Recommendations to maximize happiness and minimize suffering in Singapore’s education system

That was my daughter’s philosophy assignment topic. I do agree with her ideas, and happy to know that she scored an A for this paper!

Here is a short excerpt:

A Holistic Approach to Happiness

Happiness is determined 50% by genetic set-point, 10% by external circumstances, and 40% by intentional activity (Salzgeber, 2018). Given the importance of intentionally changing one’s behavior to being happy, the education system should teach the practice of happiness as a core aspect of the curriculum, from Primary to Tertiary education, to maximize happiness. This can be done by implementing modules of empathy, philosophy, and mental wellness.

Teaching empathy

The value of teaching empathy has been affirmed by some of the happiest countries in the world. Danish schools, for example, credit their standing as the second happiest nation in the world to their weekly empathy lesson for students aged 6 to 16 years (Newsroom, 2019). To maximize happiness, Singapore should similarly incorporate empathy classes as a fundamental subject and hone the skills of real learning and understanding in students.

Benefits

Cultivating virtue ethics. Numerous philosophies can be reconciled in their recognition of virtuous activity as happiness. Aristotle declared happiness to be the final aim of virtuous activity, inter alia. (McMahon, 2013). Similarly,  Stoicism proclaimed that the cultivation of virtue was essential to a happy life, through the embracing of four cardinal virtues: wisdom, temperance, justice, and courage (Saunders, 2019). Empathy lessons cultivate these values by teaching students of all ages to recognize and respect others and their emotions, thus teaching happiness.

Kate doing her chinese homework

Developing interpersonal relationships. Seligman (2004) propounds that developing relationships is essential to feel satisfied in life. In my experience, all good days share one thing in common: a connection to others. Such days are a reminder that, as social creatures, we are not meant to exist in isolation. Further, developing meaningful relationships is key to reaching Attunement;  a connection to others enforce stability and balance and can help us feel ‘settled’ amidst the fact-paced rat-race to the end. The effect of interpersonal relationships on happiness can alternatively be explained by Desire Theory. Following the Desire Theory, if happiness results from getting what we strongly want, and building connections to others is an intrinsic desire, then having strong interpersonal relationships is pivotal to attaining happiness.

Moreover, having empathy promotes prosocial behaviour (Newsroom, 2019). Being prosocial is important to happiness as helping others genuinely makes us feel good. Personally, I enjoy doing works of charity and putting effort in friends and family as making others happy results in a sense of fulfilment. The benefits of being prosocial finds parallels in doctrines positing that happiness is contagious; in spending on others, we spread happiness, and correspondingly experience happiness in giving it.

Feasibility

The effectiveness of empathy lessons may be limited in Singapore. Nordic countries attribute their happiness to upbringing: “happy parents raise happy children who grow up to be happy adults who raise happy children” (Newsroom, 2019). Given that Singapore still places considerable importance on academic performance at the expense of character development, Singapore may experience difficulty in changing the mindset of parents to value and promote empathy in their children.

On the other hand, taking one step in the right direction is better than taking no steps at all. Further, that parents may not prioritize empathy is an even greater reason that schools should. My own exposure to the importance of empathy in a ‘Virtue Ethics’ class in Junior College was valuable. There, I observed first-hand the importance of being more understanding of my peers, which made school a happier place to be in. The existence of such classes demonstrates that teaching empathy in schools is both feasible, and has practical benefits.

Philosophy as a core module

I propose that philosophy be implemented as a core module from Primary to Tertiary education.

Benefits

My experience approaching philosophy for the first time in my university’s ‘Big Questions’ module was eye-opening. Prior to the class, happiness seemed fleeting and elusive. Studying philosophy introduced productive ways of evaluating my mindset and implementing practical changes to my lifestyle that truly helped me feel more at home and happy.

Cultivating philosophical reflection and intellectual virtue. Studying philosophy has been correlated with happiness. As mentioned, both Stoicism and Aristotelian philosophy declared happiness to be the final aim of philosophical reflection and virtue. Thus, studying philosophy is instrumental in teaching one to maximize happiness for oneself, and can help one reach Attunement.

Finding meaning in life. As observed by Victor Frankl, humans are motivated to find meaning in life (Frankl, 1992). A person who has meaning is likely to be more passionate in living, and thus find happiness in the state of Engagement. Studying philosophy exposes students to fundamental questions about existence, reason, and mind; it thus contributes to happiness in guiding students to finding meaning and satisfaction in life.

Feasibility

Implementing philosophy as a core module is likely to be feasible in conjunction with the other proposed measures, as the decentralization of academic performance as the primary focus of education enables more leeway for non-academic modules. Although younger students may not fully grasp the more complex philosophies, concepts can be simplified for their benefit. As Aristotle eloquently put, “Let no one when young delay to study philosophy … for no one can come too early or too late to secure the health of his soul” (Epicurus, 1954, para. 1).

