Drum lessons at Believer Music

I have newfound respect for drummers. Really. We usually think of them as the cool guy, showy and loud. But after going through a term of lessons with #2, I have found the opposite to be true. Drummers are probably the most disciplined member of the band and their role is extremely crucial – to keep time, as the other members are depending on him.

I was going to turn down this collaboration, but as usual, my older girls asked me “How’s your day been, Mum?” I casually mentioned the email and was surprised at #2’s enthusiasm. Being the President of her school’s band, her personal goal is to pick up as many instruments as possible, and she wanted some real lessons to learn drum fills.

I decided that I should set aside an hour a week to spend time with her as she’s been really busy this year and I hardly get to see her except during meal times. Besides, a mother-daughter angle would be nice for the review.

Having passed my Grade 8 in piano (waayyy back then), I thought how hard could it be to play percussion instruments right? The kids thought it was pretty cool that mummy was taking drum lessons, but honestly, I never imagined picking up another musical instrument as an adult. I hardly even have time to play the piano anymore.

Believer music

We started at the Beginner level but with our music background, found the lessons rather slow. Our instructor, Jason, decided that we were ready to move on to Level 2 after a few lessons of teaching us the foundations.

It was good that he spent time reinforcing basic things like holding the stick properly; as a boy who came from another music school found it difficult when we moved on to play at a fast speed and his incorrect technique hindered him. It is always better to start off learning the correct method, and our instructor ensured we did that.

We were expected to purchase our own set of drum sticks and bring our own earphones. I belong to the don’t-let-kids-pick-up-drums-because-it-is-so-noisy era, but my fears were allayed as these electronic drums do not make a din.

Enjoying her lessons

Each week, we learned a new rhythm and Jason was patient and very experienced in breaking down the parts into manageable bits. #2 could follow the speed of the class with no issues and was able to do the improvisations.

As for me, it was more challenging than I expected. Your right hand is playing one rhythm, your left another, your right foot is stomping to a constant beat while you have to keep your left leg on the left pedal to keep the high hat closed. Not easy! And just when I got into the groove, it was time to transit to a different rhythm for the Chorus! I had to focus fully to keep everything going. It gets better once I got the hang of it, relaxed and allowed the music to take over instead of trying too hard to follow the notes as you do with piano scores.

It is actually a good instrument for kids to learn to develop their concentration and coordination, besides the musical aspect.

We chose the Contemporary Track, and during the 1-hour lesson, a section was devoted to group sharing. This term’s theme is “the story of mankind” and he would go through the different civilizations and discuss how history impacts culture and humanity. They also have a Praise Track for Christians, which is also suitable for small group sessions.

Concentrating hard

After 11 sessions, I felt such a sense of achievement and we thought it would be good to do a recording to showcase my newfound drum skills. It took me a good 45 minutes to record just one song, keeping (almost) perfectly on time and with smooth transitions.

I was so proud of myself.

However, when I returned home and showed the video to the kids, they were unimpressed. #5 commented, “Mum, drummers don’t play like that. They must hit the different drums very quickly.”

I wanted to launch into an explanation of how much effort it took me to learn all that and how much concentration was required to get through a whole song perfectly. Ah well. I know how much I have progressed and am content with my own achievements. One day perhaps, they will have drum lessons and come to the same realisations ðŸ˜‰

Kate on the drums
All in all, the lessons were very enjoyable, and it was immensely satisfying to pick up a new musical instrument. Some weeks, I had to practice the more tricky rhythms before going for class and #2 patiently guided me.

Role reversal! And now she’s proud to say that her mama can play the drums too. It is an awesome feeling to bond over music with your kids, being in sync, drumming to the same beat. That was what motivated me to focus hard and not let them down!

They have lunchtime classes at International Plaza and also classes for children aged 7-12, as well as holiday programmes. Kate is too young to start but she couldn’t resist donning the earphones and having a go at banging on the drums.

Besides drum lessons, Believer Music offers a whole suite of courses including guitar, electric guitar, ukulele, keyboard and voice lessons.

Registration for Term 4 is open until 30 July 2017.

Believer Music
Tel: 63230304

International Plaza (IP)
10 Anson Road #03-28
Singapore 079903

Tampines Plaza (TP)
5 Tampines Central 1 #01-01A
Singapore 529541

One Commonwealth (OC)
1 Commonwealth Lane #06-05
Singapore 149544

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post. All opinions are my own.

~ www.mummyweeblog.com – a blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore ~

Centre Stage School of the Arts – A Review by Mum of 6

I used to send my 5 older kids to drama classes and like any typical parent, the highlight was watching my little tikes perform on stage. However, they did not seem to be progressing much from one performance to the next. Having evolved into an educator myself, I realised that it was superficial to focus on simply memorising the script and adding in suitable expressions and actions. Thus for Kate, I was searching for something more.

