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School Routine

Basically, the original routine which I had planned for schooldays FAILED. Firstly, the kids didn’t like having to wake up so early. It was very, very rushed to send them in to bed by 8.30pm, so they were going to bed late AND waking up early. Mornings were a big rush too, in order to accomplish so many things. Which meant we were rushing in the mornings and rushing in the evenings. All the time I had with Kor Kor was spent rushing. It got so bad that Kor Kor requested to stop going to the playground. He wanted to just lounge around at home and read his books and fool around.

I fought it at first. Playground time very important!! But I soon surrendered. It was already very challenging to make them hurry, what more hurry to go somewhere he did not wish to go! And indeed, our mornings improved tremendously. So much more relaxing! Kor Kor was right. Sometimes (often?) we should follow children’s instincts.

But I was not ready to give up their playground time yet. Decided to let them play at the playground on the way home after fetching Kor Kor in the evening. 30 minutes is better than nothing! Of course, it means their bedtime would be pushed back… they now go to bed between 9pm and 9.30pm… But I console myself that Kor Kor is older now and can handle a later bedtime, while the younger two can nap in the afternoon. 

So far, this routine has worked brilliantly. The kids really enjoy their daily playground time, and because we are there so regularly nowadays, they have made new friends too. 

As our mornings are more relaxed now, I have also managed to start exercising every morning. I wake up at 6am, prepare breakfast, eat mine, and go out for a run while they are still sleeping. Usually, when I come back 30-40 minutes later, they still haven’t woken up haha. I then prepare some fruits for them and myself, do some lunch prep, take a shower while they eat breakfast. Then Kor Kor reads/plays a while, dilly-dally a bit, and we start our homework session around 9am. (Didi and Meimei eat more slowly, so they continue eating while we do work.)

Actually there isn’t much homework. He just brings home the work he doesn’t manage to complete in class, plus we prepare for spelling tests (weekly for English, fortnightly for Chinese). I also read to Kor Kor during our 45-minute session. I limit it to 45 minutes, six days a week. Sometimes, he hasn’t fully mastered the spelling lists, but I decide to let it go. He then continues doing whatever he wants while I prepare a simple lunch. By 11.45am we are out of the house.

After school, it’s playground, dinner, shower, milk and short bedtime reading by Daddu, then off to bed. I am glad Kor Kor has been quite responsible in packing his schoolbag every evening. He then leaves any homework etc on his study desk to do the next morning. 

That’s our life for now! Hope you are also doing well in your primary school life : )

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How To Make More Hours

Was just reading my old posts on routine, and wow, life of a mother of three young kids was really horrid. How did I survive! Routine 5.0 was written more than one year ago, and my life has got so much better as the kids get older. Just a couple of weeks ago I got to sleep in till about 8am everyday!

BUT. Kor Kor is starting primary school in a month’s time. Worse, he is in the afternoon session, so it’s like he hardly get any time at home. So I decided to revamp our routine to maximize what time we have. I still really hope to include outdoor/ playground time, library visits, early bedtime, free play!

Routine for school term from Jan 2016 onwards:

630am Breakfast and wash up

730am Playground & me reading to them

9am Home, showers

930am Free play and homework if any 

1050am Lunch

1130am Get ready for school

1150am Go out 

1230pm Home with the younger two

1pm Nap/quiet time

3pm Snack

6pm Go out to fetch Kor Kor

640pm Dinner

730pm Shower

8pm Milk & bedtime reading

830pm Bedtime

I have started waking up around 6am to prepare breakfast. The boys use an alarm clock to wake up at 630am. They need some help waking up earlier mainly because recently they have been playing and talking till very late after lights out. But it’s ok, they are slowly adjusting to it – forced to wake up early means they KO faster at night and it’s getting easier for them to pop out of bed in the morning. 

We have also been doing early lunches for two weeks and trying out new menus. Instead of the previous three dishes, I am trying to cook a one-pot rice dish and a veg. This will give me more free time with the kids in the morning… since I won’t see Kor Kor the whole afternoon!!

But not rigidly following the schedule yet. Definitely more than an hour at the playground now…. Enjoy while they can! And still going out with friends and for lessons on weekdays… Lessons will be changed to the weekend from Jan onwards. Not looking forward to busy weekends!!

The biggest problem now is how do I survive the early start to the day……. Just this morning I threw away (figuratively) the alarm clock cos had to get up 5-6 times to attend to the kids last night. Plus I am really very night owl… Been reading up on this and of course gonna keep trying… 

Wish me luck!!

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Not Looking Forward

It has been two weeks since we returned from Perth, one week since the birthday celebration. It’s time to get back on track. Been very slack about outdoor time…waking up early… getting the kids to do chores… reading to the kids… personal diet and exercise…….. 😣

But seriously very sian about it. Once I start, there’s going to be no break till the next school holidays in March. And who knows what’s the holidays going to be like with a primary school going kid?? Will there be tons of homework, projects, field trips, whatnots…?? Now our weekends are free, except for inline skating classes which are flexible (can go for any of the six timings each weekend, or not go at all. It’s pay only if you go.) Next year, Kor Kor will be in the afternoon session (double sian!!), so his wushu and swimming lessons will be weekend classes instead. Plus the weekly visits to my in-laws……. weekend is gone………. *cry*

I guess (hope!) my weekday afternoons will be more relaxed with one kid out of the house. But I am quite sad that Kor Kor will have very little free time in future… After breakfast, he has only a couple of hours before we have to eat lunch, so that we can be out of the house by 12nn as school starts at 12.10pm. When he comes back from school, it will be dinner time followed by bath and bedtime. Early bedtime is still important even though he’s in the afternoon session and can sleep in if he so wishes. And that couple of hours includes homework and revision time if necessary. AHHHHHHHH…..! 

That’s why in order to maximize his time, I have to wake up earlier to prepare breakfast. Cannot sleep in on weekends either because of wushu and swimming. This is devastating because now that Meimei is older, I actually can continue to sleep even when all the three kids are up and about. They are content to play until I wake up to make milk and breakfast for them. Sigh. 

The worst is, I am feeling tired all the time. OK, truthfully, I only feel tired during the day. Very energetic at night. Once the kids go to bed. Ha! I am tired even when we stay at home the whole day, no outings, no adventurous hiking, no sun, no major housecleaning.. just the usual cooking and cleaning. Before I went for a checkup a few months ago, I was worried that this lethargy might be a symptom of a serious health issue. Turned out I am perfectly healthy. Cholesterol, blood pressure, all good. Not even anemic. Then what on earth is wrong with me! I drink coffee every morning and often a bottle of chicken essence at midday. 

But I think I need to solve this problem. Since coffee + chicken essence is not sufficient, I shall start taking supplements. Ginseng, vitamin B, something, anything. Oh yes and I need to resume exercising. That should help too. Only when I am more energetic can I be a better mother and do more things with the kids. And be better-tempered too. I must, I must!!

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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!

 

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Gasp, Only One Year Left!

I used to think that I still had a lot of time with the children… After all, Kor Kor will only be starting school in Primary 1, i.e. when he is seven years old (actually, when he is six years and 10 months old). As a stay-at-home-mum, that means I have many, many days of 24/7 with him!

But to my horror, the past year had zoomed past. The years before that… I was either pregnant or taking care of a very small baby, so I forgive myself 😛 But at the beginning of 2014, Meimei was already sleep-trained. By June she was no longer breastfeeding, which freed up a lot of time. I had tried to be more purposeful in our homeschooling – still not going the academic path, but nevertheless I had hoped to be more structured and productive. But looking back on the year… Hmm, we did many interesting activities and visited many interesting places, sure. But they felt rather scattered and random.

And you know what, I did not manage to fulfil even one of my 2014’s New Year resolutions. This is very jia lat, cos quite a few of them are supposed to have direct impact on the kids’ well-being, such as learning to cook better (health and appetite), and learning sewing (to teach them a new skill). While a few resolutions have direct impact on my well-being, a happy and content mother would benefit the children too.

Over the past few days as I read others’ 2015 New Year resolutions, I had initially not wanted to make any for this year. What’s the point when I fail to achieve them, or even think much about them over the course of the year? But since I do want to be purposeful in how I spend the time with my kids… and I did feel a kick on the butt when I realised I had fulfiled none of the previous year’s(!!!), here goes…

First and foremost, I hope to be a better mother to my children. Gentle, patient, kind, soft-spoken, nice, understanding. 100% difficult. But I must try.

Remember structure and priorites when planning activites/outings. Main focus shall be Making, including woodwork, general tinkering, sewing, Lego, and hopefully robotics if I can figure it out (ha). But around mid-year I have to start on academic preparation for Kor Kor’s P1 journey. I have done daily planning for January. To do for every month.

Health is very important. The usual – eat better, exercise more! Sleep is also very important, but I know I cannot 😛

ONWARDS for the new year! All the best for your resolutions!

exactly one year to P1…..

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A Crazy Month… And The Lessons I Learnt

December was a really crazy month for the kids and me, mainly because I signed Kor Kor up for a few holiday programmes at the CC, plus a 3-day skate course and a Lego workshop at KidsSTOP. On top of that, we joined a zoo homeschool co-op, toured Gardenia factory, had playdates with friends who were back from overseas, and attended two birthday parties, and of course, Christmas parties! There was a year-end break from swim class and speech and drama class, but wushu lessons were on-going.

It was quite a stressful month due to the rushing around and more significantly, because we could not follow our usual routine. On hindsight, I really shouldn’t have signed him up for SO MANY programmes! Argh. Actually I had only planned to let him attend a speech and drama programme. But when I looked through the CC’s holiday programmes, so many seemed so interesting! I guess I got too excited… 😛

On the positive side, Kor Kor was OK to attend the programmes. Now that he is older, he doesn’t mind being left alone in an unfamiliar place with strangers anymore. However I don’t think he really enjoyed the programmes, other than the skate camp. I also felt uncomfortable that the classes were mostly accompanied with worksheets even though they were non-academic topics (Space Fantasy, Kitchen Science, etc)… Even worse, Didi and Meimei wasted their time while waiting for Kor Kor. I wish I could say I spent the time purposefully and constructively with them… but..

Come to think of it, I think I could have done a better job teaching Kor Kor and playing with him the activities that they did during the programmes. Minus the worksheets and waiting time and the course fees. Argh.

So, I have learnt my lessons. For the June holidays, I shall probably only sign the boys up for the skate camp.

You know, quite often we hear people saying the firstborn gets many more advantages and privileges. For example, Kor Kor attended My Gym and Little Neuro Tree when he was not even two years old. Earlier this year he attended Alpha Gym for a term. But the younger two will NOT be attending such classes, and definitely won’t be attending holiday classes like what Kor Kor just did. Not because I am not willing to pay for classes for Didi and Meimei. Not because I have no time to bring them to class. But because Kor Kor aka the Guinea Pig had tried and I have found that these classes are not good enough/necessary/much beneficial. So Didi and Meimei are reaping the fruits of Kor Kor’s labour, haha!

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The Lost Hour

I used to be very obssessed about the kids’ bedtimes – MUST sleep early. Must nap. Why? There are many, many books and online articles advocating the importance of sleep for young children and how they should sleep – how many hours of sleep they need at each age, what time they should sleep, etc. In short, young children need to sleep a lot, and they need to go to bed very early.

But somehow, I had lost track of this very important brain factor along the way. We did not start having late-night activities. We did not start returning home very late. When I became aware of the problem and reflected, I realised that it was because I decided to take things slooooow, to let the boys take their time instead of rushing them all the time. (Still rushing them when we need to be somewhere by a certain time though.) So when they were engrossed in their play when we were supposed to be preparing for bedtime, I tried to let them play and to just wait, instead of hurrying them to drink their milk, brush their teeth… I also patiently read them many bedtime stories………….

It was good, cos everyone felt more relaxed and there were fewer tantrums. I was happy too cos task-oriented me could finish doing all the miscellanous stuff like washing their water bottles, unpacking & packing their bags. But it meant the boys often ended up going to bed around 10pm >.< And yes, they still woke up at their usual 7.30am, often even earlier.

Then I read this book and it woke me up.

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An experiment was conducted where groups of fourth-graders and sixth-graders were randomly told to either go to bed earlier or stay up later, for three nights. The difference in amount of true sleep turned out to be an hour. Only an hour, yet the effect was significant – a slightly sleepy sixth-grader would perform in class (test of neurobiological functioning) like a fourth-grader.

Truth be told, it didn’t take much to convince me, because of my sleep-fanatic background. All I needed was a reminder. Nevertheless, I find this book to be a great read. It covers ten topics, each in a very digestible chapter. And it’s available from the library! Happy reading!