An exciting year ahead

We have come to the end of 2015.

A time to reflect, a time to look ahead.

Usually at this juncture, I will be feeling very kan cheong (harried), desperately trying to get everything ready before New Year’s Day descends on me.

House organised, schedules drawn up, making sure all 6 of them are ready for the new school year.

I have stopped bothering about resolutions, which never get achieved.

Last year, I decided instead to write down my top 5 priorities to concentrate on.

I had a re-read of it, and will continue to focus on them, with some additions.

This year, I feel surprisingly calm. I think I’m reaching a more zen state, where I have learnt to focus on the essentials instead of running around like a headless chicken.

It was nice to see the girls on auto-pilot, de-cluttering their rooms and doing DIY decorations to spruce their rooms up for the brand new year. Their room feels all light and breezy and I want to sit at their desk and study!

2016 is going to be an exciting year for us. #2 will be taking her ‘O’s, #3 will be having her streaming exams and #4 will tackle the PSLE.

For non-critical years I allow them to cruise along, with the focus on having a balanced life of school, adequate sleep, physical activity and lots of simple fun for a happy childhood.

In the important years, the focus shifts to the national exams and they (hopefully) rise to the occasion. I don’t know about my boy, but the girls instinctively know it is a year they work doubly hard and put in their best effort.

I am looking forwards to watching them get self-motivated, set their own goals and action plan while I sit on the sidelines and cheer them on.

For #4, I’ve got it pretty much sorted out with regards to guiding her for the PSLE as I’ve done this 3 times over and have learnt what not to do.

As for #2, I still haven’t quite figured out how involved I should be in the Sec 4 year. The strategy for #1 obviously did not work, as I left her to plan her own revision. At 16, they have to be parented differently from when they were 12. But when do we put our foot down? Ah well, it is a work in progress and I will update you at the end of the year!

As for #5, I’ll be working on his discipline issues as he still has problems behaving properly in class. He likes to do things his own way (which doesn’t please his teachers at all) and he gets bored easily and starts to distract his classmates.

Kate will be in school for an extra hour as compared to last year, which means more free time for me. Hooray!

Ever so cheeky

For myself, I will be embarking on a new venture and hope to see it take shape in this coming year.

I’ve been home with the kids for 17 long years and everything revolved around them that it feels surreal to be gradually reclaiming my life and doing meaningful things I am passionate about. So exciting!

Here’s wishing you a purposeful and intentional year ahead. May you dream big dreams and may they be fulfilled.

Happy New Year!

~ – a blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore ~

Thankful… for the good and bad

As we approached the Christmas season, so much went through my mind. The past few months have been tough. A family member had a relapse of his mental illness and was warded in IMH. We went through a cash crunch and for the first time, the kids had to be denied things they were used to.

I looked around at our excesses and wonder if all these are necessary and I remember a time long ago when I wanted to be a nun, as I yearned for the simplicity of a zen life.

My kids, on the other hand, get sucked in to the commercialism and wish they were rich and can buy everything they set their eyes on. It accelerates into complains about everything, from our uninspired home decor to the boring dishes our helper serves up. Yes, they’ve been on too much Pinterest.

I keep telling them that if they constantly look at others with better things, they will be dissatisfied and unhappy. There will always be people who have more than us and people who have less. This holidays, they have had much less than past years, and I guess the silver lining is that henceforth, they will be more appreciative of the good life that we have been living all these years.

Thinking back to 2 Christmases ago where I couldn’t even walk, I knew I had so much to be thankful for. Being mobile and able to go wherever I wanted to, healthy children, a big family around us.

A few days ago, we accompanied the hubs up to K.L. for a meeting since the kids were on holiday. I was happy to be there but was griping about the horrendous traffic and for having to sit for hours in the jam.

My dad-in-law on the other hand, insisted on being picked up early so that he could spend time in the car with the kids. His priorities struck me. The inconvenience was irrelevant. He chose his priorities and stuck to it.

What a wonderful way to live our lives, instead of constantly being swayed by other people’s priorities or not even knowing what our priorities are.
Pavilion Mall in KL

We had some time to while away, and as we took in the extravagant display of thousands of sparkling crystals, something gnawed inside me.

What a show.

Are our lives a show?

In these very ‘showy’ times of Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest, my first response was to upload a pretty picture. However, it made me feel superficial at best and fake at worse.

