t pick these up, because they do.  Before you know it, they internalise this, and @#$%^& comes out from their mouths too some time later.  OMG!

The ‘experts’ say children are like sponges, so read to them, play with them, bring them outdoors and explore, teach them new languages, sign them up for abacus and creative thinking and programming and music and singing and arts and science and math.  But few experts emphasize the importance of how adults should watch ourselves when we interact with children.  I say adults because I mean ALL adults, not just the parents.  You, mummy and daddy are definitely at the front of the line, but same goes for the grandparents and teachers and aunties in school and stall owners and bus driver and the auntie who chat up with us on the bus.  Basically, anybody who comes into interaction with children.

Children are like sponges – they take in what they see and hear, and translate these into their own protocol.

As a FTWM, I frequently excused myself when Baby1 and Baby2 misbehaved. Half of myself and my time was fully committed to work, 9 hours for sleeping and recharging my drained-out cells, and the remaining 3 hours to Dear1 and the 2 kids.  Do housework, coach spelling and homework and piano practice, cuddle everyone, cook.  I didn’t want to waste any precious time to be the black face and correct the kids’ misbehavior.

The moment of truth came during our 2 weeks holiday in Japan earlier this May.  Before the end of the first week, I was super maddening angry with both kids.  For the first time in 4 years since Baby2 was born, we spent the whole 24 hours together everyday with both kids, and I realised to my utter astonishment that they have soooooooo many bad habits.  Where did they learn these from!?  I knew there were bad habits, but why are there so many!?  How will they grow up from here?  I was crushed.

After a painful cut, I am now a SAHM.   There are various competency levels for SAHMs, and I am still pondering on the kind that I want myself to be.  But I know for sure that apart from imparting knowledge to my 2 girls (I mean, I have to make good use of my 15 years of education right?  What better way than to be an educator to my own 2 girls), I want to teach them manners and respect and gratitude as well as other life skills.

And while doing all that, I need to constantly keep myself in check, in my words, in my actions and how I carry myself in front of them.  Gambatte, mummy!

– Dear2

Our hectic weekends

Lately, our weekends have been characterized by busy schedules. And it doesn’t look like it will change any time soon. In fact, it might become even more hectic.

On Saturdays, we would wake up at around 8am. Usually, it would be breakfast followed by piano practice for Baby1. Why? Because Baby1 attends piano lessons from 11-11.30am on Saturdays. Once we return home, it would be lunch time. Lunch is usually a 1-hour affair for us. After a short rest, the children would be off to their afternoon nap at around 1pm. We still enforce nap times for both children because we believe that sleep is very important for the children’s development. During this time, it would be our turn to catch a nap ourselves, or catch up on some K-dramas. Dear2 usually starts preparing for dinner too. The children usually wake up around 3.30-4pm. Dinner is served around 5-5.30pm. After dinner would be rest, then followed by bath time. By 7.30pm, everyone should be all clean and comfy. Lately, the children have been interested in my board games, especially Flash Point. So we would spend around 1-1.5 hours playing board games in the living room. By 9pm, the children would get ready for their bedtime stories and go to bed. The adults spend a bit of time with each other before going to bed.

On Sundays, we also wake up at 8am. This morning is usually a little unplanned so we have some flexibility to do learning, go grocery shopping, etc. But, Baby2 usually need a quick morning power nap because she has ballet lessons at 1pm. Anyway, 11.30am is lunch time, and we set off for Baby2’s ballet. By the time we get home, everyone is tired and off they go for their afternoon nap. Dear2 prepares dinner. By 4pm, the children are awake and we get ready for Baby1’s ballet class at 5.30pm! We will get home around 6.3opm for a late dinner. It is probably 8pm after bath and we have a little time for board games or some other simple leisure before it’s bed time stories and bed time again.

Every so often, when piano or ballet class was cancelled, it would be a godsend for us. For that weekend, we would be able to go for picnics, attend Uncle L’s second daughter’s birthday party, go on our own holiday, etc.

This is our typical weekend schedule. And, this is not taking into account special ballet exam preparatory weekly classes that occurs for about 6 months every year. And we also intend to sign the children up for more “essential” classes such as swimming. And Baby2 is likely to want to take up piano classes as well, to be the same as her elder sister.

With just 2 children and a total of 3 classes on weekends, I’m already feeling the crunch. I can’t start to imagine how parents with more kids and more classes on weekends would feel like.

But this is life, now. Our routine will surely change with each passing phase. Just have to see the positive side of things and make the most out of what we have. For now, we usually do our weekend groceries on Friday evenings. While one child is at ballet class, we would pop over to Jurong Point for a quick Llaollao fix. Yumz!

Onwards!

-Dear1

2015 New Year Resolutions

We had a bad end/ rough start to 2014/ 2015, so only managed to review and plan out our 2015 new year resolutions recently.  Who cares, there’s still 11 more months in 2015.

As usual, we reviewed our 2014 resolutions first, before coming out new ones.  Though Dear1 and Dear2 did occasionally bring out the 2014 resolutions to remind ourselves, we failed quite miserably in meeting them at the end of the year.  Nonetheless, they did serve as good reminders for us throughout the year.  :)

As of any NYR, the 2015 new year resolutions should be SMART.  Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and with a Time.  Here goes:

For Dear2:

– Beauty (take good care of oneself first before you are able to take care of your loved ones): Do daily skin moisturizing and monthly face masks + exfoliation

– Waist: Attain 28″ by year end

– Exercise: Do daily planks (minimum 2x 1min)

– Self Improvement: Try cooking new dish every month

– Cook: Master (盆菜 or other dish) for next CNY by next CNY

– Speak slowly, Listen carefully, Smile more

– Post: Write at least 1 post per month

– Drive: Do 1 morning routine by end of year

For Dear1:

– Weight: Reach 68kg by year end

– Exercise: Do daily planks (minimum 2x 1.5min)

– Self Improvement: Learn 2 programming languages (Python and Julia)

– Temper: Be more tolerant with Baby1 and Baby2

– Post: Write at least 1 post per month

For us:

– Family Activities: Out-of-house/ malls activities once a month

– Couple Activities: Just for Dear1 and Dear2 activity/ new experiences bi-monthly or join 1 (dance) class

– Hugs & Kiss: Hug and kiss Dear1, Dear2, Baby1 and Baby2 everyday

– Travel: 1 long and 1 short trip for this year

– Finance: Save more money in this year

– House: Continue to view house

– Friends and Relatives: Have quarterly gatherings with friends/ relatives

– Nutrition: Eat at least 1 fruit every week

– Family Events: Participate in 1 (cycling) event

– Couple Time: Have just Dear1 and Dear2 time every week

A lot of times, when one reviews the new year resolutions at the end of the year, one will be dismayed that the goals might has changed course along the way.  Time does not stand still, and things are constantly evolving.  So take heart if the circumstances do not go as you’ve wished, for these new year resolutions still serve as a reminder to what your goals were one year back.

Happy New Year!

– Dear2

PS: Last year, we had a couple of monthly goals, but 1 year 12 times was quite hard to achieve given our busy schedules.  So we changed some of these to lower frequency.  Nonetheless, these still require conscious tracking, hence we decided to draw up a list and have them displayed on the kitchen fridge!  :)

Chinese New Year 2014

Chinese New Year is a time of visiting your friends and relatives, as well as a time to assess the children of your friends and relatives (and for friends and relatives to assess yours too!)

The hectic first 3 days of Chinese New Year is finally over, back to normal peace and routine times.  This past 3 days, the usual procedure for Dear1 and Dear2 when we reach a relative’s or friend’s place is: take out shoes, get Baby1 to say hi to people, coax Baby1 to go play with the other kids, try to put Baby2 down who refuses to put down her legs and clings onto Mummy in the unfamiliar environment, yells at Baby1 to play safe, coax her to say Happy New Year and Thank You when she receives an Ang Bao, stays close to Baby2 as she walks around the house on her own unable to join the older kids, and we move on to the next house.  It feels almost like a battle field when there’s 6 or more kids, where I had to constantly keep an eye on both my girls, to get them to play or make sure that there’s safe playing with the other kids.  Hardly any time for me to chit chat with the relatives or friends (haiz).

So at the end of the visitations, I resolved to use this year to train Baby1 and Baby2 into independent kids who can play on their own and who will require minimum supervision this time next year.  But looking at the kids of my cousins and friends, is it me, but why do I get the feeling that kids these days are all so spoilt!

Look at 9yo K, stubborn and quiet, he did not want to play with all the younger cousins and chose to watch the telly silently in one corner.  The parents and granny and aunt had to constantly ask if he wants to drink water, if he wants to eat lunch, if he wants to do this, if he wants this want that, which he’ll solemnly reject everything.  Looks very princy, if not like a king to me.  Add his 8yo and 4yo sisters, both very soft spoken girls, who have the same eating problem as the brother, and so the whole family was constantly hunting down all 3 kids to eat a proper lunch.

In another family, the 3 J siblings, a 6yo boy, 4.5yo girl and 2.5yo boy, one was playing the computer game with his daddy throughout the 1hr we were there, the girl glued to the iPhone and the youngest throwing tantrums with the mummy.  Hmm… why does it seem that families with 3 kids do not interact with each other at all!?

Or is it a boys’ thing?  Dear1 and I had to constantly stay close to Baby1 for fear of her being hammered by the boys, all of which are younger than her.  I personally witnessed 2.5yo C hitting her head with a Thomas train, why, I don’t know the reason at all!  His granddad even had to bring him out for a walk due to him creating too much nuisance and noise in the house, when Daddy’s constantly scolding and Mummy’s constantly nagging don’t work.  It was peace for a good 30mins until C is back in the house again.

Sometimes I think it’s us parents creating such kids.  We give in to the kids too much and too easily, and they know that they can ride over our heads.  We scold, we beat, but we do not instil discipline despite these.   After the 3 days, Baby1 started to exhibit bad behaviour.  Blatantly snatched Baby2’s toys a couple of times.  Looks to me that she picked up these bad behaviour from the CNY visiting, and Dear1 and I needed to put a stop to this immediately.  We chided, we explained, we reasoned, and it seems that she remembers not to do so again.  But does it mean that bad behaviour is really so easily picked up and learnt!?

I want to be an elegant and chio mummy next Chinese New Year, but to achieve this, I need to have good behaviour in my kids. Love them lots, explain to those who can reason, and guide them with ourselves as role models.

Till next year~

– Dear2

 

Fun @ Indoor Playground

Indoor playgrounds are great places for our little ones.  Apart from having a safe (aka soft) avenue for them to learn motor skills through play, climb, run arounds, they are also a great place to learn the first socialisation skills through interaction with other kids.  Mummy loves to bring Baby1 to indoor playgrounds!

So far, we’ve only been to three of such.  KidsAmaze at Jurong Safra seems to be the largest with the tallest playground with multiple storeys (really!!), but for our 19-month old, this seem to be kinda advance for her yet.  We’ve heard of SingKids at Vivocity and T3, but at $18/hr per adult on weekends, it seems a bit extravagant…. There’s also one at (Orchid?) Country Club, but the pictures I’ve seen doesn’t seem very impressive with just 1 tiny ball area.

Let’s talk about those 3 that we’ve been to.

Fidget @ Turf City

First, parking is free, so plus plus plus points.  It’s free entry for kids under 1 year old, and $8 whole day for our 19-month old.  Adults go in free, yeah.  Among the 3 that we have visited, Fidgets is the largest, with 3/ 4 separate areas including 1 small corner for babies under 12 month.  The play area for the older kids is very large, ample space for kids except when the kids are ‘released’ from whatever birthday party they were attending in the function rooms.  During this time, you’ve better stay away from the play area until these rowdy bigger children return to their parties.

Go Go Bambini @ Dempsey

Again, parking is free at Dempsey, so horray.  $6 for our little ones, and free for us parents.  The interior however was very disappointing.  First, the staff did not even ask if we want to sanitize our hands.  No sanitization for us means none for other parents and kids there too.  Hmm… This scores minus points at first impression.  Then upon passing the gate, we were unsure if we need to change into socks already.. There were visible shoe prints on the floor, but the play area is just next to it!!  Eeks, I don’t want to talk about how someone can walk (shoe or sock, I don’t know) into the toilet which is just round the corner, then go back into the play area.

On the play area, it’s really kinda small and low, and it gets even worse when the kids are released from their party.  For a while, we were happily enjoying the exclusiveness to us (it was just us one family there on that Saturday late afternoon), but we had to scramble down to safety when the tods come scrambling up.  It was a nightmare to even recall it.

Peekaboo @ Kallang Leisure Park

No free parking at the stadium area, so we put coupons every hourly because we don’t know how long Baby1 will enjoy the place.  At $10 per entry, it seems expensive for a play area slightly bigger than that at Go Go Bambini.  But despite it’s squeeze, the main playground is fun!  Ample of balls in the balls area – that’s what I will really call a Balls Area.  There’s even lots of rockers, and a mini slide and a mini swing, a tod-size sink/oven area, and a mini house, all so suitable for our little one.  Yeah, truly, until Baby1 reaches 2 when she’s more mobile and confident in running around on her own, big playgrounds and slides don’t attract her as much as these little ones.

Next up, I’ll want to bring Baby1 to Polliwogs at East Coast Park.  The parking at ECP is usually horrible at the most popular area where the playground is located, so we’ll see how it goes when we are there.

Have fun!

– Dear2