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?

~ – a blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore ~

Thankful for… our helper

After finding out that we have 6 kids, most people ask me “how many maids do you have?” We have only 1 helper and we like to keep it this way. I know of friends who have fewer kids yet they have 2 or 3 helpers and they usually end up having more problems. One of my neighbours even has 5 helpers in their house and they have little gangs! For us, we feel that the kids shouldn’t be too spoilt and sometimes when they complain and compare with their friend’s helpers who wait on them, I tell them that Aunty Mary is already so busy, why don’t you help her.

We’re lucky that she’s a great cook

As you can imagine, she has her hands full cleaning the house, doing the laundry, cooking our meals, ironing, and taking care of Kate. I am thankful that she has a good attitude and genuinely loves Kate. Sometimes the work doesn’t get done all that well, but hey, who can fault her.

“Do I look becoming?”

Kate is at a phase where she’s learning to self-feed and you can imagine the mess made at every meal! Our helper doesn’t get frustrated but will try and teach her to get more neatly.

We were also really lucky that our previous helper stayed with us for 14 years and saw us through the first 5 kids. When Kate was born, she finally surrendered and decided it was time for her to go home and retire. It would have had been a much more tiring journey if we didn’t have a helper. I am extremely thankful that we are in a country where we can afford to hire live-in helpers to ease our household chores.

Thankful Tuesdays:

“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 #5’s cooking and caring of Kate
Thankful… for #3 in so many ways
Thankful… for sister-in-law #1

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

~ – a blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore ~

Kate’s Schedule at 18 months

This is Kate’s daily schedule at 18 months.

6.45 am: Wakes up and has her morning milk (180ml)
7.00 am: Tags along to send her gor gor to school
7.30 am: Breakfast
8.00 am: Plays by herself in the room while I shower

Playing her gor gor’s snap game

8.30 am: Goes to the park or playground
9.30 am: Heads home for a shower

Sidewalk chalk from Typo

10.30 am: Milk feed before nap (180ml). By right, babies should not be drinking milk before sleeping, however she has been used to doing this so I haven’t stopped it.

10.30 – 12.30: Naps for 2 hours in her crib

Sleeping like a baby

12.30 pm: Lunchtime!

She loves drinking soup

1.00 pm: Plays by herself if I’m cooking

Sorting toy

Currently Kate is still not able to fit the shapes correctly and I have to point it out to her. She gets a sense of satisfaction when she manages to get the shape to drop into the box. This is a suitable toy for 18 months because it can grow with the child and gradually she can match the correct shape.

Another suitable toy at this age are Mega blocks or the larger Lego blocks. A few months ago, Kate could pull them apart. Now she has no problems fitting them together. Great for their fine motor skills.

Concentrating hard on building her tower

1.30 pm: Tags along to pick the other kids up from school or CCA, or if everyone is back, they’ll be playing with her.

Waiting for her gor gor

2.30 pm: Afternoon milk feed (150ml)
Occupies herself with the other kids for the rest of the afternoon

5.00 pm: Goes to the playground as there are many other kids at the playground at this time. But sometimes I’m too lazy to take her and she’ll just play in our garden.

Loves nature

She loves the trips to the playground in the evenings as there are lots of other children’s skate scooters for her to ‘borrow’.

“Wow, that’s one neat looking scooter”
“This one doesn’t seem to have an owner”
6.00 pm: Dinnertime!
Our daily family dinner
She is daddy’s little girl and if she doesn’t hang out with her daddy for a while, she will be calling for him later when it’s time for bed.
Cuddles before bedtime

7.00 pm: Shower, night milk (180ml), brush teeth.

I know babies past the age of 1 should start to drink from a cup. Oh well, it’s just easier this way. I’ll probably do that when she turns 2!

The other kids will come in to cuddle and kiss her before she goes to sleep.