Is this reflective of what our lives are at the moment? Or is it just to paint a picture to friends and readers?

On Christmas Eve after a beautiful service in church, we adjourned to my mum’s place for dinner, the same way we have celebrated for as long as I can remember.

It is a simple affair with family and close friends and it always feels like home. A place and time where we can be ourselves.

Big sis
I snapped this photo of Kate and her newest cousin.

She looks sagely matured and seems to know what is important.

Our relationship with one another.

I love how she grabbed hold of the little baby’s hand.

I will stay by you. Hold on to you. Pull you up. And everything will be a-ok!

May the joy and peace of Christmas fill your homes and hearts.
Merry Christmas!

“He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has” – Epictetus

Thankful… for the hub’s cooking

Thankful… for our helper
Thankful… for my family
Thankful… for my mum-in-law

~ – a blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore ~

Top 10 things to do with kids in Singapore

My kids have rounded up their Top 10 favourite activities here in our little red dot. We are not that boring after all. (Singapore, I mean. My kids will tell you that our family is really boring.)

1) Sentosa

Our island resort has seen extensive transformation over the past decade to become Singapore’s bona fide playground for the whole family.

Start the morning by taking the Cable Car over from Mount Faber to enjoy the scenic view. Delve right into the excitement with the Skyline Luge, a non-motorised vehicle using gravity to zoom down the slopes.

During the hottest part of the day, take shelter in 4D AdventureLand where admission fees include unlimited entry to the multi-sensory simulation rides and interactive shoot-out game.

In the evening, head out to Palawan beach where the adults can sit and sip a pina colada while watching the kids play at the beach. Or head over to Port of Lost Wonder, a pirate ship water play area designed with the young kids in mind. For the older kids, get their hearts pumping at the MegaZip Adventure park, Wave House, or Flying Trapeze.

If you prefer something more chi chi, Quayside aisle @ Sentosa Cove is the answer, as you dine within view of million dollar yachts. Satisfy your gastronomic cravings with their wide selection of fine restaurants and casual cafes.

Best suited for: The entire family
Approximate duration: A whole day, or two!

Sane tip: The island resort is also accessible via monorail from Vivocity, by foot along Sentosa Boardwalk, or by car/taxi. Grab a map of Sentosa as the island is divided into segments such as Resorts World Sentosa (RWS), Imbiah Lookout, Palawan Beach, Siloso beach, Sentosa Cove and more.

There are several hotels spread around Sentosa, the most family-friendly being Shangri-La’s Rasa Sentosa Resort & Spa along Siloso Beach which has a kid’s club. Within RWS itself, Festive Hotel offers family rooms, and staying on the island is convenient if you are spending the day at Universal Studios theme park. The older kids would also love Adventure cove, a water park situated within RWS.

Official website: Sentosa

Photo credit: Sentosa

2) KidsSTOP @ Singapore Science Centre

Learn Science in a fun and engaging way at KidsSTOP. Plenty of hands-on experiences including flying an aeroplane, dino pit excavation, pretend play at the supermarket, stop-motion animation, making friends with the feathered, furry and four-legged, and even a two-story climbing structure with mind boggling exhibits.

Best suited for: Ages 2-8
Approximate duration: 2 – 4 hours
Sane tip: Strollers are not allowed inside the premise. Socks are required for some areas.

Official Website: KidsSTOP @ Singapore Science Centre

Older kids can explore the adjoining Science Centre which includes an Omni-max theatre and outdoor water play area.


3) River Cruise @ Marina Bay

Swimming (or taking selfies) in the infinity pool on the 57th floor of Marina Bay Sands hotel has attained the ‘must experience before you die’ status. Another fabulous way to soak in the breath-taking Marina bay skyline is to hop aboard a traditional bumboat for a leisurely river cruise.

Best suited for: The entire family
Approximate duration: 40 minutes
Sane tip: Avoid the hottest part of the afternoon

Official Website: Singapore River Cruise

For the younger kids, take them on the Duck Tour which departs from nearby Singapore Flyer, and watch them squeal with delight as the Wacky DUCK bus transforms into a boat and makes a splash into the bay.

