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 ~

Why I do not coach my kids anymore

I have been asked this many times – Do I coach my kids? The answer is no. Not at all. I don’t look at their daily homework nor test them spelling. In fact, I tell them not to come to me when they get stuck because I probably won’t be able to answer their questions.

I’m not kidding. The way they do Math is different from our time, and don’t get me started on Science structured questions. “Mum, you need to answer with key words.” When I guided them on their Chinese composition, they came back with a fail grade. It is still a running family joke.

They know my standard answer – go look for an older sibling as they’ll have better luck in getting the concepts explained properly to them, with the appropriate key-words thrown in.

It wasn’t that I didn’t try. When #1 was in P2 & P3, she would come to me when stuck while doing homework and I was able to help her. The turning point came in P4. Every few days, she would need help to finish her Math, Science or Chinese homework and truth be told, I was annoyed that she couldn’t independently handle homework doled out to her.

Having 4 other kids on my tail left me scarcely any time to deal with #1’s academic demands, and being in a constantly sleep-deprived state must have made me prone to going berserk.

I remember one particular incident when I was trying to help her with her Math homework, and she could not comprehend it. I became angrier and angrier and started yelling at her. I can’t remember exactly what I said, but they were unnecessarily hurtful words along the lines of “I’ve explained to you so many times! What can’t you understand? What is wrong with you? Why are you so stupid?” My blood was boiling and I felt like smacking her. 

I was shocked at my own extreme reaction. I am by nature a calm and patient person, and here I was, getting agitated by my own child, over MathI saw the fear in her eyes as she recoiled from my wrath, and there and then, I decided that it was not worth it. I could not let this ruin our mother-daughter relationship. My first and foremost responsibility is to be her mum, and this tutoring job can be outsourced.

I did feel like some kind of failure, but found out that many of my friends were in the same boat. Some have flung school bags out of the house, while others have raised their hands at their children. It is never the right thing to do, and we have no excuse. But the reality is that it is not easy teaching our own children. Some parents are cut out for it, and some are not. I am glad I recognized it early enough before saying or doing things I might have regretted.

When she moved on to P5, it became an almost daily struggle to complete her homework. Being our eldest, it did not occur to us that she might need tuition as she was fairly bright and in a top school so we had the impression that the teachers would prepare them adequately for tests and exams.

Since I had thrown in the coaching hat, the hubs volunteered to do it. The first time #1 went to him with her Math problem sums, he eagerly took on the challenge. 3 hours later, she finally emerged from the room. She revealed that daddy took so long to finish 2 pages of her Math homework and she still has other homework to do. Worst of all, he used the wrong method. His coaching stint ended as soon as it began.

Since then, we have stopped coaching them. Even if they come home with entire worksheets covered in red or if they fail their tests, I seldom nag or scold them. I ask if they had prepared well for it, and what are they going to do about it. I don’t want the focus when they get test marks back to be on what mum is going to say, but on how they think they can improve in future.

I keep an eye on the big picture and monitor their grades for their CAs and SAs throughout the year. It is better to find out their percentile instead of looking at the raw score. In her P5 year, #1 barely passed her English mid-year exams. I was concerned, but when I spoke to her teacher she said, “Oh, don’t worry, it was a very tough paper and almost the entire class failed. She was one of the top scorers.”

They get one-to-one tuition in the P6 year because I find that an effective way to plug the content gaps in topics which they might have missed over the years. The tutors also know how to guide them to phrase their answers to suit the examiners. 

While writing this post, I was chatting with my girls to get their perspective now that they are already in secondary school. I asked them how did they manage without coming to me for help.

“We know that you will tell us to figure it out ourselves or ask our teacher, so we have to pay attention in class. There is a lot of wasted time between lessons, so we quickly get our homework done and if there is anything we don’t understand, we ask our friends. Most of them have tuition.”

I burst out laughing. They had found their own strategy and outsourced the coaching to their classmates! It’s good for their friends too, as the best way to understand something well is to explain it to others. Brilliant win-win situation.


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?
#18 – Tackling the new school year
#19 – She did it, without tuition.
#20 – So who’s smarter?
#21 – Why I do not coach my kids anymore.

 

About MummyWee

Michelle Choy is an Occupational Therapist by day and mum of 6 by night. Besides the already very demanding job of managing 5 teenagers and one 7-turning-17 tween, she is also Founder of The Little Executive, a nurturing centre to develop children in areas like resilience and executive function, to survive today’s volatile world. She is also a parenting coach and has been featured on national TV, radio and print media.

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

Tackling the new school year

We made it! The first week of school has come to an end. What a week it has been. With the exception of #1 who is in the middle of her poly semester, there were lots of changes for the other kids.

We toned our activities down on Sunday and the younger ones were in bed by 8pm. I was all psyched and set my alarm for 5am.

I felt like a chef in a restaurant after watching Ratatouille too many times with the kids, and I’m proud to say I surpassed my own expectations! Managed to whip up a tasty and wholesome meal in 20 minutes and the kids wiped their plates clean and left for school in a jolly mood.

First day of school breakfast

We did not have a harrowing start with bag mix ups and mad bus chase like last year, but things did go downhill from that perfect morning.

With several kids and new routines, that is hardly surprising.

#4 started Sec 1 in a school in our neighbourhood, and she decided to walk home. We have driven past that direction on numerous occasions and she was confident of finding her way home and was unfazed by the 40-minute trek.

However, she got lost!

She was dismissed at 4pm and I had a call half an hour later. I told her to sit and wait at a bus stop and we would come get her after Kate’s enrichment class ended.

She waited for more than an hour at the bus stop and needless to say, she was famished and tired. What an end to Day 1 where she was already feeling lost as there was not one student from her previous school and everything was new and strange.

At dinner, the older girls shared their first day of secondary school stories, which included both laughter and tears.

As for little Miss Kate, we had it all planned. We opted for extended day and she would stay in school till 3pm for afternoon activities. That would give me more time to work and I wouldn’t need to rush around so much. She herself asked for it as she said she was a ‘big girl’ and wanted to stay back with her friends.

After the first day, although she did brilliant, she refused to stay back anymore and wanted to revert to the same 12.30pm dismissal as 2016. Perhaps the reality was not what she imagined! Did she envision just hanging around and playing? Possibly.

Sigh, it would have been a perfect arrangement. That one day of having her at school for the whole day spelt freedom! Having time from 9am to 3pm all to myself to work in peace was something I haven’t experienced in many, many years.

Alas, she is not ready, and I shall not push her. After all, in the big scheme of things, she barely turned 4, and I will wait patiently and give her space and time to grow more independent. We’ve managed to squeeze in time for our short daily strolls to unwind and chat, and that is something she looks forward to.

“Pretty flower for you, mummy?”

#2 is awaiting her O level results and it was funny seeing her at home on a school day. Next week! Such exciting times! To see where the next step of her education will take her. She’s been such a dear and came down to my centre to help with the cleaning and packing as we prepped for the new year.

#3 has moved up to Sec 3, and has a new set of classmates as they were streamed into the different subject combinations. It’s going to be 2 of her most important and memorable years as she and her peers head full swing into preparing for their SYF performance, focusing on their chosen subjects, enjoying their school trips together, and form unbreakable bonds for life.

As for my one and only dear son, it’s unbelieveable that he is already in P5. Seeing what #4 went through, I imagine the pace in school to pick up tremendously this year and I have to monitor his progress as well as make sure he is able to cope with the added demands of school.

Now that they are all nicely settled in school, I have time to devote to my work and do what I enjoy.

Speaking to the parents coming through my enrichment centre, I can see the tide turning and in the wake of the recent suicide cases, parents are worried about stressing their kids too much and are searching for a better way.

We are running parenting workshops over a relaxing high-tea session to share tips and ideas on how to help our kids tackle the academic year successfully with less stress. It will be an interactive talk with lots of opportunites to answer your questions.


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?
#18 – Get into the PSLE fray? Not me


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

Do schools make the PSLE more stressful than it should be?

The 2016 PSLE results are out and something strange is happening. I’m still wondering why a parent’s response to her own child’s results was picked up by a newspaper, which has gone viral.

Our children, who have increasingly more access to the internet, are picking up on the views of us adults, and that is where they are forming their own opinions of self and success based partly on societal norms.

What should we be talking about, the days following the release of results?

The stories about resilience and students surmounting great obstacles are encouraging, and I would also love to read about the special programmes of various schools which might suit my child’s interest and aid in our selection of a secondary school.

#4 had a rough ride this year and did not enjoy her PSLE year like her 3 older sisters did. They were up for the challenge, were motivated, supported well, and fought hard.

For her, the preparations and exams leading up to the PSLE were so daunting that she was overwhelmed. Even more of a pity is that despite the ridiculous amount of work piled on them, with hours of homework every day, there was no correlation to results.

As a parent, what do you do when you see your child cracking under the pressure? Push some more? For her sake or mine?

I shall not disclose her score as I did previously with my other girls as she was uncomfortable with me documenting her P6 year and I respect that.

Suffice to say that her results were as expected and I had already come to terms with that in June as she was not coping well and we had terminated all her tuition which we began in January. Her sanity was more important to me than those 3 digits.

However, what was unexpected was that several of her classmates had low scores too, despite them having a ton of tuition. I can’t understand why parents are so caught up with top scorers and the percentage of students scoring above 250. Shouldn’t we consider the weakest link in any situation? More so when there are GEP students making up the bulk of that percentage.

I only put her in this school after giving the school in our neighbourhood a shot with my 3 older kids and realizing that the values of the principal did not align with ours. On this note, I have to say that #4’s principal is one of the best I have encountered and she was indeed lucky to have the opportunity to be in this school at this time. Her care and concern for each and every student was evident, and her greatest desire seemed to be to imbue in them solid values such as respect for others, service to the community, gratitude and humility.

I clarified with her teachers if she was in the lousiest class in the cohort, but no, I was told that it was a general mixed ability class. So that was quite puzzling. The hubs is disappointed that a seemingly good school is unable to prepare their students adequately for the national exams. It can’t be that she is a very weak student because she managed to score an A for her English.

We did not scold her, for she must already be disappointed that she does not have many schools to choose from. We also could not say that as long as she had tried her best, that was enough, because honestly, I don’t think she had given of her best in the run up to the exams.

Could we have done things differently? I do not know. Was it the pressure of the system that became too much for some of these 12-year olds to cope with? Likely so.

All I can do is to put things into perspective and tell her that the exams that needed to be taken were taken, and the results are out. This is definitely not the end, and life goes on. She has another opportunity to work hard and to do well and she should seize that chance.

Now it’s off to consulting THE GREY HANDBOOK for the 4th time! It almost feels like an old friend.

One sad fact is that because her friends come from all over the island, from as far as Yishun, Pasir Panjang and even Sengkang, most of them are choosing a secondary school near their own home and the group of them will be separated.

That is her greatest worry now, to enter an unknown school, alone.

Whichever school she goes to, we can only hope and pray that she is lucky enough to get passionate teachers who will go the extra mile to teach and encourage them, and that she will find good friends to journey the next 4 years with.

~ 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 

Preparing for Primary 1: Setting them on the right path

Reading about the Primary 5 boy who committed suicide over his results and the two students from a top JC who ended their lives a few months ago, discussions about our highly stressful education system have been raging. I feel heavy hearted, because for every case we hear about, there are many more suicide attempts and distress signals which go unheard.

We all want the best for our children, and as parents with pre-school children, what can we do to give them a headstart without giving them unnecessary stress?

The solution is not pumping them with tuition. Amidst the proliferation of Primary 1 prep classes, experts warn against pre-teaching content and concepts which will be covered in Primary 1.

Dr Nimala Karuppiah, an early childhood and special needs education lecturer at the National Institute of Education, said that these classes may “over-prepare” young children for primary school. They may become bored and uninterested in learning. Once that happens, it is difficult to make them love learning again,” she says.

However, we recognise that the transition from pre-school to primary school is significant, and there are many areas we do need to prepare our children in, to ensure a smooth transition.

Getting ready for P1

Ask any parent with a primary school kid (or 5, like me) and he or she will be able to tell you that navigating primary school requires more than just being able to sit down with your books.

In a normal school day, they need to be able to pack their school bags according to the timetable, copy down homework in their homework diaries, start on their homework at the right time, communicate important information, remember to ask parents to sign consent forms, learn their spelling, pay attention in class, follow instructions, obey rules, wait their turn, adapt to change, buy food from the canteen, make new friends, handle disappointments, and so much more.

These are categorised as Executive Functioning skills. Instead of hoping that they will somehow ‘get it’, these skills can be improved with direct teaching. We had an interesting conversation amongst a group of teachers. The secondary school teachers assumed these skills were taught at the primary levels, while the primary school teachers expected P1 kids to come equipped with these “common sense” traits.

The fact is, during our generation, we picked these skills up via incidental learning. These days, children are receiving less face-to-face contact, supervision and support from both parents and teachers. Coupled with more demands placed on them, that is where the breakdown happens and many of these skills are not developed in children by the time they enter formal schooling at age 7.

Before they embark on their primary school journey, teaching children How to learn in a What to learn culture will go a long way towards helping them achieve their potential.

In our Primary 1 Prep camps, we cover the basics of Executive Functioning skills such as task initiation, organisation, planning and prioritising, flexibility, strengthening sustained attention, problem-solving, improving working memory and impulse control, amongst others.

By equipping them with skills and strategies which they can harness for all subjects, they will be able to handle the demands of our curriculum and forge ahead over the years. We want to give them that learning edge.

At each age level, students are expected to cope with an increase in workload and independence, and without a firm foundation and proper system, we may see a drop in performance, which usually becomes apparent at Primary 3 or 4.

Recent studies show that all children stand to benefit from developing these executive functioning skills, and school becomes less overwhelming and more manageable. We teach them how to plan their activities, make schedules, get started, and see them through. The goal is to gradually fade supervision and increase self-reliance.

#5’s homework (P3)

In our fast-changing world, it is not enough to be book-smart. On top of these practical strategies, we hope to inculcate in them a growth mindset, where they are not afraid of challenges, see failure as a learning experience and have the resilience to keep persevering.


Whether they are eager or anxious in moving to a big school, this is the best time to frame primary school in a positive light. The role of an educator or parent as a mediator is very powerful, but often overlooked. Our teachers stand as a mediator to frame, interpret and draw attention to what the child is about to learn or experience, benefiting a lifetime of learning.

As we equip them with the necessary skills, we want our K2s to be excited about embarking on this new phase of their lives, taking pride in their work and taking ownership of their learning.

The gift we wish to give every child who comes through our doors is the knowledge that they are able. That they have it in them and can succeed in what they set their minds on, no matter how many times they may fail.

They will keep going. They will never give up.

And that, is the hallmark of a Little Executive.

P1 Prep Class

This year-end school holidays, we are bringing back our extremely well-received Astronaut camp, for K1 to P4 children. More details about the activities we did in a review by Debra, mum of Ryan (N2), about Astro Daryl’s great adventure by A Pancake Princess, A P2 child –Dana’s experience of learning Executive Functioning skills, and how we incorporate the Growth Mindset while the kids are having fun! The kids said it was the best camp ever, and some wished the camp lasted the whole year and they could come here every day.

Astronaut Training Camp: 13-16 December 2016
9am – 12pm: K1 – P2
2pm – 5pm: P1 – P4

The kids who have enjoyed Astronaut Training camp are looking forward to our Dinosaur camp which promises to be just as exciting, as we trace how dinosaurs lived through the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceons periods, while learning about evolution. This camp also highlights inductive and deductive reasoning skills, sequencing and problem-solving abilities, and is suitable for N2 – P4 children.

Dino Discovery Camp: 29 November – 2 December 2016
9am – 12pm: N2 – K2
2pm – 5pm: P1 – P4


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

A new era in Education

Ever since starting my enrichment centre 3 months ago, the focus of my days have taken on a new dimension. Besides seeing to the needs of my kids, I’m immersing myself in rich research and surrounding myself with other people’s children. Life couldn’t be more enriching!

During our September holiday Astronaut camp, I was hanging around making sure everything ran smoothly. Even though I wasn’t teaching them, the kids came up to me with comments and questions.

I was drawn in and became more and more involved, as it was impossible to resist these innocent faces and incessant questions, and found myself thoroughly enjoying being with them.

As an incidental discovery, I’ve found the answer to a contradiction which had baffled me for years. At every PTM, my daughters’ teachers would tell me how well-behaved they are, what a delight it was to teach them, and all of them won model student awards.

Yet at home, they came nowhere close to this brilliant picture painted and the hubs and I concluded that they had the Dr Jekyll-Mr Hyde syndrome.

Now that I’m on the other end, I tell parents what a pleasure it was to have their child with us, how well-behaved and well-mannered they were, and the parents are surprised and divulge that such is not the case at home.

Ah! I’m concluding that children know how to be on their best behaviour in front of teachers they like. I had some of the P1 and P2 girls coming in half an hour before camp started because they wanted to see if there was anything we needed help with. Such sweet darlings. It is such a joy to teach other people’s children! I’m one of those mums who find it impossible to teach my own kids. Tempers will flare and the relationship risks being ruined, so I don’t even try anymore.

What’s that machine?

When you have a bunch of riveted, absorbent minds watching you (notice how Kate is the only one not bothered with me) knowing that what you say and what you do will have a great impact on them, that knowledge and responsibility is at once astounding yet humbling.

Of all the sayings I’ve come across about teaching, this one struck me greatly.

“To teach is to stand on hallowed ground.”

How sacred. We have the potential to mold hearts and minds.

Memory work
Children at every age present so much for us to marvel at. The pure emotions of the little ones, the wide eyes and the quick smiles. The inquisitive minds of the older kids and their desire to do their best. Facilitating them, encouraging them to work together, to go beyond their comfort zone, seeing them grow in a short span of a few days, there was a tangible reluctance all around when it was time to part.

Besides the holiday camp, Kate has been following me down to my centre and she enjoys the weekly classes. Although I wish our team could churn out curriculum fast enough to include #4 and #5, I’m glad that at least 1 of them gets to benefit from this whole new approach towards learning.

After 10 years of disappointment at our education system for being mostly concerned with teaching to the test (although now I understand the constrains), and believing that there must be more that can be done to impart real education to our children alongside content delivery, I am finally heartened to discover that there is a way, and we can bring that to a new generation of children.

In the process, I have been learning a lot (embracing life-long learning!), reading voraciously, and picking the brilliant minds around me. My dear partner, Michelle, never fails to inspire me with her passion and dedication towards the development of children, and her generosity of mind to share with us her special gift of deciphering every child’s learning needs and identifying how gaps can be closed and potentials stretched, so that as a team, everyone grows along and becomes strengthened as educators.
Patterning activity

Our activities may look random, but each activity is backed by scientific research and careful thought has been put into designing it for the best learning outcomes, while disguising it as play as that is the form kids learn best.

Take for example this activity at last week’s session, where Kate was developing her sequencing skills. It might look simple, but patterning and sequencing is such a critical skill. By encouraging kids to spot patterns, they can create and use patterns to make sense of the world where there is none; by providing order in chaos.

All about patterns. Patterns are one of the first ways we see predictability, hence allowing us to make educated guesses. In school, patterns are essential for Math (basic patterns), Science (life cycles), English (reading) and social relationships (cause and effect), to highlight simple examples.

Do you know that out of all mental skills, pattern recognition is said to have the highest correlation with general intelligence? Imagine that.

Ever wondered why IQ tests and the GEP tests are full of patterning questions?

Although patterning is taught in school, here it is taught as a skill, instead of being part of a subject.

Therein lies the difference. As such, our children understand that patterns exist in an infinite number of situations, vis a vis being exclusive to a particular subject. They also come to the realization that their actions can affect and impact patterns, and create or break them. Powerful realizations.

The problem in schools is that we teach too specifically, hence students are not able to apply theories across subjects and their knowledge does not expand past the classroom walls.

Mastering pattern recognition requires persistence and practice, and the younger the child starts, the better. Experts go so far as to predict that the younger the child is able to observe patterns in his environment, the stronger their future thinking skills will be. (I’m going to expect great things from Kate!)

Besides that, with each activity, not only are we developing the essential skills, we incorporate positive learning habits and encourage a growth mindset; core tenets of our approach. Kate’s teacher noticed that whenever she is presented with a task which she found challenging, she would use avoidance tactics and ask to go to the toilet or ask for permission to look for me (what a convenient excuse).

Her teacher makes a conscientious effort to guide Kate to adopt a different approach to facing challenges, and by gradually building up her confidence and sense of achievement by small successes while praising her efforts, Kate will be on the path to a more positive learning attitude.

Analogies worksheet

When Kate moves on to K1 next year, she will work on analogies, which is more than just an advanced form of patterning.

What is analogical reasoning? Analogical reasoning is one of the quickest way we learn new concepts and make sense of things by comparing them to what we already know. It is a core cognitive skill that contributes to general fluid intelligence, creativity and adaptive learning capacities.

In fact, studies have proven that analogical reasoning is a significant predictor of mathematical reasoning. Thus we can think of these as the building blocks for a strong foundation in academic studies. More compellingly, analogical reasoning may help students become more innovative, adaptive and intelligent; qualities our children require to forge ahead in future.

I don’t know if this fascinates you, but the fact that there are activities which can be done and approaches which can be applied to shape our children’s brains and learning in such a powerful way, simply blows me away.

It is as though I have uncovered some hidden treasures that I have almost lost hope searching for. The more I am discovering, the more I want to delve deeper, and the journey is doubly exciting with a team of like-minded educators as we deconstruct findings and reflect on the processes.

Looking back on how my life has unfolded, there were times when I was in two minds about whether to go back to work as an occupational therapist or become a stay-at-home-mum and relatives talked about how my overseas education was ‘wasted’ as I stayed home to care for my 6 kids. Fortunately, my parents were 100% behind me and never once complained.

On hindsight, education is never ‘wasted’ and coupled with the experience and wisdom gained through my parenting journey, I am where I am today, and although never planned, it feels so right doing what I do, and everyday I am energised and ready to go! Life has turned out marvellously.

I have also had the opportunity to meet some of my readers and work with their children, and that has been wonderful as well.


More: Reviews of our holiday camp.

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

PSLE is finally here!

The English paper starts tomorrow. #4’s PSLE journey has been quite different from her 3 older sisters. I have a broad strategy for them, which includes private tuition for all subjects to plug the gaps during their primary 6 year.

For #4, she tried a few tutors in the early months of this year, but their teaching style did not suit her so she only had Math and Science tuition and relied on her school teachers. She was cruising along fairly well, and was excited to take her mid-year exams.

However, when she returned to school after the June holidays, her spirits seemed to falter. I think part of it had to do with the rather ridiculous workload and the expectations of her teachers and peers.

As we felt that the amount of work and pressure from school was more than sufficient, we decided to stop tuition altogether, and replaced that time with fun activities to relax.


On hindsight, I find that being in an elite school is not for everyone, because our philosophy can be quite different from the PSLE culture of the school. Some days, she was given 4 mock papers as homework, and struggled to complete them.

Her classmates were discussing which schools they were aiming for, and they were all top schools. When asked, she said she wished to go to her sisters’ school, which none of her friends have even heard of!

I was wondering how all these kids are so certain of scoring above 250, and she told me simply, “Mum, they have tuition everyday. Some of them have 2-3 tuition classes per day, and each lesson is 2 or 3 hours.”

My dear child on the other hand, is struggling to finish her homework while making time to play with her little sister.

Talk at school constantly revolved around the PSLE as though it was some kind of doomsday, and I think it does become rather depressing and stressful. I find it strange that the focus is on this one exam so much so that the students themselves start to question what education is all about.

Grilled salmon

Since the school was doing too much, I decided my role leading up to the PSLE was nothing of the academic sort, but instead, to provide her with nutritious meals. Not only will it help to give her brain and body the necessary boost, the fact that she saw me put in so much effort everyday to prepare a healthy, balanced and yummy lunch put her in good spirits.


I drew up a special ‘exam menu’ for her, and the other girls have been coming back for lunch everyday as well, and brought some of their friends home too. How I wish I had more time, and could set up a home kitchen for my kids and their friends.

In fact, the kids commented that my cooking has improved by leaps and bounds!
Prawn & potatoes on a bed of quinoa

My cooking is really random, and I use a variety of grains like quinoa, buckwheat and wild rice as a base, and sprinkle herbs, wheatgerm and soaked chia seeds for a boost of flavours and nutrients.

When they get bored of the same, I jazz things up with something different like savoury crepes. I must have stood over the pan pouring batter and flipping crepes for almost 3 hours as the kids streamed home. It is all worthwhile, seeing the kids tucking in and telling me, “This is really good, mum!”

Chicken and mushroom crepes

For a nutritious snack between papers, I have prepared cheery boxes packed full of dried fruit and nuts. I added in cranberries, apricots, white mulberries, cashew, almond, pistachio and macadamia nuts. Her bff gets a set too!

Snack box
Besides eating well, I am getting her to sleep earlier so that she will be well rested and alert. This time, being the fourth time round, we are at the same time excited yet calm.

To fellow P6 mums, we have done all we could to support our kids. They are probably feeling very anxious right now, so just reassure them. Now is not the time to nag or give them more pressure.

For all P6s who will be taking your first major exam, even though your parents may not say it, they love you very much and are proud of you. Relax, sleep early and enjoy the exams.

All the best!


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!

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