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Priorities: Moving On

Yay our six weeks of exile has ended! (This post is late because of the CNY festivities, and also because I had too many other things to write about.)  I was not disappointed by what we achieved these six weeks, though the focus was on not doing rather than doing. The success of the first two weeks continued to grow, and the boys have been thoroughly detoxified and cleansed and weaned off the drug of mummy’s entertainment.

It was like going through cold turkey I guess. And it’s now much easier starting from a clean slate and building up what I really want to do for our homeschooling.

I am happy with where we are – the kids are well rested, the boys are able to play well on their own, we have ten minutes of lesson time for each boy on most days, and we have at least half an hour of outdoor time everyday, with one big outing a week. I shall stick to just this till end-March, then resume setting up some play-learning activities for them at home if things go well. (Now that Meimei can stay awake for longer periods and plays well independently, I can’t wait to set up activities for her to play!)

I have actually been thinking hard and reading about how to prepare Kor Kor for Primary One in 2016. A well-oiled routine is the foundation to my grand plans for P1 prep. Will be sharing more here soon!

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Talkative Thursday: Parenting Dilemmas

Often I feel quite confused how I am supposed to handle certain parenting dilemmas. Just to name a few:

Should I help my child to do things to demonstrate helpfulness? Or insist he do it himself to encourage independence? Both are positive things, right?

Since the kids were young, I have always been doing it the independence way. For example, when they left their cups on the table, I would remind them to bring them to the sink. When they refused, I would insist. Which sometimes led to tantrums and timeouts and general unhappiness. And I am good at being consistent, so we might go through this scenario a few times daily, but there are still a million other things to remind them about. And I realised that the boys seemed to be less helpful the more I expected them to do it themselves.

Then I thought, maybe I should be helpful instead. (This was a change of parenting tactic, not swaying from one way to another inconsistently.) But alas, they took advantage of my helpfulness! Like, when they were reading on the sofa in the living room and I was preparing food in the kitchen, they would call out to me to help them put their books on the coffee table! The sofa was less than a metre away from the coffee table!!

Should I be conscientious about time and punctuality? (Punctuality is my virtue!) But that would mean hurrying the kids and rush, rush, rush.

As it is, Kor Kor has already picked up my habit of watching the clock. I always tell the boys our plans in advance so that they will be prepared. When I was hosting a gathering for my friends, he asked me what time they would be coming. Then at the stated time, he kept asking me why they were not here yet. Dear Son, how do I explain to you the concept of rubber time???

Another example – when his godpa came to play with him and he was playing happily, he suddenly asked him ‘what time are you leaving?’ I cringed, cos it sounded like he couldn’t wait for godpa to go! But I knew he just wanted to know… so like me!

But I really don’t want my children to have the bad habit of latecoming. I believe it’s an expression of respect to be punctual when meeting someone. But well, especially with three kids in tow, being on time usually involves lots of rushing.

Should I give in to him when he’s being unreasonable, to demonstrate being nice? Or should I stand my ground and be consistent, so that he won’t have a pushover as a role model? And so that he won’t expect his future spouse to be a pushover or everyone to give in to him?

Because I saw Kor Kor being strict and unyielding towards his younger siblings (mainly Didi for now) when they were being naughty, just like how I treated him. But I want him to be nice and kind even when Didi is annoying the heck out of him! (Kor Kor is a loving brother most of the time, just like I am a loving mother most of the time, hee hee. But I am referring to when Didi is being unreasonably unlovable, you know?)

I don’t have any answers yet. But a recent experience gave me some insight for a possible solution.

Kor Kor was throwing a tantrum. I didn’t know what to do, partly because I was still in a dilemma about this nice vs consistent thing, and partly because I knew Kor Kor had been behaving out of sorts these two days. So I just held him while he was crying and yelling.

THEN I saw Didi come over to comfort Kor Kor, and Meimei also sorta looking at Kor Kor and patting his head. That gave me an idea. Regardless of whether being nice is the right thing to do for the tantruming child, it is definitely the right thing to do for the siblings. Because they see Mummy being nice to Kor Kor, they will follow suit and be nice to Kor Kor! Yay!

Let me go and ponder some more about the original question though.

Linking up with SANses

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Our Revised Routine 2.0

(Frankly, I am very curious to know how many zillion times I will have to revise our routine before we finally won’t need one.)

I like routines, I need them to survive, and I like reading about other mummies’ routines so that I can learn from them. So I’m writing mine here, hopefully it will help other mummies out there! Our previous routine here.

Around 7.30am The kids wake up. The boys drink their morning milk and I breastfeed Meimei. I shower. We eat breakfast. The boys watch their daily dose of DVD. Free play.

Around 10.15am I feed Meimei again and she goes for her nap. (She can stay awake happily for much longer nowadays!) Lesson time for the boys – 10 minutes each boy where I choose the activity (usually a workbook or puzzle), followed by 10 minutes for them to choose the activity (they usually ask me to read to them). This takes a total of 40 minutes, followed by free play while I hang the laundry out and prepare lunch.

12.30pm Lunch followed by free play.

2pm Didi’s naptime and Kor Kor’s quiet time. Meimei’s afternoon naptime depends on how long she naps in the morning and what time she wakes up from the morning nap. If I plan to prepare more complicated dishes for dinner, I do some advance prep work now.

3pm Kor Kor is allowed to leave the bedroom if he hasn’t fallen asleep. (He almost never naps anymore.) Free play. I start dinner prep around 4.30pm.

(Meimei hardly ever fusses while I cook nowadays. Usually she will be roaming around the house disturbing playing with her brothers. Mummy J are you reading this? Things will get better soon!)

5pm Dinnertime. Then rush to clean up so that the boys can have more time at the playground. (Stressed! But I would rather rush now than try to cook dinner after playground. Think two hungry tired sweaty boys. No way.)

By 6pm We go down to the playground. Usually it’s earlier, once I finish the washing up from dinner.

(I think 6pm is a good time as there are more children around. If we go before dinner, that means around 5pm and the playground will be quite deserted. )

6.30pm Back home. The boys drink milk and eat some fruits. I bathe and feed Meimei.

Around 7pm Meimei’s bedtime. I bathe the boys. Then they get their daily dose of iPhone time (max of 10 minutes for Kor Kor and four minutes for Didi). Bedtime stories.

(Actually now that Meimei is older, I would prefer her to go to bed slightly later. But I tried to bathe the boys while she was still awake, and it was crazy. She would be either crying pitifully outside the bathroom door, or touching toilet bowl etc in the bathroom. Eeeeks.)

Around 8.15pm Boys are in bed.

We also have some sort of weekly schedule. I am still referring back to my priorities in planning activities and outings for the kids. Free time and rest are the top priorities, so I try not to bring them out more than once during the weekdays. (This is not easy, cos I have many ideas where I wanna bring them, and they also have many requests where they wanna go!) I also try to avoid Fridays and Mondays, as we are usually busy during weekends.

Outdoor time is next on my priorities, so I try to choose an outdoor venue for our weekend outing with Daddy, as many nice outdoor venues are not so accessible and it’s easier with Daddy driving us around. If we manage to get an outdoor outing during the weekend, our weekday outing might be an indoor playground as it is safer for Meimei at her age.

Used to spend a weekend morning doing housework while Daddy brought the boys out to play. But I want to go out as a family instead, and also for us to explore more interesting places together. So now I do the housework here and then during the week, and yes, I am doing more housework at night after the kids go to bed. (This might explain why I am feeling more tired and down recently, sigh.) One day of the weekend – visiting the grandparents; the other day – an outing in the morning. That’s it, weekends are so short! (I try to let the boys spend at least half the day at home everyday, so that they can rest, and so that Daddy can rest too. Though poor Meimei has to follow me to the market and also to run around doing errands!)

The biggest change since my previous routine is probably Meimei becoming more independent. Which is a good thing. The next big change I foresee – Didi will be three years old in three months’ time. Which means there is a high chance of him dropping his nap soon. Which is not so good thing. We made it to four years for Kor Kor though, so I really hope our current routine will last one year!

[I stopped setting my alarm for 6am, because I realised that I would have no choice but to wake up at 5am+ every weekday once Kor Kor starts primary school in less than two years’ time. Too depressing. Better sleep while I can!]

Linking up with The Gingerbread Mum

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Gem Of A Park – Bedok Reservoir!

This morning was my first proper visit to Bedok Reservoir Park, and I am smitten! Big open spaces, and not too crowded, i.e. safe for my newbie cyclist to practise on his bicycle. The path was also well shaded, so we felt comfortable even at 11am+. (It was actually very very scorching hot. I think I got sunburn just walking across the carpark.)

At the carpark

 

My suave bikers : )

My suave bikers : )

 

See the distance between the boys? Next time I shall don my running shoes so that I can jog back & forth from one to the other!

See the distance between the boys? Next time I shall don my running shoes so that I can jog back & forth from one to the other!

 

Nice sand playground

Nice sand playground

 

Green & brown everywhere!

Green & brown everywhere!

 

So happy playing with sticks & leaves : )

So happy playing with sticks & leaves : )

 

I wonder how long it would be before they realise the sticks are 'guns' :p

I wonder how long it would be before they realise the sticks are ‘guns’ :p

 

What. Are. These.

What. Are. These.

 

Oops! Meimei has 3 antlers??!

Oops! Meimei has 3 antlers??!

 

Beautiful scene as I lay on my back

Beautiful scene as I lay on my back

 

Even more beautiful now!

Even more beautiful now!

 

'Mummy, I beautiful right?

‘Mummy, I beautiful right?

 

The boys' expressions are priceless! And Meimei says Hi!

The boys’ expressions are priceless! And Meimei says Hi!

 

We are definitely coming back again soon!

 

 

 

 

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Learning Without Teaching: Telling Time

Basically, it’s similar to how Kor Kor learnt addition. About half a year ago, I put up two clocks. Because we never had any big clocks before that! We looked at our handphones when we wanted to know the time, but I thought, how on earth would the kids learn to tell time without any clocks?? I put one of the clocks at the kids’ eye level so that it would be accessible to them.

As usual, I brought the kids’ attention to the new additions once, briefly explained the purpose of the clocks, and left it at that.

Shortly after, Kor Kor started to ‘tell time’ by saying it’s 九点一个字 or 四点七个字, referring to the respective positions of the hour and minute hands. It wasn’t the ‘official’ way, but it was effective – we understood what he meant.

Recently, he started to take interest in the ‘minute’ markings on the clock, counting from 1 to 60 as he pointed at each marking.

Wow of course that got me very excited as I saw a Golden Opportunity right in front of me again. I started to tell him the time in the correct format, e.g. 九点零五分 and 四点三十五分. And very quickly, he picked it up!

But he’s still not 100% accurate lah. Mainly because he sometimes can’t make out whether it’s already, say 5 o’clock when the hour hand is between 4 and 5.

But that’s ok. I am just hoping he can be proficient in telling time by the time he starts primary school, partly for academic purposes, mainly for survival cos he won’t have his voice-activated-remote-controlled-talking-clock with him then. We still have one year and ten months to go, should be enough time I think : )

I pasted the number stickers myself cos I couldn't find a suitable clock with ready numbers for the minutes.

I pasted the number stickers myself cos I couldn’t find a suitable clock with ready numbers for the minutes.

Diligently counting

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Please Don’t Test My Child

Recently I have noticed friends and relatives asking Kor Kor math questions. Perhaps they were curious whether he really could do addition, perhaps they didn’t believe what I wrote about in this blog or my facebook, perhaps they were just doing it for fun, perhaps perhaps. I know none of them meant any harm.

But, please don’t.

I don’t test my kids. I make a conscious effort not to test them. If they know something, we will find out sooner or later. If they don’t know, they are probably not ready yet.

If we test him and he gives the correct answer, how does it benefit him?

If we test him and he gives the wrong answer or can’t even come up with an answer, what do we say to him?

If we are nice and tell him ‘it’s ok’, why is it ok? How is it ok?

If we are not so nice and criticise him (why you got it wrong? why you don’t know? but I thought you knew?), how would he feel?

Perhaps he wouldn’t like math anymore. Perhaps he wouldn’t like ‘test questions’ anymore.  Perhaps he would lose some of the joy of learning. Perhaps he wouldn’t feel as confident anymore.

I would rather the child do the asking. I have no worries about getting the answers wrong anyway! When the adult does the answering instead of the testing, we have the opportunity to demonstrate problem solving. Or when we do get the answer wrong at times (carelessness? what is 299 x 3 anyway?!), we can demonstrate the right attitude in rectifying a mistake.

Furthermore, when the child does the asking, he does so when he is interested. If the adult does the asking, we might be intruding on another activity where he’s learning something unrelated to numbers. Interest = heightened capacity for learning!

If you happen to forget my request, please don’t be surprised/offended when I interrupt &/or distract my child and divert his attention to someone/something else 😛

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How To Teach Maths: Addition and More!

Not everything can be learnt without teaching ok, haha. Though I do try to keep ‘lessons’ to a minimal, and always giving priority to free play and outdoor time. My earlier post on Kor Kor’s obsession with math operations might seem like there is nothing much the parents can do to ‘teach’. But yes, there is!

1. Provide a rich home environment. Not in terms of money, but a certain amount of investment is inevitable. Homemade learning aids are good too, but for someone like me with lousy art/craft skills, it’s probably gonna take more money to make my own.

I just leave these on the walls around the house, so that the kids will feel that Maths is just everywhere around them. But I don’t really talk about them, cos I don’t want to pressurize the kids.

2. A READY environment. I have had various manipulatives lying around the house since Kor Kor was very young. Though he did not know the correct way to use them, and it was a waste of my breath trying to show him how to use them when he was younger, at least he got used to the sight and feel of them. When he was ready to use them, they were not something new to him.

We also have Maths-related books aplenty. Read them to the kids at least once, and then the books are kept on the shelves for them to flip through on their own. They are free to choose any book for us to read during reading time.

Yes, it is possible to go buy manipulatives and books after the child exhibits an interest in them. But personally, I find that when I want/need to buy something, I won’t be able to find good ones. And when I don’t want/need to buy them, they keep popping up everywhere! So for basic stuff, I prefer to prepare in advance.

3. A READY teacher, i.e. the parents! When the child shows interest, we capitalize on it! I’m glad that Kor Kor’s interest coincided with my handsfree journey, otherwise I might have been too distracted and irritated to notice his interest and to answer his many questions. If I had not reinforced his curiosity and learning desire at the right time by being as enthusiastic as him, perhaps his interest would have suffered a premature demise.

These past days he has been asking me multiplication questions too. When he asked me ‘what is 16 x 18?’, my brain said I DON’T KNOW! But luckily, I did an e-brake and quickly calculated in my head and told him the answer. Because I wanted to demonstrate that it was NOT too difficult to do.

While I had previously simply told him the answers to his math questions, I have now started talking about the process too, aka brainwashing. So after answering ‘what is 7 + 8’, I say ‘Mummy thought about it and got the answer.’ This is to encourage him to do mental sums instead of relying on manipulatives. Given that he’s only four years old, I am of course happy to let him use manipulatives when he wishes to. There are no restrictions on that at all. But I do want him to feel that it’s a good thing to do mental sums, to prepare him for the future 😛

4. In the spirit of capitalizing his optimal learning period, and because I am a true blue Singaporean mum and a Tiger Mum in sheep’s clothing, I have started a daily ten-minute lesson. During this short lesson, I reveal my full tiger stripes and I get to choose what I want to do with him. And yes, it’s often assessment books! Only 10 minutes, so it should be ok I hope! Nevertheless I do not stress or rush him, and I set a timer to stop. I will be choosing topics that he is interested in. So far he has not shown any resistance and is always enthusiastic to start his lessons.

 5. The last point is the easiest, and also the most difficult. WAIT. No, it’s not an acronym for anything. It’s the easiest because we do not have to do anything special. It’s the most difficult because we often want to do more.

I really do think this is the most important of all. And it’s not because I am a nice, loving, academics-are-not-important, type of mum. I am a competitive, academic-focused, achievement-oriented type of mum. I don’t stress my kids only because I believe it has an adverse impact on their academic potential.

He did this all by himself without using any manipulatives. I have no idea whether his peers are already able to do this too, but the point is not whether he is more advanced than his peers. The point is he managed to learn this without going through formal or even structured lessons.

 

I knew his pencil grip was not correct and he couldn’t really write yet. So I offered him the option of using number stamps, which he happily accepted. A few days later, we happened to have a pencil around (he used it to draw lines to connect answers like the above photo), and I asked him whether he would like to write his answers instead. He replied, ‘But I don’t know how to.’

The thing is, if I had insisted he write his answers, he would not have been able to do this workbook at all. Handwriting is handwriting, maths is maths.

 

Not that I won’t grill him on handwriting. If he still can’t write by six years old, which is just two months before he starts Primary One, you can be sure I will grill him!

He has started asking me questions like ‘what is 4 + 4? What is 8 + 4? What is 12 + 4?’ I think he’s getting the idea of multiplication!

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