Marina Bay

4) Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum

Get up close and personal with three diplodocid sauropod skeletons nicknamed Prince, Apollonia and Twinky and feel the bone of the edmontosaurus dinosaur which lived 67 million years ago. There are more than a million specimens preserved at the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum located on the grounds of the National University of Singapore.

Best suited for: Ages 6 and up
Approximate duration: 2 hours. Longer if the older kids are interested in reading all the information presented.
Sane tip: Tickets have to be pre-bought via Sistic, and collected at their authorised agents, for crowd control. However, they do sell left-over tickets at the door on a first-come-first-serve basis. Call +65 6601 3333 to try your luck!

Official website: Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum.

For history buffs, it is worthwhile to visit the National Museum of Singapore and it has areas dedicated to children. For art enthusiasts, make some time to visit the newly opened National Gallery.

Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum

5) Parkland Green @ ECP

The East Coast Park (ECP) belt has been transformed with a new stretch of F & B outlets at Parkland Green to enhance the outdoor seaside experience. Have a leisurely tea break with unobstructed view of the beach while your kids play a round of laser tag. If you are feeling active, rent the family bicycle from Lifestyle Bike & Skate which can sit 6. Be prepared to sweat it out, especially if you are the only one paddling your tots!

After all that hard work, reward yourself with a satisfying dinner at East Coast Seafood Centre, and don’t forget to order Singapore’s signature Chilli Crab dish.

Best suited for: The whole family
Approximate duration: Varies
Sane tip: Most of the restaurants are crowded on weekends, make a reservation or have an early dinner.

Photo credit:

6) Trampoline Park

The weather in Singapore is erratic, and if faced with wet weather, let your kids expand their energies at an indoor trampoline park. According to my kids, the trampolines at Amped are bouncier and the large main arena provides sufficient space for stunts like back flips while Zoom Park Asia is more interesting with segregated areas for dodgeball, slam dunk and a rock climbing wall.

Best suited for: Kids of all ages, even the parents!
Approximate duration: Bookings by the hour.
Sane tip: Pre-booking required, and of course, a pair of socks.

Official website: Amped, Zoom Park Asia

Amped @ Jurong
7) Children’s Centre for Creativity

Nestled in the quiet Gillman Barracks off Alexandra road is the Art of Speed, an installation for kids to explore the essence of speed through four different but interconnected sensory and open-ended environments. Build your own cars and zoom them down the slope. The catch is, there is a hurdle right in the middle which the cars have to cross!

Best suited for: Ages 2-12
Approximate duration: 2 hours
Sane tip: Check their website for Busy Times as they may be closed for school bookings.

Official website: Playeum, Children’s Centre for Creativity
Art of Speed
8) Family-friendly dining

Why not incorporate some fun and lovely ambience into your meals? Our latest dining haunts are Brewerkz at Sentosa Boardwalk, and the Open Farm Community.

All time favourites include the award-winning Shunjuu Izakaya Japanese restaurant at the hip yet chill Robertson Quay, and the DIY pancake cafe Slappy Cakes at The Grandstand. (You might like to spend an afternoon at The Grandstand, where the kids can have a spin on the Go-Karts or fidget away at Fidgets World Indoor Playground while mum satisfies her retail craving at Pasarbella, the unique farmer’s market.)
Brewerkz @ Sentosa Boardwalk
9) Gardens by the Bay

Before you leave, don’t forget to make a stop at Gardens by the Bay, winner of several prestigious international awards for creative excellence. Stroll around the beautiful gardens, or pay for admission into the 2 domes with rotational displays.

The highlight of this yuletide season is the Christmas Wonderland attraction, where visitors will be enthralled by the combination of magnificent sculptures of light and sound. Do expect a huge crowd. 

Best suited for: The entire family.
Approximate duration: 2 hours
Sane tip: Savour our local cuisine at Satay by the Bay where there is a wide range of cuisines available, and little tables for the kids. Situated in the corner of Gardens by the Bay. Do go early as it gets crowded at mealtimes.

Official website: Gardens by the Bay

Photo credits: Gardens by the Bay

10) Indoor playgrounds

Besides the usual indoor playgrounds, unleash your child’s creativity at Kaboodle where they can build with giant foam blocks. Located at East Coast Park (visit #5 Parkland Green at the same time). For the under 5s, Hokey Pokey at Millenia walk has a huge array of play things to keep them entertained in a safe environment.

