Who gave the most amongst us?

After I shared with the children the story of the nuns, I asked them “Would you like to donate?”

This was their reaction:

#1: My savings is running low. (I guess that was a ‘no’)

#2: Ok, I’ll donate 1 brick. Here’s $30.

#3: I need to think. The next day, she was ready with her answer. I’ll donate 2 bricks. I paid for my school’s mid-autumn festival tickets for all of us already so you just return me $3. (The tickets were $63)

#4: (her immediate and enthusiastic response) I will donate 2 bricks.

#5: Here is my piggy bank. You can take everything to give to the nuns.
(His savings amounted to a grand total of $5)

I am so proud of them. I’m sure they will be richly blessed for their generosity.

I will take them to see the new convent when it is completed and we will look for our name in the book. It is a tangible way for the children to see where their donation has gone to, and hopefully it will spur them to continue giving generously.

P.S. Just before I wrote out my cheque, #4 gave me money for 2 more bricks. Aww.. such a dear little child.

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

Education changes? Please, we need real change

If anyone did catch my comments on 93.8Live yesterday on the new DSA admission criteria, it was only a snippet of what I shared with the interviewer. We have to seriously consider this new admission criteria from the child’s point of view. Imagine the child enters an elite school based on qualities such as resilience, drive and leadership. Will he be able to cope academically? How will his self-esteem be affected if he is surrounded by peers who learn at a pace much faster than himself? If he is not able to cope, will he be able to afford tuition to catch up? Also, will he be able to fit in socially? And if after a year he does not fare well, will the teachers take kindly to him? After all, he is not contributing to the school like the others who enter through a sports DSA.

To be honest, I was sorely disappointed in the changes announced. Yes, I agree they are a step in the right direction. But after dialoguing with hundreds of parents and educators over the past few months, surely they can do better than this? They seem to be implementing a Band-Aid solution to immediate problems and pressures from parents. Not fair for those without links? 40 definite places. Top schools only for the elite? Admit some with character. T-scoring too stressful? Broaden the grading.

We need to go back to the basics.

1) In today’s climate, what should our education strive to achieve?

2) Are they achieving it?

3) Are there any serious problems as a result of our current education system?

1) There is no doubt that our education system worked well in the past, to get a whole generation of people educated to build up our country. However, now that things are in place, what is the next step? We need innovators. We need thinkers. We need our children to develop a questioning mind. We need them to be able to work as a team, to learn to communicate their ideas, to be problem-solvers, to have an entrepreneur spirit, to be visionaries. To build their character, to learn to take risks, to dare to be different. To build on their strengths, to follow their dreams. These should be the goals of our education.

2) If we continue to drill our students, get them to memorise chunks of texts and to churn out model answers, how will they be prepared for the future? How will they achieve the desired goals of our education system?

3) Our children are way too stressed. Too much is being tested and too little is being taught. Too much tuition is needed to plug the gaps. Too many passionate and experienced teachers are leaving the service due to burn out. Too many parents are giving their children undue stress, usually not by choice.

None of the changes proposed will solve any of these real problems. We also need a mindset change amongst the parents.

What is happening to our children? The PSLE year is just ‘so stressful’. Their minds go blank during PSLE due to the extreme pressure to perform. The number of children seeking help at IMH for anxiety and stress related illnesses is climbing. There are children contemplating suicide before major exams. Even if 1 child commits suicide due to academic pressure, that is 1 child too many. What are we waiting for?

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

They’ve helped us… shouldn’t we help them now?

They are appealing for donations

The Franciscan sisters have been serving the needy in Singapore since 1953. They have contributed in so many ways.

These are some of the initiatives they have established to address the needs they encountered over the years:

  • Maris Stella Kindergarten
  • Hai Sing Catholic (to provide secondary education for the girls from the then rural community in the Ponggol area)
  • Apex Day Rehab Centre for the Elderly
  • Vocational Institute for women
  • Filodep (for our domestic helpers to spend their day off constructively in cooking, dressmaking, handicraft classes)
  • Madonna Soup Kitchen (to provide food to the construction workers)

They are still working tirelessly even though most of them are in their 70s! The convent they were living in was more than a century old and they could not live there anymore as it was unsafe. The building was demolished and is being re-built. They still need to raise $1.2m for their new convent.

Unlike a church, they do not have a congregation to turn to for financial assistance. The people whom they help are also not in a position to provide financial assistance. They have helped so many people in Singapore, it’s time we helped them back. Let’s rally our family, friends and colleagues to help these elderly nuns have a decent home to live in.

What can we do?
A donation of 1 brick is $30. We can donate one brick or as many bricks as we like. Every brick counts!

How can we donate?

By cheque:
Payable to: FMM Building Fund
Mail to: Fiesta with the FMM
49D Holland Road Singapore 258851

By bank transfer:
Name of account: FMM Building Fund
OCBC: 7339
Branch: 660
Account No: 898453-001

Their official donation form

If you would like a receipt or acknowledgement, you can email them at FMM.fiesta@gmail.com or send an sms to 98558808 with your email to get an official donation form. They would record your name in a book for public display when their building is ready in October.

I’m going to make my donation and I will share this article with the kids at dinner tonight. I will explain to them that the home of the dear nuns had termites in their walls and ceilings and may collapse. And that when it rained, the roof leaked and there were puddles of water everywhere. They are elderly (like their own grandparents) so don’t they deserve a safe, comfortable home to live in? Let’s see which of them has a generous heart 🙂

SSO Classics in the Park

Singapore Symphony Orchestra concert in Botanic Gardens

Yesterday, Kate’s playgroup mate’s mummy asked us all if we wanted to head down to Botanic Gardens as she was playing in the orchestra. I love such outdoor events and took the youngest 4 along. The concert commences at 6pm but parking gets full very quickly. We decided to go earlier to show Kate the swans and to feed the fishes. It was also a good chance for the kids to have ample space to ride their wheelies.

What a lovely white swan

We found our playgroup friends and settled down to have our picnic dinner while listening to the beautiful music.

I’m having a good time

The concert lasted about an hour which was perfect timing to pack up and leave before it got dark. We’ll definitely be back the next time!

Kate’s playgroup mates…

“Hey look over there.” “I said don’t touch me!”

Sane tip: What better way to spend a relaxing Sunday evening. Lush greenery, beautiful music… 

Save tip: This is a free concert open to public. The next concert is likely to be held next year. Will keep you posted 🙂

Why should they read?

We all know that we should be reading to our babies from as young as possible. We discuss which is better: zoo phonics, jolly phonics or letterland phonics. We ask perspective kindergartens at what age will my child be able to read. But have we thought about why we want our kids to read?

Is it to enter Primary 1 well-equipped to handle the worksheets? Is it the better their command of English, the higher they will score at PSLE? Or the better their results, the better their future career prospects? It is only when you know why you want your child to read, can you decide on how you want your child to learn to read. 

Our home library

Here’s my story on their ABCs…

#1 started kindergarten at the age of 3. I knew we had to send our children to kindergarten but was totally unaware of this whole enrichment business out there as I had no interactions whatsoever with other mummies. As we were the first amongst our siblings and friends to have children, I didn’t have anyone to turn to for advice.

Before long, I made friends with my daughter’s best friend’s mummy. She asked me what enrichment I was going to sign my daughter up for, as the school offered a different enrichment after school every day. I was surprised. “Enrichment? What for? Is it good?” She said it doesn’t matter whether it is good or not as they will still learn something. Her rationale was that as she was busy working the whole day, it was at least better than letting her daughter watch TV at home. Her daughter had the whole array of enrichment classes, including phonics. She could read well enough by the end of N2.

My daughter on the other hand, could hardly read a single word even at the end of K1. She was having a miserable time in school as the teacher would ask the children to name 5 things beginning with the letter ‘S’ and she was the only one who couldn’t. She would be punished by being made to stand at the corner of the class. I was shocked. I couldn’t understand why the teacher punished my daughter for not knowing when she was the one who had been teaching her the whole of that year. In fact, shouldn’t she be angry at herself for not being able to have taught her well? 

I started to find out why all the other kids were better than her and was surprised to discover that almost all of them had phonics enrichment outside of school. I also learnt that many of the parents were involved in their kid’s education, meaning they either read to their kids frequently or made them do assessment books at home (yes, at the age of 4 or 5). I thought to myself, ok, things must have changed tremendously from my day when anything to do with school was confined to school. I have to admit I felt rather disconcerted that we seemed to have to ‘top up’ more work just to get by, on top of what was taught in kindergarten.

Anyway, I pulled her out of that kindergarten and transferred her to a Catholic kindergarten. Things were very different there. The whole atmosphere was different. The pace was slower, the children were calmer, the teachers were more loving. And nobody was punished for not knowing their work. I was happy and so was she. Then came shock number 2. She enrolled for Primary 1 and we went for Orientation day. As all the excited K2 students streamed into the hall, I could hear them reading quotes off the walls. They could read words like “wisdom”, “praise” and “diligence”. I was dumfounded. #1 couldn’t even read “Cat”.

I called up my one and only ‘mummy’ friend. I related the incident to her and she gave me a whole spiel about how #1 will lag behind if she can’t read. It will snowball and she will find it hard to catch up and her self-esteem will be affected. She will also have difficulties with Math as she would not be able to read instructions like “Underline the bigger objects”. She recommended a phonics centre and I signed #1 up the very next week. In 2 months, she was able to read fluently enough for P1 standard.

I started getting concerned about #2 who was then in K1, and monitored her reading. Luckily she had an enthusiastic young teacher who followed their class up from K1 to K2. She was very diligent and was able to get the whole class prepared for P1. Not only could #2 read well, but she was able to write simple sentences on her own! I was relieved.

When #2 went to P1, I attended a dinner at her school. At our table was an English tutor of 20 years who previously taught at a prestigious primary school. She was sharing with us parents that there is no point in drilling our children with assessment books. It is much better to get them to read vocariously as they will then have a very strong foundation on which to build on. She kept telling us to get our kids to read, read, read.

So that was just what I did. I told #2 that she had to start reading. I did not have time to read to her as by then I had 5 kids under the age of 8. You can imagine how crazy things were around the house. I bought her a lot of books and she read everyday. Her aunt knew she loved reading and bought her a French classic children’s book called ‘Nicholas’ which was translated into English. When she visited again about 2 weeks later she enquired if she had finished reading the book so that she could purchase the sequel. #2 replied, “Yes, I have finished reading it… 3 times.” She went on to read classics like Anne of Green Gables, Heidi and Little Women.

Sadly, #1, #3 and #4 did not pick up a love of reading as they were not introduced to books from young. As for #5, things started getting less chaotic when he was around 2 years old. By then I knew how important it is to read to your child. I also had more time to spend with him in the mornings as the other 4 were in school. So I read to him every morning. We would go to the library and borrow heaps of books. He loved being read to. He would gather a pile of about 10 – 15 books each day and plonk them on the sofa. We read for about 30 – 45 mins each time.

I read the stories straight through without talking about the pictures or discussing the characters. His teachers commented that he had a nice rhythm to his reading. Most of the other children could also read well, but they sounded flat. That must have been a result of listening to me read to him all the time. He also did well in journal writing as he was brimming with ideas. Reading gave him a wide vocabulary and a whole pool of ideas to draw from. 

So now, why do I want Kate to be able to read?

I have decided that besides the undeniable need for her to be prepared for primary school and to fare well in her future exams, I want her to grow up to love and embrace reading. To be excited to open a book, to discover a different world within. To broaden her mind, to read a wide variety of subjects. To question what she is reading and to draw her own conclusions. To discuss with like-minded individuals what she has read. To be immersed in the richness of poetry. To enjoy reading Bronte, Dickens and Hemingway. For time to stand still when she reads.

What strategy am I going to employ with Kate?

I’m not going to be caught up about whichever type of reading method they use at the pre-school I will enrol her in. I will be wary however if her teacher makes reading a bore or a chore. But ultimately, as with most things, reading begins at home.

I will: 

  • Read aloud to her daily (But not just straight through. I will share how to read to her in another post)
  • Expose her to all genres of books
  • Make a trip to the library a monthly family routine
  • Have regular reading sessions with her (we can find a lovely picnic spot, she reads her book and I read mine)
  • Never make reading a punishment or a bribe
  • Ensure she reads good books, both in language and content

Sane tip: When your child loves reading, she can spend hours by herself immersed in her book. You can either read with her (ah, how relaxing) or you are free to do your own thing.

Save tip: Our local libraries are quite impressive these days. Check out the children’s section at the Central Public Library at Bras Basah. Form book circles with other mummy friends. Each family can purchase a series of books and then swap them around.

Other related posts:

Tips for reading with your child
Help! My toddler refuses to read
The Groovy Giraffe – Great books at great prices

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

Beaba babycook promo

If you’ve been considering whether to buy the Beaba babycook steamer cum blender now may be a good time. Isetan (only the Scotts store) is having a bundle promotion today and tomorrow.

1) Babycook
2) Travel bag
3) Rice / porridge insert pot
Bundle price: $239
(normal price for Babycook alone $289)

Polliwogs, Snow City, Durian party

I like to take opportunity of ‘free’ no school days to take them out. Everywhere is less crowded and sometimes entry fees are cheaper.

My dear friend’s kids who are in the French school seldom get a chance to play with my kids as their holidays are not in sync. So today was a perfect chance to take them out together. We went to Polliwogs at Robertson Walk. This place is best for 1-8 year olds.

Not crowded as it was 10am on a Friday

Although the play area looks rather small compared to a lot of other indoor playgrounds the kids seemed to enjoy themselves. They took a break and we ordered some munchies to tide them over till lunch.

Nuggets, fish fingers, onion rings, fries

The snack platter is enough to feed 5 kids for a snack ($19.80).

They have a separate play area for 0-3 year olds. This place does get very crowded and noisy on the weekends.

Play area for 0-3 year olds

By 12.30 they had about enough of playing and we adjourned for lunch. We took a stroll down towards the river and had lunch at Shunjuu. The kids love eating the morsels of food from the grilled sticks.

Their faves: cheese with pork, rice cake, ox tongue

Next it was off to pick #2 from school and head over to what they were looking forward to: Snow city. We met another friend and her son there and they were all so excited. The last time I went there must have been a good 7 or 8 years back. Only #2 and #3 had a recollection of the place. We got suited up and entered the snow area. (Cameras are not allowed inside)

Why are my hands so huge..

#4 exclaimed, “Huh just like that? I thought it was a city?” (she imagined they were going to play snow, build snowmen, throw snow at each other). I assumed they knew what the place was like so I forgot to explain to them what exactly it was going to be. The name is also a little misleading. I think it should be called “Giant Ice Slide Playground” because basically, the main thing you do there is to walk to the top, wait your turn, and slide all the way down. And repeat.

At first they were a little apprehensive as the slide did look rather intimidating. They saw little kids as young as 3 having so much fun sliding down again and again that they decided they should give it a go. When he reached the top, #5 was terrified and wanted to back out. They all encouraged him and the staff said he could sit on his elder sister if he preferred. In the end, the 4 of them sat on their own rings, held hands and went down together. They said it was really fun and wasn’t as scary as it looked and they started trooping up the stairs for more rounds.

Admission fees was for a 2 hour play and includes the loan of the jacket. Jeans are allowed, however I saw quite a few kids coming out with their jeans wet. So if you are not going straight home, either bring a change of clothes or rent their waterproof pants. They do allow woollen gloves if you have your own, but my kids came out with their gloves soaking wet and their fingers very cold. So it’s a good idea to rent their proper gloves. The temperature is a cold -12degrees and their ears and faces were all red.

After 2 hours of the slide, they were happy, exhausted, and ready to leave. We got some snacks like fishballs, popcorn chicken and hot milo from the café. They have proper food like spaghetti bolognese and fish and chips etc but the seats are rather limited.

We got home and we all missed our dear little Kate. She still wasn’t fully recovered and didn’t have much of an appetite. Daddy went to market and bought her a nice, fresh fish for her dinner.

Where did you all go the whole day

I had a warm shower, sat with the kids for their dinner, then it was off for a ‘Durian party’ with some mummy friends.

Saving the best for last – mao shan wang

Followed by juicy mangosteen

What a yummy and relaxing end to a long day of fun.

Sane tip: Kids do influence each other. My kids are not very daring, but my friend’s son is fearless. If he wasn’t around, I would probably have to spend alot more effort in persuading them to try the slide the first time. If you have a timid child, it would not be a good idea to go along with another timid friend, especially for the 1st time.

Save tip: The passion card has a good family deal for Snow City – $49 for 2 adults and 2 children.

11 Unity Street #02-18
Robertson Walk S(237995)
Tel: 67370982

30 Robertson Quay
#01-15 Riverside View S(238215)
Tel: 68873577

Snow City
21 Jurong Town Hall Road
S (609433)
Tel: 65602306

~   mummy wee – a blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore  ~

Let’s smell the roses

An ex-neighbour came back from Japan and we had a breakfast gathering as the kids had no school today. 

Her own rose garden

About 6 years ago, a few of us mummies started a playgroup for our 2006 babies. We have all remained close till today. Our Japanese friend, Miko, had been staying in Japan for the last 4 years as she has an autistic daughter and she felt that the system in Japan is much better for her daughter. It had been a very difficult decision for her as she had to choose between 

1) Giving her special needs child a better childhood and getting her prepared for an independent future 

2) Keeping the family together

This is her story:

Miko came to Singapore to further her studies. She met her husband, a Singaporean, and they got married. She climbed her way up the corporate ladder and had a promising career earning a very good income. They have 3 children. Her 2nd child was diagnosed with autism and she made the difficult decision to quit her job to manage her daughter. It was a very challenging time as her income disappeared while her daughter’s expenses ballooned. They were spending a minimum of $6000 a month on speech and occupational therapy, cranio-sacral therapy, bio-medicine and even acupuncture. 

She studied the options available for her daughter’s future but it looked rather bleak. The special schools were either full, not ideal, or too expensive. And she didn’t want her daughter to be resigned to just living her days aimlessly at home.

On a trip back to Japan, she explored the options there and realised that the system for handicapped children was more established. There was childcare, respite care, and qualified carers to take them on outings. They had sheltered workplaces where they were trained based on their capabilities from basic corporate careers to skills like gardening or baking. They were taught life skills to maximise their independence. 

Apart from the infrastructure, there was also a vast difference in the spirit of the carers and educators. In Singapore, she felt that they were driven more by monetary gains and career progression. In Japan, they found great satisfaction in their calling to serve the special needs children and they did it with much love, patience and compassion. The fresh air and greenery around her house was also more calming for her daughter.

What a tough decision for Miko. In the end, she decided that she would provide the best shot at life for her weakest offspring. She took her 2nd and 3rd children back to Japan while leaving her eldest son and her husband here in Singapore. We as parents have to make some very tough decisions. Sometimes we don’t know if it is the right choice or not. We can only choose the best based on what we know at that moment. 

Miko shared with us that life has taken on such a different meaning for her. What a far cry from those hectic days at the peak of her career. She started growing roses all around her property to stop her autistic daughter from running off. Now, tending to her rose garden gives her such peace. The term “smelling the roses” has taken a literal meaning for her. 

Her lovely roses

Maybe we should all stop and smell the roses too.

Sane tip: Whatever our present situation in life, both good or bad, I always remember the proverb ‘this too shall pass’. Sometimes we may find that our situation is unbearable. Just hang in there.

Save tip: Sometimes the simplest things like taking a long stroll or calling a friend for a listening ear is what we need, instead of hitting the malls.

~ mummy wee – a blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore ~