10 years on, and Kate’s doing her PSLE!

I started this blog 10 years ago when Kate was a baby, at the encouragement of friends to share my experiences to help other parents going through similar challenges. We met up recently with our daughters as one was heading off to University. One mum said, “I take my hat off. You raised so many kids without being a tiger mum, hardly stressed, still looking young and happy and they turned out well.”

I think we did pretty alright considering we were in our early 20s, raised 6 kids without going mad and keeping the marriage intact for over 25 years.

My mum has been a bedrock of support and the girls were so sweet in showing their gratitude. They gifted por por a trip to Japan, just the 4 older girls and grandma. They planned the entire trip and paid for it with their savings, and took turns to take care of por por. That was grandma’s most precious reward for her effort and sacrifice over the years.

So how did my no-tuition-go-playground strategy pan out? I focused on giving them opportunities to discover their interests and talents, developing important skillsets, resilience and the right mindset. Not all of them had intelligences which matched our education system, but we took it in our stride and never let any of them feel less than. Instead of looking at grades, we prioritised developing good learning attitudes which provides a strong foundation for life.

We encourage them to find their passions and purpose in life, and the 6 of them are as different as night and day.

The eldest is doing her Masters in Education overseas as teaching children has always been something that brings her joy. She started with a diploma in Early childhood education. However during her internships, she was disillusioned by what she observed. She pivoted to obtaining a degree in fashion marketing.

After almost two years, she was burnt out having to fight fires on the weekends to meet production datelines, and questioned if that was what she wanted to be doing 5 years down the road. She felt like a hamster stuck in the wheel. She quit, and left for Australia. She found freelance gigs and her costume creations won awards and were exhibited at art galleries. It was a challenging 2 years as she lived on a budget to stretch her savings and worked short stints on farms to extend her visa. Although she had to manage everything independently, she preferred the healthy work life balance and enjoyed exploring nature on the weekends. Now, she has gone full circle, and has found her way back to education.

Number 2 had a gruelling 4 years and finished law school graduating magna cum laude. She stood out because she was the only one who came from a mission school. She struggled through the first year and wanted so much to quit. She persevered, found her footing, took on the most challenging CCA and she and her partner emerged as champions, beating 140 law teams from around the world. Now she does enjoy the work, but I caution her to be mindful of not sacrificing her health and relationships.

Number 3 has wanderlust and has been travelling the world. She gets bored easily and felt trapped during her desk bound internship job. This child loves paragliding, surfing and wants to go bungee jumping off some cliff. Oh well, should I count myself lucky that it’s just 1 adrenaline junky in 6? She’s been supporting herself financially and since she’s an adult and we can’t stop her, I can only pray for her safety.

Number 4 is not academically inclined and went to a neighbourhood school. It was a grounding experience and she enjoyed her years there. She is doing her diploma in sculpture and has been accepted into the bachelor’s programme based on her portfolio and interview. This girl is a ray of sunshine, bringing joy to everyone around her. She loves creating with her hands and her art reflections are profound.

The boy. You would remember him as the student whom his primary school teachers found hard to manage. Always the inquisitive child, talks a lot, thinks out of the box, branded the naughty boy in a mixed school. We had a choice of choosing either Express or NA stream. Without hesitation I chose NA in an all boys mission school. He turned from a nuisance to just another boy! The teachers reported that he was well behaved, respectful and handed his work in on time. What a contrast. He was the top scorer in his school for N levels and is now studying engineering. In the past, it was hard to get him to sit down and keep quiet. Now, he is a permanent fixture on the couch with his figures glued to some gadget and we can barely get more than monosyllabic answers out of him. The irony.

And dear little Kate. She’s in P6! We had no choice but to start her on Math tuition 2 weeks ago. Her teachers say that she has a good learning attitude, tries her best and listens attentively in class. Yet, she hands in her worksheets and the whole page can be wrong. She’s been going for remedial once a week but hasn’t improved much. Poor girl, tries so hard yet her efforts seem futile. She joined her cousin’s tuition class and says the lessons are fun and the teacher is nice. Initially the centre was reluctant to take her in at such a late stage, but after the trial, the teacher accepted her as she is willing to learn and diligent.

She also failed her P5 Chinese and I prayed for a suitable tutor. Kate’s criteria: “she must be bilingual, kind and patient because I am really bad at Chinese.” My criteria: No drill and kill until she hates the language even more, but must improve her grades. Haha, pretty tall order. My prayers were answered in a most remarkable way. I was recommended someone to mentor, and lo and behold, she turned out to be a Chinese tutor and an ex-MOE teacher. She speaks perfect English, is bubbly and joyful, and teaches international students so she’s not fazed by beginner learners. She loves teaching Kate as she’s self-motivated and they are having a great time working towards the challenge of passing her PSLE.

Now that the kids are grown, I have the freedom to craft the next chapter of my life. Sadly, we closed The Little Executive as neither of us enjoyed running the business side of things, and I had my hands full with family members being unwell. The silver lining is that I have become more intentional about identifying what work I enjoy most and to double down on that. I’m passionate about giving talks on Resilience to both corporate settings and at parenting events, and I love coaching parents and counselling teens. I’ve been through the teenage phase 5 times and know how tough it is to navigate. It is very rewarding to see the youths turnaround, and to bridge the relationship between parent and child.

I also have more time to resume blogging!

About Mummy Wee

Michelle Choy is an Occupational Therapist and mum of 6 children aged 11-25. She co-Founded The Little Executive and is a Parenting coach and Motivational speaker. She specialises in Resilience coaching and is regularly featured on national TV, radio and print media. She is proud yet humbled to be awarded Singapore’s 40-over-40 inspiring women 2021.