If time permits, other staple tourist attractions include Singapore ZooNight Safari and Jurong Bird Park.

Kaboodle at ECP
This post was first published as a guest post on Kuala Lumpur Kids.

~ – a blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore ~ 

The Art of Speed by Playeum

I’ve been meaning to take #5 to the Children’s Centre for Creativity and as expected, he and his friend had so much fun exploring with cars and speed that they weren’t done playing even after 4 hours. This space is inspired by Australia’s Ipswich Art Gallery’s hugely successful “Built for Speed” installation.


Kate couldn’t keep her little car on the ramp and ended up “walking” it carefully along the green ramp. Good for coordination!

The boys spent an hour trying to adjust and re-adjust the blocks under the ramp  to see if their car could run over the bumps and make it to the end. It was nice to see the boys work together, even with strangers.

Create for Speed

At this station, they built their own Lego cars to race down the steep wooden ramp. Thing is, they didn’t realise that there is a hole in middle of the ramp! They ended up spending almost 2 hours here, building cars that could cross the hurdle.

Wooden ramp

And they succeeded!

#5’s speed machine

Kate played at the soft corner, and even though I tried to explain to her that the cars were meant to be rolled down the slopes, she was not keen on playing with the cars at all. Instead, she arranged the slopes into structures and rolled around on them. Whatever suits her!

I noticed that most of the girls gravitated towards the Play Maker Space, where they created their own cars out of recycled materials. This lady was so patient with Kate and assisted her in making her own set of wheels.

“What happened?!”

Soon enough, she was tired of playing with cars and we went across the street to Red Baron cafe for a quick lunch. When we returned, she was all recharged and played in the dark room shining her torch around and being mesmerised by the light reflected by the disco ball.

Sane tip: This installation runs until 3 April 2016. Excellent place to bring your boys if they are into cars.

Save tip: Re-entry is allowed. Peak periods – limited to 2 hours per entry. We were there on a weekday and were allowed to play for an unlimited time as it was not crowded.

47 Malan Road
Gillman Barracks
Singapore 109444
Tel: 62620750

~ – a blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore ~

6 Activities to keep the kids away from Gadgets

I was invited on the program “Parenting Made Easy” with Susan Ng on 93.8 Live to share about how to deal with children and their gadget usage during the school holidays as many are left to their own devices. Literally.

Similarly as with most households, if I don’t plan activities for the kids, they would end up spending hours on their phones, iPads or computers. Here are 6 simple activities I do with my children during the school holidays to keep them busy.

Weekly scheduling keeps me sane!

1. Link what they read/learn with reality

I was reading to Kate “Oh, the Pets you can get” by Dr. Seuss and she has joined her siblings in clamouring for a pet dog. I decided it was about time I took them to S.P.C.A to show them what happens to dogs which have been abandoned, and to impress upon them that a pet is a responsibility for the long-haul.


Kate was attracted to the tiniest dog, and wanted to go inside the cage to pet her. Most of the other dogs are quite big, and some bark a lot, although many just lie there quietly. The kids were taken aback by the listlessness of several of the dogs as they are used to seeing dogs at the playground which are frisky and playful.

Poor little dog

This Christmas, you can spread some love to these animals by sponsoring items they require. Click their wish list for more details.

S.P.C.ASociety for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Singapore
31 Mount Vernon Road
Singapore 368054*

Viewing hours: 11am – 4pm

Closed on Thursdays, except on PH
Tel: 62875355

*From January 2016, they will be moving to 50 Sungei Tengah Road, Singapore 699012

Prince, Apollonia and Twinky

Kate has been watching the Jurassic Park sequels and keeps talking about dinosaurs. I took the opportunity to take her to the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum at NUS to show her the fossils of the dinosaurs and I can see how learning is so much more effective when the child’s interest in piqued.

Tickets have to be pre-bought via Sistic, and collected at their authorised agents, for crowd control. However, they do sell left-over tickets at the door on a first-come-first-serve basis. Call +65 6601 3333 to try your luck!

Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum
National University of Singapore
2 Conservatory Drive

Singapore 117377

2. Visit other libraries

I have been meaning to take Kate to the Central library at Bras Besah but have never found the time. She enjoyed herself so much that we spent more than 2 hours at the kids’ section.

