Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Pat's Schoolhouse's National Day Celebrations

{Media Event Invite}

Last Friday, I attended a National Day celebrations party at Pat's Schoolhouse @ Claymore. Watching the pre-nursery to kindergarten kids dancing their hearts out, I couldn't help but feel warm and fuzzy. I miss my little ones when they were this young. This is AA's K2 year, and very soon, he'll be having his graduation concert, and then he'll be starting his primary school journey. Despite my wish for them not to grow up so fast, I know they are my babies, always, no matter how old they are. And yes, I will nag at them always too. :)

Look at these kids all dressed in red. Aren't they irresistibly adorable?


Besides celebrating National Day, Pat's Schoolhouse also took the opportunity to unveil a new logo, as well as an enhanced curriculum that supports bilingual immersion and is integrated with music. 

The new logo creatively uses shapes and colours to reflect a familiar preschool brand name that everyone has been so familiar with for the past 30 years. And with this, Pat's has injected some fresh ideas into its curriculum. One refresh is to ensure that for all lessons, there are always two teachers co-teaching English and Chinese at the same time. No matter what lesson it is, all children are exposed to both languages at the same time. 

I think this kind of bilingual environment is extremely important for the child to be used to both languages. It gives them the opportunity not only to hone their listening skills, but also their speaking skills, and ultimately the practical usage of the languages. Together with parental support, children's grasp of both languages is definitely a lot easier, and prepares them for future education.

The other curriculum refresh is the integration of music into the curriculum. It's not just about music lessons. Music here is integrated into all the lessons, and popular songs or rhymes can be creatively adapted to suit the particular themes that are being taught. For example, the rhyme Itsy Bitsy Spider may be used to teach about spiders one day, and the next, the kids may be asked to change the tune or lyrics to talk about the spider's diet. It's all about giving the kids the opportunity to creatively expand their thinking and challenge themselves.

Play is extremely important in a child's learning. As some of you know, I do try to infuse that into our home learning wherever possible. When this happens, kids naturally become curious and ask questions. Of course, as a FTWM, what I do can sometimes be rather inconsistent. And as EV is in formal education, the temptation to turn to assessment books is great, but I try to fit in fun science and craft projects where possible (check out our Instagram for pics!).

So when a school infuses such inquiry-based teaching, it definitely takes the load off busy parents. Just check out some of the learning areas at Pat's Schoolhouse. I wish I had the time, and space, to do such activities.


A wall dedicated to STEM - need to find me a wall at home now.


A thematic project on biodiversity, which the kids at Pat's did after a learning journey to Sungei Buloh Nature Reserve.


A board about plants in both English and Chinese. The mind maps were co-created by the kids. The carton box at the bottom right hand of the picture is actually sprouting mushrooms.


A little garden area, where different plants, other than green beans, are being planted.




My hands are itchy now... need to get some more home learning activities started and going.

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Monday, July 09, 2018

Review: Great Escapes by Judy Dodge Cummings

I was actually searching for a book for myself at the library, when I came across this - Great Escapes: Real Tales of Harrowing Getaways (Mystery and Mayhem), by Judy Dodge Cummings.

Being a fan of history, mystery and espionage books, it immediately caught my attention. I didn't realise it was for young readers 9 to 13 until I laid my hands on it. Then thought: it'll be great for EV, though I held back a little, since she's never really been exposed to such books, or anything related to history. But then, this is a book of tales from history, written in a fictional way, so I thought: why not give it a try. 

So I brought it home, and just casually mentioned that I found a very interesting book, something I myself would like to read, and hence would like to share with her. I kept an open mind, knowing that she's a unique individual with her own personal preferences. I was perfectly fine if she turned around and said she didn't really like it. Lo and behold... she started reading it, and she couldn't put it down! Mission accomplished! Hahaha...


I definitely think a lot of it has to be due to how the author writes. Historical facts can be dry, but she was able to present it in a fictional, exciting way to keep young readers enticed. There are five stories: slaves William and Ellen Craft and their escape to freedom; explorer Douglas Mawson battling the icy Antarctic with only his determination; a twelve year old boy finding a way off a moving train bound for Nazi death camp Auschwitz; the disappearance of three inmates of the infamous Alcatraz and finally the escape of 57 East Germans from Communist controlled East Germany. 

Each tale also comes with a map and time line that shows where and when the event took place. This enables the learning of fun and significant facts of history and in doing so, makes history come alive for whoever is reading it. 

This book, I'm hoping, is the start of a lifelong journey of appreciating history for EV.


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Thank you for reading. If you like this post, please do connect with me on FacebookInstagram, Snapchat and Twitter, so I can share our fun adventures, thoughts and exploits with you. 

Monday, July 02, 2018

Back again...

Howdy...

It's been a year since I last blogged. Well, besides some ups and downs in my life ever since, I must admit that as a wife, mother, daughter, teacher to my kids, and many other roles that often give me mental fatigue, I do feel tired very easily. Imagine 5am mornings... and by the time I put my kids to bed at 9pm, I am exhausted. Dead tired. So yeah, you can imagine that I don't really have any ounce of energy left for writing, editing photos or even adjusting the layout of the post, all of which takes hours.

But... I'm back. I still have 5am mornings. I still have many roles, and many things that I want to do for myself and with the kids, but I'm determined and inspired to manage myself even better, so that I can achieve even more. I think I've hibernated enough already. Time to get up and moving... hahaha...

So, some quick highlights of my past year. There was a death in the family. That's never easy for anyone, and I suppose that affected me more than I thought it would. It still does, tears still fall when I think about it, but well... life goes on, and I treasure those around me even more.

Last year in June, I went on a mother-daughter holiday with my mum to Hong Kong and 四国(Shikoku), Japan. It was a great time bonding with her, something that I had less time to do since the kids came along. We ate, shopped, went sight seeing and then did all that all over again. The important thing is, we talked and hugged and held hands... things we had not done for a long time. Here's a photo of us in 高松 Takamatsu.


Then this year, we went to Hong Kong together again, and to 北海道 (Hokkaido), for another wonderful mother-daughter trip. It was a good time to be away together, and mum's long awaited wish to go to 北海道, Hokkaido was fulfilled. Here's one of us taken at 小樽運河 (Otaru Unga), 小樽 (Otaru), which is known for glassworks, music boxes and sake distilleries.



So moving forward, what can you expect from me? More sharing of my primary school journey definitely, especially with my younger one going into primary 1 next year (oh no... no more pre-schoolers!). 

And definitely, more sharing about how I'm taking better care of myself. I think that's important for any mummy, even when we devote ourselves to our families.

So stay tuned. You can stay connected with me and read all about my personal and family adventures, through my social media accounts. Links are below. Thanks for reading this!


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Thank you for reading. If you like this post, please do connect with me on FacebookInstagram, Snapchat and Twitter, so I can share our fun adventures, thoughts and exploits with you. 

Friday, June 02, 2017

Primary Prep - nurturing English language literacy & recommended resources

Semester 1 has come to an end, and I guess EV’s first foray into formal education has, well, been so far so good. She seems to have gotten into the primary school routine with little problems, and we’re glad we’ve always encouraged her to be independent since young. Taking the school bus since she was in pre-nursery was a good decision, as it has become a habit she is used to and enjoys. 

She even seems to have gotten used to the longer hours rather quickly. Granted, she takes her lunch later than what I’d prefer, and I have to wake up at 5am every morning to make sure she gets a proper nutritious lunch box. Overall though, she has adapted way better than I expected. 

Academically, she looks like she’s enjoying it and handling all the school work in her stead too. There was some help from me at the beginning - getting her in the routine of studying for her weekly English and Chinese spelling, and making sure that she does her school homework as soon as she gets it on that day. Now, I think she is already aware of her daily and weekly responsibilities when it comes to her studies. Next step, to get her used to the more heavily weighted assessments. Sure, at this level, there is less emphasis on tests, and, as her principal so loudly declared, all primary one students will definitely be promoted to primary two. However, being parents, we do want to see that she is handling even such timed assessments well, so it’s inevitable that we do get a little nervous. More than that, we would like to get her used to these weighted assessments, so that she doesn’t get a shock to her system later on.

Thinking back, I think one reason why adapting to the first year of primary school life has been rather smooth sailing for EV is because of the foundation she’s had since her pre-school years. While some may argue against starting so young, I think that it was precisely because we started preparing her early, that she was able to ease into formal education more easily.

In that area, DaddySay and I made sure that she had adequate support in terms of home learning.

Home Learning
I call it ‘home learning’ not ‘home schooling’ because my kids are not being home schooled. To me, that means having an education completely away from the official school environment, and in the comfort of one’s home. My kids attend school. In line with our belief that parents and teachers are partners, I focus on supporting and enhancing what they learn in school. 

Since pre-school, support and guidance is given to ensure that EV finishes her assigned homework from school. I also created supplementary materials to extend her learning, or use creative ways to help her learn better. For example, I used manipulatives like wooden pegs and bottle caps to create activities to help her learn her words or numbers. (Read more about how I use Daiso items to create home learning materials here.) I’ve also created worksheets focusing on certain vowels or word families with a variety of exercises like poem reading and writing and letter scramble. Sometimes, as she is learning new words, or when she uses the word incorrectly during our conversations, I would correct her and explain the grammar rules to her, such as present and past tense. I also created a DIY Narrative package to teach the skills and language for writing a simple story. 

Activities were pegged at EV’s level, but designed to stretch her that little bit more each time. We also had discussions during our nightly reading sessions, when I asked questions to gauge her understanding and comprehension, and discussed the elements of the story such as characters and settings. It was great bonding and many times, I had new, unexpected insights from EV about the stories we read. Till today, she constantly reminds me that though she is but 7 years old, she is a girl with her own mind, with many interesting perspectives.

Reading rather fluently at K1 may seem late for some parents, or others may think that it is way too advanced, but I like to focus on EV’s individual capability and progress. She surprised me once when she picked up a chapter book about fairies and started reading on her own, and since then, she couldn’t put a book down. Though she can read on her own now, sometimes she still loves to have me read to her. I’m fine with both. I’m just really happy to see her reading independently and enjoying the wonder that reading brings. I give her space to read books that she likes. I also try to introduce different books to her, including abridged versions of classics like Little Women and Wizard of Oz, and I’m glad to note that she enjoys these titles. I think it’s important to continue to nurture her interest to read various types of books, such as non-fiction, and discovering the world at large. 

Still, our home learning journey would not have been successful without some useful materials. Here, I’d like to share what we used at home to guide EV on her journey to primary school. 

Jolly Phonics and Jolly Grammar
A key resource we use is the Jolly Phonics and Jolly Grammar range of books. This was how EV learnt her phonics, which then lead her to be an independent reader. After that, we used the Grammar Handbooks to introduce to her rules of the English language, while reinforcing what she had learnt in phonics. One main reason why we have this is because her kindergarten used this, so we thought understanding this phonics and grammar system would help us tremendously in supporting EV’s learning at home.


Kumon Series 
I personally like how these books are scaffolded for different levels, from age 3 onwards. EV started off with the books ‘My First Book of Uppercase Letters’ and ‘My First Book of Lowercase Letters’, and gradually moved on from there to ‘My Book of Simple Sentences’ and ‘My Book of Sentences’. The difficult level increases with each book. What makes it fun are the colourful graphics and engaging layout. Exercises instil a familiarity so that kids can learn and remember.

After those basic workbooks, EV moved on to the Reading and Writing Workbooks. These support what we were doing with the Jolly system, and developed her reading and writing skills even further, while introducing more grammar and vocabulary to help her in her sentence structure and expression.


EV also likes practising her penmanship using these Kumon books. 


DIY Materials
We do quite a lot of DIY materials to help with the kids’ learning. The idea is to make it fun and interesting, so that they know what they learn can be applied to other areas. For example, in one of the worksheets I made below, I used the poem from ‘Fox in Socks’ to help EV revise some of the blends she learnt. At the same time, she is made aware of various recurring sounds such as ’th’ and ‘ee’.


Using the tongue twisters ‘Peter Piper’ and ‘She sells seashells’, I introduced alliteration to her - the use of the same sounds repeatedly at the beginning of a word, and she was also to see that language can be expressed in a fun way. She is also introduced to comprehension - comprehension of a poem rather than a passage. 


Simple narrative writing was also introduced. I began by highlighting to her that all stories have a beginning, middle and end, and that everything around us, our experiences, can be turned into a narrative. Then using the ‘think, draw, write, read’ strategy, I asked her to reflect on something that she’d like to write a story about, draw it out, and then write it out. She decided on two things - something that she liked, and a happy experience with her best friends. Here is what she drew before she went on to write about these two topics. I think being able to visualise what she would like to write about is an important skill so that she can more accurately and vividly describe her experiences.


As parents, we believe that we and EV’s are partners in her learning and development. Hence, the reason why we invest so much into supporting her at home. With AA now in K1, we are similarly holding the same belief and taking the same approach. I am using similar materials, with some adaptations to suit his learning style. I certainly hope that when his turn comes, he will enjoy primary school as well.

If you have a child heading to Primary One next year, I hope this list of resources will helpful. 

If you have any other tips on what to prepare for Primary One, do share!

Do check out our earlier Primary Prep Series, and do stay tuned for more.



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Thank you for reading. If you like this post, please do connect with me on FacebookInstagram and Twitter, so I can share our fun adventures, thoughts and exploits with you.