Sunday, January 13

Happy 2013!

This new year brings many changes.

New syllabus, new system, new colleagues, new Principal, new students, new lifestyle and schedule for me.

New school, teachers, friends, CCA, programmes for ds1.

New teachers for ds2.

New school premises, new friends for dd.

Biggest change would be our family interaction and time together.

dd reacted in the biggest way towards the changes in the first week. She cried and wailed in the mornings when she awoke and found me gone. Helper says she will go to every room to look for me then run back to the bed and cry and cry and refuse to eat breakfast nor drink anything. She wouldn't change into her school uniform and my helper would have to call my mom and my mom would come over and both would try more ways to get her to calm down and try.

My mil would arrive (she is the only one with transport vehicle now, with me using the car to bring ds1 to school and then myself to work) and bring the miserably teary girl to nursery. She'd be tired, puffy-eyed, hungry and thirsty. The first day my mom whatsapped me to inform me about her crying and I wondered about her the entire day, feeling a lot of heartache and pain, thinking, what have I done, to return to work?!?

The next day, my mom didn't text me and I thought all was fine, but my helper informed me the same thing happened when I got back home. I think my mom understood I might not be able to concentrate at work and thus stopped informing me. oops.

Thankfully dd's Principal was nice enough to text me a photo of her each day at school, and I even zoomed in very close up on her face, just to make sure she's really happily engaged and not crying continuously in school.

Thus I realised that she's just adjusting to the differences in her life. For the past 2.5 years of her life, the first person she saw each morning when she awoke would be me. I was the one who gave her breakfast, dressed her and brought her to school. However, at school, (playgroup last year) it was the same teacher and similar activities, so she's fine with those and did not cry. Poor girl, not her fault of course, that there are these upheavals in her life.

The boys do have a grumble here and there about things that have changed. No more lunch boxes packed by mom. ds2 no longer has daddy fetching him to school nor mommy bringing him home. He has to walk with helper to school and back with my mom. Even if it's raining and pouring. But he will get used to it. The boys are older, they are tough.

ds1 has had to sit through 2 of my meetings. Because his school is much nearer to my school than home, and during these first weeks, they have no CCAs nor afternoon activities yet, he is dismissed at 1pm every day. I do not have the luxury of ending work at 1pm daily of course, so I will zip over to pick him up then bring him to my school where he will have his lunch (often all alone) and then he will read a book or do HW while he waits for my meetings to be done.

So far he is alright. He looked really bored during one of them that ended at 5.30pm, and I passed him my iPhone towards the end and of course he brightened up. Thankful for my phone which has served handy always, as a last resort, to occupy any of them - from big adult to young toddler - when I need them to wait for me for a long period of time.

Some of my colleagues have been really nice too. Even the EAS give him sweets and the IT guys turn on the big screen PC for him to play with. I know he is in good hands even when he roams around the school. He told me he went to watch the band practice one day.

But I find myself having very very little time to really do anything with ds2 and dd. ds1 I get to talk to him during the long car rides to school and back. But poor ds2 and dd. When I get back, dd will usually clamour loudly for my attention and ds2 graciously waits. Sometimes something/ one else (like the helper or my mom would need to talk to me) and then Dh returns home from work, and I realise it's only at bedtime when I tuck ds2 in that I finally get to talk to him alone. sigh... my poor darling.

I know, in a couple of weeks, we would all get used to this routine. Already in this past week, dd has stopped crying badly in the morning. I hope I remind myself consciously to talk to ds2 as well, because I am afraid we all get used to not talking much and then it would be rather sad, wouldn't it?

May I also achieve a balance very soon! :)

Thursday, November 29

Wrapping up all the chess competitions

This year there were quite a number of Chinese chess competitions and it has been a good year for ds1 as he managed to clinch trophies at every competition. Thanks to his teacher and school mates, they have trained till they reached some kind of apex. 

His seniors (p5-6) are practically unbeatable. Perhaps only a couple from another school and a girl in the east are able to match up to them.

He clinched the champion at a national Under 9 competition and at the rest of the competitions, he would be under either the Open category or Primary school category, which meant he would be one of the youngest in the competition. But his school trained him well. He always fights to place near the top. Here he is seen receiving his trophy from CCK MP. It was the most recent competition he took part in. 

His new school does not have a Chinese chess club, but he will still play at the CC. He may not enjoy the regular sparring he gets in the current school club, and most likely will drop in ranking next year. But hopefully he can still enjoy playing and not feel too bad in the slip in rankings in future. 

Perhaps, it will be a good chance for him to try something new. Hopefully something to do with sports, because I worry for his eyesight and I think more outdoor stuff would be great for him!

Farewell pizza party

Our ds had decided. During the briefing, he was still hesitant. He liked what he saw, in that he was interested in the science and math stuff, and the students of one particular school attracted his attention greatly.

He said if he were to switch schools it would have to be that one. I said ok, he can make his own decision. And so he had to sign the sheet of paper saying that he wanted to join the programme and opt for his choice of schools. Yet, when I took the piece of paper out and handed him a pen, he wavered.

Then guess what, he teared up and swallowed and then told me, no, he will stay on in his current school.

Dh and I were both there and kind of taken aback. We parents were given a separate briefing too and we found the programme suitable for him and were actually looking forward to it making him more occupied and perhaps less restless at home and in school since maybe he will have more on his hands.

However, looking at his red eyes and nose, we said fine and left. I brought the boys for their Chinese drama session and while driving the long distance to drama class, I casually discussed the topic with him, asking him just what was holding him back. 

He named his best friend, his CCA club and 3 teachers. 

Ok, I found that rather easy to solve. I said, we will invite your best friend for playdates, and to church. Maybe then we can see him twice a week, since the kids attend midweek Bible class and Sunday school. 

As for CCA, no problem. His teacher had already asked a handful of them to join the Community Club (CC) chess club and his teacher is in the CC club as well, so it seemed like an extension of his school CCA at the nearby CC. He would be able to continue playing Chinese chess and see his beloved chess teacher and closer friends in the school club at the CC. They meet weekly on Sat.

And then his 2 other teachers. I told him we can continue visiting his current school. Return to visit his teachers. Just like his seniors do! I reminded him, remember AA and BB and CC who came back during Teachers' Day? What about XX and YY who returned to help at the competition held in school? And then ZZ who returned during the CNY and MAF celebrations?

He was quiet and pensive. 

I left it at that. 

They went for drama together. I went to a nearby McDonalds and read all the material given to us. Lots of information. I tried to digest it all.

After 1.5h, they were out. They were happy and skipping along and discussing some games they played during the session.

Suddenly ds1 said, I wanna join. Just make sure it is that school I will get into. I don't want any other school.

Ahhhh, how well I know my son. :) A big smile spread across my face. I know, it's better to keep quiet at the important moment. To let him make the decision. But after that, we suggest and persuade and provide some alternatives. Everything can be solved. I texted Dh as he had gone back to work directly from the school where we had the briefing. He was concerned when he left as ds1 was crying.

And so I drove straight to the HQ to submit the form. LOL. Cos we were afraid he will keep changing his mind and then give up trying something more challenging just because he was afraid of change. Or afraid of hard work and more effort.

After that we drove home, and he was very happy and relieved to have made the decision.

He decided that he wanted to give a treat to his friends and teachers. To thank his teachers and to have some fun with his friends. Like a farewell party. But not really farewell forever, of course.

So I contacted his teacher and we decided on a date during the hols when they had training. 

Look at them, so happy together. I feel a little bit emotional too when I contemplate what a big change it is and I just hope it is a good change, else he seems to be giving up something very precious too. 

The one in the center is his most beloved and respected teacher in the school. A teacher who teaches the kids how to play chess, and then plays basketball with them too, and then also teaches them how to be a good person. How to grow and how to have values like determination, patience, perseverance, honesty, integrity and care. Someone who gives of his time and energy way beyond his normal course of duty and is constantly thinking of ways to help them improve. 

We had lots of drinks. Canned drinks (36x), soda in 1.5L bottles (10x). 60 nuggets. 14 boxes of extra large pizzas. 4 types of toppings. And guess what? All these were emptied. Yup! They can really eat!

This pic is so funny. It looks like idol worship. All turned to their idol.... And the tee reads 帅 which has several meanings. It means the teacher is very handsome? charming? And it also denotes the General/ King in chinese chess. The most important piece of all.

The chess club is 帅 and everyone of them is a 帅 too! :)

Wish them all the best and may they keep achieving greater heights (they are already one of the best two in Sg!).

Friday, November 23

Who's the tyrant?

Who else? The littlest one!

Being by far the youngest, and also the only girl, she has, at the tender age of 2.5 years old, realised her privileged position in the family.

I have to remind Dh and myself that if we are not careful she will be very spoilt. And we dislike spoilt kids. (see below: how she is the center of attention)

She expects her brothers to give in to her, at all times, and whatever it is. If they are holding a book and she wants it, she forces them to give it to her. If they are busy with something else and she needs help, she will make them drop everything and attend to her needs. If they refuse or decline whatever requests she makes, she will shout, scream or cry. Very loudly. Oh, you should have seen.

That's why Dh laughed when her teachers said she is quiet and gentle. 

She likes to mimic adults and if I scold the boys, she scolds them too. If I am baking, she wants to bake. If the helper is mopping the floor, she insists on mopping too. She wants to be a small adult. 

Today, in the lift, we met our Indian neighbour coming home from work. I said hi to him when he walked into the lift at the ground floor. 

Dd went a step further. She looked at him, said hi loudly and cheerily, and waved, then stretched out her hand for a handshake.

After the guy laughed and shook her hand, she turned to ds2 and said, hey! say hi!

ds2 said hi softly, and she turned his face towards the guy and told him off. Say hi Uncle! Say! Louder!

ds2 complied, and the guy laughed some more when dd took ds2's hand and told him, "You must wave! Wave!"

When ds2 just stood there sheepishly, she grabbed his hand, raised it and waved his hand for him. "Wave!" She ordered.

Then she made him shake hands too! 


Both the guy and I laughed. (He has 2 young sons and I think he must be glad not to have such a domineering daughter!)

When bullied, she makes sure they get punished by crying very loudly :)

Thursday, November 22

The brothers two

The year-end school holidays have begun. And we all know this one is the longest one in the year.

Since 2009 after we got back from China, we did not have a vacation vacation. We only went for church camps if we ever went to Batam or Malaysia.

And we seldom sign the kids up for paid holiday activities/ workshops now as they usually cost quite a lot.

Hence, that means I have to think of ways to entertain and occupy them meaningfully.

 Of course, it is very easy for me to let them play on their own and watch a couple of DVDs each day. They are very capable of independent play, but guess what, they'd surely make a very big mess in the course of the day and probably fight a lot as well.

For my sanity, and also to ensure they do some meaningful stuff each day, I told them there were 3 compulsory things they must do daily and then the rest of the day is up to them.

What are the 3 things?
1. Read the Bible
2. Practise piano and/ or violin (for ds2)
3. Read a simple Chinese book or story

The last one was added in last minute in desperation to find something that would take up some time and also try and improve their very lacking language ability in this area.

Because the first two only takes up at most 30min, unless I scream at them that 5 min of piano practice is not counted.

On Monday, the first day of the school hols, they woke up bright and early (as usual) at around 645-7am. They had breakfast and then were done with 2 things by 8am. I told them they can't practise their instruments at that unearthly hour unless they want our neighbours to hate us.

Then they started playing Monopoly, Magic Cards, Blokus, and by 9.30am, they were tearing up and down our tiny house, and jumping from sofa to low table and then hopping on chairs to reach their bunk bed in the room and then climbing up to the upper bunk and jumping down from there. They tried tying their blankets to the upper bunk railing and pulling themselves up, Tarzan-style and ds1 almost fell badly when the blanket knot loosened and gave way.

So I put a stop to that and allowed them to play some "music" on the piano/ violin. By 10am they said they needed a snack. Ok, snack. Then they asked to play the computer. Horror of horrors. It's only 10am. So I amended my list above, and said they need to have outdoor play first also.

They went downstairs to rollerblade/ cycle and then came up after an hour.

I brought them out to NTUC and Popular.

After we got home, I quickly said the computer time during weekdays must be educational and if you use the computer, then no DVD time. It's either one or the other and not both. They groaned and I told them that I'm such a loving mother cos I care for their myopic eyes.

So they picked the DVD and watched Spiderman 3.

And we still have the afternoon and evening. *help!*

I let them go cos I was busy with dd, who was sick and needed my attention. So they played and played with abandon.

On Tuesday, I realised more structured outdoor time would be good. I added badminton, table tennis and basketball to their outdoor activities that could be carried out downstairs. Already on the list was soccer, cycling, waveboarding, roller blading and playing catching at the playground.

I taught ds2 how to serve using a cheapo badminton racquet and cheapo shuttlecocks. I have to say, after the morning, I texted Dh to inform him that ds2 inherited his lack of ball sense. :P

I was the one who taught ds1 how to play badminton too and it was easy. ds1 can serve and receive pretty ok by now. ds2, perhaps it is his lassez-faire attitude also, and how he's not really keen to keep trying, still couldn't serve properly after an entire morning of my coaching. But it could be due to genes too? He lacked coordination somewhat and kept dropping the shuttlecock instead of being able to hit it with the racquet.

I have to say, my attitude was also very poor. My voice kept rising in decibels and became more and more edgy. My frustration mounted and I just wasn't being patient at all. ds2 is a very meek boy and when he sensed my impatience and irritation, he became even more rigid and fearful and thus played even worse than before. And I was just driving myself up the wall.

I decided to give up for the time being and left him to practise on his own and play with his brother. I concentrated on running around with dd instead.

Fortunately it didn't end in tears, which might very well have been, if I continued to hound him and made sure he served it correctly. I can't recall how I learnt how to play all the ball games I did but I enjoyed all types of ball games and could play relatively well as a kid. I am not a sports coach and since I forgot how I was taught, and didn't know how to teach it well, I think I should not expect much results and thus should not have gotten angry at all.

Today, I was very much put to shame. And very much surprised.

The boys had piano lessons in the morning and I managed to go to NTUC with dd and get groceries and so on. In the afternoon I had to make dd take her nap and then was busy sorting up stuff in the cupboard so the boys have space for their books and files next year. The boys were restless and asked to go downstairs on their own to play badminton.

Since I was busy, and helper was busy, and I can see the badminton court from my flat, I agreed.

They were gone for almost 2 hours and I checked on them every 15min by sticking my head out and watching.

I was more and more surprised as they continued at the game valiantly.

They really have much more patience than me. Seriously.

ds2 kept dropping the shuttlecock while serving but ds1 will be practising his strokes and serves on the other side while waiting for him. Since it took a long time, by the time ds2 finally gets a serve right, ds1 usually is unable to hit it back as he was doing something else while waiting. So then ds1 will have to pick up the ball and hit it to ds2 who will not be able to receive it as he doesn't have the reflexes and coordination yet. So then ds2 will pick the shuttlecock up and attempt his serving all over  again.

I was pretty amazed so there was a period of time I stood there and watched them for about 10min in total. I just can't believe how nicely they can get along sometimes, when most of the time they are arguing and making lots of noise or up to no good. Sometimes ds1 gets bored and walks over to ds2's side and holds his arm and corrects his posture and teach him to serve.

And they did this for an hour. Which to me seems very time-consuming. If I were down there with them, I'd probably have lost my cool... Bad, very bad of me...

After that, I noticed another boy from the neighbourhood arrive with his racquet and he started to play with ds1. He's much better than ds1 and so ds2 kind of retreated to the side to watch, probably knowing that if even his elder brother is panting away trying to catch up, then he stands no chance? He's a cute one.

And that went on for another 30min. Later on, I sent my helper downstairs to get them up for dinner. Couldn't go down as dd was napping then. They didn't come up till another 30min later.

I'm glad for siblings. We must celebrate having a sibling to play with us and go through life's happy and difficult parts together with us. Because sometimes a sibling understands a lot more than a parent. And I have to admit that I was not as good a teacher as ds1 is to ds2 in this case.

And this post is dedicated to the boys. My darling boys. May they grow up loving each other more and more. :)

Tuesday, November 20

E's year end PTM

Today Dh was able to make it. He attends his first PTM at dd's school. 

How was our little girl's first year in playgroup?

Montessori schools use a checklist and the teachers talked to me about her gross motor skills, vision and fine motor, language development, socio-emotional development, and cognitive development.

Her strengths and weaknesses and the little anecdotes the teachers mention are similar to what I observe at home, except when they said she's a very gentle and quiet girl. Dh actually snorted. My mom also laughed when I told her that.

Well, at least in school she displays good behaviour! At home she may shout and fight and snatch things from her brothers, but please let her be good in school, else I'd be very embarrassed. :p

 She has learnt a lot this past year. Toilet training for example, at home, and then learning to do many things on her own. The teachers all concur that they often observe her to be a big sister to the rest and always trying to be an adult. Like when she plays, she will place all the pillows and toys around her and read to them.

As for activities, during free choice, her favourites remain the practical life stuff: pouring, scooping, sorting. She used to love beading but teachers say she seemed to have moved on. She now likes stacking and also likes puzzles. They say her concentration and focus is good, she can work on something for a long time till she masters it. Only then she would move on.

They also tell me she is great at singing and dancing. In fact, during music and movement, they say she would be the one introducing all the moves and everyone would tend to follow her. She can even shake her body when she's sitting too, they say. It's quite funny to hear this and to see the teacher demonstrate what dance moves she comes up with.

I'm not sure if we'll spoil her rotten, such a darling sweetie pie who always makes us laugh....

Thursday, November 15

Last day of school for J

Today is the last day of ds2's Primary 1 journey.

It has been an exciting year for him. The school has kept to her aims and promises of giving the children a holistic education, focussing on the aesthetic arts.

Indeed, this year the school has held numerous concerts, and allowed the parents to be very much part of the concerts. We sang for the Teachers' Day concert, the children performed songs and played on the violin, and on Children's Day, the teachers performed and parents were part of it too. There was also a carnival where the children had lots of fun playing games and buying treats.

For every single festival, the school celebrated with a big bang. Racial harmony, National Day, Occupations Day, Mid-Autumn festival, you name it... The school really involves the entire community.

As for special programmes, they had photography, clay making and then animating the clay figures into a short film based on their English Stellar books, Dance and movement, Chinese speech and drama, ukulele lessons, violin enrichment, ds2 was picked to do advanced Math thinking course for one term, and so on. Every programme would culminate in a meaningful showcase, so that the kids see purpose in their learning journey. For photography, for example, the kids actually produced photos for us parents and selected ones were sent in for a photography competition and some of the kids won prizes, which is amazing as they are only 7 years old.

The other programmes all ended in performances where all the parents will come to support and it is very motivating for the kids.

The school also held several parenting workshops for us parents which Dh and I signed up whenever we could. We went for at least 3 very useful and entertaining workshops conducted by external coaches/ trainers. These are all paid for, we need not fork out anything ourselves.

They honoured us parents too, with privileges, and we were invited on stage to receive certificates for our help at the final concert this week.

ds2 also stayed back a couple times each term, for leadership training (something like a prefect training for selected students). From his accounts, they are something like our staff bonding and leadership management training. They have games that allowed them to build up confidence and trust each other, promoted team work and then they had to do activities that provoked them to think of ways they can motivate their peers, help them to behave and follow the rules etc.