She took a book, found herself a nice chair and ‘read’ to herself. She returned the book, chose another one, and chose another chair. Yup, that took her almost an hour. I think she had as much fun playing chair rotation as reading the books. Meanwhile, I grabbed a book from the parenting section and sat within sight of her.

I had the unexpected pleasure of being able to read while she kept herself occupied. I love this library! She spent the rest of the time watching some older kids play on the interactive computer terminals and after they left, she was so pleased that she had the computer all to herself, pretending that she knew how it worked.

Central Library

3. Take them outdoors

During the school term, we hardly get a chance to spend the whole afternoon mucking around the beach. The weekdays are occupied with school activities while we don’t enjoy jostling with the crowds on the weekends. I love taking the kids to the beaches in Sentosa as it feels like we are on holiday. Best of all, it costs nothing!

More fun with friends!

4. Encourage them to create their own games

On normal days, everyone is in a rush. We like to take it nice and slow during the holidays, to let everyone re-charge. In between our activities and parties, I allocate lots of time and space for them to create their own fun.

There is so much more that goes on when they make up their own games, their own rules, and learn to negotiate and compromise.

#5 set up a simple game with Kate’s stacking cups. He later realised that she could not aim from such a distance and allowed her to move closer, closer, closer.
Cup and ball game
5. Let the kids prepare special dinners

Dining out is not cheap in Singapore, so the next best thing is to DIY our own ‘fine’ dining experience! From planning of the menu, to the preparation of the food and setting of the table. It also teaches kids so many important life skills, not least that food doesn’t just appear on the table!

Besides, it gives them a sense of achievement and a good way to bond. Use adult utensils for an extra special atmosphere. You’d be surprised how careful the kids are with glassware when you set your expectations and show that you entrust them to use them with care. (But of course, no long-stemmed wine glasses for the little ones!)
Dinner prepared by the kids

6. Give them free reign to bake

I know it messes up the kitchen, but there’s so much going on in an activity like baking. Planning sequences, math concepts like measuring and adding, and fine motor skills such as pouring and scooping.

Chocolate chip cookies
And the final product is so rewarding! I love it when we sit around the kitchen table after all the hard work, savouring our freshly baked goods. Sometimes it turns out to be a failure, and we have a good laugh about it.
#1’s artistic shot

Related posts:

6 Family-friendly restaurants that we love

~ – a blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore ~

Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum

Kate has been watching the Jurassic Park sequels with #5 and had a lot of questions about dinosaurs. She asked if we could go and see them, like the animals in the zoo. I told her that dinosaurs are extinct and the closest we could get was to look at their bones in the museum and she was really excited.

Fossils of 3 dinosaurs

The first thing that greets you when you step into the museum is the majestic sight of three diplodocid sauropod skeletons named Prince, Apollonia and Twinky.

The older kids were blown away by the fact that this bone was inside a dinosaur around 67 million years ago! The Edmontosaurus is a type of hadrosaur, a “duck-billed” dinosaur.

Femur of Edmontosaurus

Somehow I had the impression that this museum was mainly about the dinosaurs. Little did we know that there are actually over a million specimens preserved here at this research centre. Wow.

Level 1: BIODIVERSITY – embark on a journey through the diverse groups of life forms on Earth, with a focus on native and Southeast Asian flora and fauna.

Crocodylia, Indonesia, Sumatra, 1912

Although Kate was not afraid of any of the specimens, it could be a little upsetting for some young kids. Kate was intrigued by them and went up close to have a good look. It’s like her encyclopaedia had come alive!

Leopard, Malaysia, Johore, 1970s

Level 1 is segmented into 15 zones: Life, Plants, Dinosaurs, Fungi, Towards animals, Molluscs, Arthropods, Reptiles, Birds, Tropical rainforest, Marine cycles, Mammals, Amphibians, Fish and Water to Land.

Japanese Spider Crab

The Japanese Spider Crab has the largest leg span of any living arthropod, capable of reaching 3.8m claw to claw! In spite of its size, it has a gentle disposition and is an omnivore which feeds on animal matter on the sea floor.

Orangutan, Borneo of Sumatra, 1930s

Level 2: Heritage – Singapore’s landscape and the study of biodiversity has evolved over the years. Delve into the nostalgic past and discover the museum’s history and Singapore’s geology. 

