My home office

With a huge family of 8, plus in laws, it is not optimal for us to work in the living room. It gets noisy and there are people walking around all the time. What we have though, are ample rooms for everyone to share quite comfortably and we are very grateful for that. I never liked the idea of having a home office in the bedroom but that’s the only viable option for now. Suddenly, I’ve found myself managing 3 jobs, all of which are intertwined and which I am deeply passionate about. The only way to keep everything under control is to have a good system going!

This is an image of a work station with a Mac and ipad
iPad 9th generation

I decluttered the room and carved out the far corner for my work station. Thanks to my vegan daughters, we are very mindful about purchasing new items and try to reuse what we can. I asked if any of them had a spare desk and one was all too happy to let me adopt hers. She finds it too bulky as her laptop has replaced her books. I like it as I can keep everything nicely tucked under the desk. A clutter-free desk helps me think better!

With a nice big desk, I needed a proper computer! My laptop doesn’t serve its purpose of convenience as I am mostly working from home. Besides, it is getting too old and is not very reliable. I nicked the Mac from the study room as it was under utilised. The hubs bought it years ago for the kids to share, but now that they are in Uni/Poly, they have their own laptops.

Ah, so nice to have a large screen.

You may be wondering why I need 3 screens, but ever since I started using them, I can’t do without them anymore!

Before, I would use my phone to snap photos of particular screens and toggle between them. With the luxury of multiple screens, I can watch a YouTube tutorial on my iPad and follow the instructions step by step on my Mac. I also need to look at different documents at the same time and this makes it so much easier. I keep my Whatsapp open on the iPad mini as I’m constantly receiving work texts as well as texts from the family.

This is an image of a child studying at her desk
Kate’s study desk

Kate’s desk is at the other end so we have our personal space to do our work yet we are in the same room so that I can keep an eye on what she’s doing and I’m within easy reach when she gets stuck with her homework. However, it does get frustrating when I’m trying to concentrate and she comes to me every 10 minutes!

I’ve found a way to get around it as best as I can, by segmenting my work into 2 categories – “full attention” and “easy work”. I try to finish the former when she’s in school and do the latter in the afternoons where it’s a to-do lists of small tasks. It’s harder when she’s on HBL and needs more help with her work. With the time crunch, I’m forced to focus intently and get my important work done while she’s on her live zoom lessons. If I need more time, I’ll tell her that for the next hour, she is not to disturb me. Thankfully, she’s old enough to understand and comply. Sometimes, I get a pleasant surprise when she returns and tells me that her sister has explained everything nicely to her 🙂 These days, it’s the little things like that which turn my days from good to great!

This is my zoom set up
Zoom meetings

The last thing I needed was a set up for my zoom sessions. I can’t have anyone walking in and out of the room while I’m having a staff meeting, giving a talk or recording my courses. I set up a small table just behind my work station so that the screen has the wall view. This Macbook was a hand-me-down from my sis-in-law and although it’s not functioning well, it still works for zoom meetings.

I’ve also discovered the joy of tending to plants when my Spurflower finally blossomed after 7 months! Watching the delicate purple flowers open one by one brightens up my day. I read up a bit more on plants and discovered that some plants, like these snake plants or “mother-in-law’s tongue” help purify the air and are easy to manage. Perfect!

Wardrobe whiteboard

We never intended the wardrobe doors to be used as a whiteboard, but Kate finds it so much more fun than writing on paper. She also pretends to be a teacher, which is something she’s been yearning to do because her teachers said that she’s too short to answer the questions on the classroom board. Knock yourself out, girl!

We start our days at 7:30am and after breakfast is when I do my most difficult work which requires a lot of thinking. We stop at 11:30 to prepare lunch. By mid-afternoon, I’m ready to take a brain break and happy to play with Kate or be her student. I’ve found that factoring time in between to do something physical or creative helps me to focus better and be more productive after the short break.

This is an image of iPad Mini 6 generation
iPad Mini 6 Gen

During the day, I move around the house a lot. Cooking in the kitchen, sitting with a child in the living room or hanging out with them in their rooms. My newfound love is this super cute pink iPad mini paired with a white smart folio. I use it more than my phone as I get urgent texts throughout the day and I can type with the keyboard and it’s easier on the eyes with the bigger screen.

They have revolutionised the capabilities of the mini with advanced machine learning functions that even doctors, pilots and architects use it to quickly pull up real time graphics and information like scans and weather conditions. My girls were happy to hear that it uses 100% recycled aluminium and that Apple’s global operations are carbon neutral.

I’m still exploring its many new features and am most excited that I’ll be able to slip this tiny little device in my handbag when I give talks instead of lugging along my heavy old laptop!

I’m learning to embrace technology to help me work more efficiently and I try to tune out after 6pm and go into zen mode. This has been one of my best decisions in 2021 as it is all too easy to blur the lines between home and work when you are working from home.

I have found my peak rhythm, put in place proper systems and I schedule in time to recharge. This makes both work and family time more enjoyable than doing both while being fully present to none. I have to be intentional about it, and I feel a lot more in control now even in the midst of WFH and HBL.

About MummyWee

Michelle Choy is an Occupational Therapist and mum of 6. She is co-Founder of The Little Executive, a nurturing centre developing resilience and executive function in children. She is a Parent coach and Award-winning blogger and is regularly featured on national TV, radio and print media. She is at the same time proud, yet humbled to be awarded Singapore’s 40-over-40 inspiring women 2021.

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.”


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.


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.


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.

8 Skills your child needs for the Virtual Classroom

With our recent HBL and WFH situation, both children and adults had to quickly grasp how to communicate and work effectively with one another via screens.

There is no doubt that with the advancement of technology, new avenues of communication are now easily available. It is amazing how #1 could still continue with her UK internship in the comfort of her own room. Of course, there are limitations with the practical modules, but virtual classrooms will allow all sorts of learning opportunities for our children.

For adults, we are getting comfortable with remote meetings with our colleagues, bosses and customers. These are skills we take for granted but our children may not have them yet.

I remember listening in on Kate’s live lessons and her teacher could hardly be heard over the din! Some students will keep unmuting themselves and chat about random topics instead of paying attention.
These are 8 skills children need to develop for the Virtual Classroom:

1. Screen confidence
Being able to speak clearly and present themselves confidently, not mumbling or hesitant to speak up.

2. Focus
It is not easy to maintain focus during an online class because you can’t see or hear everyone clearly. Are they able to pay attention even when it is not their turn and to listen attentively to what their classmates are sharing? Or are they distracted with others in their own environment or fiddling with their toys?

3. Following instructions
Being able to listen to what the teacher is saying, remembering the steps and doing what they are supposed to be doing.

4. Communication
Being able to join in the conversation appropriately, listening respectfully to the views of others and participating fully.
Virtual Classroom
5. Independence
Being able to handle the activities themselves, without needing the help of their parents.

6. Social etiquette
To be properly dressed for lessons, sitting up at a table and not snacking while their teacher is teaching.

7. Resilience
Having a growth mindset and persevering when faced with difficult questions or other challenges and not giving up.

8. Being mindful
Even though they can’t see their teacher or friends they have to be mindful of what they are saying, and not veer into inappropriate language or topics.

Our children are suddenly thrust into the virtual space, and they need to be guided along. Once they learn how to be a good learner, they can learn almost anything, from any programme in the world!

This May school holidays, we are running 4 exciting Virtual Camps to equip your child with these skills the fun way!
Virtual Holiday Camps
Stomp along with Dinosaurs, Make ice cream with your favourite Frozen characters, Go on a virtual vacation with your new friends or Brush up on your Reading and Writing with movement and craft.

With our small group setting, our energetic educators are able to provide a safe and nurturing environment to guide your child along as they navigate and become proficient with remote learning, all while having a blast!

In our Virtual Classrooms, students will be interacting with their educators in real-time, via laptops or tablets, enjoying activitie such as Scavanger Hunts, Exciting Games and Puzzles, Interactive Story-telling, Movement activites and Art & Craft.

Click on TLE’s Virtual Holiday Programmes for more details!

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.

Life-based Learning to occupy their May School Holidays

After parents heave a collective sigh of relieve with the ending of HBL on 4 May which signals the start of school holidays, 

the next thing parents are going to be stressed about is…

What are we going to do with our kids since we can’t go out?!

No family vacations, no playdates, no holiday programmes, no visiting grandparents even!

While parents are busy with WFH, siblings will be tearing each other’s hair out or binge-watching Netflix.

IF ONLY they can do something constructive BY THEMSELVES.

Kate has been on 4 weeks of HBL already, and all our schedules and ambitious craft projects have gone out the window. I have relaxed my screentime limits just to get some peace from Kate and her brother. But a whole month of watching nonsense and playing online games the entire day?!

Er Mdm Teacher, can you please set them some stuff they can do independently on SLS?

I’ve always found it strange that my kids receive holiday homework during June and December. Shouldn’t holidays be a time to relax and bond with the family and enjoy experiences outside of the normal routine?

But now that they are stuck at home 24/7 and since schools are going to set holiday homework anyway, how about getting students to work on Life-Based Learning Projects.

Haha, I’m not asking nor expecting teachers to do more. YOU DESERVE A HUGE BREAK.

But if you are planning to set them academic holiday homework, please, DON’T!

There are more meaningful projects they could work on.

Such a powerful opportunity to teach this generation of kids what resilience looks like. What standing up to be counted on means. How to make the most of every situation.

– Find ways to make yourself useful during this month. What creative ideas can our children and youths come up with? Start by brainstorming ideas and narrow it down to a few they would like to take action on.

– Ask your parents how you can help to ease their burdens. My teens are good at giving me suggestions to my work problems and insights from a different perspective, as the online world is their playground. They can also go on Youtube to learn to cook 1 meal per week. Maybe have a class cooking competition to get them excited! And they can post their dishes on the class group chat.

– What can you do for your neighbours, relatives or friends? It could be small acts of kindness or a whole class can brainstorm ways they can reach out to uplift the community. They can make items to sell to their circle of friends and raise funds for a chosen charity. Many charities are experiencing a huge drop in donations.

– How can you find meaning in this? Those students with lots of bright ideas could take charge and channel their energy into meaningful causes. These are the kids who are natural leaders and their apathy in academics could be rekindled through real-world issues.

Now that we have all these tech platforms set up, let’s use them to our advantage.

Baking a cheesecake for dessert

For lower primary students, teachers can pre-upload one short video link on SLS per week for our kids to watch to generate ideas and they can think of acts of kindness for their families that week, and write about it in their journals. It can be the same for the whole level, to ease the workload of teachers. Or even the same nationwide project across all schools!

When I asked Kate to journal daily, or read for 1 hour, she was enthusiastic at first… but now she’s quick to reach for the ipad, and I have given up policing her as it buys me some free time to do my work uninterrupted.

It’s different when it is “homework” given by her teachers!

Many are missing their classmates so much they are meeting on Facetime, Zoom or House party and chatting about random things. It would be wonderful if they could have something meaningful to work on together.

When they return to school they can do oral presentations or show and tell of their drawings or essays elaborating the activities they have been engaged with during the month.

Education Minister Ong Ye Kung was concerned that HBL will widen the gap between those with resources and those without. And he is right.

Our kids are the lucky ones with additional online tuition and intact families. (Luckily Minister Ong was quick to give us this breather if not many relationships will start to go haywire).

Some children are facing physical or emotional abuse at home as the situation gets more and more desperate for families.

What can we do as a society to close the gap? Even an inch?

While the bottom rung is given help, many others go undetected. We are now privy to people’s living rooms and we can help by keeping an eye out for children (or parents) in distress.

Our kids can ask their friends if they have eaten, or share their fears. If we see or hear anything, we should flag it out to their school teachers who can check on them.

As the students work together in small groups, they will start to be aware of the struggles some of their friends in their own class may have. This would naturally lead to them pitching in or offering help in various ways, and create bonds that last.

I wrote in a previous post how my daughter’s eyes were opened when she realised a classmate could not afford to buy the prescribed calculator, and another had a parent in jail. By getting to know their classmates better, they can be a source of support during this time.

We may be snug at the top academically, but how are we faring in a crisis?

There are bigger lessons out there for our kids to learn.

Resilience, adaptability, teamwork, altruism, good judgement, humility, gratitude, prudence, self-regulation and courage.

Now is precisely the right time, in the midst of our biggest challenge as a nation, (and with parents desperate for their kids to be self-occupied) to build a generation of children and youths who can weather the storms together, looking out for one another.

Because otherwise, when do we allocate time for such “non-essentials”? And it will be too late to realise much later, that these were always part of the essentials.

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.

First SARS, now Covid?

The year was 2002.

The hubs and I were in our 20s and we started our own business as I wanted to help women who were facing weight issues. I was working as an Occupational Therapist in a slimming centre and was dismayed to see unprincipled practices and wanted to do better. I had big dreams.

Shortly after we opened, SARS struck.

It was a surreal time. The streets were deserted. One by one, F&B outlets around us started closing down. Nobody dared to come into contact with others.

We held on, but our business bled for months. We had zero customers and high overheads to pay. Slowly, the cases subsided and the customers started trickling back.

Soon it became inevitable that we had to shut down to prevent further losses. We gave our customers ample time to finish utilising their packages and closed on a clean note. They were so kind and tried to help our staff look for new jobs.

In an instant, our lives were shattered.

From dreams of a better life for our family and goals to do our part for society, we were penniless, jobless, faced with huge loans and 3 young children to raise.

We couldn’t afford their preschool fees and transferred them to a church-based kindergarten. We stopped their enrichment classes like art, swimming and dance. We couldn’t even afford to go out, let alone buy toys or have meals at restaurants. Our in-laws ensured that the freezer was stocked with basic food so that the children did not go hungry. Necessities like diapers, milk powder, shampoo had to be bought via credit and those amounts ballooned. Our parents had loaned us money to start the company and we could not ask for a cent more. We couldn’t even tell them how bad things were because they would be worried sick.

It was a depressing time. The marriage almost didn’t survive. We were yelling at each other constantly, figuring out how to save the business, and when the credit card companies harrass you daily, you are not in a stable state of mind.

Yet, you had to be strong. You couldn’t break down in front of the kids because it was hard enough on them having to adjust to the situation where what was once normal had all been stripped away. Not even the comfort of going to the same school, having the company of their teachers and friends. No going out. No extras from the supermarket like snacks or ice cream.

You are emotionally depleted and too exhausted to do anything.

I can understand why people would be pushed to attempt suicide. Drowning under the weight of your worries and seeing no way out, some days you hit rock bottom and wish that all this suffering could just disappear.

I met a neighbour, an angel almost, and the comfort of having someone to talk to, who checked in on you daily, a person who cared, made all the difference.

It took us years to pick up the pieces.

You become resilient from experiences like these.

When Covid-19 hit, I was stunned. How could anyone be so unlucky?

I was so scarred by that first business that I never expected to start another.

Somehow, one thing led to another.

I met a speech pathologist who ran a programme I was extremely impressed with. We had dreams of building a generation of resilient children and helping families to understand and manage their children better.

We started from one room in her existing company, and by word of mouth, kept growing until we needed to expand to our own premise.

With our own space, we had high operational costs to bear, renovation loans to clear, rental, staff, marketing and many other costs. We worked hard with our dream team of educators who shared our vision.

Contrary to popular belief, not everyone starts a business with the purpose of making tons of money. Sometimes, it’s a dream that propels you. And I know of many other small business owners who are just as passionate.

When news broke that all enrichment centres had to be suspended for at least a month, we reeled from the sudden notice.

The scary memories came flooding back.

After the shock, I managed to stay calm. This time around, I have not been crippled by the emotional turmoil or intense fear, possibly because I have gone through the whole trauma with SARS. I was able to adapt and adjust very quickly, to steer my team, and I kept my focus on spreading positivity and hope to others, and sharing practical ways to help them cope during this time.

A large part of being able to stay sane was because of the reassurance and financial aid given by our government.

The BIGGEST DIFFERENCE I’m witnessing with this pandemic is how much the government has stepped in to cushion the impact across the board, and just how MUCH reserves they have!

We are thankful that the government has thrown companies a lifeline by providing for 75% of local staff salaries and waiving foreign worker levies for the month of April.

But as business owners, we don’t get any wage assistance. Not only have many of us stopped drawing any income from February when businesses first got hit, we have to top up the shortfall for operating costs and foreign worker salaries. It is indeed worrying times for SMEs and it will be a downward spiral for many, with closure and retrenchment of staff as this prolongs.

With the economic fallout, we will start to witness the psychological impact on individuals and families.

There are pockets of individuals who may not look like they need help, but they do. There would also be those who miss out on getting adequate help.

Check on your friends, keep an ear out for your neighbours. Mental health issues and domestic violence are on the rise. The elderly may be isolated and unable to get their necessities or meals. Not everyone has family, and many families are dysfunctional. People may be under such tremendous stress they are not behaving rationally.

If you yourself need someone to talk to, don’t be afraid to open up to your friends. It’s hard to think straight when the clock is ticking and you don’t know how you are going to survive the next month. Give someone a call. It is not an embarrassment. It is courage. Even the strongest of us will buckle under the immense stress.

This situation has affected all of us. The difference is, to what extent?

When the rug is pulled from under your feet, you feel the pain. Your eyes start to be opened to another person hurting. If we can’t have empathy, perhaps we can start with tolerance. Seek to understand, to console and to give a helping hand.

Let’s spread hope, love and kindness, not negativity, fear or judgement.

We WILL get through this in the end.

But the true test of our communities is

HOW we got through this.

Will this pandemic bring out the best of humanity or shred it to pieces?

A Stay Home for Singapore portal has just been launched, where people can go to get help, give help, or stay connected. It has listings for counselling services, social services and more. An App called GoodHood has been created where you can offer or request help within your neighbourhood. Let’s all stand up and be counted!

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 their 4Qs to survive today’s volatile world. She also makes time to volunteer with children and the elderly in her community.

Survival tips for Home Based Learning

After 2 weeks of LOA, this is what Home Based Learning (HBL) REALLY looks like.

In my previous post detailing Kate’s Week 1 of HBL, we started off excited, things were manageable and I had one very eager student.

However, things can slide downhill quite quickly.

Having your child at home 24/7 with you is no joke. I am SO glad the teens are in their “silent-ish” phase. Where we can have proper adult conversations, and they do their work independently. I would’ve gone mad with 6 kids chattering and bickering non-stop.

Retreat to your own space.

At times, I needed my own space, and had to hide in my room as I noticed myself being less present and patient with her. I told myself that I shouldn’t feel bad about it, and it doesn’t mean that I don’t love her or don’t enjoy her company.

If you are yelling at your kids more often, take a deep breath, and read how I did it all so wrong and perhaps you can learn from my experience.

I’ve also discovered the best place to hide when I’m about to lose my mind with the kids.

Your children may also need to have personal space if they are getting on each others’ nerves.

Remember that not only has the familiarity of their routines changed drastically but staying in a confined space with others (aka their siblings) without the break of going out and having separate activities would naturally put a strain on relationships.

Kate was so mad the other day and said, “I wish gor gor was not in our house!” I told her that family is where we learn to get better at things like patience, acceptance and love.

This period requires more understanding from everyone, and we can think of creative ways where they can take a break from one another. Maybe a quiet bedroom which they can take turns to be alone in, or stagger their naptime.

Several times, after getting off a meeting, I walk into the room expecting Kate to be doing her work but I catch her watching a movie instead!

When I scolded her, she sounded just as exasperated and said, “If you like to do Chinese so much, you can learn it yourself!”

To be fair, I wasn’t able to teach her Chinese effectively over the past 2 weeks and there was a lot of frustration.

Before you start panicking, HBL is slightly different from LOA because for the latter, teachers are busy teaching their students at school, thus parents have to take on more of the teaching to ensure their child catches up with the syllabus while at home on LOA.

For HBL during full school closure,

PARENTS are NOT EXPECTED to do the teaching.

Our role is to ensure that our kids are out of bed and in front of the computer, ready for class at the right time.

They should be able to manage what is expected of them independently, whether it is doing work assigned on SLS, eZhishi or watching videos to learn English or Math concepts.

Teachers are given flexibility in executing their online lessons, and bear in mind that they have had to prepare all of these in a short span of time, on top of their usual workload, so don’t compare, and don’t complain!

The reality is that even with them being IN SCHOOL, some kids still need additional help, that’s why parents send them for tuition right?

For example with Kate, she sounds like a bright child, but she struggles with Math. I have to break it down very simply and explain several times in different ways before she understands.

During school hours, teachers are just a message away on Dojo if your kids are stuck. I have seen my secondary school kids teachers’ being very communicative and they have created specific WA chat groups for the different subjects so that they can provide additional support as needed.
The biggest problem with Kate doing her work on a digital device is that when I am busy working, she slips into using it for games or watching youtube.

But I can’t really blame a 7-year old when the hubs can’t even control himself!

What worked for me is that instead of allowing her lessons to spill into the evenings, I get her to finish her online work within 3-4 hours in the morning, while I’m sitting next to her doing my own work, then I remove the gadget.

After lunch, we are free to engage in activities we enjoy! Even a 30-minute break to do something relaxing with her helps me take my mind off work.

They are allowed to watch a movie after dinner, and then straight to bed. This buys us time to put in a few more hours of work. Local businesses have taken a huge hit and it is a worrying and stressful time for many of us.

Figure out a schedule that works best for you and your family.

In the big scheme of things, what do we want our kids to remember of this time at home with the family?

That we did fun stuff together?

Or that mummy was yelling at me a lot, and it was the WORST TIME ever.

Let’s cut ourselves some slack. For the super mamas out there, if you’ve nailed this teach-your-child-from-home gig, I applaud you!

For me, I can’t teach my own children.

I’m going to flip the perspective and play to my strengths.

Instead of worrying that I won’t do a good job teaching Kate and feel that the whole day was disastrous, we will allocate the morning for academics.

For the rest of the day, this is an opportunity to teach her so much more about life.

To show her what adaptability, resourcefulness, and cheerfulness in bleak times looks like.

To embrace change and be flexible, and settle down to a new normal.

To stay resilient in the face of calamity, make the most of what we have, and look for the silver lining.

To focus on the heartwarming stories, of how people are looking beyond themselves to reach out to others in need. That we are one community, one humanity.

To model positivity and find little ways to support others and spread joy, not despair. To show her how faith can replace fear.

To take the inconveniences in our stride, that these little sacrifices for the common good are the least we can do.

To teach them to be grateful for all the people who are working long hours, pushing themselves past their limits in this fight.

To open our eyes to what this crisis can teach us.

I’m not going to judge myself nor my child on how well we are succeeding with HBL, but we are going to make this 30 days count!

We are going to do a RadiateJoyFromHome 30-day challenge.

To first find joy within ourselves even in the darkest times, and to spread hope and uplift others who are finding it hard to navigate this period.

Together, let’s radiate love and life from our homes.

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 their 4Qs to survive today’s volatile world. She also makes time to volunteer with children and the elderly in her community.