Mental wellness modules

Teaching the practice of mindfulness, meditation, and positive psychology supplements the effectiveness of the above propositions in maximizing happiness. Killingsworth propounds that true well-being depends on the state of our minds and the quality of our consciousness (Bradt, 2010). Thus, mindfulness, meditation, and positive psychology have similarly effective outcomes in contributing to well-being, including a greater sense of coherence, empathy, and more satisfying relationships.

Conclusion

Institutional measures alone cannot guarantee happiness. However, happiness and education are intimately connected and quality education can and should aim to maximize happiness and minimize suffering where feasible. Thus, Singapore should implement the proposed changes to assessment methods and curriculum to overturn the excessively competitive mindsets of students and parents today, and strike a holistic balance that is the formula to maximizing happiness.

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 also makes time to volunteer with children and the elderly in her community.

Social and political views of our young people

#1 will be voting for the first time and has been following GE2020 closely. At that age, my peers and I were apathetic about politics as it didn’t seem to directly impact us and we took a stable government and the peace and prosperity of our country for granted.

Gen Z, however, seems to be a socially woke generation, hyper aware of social injustice and prejudice. When #1 was 16, she took up photography and ventured out on foot to capture the local streets. She came home disturbed, and showed me her photographs. This scene in particular, stirred up unease in her.

Who are these fellow human beings? She mulled over the fact that it is on the backs of these men’s hard labour that our shiny buildings are constructed, yet they are sitting under the hot sun on the side of the roads they have built for us, with cars zooming past them. They contributed largely to the foundation of our city, but are we treating them with dignity or we simply look away because it makes us uncomfortable? What could she do for them? Invite them home for a meal? Tell their story? Acknowledge them? She gave them a smile, waved and left with a heavy heart.

So what are some of the issues that our youths of today are concerned about?

#1 took this photo in 2015

CLIMATE CRISIS

Earlier this year, they watched in horror as bush fires swept across New South Wales and wildlife perished and became extinct. 2 big questions they couldn’t comprehend: why wasn’t the Australian government doing more? and if climate change was at the root of this and many other problems facing the world, why is the climate crisis not an even higher priority for all governments? They read how some countries are banning single-use plastic, proposing sustainable green recovery packages post-covid, and hope that our leaders are doing their part in minimising the carbon rebound while reviving the economy.

They believe that every individual has to be the solution, and have stopped shopping fast fashion and switched to eco-friendly brands, are against consumerism and buy reusable, sustainable and ethical products where possible.

They are also not afraid to speak up. During her Secondary 4 year, #2 had a session in the hall about environmental issues. Wrapping up, the HOD asked if anyone had anything to say. She stood up and gave an impassioned speech about how it should be everyone’s shared responsibility, that she was confused as her teachers did not walk the talk and the amount of paper churned out by schools was significant and she pointed out scenarios where they could do better. Her teacher shared with me that because of my daughter, she now thinks twice before printing anything and would consider other options first.

The covid situation heightened their environmental awareness and as factories were shut and air travel halted, statistics have emerged about carbon emissions. They discovered that aviation and fast fashion are the two biggest culprits in environmental pollution. They want to rethink our vacations as air travel leaves a huge carbon footprint, and it is better to move to a country for a year or two to study or work and explore that country, instead of flying to a destination just for a week or two.

The tables have turned. They are thinking through big issues which concern their future and getting us to re-evaluate many areas of our lives which we have stopped questioning.

FREEDOM OF SPEECH AND HUMAN RIGHTS

Gen Zs have grown up with a lot more connectivity to the world. #2 used to write fan fiction and made friends with teenagers from around the world and became close friends with a few. With technology, they were privy to each other’s daily lives, homes and classrooms.

They chatted about the differences in their school curriculum and discussed issues such as the LGBT movement. For example, her friend from Canada explained about the controversy surrounding their revised sex education curriculum, with different groups holding different views on gender identity and sexual orientation.

It got them thinking about the laws in their own country. They asked questions like why is Section 377A which was enacted in 1871 still valid and upheld in the 2007 review when people should have freedom of choice? While they understood that we are a conservative Asian society, they questioned the point of it being a criminal act if it is between consenting adults.

SOCIAL INEQUALITY AND MARGINALIZATION

They jokingly call our helper “our expat” because they tell me that by definition, an expat is anyone who lives outside their own country. Why should there be double standards and they be termed “foreign workers”? As a family, we do our part to take care of the workers around our street, and my kids would hand them biscuits and cold drinks.

They were proud of their dad when during the circuit breaker, he needed to separate his foreign workers and made the decision to put them up in a small hotel instead of letting them rough it out in temporary holdings. They saw the hubs interact with them and exclaimed, “Dad talks to them nicer than to us! And he treats them so kindly.”

While everyone was forced to figure out how to work from home, my daughter lamented that isn’t it sad for people with a physical disability? These are things that employers could have implemented ages ago, but sidelined. She feels that more needs to be done before we can become a truly inclusive society and a level playing field for all, especially for vulnerable groups.

Once, I took her to the market to take photos as I was writing about markets around Singapore. She was drawn to this sight of an elderly uncle with piles of neatly tied cardboard boxes, and wanted to capture his facial expression, but felt it might be disrespecful.

Methinks she has a flair for photojournalism. Her first publication – Scenes of Singapore as seen through the lens of a 16-year old.

#1 took this photo in 2015

Last weekend, the grandparents came over for dinner, and they had a robust discussion about the coming elections. They wanted to know who their por por and gong gong were voting for.

Immediately, my pro-PAP parents said, “PAP!”

“Why, por por. Please explain your choice.”

Their 80 year-old grandma went on to tell them how the government has been pivotal in building Singapore up, that they were born just before WW II, went through war, hardship, poverty, and experienced the transformation right before their eyes. From days of water rationing and eating rice with soya sauce, to having the opportunity to go to school and being able to make a good livelihood by working hard, saving up, and providing their children with an overseas education. “When gong gong was hospitalised, even in the 8-bedder, it was comfortable and the the bill was covered by medisave.”

“Yes, por por, we know the government did a good job for the past many decades, but what about now? When I graduate will I be able to get a good job? The cost of living is one of the highest in the world. And HDBs are so expensive we won’t be able to afford it. What about the foreign worker situation? Inequality? Minimum wage? Global warming?”

Grandma looked at her, confused. I could almost see the generation gap.

Gen Zs are far from being apathetic about social issues, and we as parents need to have open conversations with them, to guide them to hash out discussions in an objective and respectful manner.

It is too easy for them to get swayed by information shared by their peers, and I tell them not to simply accept everything they read or watch, be mindful of things being taken out of context, and to do their own research and look at things from both a micro and macro perspective before making conclusions. Pointing out the faults in systems and other people is not difficult. But to understand the full complexity of the problems, consequences, impact and trade-offs requires greater depth of deliberation.

I emphasis that there are multi facets to any issue, and beyond the elections, the real value of them as vocal citizens is not by being keyboard warriors, but by contributing meaningfully and working together to better Singapore. We tell our staff at work, when you come to us with a problem, please bring along some possible solutions you have brainstormed and we can improve things together.

We need a generation of young adults who are able and willing to stand up and steer Singapore into the future successfully. While it is a positive thing that they are taking an interest in the political scene, it is imperative that we give them a solid foundation of strong values, good character, open-mindedness, maturity and commitment to continue to build up a democratic Singapore, based on truths and sound judgement, not falsehoods, groupthink or rash emotions.

Our young people will soon be a force to reckon with, and their idealism and passion must be directed well.

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 also makes time to volunteer with children and the elderly in her community.

My brand new WEBSITE!

WELCOME, WELCOME!

Woo hoooo! Time to sound the trumpets! Haha, I’m sure you can feel my excitement.

Not so much because I’ve finally moved on from the old blog and don’t have to worry about blogger disappearing from the internet.

But I’m pleased as punch because I have OVERCOME my greatest fear!

I have always avoided anything IT related because I got stuck at every turn. Thanks to the circuit breaker, I decided to face it square on, and realised the internet is so useful. It allows us to communicate and learn from anyone anywhere in the world and there is a youtube video for almost anything! You just need a lot of time and patience to follow the instructions step by step.

And VIOLA! I designed this entire blog ALL BY MYSELF! *clap clap* thank you, thank you. My teens are so proud of me.

I didn’t even notice how out-dated my old blog was until I looked around at the new designs! Ignorance is bliss 😉

It took me 2 whole weeks, but it taught me that NOTHING IS IMPOSSIBLE if you put your mind to it.

So that’s how I celebrated the lovely milestone of turning 45 on a high note.

things i missed..

I accomplished a ginormous task I never thought possible, and that felt really awesome! And thanks to the opening of Phase 2, I enjoyed a day of pampering and celebrations with my closest. Simply fabulous.

Believe that anything is possible, and nothing can hold you back.

I have reached a point where I can live my days with calm and peace, not because I have nothing to worry about, but because I can choose how I want to respond. Instead of focusing on problems or negativity, keep your chin up and keep persevering.

Times are hard, and it is not easy to sustain a business right now, but we have worked so tirelessly and dedicated the past few years to building this dream, we just have to do what it takes to ride through the next 6 months before things stabilise. I’m extremely grateful for our team who have stuck with us through all the teething issues young companies face, and together we will overcome this crisis.

New priorities.

With our calendars wiped clean the past 2 months, and being home 24/7 with the family, I am going to be careful what I start letting in to my days.

It is all too easy to slide into filling our lives with too much, thinking that it is important, when it truly is not.

#4 had just turned 16 and having a bit of calm after going through the most harrowing teenage years with the 4 girls, and Kate being a matured little 7 year-old sweetheart, I wish I could say that my job is almost done.

However, my greatest worry right now is my son. He is right smack in the teenage phase, and it is a very precarious time. Many have warned me, and now I’m experiencing it. The mumbled one word replies, and addiction to their online games. Very worrisome, and no easy answer. They are not children anymore and you can’t just confiscate their gadgets without starting a rebellion. Deep breath. A whole new phase for us to learn how to parent a teenage boy.

I’ve been asked to compile my advice into a book so that it is easier to access than scrolling through my past posts, and I have started on my first book during the quiet months of the circuit breaker. Hopefully I can find time to complete it before the end of the year. That would be exciting!

Thank you for staying with me over the years and accompanying us on our journey. My wish for my dear readers is that all good things will come your way!

Blessings.

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 also makes time to volunteer with children and the elderly in her community.

GOODBYE to the old

This will be my last post with this old look website.

It’s been 7 years since I started my blog and this is Post #518!

Wow, never thought I would write over 500 ‘articles’.

Kate was just 9 months at that time, and she’s now turning 8. How time flies.

Baby Kate

At that time, I had no clue about the blogging world, and the hub’s friend’s wife helped me to start the blog on Blogger. A big thank you to Amber!

However, Blogger is now outdated, and many things are incompatible with their software, and when I changed to my new Iphone, I couldn’t even update it.

So, time to move on! We have to embrace change!

Over the past few years, people have been advising me to migrate to WordPress before Blogger becomes obsolete but I just never had the time to look into it.

Ironically, the past 2 months of CB forced me to figure my way around the internet as I started to get acquainted with webinars, online courses, and remote live events.

I chanced upon a good recommendation on migrating websites and it does seem really simple!

All it takes is 30USD and their professional team will do the work of transferring my existing content over. It is not easy for me to do so because Blogger is already outdated and it will have to be done manually. Ok, I don’t know what all that means, but I’m glad somebody knows how to do it!

So yes, within a short 2 weeks, I will have a completely new hosting site and a new look!

Yay!

Before I go, I’ll have to say a HUGE Thank You! to my good friend Elaine, who helped me design this current theme and Header Logo.

I ABSOLUTELY LOVED IT! Nice cosy and personal feel. It’s unfortunate that it can’t be ported over.

Big girl Kate

Thank you all you amazing mums, dads out there, who have been following my blog for the past few years, sharing your joys and struggles as we all try our best to be the best parents we know how to be.

It’s been indeed a pleasure journeying with you, and the friendships and networks that I’ve formed, the people that we have reached out and touched together, those are the gems that this blogging journey has brought for me.

Bye for now, and we’ll see you soon with a whole new makeover!

(Haha, I have no clue how to design the new website, but they said “it would be a breeze”. So let’s see!)

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 6-turning-16 tween, she is also Founder of The Little Executive, a nurturing centre to develop children in areas like resilience and adaptability, to survive today’s volatile world. She also makes time to volunteer with children and the elderly in her community.



Thank you Mummy for everything!

Day 1 of Phase ONE.

“Mummy, wake up!”

“I have something special for you.”

Kate led me downstairs and she had prepared breakfast for me.

“Thank you mummy for everything that you have done for us during this time at home.”

Homemade bread by #2

Such a surprise.

She tried to make it look nice like an airplane meal, with tea, water, and fruits in an upturned glass bowl!

“What has mummy done for you?”

“You take care of us, play games with us, and sometimes when you cook for us, and it is so yummy everyone asks for more, you give all of your own until you have nothing to eat. You sacrifice so much for us.”

I was actually surprised that my youngest is the one who noticed.

As mums, sacrificing like that is really no big deal. An empty stomach can easily be filled.

I asked her if she was happy that her brother was back in school because they have been squabbling over the 2 months and to be honest, I enjoy the peace and quiet with them apart.

She said, “I miss gor gor. I asked him to wake me up at 5.30 but he didn’t.”

“I told him not to. You need your sleep. Why do you want to wake up so early?”

“I wanted to make him breakfast before he went to school.”

I was flabbergasted.

Sibling relationships are such.

They can fight one moment but are best pals soon after.

So precious.

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 6-turning-16 tween, she is also Founder of The Little Executive, a nurturing centre to develop children in areas like resilience and adaptability, to survive today’s volatile world. She also makes time to volunteer with children and the elderly in her community.





Masks MUST be folded in the ziplock bag

Glad to know that my practical “ziplock bag” tip that I shared during the live session was added in the MOE video, and is going around.

It was the simplest solution to ensure Kate doesn’t place it on the table during recess or stuff it into her bag before heading for PE.

The back-to-school memos from their schools have clear instructions about mask handling, including asking parents to provide mask case/ziplock bag, labelling them and folding the masks properly. Very helpful for all parents.

However, I’ve seen some infographics going around stating tips such as “Give your child a large ziplock bag so they do not have to fold their mask.”

That is INCORRECT.

Here’s why.

Your healthy child wears his mask to school.

During recess, he removes it and places it UNFOLDED into a large ziplock bag.

(For the sake of simplicity, we’ll refer to the inner/outer sides as clean/dirty sides).

The dirty side would have come into contact with one side of the ziplock bag.

After recess, he opens the ziplock bag and takes out the mask to wear.

The empty ziplock bag, with both surfaces touching, would transfer the germs from one side to the other.

During PE, the child opens the ziplock bag and again puts the UNFOLDED mask inside.

The clean side of the mask would now be contaminated!

Here’s another scenario.

If a child is slightly unwell or asymptomatic.

He wears his mask to school. Droplets from his mouth and nose would be in contact with the inner side of the mask.

If he doesn’t fold it before placing it in the ziplock bag, the whole bag would be contaminated.

The next time he places the mask back on his face, both sides would have his germs.

THE RIGHT WAY is to FOLD THE MASK in half INWARDS.

Fold mask in half to reuse
Mask hygiene and handling is super important.

Don’t forget:
* Wash hands before and after handling of mask.
* If both sides look the same, sew their initials on the outside or use a permanent marker.
* Do not stuff masks straight into your school bag or pocket if you are going to reuse it.
* To throw used mask away, fold it inwards, and fold it in half again, and use the straps to secure it before throwing it in the bin.
* Wash and rotate a few ziplock bags to keep it clean, dry it thoroughly before reusing.

Instruct them by showing them slowly, explaining why you are doing certain steps, and let them run through the whole process themselves until they get it right. Give them lots of encouragement and praise and don’t forget to have a big dose of patience!


Here are 7 tips to get your child ready to return to school.

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 6-turning-16 tween, she is also Founder of The Little Executive, a nurturing centre to develop children in areas like resilience and adaptability, to survive today’s volatile world. She also makes time to volunteer with children and the elderly in her community.

Behind the scenes of MOE’s AMAA + my 7 tips

Goodness, that was the strangest live session I’ve been on.

What went wrong?

The TIMING was unfortunate.

When MOE announced their plans to reopen schools, cases have been going down and staying at single digit.

However, just before our Ask Me Anything About (AMAA) session, out came news of the 3 preschool teachers testing positive and numbers went up to 13.

It caused a knee jerk reaction, which resulted in a flurry of anxiety amongst parents.

Perhaps what MOE needs is a professional PR strategist!

At that juncture, many parents were not interested in hearing about Back to School tips.

We see how Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is played out here.

If parents’ anxiety about survival – life and death, health and safety concerns are not met, they are not ready to discuss the next level.

Such a mismatch of expectations and the 3 of us panellists took the bullets.

Our session was about Preparing your child for THE TRANSITION BACK TO SCHOOL.

Some parents did not read the topic.

Or, they simply equate MOE session = can ask anything pertaining to school.

It didn’t cross their minds that in that 1 hour, we have to stick to the topic for the parents who tuned in for ways they can prepare their kids for the transition.

If MOE had a crystal ball and Team Incredibles, they could have quickly pivoted, postponed our session at the 11th hour, do the crazy backend arrangements and work till 3am to get a new session in place titled Ask Me Anything About WHY SCHOOLS ARE RE-OPENING IN PHASE 1 with our Education Minister and his team in the hot seat, ready to answer all the pressing concerns parents had.

Only after that should our session follow.

But alas, hindsight is 20/20.

I really feel for the team. They put in so much effort, sincerely wanting to engage parents to allay their fears. I wonder, why do they even bother to try so hard to reach out to parents. Then I look at the responses and 600 people gave Like/Love while 100 gave angry faces. Which means 85% of parents appreciated the session. Good to know.

A shout-out to the parents who bothered to give encouraging comments and likes, thank you! And to those who asked questions politely and respectfully, thank you for doing that. Aren’t we role-models for our children?

A great lesson for me indeed. Now I truly understand how easy it is to tear others down, especially for our teenagers and young people who are on social media a lot, and the kind of damage it can do to their self-esteem.

We have a lot of work ahead of us before we can become a gracious society, both offline and online.

Luckily we are seasoned warriors and can continue with a smile and do what we were meant to do for those who wanted to hear. These weekly AMAA sessions are usually filmed in the studio, and the remote sessions came with its own challenges.

At the tech rehearsal, the directive was to keep it relatable and to share our advice as parents. That was the tone of these AMAA sessions.

During the actual live session, the comments came fast and furious, and it was hard to sieve out the questions from comments. We were fed the questions to address and were unable to see the hundreds of comments being typed in.

We could only do our best 🙂 Thank you to those who reached out to let me know the session was beneficial and you picked up lots of helpful tips. I’m really glad to hear that.

School will be reopening next week, and some parents are asking if HBL can be optional.

If MOE said yes, who will the burden fall on? Teachers, right? They would have to prepare two versions of lesson plans. A set of learning materials for the classroom and another online set for HBL. That’s like working double shift! They would have to teach a full day in school, and in the afternoons, deal with the kids who are on HBL. Viable? I think not.

However, let me share with you what happened many years ago. My P2 daughter had a classmate with HFMD. We were not informed and one day she mentioned that 9 of her classmates were on MC. I was shocked! I emailed her form teacher and as feared, they were all down with HFMD. I made the decision to keep her at home because I had 5 young kids, a baby and elderly folk at home. The early HFMD strains were very severe. Thankfully I did, because more kids fell ill. In those days, there were no safe distancing measures, no mask protocol, kids were not reminded to wash their hands regularly, and there was no transparancy. In fact, I feel more reassured now than at that point in time.

I took on the responsibility of keeping up with her school work and thankfully she had a classmate in the same condo and the helpful girl would drop off her homework every day at our door. I taught her myself so that she wouldn’t lag behind and give her teachers additional work to help her catch up.

My advice. If you are super anxious, keep your preschool kids at home for the first day, week, or even a whole month if you have the resources. Let those who need the childcare support go first, and with a smaller number, teachers can facilitate them better into a proper routine because there are going to be a lot of changes for the kids to adapt to eg they need to sit at their own desk 1m away from their friend, what they can’t do, what they have to do (wear mask & wash hands regularly) and once they get used to it, things should be smooth.

For Primary school kids, well. If you feel strongly about not letting your kids step out of the house, no one is holding a knife to your throat. We are in a pandemic. These are your children.

Can HBL be optional? Cannn. You be the HBL provider lor. Simple as that. The onus would then fall on you. Email their teacher to let them know, ask parents in your class chat what topics were covered that day, which page homework to do, teach them yourself and be considerate not to further burden their teachers.

I did a survey with my parents. On a scale of 1-10, with 1 being I do not feel safe at all letting them out of the house and I prefer to do HBL for Term 3, to 10 being I’m worried but I want my kids back in school and I’m assured that the school is well-prepared to receive them.

The majority said they were between 5-8.

I am certain Principals, VPs, HODs, teachers, support staff and cleaning staff are doing their utmost to get the school compound and SOPs ready to receive our children back safely.

We can never THANK YOU enough for your dedication and perseverance as you do what needs to be done, quietly, day in, day out.

But re-integration HAS TO BE a multi-pronged approach.

And it starts from the home.

WE THE PARENTS need to do our part to teach our children how to take care of themselves and to be socially responsible, and teachers will take over when they are in school.

Here are some practical tips on getting your child ready to go back to school.

1. Mask / Face shield
Points to consider:
– Mask VS Shield. Masks offer more protection. But if your child has medical or skin condition and is unable to wear mask, they need to at least wear a shield.
– Cloth VS disposable: Cloth seems to be more comfortable and breathable, and better for the environment.
– Wearing for such long hours: Comfort is key. As it is something she has to wear daily, I’ll invest in some good masks for Kate. Ask around for mask recommendations. My friends who have tried various masks have shared with me some brands which are thin, effective, and comfortable. Good for our weather. Will provide the info in FB.
– Homemade vs big brands: I love to support local anytime, but for masks, it takes trial and error to get the fit right. Manufactured ones have been tested and certified for their effectiveness. But be wary of unsupported claims as many mask ads have been surfacing. Don’t forget to check how many washes it is effective for. Eg I’ve found a mask for $15 which can take 150 washes. Some are only good for 30 washes.
– Get the ones with adjustable straps for a snug fit
– Practice wearing their mask, starting from 1 hour, increasing the duration each day.
– Buy minimum 2 masks for each child and wash it daily. Some material dries very quickly, in less than 4 hours.
– Put 1 or 2 extra disposable masks in a ziplock bag in their schoolbags just in case.

I’m certain we can train our kids to do what needs to be done. Yes, it is not going to be easy but instead of focusing on what our kids can’t do, shift the mindset to how can we get through this. Mask wearing is here to stay. It is through such that this generation of kids can build resilience.

#2 was telling Kate about her school trip to Vietnam, where our JC students were complaining about trekking up the mountain and having their feet frozen in winter. Until they met the kids who hiked up daily to get to school. They were wearing slippers and had abrasions and frostbite, yet still cheerful and happy they can go to school.

Perspective.

2. Personal hygiene

– Get them into the habit of frequent and proper handwashing. Nag them until they get used to it.
– Cut their fringe if it brushes their face, or use more clips to keep hair in place
– Tie their hair tight, or wear it in a braid so it stays in place till they get home
– Wash hands immediately when they reach home. Better still, get them to change out of their uniform / shower before having lunch.
– Adults as well. When we get home, before hugging them, best is to have a shower first. For this period, avoid sharing plates even within the family, if parents are going out to work.

I had a neighbour who was a nurse. Her son was down with HFMD and she was worried that her other young kids and grandparents would get infected. She was very strict about hygiene, and isolated him in a room. She told the other kids that they were not to go near him, no playing, no touching and when she brought food in to him and fed him his medication, she would wash her hands and change out of her clothes. No one else in the family were infected.

3. Recess

– Pack food if possible so they don’t have to queue or handle money. I give Kate rice with Japanese sprinkles and vegtables eg brocolli, cauliflower, cherry tomato. Her snack box is filled with fruits that can keep well like grapes, blueberries, strawberries, bananas, watermelon to boost her immunity.
– Teach them how to remove their mask properly and keep practicing until they get it right. Wash hands, remove it carefully, fold it with the clean side in, put it in a clean ziplock bag, wash hands again before eating.

4. Sleep

Sleep is the most important aspect to ensure they don’t fall sick and their immunity is kept high. Most kids have been having a late bedtime during the holidays and it is time to gradually tune back their body clock.

– start by moving bedtime gradually eg 9.30pm for a few days, 9pm, 8.30pm, 8pm. A proper bedtime seems to be the hardest thing for parents to instill!
– aim for 10 hours for lower primary school kids and 10-12 hours for preschool kids.

My kids never fell ill even though they were in childcare where it’s easy to catch all sorts of bugs. They slept at 8pm, drank lots of water, had fruits & veg and stayed happy and stress-free.

5. Alternate weeks of HBL

– keep consistent schedule even on weeks when they are at home
– prep them in advance that once school resumes, even during HBL, no more long hours of watching movies or playing on their gadgets.
– back to school checklist:

* Ensure uniforms and school shoes are not too tight or short
* Get a haircut, prepare black hair accessories
* Pack their school bag and get stationery ready
* Storybook
* Thermometer (check that it’s working)

6. Our kids are watching

If you are feeling frustrated, keep it between the adults. Our children don’t need the extra baggage. Let them go to school with a positive mindset. They take their social and emotional cues from us parents, try to stay calm so they don’t pick up your anxiety.

7. Reflect, give closure to this phase

To close this chapter, talk with them about how we all started out feeling uncertain, fearful even, but we overcame so many hurdles together, bonded as a family, as a community, overcame challenges with HBL, gained new skills. They can look back on this time and use these coping strategies when they face adversity in future. A good way for them to remember that they are a part of a bigger community and to remind them to be grateful is by making cards to show their appreciation to their teachers.

Some kids may be feeling very anxious about going back to school. Be more understanding and gentle, don’t be so quick to scold them, and encourage them to express what they are feeling.

Everyone has to play their part if we want a successful Phase 1.

Parents returning to work have to do the same things we are asking our kids to do. Mask on, keep your distance from others, no sharing of food with colleagues, hand washing regimen, so we don’t carry back viruses to our families. I think wives need to nag husbands just as much as the kids to wash their hands! And to keep handphones in their pockets. Or is it the other way around 😉

As we emerge from our homes, and gradually reintegrate into society, numbers will go up. Don’t panic. Stay calm and clear-headed.

MOE is not a Total Solutions Provider. Everyone has to step up. Employers need to do their part and allow a more flexible work arrangement to help parents with this alternate HBL schedule. We need all parties to step up and say “this is what I can do to help.”

And please. Parents, if your child is feeling unwell, keep them at home. We are only as good as our weakest link.

But parents will be saying, it’s my employer! So employers, please, be more understanding.

Employers need to allow parents to WFH to care for their child if they are sick. We cannot have situations where parents have no choice but to be socially irresponsible and drop their kids off at childcare or school even when they are ill. Slight cough or sore throat, also must stay at home. This is one of the greatest fear parents have.

Colleagues may have to step in. Take it as doing national service. We need to operate on trust.

Eh, maybe we need to go one level deeper. Customers, clients, if you are told that the staff is on leave because they need to tend to their sick child at home, please, don’t complain. Be understanding. We don’t want the sick child to go to school and spread their germs all around right?

Heartwarming headline: “Bubble tea long queue, but customers patiently wait in line, knowing they are short of staff due to sick child at home.” Can we show some unity and solidarity?

If our parents gave us $100 billion dollars as a lifeline, wouldn’t we all be doing our part to ensure the house doesn’t collapse? We really need to up our #resilience and #fortitude.

The better and quicker we get through Phase 1, the earlier we can move on to Phase 2. Let’s get on with this, folks.

The only way to get through this is by standing together and being proactive. Instead of giving unhelpful comments like “do you know how pathetic the soap is in schools?” flip it over and think about what we can do to make it better.

In Kate’s Whatsapp class chat, just before the circuit breaker, one mother immediately volunteered to provide a bottle of hand soap for the class sink. Other mothers said they would be the next in line once it ran out.

That’s the spirit we need. And that’s what we want our children to witness.

We can be bigger than this crisis.

Let’s be sensible, share helpful tips with one another, and spread positivity, not fear.

P.S. Wow parent, you made it to the end of this long post. I know right, so much to do to get the kids ready. But I have great faith in you! I’m sure together, we can get through this!

Stay safe, stay strong, stay sane 🙂

About MummyWee

Michelle is an Occupational Therapist by day and mum of 6 by night. Besides the already very demanding job of managing 5 teenagers and one 6-turning-16 tween, she is also Founder of The Little Executive, a nurturing centre to develop children in areas like resilience and adaptability, to survive today’s volatile world. She also makes time to volunteer with children and the elderly in her community.



Lessons learnt during the Circuit Breaker

Just like the rest of Singapore, we slowed down, spent time cooking, baking, and came up with creative versions of snacks. Our new favourite is digestive biscuits with Biscoff crunchy spread topped with ice cream. Try it!

Whenever the kids are bored, they would congregate in the kitchen and we seem to be eating round the clock. #1 has successfully brewed her first kombucha tea! She’s currently trying to brew a mango and passionfruit version.

When we see some yummilicious desserts on IG, the girls would gamely try to make it. We can open a home bakery soon, eh? As for the boy, he spends way too much time gaming but rationalises that Minecraft helps with creativity and he is bonding with his friends and there’s teamwork involved. He’s been patiently teaching Kate how to play it and they both tell me gleefully that “Isn’t it good mum, that we are getting along nicely?” Ah well, it’s the holidays anyway. I have decided long ago to pick my battles. Right now, I need peace in my household.

For many families, the bonding time together is something we will remember and treasure.


Kate put it so well, “This is the best time ever!”

To her, having the whole family home with her every single day is all she needs to be contented and happy. Oh, to see the whole through the lens of a child.

The hubs deserves a CB Medal – “Best person to be stranded with”. He was still working but managed to serve up restaurant standard meals daily. He loves to cook and does it very quickly. Hmm, perhaps we could open a Home Restaurant – hubs cook, kids make dessert, I entertain.

He was also Mr DIY. Our water pipe burst and the toilets couldn’t be flushed and he sweated for hours, problem-solving with his box of tools until everything was working well again. The air-con leaked and he got up there to fix it. Not only that, but he cleans up thoroughly after he is done! Finally, I appreciate all these monstrous-looking equipment lying around the house.

I have always been daunted by technology but decided to face it squarely and get comfortable with it. I learnt to access one platform at a time, both for work and to help Kate navigate HBL. We fumbled through it, failing time and again, but every morning, she would say, “Mum, let’s try again today!” Love her indomitable spirit.

POSB reached out to me to share my parenting advice on managing HBL with their parents, but the studio session turned into a remote one. Can’t be helped, just have to stay calm, figure out new tech skills, and it was enjoyable!

One big takeaway was that I’ve found a better way to help parents. I’ve been running parenting workshops for years and the biggest challenge for parents was to find time to attend and they tell me they wished they had come down and learnt all of this earlier. With online sessions, they can do it from home at their own time. Now to figure out how to get my workshops online!

I am embracing this whole new world that tech has opened up. Such a dinosaur. But better late than never right?

So much so that when MOE asked me to join their panel to share from the parent’s’ perspective about Transitioning back to school, I didn’t hesitate and said Yes! I am feeling empowered and want to keep learning and overcoming my technical handicap one step at a time.

Tune in to MOE’s Facebook page tomorrow Thursday, 21 May, 8pm where Ms Liew Wei Li, Deputy Director-General of Education (Schools) and Director of Schools, along with Ms Beatrice Chong, Divisional Director of Curriculum Planning & Development will be taking questions live. So join us, and ask away! (I’m just the sidekick.. I’m sure parents have lots of questions for them regarding the new announcements made yesterday about returning to school).

I’ve been using this time constructively to keep up and I joined my first Webinar. Wow. All so foreign to me, but I’m getting the hang of it. I signed up for a Webinar for SG businesses by IMDA, Webinar for education providers by DBS, Webinar for parents with teens etc and it’s mind-blowing how technology has made so many things accessible.

With the extra time on our hands, we’ve been exploring all sorts of things. #4 is studying for her O levels, and to de-stress, she spends time on her hobbies and is launching her jewellery brand.


Kate was inspired and decided to start her own business too. She made cute little bookmarks and played around with Canva to create her own ad posters. She said, “I’m going to sell these and give some money to the poor people.” You  go, girl! A tiny entrepreneur with a big heart. We’re behind you all the way!
This episode has definitely re-defined what is possible. We have embraced a growth mindset, stretched ourselves, and emerged all the better for it.

We can walk away with many valuable lessons from this experience and change the way we look at things. I’ll be asking a lot more why not? in the months ahead 🙂

About MummyWee

Michelle is an Occupational Therapist by day and mum of 6 by night. Besides the already very demanding job of managing 5 teenagers and one 6-turning-16 tween, she is also Founder of The Little Executive, a nurturing centre to develop children in areas like resilience and adaptability, to survive today’s volatile world. She also makes time to volunteer with children and the elderly in her community.