Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Interview: Lynette Chua, Head of Speech & Drama, Julia Gabriel Education

Many English enrichment centres are touting Speech and Drama classes. Is it just a drama class, as the names suggests and hence has led to some parents misunderstanding what it actually means. What do children in Speech and Drama class learn? Do you know what Language Arts is? How is it related to literacy?

I'm very happy to introduce Lynette Chua, Head of Speech & Drama at Julia Gabriel Education. With a passion for Speech and Drama since her younger days, Lynette works with local educational institutions on speech and communication programmes. She shares with us her insights into what goes on in a Speech and Drama class, and gives us the low down on the latest buzzword in language teaching - Language Arts.


What is Speech & Drama? Is it a drama class?
Speech and Drama classes aim to help students build their confidence in communication. Teachers introduce a plethora of drama and communication games, voice and speech exercises, poems, rhymes and stories to inculcate a love for language. Drama is used as a powerful tool for learning in all our classes. Children are encouraged to offer ideas, exercise critical thinking skills, use language creatively and take on roles to develop stories or adventures in class.

As students get older, they also build public speaking and presentation skills in Speech and Drama classes. Students are guided to structure information, ideas and opinions into formal talks that they share with an audience.

What does a child learn in Speech & Drama classes?
A child learns to speak expressively with clear Standard English speech sounds, as teachers guide them as positive language models in class. A love for literature and language is nurtured by sharing a wide variety of texts.

Older children gain confidence in public speakers and become more confident communicators as they master the use of language in both formal and informal situations.

Is Speech & Drama useful in promoting literacy? How?
Yes. Speech and Drama is useful in promoting written literacy. This is because the ability to articulate sounds accurately precedes the ability to write. By encouraging children to use language confidently and to speak it accurately, we build a good foundation for literacy by helping them to first gain strong phonemic awareness. Children who are able to hear the sounds of the English language and articulate them clearly will find it much easier to decode the symbols of language (phonics) when that is introduced to them.

The poems, rhymes and stories used in Speech and Drama also help children gain a greater understanding of their world. When children progress towards written literacy, they are then able to decode language with a greater sense of understanding.

At the older levels, the exploration of texts such as poems and extracts from novels, through drama, aids reading comprehension and provides stimulus for writing. Having explored text in Speech and Drama classes through whole body learning activities, students are exposed to vivid language and gain a better appreciation of good literature.

Can Speech & Drama only be taught in a class setting, or can parents also try to nurture that in their children at home? Can you share some tips?
Certain elements in a Speech and Drama class work more effectively when there is a bigger group of children. However, there are some things that parents can do at home to encourage children to appreciate and use language creatively and expressively.

Here are some ideas:
a) Share stories as a family. Read aloud to your child. Pick up books from the library, purchase a poetry anthology or tell stories about your own childhood to your children. Every child loves snuggling up to mum and dad when they share a story.

b) Encourage your child to share their ideas freely with you. Ask lots of open-ended questions to encourage children to elaborate on their ideas. Acknowledge their comments and stay engaged during the conversation.

c) Play make-believe with your child. Pretend to be a patient that requires help from a very wise doctor, a chef, a waiter or any role that your child wants you to be. You might have to endure numerous injections with a pretend syringe, or get scolded for not taking orders fast enough, but through role-play, you are building your child’s imagination and encouraging them to use language that they would normally not use in day-to-day conversation. Just remember to let the play be very much child-led.

There are so many Speech & Drama classes nowadays. Aren't they all the same? What should parents take note of when choosing a class for their children?
Parents should note the following when evaluating a Speech and Drama programme for their child:

a) Philosophy and methodology used in the centre – what kind of drama approach is adopted?
b) Quality of the material or curriculum
c) How the lesson is conducted – elements of each class
d) Class size, teacher to student ratio
e) Qualifications and experience of the teachers
f) Facilities of the centre
g) Cost

Language Arts has been the buzzword lately in primary and secondary education. What is Language Arts? How is Language related to Arts?
The term 'Language Arts' (LA) has many varied definitions. Broadly, it can be understood as an integration of the study of technical language and the study of how language is used for communication. In Singapore, Language Arts (LA) aims to help students build better language skills, specifically reading, writing, speaking, listening and viewing.