When I chanced upon Centre Stage School of the Arts from an enrichment app colloquially named Today Got Class, what caught my attention was the calibre of the teachers.

“The strength of the school is in its staff. All of the full-time teachers trained primarily as performers and completed courses in UK or Australian drama schools and universities, many have worked and continue to work in the theatre and on television.”

Interest piqued, I checked out their website and was surprised that they have been around since 1999. They have developed into a full creative and performing arts centre offering regular drama, musical theatre, performance acting and dance (ballet, tap, jazz and contemporary) programmes for children – from toddlers to teenagers and even adults. As well as early years play programmes parents can attend along with their tots.

“Creative Drama is the heart and soul of the Centre Stage ethos. It is process driven, rather than performance based drama – the emphasis and the value is in the journey rather than the outcome.”

I was sold. This is the same philosophy we uphold at my enrichment centre, with the focus being the process rather than the product. Skills become internalised and benefits, far-reaching. I could tell that Kate would be in good hands and given a solid foundation in the dramatic arts.

I had a chance to sit in on a session for the purpose of this review and boy, was I impressed. I don’t know how Ms Sophie does this day in day out, but her energy was infectious. I felt like jumping in and being part of the fun! The kids were engaged from the get go, and in that hour, not once did she miss a beat as she moved through the different activities seamlessly. She was firm and had full control of her class, managing to corral even the distracted ones, all while keeping it exciting.

Kate is in Creative Drama Stage 1, and the session opened with the segment News. Ms Sophie asked one by one in a sing-song voice, “Do you have any news for me today?” It sure sounded very grown up. Each of them had something to share, and some brought along an item to show. They waited patiently for their turn, respecting others while they were speaking.

This was quickly followed by Warm up, where they ran through a series of exercises warming up different parts of their bodies.

They launched into an Action song with lots of movement. Clapping of hands, jumping, turning around and Stop! In super speed, no less. This kept the kids on their toes, attentive and listening carefully to the changing instructions.

Next up was the classic childhood game What’s the time Mr Wolf. Ms Sophie reminded the kids to make a scary wolf face and they took turns being the Wolf.

In the Magic segment, the kids used their imagination to act out different scenarios as Ms Sophie magically turned them into various animals. They were pigs rolling around in the mud, cows heading to the water trough, birds flying around and jumping off branches. And BINK! Just as quickly, they were turned back into children in the blink of an eye.

After all that movement, the kids settled down for Story time. Today’s book was Spot goes to the farm. Ms Sophie elaborated on the storyline and asked them open-ended questions such as “What do you think he found?”


She dimmed the lights and they had to imagine what it was like being in a farm. The lesson culminated in Creative Drama, where they acted out what they had read. 

The children learn through improvised drama, music, mime and movement drawn from favourite books, poems and stories. They start within the safety net of the group and as self-confidence develops, begin to take on individual roles. The students start to acquire the basic skills of drama, the need for clear speech and an expressive voice and body.”

It was a whirlwind of movements as Ms Sophie talked them through their farm adventure. From getting dressed and hopping into the car to finally reaching the farm.

The kids had a chance to meet Farmer Sophie (aka Ms Sophie) and busied themselves with chores around the farm. Collecting eggs from the hen house, cleaning the smelly pigsty, feeding the horses and stroking baby chicks.

Before I knew it, the helpful farm hands were back home, changed into their PJs  and nicely tucked in bed. Phew. I was exhausted just moving around taking pictures of the action.

I can see why Kate loves Ms Sophie’s lessons and look forward to them every week. She has been attending this class since the beginning of the year and feedback from Ms Sophie is that Kate is very participative and contributes good ideas to the group. She is expressive and creative and notices the finer details. For example, when they pretend to get into a car, the rest might just go “zoom zoom!” but she will turn on the engine and put on the seat belt before moving off. Great to hear that she is meticulous in that way.

Indeed, Centre Stage is a top-notch performing arts centre delivering quality programmes for babies right through to adults. Here’s how you can join in the fun!

Today Got Class Exclusive Deals
A package of 5 trial classes from $210 onwards (for new students) – only available when you book with TGC! Classes cover Drama, Dance, Singing and Play groups.

I had a go at using the app to book Kate’s Creative Drama class and it was a breeze. Best of all, you can access it anytime, anywhere.

Centre Stage Portsdown Road: 5 trial classes
Centre Stage marine Parade: 5 trial classes

Out of the Box
If you have a 2 or 3 year old toddler, why not check out Out of the Box, a 90-minute drop-off play based learning environment that aims to bridge the gap between home and full-time school. Sessions include Drama, Dance and Music. Contact them directly for a trial class.

OOTB @ Portsdown: Tuesdays, Thursdays & Fridays 9am-12pm
OOTB @ Marine Parade: Tuesdays & Thursdays 9am-12pm

Trial Classes
There are still 2 slots left in Kate’s Wednesday Creative Drama class, do contact them at 67327211 or drop Renee an email: info@centre-stage.com. Other Creative Drama classes will be open for trials in June.

Centre Stage School of the Arts – Portsdown Road
Block 15 Woking Road
Singapore 138694
Tel: 67327211
Email: info@centre-stage.com

Centre Stage School of the Arts – East

5000G Marine Parade Road
#01-32 Laguna Park
Singapore 449290
Tel: 64496211
Email: east@centre-stage.com

Disclaimer: We were sponsored Kate’s drama lessons. All opinions are my own.

~ www.mummyweeblog.com – a blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore ~

How I am preparing Kate to do school

Right from my eldest child, I’ve always believed in real learning, not just drilling them with content or making them good test-takers. I’ve come a long way in envisioning something beyond what our schools can offer and am now able to give kids that headstart at my enrichment centre.

Having Kate go through our programme, my insight into kids and learning has risen a notch! It is amazing how every child has different strengths and giftedness yet even the bright ones have their own unique learning issues.

In Janaury, Kate had The Executive Assessment (TEA) done and I expected her to score well as she speaks fluently and seems smart enough. However, I was surprised that her TEA score was 10 out of 21, and it was an eye-opener to discover her weak areas.

The Executive Assessment

I have sat through countless parent-teacher meetings with my 5 older kids but have never received a holistic assessment of their learning. In pre-school, feedback was usually about whether they were well-behaved (my 4 girls) or mischevious but creative (my son), and I would be updated about their reading and writing progress. In primary school, the focus would shift to their grades, on matters such as if homework was handed in on time and about their general behaviour.

On several occassions, teachers tell me, “Your child is smart, but if he can focus better/be more motivated, he will be able to reach his potential.”

But nobody tells us exactly how to do that!

With her assessment done, Teacher Jim was able to zoom in on her gaps and guide Kate to bridge them so that she can get the most out of whatever she is learning, both in school and in her other enrichment classes.

I found out that despite her chattiness and street smarts, she is not a strong learner and these are the foundational skills she needs to develop to prepare her well to cope with the demanding curriculum in primary school.

Increase her attention span: The most basic requirement to learn well is to have a good attention span to stay on task. She did not manage to complete some of the activities as she gets easily distracted by others or her mind will wander. The demands of K1 is increasing and she needs to concentrate well to absorb what is being taught in class. By disguising our activities as play, Kate happily undertakes them and manages to stay focused longer each time.

Train up her cognitive processes: In the animal stroop activity, they were instructed to say the colour of the animals in time to the metronome beat, but halfway through, she drifted from colour to name. With weekly practice, her processing speed and mental stamina will be enhanced and she can take on higher levels of difficulty.

Improve her working memory: Kate has no problems with her memory and can remember places we’ve been to and recall incidences, but I’ve never tested her working memory. Now that I’m aware it is weak, we need to tackle this if not in primary school, by the time she finishes reading the math problem sums, she would have forgotten what the question was asking for.

Develop her ability to self-monitor: After each activity, they are asked to reflect on how they had done and ways they can improve. Kate would gayly declare that she did fine even if she had gotten most of it wrong. I do love her positive and happy attitude though! Hopefully she will inculcate good habits of being able to check her own work and spot mistakes so that she does not need to constantly rely on her teachers (or me).

Growth mindset?
Develop a Growth Mindset: Sad to say, Kate has a fixed mindset and gives up easily. I assumed that since I have more of a growth mindset, so will my kids! Faced with a difficult activity, she simply said, “I don’t know. I don’t want to do it anymore” and refused to try. When Teacher Jim asked the kids, “Who is ready for a challenging round? Thumbs up if you are!” The other kids enthusiastically raised their hands, except for Kate. Finally she managed a half-hearted thumbs up, seeming to say fine, I will give it a go. Still, baby steps!

Term 1 has just ended and we’re heartened to see good progress in most areas. What’s more interesting is that Teacher Jim has unearthed some of Kate’s deep-seated habits and attitudes and is working on guiding her to un-do them.

She doubts her own ability and often cannot resist giving herself an advantage by peeking at others instead of thinking and being confident of her own answers. So much so that she has honed the skill of being able to copy discreetly. At 4?? Gasp. (And yes, I managed to catch a shot of her in action. I couldn’t quite believe my eyes.)

He also noticed that whenever a question is asked, Kate waits for others to answer and immediately follows and shouts out the answer as her own. No wonder we always thought of her as a smart child! Aware of this, he encourages Kate to think carefully and come up with an answer, to build up her confidence in her own ability.

Her strengths and weaknesses are clearer to me now and with awareness, I can work hand in hand with her teachers to guide her to reach her learning potential.

At times, I will hear her spontaneously chirp, “Don’t give up! Keep trying!” while sticking with a task and I can see the growth mindset slowly being internalised.

It will take time, but I’m glad she’s only 4 and already on the path of closing her learning gaps one by one and building a strong foundation of positive learning habits to excel in school.

Trial classes at The Little Executive are conducted every Saturday which includes The Executive Assessment.

Trials at $48
Suitable for N2-P2
1.5 hour session
Trial classes are parent-accompanied.

The Little Executive
144 Bukit Timah Road
Singapore 229844
(between Newton circus and KK Hospital)
www.thelittlexecutive.asia
Tel: 6908 1889
Email: knockknock@thelittleexecutive.asia

~ www.mummyweeblog.com – a blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore ~

Exciting Holiday Camps

School’s out and things are heating up around here! Our team at The Little Executive is going full steam ahead to prepare for 3 weeks of holiday camps.

Join us for an exciting Dino Discovery Camp, where our mini paleontologists will have lots of hands-on opportunities to make their own fossils, do a Dino-dig, crack IQ codes, work together as a team to reconstruct a dinosaur skeleton and create a Dino cave! How cool is that?

Dino Discovery Camp – 4 days
Date: 29 November – 2 December 2016
Time: 9am – 12pm (N2, K1, K2)
2pm – 5pm (K1 – P2)
Fee: $400 per child

Holiday Camp

Our fun and interactive P1 Prep Camp will get your K2 child ready for a big new school! Entering Primary 1 is a very different experience from our time. The demands are much greater and kids today are less classroom ready.

Over the 4 days, we aim to equip them with our 5-Step Learning cycle to excel academically, a Growth Mindset to be unafraid of failure and become resilient students and Executive Functioning Skills which form the foundations of independent learning.

The kids will have fun running a mini ‘tuck shop’ and take turns buying and selling snack items while learning to handle money. They will also have ample opportunities to practice speaking up and communicating their needs.

More details of P1 Prep curriculum.

P1 Preparatory Camp
Date: 6-9 December 2016
Age: K2 only
Time: 2-5pm
Fee: $400 per child

P1 Prep Camp

Our popular Astronaut Training Camp is back this December holidays! Let us take your child on a unique mission to Outer Space where they will hone their problem-solving skills to complete Space Missions and enhance their teamwork and communication skills as they work together as a crew to build the ultimate space shuttle!

Many of our Astro cadets said it was the best holiday camp they have ever attended!

Astronaut Training Camp
Date: 13 – 16 December 2016
Age: K1 – P2
Time: 9am-12pm or 2-5pm
Fee: $400 per child

The Little Executive

  • 10% off camp fees with 2 or more sign ups
  • Parents are invited for the last 30 minutes on Friday for a presentation by our campers
  • Location: 144 Bukit Timah Road Singapore 229844 (5 min walk from KK Hospital)
  • Email: knockknock@thelittleexecutive.asia to register
  • Tel: 6908 1889
  • Website: www.thelittleexecutive.asia

www.mummyweeblog.com – a blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore 

School stories #18: Get into the PSLE fray? Not me.

There has been a flood of reactions, opinions and questions from parents since MOE released their new grading system last Wednesday.

Many acknowledge that doing away with the fine differentiation is a step in the right direction but wonder if it will help to reduce stress levels in our children.

Some feel it might get more stressful.

One thing is for sure.

There is no perfect system and it is hard to please every parent.

As for me, I will do no different with Kate than I have done with my 5 other kids.

In fact, it is good news for us because now the choice of school has more weightage than before. It will be taken into consideration not just once, but twice, in the event of a tie.

If Kate so happens to be tied with a few other students fighting for the last place in a particular school, they will look at choice order before putting them in the ballot box.

Although I doubt she will be in that situation because for her first choice, I will likely select a school with an entry point which she can comfortably get into.

I have learnt to look further as there is the issue of streaming at the end of secondary 2.

I made that mistake with #1, where she scrapped in to the school of her choice.

During streaming, she was near the bottom of her cohort and did not manage to choose the subjects she was strong in, which affected her O level grades.

I am waiting for MOE to roll out more information over the next few years to illustrate every single school’s specialised programme and shortlist those within close proximity of our house.

With more details, we parents can make an informed decision to match the interest and learning needs of our children to the distinctive programmes the schools are offering.

Where’s your ladder leading to?

MOE can come up with new grading systems and new criteria, but if mindsets do not change, nothing much will change, and our education system will be as stressful as ever.


Before we pour all our resources in the race to the top, have we thought long and hard about whether this is the best ladder to climb?

The worst thing is to reach the top only to wonder if it has been the right ladder all along.

How I have managed to remain calm and not get sucked into the academic frenzy these past 12 years is to look at things from a broader perspective.

Yes, the PSLE is a big exam.

A bigger question I constantly ask myself is, do I need to look past the PSLE?

What are we preparing our kids for?

I don’t know about you, but I am preparing my kids for a future which I cannot foresee.

Hence, I am trying to guide them to be adaptable and unafraid to face challenges.

To be able to think and communicate their ideas.

To see mistakes as learning opportunities and be able to pick themselves up when they fail.

To ensure that they are future-ready, they need to be good problem-solvers, analytical thinkers, with strong interpersonal skills.

I have been trying to build these skills and traits in them from the time they were young through the way I parent and the opportunities I find along the way. However, I have not been able to find a systematic way to do it.

When I met this speech pathologist and discovered how her team of education specialist has been working with children quietly but doggedly over the past decade, I knew that this was the missing piece of the puzzle.

Since I haven’t been able to find a solution to address this need, the next best thing was to come up with a solution!

We have spent the past year working on this new initiative to ensure that the successes she has seen with individual children can be replicated in a group enrichment setting.

It was really interesting how during one of our training sessions, my ex-MOE teacher was sharing that when she spoke to her group of teacher friends about our curriculum, the secondary school teachers assumed that the primary school teachers were teaching such skills while the primary school teachers felt that they already had too much content to teach, and expected (or hoped) that most of their students came with such skills intact.

Therein lies a huge gap we have unearthed.

There is a whole set of skills which are expected of children in a classroom setting, such as being able to pay attention and focus, listening to instructions, planning, prioritising and initiating tasks, displaying impulse control, besides having higher order thinking skills such as visualisation, sequential organization, inference and deduction, perception and memory recall. And the list goes on. 

However, these cognitive skills are not explicitly developed in children and parents only start to see the problems when they enter formal education.

I believe that by giving Kate a solid foundation in acquiring these fundamental executive functioning skills, and equipping her with the right mindset and learning habits, it will set her up for successes in future, whichever path she might choose to pursue.

I am really excited to observe for myself the impact of this programme on Kate and how it might shape her learning in a positive way.
A happy learning environment

Kids these days are shunted from school to tuition and learning has lost its meaning.

Children should never lose their love of learning and we make an effort to design our classes to be fun because kids learn best through play, and there is always laughter to be heard around here.

It will be a long yet enriching journey ahead as we guide parents towards this very new concept. In some children, the change may be quite apparent but in others, nothing may seem to be surfacing even though a lot of learning is taking place.

Every child we see transformed, even in small ways, gives us great joy and satisfaction.

As a team, this is what continues to inspire and motivate us in this journey of impacting the next generation of children.

School Stories:

#1 – When your son gets into fights in school
#2 – My son the loan shark
#3 – So kids can’t play once they start school?

#11 – How #2 topped her level in English
#12 – DSA. Yet another initiative parents have warped
#13 – Tuition – First line of attack?
#14 – Why do exams have to be so stressful?
#15 – First day mix up!
#16 – The day I forgot to pick my son from school
#17 – No more T-score. Now what?

~ www.mummyweeblog.com – a blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore ~

A new phase of my life

As I perch on the cusp of a new chapter of my life, I stop to pause, reflect and give thanks.

It feels surreal.

Something that has been brewing for so long has finally come to fruition.

It has been more than a year since I had my first discussion with a speech pathologist about this new initiative, and our enrichment centre is opening it’s doors tomorrow!

Not only do we share the same name, we share the same vision and can almost read each other’s minds from the first meeting we had. I couldn’t have asked for a better partner to start a venture with.

I have been running at breakneck speed the past few weeks.

Starting the day at 7am, dropping Kate off at school and going in to work with my team for half the day, picking the kids up after supplementary classes and dealing with their issues, sitting down together for dinner at 6.30pm and getting them ready for bed at 8pm. After that it’s back to the computer until around 2am when my brain stops functioning effectively.

On top of that, just this past 2 weeks, I had to deal with one sprained ankle, taking one to investigate her allergies, and taking two of them to extract their teeth and fix braces.

My essentials

To allocate more time for work, I had to sacrifice time with the kids. Thankfully the hubs wasn’t away much and he took over the lunch prep and taxi duties.

Kate has been spending more time with her older siblings which was great bonding for them.

On Hari Raya, #3 was going ice-skating with her friend and she offered to take Kate along. She helped her don her skates, take her in and out of the rink when she needed the toilet or wanted a drink of water and even graded her learning from pushing her around on the seal to holding her hands and skating with her without the aid after she gained more confidence.

There were days when I didn’t dare put Kate to bed for fear of falling asleep and not finishing things I needed to get done before going in to work. She has been really accommodating and would go off and find some jie jie to bunk in with.

It was quite amusing to search the rooms on my way up to bed and see her tucked in different beds depending on which sis it was.

One night, I found her sleeping inside a wardrobe! With the sliding doors open.

#3 had padded it nicely and made it into a secret hideout for Kate. We all had a good laugh the next morning when Kate said so matter-of-factly, “Yesterday I slept in the cupboard.” Oh well, these are the things fond memories are made of.

I really salute all the full time mums who have been doing this for years. It is not easy working a full day and coming home having to deal with the kids and running the household.

There were moments when I was working on the computer in the wee hours of the morning and wondering how I got myself into this busy state.

I guess once the cogwheel starts turning, there is no looking back.
Our signage is up!

I had to be really focused. No luxury of having a conducive environment or being in the ‘mood’ to work.

I’ve picked up a handy skill of being able to whip up my trusty notebook and carry on where I’ve left off.

I’ve worked at the BBQ pit of a condo while waiting for a kid to finish surprising her bff, at the car repair shop waiting to get the tyres fixed, I’ve even worked at mall seats while waiting for the girls to pick up their stuff.

It may sound strange but I am enjoying myself. I have been physically and mentally exhausted raising the kids for the past 18 years, dealing with teenagers and toddlers. At the same time.

Now that most of them are occupied with long school days, I can finally take a break from child-rearing and focus my attention on something I find meaningful.

When term 3 started, the kids asked if I could pick them up from school and I told them they had to take the MRT as I needed to work.

They were more amused than disappointed. “Mum! You actually have work?!”

I’m glad they are proud of me.

They have been seeing me as a stay-at-home-mum and never imagined I had the capabilities to go out and work, much less start a business.

#4 recently exclaimed, “Mum, you actually own nice clothes?”

Talk about tactless kids. I’ll console myself that they are just being direct.

My partner and I are taking this slowly and steadily, not over taxing ourselves or neglecting our families.

The hubs and I opened a spa 14 years ago and we failed miserably. Sars hit us in our 3rd month and hardly any customers came in and we did not have the cash flow to ride it out.

I teach my kids that there is a lesson to be learnt in our failures, but for the longest time, I myself couldn’t see the silver lining in our failed business and sorry state.

We went through a rough patch then, having lost a huge sum of money and with 3 young kids in tow. That time has passed, and the lessons learnt are invaluable to me today as I embark on this new endeavour.

No big capital expenses on rental and renovations but starting small, and focusing our energies on a solid curriculum and the children whose learning and lives we will be impacting.

And one of the most important lessons I learnt was to have a product that we believe in one hundred and one percent and finding the right team to journey with.


We have formed an amazing team which we have chosen carefully based on much more than their resumes. We are aligned with a shared sense of purpose which shows in the great camaraderie and respect we have for one another.

Who says hard work can’t be fun

This is the start of a refreshing and beautiful journey, of us discovering our passions, putting our hearts together to touch children and educate them in a meaningful way, which they can take away with them for life.

One thing I do miss is writing in this space. But now I have a new baby to tend to.


Exciting times ahead!

~ www.mummyweeblog.com – a blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore ~

6 tips to choose the right preschool

Kate has just started preschool. Hooray for mummy! I have chosen a school near our home, one that is cosy, with a small enrolment. She will start off with 3 hours a day (8.30 – 11.30am), moving on to 4 hours as she gets older. I find this timing perfect as she comes back and has her nap from 12-2pm.

These days, the range of preschools available is simply mind-boggling. Besides the PAP, church-based and Montessori ones, there are the play-based, right-brain-left-brain, Emilio Reggio, and ‘branded’ preschool chains with long waiting lists.


So how did I go about choosing the one that suits Kate best and what advice do I give my friends who ask me this million-dollar-question? Having had the experience of putting the 5 older kids in 4 different preschools, here are 6 things I would suggest you consider.

Security checkpoint

1. Your priority

To begin with, you need to sit down with your spouse and decide what are the top 3 priorities you want out of a preschool. The truth is, there is NO preschool which is the best. Yes, I know all parents want the best for their child, but every preschool has it’s pros and cons, with different philosophies and approaches, and other factors as well.

It is virtually impossible to compare apples to oranges. For example you might really like a particular preschool’s curriculum but it may be very far, or the only available slot is the afternoon session when it is your child’s nap time. Which ranks higher on your priority scale? The curriculum? Protecting your child’s natural nap schedule? Or having proper sit down meals at home? (I know of preschool kids who have their meals in the car as they get shuttled to one preschool in the morning and a different one in the afternoon).

Then there is the option of either choosing a childcare or kindergarten. If you need the childcare option, it is simpler as you rule out the kindergartens. However if there is someone at home taking care of your child, you can either choose to enrol your child in a kindergarten or if you like the curriculum in a particular childcare, you can choose the half-day option. There are government subsidies for childcare centres but not for kindergartens.

What I advice my friends to do is to jot down their priorities. Do you prefer more play or more academic work? More emphasis on Chinese? Outdoor play everyday? Extras like speech and drama? Aircon or non-aircon? I personally prefer a non-aircon environment as it minimises the spread of viruses going around.

After listing it all down, rate it in terms of priority. Then try and match it with the preschools you have shortlisted.

Without knowing your priority, you will be easily swayed when friends tell you they heard that this school is very good, or that school has a long waiting list “so it must be good”, and you will be confused all over again.

2. Distance

Once you know what you are looking for in a preschool, you can start checking out the available options closest to your home, office or parents’ home (depending on your family’s transport arrangements).

Personally, I will never drive from one end of the island to another as I believe there are no schools out there way above the others to warrant the inconvenience and time wasted, not to mention having the child endure the long commute every single day. I would rather use the time to have a proper sit down breakfast together or let the child have enough sleep and be well-rested.

Instead, I will try to achieve the desired outcome with different means. For example, if my top priority is to immerse my child in a Mandarin speaking environment but the reputable preschool which is strong in Mandarin is too far away, what I could do is to engage a native Chinese university student to come over twice a week to converse with Kate. That’s 2 hours free babysitting as well!

3. Teachers

I have seen how teachers have impacted my 5 kids (both positively and negatively) during their kindy years, so this is also one important aspect to consider. As the child is very young, the teachers who are in direct contact with the child is very important for 2 reasons.

Firstly, it takes a young child time to get used to the teacher before she builds a bond with her. If the teacher keeps changing every few months, it will be unsettling for the child. Secondly, as the child is unable to articulate all that is happening in school, if a teacher is not treating the child well, we may not know what is happening until much later. Thus I would choose a school where the teachers genuinely care for the children.

Insider tips to find out if the teachers are good? The best way is to ask friends or neighbours with kids already in the school. If not, go earlier or linger around after the scheduled appointment with the principal and see how the teachers interact with the kids and if they look happy (yes, both the teachers and the kids). I will also ask about the teacher turnover rate, and would not put my child in a school with a high turnover rate.

4. Curriculum

I firmly believe that young children should be guided to open their minds at this early age. They should be exposed to a lot of different experiences, topics, modalities, and of course a lot of play and experimentation. I would not choose a school where there is too much desk time and worksheets. It is easy for teachers to simply hand out worksheets and get the kids to sit quietly to do pencil work.

I would choose a curriculum where the teachers are actively engaging them, telling them stories, singing, and getting them to explore. As they move into Kindergarten 1 and 2, the focus will gradually be more on acquiring the skills and knowledge for primary school, hence there will be more table work, which is understandable. However, I would still expect them to be taught to think, be creative, and have ample opportunities for hands-on experiences.

5. Good fit for your child

When my son entered preschool at 2, I knew I had to send him to a different school from his 4 older sisters. Being a very active boy, there was no way he could sit for 30 minutes in a big group of 20 listening to the teacher standing in front of the class. In the end I opted for a Montessori close to our home as he would be free to roam and explore and to learn via a more hands-on approach.

When he was in K1, I decided to switch him to a different kindergarten because he was now ready to sit for longer periods of time. It was not that the Montessori system is no good, but gradually, the one that he was in was filled with children of one particular foreign race and they interacted with one another and left him out. None of them spoke Mandarin and the Mandarin lessons were conducted mostly with English translations, so I decided to move him. He settled down immediately and made new friends on the first day. Having seen that, I am of the opinion that it is fine to change preschool if there is a problem as most kids are able to adapt very quickly.

In fact, I made the mistake with #3 which I regret. In her K2 year, the teacher resigned due to health reasons. Most of us parents decided not to pull our kids out as we thought it was just 7 or 8 months left and they would miss their friends, and have to get used to a new school all over again. The replacement teacher left within a short few months. At that stage, a handful of her classmates switched to other schools. We stayed on. The next replacement teacher was pretty dismal as it was hard for them to find a good teacher at such short notice during the year end. In the end, #3 “wasted” almost the entire K2 year and hardly learnt anything at a time when other children were going full steam ahead in preparation for primary one.

6. Look beyond the hype

It doesn’t necessarily mean that those branded preschools with many awards such as “Best preschool 2014” are really the best. I found out that to be awarded the ‘best’ preschool, one of the criteria they looked at was the percentage increment of enrolment in that year. Hence, a new school that started with just a handful of students would find it much easier to snag that title compared to another which is already running at full capacity. Even within the same chain, different branches can vary significantly, depending on the owners/principals (if they are franchises), the management, and the teachers.

Sometimes, the curriculum which has been drafted sounds absolutely amazing, but can they really carry out what they promise? The delivery of the curriculum is critical, and is an important factor that most parents overlook.

Some centres are decked out with interactive displays, fancy gyms, or child-sized pretend play centres. The school might look very impressive, but if the ‘software’ is not there, I won’t be taken in by the ‘hardware’.

Sane tip: I much prefer small to medium sized schools where the teachers have been there for ages (better still if the teachers are the owners and they started this school because they were very passionate about early childhood education). Because to me, preschool is a time when their natural love of learning should be nurtured, in a safe and happy environment.

Save tip: It doesn’t mean that the more expensive the fees, the better the school is. Sometimes, the big brands have a huge marketing budget to portray a professional image, but in reality, the quality is similar to a more reasonably priced preschool.

Hope this helps to navigate the maze of options out there.


Related articles:

6 tips to choose a primary school for your child


6 tips to Really prepare your child for P1


~ www.mummyweeblog.com – a blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore ~

MY GYM @ Westgate

Kate has been bugging me for weeks to send her to school. Every morning, she gets into the car with #3 and #5 and nods her head enthusiastically saying, “Kate school?”. And after the other 2 are dropped off and we arrive back home, she will start crying and repeating forlornly, “Kate schoooool… Kate schoooool…” So when I told her she could finally go to ‘school’ at MY GYM, she was extremely excited. She wore her shoes, strapped on her bag and stood at the door waiting for me.

“Peace, mum”

She joined the Gymster class which is for kids 19 months to 3 years old. The class commences with about 5 minutes of free play for them to warm up and get settled in. Then everyone sits around the red circle for circle time. Teacher Liyana prepped me beforehand that on the first session, it is normal to expect any of these 3 reactions from the kids.

  • Crying
  • Clinging on to parent
  • Exploring the gym
I was quite certain Kate wouldn’t do the first 2, but was expecting her to wander around for most of the first lesson. I was pleasantly surprised to see that she wandered around only a little bit and participated fully the rest of the time. 5 minutes of free play wasn’t enough for her to finish exploring, so when Circle time started, she promptly ran off to have her own fun at the slide. Teacher Javier went over to her and gently guided her back.
Circle time
Next up was Practice skills, where we are shown skills to practice at home. Today teacher Liyana demonstrated how to facilitate their headstand. Kate was in the midst of walking towards the action and she stepped right up to the blue mat and became the model for today’s headstand.
Demonstrating a headstand
The following segment was Explore and Adventure. The tots walked on an intersection plank to work on their balance and to learn to wait and take turns.
Balancing
The next station was the trampoline, which helps to work on their agility. And of course, it is always heaps of fun for kids to bounce around.
We jump, jump, jump and we stop!
Next, they rigged up this really cool ‘flying carpet’ and the kids were assisted in walking across it.

The magic flying carpet
They also took out these portable swings which Kate absolutely loved. This is to get the kids used to the swinging motion and so that they won’t have a fear of heights. She kept asking to go “higher, higher” and squealed when I pushed her really high. Finally when it was time to say “bye bye” to the swings, she was upset and kept standing at the door to the storeroom and asking me to get it back out. I explained to her that she has to wait for next week, and teacher Javier distracted her by carrying her over to the ‘flying carpet’.
“Wheeee!”

We were almost at the end of the session and it was time for ‘Separation’. Parents were instructed to stay as far away as possible or even hide from the kids to gradually get them to reduce their separation anxiety. The kids sat on the blue mat and played with toys and sang songs.

“The babies on the bus go Waahh, Waahh, Waahh”

This boy is so adorable. He was really into it. For a moment I thought he was really crying. Then he suddenly burst into a giggle.

It was time for Manipulatives. Today’s object was the playground ball and they had to clench the ball between their thighs. Their imagination was stimulated by asking them questions, for example, “Is this a hat?” And Kate nodded! Haha.

The hour passed so quickly and soon it was time to sing the ‘bye bye song’. There was no doubt about it. Kate absolutely loves her school and can’t wait for next week!

MY GYM is a U.S. program with 30 years of experience in children’s fitness. Their classes are suitable for children from 4 months to 10 years. Classes are 1 hour long and fees are $468+GST for a 10-week term + $60 one time registration fee. If you are thinking of what to do for your child’s birthday, why not give them a call and find out more. Their Birthday Bash looks really exciting, and are specially catered to kids all the way from 1 month to 10 years old.

Sane tip: As I am home with Kate, I don’t want to enrol her in a full school program, but she needs some stimulation. So this is perfect for her. After her 1 hour class, she is all tired and goes home and has a nice long nap! Time for mummy’s siesta too 😉

Save tip: All gym programs come with 1 Free Open Gym per week during their term of enrolment. They are quite flexible with their make-up policy and up to 2 make-up lessons are allowed per term.

To see how Kate has progressed, here’s my review at the end of the 10 lessons.
Outlets islandwide:

Jurong East (Westgate)
Tel: 64659205

Tampines
Tel: 67897061

Marine Parade
Tel: 64409916

Rochester
Tel: 66849220

River Valley
Tel: 67335168

Ang Mo Kio
Tel: 65562145

Disclaimer: Kate was sponsored one term at MY GYM. All opinions are my own.

~ www.mummyweeblog.com – a blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore ~