A big step towards Inclusion, beginning with our young

Last month, Lien Foundation commissioned a study to find out if parents support the idea of inclusive education.

The findings showed that although 71% supported the idea of inclusive education and 69% believed in the benefits of inclusive education, only 53% said they are comfortable with their child being classmates with someone with special needs.

And interestingly, just 1 in 10 said they felt certain how to interact with children with special needs.

Photo credit: Straits Times online

Kate had a special needs child in her class when she was 2. Their class size was really small with 2 teachers to 6 students.

Her teacher was relating to me that initially, when Kate saw the boy slowly inching his way to get to a book, toy or work, she would move faster than him and get it before he did.

She would give a smug look like, “Beat you to it!”

For Kate, being the youngest of 6, that was an achievement because she always lost out to her older siblings.


Instead if chiding Kate, her teacher gently explained that her classmate is physically weaker than she is and she should be thankful for what she has, and in turn be more understanding and help him whenever she can.

The teacher was proud to say that once that was explained to her, Kate understood and never rushed for the same toy henceforth.

When they sit at the reading corner together and he gradually leans and falls onto her shoulder, she will not push him away but tries to accommodate him. She became protective of him, like a big sister.


Young children are naturally non-judgemental, compassionate and altruistic yet it needs to be nurtured.

Unfortunately at times, the adults display negative modelling out of ignorance. Only when there is understanding, can there be acceptance and inclusion.

I remember one of the first activities we had to do as occupational therapy undergrads was to sit in a wheelchair and navigate the huge and bumpy campus.

It put us in the shoes of those who are wheel-chair bound, and we were the ones who had to face the subtle looks from our peers. From that experience, we began to gain an awareness of the challenges that faced them.

It is indeed wonderful that Lien Foundation will be developing the first inclusive preschool in Singapore, together with the Asian Women’s Welfare Association, and that it is already over-subscribed. I was excited to read from their press release that:

There will also be a fascinating playground with an elevated tree-house that is fully accessible by wheelchair, and a sensory garden for water and sand play which will be open to the public after school hours and during school holidays.

The preschool will be one of the iconic developments within the Integrated Community Space at Redhill. It will not only serve the special needs community, but also children and families living in the vicinity. We are creating opportunities for our children to experience for themselves and learn from young that we can build an inclusive society where we appreciate each other’s abilities.

It is human nature to shun that which we can’t comprehend.

For when we are able to see that we are not the same but the same, to love, regardless, our society will be a better place for all.

Kate has been privileged to have the opportunity to have her eyes and heart opened.
~ www.mummyweeblog.com – a blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore ~

Kate’s 1st Show & Tell

Last week, Kate’s Chinese teacher was briefing them about their Show & Tell and asked who was ready to present on Friday.

A few of the older kids raised their hands and the teacher noted down their names and instructed them to go home and practice their lines.

Kate also raised her hand to indicate her interest although I am quite certain she did not fully understand the requirements of presenting a Show & Tell.

In fact, she might have raised her hand just because the other kids were doing so, not knowing what was going on.

As she is new to the class, her lao shi told her that she will have her turn the following week to allow for ample time to prepare.

Kate nodded her head even though she probably only understood half of what her lao shi was saying.

Friday came, and the kids who were allocated to do their Show & Tell deposited their items in the basket at the front of the class.


Kate followed suit.

As the kids were called one by one to go up, Kate kept bobbing up to look at her lao shi and at the basket.

After all the kids on the list were done, there was still 1 item sitting in the basket.

As the lao shi turned to scan the students, Kate looked straight at her and raised her hand.

She asked Kate if the toy was hers and Kate said yes and went up to the front.

Of course she had no idea what to say as her command of Mandarin is limited to songs and simple words, but she gamely stood there holding her toy.

I am glad her lao shi did not turn her down because of a lack of time but allowed her to have a go.

She asked Kate to repeat after her in Mandarin, “My name is Kate. Today I have brought a toy, etc etc.”

Kate repeated sentence after sentence loudly and confidently.

I could still see the lao shi’s amusement while recounting the story.

She said Kate has courage and a willingness to learn which should be encouraged.

For some children, the greatest hurdle is to get them to stand in front of the class while for others, it is to speak up audibly so that everyone can hear.

Kate doesn’t seem to have any problem with both!

At home, I told the older kids what had happened and we were all tickled by the story.

I simply had to find out what was going on in her mind.

Me: Did you do Show & Tell today?

Kate: Yes!

Me: How do you do it?

Kate: You raise your hand to tell lao shi, bring your toy, put it in the basket and wait for your turn.

Me: That’s it?

Kate: Uh-huh. Very easy.

We all burst out laughing.

Kate’s idea of Show & Tell is “Bring your toy to show your friends” and lao shi will do the rest.


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



Ros Schoolhouse – Whole-brain enrichment centre

Welcome to Ros Schoolhouse, a cosy enrichment centre located in Pasir Ris. Here, they offer a whole-brain enrichment programme for children aged 2 – 7 years old. I was sponsored the parent accompanied class with Kate and was astonished by the sheer number of activities packed into the 1 hour session.

Ros Schoolhouse (Pasir Ris)

Ros Schoolhouse is specially designed to provide young children with an opportunity to fulfil their utmost potential through early introduction exposure to essential skills and concepts using a holistic approach.

This was the first time Kate has attended such a program, and I discovered that the instructional approach of the whole-brain program is derived from the neurolinguistic awareness of the functions of the brain’s left and right hemispheres. This creates an integrated brain – a “whole” brain where the functions of one hemisphere are immediately available to the other. The foundation is especially important when children start formal schooling in primary school. This is a strong “pull-factor” in the education-focused and competitive Asian education landscape. 

The Programme structure for the Enrich 1 – Enrich 3 classes include Phonics, Quantitative Mathematics, Science and discovery, IQ play, Music and movement, Art & Craft, Memory play (right brain stimulation) and Thematic General Knowledge Input (through flashcards and games).

Eric Carle story
Several different modalities are used to engage the children, including flashcards, props, worksheets and even a spot of TV! What I liked was that the classes are kept small with a maximum of 6 in a class. They also believe in engaging parents in learning new ways to interact with their child.
Use of flashcards for long term memory

They play memory games whereby the children are flashed 4 images on a sheet of paper. It is then hidden and they have to place the correct card in the correct spot. Well, Kate got it all wrong, and I was surprised to see that the other kids managed to do it quite easily. The other mums reassured me that their kids started out like that too and got better with practice.

Memory fun
For phonics, they are taught the sounds of the letters and learn to trace the letters using worksheets. The teacher, whom the children endearingly call “Auntie Sonia” is very encouraging and the kids seem to love her!

The children are taught reading using sight words and in this activity, they were given 2 very similar looking words, “for” and “of” and had to place the correct word “for” onto the hot air balloon. Kate managed to do it, but then I realised it was by sheer luck!
For quantitative mathematics, every child was given a set of large beads and they had to string the beads according to shape and colour. This aids in developing their fine motor skills too. Kate enjoyed this activity very much.

They are exposed to more Math concepts using worksheets, like counting the number of birds and shading the corresponding number of circles. Kate has to be guided to complete it properly.
There are some Mandarin components included in this class, and here, Auntie Sonia is reading them a story using flash cards.
For Art and Craft in our final week, the kids were given material to make a lovely Mother’s Day craft. Always nice to receive a gift from our kids, even though we had to supervise most of it ūüėČ

Homework is given every week to reinforce the learning, and the older kids were amused that Kate had ‘real’ homework to do! She is learning words beginning with ‘i’.

Exclusive Promotion for mummywee readers!

1 X Free Trial class (worth $38 – $42) plus a Free set of Memory Train Cards (worth $30) for the initial term upon immediate sign up after the trial class.

Simply mention Mummy Wee when booking your free trial class.

Promotions available until 31 December 2015.

Fees: $38 – $42 per lesson,
(Enrich 1 – Enrich 3 and Toddler Programme) 12 weeks per term
(Enrich 4) 24 weeks per term
Material Fee (craft) / Workbook: $27 / term
Memory Train Cards / Tags: $30
Sibling discounts are available.

Ros Schoolhouse

Ros Schoolhouse @ Pasir Ris West Plaza
Blk 735 Pasir Ris Street 72
#01-318
Tel: 6581 8176 / 9787 3538

Email: ros@rosschoolhouse.com

Ros Schoolhouse @ Yew Tee CC
20 Choa Chu Kang Street 52
#04-04
Tel: 9365 7568

Email: yewtee@rosschoolhouse.com


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

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

Discipline #8: What do you do when your 2-year old lies?

I was caught off guard when Kate’s teacher informed me that she had told a lie. I have to admit that in my earlier years of parenting, when faced with such an awkward situation, I would have either fumbled for a reply, made some excuses or doubted the teacher. My kid? No way! There must have been some mistake.

Instead, I remained calm and wanted to know the whole story so that I could figure out how to deal with it. This was how it went.

Uh-oh

Kate had taken a new activity to play with, and her Chinese teacher asked if she had been taught how to work with it. Kate immediately replied, “Yes.” Her Chinese teacher knew it was not the case and asked who had demonstrated it to her. Kate responded, “Ms Sha”, without batting an eyelid. Ms Sha overheard the conversation and walked over. Kate knew her lie had been exposed and looked down, afraid to look into Ms Sha’s eyes. Her teachers took the opportunity to teach her that lying is wrong.

The thing was, we were shocked that a 2.5 year old knows how to lie so blatantly!

On the way home, I reiterated that it was wrong of her to lie. However, I knew deep down in my heart that the problem lies with us, not her. After all, little kids imitate and absorb what they see and hear.

At dinner, I told the rest of the family what had transpired that day. The kids were old enough to point out that “adults also tell white lies, even you and daddy, so that must have been where she picked it up from”. They recounted many instances where the truth was not spoken.

  • You always say, “Everyone is going”. (to a child, everyone would literally mean every single person. Ok, I’d better wipe that one off my list of constantly used words.)
  • Dad tells whoever we are meeting that “We are almost there” when we had just left the house. I heard Uncle T say that last week too.
  • Aunt J always promise us that she’s coming to visit soon. But she never does.
  • You said you’ll be back in 15 minutes. You lied.
With 5 “witnesses” to our daily behavior, the examples came fast and furious.

I had nothing so say. The kids were right.

The next day, I was on high alert to what I was saying and what others around me were saying to Kate.
  • Kate spotted the Crocs shoes her cousin passed down to her and wanted to wear it. As we were going to the mall (we try not to allow Kate to wear Crocs on escalators), our helper said, “Cannot”. Kate persisted. “I want”. She quickly replied, “Cannot. Got lizard poo poo.” Kate said “Where? Let me see.” (of course, there was none.)
  • The girls were eating sweets and when Kate asked for some, they replied, “No more.”
  • I went home and found #5 quietly giving Kate his snacks (which are too salty for her) and when I boomed, “Why are you giving her the pretzels?”, he said, “Just a few.”. I’m sure she had way more than a few.
  • There were countless instances where words came out of my mouth before I realised they were not the absolute truth.

I noticed a pattern here. We instinctively try to shade the truth to avoid her whining or crying, so that we don’t have to deal with it. Unknowingly, we taught her to lie.


It’s not about her.

It’s about us.

It’s about me.

So. Where do I go from here?

I’ve decided that I’ll start focusing on improving one parenting skill at a time until I conquer it. Then I’ll work on the next one.


Here’s the first:

SPEAK THE TRUTH.

Anyone joining me?



Here are some good tips on how to help your child deal with lying, over at Life’s Tiny Miracles blog.

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

School stories #11: How #2 topped her level in English

Some friends were asking me how did #2 manage to top her level in English? Well, the answer is simple. Don’t go to a top school!

Ok, seriously, the answer IS simple, and it spells R.E.A.D.


When she was in P1, I was at a school function and a tutor in her 50s told us that for English, it was way better to get our kids to spend time reading than to do assessment books. I went back and told #2 to start reading everyday, and that was what she did. She never had any tuition for English except 3 months before the PSLE (which on hindsight I should have saved my money on as she was too set in her ways to change the way she wrote her compositions).


If you have no clue what books to let your daughters read, these were some of her favourite books when she was growing up.
P1:

  • Milly Molly Mandy series (Joyce Lankester Brisley)
  • Naughtiest Girl series (Enid Blyton)
  • Mary Poppins (P.L. Travers)
  • Charlotte’s Web (E.B. White)
P2:

  • St Clare’s series (Enid Blyton)
  • Pippi Longstocking (Astrid Lindgren)
  • Matilda (Roald Dahl)
P3:

  • Malory Towers series (Enid Blyton)
  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (Roald Dahl)
P4:

  • Nicholas series (Goscinny & Sempe) This is a popular French classic about a schoolboy and his antics.
  • Totto-chan (Tetsuko Kuroyanagi)
P5:

  • Anne of Green Gables series (L.M. Montgomery)
  • The Mysterious Benedict Society series (Trenton Lee Stewart)
  • Chicken Soup for the Kid’s Soul series (Jack Canfield & Mark Victor Hansen)

P6:

  • The Twilight Saga (Stephenie Meyer)
  • The Hunger Games series (Suzanne Collins)

By P6, she started to choose her own books and during that year, the Twilight Saga was very popular. These days they are into the Hunger Games series. I have not read either so I can’t comment on whether they are good in terms of content and values.

What about boys?

For my son, he enjoyed reading different books from his sisters. When he was younger, he liked Dr Seuss, Curious George and Roald Dahl. In P1 and P2, the only thing he read was Young Scientist and Adventure Box (ordered via his school). Now that he is in P3, he is into Geronimo Stilton, like most of his friends. Perhaps you have some good recommendations for me! Books that boys would like which have good content and language, and have some pictures.

Sane tip: Getting your kids to love reading is one of the best things you can cultivate in them. Not only are their minds being opened to new ideas, new possibilities and new worlds, but it gives you hours of silence in the house! Perfect.

Save tip: The thing about #2 was that she was happy to read and re-read her books. She must have read all these books more than 10 times each! She was also very obedient in the sense that she would read whatever book I gave her at least once, even those which she felt was boring.

When I had my first few kids, I was too busy to make trips to the library and I had the impression that the books there were sub-standard. After having more kids (and a smaller budget for books), I decided to check out the public libraries and I was so impressed! They are well-stocked with good books and I have since stopped patronising the bookshops.


Related posts:

Here’s the story of our journey into reading. When #1 was about to enter P1, she couldn’t even read 3 letter words like “cat” and “dog”. I was stunned when the other kids could read words like “wisdom”, “understand” and “praise”. Now I know better, and I read to Kate daily.


Here’s many more good tips on how to go about reading to younger 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?


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

School Stories #9: I didn’t even know my child was being bullied,until…

You would have heard about the ex-RGS girl suing her alma mater for her¬†suffering while studying there. Enough¬†talk has been going around, but what surprised me was the narrow definition of bullying which the school adopted. The “school policy defines bullying as involving hurting, frightening or intimidating others using power of strength while cyber bullying includes the sending of hateful messages.”

I am glad that my daughter’s school held a broader definition of bullying and the teachers were vigilent in dealing with such cases.

When she was in P4, she was the victim of bullying but I didn’t recognize it. I associated bullying with being physically attacked or extorted from.¬†Only after this incident did I learn that bullying can take on different forms, including verbal, emotional, sexual and cyber. Some of these can be just as, or more damaging to the victim, and usually harder to detect. I asked if she was ok with me sharing her story and she said yes.

In P4, she was streamed into a new¬†class and started forming a close friendship with 3 other girls. Amongst them was a more domineering girl (let’s call her D) who became the ‘leader’. After a month or so, D started to ostracise her and the other 3 followed suit. They would gang up against her and talk behind her back. It got to an extent where D told the entire class not to let her join any of their groups, be it during PE or in class project work. She was treated like an outcast.

 
I listened to her tales and offered some suggestions on how to handle the situation. I guess none of them worked and it seemed D was adamant on making life miserable for her. I encouraged her to be strong and to be understanding. I explained to her that it was possible that her behaviour stemmed from her insecurities as D has a slight physical deformity. It dragged on for several weeks and she¬†became more reticent. I thought it would blow over as it was common for girls to have such ‘friendship’ issues, but instead it got progressively worse.

 
Thankfully, I met her form¬†teacher during the parents-teacher’s meeting and the topic happened to be raised. Her teacher was saying how quiet she was, and I mentioned that she doesn’t have anyone to talk to and the story unravelled. She got very alarmed and told me that it was a case of bullying and D was wrong to incite the entire class to alienate her.
 
Her teacher took it very seriously and¬†dealt with it immediately. She had a talk with the 4 of them, with D individually, and with the class. She also told them that they were to welcome her into their groups. It was the boys who quickly included her and they¬†couldn’t even recall how it came about that they joined in to exclude her.

I shudder to think how much damage could have been wrecked on her emotionally if the issue had failed to be recognised or resolved. Being the victim of bullying can lead children and teenagers into depression and even the contemplation of suicide.

As parents, we can help by having constant communication with our children and to take their concerns seriously. Some kids may not be willing to open up which makes it more difficult to address. We can only try and be on the look out for clues such as changes in their behaviour, frequent physical malaise like stomachaches / headaches, or a sudden reluctance to go to school. I am really thankful that her teacher handled the situation in a tactful, caring, and professional manner.

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 ~

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 ~

6 tips to Really prepare your child for P1

You would have read many articles on how to get your child ready for the big transition from K2 to P1, about things like teaching them to take care of their belongings and buying food at the canteen. Besides those basics, let me share with you 6 essential tips to ensure mummy (that’s you) doesn’t break a sweat for the next 6 years.

1. Their school bag is their responsibility

When #1 started Primary 1 a decade ago, I bought her a school bag, handed her the whole stack of books and told her that she was in charge of it. I laid out all my expectations. She was to pack her own bag, finish her homework and listen attentively to her teachers. From the get-go, she had no problems handling all of it, and neither did her 3 younger sisters. I never had to nag them to do their homework nor help them to pack their bags. Don’t worry that they are too young to start managing on their own. When they are in P1, the teachers are more forgiving and it is the best time for them to make mistakes and learn the skills of being independent. #1 had a classmate who was so used to her mum packing her bag that when she went to Secondary 1, she exclaimed that she didn’t know how to pack her bag!

Unfortunately, this doesn’t seem to work for #5. I gave him the same instructions but his homework never gets completed and bag never properly packed. I have to double check every night to make sure his things are in order. The first time I peered into his bag, I almost fainted. I expected a neat, organised school bag with books properly placed according to height (that’s how all my girls’ bags looked), but his bag was in a complete mess! Worksheets were stuffed into the crevices (some even balled up), books were folded in half top down (don’t ask me how that happened), and there were bits and pieces of erasers, paper, and other rubbish in his bag. No wonder my friends with boys keep complaining and can’t understand how I can stay relaxed with so many kids. Anyhow, it is still important to expect the same for boys, but be prepared to step in to provide more guidance. A LOT more, if your son is anything like mine.

#4’s P4 unseen dictation

2. Learning their spelling is also their responsibility

In this climate of very involved parents, I constantly hear friends saying they have to hurry home to test their kids spelling. With 6 kids, my chance of having a life would be zilch if I did this. They know my expectations and will learn their spelling themselves and test themselves. I don’t like to molly-coddle my kids but try to encourage them to find their inner tenacity.

During the exam period, #4 asked if I could sit with her to supervise her revision like all her friends’ mummies did. Before I could open my mouth, #3 told her: “Don’t you know what mummy is trying to teach us? To be independent and self-motivated so that even when she is not with us, we will know what to do. If you need to rely on mummy being next to you, then next time how?” Ah, proud mummy moment.

However, this didn’t work for #5, especially for his chinese spelling. Why am I even surprised. I have resorted to bribing him with 30 minutes of iPad time if he gets it all correct. Works beautifully.

3. Allowance

Initially with #1, I gave her a daily allowance for recess and encouraged her to save the rest. I realised that after a few months, she worked out her own brilliant plan by ‘saving’ on food and using the leftover money to shop at the bookshop. I thought about this whole allowance business very seriously and decided to separate the school recess money (which is for them to eat a proper meal) with allowance for toys and their other wants and came up with a simple but detailed system to teach them how to use their money wisely.

Instead of giving them a fixed amount for the 6 years, I checked out the prices at their canteen and found out that $1 can buy them a plate of chicken rice or a bowl of noodles. Since they bring their own water bottle to school, $1 is enough for them as they are not big eaters. My kids think I’m Mr Scrooge as most of their friends get around $2 per day. I asked them if they are going to eat $2 worth of food, and if not, then they don’t need $2. What I did instead was to give them an incremental allowance based on their age. They get $1 per day for P1 and P2, $1.50 for P3 and P4 and $2 for P5 and P6. It gives them something to look forward to!

4. No TV / electronic devices rule

I used to allow them 1 hour of TV but found that they protested more when it was time to turn it off than when I set a blanket ban on TV during school days. Now, it’s not just the TV, but their iPads, laptops, computers and iPhones which robs them of time. They end up not having enough time for their homework and also resulted in them sleeping later. Besides, it’s hard to monitor their gadget use if I’m not at home, so it’s easier just to take them all away during the school week. Every Sunday night, they have to turn in their gadgets and they get them back on the weekends. Yup, I have to run my household almost like a military operation. If you need more tips on how to control their gadget usage, read my 10 house rules for digital use.

5. Stationery

It amazes me how much correction tape kids go through. Or how many pencils and pens go missing in school. At one time, Popular bookstore became our regular shopping destination. One fine day, I had enough, and made a new rule. We would go stationery shopping for school supplies once in December and once during the June holidays. They were to purchase the necessary items to last them through 5 months of school. Anything extra they needed would be out of their own pockets. (Unless of course they require ad hoc purchases for projects). Overnight, their stationery requisition reduced dramatically. Not only that, it taught them to plan, budget, and stick to their allocation. When they know their correction tape refill is running low they will be more careful and stop using it with abandon.

6. Early Bedtime

I can’t fathom how kids can thrive with insufficient sleep. Many of their classmates sleep at 10pm and wake up at 6am. For us, their bedtime is at 7.30pm, and it moves incrementally to 8.30pm at P6. When they are well rested, it is much easier to wake them in the morning, not to mention they will be more attentive in class. Our helper just has to call their name once and they are out of bed. She prepares their breakfast and they are on auto-pilot and out the house at 6am. And me? Still in la la land…

Hope these tips will ease the transition into formal schooling for your child and keep you sane!


Related posts:

6 tips to choose a primary school

6 things to do in the PSLE year


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