The Arts are essentially expressions of creative skill and imagination. The LA programme invites students to interact with quality texts that are great examples of works of art. These texts become springboards for children to express their creative skills and imagination in their own writing. Through the text study and writing processes, students develop their language and literacy skills.

How is Language Arts taught at the pre-school level?
LA is taught with the use of age-appropriate books that build on phonemic as well as phonological awareness.

At Nursery 1, we introduce three year olds to the sounds and letters of the alphabet.

For students who are in Nursery 2 to Kindergarten 2, we use a progressive reading scheme that helps students build early literacy skills.

Picture books across a variety of themes, drama and word games are used widely in class to build interest in exploring language. Drama also features a part because it provides a whole-body language learning experience, and helps students delve deeper into what they read as well as inspires writing ideas.

How useful is Language Arts in promoting literacy. Why?
LA is all about literacy! LA provides children with a rich diet of sounds, words and ideas from a young age to pique their interest in the language. In an environment where words are enjoyed, spoken, listened to and eventually written, literacy skills are built in a fun way, naturally. This is the best way for children to acquire language. Children are not taught by rote, nor do they have to memorise tedious rules of grammar, which would dampen the enjoyment of learning a language. LA also helps to contextualise learning which facilitates understanding and promote long term retention.

Can parents adopt Language Arts in the home? How can they do it?
Yes of course. A child learns their very first word from interacting with their family members. It is interesting to note that parents usually speak much more to their infants than when their children are toddlers. The constant chattering of an inquisitive toddler and incessant “why’s” being asked could wear tired parents out. However, parents should continue speaking and engaging with their children as they grow older.

Here are some activities parents could do with their children at home:
a) Play word games
b) Encourage children to draw things they see around them.
c) Ensure that books feature as a big part of the child's play. Where possible, build a home library or make library trips a part of your family routine. Read aloud to your child and talk about the stories.

What happens in a Language Arts class?
Typically, LA classes at our centre start with pre-writing activities to help them tune in to the lesson for the day. These activities vary from shared stories, whole-body exercises and drama to word games, and more. Students then explore text for reading, comprehension, learning of concepts and/or to study language conventions. This is followed by a writing activity which varies according to the literacy development stage of the class and the objectives of the lesson. This lesson structure does change according to the profile of the class to meet the needs of the students as we adopt a child-centered approach.

If both Speech & Drama and Language Arts are about nurturing literacy, what's the difference? How does one choose which to attend?
Speech and Drama focuses more on building oral literacy skills. Children become more confident communicators and are able to articulate themselves with greater clarity. As communication is a two-way process, children also build listening skills in these classes. As they interact with peers very actively during class, children also build social skills, cooperation and critical thinking skills to process or solve conflicts during drama adventures.
Language Arts on the other hand, focus more on helping children acquire written literacy skills. Greater emphasis is placed on getting children to decode language so that they build reading and writing skills. In the LA classes, students also learn about language conventions more explicitly and take time to apply the writing process.

Do you think Language Arts is just a fad that will pass?
No, I think Language Arts will become increasingly important. As it is, the Ministry of Education has already revamped the English syllabus for both the PSLE as well as the O’ Level examinations. Greater emphasis is being placed on a student’s ability to not only write well, but speak well. Students are also expected to communicate with a greater breadth of language and awareness of the world around them. Children need to be given opportunities to use language in a variety of forms to become truly adept with it. Speech and Drama and Language Arts provides children with that platform. We believe that through speaking, reading, writing and listening to language creatively, students will gain mastery in both their oral as well as written literacy skills. We must aim to build good communication skills in our children so that they are able to hold themselves with confidence in this increasingly competitive global economy.


Thank you Lynette.


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Friday, March 21, 2014

Why we love doing art at HeART Studio

EV has been attending class at Heart Studio for the past six months. Her journey has been fun, and for this mummy, extremely amazing as I witnessed the creations of her beautiful art works.

If you are searching for an art school for your kids, and am still deciding, why not consider Heart Studio? Before I proceed, I must state clearly that I am not being compensated by Heart Studio in any way to say this. I am sharing my honest opinions, because I've seen for myself how good Heart Studio is what they do. And I believe that other kids will be able to benefit too, as my little EV has.
So here is why we love Heart Studio.

The teachers are awesome!
At four, EV attends the Little Dali classes for kids between three to 4 years old. The teacher-in-charge, Teacher Syafiq has a reputation of being extremely good with kids, and it is oh-so-true. Recently, Teacher Jay joined the team, and his casual yet patient nature has been a hit with EV too. Both of them are really good at bringing out the hidden artistic talents of the kids, and it’s amazing how their warm personalities appeal to the kids. Many times, I’ve been surprised by the work that EV has achieved, and this is not only because she enjoyed it, but she also liked the teachers. The other teachers who teach the older kids too are equally approachable. And judging from the amazing art works that kids in their classes do, one can tell they are awesome too.

Heart Studio 1
Focus on the child's 'can do' ability, independence and confidence
The atmosphere at Heart is very positive, and the belief is that every child has the ability to do it. Keeping to this, opportunities are given for the child to gain more independence in their own ability, for example, asking them to get their own paintbrushes. Seems rather simple, but it definitely is a much better way of nurturing independence instead of just laying out the brushes before class for the kids. When doing the art work, the teachers only provide guidelines and advice, allowing the kids to learn and do on their own, finish the art work and gain more confidence in their abilities. The fact that projects are theme-based, and kids have the choice to decide what they exactly want to do within that team, it also helps to train the kids to think independently and with confidence.

Heart Studio 4
Slow and steady gets the artwork done
Lessons are revolved around themed art projects. Each term, there are three projects to be completed, and about three to four lessons are devoted to each theme. The first lesson of each theme is spent explaining the basics of the theme, before moving on to the actual art work. For example, the ‘occupation’ theme’s first lesson involved learning the difference between drawing a male and female, and how to draw a body. Kids were tasked to draw their mummies and daddies. This is how EV drew her mummy and daddy. This is an important step, as it teaches the importance of always learning the basic foundation before moving on, such as how to hold a paint brush. The whole process also teaches kids that tasks can and should be broken into smaller steps in order to get it done more successfully. Both are important life skills that kids need.

Heart Studio 3
Heart Studio 2
Boosts creativity, exercises the right brain
With the projects being theme-based, kids have the freedom to choose what they want to create within that theme. This helps to boost their creativity, as they do not need to stick to drawing the exact thing. In fact, the kids even get to decide what details they want to paint in, or whether they want to paint a night or day scene. And since creativity is associated with one’s right brain, that part of the brain is also being exercised at the same time.

Develops perspective
And since kids have the freedom to choose what exactly they want to draw under a particular theme, the end result for each kid is always different. There is no one identical art work, and through this, the young ones will learn that everyone around them is an individual, with different preferences and personalities. They learn that everyone has a different perspectives to the same theme, and learn to respect these different perspectives. This again is an extremely important life skill to have.

Conducive environment with a wide corridor
Heart Studio is not cluttered. Far from it. The whole Studio is very neat and organised, making it a very conducive learning environment. The kids will also learn about being neat and organised. It’s very cosy too. The wide corridor is extremely inviting to the kids, and they do run along it, even though they are told not to do it. But as one hears the kids laughing and giggling, one knows that they are having fun and enjoying the whole process. They are safe too because of the neatness and lack of clutter. And knowing that the folks of Heart Studio have considered this fact makes me feel that they are truly caring for the kids while teaching them art.

That’s why as a parent, I feel comforted when EV attends class at Heart Studio. She’s enjoying herself, she’s learning art and some life skills, but most importantly, she is safe. And I'm heartened to see that her creativity has developed since we started lessons there last September. Find out more from these review posts.

If this sharing has got you interested to find out more, you can do so at their website. The new terms starts next Monday.

Disclaimer: No monetary compensation was received for this post. All opinions and images are my own.


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. 

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Play Learning Tuesday: Learning fun with washi tapes

We don't seem to tire of washi tapes, decorative tapes. Basically anything that allows us to peel, cut and stick. 

Like I mentioned in this post, the kids have been crazy about tapes, and it has allowed me to witness first hand how freedom to create can bring out an amazing independence in them. 

So why not try it for learning? And instead of trusty paper, we decided to use the door as our canvas.

Washi learning 1
What sort of learning? Anything! Alphabets, numbers, Chinese, English. That's the beauty and flexibility of tapes. Plus, it adds a whole lot of fun!

Washi learning 2
So here is EV making T, then adding another horizontal strip of tape to make I.

Washi learning 3
Then she stuck three horizontal lines, one on top of the other to make 一 (one),二 (two) and 三 (three), reading after she made the respective characters. Simple ones just for starters to build her confidence and familiarity of the strokes. This method is so much more engaging than just rote writing.

Learning Points
a. Alphabet recognition & formation
b. Chinese character recognition & formation
c. Numbers
d. Shapes


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Monday, March 17, 2014

Event + Giveaway: 3M Scotch Expressions tapes

I recently attended a launch event that let me discover EV's independence & determination. Just which event could this be?

It's the launch of the 3M Scotch Expressions Tapes. What, you may ask. Yes, it's Scotch. Those sticky, durable tapes that many love so much for their practicality. So much so that we would say Scotch tape to refer to any sticky tapes in general, not just Scotch-branded tapes. It's the same for Post-its, but we will come to that in another post.

Scotch tapes 11

Scotch has basically reinvented their sticky tape and added a whole lot of fun to it. Think decorative and Washi tapes. Yup, I can just see creative afficionados reading this with increased curiosity. All tapes decorative have been the rage in the creative circle recently, isn't 3M Scotch just jumping on the bandwagon? Well, not so. Not when one realises the potential to reach beyond the creative crafty people to the masses, with its rather reasonable price points ($3.90-$9.90) and huge number of selling points.

And the launch event was planned as a creative event, one that targets mums and their kids. Smart. Some of the mums already have a creative streak in them, and the event was perfect in encouraging mums to share that with their kids. And it was here that I caught up with many of the SMB mummy bloggers whom I usually chat with online. It's so great to see so many like minded mummies around.

Scotch tapes 1

EV was starting to get tired as she had her art lesson earlier in the day, but she gamely soldiered on. The moment we entered Food for Thought at Singapore Art Museum, she gravitated to the display of items decorated with these new Expressions tapes. She was curiously touching and exploring them - a good start.

Scotch tapes 3

Scotch tapes 4

Scotch tapes 5

Then she took one of the tape rolls, a pair of scissors and started to cut short lengths of tape to stick on to a box she was toying with, all on her own. That was better than good. But she saved the best for last.

Scotch tapes 2

After a short briefing on what we were supposed to do during the craft session - either an angel or castle using a chair and paper plate wings or cardboard, we started sticking the tapes to the paper plate angel wings (the boys get to do a castle). Because of the irregular shape, EV had a bit of difficulty sticking the tapes uniformly on to the paper plates. Then she decided to decorate the chair. She must have been inspired by what the daddy sitting next to her was doing.

Scotch tapes 6

For the next hour, EV was fully focused on the chair. She started by making an E, then she washified the seat, carefully aligning each tape and ensuring even the undersides was decorated. Then she moved to the legs, and she surprised me by letting the chair rest on its backrest, so that the legs are up in the air. She first stuck tape by tape, but then decided it was easier to just use one roll and go round and round to wrap the chair legs. Then she turned the chair 180 degrees to get to the remaining two legs. She was on the floor, in her knees, and fully determined to complete wrapping all four legs. In between her task, she would stop for a quick sip of ribena or a bite of the red velvet cake (Thanks for Food For Thought, she has discovered a love for this cake).

Scotch tapes 7

Scotch tapes 8

Her perseverance was astounding. Her independence was amazing. I refrained from interfering and let her 自由发挥 (explore freely), only assisting when she asked for help. It goes to show that when given the space, kids do have amazing tenacity and capabilities. All one has to do is to give them the freedom to try.

EV was so proud of what she had done, that she asked whether she could bring the chair back, not aware that she was meant to bring it home. She must have enjoyed the experience so much that the next morning, she continued to washify her chair. AA got into the action too.

Scotch tapes 9

Here’s her achievement (mummy contributed one wing). Nice?

Scotch tapes 10

EV’s washifying other stuff too, like the crayon boxes, tables and so on. She and AA are even learning with it. More on that in another post.

If you like what you read, and would like to get more creative ideas, or even share some of your own, go to MyActivityRoom. There are ideas on how you can use the decorative tapes for learning and creating. 

Scotch tapes 12

3M Scotch gave us Expressions tapes to bring home, and we would like to share some with ONE lucky reader! To take part, just follow the instructions below. Good luck!

Terms and conditions:
- Entries that do not fulfill the requirements stated will be disqualified without notice.
- Winners will be notified by email, through the email address provided in the Rafflecopter widgets.
- Winners must confirm by reply email, within three days. Otherwise, a new winner will be picked.
- This giveaway is open to Singapore residents only.
- Giveaway starts on 17 March and ends on 31 March (inclusive) at midnight.
- Winners will be announced on this post and my Facebook page by 4 April.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclaimer: We were invited to the 3M Scotch Expressions tapes launch event. No monetary compensation was received. All opinions  and images are my own.


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. 

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Book Box Thursday + Giveaway: Little Princess

Today, I'm sharing about a little girl, a princess actually, who is discovering about life and the wider world around her.

I didn't know about this popular series by Tony Ross before this, but as I discovered while reading the books with EV, Little Princess deals with issues that little girls like her face in their young lives.

So you can understand why, when I first discovered them on Little Good Books, a new online book store, I was rather hesitant about getting it.

But as I love to try new books, and I want to inculcate that in both EV and AA, I went for it.

For three books specifically: Can I Keep It?, I Want My Tooth! & I Want To Do It By Myself!

Little Princess

The day it arrived, I casually put the titles on the table in the study room, and in the book shelf in our bedroom. AA's internal homing device for all things new must be more acute than EV's, for the one on the table - Can I Keep It?, caught his attention almost immediately, I didn't even realise he took it. With a curious 'What's this?', he trotted out of the room, looking for his sister and of course got her interested as well. I knew I had to read it to them there and then. Later at night, EV discovered the other two titles in the bookshelf, and we had a good bonding time reading them several times over.
Of the three titles, EV likes 'I Want To Do It By Myself' the most. It has been on her 'must-read' bedtime story list for the past two weeks, amongst her other favourite Chinese books like 小猫当当. I think it's because it talks about the idea of independence and doing things all by herself, and it resonates with her because she's at an age when she's learning how to do so. Of course, there are times when she just gets plain lazy, even though she obviously knows how to do it herself.

I want to do it myself 1

I personally like 'I Want To Do It Myself' too. I like the humour in it. Little Princess sets off on an overnight camp, and even though people offer to help her carry her suitcases, and get to her destination, she insists on wanting to do it all by herself. The humor comes in the illustration, and it's obvious that her worried parents, the general, the admiral, the cook and other characters are secretly following her. When she reaches her chosen camp site, she realizes that she has forgotten to bring her tent, her pillows, tin and tin opener, and even her toothbrush and toothpaste. Unknown to her, the prime minister sets the tent up, the maid brings her pillows, the cook cooks her dinner, and even her toothbrush and toothpaste are secretly hidden under a bush. Even when she finds the tent pitched, the pillows set, the dinner cooked, she thinks that she had simply forgotten that she had done those tasks. She even thought that she put her toothbrush and toothpaste under the bush in her sleep. It's really quite funny how things miraculously works out for her. Perhaps EV also realizes that in her life, as she goes about her daily tasks, all of us who love her are there to offer the help when needed, and to guide her.

I want to do it myself 2

Her next preference is Can I Keep It?, probably because it also involves a frog. Yups, she has a certain liking of this little green creature, especially since she watched the musical The Frog Prince last year… 'ribbit ribbit ribbit hop hop hop hop'. She cannot forget this tune.

Can I Keep It 1

The tale is fairly simple - Little Princess finds a tadpole in the lake, and it becomes her favourite pet, enjoying a spot right next to her bed at bedtime. She likes it so much that it has replaced her other two pets - the cat and dog. It's quite funny how the cat and dog are illustrated as they try all sorts of antics to capture her attention, and love again. Then, she gets a shock when the tadpole finally becomes a frog, then starts calling out to its friends outside in the wild. The frog gets too noisy for Little Princess to bear, and she releases him back to the wild. 

Can I Keep It 2
It's a sweet story of how a little girl accepts responsibility for her new pet, but ignores the other pets, but gradually comes to appreciate them. At first, she behaves unreasonably as her parents give reasons why she shouldn't keep the tadpole. But after the tadpole becomes a frog and becomes too noisy, she realizes how special her cat and dog are. This was a learning point for us, as we discussed the appropriateness of Little Princess' behavior, and the importance of showing tender loving care to pets.

I want my tooth 1
'I Want My Tooth' didn't really click with EV, perhaps because she's not yet at a stage when her teeth will drop. Despite this, it is good to keep, for when she reaches that stage. It takes a child-like perspectively to the notion of losing one's tooth, featuring the preoccupation one tends to have with a wobbly teeth. The only part that she found amusing was when Little Princess' missing tooth was 'found' on her little brother's. I think that is something she cane somewhat understand, since she's a big sister herself.

I want my tooth 2
Illustrations in the Little Princess series are seriously funny. Just look at this image above. Doesn't it just bring a smile to your face? The illustrations really bring out the essence and meaning of the stories, especially the vivid facial expressions. Without it, I don't think that Little Princess would have the same effect as it did. Not only that, the illustrations also provide opportunities for discussions to develop visual literacy. For example, for 'I Want To Do It Myself', attention can be directed to the details of the people secretly 'guarding' Little Princess from their hiding places - a pointed nose from behind a shrub or even a palm next to the toothbrush and toothpaste. Questions like 'What do you think is happening here' and 'Whose palm do you think this' can also be asked during bedtime chat.

Both EV and I truly enjoyed this series, and it has earned a place on our list of 'good reads'.

Want to read some of Little Princess' adventures? Here's your chance one of three Little Princess books, kindly sponsored by Little Good Books. There are three Rafflecopter widgets, so decide which book(s) you'd like to grab a hold of, and follow the instructions to enter. Good luck!

Terms and conditions:
- Entries that do not fulfill the requirements stated will be disqualified without notice.
- Winners will be notified by email, through the email address provided in the Rafflecopter widgets.
- Winners must confirm by reply email, within three days. Otherwise, a new winner will be picked.
- This giveaway is open to Singapore residents only.
- Giveaway starts on 13 March and ends on 27 March (inclusive) at midnight.
- Winners will be announced on this post and my Facebook page by 31 March.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
a Rafflecopter giveaway
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclaimer: Little Good Books sponsored three Little Princess titles for the purpose of this review. No monetary compensation was received. All opinions  and images are my own.


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. 

Why I breastfed for EV for 14 mths, and AA for 24mths (and still going)

From the moment I knew I was carrying EV, I knew that I wanted to breastfeed her. No question about it. I guess having read about all about it, it was a decision that came naturally. After all, as a soon-to-be mother then, I want the best for my child right?

I must count my blessings. I had a rather smooth and successful breastfeeding journey, with EV then and now with AA (who by the way refuses to wean). Even then, it was not without its ups and downs. One of the key challenges – family.

That’s right. Family. What? You may ask. How is it possible?

Mind you, I’m not referring to the hubs. He has been extremely sweet and supportive about it. He once said that the decision to wean EV was totally up to me, as he understands that this breastfeeding thingy, it’s more than just about feeding the kid. It’s a special bond between me and EV too, a unique experience that I might never have after I wean her. Also, it saved him money, so he wasn’t going to complain about it. Isn’t he awesome? *grin*

The family I’m referring to is the older generation. No, it’s not that they do not support the idea of me breastfeeding my kids. Far from that. They do. The challenge is, they have never breastfed, and hence, are in no position to offer me any advice or guidance in any way.

You see, during my mum’s time, formula milk was the big thing. Not many women breastfed then. She associates milk with ‘how many ounces’ a baby drinks (she comes from Hong Kong, which uses ‘ounces’, not ‘ml’). Can you imagine, how I answered her when she ask me how much EV drank. I didn’t know how to. She totally did not understand anything about breastfeeding.

Then there’s my mum-in-law. She went to work about one month after giving birth to DaddySay, so breastfeeding? You could say it didn’t really happen.

So I was somewhat embarking on this breastfeeding journey alone, the first person to do so on both sides of the family, with no knowledgable person whom I can go to for advice.

EV 9 days old
EV at 9 days old
The first few days after EV’s birth was terrible. She was desperately hungry, I was extremely engorged and the milk was not flowing at all. On DaddySay’s insistence, we had a tin of formula milk on standby, just in case, when all else fails. So we did feed her with some formula milk while I worked at getting the milk ducts unblocked. I wasn’t very successful. My boobs were getting as hard as stone, and I was tearing at the pain of it all. I tried to look on the bright side and think positively, hoping that would help, but in those early days, my boobs were refusing to budge. I was almost on the verge of giving up.

Then we got a lady from this Postnatal Home Care service that the hospital I gave birth in had. Now, this is a service by a group of retired midwives, and my goodness, the lady who came was a godsend! (I didn’t get any confinement lady as EV was born during the Chinese New Year period.) For three days, she showed us how to bath EV, which is so much better than the hospital where they used a doll. She gave advice on how we needed to reorganise the way we store the sterilised bottles – in a covered box. She says, drying racks are useless because the bottles will still be exposed to the environment. She taught us how to feed EV, and helped us look out for excessive jaundice, giving us advice on what to do. Not just EV, she also looked after me, by advising me on the care of the perineal would.

Most importantly, I found out that she was a trained lactation consultant!!! Brilliant!! It was really awesome to have her around. She massaged my breasts and taught me the various positions to feed EV. She patiently stayed by me while I expressed, first barely 5ml, then 5ml, and gradually more. I gained more confidence in feeding EV and expressing. Really, no amount of training with dolls in the hospitals could replace an actual lactation consultant. In my opinion, more lactation consultants should be trained so that new mummies can visit them for a designated number of times after child birth. This will help ease them into the breastfeeding journey – with proper guidance and advice.

Still, it didn’t mean that immediately after, I was overflowing with milk. My milk production was still rather low. At first, it was just enough to feed EV. Then, she was demanding more, and we had no choice to supplement with formula milk. Ok, so some say formula milk is not as good as breast milk. Well, I grew up on formula milk. So did my siblings. And we are perfectly fine. So there!