7.30 pm: Lights out and someone will lie with her (usually me, but the hubs or any of the other kids are able to put her to sleep when I’m not around). When she was younger, she would sleep in her crib. However, ever since around 15 months, she will only sleep in the crib for her naps, and will ask to sleep in our room for the night.

“Yummy warm milk”

~ – a blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore ~

10 things Kate has gained from Gymnademics

We have come to the 10th session of our pre-fellow class sponsored by Gymnademics. Here’s 10 things Kate has taken away with her after a term.

1. She is able to follow the actions of the songs.

When she first started out, she had no clue how it works and she would just sit there and absorb everything. Now, she knows how to sing all the words to the reply and do the actions.

“Kate, Kate, are you here?”

She can sing the words and pat her tummy at the same time.

“Yes, yes, I am here”

She is responsive and can understand what is expected of her. I think that is very impressive at 16 months (if I can say so myself). Don’t remember the other 5 being able to do that. But then again, she is the 6th child after all!

Ringing the bell at the end of the greeting song

2. She can walk the balance beam with just 1 finger assistance.

At her first lesson, she wasn’t even able to put one foot in front of the other. Teacher Aly had to assist her in placing her feet one after another on the beam and she was very unsteady. 

Just keep looking straight, baby

Midway through the 10 lessons, she slowly improved and could place her feet one in front of the other with us holding both her arms for support. Now, she only needs to hang on to one of our fingers to steady herself.

Steady does it

She can even turn her head and be a ‘kay-po’ to see what her friend is doing.

“Something more interesting going on?”

3. She allows the teachers to handle her to do the gym exercises.

Previously, she refused and would just watch the other kids. The teachers encouraged us to practice the ‘wheelbarrow’ with them at home as it helps to strengthen their arms, hands and finger muscles which is important for many skills, including writing.


4. She discovered music (And I discovered that she loves music!)

She’s always wandering off to the corner to play with the bells and tinkle on the piano. We have a piano at home but it had never occurred to me before to let her play on it. I just started to introduce it to her at home and she loves it.

Watching what is happening yet can’t resist the bells

5. I have learnt a lot from the teachers as they are very knowledgable and willing to explain. 

The teachers shared with us that this is the wrong way of sitting as this posture puts unnecessary stress on the lower spine. Now that I am aware, I am able to correct her.

Kate tends to sit in this posture

6. She has made a friend.

Let’s make music together

One straight ‘A’s student and one trying to distract her

7. She loves the teachers.

Tactile awareness

Most of the teachers have either a degree or diploma in Early childhood education, psychology or are trained as child play specialists.

“And we reach up high!”

Every lesson, they get to swing on the trapeze as it improves their grip and expands their lungs. She tried the trapeze during her first lesson but refused to do it anymore after that.

Watches from afar
Inches towards the action

Teacher Aly wanted to gradually get her to lose her fear of the trapeze by just giving it a hi-5. But Kate’s not having any of it!

Runs away when it’s her turn!
8. Kate finally overcame her fear of the trapeze

Well to be precise, the pictures for this post were taken on the 9th lesson. (I didn’t want to wait till the very last lesson just in case something unforeseen cropped up and I am unable to fulfil my review obligations). On the 10th and final lesson, lo and behold, Kate suddenly overcame her fears and happily swung on the trapeze! Just like that. This reminded me that we should never give up on them in any aspect as they will surprise us one fine day.

They do 5 swings each time

Well, the only thing is that she’s still a wanderer… (while the others are engrossed in what the teachers are showing them).

Anyone come to catch me back yet?

9. But it’s without a doubt that she had lots of fun.


10. And.. she’s really proud of herself.

I think i’ve done well 🙂

These 10 lessons have also reinforced for me that to have quality output, you first need to have quality input. At Gymnademics, they focus on all the developmental areas including visual competence, auditory competence, tactile competence, mobility, language, and manual competence.

For Kate’s mid-term post and their fee structure, click here.

Safra Toa Payoh
293 Toa Payoh Lorong 6
Singapore 319387
Tel: 62590307

Disclaimer: Gymnademics has sponsored Kate a term of lessons. They have also sponsored the giveaway. All opinions are my own.

~ – a blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore~

Gymnademics: 6 reasons why we love this gym

Kate is halfway through her term at Gymnademics, which they have so generously sponsored us. 

Here’s 6 reasons why we love this early childhood enrichment centre.

1) Physical component

I strongly feel that children should be allowed to do a lot of physical activity such as walking, running, climbing, balancing, and rolling from as young as possible. This will go a long way in aiding them to be more coordinated, and have better motor skills in future. And by allowing them to participate in rough and tumble activities, they will be less afraid of trying out new physical challenges as they grow up.

2) Musical component

Music can aid in brain functioning and learning to beat to the rhythm of music is important. Singing along will also help in language skills.

3) Holistic approach

Besides having a very strong physical component, they have the music component and the Glenn Doman intellectual component, so the body is developed as a whole.

4) Small class size

I like that they keep the classes small at a maximum of 9 children per class, because at this age, any more than that might be hard to control and could also be too stimulating or intimidating for the young child.

5) Attentive and caring staff

What really stands out at this centre is that the teachers put the kids first and really try to get to know the kids. When they are introducing an activity to the toddlers and Kate wanders around, they can remember who hasn’t been shown and they will seek out that child and present it to him or her. And last week, I called in at the last minute to say I wasn’t turning up as I was still unable to walk and they showed a lot of concern.

Very friendly teachers

6) Reasonable replacement policy

Some parents forget to ask about this when they sign up, then when they have to miss some classes, they realise that it cannot be made up, so that means money down the drain. Here, they have a very reasonable make-up policy whereby parents have 14 weeks to complete the 10 sessions, so there’s a buffer just in case the child falls ill or something crops up. At this age, the kids are still quite unpredictable with illnesses, especially if they are also starting childcare or pre-nursery.

We can see that Kate has definitely shown some progress. She wanders around less and is able to participate in the activities even without my prompting. For the welcome song, she now knows she has to shake the bell and happily does it.
Ring, ring

She is even able to follow what teacher Aly is doing and will clap her hands at the right time!

Enjoying herself!

One thing she’s still not too keen on doing is the trapeze. The other kids absolutely love it and will squeal with delight. However, she prefers to watch and cheer them on as we all count “1,2,3,4,5!” And she will shout very loudly at the 5!

“That doesn’t look very safe to me”

Today’s activity out of the mystery box is to teach them about table setting. The theme this week is “Our daily routine” where they will learn about sequencing and their routine.

“Eh, how come there’s no food?”

We ended with a goodbye song where the kids are supposed to shake their tambourine but Kate is more interested in trying to get both her feet into it than to shake it to the beat. Oh well.

“Look at me!”

Sane tip: For the first few lessons, I had to keep carrying her back into the centre where the action was happening. She didn’t quite understand what was happening and was busy exploring the whole studio. Now, she more or less knows where she’s supposed to go and what she’s supposed to do, although she’s still the top wanderer. Progress! Yay.

Save tip: The fees are $698 for a term of 10 sessions, but I’ll have to say that it is definitely value for money. The amount of background ie. the philosophy and the preparations, and the sheer number of activities they run through, plus follow up information for parents to re-enforce at home makes this a top-notch program for toddlers. Weekday classes are slightly cheaper at $658 per term*.

Parents can also try out a 4-session package for $298 (weekends) / $278 (weekdays) if they are not sure if their child will like it. However, the 4 sessions have to be completed over 4 straight weeks.

*Registration fee of $68 applies for all packages

For a glimpse of her first lesson, click here.


Safra Toa Payoh
293 Toa Payoh Lorong 6
Singapore 319387
Tel: 62590307

Disclaimer: Gymnademics has sponsored Kate a term of classes. All opinions are my own.

~ – a blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore ~