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There Is A Potato In My Home

One fine day, Kor Kor declared that he disliked Chinese! I have noticed he often speaks English to everybody, even when he is engaging in pretend play with his toys. Didn’t expect such a firm and direct answer though. 

I am really flabbergasted. Both Hubby and I have consciously spoken Mandarin to all our children since they were born. Because we think Chinese is a much more difficult language than English, and hey, we have always been speaking Mandarin to each other, why change? We read Chinese books to them and we speak Mandarin among ourselves too, including my siblings, and the maternal and paternal grandparents. Yes we do read English books to the kids and they do watch DVDs in English. But they only get two hours of DVD a week, and the split between English and Chinese books/DVDs is about half-half…. So what happened??

My guess is, firstly English is really an easier language to grasp. Secondly, I have been rather lazy in speaking proper Mandarin recently, e.g. “我们去science centre” instead of “我们去科学馆”……

SIGH.

So now, I shall try to rectify the situation. There are so many English books on my to-read list for the children, such as the classics like Oliver Twist and Moby Dick (the Classic Starts versions, not the originals ok, not gonna kill myself), and favorites by Enid Blyton and E. B. White. But I am going to stop reading those to the kids. Stop buying them. Instead, I shall concentrate my time and effort on reading Chinese books. 

What I borrowed from library during my first visit after my new resolution


 

The boys are loving this – a good stepping stone. They have learnt a new 成语 “三头六臂”!


 

If I do come across good English books, I shall just leave them on Kor Kor’s desk and hope for the best.

  
OK, definitely not buying any English books for the children. Not for the rest of the year at least. Deep breath. 

 

1

Back To Basics

For the longest time, I had been wondering how to get the boys to help out regularly with housework. Not that they were (too) unwilling to do…. but sometimes I forgot… sometimes we headed out very early (once they finished their milk). For instance, if the plan was to spend the whole day outdoors, I might feel that we might as well bring our breakfast out for a picnic or eat out, as the eating and cleaning up would take quite a while, especially for Meimei who was messy and un-threatenable.

It’s great to spend more time in the great outdoors. But eventually, the boys’ chorelessness got to me too much, and I decided that again, we had to make a choice – chores or outdoors? Chores won, cos we do not have to completely give up on outdoor time, just have to cut down (and say goodbye to our 1000 hours, boo hoo. Oh well, no pain no gain.)

‘Worse’, as I am trying to let the kids eat more homecooked food, and also because they are usually able to go to bed earlier if I come home and cook, we are further cutting down on outdoor time as we leave for home earlier. So…. go out later, come back earlier… oops..

Our current routine

730am Milk & breakfast

The boys have to finish by 830am, or else they don’t have to finish the food/milk and will lose a privilege for the day. Good thing is they usually do finish on time. (But how are they going to have one hour to eat when they start primary school?? Gloomy.)

After breakfast, it’s time for housework followed by wushu practice (just some simple exercises cos mummy is NOT a wushu exponent. Urmm, or wushu practitioner at all :P)

It’s a different chore everyday, something simple. The main purpose is to get the boys in the habit of doing housework, and to drill into them that they are supposed to do housework. (You are welcome, Future Daughters-in-Law.) I clean the house on my own too, so what the boys do are all extra. The house will not be any diritier if they don’t do their chores… this is so that I won’t get stressed about them doing the chore well (i.e. up to my standards) Previously, they helped when I was really cleaning the toilet. I would be rushing to finish the cleaning and feeling very stressed by time ticking by while the boys were either fooling around (not clean!) or very serious about their work (taking too long!)

One chore a day – dust the shelves & wipe the balcony, clean the playmat, mop the bedrooms (with Magiclean wipes), wash the toilet, wash the dishes for one meal, cook one dish each (with heaps of help from me).. Sunday is rest day!

They are done by 9am and run off to do their own thing. (read or Lego or random toys or just playing or run around the house) I continue with my chores if any (I vacuum the house daily at least. Monday is Housework Day and I wash the toilets and mop as well. It is also Child Neglect Day until lunchtime.)

I start lunch prep by 10.30am. So in-between I am free for about an hour to play with the kids or help them out if they need my help (crafts or Lego or they might request I read to them).

Depending on the dishes, we eat at 11am or latest 11.30am. After lunch and fruits and washing up, it’s around 12.15pm. I start dinner prep now especially if we are going out. Then, by right,12.30pm or thereabouts is Meimei’s naptime especially if we are going out for swim class or wushu class in the afternoon. When she goes for her nap, I spend 30 minutes one-to-one with each child. While I am with Didi, Kor Kor usually disappears into his bedroom (reading or doing Lego). Then Didi goes for his nap and I spend time with Kor Kor. After that, Kor Kor goes for one hour of quiet time (ya, no prize for guessing, he reads or plays with Lego). And it’s my rest time for about an hour! Well, I get to rest (i.e. check facebook!) once I finish up some (and there is always some!) miscellaneous tasks around the house.

BUT as the Princess Monster has not been sleeping well recently, I have to spend time coaxing her to sleep. (This traumatic event shall be documented once I survive it.) So one-to-one time with the boys is tentative for now.. depending on how long Meimei takes to KO.

Around 2-3pm (depending on which class we are heading to), the kids resurface and we go out. Reach home by 6pm after class, have dinner, shower and start bedtime routine.

If we do not have class that day, I prefer to bring them out in the morning, after breakfast, housework and wushu practice. Go out around 9am, lunch out, reach home 1pm+ for their naps and quiet time. I unpack from the morning outing and start dinner prep if necessary.

You might have noticed there is no reading time, no one-to-one time when we go out in the morning. I think it’s ok, because when we are outdoors, I am not so distracted by housework or cooking and can pay them more attention, which sorta make up for the one-to-one. As for reading.. back to basics, remember? And the fundamental is my sanity. Not gonna squeeze it in.. though we usually do end up reading unless I am really too tired or busy.

So now, our priorities are, ample sleep for the kids, mummy’s sanity, routine, chores, free play, outdoors, reading, other engagements, roughly in that order. We used to play board games together almost every afternoon, as the kids got to choose the activity for their time with mummy. (They often chose to do two-to-one as they wanted to play board games together.) But I realised that meant they wouldn’t get much readalouds for the day, only two bedtime stories at night. Frankly speaking, I admit that the daddy and I were not too keen to read loooong stories or explain things properly to them at that time of the day. So, prioritize readalouds over board games! The best part? The boys have been playing board games by themselves quite a lot! We have a board game night once a week, with Daddy too, when we play the more challenging ones which Didi can’t manage yet. Sometimes we play simple games too, just for fun and laughs! 😀

By 8.30pm, the boys are in bed. Meimei goes to bed earlier, timing depends on how fast I finish the dinner wash up.

“When you have the choice, choose outdoors.”

That is still our mantra – we choose outdoors over other outings (museums, indoor playgrounds, Science Centre, watching plays, etc). Beaches, parks, water playgrounds, cycling, hiking, yes!

 

2

How We Learn

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Recently I have had an awakening. That Meimei is no longer that small a baby, and I really should get my a** back to doing MORE with the boys. Drew up a new schedule and the first step is to start (resume?) a daily morning reading session.

This morning I didn’t really have a clear idea what I wanted to do during the reading session. Read which books? Just read? Do I choose the books or let them choose? Never mind, just try first.

Decided to start off with 弟子规。I plan to go through the whole book, one page at a time, and explain the teachings thoroughly to the boys.

弟子规 圣人训

首孝弟 次谨信

泛爱众 而亲仁

有余力 则学文

While explaining “信” (be trustworthy), I told the boys that they should keep their word, for example, if they promise to keep their toys after playing, they have to do it. (Haha.) So they started asking, what if we don’t? I replied that I would then give their toys away, and that there were many less fortunate children who did not have any toys.

Ah-ha moment. I got out our book Material World, and showed them photos of families in other countries. That in turn led to a geography lesson with the globe (Ethopia vs South Africa).

Good chance to teach the boys some Singapore history – that our country didn’t use to be as prosperous as it is now. Out came the Social Studies textbook.

And that’s how we spent the 30-plus minutes of reading session. Just read… chat… follow the flow! No concrete plan, didn’t do much other than talk, but I am sure the boys have benefited and know more than before the session. I am looking forward to tomorrow morning! : )

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Our Reading Nook : )

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Nice?? Just a week ago, this was just a wall (decals already on it, part of a Home Improvement Project I started a bit earlier). There are many, many books in the boys’ bedroom, but they hardly spent time reading there. When they did hole themselves in the bedroom, it was usually to play with Lego on the study table which is too high for Meimei to reach. When they wanted to read the books, they would bring the books out to the living room and read on the sofa instead. I guess it was not comfortable to sit on the floor to read, which was what they did on the rare occasions that they did read in their room. (There are two adult-sized chairs, two child-sized plastic chairs, an IKEA child-sized armchair, and a cute stool in the room. But they just don’t use them for reading. No idea why!)

So, it was pretty much just a waste of a good space. Good space = a neat, uncluttered, aethestically pleasing space. Waste = good but not being used! Then one day, I saw Gingerbread Mum‘s new reading corner and was inspired! Hers is a small space between the sofa and a wall, which she has done up very nicely. The furnishings did not seem hard to get; it was more an issue of where to do up such a reading corner in my home. So I walked around the house in search of a suitable space, and EUREKA! A trip to IKEA and two cushions & two rugs later, we have our new reading nook!

That’s why I love reading blogs. On top of the many ingenious ideas which other mummies come up with, often it’s not the creativity itself that makes the difference. Rather, it’s the motivation, the inspiration, the extra timely push. YAY to more!

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Ok, actually I prefer this photo, cos Meimei is smiling. But Didi is scratching his butt again! But I decided I still wanna put it up here!