Black Marlin

The Black Marlin is one of the largest bony fishes and can reach speeds of 130 kilometres per hour! This 3.3m long specimen died after being stranded at East Coast Park in 1986, and weighed 245kg in life!

The dinosaur can be seen so closely on Level 2 that Kate was prompted to draw it. She took out her sketch book which is always kept in her bag, and spent almost half an hour with her drawings.

Twinky is about half the size of the other two sauropods, measuring 12m long. It is the first diplodocid dinosaur found with a complete, undisturbed series of vertebrae preserved in a continuous row with even spacing, from the atlas to the beginning of the whiplash tail. It seems to be a juvenile or sub-adult, and lived during the Jurassic period, around 156 to 148 million years ago.

“Twinky Delano MS LEE”

There is so much to take in that we will have to come back repeatedly over the years. Lots of information for the older kids to look at, read about and digest.

Gift shop

Sane tips: Tickets have to be pre-bought via Sistic, and collected at their authorised agents, for crowd control. However, they do sell left-over tickets at the door on a first-come-first-serve basis. Call +65 6601 3333 to try your luck!

There isn’t any food outlets situated here, but the gift shop sells instant cup noodles, a small range of snacks and cold drinks.

Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum
National University of Singapore
2 Conservatory Drive
Singapore 117377

~ – a blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore ~

The day my phone drowned

You’ve heard of people dropping their phones into the toilet or swimming pool. But have you ever heard of anyone having their water bottle contents spill in their handbag resulting in their phone becoming water damaged?

Yeah, it happened to me. Such rotten luck, isn’t it?

My kids advised me to leave it in a bag of rice, and it should dry out and be able to work after 3 days.

Effective home remedy?

I took their advice, as the shops were closed anyway, but by the next morning, when it still could not power on, I decided not to let it corrode further and took it to the shop.

The strange thing was, I was surprised how calm I was.

I had 5 seconds of panic, thinking, “My photos! My to-do lists!” and irritated with myself for incurring the unnecessary cost to replace the phone.

Then my considerations went to my leather handbag. I don’t know which was worse. My spoilt phone or my spoiled bag.

But after that wave of panic washed over me, I thought, oh well.

Guess my 6 days of retreat had left me in a zen mode, and somehow, losing material possessions did not disturb me as much as I assumed it would.

One of the things we reflected on over the week was that all of us needed to slow down, and to focus on the “essentials”.

As I went about my day without a phone, I suddenly felt liberated.

I could not be reached by anyone. Not even my kids! I had total freedom and peace.

Initially, I felt the urge (probably borne out of habit) to look into my bag to check if I had text messages I had missed. It’s like someone calling out to you constantly.

But then I felt a new found sense of lightness that I could concentrate on whatever I was doing and not bother about anything else, without having 10 things going on in my head about what I needed to get done, what I had forgotten, what else I had to settle.

In the in-between moments of waiting in line where I would automatically do something “productive” on my phone like replying to emails or reading the news, I realised I could simply do nothing.

It made me wonder, how did we live before the advent of mobile gadgets?

We seem to be shackled to them in this day and age.

For all it’s benefits, it’s sad that our gadgets have taken over our lives. We have forgotten how to just be. To enjoy being in the present moment.

To be free.

Alas, after 3 days, I had my phone back. And life returned to normal. With the phone usually within reach.


~ – a blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore ~

{Interview #9}: Dr. Phillip A. Towndrow – Research Scientist

Dr. Phillip A. Towndrow, 59, is a Senior Research Scientist at the Centre for Research in Pedagogy and Practice, National Institute of Education, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. He is married to an administrative assistant in a foreign embassy in Singapore and they have two children aged 23 and 12.

This initiative is part of our 101 Paths to Success series of interviews to gain insight into how successful people came to do what they are doing, and enlighten parents that there is a vast array of occupations for our children to discover. Hopefully it might spark an interest in our children and youths to start their journey of discerning their life’s path.

Your qualifications

BA (Hons.) Philosophy, University of Essex (UK)
MA Applied Linguistics, University of Surrey (UK)
Ed. D., Durham University (UK)

Dr. Phillip A. Towndrow

Describe your job
I work in an educational research centre. I plan, organise and manage studies in how teachers teach and how students use new media in their learning. A large part of my job involves working with teachers and other educators to design lesson tasks and activities around particular topic and thematic curriculum areas. I’m also expected to publish my work in academic journals and tell others about my research findings through classes, seminars and conference presentations.
Tell us about your career path
I started teaching English as a foreign language. I then moved into the planning and supervision of a large computer assisted language learning project at a university in the Arabian Gulf. It was at that time that I did my Masters and I realised I had an interest in learning and academic writing. In the effort to progress in my work and studies, I moved to Singapore to do a Doctorate in Education. By the time I finished my coursework, I already had a number of publications under my belt. I continued writing and researching on various projects and used (as much as I could) all opportunities to meet people and collaborate.
How did you find your passion / area of interest?
It was unplanned and, in part, opportunistic. I’ve always liked learning new things and explaining concepts to others. My first degree was in Philosophy and that is where I learnt through my excellent professors and teachers at the University of Essex to craft arguments and write concisely, logically and convincingly. I remember writing a 500-word essay on Plato and getting an A+. That came as a bit of a surprise (I’d always been an average learner in school) but I decided to continue with Philosophy because I was good at it. My professors encouraged me and that’s how my ‘love of learning’ began. I have been passionate about trying to understand things all of my life.
Which aspect of your job gives you the most satisfaction?
I derive great pleasure in making things and helping others express their ideas. Ultimtely, I want to make sense of life and the world around. My greatest joy comes from shining light in parts where darkness, ignorance and injustice prevent people from doing all that they can to make the world a better place to live and work.
What does success mean to you?
I guess that for many, success in what they do is linked to their material achievements and performances. Of course, it’s important for me to have citations, sell books and give many talks etc.. But, for me, I feel I’ve been succesful when my students, colleagues and the people I meet go out of their way to say, “Thank you. You made me think differently. I now understand (X) better.”
How do you balance your time between work and family?
Well, my starting point is to draw a line between paid work and the rest of my life. I strive to put God first in everything and then family comes next. That said, I can’t stop thinking about my work. There’s always an idea that pops into my head. I’m constantly writing and rewriting sentences in my mind, in notebooks and on my computers. Anything and everything I look at, eat or hear can spark an idea in my mind. So, I have to be very careful. At least I know I can’t be at or in work all of the time!
You must be incredibly busy. How do you avoid being burnt out?
Prioritisation is key and I must set limits. I have multiple ‘to do’ lists on all of my gadgets and devices. I set myself a number of things to do each day. I try not to leave things to the last moment and to give myself a lot of lead time when it’s possible. If I have a large job, for example, read a 250-page thesis, write a book or plan lessons, I break the task down into small parts. Read a chapter a day or write a page a day, and so on. I know there will be unplanned events, contingencies to deal with and other urgent things to complete but I try to keep focussed on what’s important and not on what other people say is necessary.
When I’m feeling overwhelmed or burdened, I know that work–life balance issues are looming. For me, the solution or remedy is to back off and go to a quiet place to pray and reprioritise. Ultimately, it’s always important for me to slow down and reflect on what I’m doing and why.
Are you involved in any charity work?
No. But I do some unpaid service work to the community through talks, meetings, tutorials and writing.
One piece of advice to parents
Your children are a precious gift from God. Find all ways possible to learn from them who you are and what it means to live a full and meaningful life.
One piece of advice to teens
Listen to and obey your parents. When you feel like running to your room to hide from or avoid a situation, turn around and instead give your Mum or Dad a big hug and kiss. It will change your perceptions.
To be a good research scientist, it takes someone… who has a clear and precise vision of a transformed world through education and carespassionately about the quality of the work they do for themselves and others.

{Interviews} 101 Paths to Success

#1 – Dr Karen Crasta Scientist Associate Prof at the Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine

#2 – Jeremiah Choy Creative Director Sing50 Mega concert at the National Stadium
#3 – Elaine Yeo Musician Singapore Symphony Orchestra
#4 – Chong Ee Jay Cyber Wellness Educator TOUCH Cyber Wellness
#5 – Professor Tan Huay Cheem Cardiologist Director of National University Heart Centre
#6 – Ruth Wan Children’s Book Author Timmy and Tammy series
#7 – Andrea Decruz Media Personality Owner of CINQ Salon & Belmont Flora
#8 – Ebelle Chong Dance Practitioner / Choreographer SSLD:7 in R.e.P 2015

~ – a blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore ~