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

Our Girls~~

On the last day of Term 2, it seemed that all the parents are somewhere attending their children’s Parents-Teachers Meetings.  Dear1 and I attended Baby1 and Baby2’s PTMs too, and I can only say, both our girls are so good~~

Dear1 and I know that Baby1 and Baby2 are both good girls.  They listen to what we tell them, they obey our instructions, albeit frequently making our blood boil.  I sometimes have to remind myself and Dear1 that they are both still kids.  Just 7 years old and 5 years old, how did Dear1 and I behaved when we were that age!?  So when it comes to Parents-Teachers meetings, after the first meeting in their new childcare centre, Dear1 and I decided that it was okay to skip the subsequent ones, cos we know that Baby1 and Baby2 were doing very okay in school.

For Baby2’s Parent-Teacher meeting this year, both her Chinese and English teachers were full of praises for her.  Observant, serious in learning, nice handwriting, independent, quietly does her work, can do most of the work on her own.  She is surely the best student in her Kindergarten One class of 14 kids.  Dear1 and I came out of the room beaming as very proud parents.

For Baby1, on the last school day of Term 2, she:

  1.  was announced to be the Class Monitress
  2. topped the class with the highest score (again) in Term 2, and
  3. came home with a Report Book of all Grade 1s and As (except for PE, B) for her SA1

OMG.  This is the child who makes my blood boil at least 3 times a day (during breakfast, lunch and dinner for eating so slow!), and this is the child who I frequently scold for always being so playful and easily distracted.

On the last day of Term 2, we also counted the money that Baby1 has saved in this half year.  $40.10!  Considering that Baby1’s pocket money is $1.30 per recess, and she spends $1 on a meal, Baby1 has not been spending her money on any unnecessary things at all. Wow.

Actually, Baby1 is really a good girl too.  From the Parents-Teachers meeting, both her Form Teacher and Chinese Teacher were full of praises for her too.  She does her work independently and seriously, and she’s careful in her work.  Basically, both teachers have nothing much to worry about her.

Why do children always seem to behave so differently in school and at home!?  At home, I seem to be constantly nagging at her, “be quick”, “do your work seriously”, “keep the toys”, “why is this thing here?”, or at Baby2 “drink water”, “one quarter”.  I constantly feel like I am on REPEAT REPEAT REPEAT mode.  But in school, both Baby1 and Baby2 are such darlings!

Love Them. Understand Them.  Forgive Them.  Grow with Them.

After reading “Search Inside Yourself”, I have the above new mantra.

I do not want myself to be a kiasu parent, and I do not want myself to be a Tiger Mum.  We want Baby1 and Baby2 to grow up in a loving and happy family.  And we need to remind ourselves that both our girls are so lovely and lovable, so “Love them, understand them, forgive them, and grow with them.”

I love you, Baby1 and Baby2.

And I love you, Dear1.  Muck!

– Dear2

Water is Precious

I do not understand why Singaporeans do not have the concept that water is precious. I mean, why is it that we only start to appreciate this whenever there’s a price hike in water, or when Malaysia starts to threaten to cut off water supply to us, or when there’s a prolong dry spell here in Singapore like last year when even the flowers on the streets bloomed like never before?  Don’t people understand that inherently, WATER IS PRECIOUS!?

I think PUB or whatever agency in charge of public education on water conservation has been doing a very bad job. Just because we Singapore gets portable water everywhere and anywhere whenever we turn on our taps, that does not mean that water comes cheap.  Ok, perhaps, it is really so cheap that we don’t feel the pinch unless there’s an impending price hike.  And after the new rates kicks in, life is back to normal again  until the next price hike.

Where do you think our water comes from?  Where do you think all the water that we use massively everyday comes from?  You know that our catchment area becomes smaller and smaller as we build more and more buildings and roads.  You know that even though we are an island surrounded by seas but they say desalination is still so expensive.  You know that we are drinking our loo water as in NEWater, yet that is something we need to do because we just don’t have enough.  And of course you know that some day the pipe that connects Malaysia to Singapore will very soon be cut.

But why are we still not taking this seriously!?

I think we are all too comfortable.  We get portable water everywhere; we’ve never have to worry that the water from the taps is not clean; we’ve never seen yellow waters flowing out from our taps; we’ve never have to wash our laundry in rivers, or had an outbreak of some contagious water-borne diseases.  We don’t even have to ration our household water even when there’s prolong dry spells.  At most, you’ll see the shopping malls close their water play areas, or PUB telling you to water your plants in the evenings rather than during the hot afternoons.  (Btw, when’s the last time Singapore had to ration water?  In my 36 years, I can only recall one time when I was really very very little that there’s water rationing and we had to carry buckets of water from the water truck home for our bath).

Our leaders are very concerned, but what about the commoners?  True, I see some schools advocating Save Water Campaign and Water Rationing Exercises, but once the students are released home, how many of them actually get their families to rally together, and how many of them actually sees the importance that water is precious?

Come on Singapore, please don’t take water as granted.  We are blessed, but please let’s really work together to make every drop counts.

– Dear2

I want to be a Mummy when I grow up

“I want to be a Mummy when I grow up.”  This is Baby1 and Baby2’s recent ambition.  Don’t know if I should laugh or cry when I first heard this coming from their mouths!

My first impression when Baby1 first proclaimed that she “wants to be a mummy when she grows up” was, what????  Over these few years, she has alternated between wanting to be a chef (she loves to play cooking!) to a scientist (possibly under the influence of Papa whose job title is a Scientist) to an artist (somehow, she loves drawing too.  Dear1 and I are perplexed on where she got all the artistic genes from), so we know that having multiple changing ambitions is pretty much the norm for kids.  Recently, she added Mummy to her ambition too.  Don’t know if Baby2 was merely copy-cat Jie Jie, Baby2 also proclaimed that she “wants to be a mummy when she grows up” too.  -_-‘”

What do Baby1 and Baby2 mean by that?  I dare not ask.  To their simple-minded hearts, does being a Mummy equates a SAHM who looks after kids?  Is a money-generating FTWM not a Mummy?  I dare not ask, because if this is the answer, how sad will that be!

Last week during the kids’ evening swimming class and Dear1 got to come home early at 6pm because he’s on course, he commented that he’s glad that we have this arrangement.  And when Ah Gong Ah Ma popped by our house on a Tuesday 7.30pm while I was revising Spelling with Baby1, it suddenly dawned upon me that we will not be able to go for weekday swimming lessons nor have the energy or time to revise Spelling at 7.30pm if we are a dual-income family.   I can imagine Dear1 and I would probably be goofing down our dinner, 90% brain-dead at 7.30pm on a weekday.  Spellings and swimming will have to wait till the weekends.  And what about checking the daily homework? Arghhhhhhhhhhhhhh!

I have a new-found admiration for FTWMs, especially those who are coping well with older children.  As Baby1 and Baby2 grow up day by day, I find that they need more intellectual, emotional, and of course technical interactions in their waking hours. I don’t think Student Cares or either side Gramps will be able to give as much as what I can provide.   I am very thankful to Dear1 for understanding and agreeing with me on this approach, and shouldering the task to be the income-generator while I care for our family. Of course in a job, I hope that Dear1 continues to find passion and fun in what he do.

As for being a Mummy, I want to think that Baby1 and Baby2 are acknowledging that their Mummy is awesome.

I:

  • Had been a well behaved, hardworking student in my schooling years
  • Enjoyed reading since Primary School
  • Am brave, yet not arrogant
  • Challenge my fears by bracing myself to face them
  • Can be trusted
  • Had good grades in school because I did my homework well
  • Am athletic
  • Always do things carefully
  • Have my limitations, but I try my best
  • (and I hope to be able to list many more qualities here!)

No Mummy is perfect, but we always want our kids to grow up well, because we made them, so we should love them and guide them to the best of our abilities.

– Dear2

New Year Resolutions 2017

OMG, we are almost done with Quarter 1 and I am still procrastinating on penning down the 2017 NYR.  Gotto resolve to resolve!

For the first 3 quarters of 2016, Dear1 and I did fairly okay.  We constantly remind ourselves of the goals that we’ve set out earlier in the year, and try to work towards them.  The monthly calendar that we stick on the fridge, where we write down the monthly outdoor activities, bi-monthly couple activities, and quarterly friends/ relatives gatherings work quite well (though we cheated a bit, LOL).  On months that we could not achieve the activity, we’ll try to make it up the next month.  I also made a photo-log of the new (successful) dishes that I’ve cooked in Facebook, which serves as useful reminders when I forget the ingredients used in a particular dish.  Dear1 did well in his self-improvement too; he’d learnt a couple other new languages, and seems to be having fun expanding his knowledge through reading everyday.

Towards the end of the year, I kind of lost steam and got depressed when Granny was diagnosed with Stage 4 Uterine Cancer. When family members are old and sick, you start to think about life a lot more, adding to the mental, emotional and physical stress.  I guess I’ll just have to do more to keep myself away from the depressing thoughts.

2017 is gonna be a year when I immerse myself as a SAHM.  And the mantra that I want to set for myself as a SAHM, is to be a loving wife to Dear1, and a loving mentor to Baby1 and Baby2.

Dear2 NYR:

  1. Talk unhurriedly and in proper English or Mandarin
  2. Write legibly (and no short forms)
  3. Moisturize daily (hand, neck)
  4. Cup of warm water every morning (for improving digestive system)
  5. Planks every morning (for trimming down that loose belly!)
  6. Facebook ONLY once a day
  7. Attend a course (maybe an evening class at the CC?)
  8. Attend CEPP (Community Emergency Preparedness Program)
  9. Master 1 CNY cookie
  10. At least 1 post monthly
  11. Give Dear1 a massage at least once a week

Dear1 NYR:

  1. Weight: Maintain weight at 66-68kg
  2. Exercise: Do daily planks (minimum 2 x 1.5min) on weekdays
  3. Exercise on weekends
  4. Diet: Less oil, salt and carbo
  5. Complete 1 skills future course + Data Science course
  6. At least 1 post bi-monthly
  7. Sleep by 10.15pm on week nights
  8. Apply scholarship

Family NYR:

  1. Monthly family activities (starting Apr, opps)
  2. Quarterly couple activities (starting Q2, huhuhu)
  3. Quarterly bring Ah Gong and Ah Ma out
  4. Host Friends at least once this year
  5. Hug and kiss Dear1, Dear2, Baby1 and Baby2 everyday + say love often
  6. Travel: 1 long (2 weeks) and 1 short (see, by now, we have already done the short trip with our 1D Desaru trip, >_<  )
  7. Re-initiate house viewing (with the intention to rent)
  8. At least 1 fruit weekly (gotto feed Dear1 since he really does not have any fondness for fruits)
  9. Give each other full attention for at least 5mins everyday
  10. No processed foods (mental note to self: that includes frozen nuggets, fishballs, crabsticks, or any frozen balls)
  11. Teach – Step by step; Educate – Make understand; Instruct – Understand and follow

Jiayou~

– Dear2

Book Review: Spark Joy

I couldn’t manage to borrow a copy of the acclaimed KonMarie book “The Life-Changing Method of Tidying Up” but found a copy of “”Spark Joy” from the National Library instead.  This book is indeed inspirational too!

Whether as a FTWM or a SAHM, I have often feel that our house is always overly cluttered.  Our 3-room HDB flat often seems overwhelmed with soooo many things that every once in a while I’ll buay tahan to the max and complain to Dear1 that I want to do a spring clean.  Indeed, at every new milestone, like when just before Baby1 was born and the “maternal instinct to clean out everything” suddenly kicked in; and same thing when just before Baby2 was born; when we chased Baby1 and Baby2 out from our bedroom to their own children’s room; or when the storeroom seems to be filled to the brim every now and then.  After reading , I found out that this urge to “spring clean” is actually more philosophical than purely just spring clean!

Basically, a tidy house:

  • Reflects your tidy life, and your tidy character.
  • Makes you understand what you really want (ie your material needs and wants)
  • Makes you ponder on what you want in life too. “Tidying orders the mind, while cleaning purifies it”.
  • Makes cleaning easier.  When there’s less things in the house, faster cleaning means more time for play.
  • Makes finding things easier. Because every item has it’s own place.
  • Of course means you spend more wisely since you’ll be cautious of what you add to the house.
  • Leaves only items that “spark joy” in your house.  If you see items that spark joy everywhere in your house, naturally you’ll feel happier.
  • Makes you discard all the items that don’t spark joy for you. When these dreaded items are out of sight, they’re out-of-mind, so there’s nothing to spark unjoy.
  • Enables better air flow.  When there’s no stagnant qi and better flow, everyone’s supposed to feel better!

Reading the book, it seems there’s already a large part that I have employed in my own life all this while (perhaps I can be a consultant just like KonMarie, giving lessons to other people, writing books, all merely passing on to other people what I do on a daily basis.  ;p).

1) Tidy by Category

Whenever I do spring cleaning, clothes is always the first category to be axed.  I often noticed that when my wardrobe is much neater, aka when I can better sight the clothes that I’ll wear, and sell to karang kuni those that I won’t wear anymore, this alone is very therapeutic. Or rather, the sense of over whelmness will absolve very fast.

KonMarie also advocates clearing the clothes first, followed by books, papers then komono (miscellaneous).  Her rule of thumb is, only keep those that “spark joy”.  This is where I come short, because very often, you tend to keep certain clothes that are barely worn, for “just in case”.  KonMarie says that this is a no-no, for if that time really comes (ask y0urself, really got?), you can always find a substitute from your existing pile.  Also, because it’s an item that “sparks joy”, you feel happy during this once-in-a-while usage too.

Clearing papers has been part of our habits too (but one that Dear1 and I only discovered in recent years.  Perhaps this is part of us maturing and gaining more life experience over the years?)  Like her, we have decided to discard most papers nowadays.

KonMarie also says always to tidy by category, and never by location, ie tidy bedroom first, then living room next.  You run the risk of transferring your garbage from one room to the other if you do that!

2) Keep Similar Items Together

This is also a rule of thumb when I keep things at home. Batteries and cables in 1 location, spares toiletries in 1 location.  Sometimes when Dear1 asks for a random item, I can usually retrieve it easily even though I can’t remember it’s exact location most of the time.  Because similar items are stored together, the random item will usually be found where it’s peers are!

3) Tidy Komono and Sentimental Items Last

The rule is, you tidy the easy ones first, and leave the tricky ones to the last.  It’s easier to settle all the easier clothes, books and papers category first; this gives you more confidence, more peace of mind, and more time to handle the supposedly more time-consuming ones.  For komono, aka miscellaneous items, every one may have different categories, for instance kitchen tools, hobbies (sewing, robots, art and craft etc), so tackle each sub-category one by one.  Again, the rule of thumb, discard those that do not spark joy, and keep only those that spark joy.

4) Kitchen as Ease of Cleaning

KonMarie refutes the common conception that the kitchen should be designed for ease of use.  Throw this concept out of the window!

Ever since we have our own house, my philosophy is to store all condiments, pots and pans and as much as everything within closed doors.  Finally there is someone who agrees that this is the better method, as compared to having a “ease of use” method.  While having to open and close cupboard doors and drawers frequently when cooking every meal, I find that a neat kitchen stove is more appealing than an oily-looking one. And KonMarie aptly coins this as the “ease of cleaning”.  Wah, what a revelation!

5) Fold and Stack Clothes

We converted the deep Toyogo drawers to shallow Ikea drawers when Baby2 came along, and started to store the clothes in horizontal rows rather in vertical clothes so that all the clothes are easily visible, and easy to extract.  A neater wardrobe is so pleasing to the eye!

“Spark Joy” also sheds a couple other points that are new to me:

1) The Annual Spring Clean is to Clean, not Tidy

How often have I felt overwhelmed and extremely exhausted whenever I do spring cleaning.  Because I have been doing it the wrong way!

KonMarie says cleaning and tidying are not the same thing (ermm, so obvious, but yet not so obvious, right?).  So when you do Spring Cleaning, means you only clean.  But tidying first then clean is definitely much more efficient and less daunting, so please always tidy first!

2) Praise your Spark Joy Items, and Bid Goodbye to the Rest

KonMarie really appreciates all her items.  For those that spark joy and remain, she’ll praise them for bringing beauty to her, or being a great helper, or for bringing joy to her life (isn’t this what all of us should do, being appreciative to what you have in life?).  For those that she decides to discard, she’ll thank them for being part of her life once, or for having served it’s function, and keep these out of her life forever (again, isn’t this reminiscing the good times before and being grateful, but resolve to remove them when they become an obstacle?).

3) Dorn your House

KonMarie must be a super feminine lady; she dorns her house with many pretty things and stores all her things in nice pretty boxes, even all the underwear. I think this must be their Japanese culture where Japanese craft is always so delicate and pretty.  And when you see many pretty things, you’ll naturally feel happier too?  She arranges all the bras in color code, with the brighter ones in front and the darker ones at the back.  For underwear, each and every piece is folded and wrapped like a candy, exposing the front detailed laces.  Seems very elaborate, but perhaps seeing all your under garments arranged so prettily and colorfully really brightens your day, and wearing these cherished pieces in the inner wear really makes you feel cherished and confident too?

4) Compare

KonMarie says the best way to know if something sparks joy is to compare. When we cling on to too many material possessions, this tip becomes so useful!  All these pyjamas are favourites, but between this and that, which one sparks more joy?  Or when there are too many art pieces by Baby1, choose only the top 3 to keep.

5) It has to come from your Heart

If someone wants to tidy, it has to come from within.  In the book, the example is, you can’t get someone to tidy if he doesn’t want to, because he simply does not have your same perspective that things are not in order.  On this, I have to acknowledge that I finally understand why Dear1 does not always see the need to do spring cleaning, because things did not seem out of place from his perspective….

“Spark Joy” has been very enlightening. I’ll be trying to incorporate some of these ideas in our home, and in our life.  It’s also especially heartening to know that my minimalist personality and lifestyle actually have been recognized by some to be beneficial.  :)

– Dear2