Sometimes these were after school and they stay back till 5pm and lunch would be provided by the school. Sometimes they were whole day "camps" during the school holidays.

Academically, I feel his school has a good Chinese department. They are suitably challenged and the school does provide for both slow learners and higher ability students. ds2 did reasonably well in all subjects this year. He scored Band 1 for English, Math and Chinese. As for PE, Social Studies, Health Ed, Music etc and only one B, for Art. They don't have exams, just formative assessments and projects and journals and presentations throughout the year.

Overall, we are happy with his school and satisfied with his performance this year. We hope he learns to be more organized next year, and neater, and possess a good attitude towards learning. Be happy to have the chance to learn anything new/ extra and to have enthusiasm in carrying out his duties.

Thank God for a smooth sailing first year in primary school for dear J. :)

Friday, November 9

Decision making.......

ds1 was presented with a tough decision to make recently...

As I go through the stack of information given to him to plough through, and listen to friends and people who have experienced and gone through this, I would like to help by listing the pros and cons down somewhat. Maybe it will help others in future, and it will serve as a reminder and record for ds1 and us parents, to come back and review and see if we had achieved what we intended, and if we had tried to circumvent or balance out the cons...

1. Smaller class size
He always has lots to say. Too many ideas, too much to share. His current class has 41 kids, and the teacher has not much leeway or autonomy with the syllabus. I don't blame her, she can't possibly allow him to give his opinions freely. He has to be shushed up. So the new place has a smaller class size and possibly he can say what he wants more regularly. Then he will be happier?

2. More challenging curriculum
I won't say the current curriculum for him is too easy. He doesn't have any tuition classes nor enrichment in the academic areas, and I don't coach the boys by going through school texts, which means they don't learn ahead in any of their subjects in school, so that minimises the chance that they will be bored in school when teacher teaches the new topics.
How I coach them at home would be to guide them through the problems they can't solve... or when they have difficulty understanding or reading some Chinese comprehension passages. I never teach ahead in that sense. But somehow, both of them exhibit "bad attitude" in class in that they are frequently "bored" and feel the pace is too slow.
Since young, I have lectured them and scolded them many times so they are not disruptive in class such that they make noise or walk around or whatever, but they will daydream or fiddle with their stationery or read a book. ds1 has been caught so many times by his teacher that she will email me and she also brought this problem up during PTM. It is vexing for her as she has to constantly get him to put away his books and listen to her. Most of the time, she says, it is just to make it consistent for the others, cos if he gets to read, why can't they? But she tells me that she knows that he already understands the concept she is trying to teach because she will quiz and test him and he will get it correct.
Now that ds2 is in P1, his teacher has started complaining to me about his "bad attitude" too. Not paying attention, daydreaming...
It gives me and their teachers a lot of headaches, so I hope that perhaps the new programme can alleviate this problem? Then again, if it persists, I think it just means that truly my sons have "bad attitude". Faint.

3. More independent learning.
ds1 is a very independent learner (doesn't like to be told what to do, doesn't appreciate drill-type homework, works well alone, prefers to study his own way and his own stuff). Of course as his mom, I sometimes see it as a flaw, and always try to make him be a better group worker. But I do have to acknowledge that the way he works, he loves to and thrives when he is allowed to spend all his time researching his own interests and then telling everyone about it. The new programme allows for a lot more of such learning. He could potentially find learning much more exciting then.

4. Less pen and paper assessments.
ds1 is not very good with pen and paper tests. Maybe he is careless, maybe his mind wanders. He doesn't top his class when all the subject grades are taken together, he's only much better in Math and Science. However, he shines when he gets to do role play (both his English and Chinese teachers love to pick him for skits and such and give me feedback that he can really act), or presentations. He enjoys project work a lot too.

5. More like-minded people like him there.
ds1 has weird interests and crazy obsessions. There are things he has gradually learnt not to do in school as they disrupt lessons and irritate the teachers and there are things he persists in doing at home even though it makes his mom go ballistic and shout like a madwoman... He is moody and goes into extreme behaviour modes when frustrated or unhappy and would need a quiet corner to think things through.
Although he loves soccer and waveboarding and can mix with the neighbourhood kids downstairs, but he has other hobbies and games he loves to play that few of his current friends enjoy. Hopefully, he gets to have more people understand his jokes and wacky stories and maybe even like his crazy ideas and participate or add on to them in future. That might reduce some of his frustrations, hopefully? And gain him some soulmates and bosom buddies?

6. Specially trained teachers
The teachers there are supposedly trained to handle kids who are very individualistic or vocal. They know how to stimulate them but keep them in check, apparently, and are concerned with letting them go as far as they want, or as in depth as possible. A friend whose son used to always answer all the questions in class in his previous school, and whose teacher had to shut him up all the time or scold him, making him very unpopular with his friends and also causing him to dread lessons, said that when he switched to the new programme, the teacher asked him to give a signal that he knew the answer, but not blurt it out. This teacher acknowledged his eagerness to answer the question yet was able to give others a chance. So her boy enjoyed lessons a lot more and remained enthusiastic in class.

Any others to share?

1. Elitist mindset and isolation?
Some literature suggest that such grouping is not advisable nor natural because all the same kind are present together, thus the kids get used to interacting with a more homogenous type all the time and forget or are unable to interact well in a more natural environment made up of diverse types.

Some kids grow up worse and become arrogant, proud and elitist, thinking that all others are not as good as them or that others' opinions do not seem as important. They may become more impatient with others and unwilling to spend time with "slower" people or get easily frustrated with them.

There was a notorious case some time ago where a girl from this programme wrote a blog spot against another guy and was very sarcastic and mocked him. It got blown up because she happened to be an MP's daughter as well and from a well-to-do family.

I guess in our case, it helps that we are not well-to-do (lol), and live in a very very diverse neighbourhood with many different types of people, and also are active in church, where he has many friends.

2. Inability to cope?
ds1 is very happy and relaxed currently. He feels that he doesn't need much effort to do well and easily tops his class in Math and Science (he doesn't do that well in his languages especially Chinese, so he actually isn't anywhere near the top few in school). However, if he joins the programme, he will be in a much more competitive environment.

Watching him grow up, I don't think he is very exceptional or outstanding. He reads voraciously yes, and he has a very good memory. He is vocal and active and grasps new stuff quickly. But that's about it. I do not see in him any very exceptional talent. So I worry that he might not be able to cope with the programme.

This may lead to a loss in self-esteem and confidence... We hope that the selection by MOE is accurate. That whoever is picked actually can make it through. What if, just what if, ds1 got in because he was lucky and whatever answers he guessed were correct. I shouldn't doubt him I know, but I can't help thinking of the prodigies I read about in the papers and I think he is not like them.

3. Affective development?
I think when the programme just started in the early years, there was a big deal debated on how the intellectual aspect might be developed but their development wasn't holistic. They needed to emphasise on the kids' affective development too.

THe booklet given in the package did dwell on this and assured parents that now they have many initiatives to integrate the kids with others not in the programme and they do many things together, and are very much involved in community projects, service learning and so on. They also get workshops on how to deal with their emotions and how to hone their social skills.

I hope ds1 does remain grounded and is not socially awkward. And at home and in church there will be a lot of emphasis on his character-building and spiritual well being too.

4. Need to change school
This is the single factor that resulted in ds1's immediate response that he is thankful to be selected but would definitely reject it. He says he will absolutely not change schools. He loves his friends, his teachers and his CCA.

We didn't try to persuade him, at least, not yet, and we didn't comment on it, just acknowledged what he said. We however, did request him to go for the briefing and then make his decision. I know him well. By then, even just after a few days, he would be much calmer and will be able to make a more well-informed decision rather than an emotionally-charged one.

He has agreed to read all the stuff in the package and also consider the additional information provided from our friends. Nearer the deadline, we will have a lengthy discussion with him and see what his final decision is.

For us, his parents, this factor would be more of inconvenience, if he is posted to a school that is out of the way. Time taken up in travelling would also be a drag, since his current school is near home and he has been trained to return home on his own already.

Wednesday, October 31

Trip to Manchester/ Liverpool in June 1997

The title may cause you to roll your eyes. haha. But there is a reason for this.

My mil has sold their house. The home where Dh grew up and spent all of his childhood and then when I got married, I had moved in there, and had the 2 boys there.

Naturally when I moved in, I brought all of my stuff with me. Things I had been reluctant to throw away since I was in Primary school. lol. But when we moved out on our own, our apartment was not big enough to contain all these and they have been lying around in my mil's house till now.

Unfortunately, I still don't have space (even worse now with 3 kids and a helper), and I don't wish to pay for storage space to keep things I hardly take out to look at, so I decided to take pics of some more nostalgic stuff, and post them on FB or write briefly about them here in my blog... before dumping them all away.

Yes, I have a soft tender spot in my heart for all these memories, but no, I have to be practical and there is really no way I can keep these. But thankfully, I can record some of the memories in a virtual place. :)

So I am planning to throw away a few thick photo albums (back then, no digital cam and I don't have the negatives anymore, and these albums are too thick and bulky).

This set documents the 3 weeks I went to UK and Europe and spent them in a budget stop and go manner around several countries with 2 other friends and Dh, then-bf.

The last leg of the trip was to visit University of Manchester. My JC best friend was studying there on a PSC scholarship, along with a close Primary schoolmate. Dh bunked in with my pr sch friend (a guy, YH) and I bunked in with my JC best friend, H. She rented a car and drove us around a bit but had to report for work everyday at the hospital where she had an attachment. So we usually had breakfasts and dinners together only. At night, we would lie in bed together and chat. I don't know what Dh did with my pr schoolmate at night. Maybe they practised wushu together, lol. They found out that they both joined Wushu as a CCA in hci even though they had never met due to the 2 yr age gap.

During the day when our friends were at "work", we toured around Manchester and made a day trip to Liverpool. There's a pic of me hugging the "Golden Calf" in Liverpool. Then we visited many cathedrals, the University of Liverpool and of course, Anfield. We also looked at the Beatles Museum from the outside, lol.

My friend brought me to her uni library in the evenings so I could check email (back then no smartphone, cannot imagine right?) and no way to tell my parents I am safe, unless I spend lots of money calling on a coin phone. So I emailed. The funniest thing was that the library did not allow outsiders to go in, so she passed me her Indian friend's card. It was a photo ID and when I wondered if they would question me, H remarked that the staff can't tell us Asians apart so it doesn't matter. I was really surprised when they indeed let me through. Hmmm...

There were many authentic Indian restaurants there, and she brought me to a really nice cosy one where I ate lots of authentic Indian food for the first time, and in Manchester, can you believe it? The staff would also perform magic tricks to entertain all of us! We tipped them generously of course.

They also cooked for us for a few meals. I truly experienced how she lived in the hostel and spent her time there as an undergrad. It was very fun and eye-opening at the same time!

After that, we had to return to London.

Back in London, we had a couple of days to catch Beauty and the Beast Musical in the Dominion Theatre in Leicester Square, visit the London Dungeon, see the London bridge/ Tower of London/ more cathedrals, The Globe (William Shakespeare theatre), St Paul's Cathedral, bunk over at a church friend's house near Wembley, and visiting museums (eg the Science Museum) near to closing time every evening cos it's free then. :)

Then we flew home to Sg on the 26th of June.
(the above photos filled up one huge album, and now I am ready to throw it away.)

Thursday, October 18

Returning to work....

I've recently employed a foreign domestic help. It's been a big lifestyle change once again.

I remember 6 years ago, we moved out of the country and I started my full-time SAHM journey with the 2 boys. It was a big change in lifestyle too. Now I am returning to work again.

6 years is a long time, to me, to the kids, to the workforce in general. In 6 years, many things have changed in the education scene in Singapore. Just for the 17-18 year olds alone, there have been changes. When I left, I had not taught the H1, H2, H3 subjects before. It was the old AO level, A level and S paper system. And within my school, there have been so many new programmes and initiatives and I have just been given the deployment and plan for next year, via email. And I stare at the many new acronyms that are not familiar...

SMTP.... GATE... New initiatives, much to learn... When I left, the SPA just started and I had been trained in the marking and setting and moderating of papers, and then now I hear, they've overhauled the whole thing again. humph...

The A level Biology syllabus has also changed. Basically, I can throw almost everything I had prepared in the past.... I will have to start anew, like a fresh new teacher. Only now I have 3 kids and a lot more to juggle. *bite nails*

I have been told of my workload as well. I will be teaching 3 classes i.e. have 3 labs in a week... *faint*... I will help in Olympiad training.... I will also have to lecture, of course.

How do I feel? Many many people around me have asked.. It definitely runs the whole gamut of emotions.

I feel apprehensive. So many changes, can I manage? Can I cope? Can I juggle everything nicely?

I feel stressed. I heard the students now are different from 6 years ago. I heard most of them don't take the O levels now and when they see me, they will hate me because I am the teacher who has to train them to take their first major exam... and oh how they will hate that... I heard, yes, lots of horror stories of the new IP generation. Make that an emotion of fear too. I feel sssscccared....

I feel insecure. Will my kids be ok? Will the boys fight more without me around? Will they slack without my coaching? Will they raid the fridge and consume way too many sweets and chocolates? Will they use too much of the computer? Will my daughter cry and pine for me? Will she be traumatised without nursing to sleep as she is used to now... Will she throw tantrums and the helper not be able to handle her? Will she grow up spoilt and uncontrollable just cos I am not there to discipline her? Will she grow distant from me?

I feel sad. I will miss the lazy mornings. I will miss being able to set up last minute appointments with all kinds of friends or run last minute errands anytime I want. I miss going to malls at 11am and be able to shop leisurely without any crowds. I love being able to park at the family lot/ prime-lot-beside-the-lift-lobby at malls because I am the rare person there at 11am. I will miss packing last minute bento boxes for the boys and watching them fight over the cute picks they want in the fruits/ food. I will miss watching my princess wake up blurry-eyed and hearing her say good-morning to me and giving me the first kiss and hug of the day. I feel like crying just thinking of these....

I feel left out. I am now able to help and participate in all of the school activities that I want. If the girl's playgroup has a celebration, I can dress her up and pack stuff for her and send her to school and then after school, watch her squeal with delight as she dashes out of school with all the props and goodies she has made. (Next year she will take the school bus.) I am able to volunteer in performances and outings with the boys' schools and attend all the PTMs personally and do the dances and silly stuff with them in school. I try not to miss any event now.... But... Next year I have to

I feel less spiritual. Being at home means that I can see to the kids' spiritual needs in a more holistic manner. I get to pay more attention to my own too. I can pray with them before each meal, sing with them, remind them very regularly of certain Biblical examples, and verses, whenever we have a teachable moment. I am able to attend and volunteer at every Sunday school event and take up more duties and teaching roles, especially this year. I will have to scale down next year. Also, I wonder if I can still be as good a help-meet for my husband, as God wants me to, when I throw myself back into the working world.

So... after all these negative feelings, why on earth do I return to work? Am I masochistic?

Well, my savings have run out. Our CPF needs boosting if we want to have a bigger house so the boys and princess need not share a room in future when they are teens. And we figured that maybe I can still be there for the kids if I return on a flexi-scheme, which I am trying out.

And here comes the more positive feelings.

I feel excited. I get to talk to many more adults, some of whom are my good friends, during the day! It used to be just me and the kids or me and a baby in the past 2 years, most part of the day. No adult conversation till at night when DH comes home. I get to have protected lunch time. I finally can enjoy a meal peacefully, by myself or with adults who don't make a mess or require my attention all at once.

I feel respected. It's not that my kids don't respect me if I get stern with them. It's just that, hmm, they don't bow to me and call me Mrs G nicely at home. They holler, "MOM!!!" at the top of their voices. I get to decide many important things, and colleagues and students alike will tend to listen carefully and politely whenever I have anything to say. And then I get to hold a microphone and once I start talking, 400 over young adults keep quiet and put their stuff away and note down feverishly every single word I utter. Now... doesn't that feel good? *laughing away* (cos some will be rolling their eyes now).

I feel pretty. It's not that I am not beautiful as a stay home mom. I can be a yummy mummy if I want to also. I am confident enough. But then, it is practical and realistic to be wearing shorts and jeans and a simple tee most of the time if I am lugging around a baby that will spit up, and running around with 2 muddy grubby boys right? So yes, most of the time I am in flip flops or sandals and with messy hair, casual clothes. But then, when I return to work, I get to wear skirts and dresses again. I can wear heels (not killer heels though, since being a teacher it is not practical too), carry a nicer bag that won't easily be stained or puked upon by a toddler, and have fabulous hair.

I feel productive. Actually I do lots of work as a SAHM. I can be really exhausted and it's only 10am in the morning. But, often, I spend so much time clearing messes, and seeing to the laundry and cooking and then doing more cleaning up, that at the end of the day, I think back and ask, what have I accomplished? There is no quantifiable thing, it seems. Fortunately I have a supportive and appreciative hubby so there is no problem with that, but it's just, returning to paid work means, I get to think back and be able to quantify... ahhhh... I taught 3 tutorials today, conducted a long lab session, marked 3 piles of scripts and trained a batch of Olympiad students who are going to be future scholars and thus high ranking civil servants ok! That sounds like a lot of work huh?

I feel rich. Wow, I am going to have a fixed sum of money credited into my savings account each month again! How cool is that! I can see my savings building up again! Just the sight of more digits in the bank balance should invoke more feelings right? Euphoria, satisfaction, more excitement?

I feel important. I like to think I can make a difference to many more people, than just my immediate family and friends. I might be able to touch more lives, inspire more people, mould more characters, educate more, and quench the thirst of those hungering for more knowledge. I think the 6 years of being a full time mom make me a better teacher. I have become more patient, more understanding, more firm and strict (no more nonsense now), better at multi-tasking, more perceptive, and can please more parents (no joke, it takes being a parent to know how another parent thinks and thus I know what will make them happy, and everyone knows that a big part of a teacher's job nowadays involve lots of interactions with the parents). Having 6 years listening to varied people, and 3 of those years overseas, has exposed me to many different systems and cultures and thought processes. The diverse experiences allow me to be able to teach with more breadth and depth, and be able to provide more illustrations and input when it comes to discussions and introduction of concepts.

There are other things as well that I hope to achieve by returning to work. After all, I need to think positive.

I hope that being away from the house part of the day means that I would focus on the more important things when I talk and interact with the kids. I may nag less at them because I need to choose the battles to fight more selectively now, and it may be a good thing. Maybe they will miss me too and be more receptive to my advice?

I hope to lighten my hubby's burden of being the sole breadwinner. May I be able to contribute towards a better home in the future.

I hope to learn a lot of new things at work too, and maybe that will also help when I contribute in church or in my kids' schools in future.

I hope I am going to be a much better teacher and really help many more students that I ever used to. I have definitely learnt many more tricks and strategies while teaching my own kids and getting them to be motivated in their studies. Those can also be used on my students as some of the strategies are not age-related.

I also hope that returning to work will make me treasure my family more and make me yearn and strive even more to be a better wife and mom.

Pray for me, and wish me the best! :)