Breastfeeding story 1

Back to my journey. Like I said, I was starting to struggle with milk production. I became really stressed with trying to think of ideas to increase my production. I drank papaya soup, I ate more fish, I even drank sacred tea, but well, these ‘solutions’ barely helped. Sacred tea seemed to help, but then I soon realised that perhaps it was not the tea. Rather, it was the amount of liquids I took. The instructions for sacred tea required me to drink it about three times a day. My milk production increased somewhat. After a while, I didn’t drink it religiously every day, but instead just consumed water. It had the same effect. So out went sacred tea.

Another thing I did to overcome my stress was to make a silent personal commitment – that as long as I breastfed EV a full six months. I’ll be satisfied. Not one year, not ten months, but six months. Just a simple goal to make myself take one step at a time.

After about three months, I headed back to work. The other challenge I faced during my breastfeeding journey was having to express during working hours, and having to carry the pump everywhere I went. My office didn’t have a nursing room, so the only option? The conference room. Other than the times when I had to vacate the room so colleagues can hold their meetings, that arrangement was fine if I was staying in the office for the whole day. But on days when I had to go out for meetings, I had to either time the meetings to fit my expressing times, or opt for a meeting place where there are nursing rooms nearby. It was not easy. My bag is always heavy, and there are times when I have no choice but to express in the toilet. Though colleagues knew what was happening the moment I enter the office conference room alone, and everyone was really understanding and accomodating about it, I felt there was always the question of whether my expressing would interfere with my work, especially towards the later part of my journey. I would be asked ‘are you still breastfeeding’? *subtle hint* But I know they mean well.

Lo and behold. The six months mark came and went, and I was still breastfeeding. I have no idea how it happened. Maybe it's because I drank lots of water. Maybe it's because I stopped stressing myself about having to produce more milk. So I continued. I saw no reasons to stop. EV started on solids and she drank less. Then the breast milk started piling up. Then I had to find ways to use it up, by making steamed milk. EV liked it so that solved the isse of oversupply.

Past the one year mark, I was surprised myself how I had done it. I struggled with the decision to wean EV. I wanted to do so, but knew I would miss the bonding with her. I finally did it, with the help of DaddySay, at 14 months. Maybe because she's really a daddy's girl, it was fairly easy to wean her. Thinking back, I still miss that special moment with her. I like to think that she does too. Sometimes sfter she sees AA latching on, she would climb into my arms so I can cradle her.

Why did I breastfeed EV till 14 months? I wanted my boobs back.

AA 5 days old
AA at 5 days old
For AA, I'm not about to get them back anytime soon. My dear boy refuses to let me (read: boobs) go. We're down to only just latching on at night, and the end is no where in sight. He's fine when I'm not around, but once he sees me, he'll go 'uckle mummy'!! I think it's more for the comfort than for the actual milk, for I don't think I'm making any.

Our journey at the beginning was rather smooth. He loves to latch on directly though, which explains the huge stockpile of breast milk I had in the freezer. He just refused to drink from the bottle, to the extent we had to spoon feed him. So the milk stock dwindled slowly. Supply was more than demand (which is rather small) so after a few months, I threw them away.

That's not all. My new work place doesn't have a fridge, so how can I keep the breast milk? I didn't. I threw them away too. Yes, I threw away a lot of 'liquid gold' during this time. So! It's my life, it's my milk, it's my choice. Would you want to put breast milk in a cooler bag for 12 hours, even though there is an ice pack that's slowly melting? Would you want to feed your child frozen breast milk that's been in the freezer for months? That's why I poured away my freshly squeezed milk. That's why I threw away the frozen ones.

Breastfeeding story 2

Here's what I gathered from breastfeeding two kids.
1. Hydration is important and does help a lot in milk production. Drink lots and lots of water.
2. Always keep an open mind. If you're facing difficulty at any point of the journey, no fret! Just relax, take one step at a time. No point stressing over it. If there is enough, great! If there isn't, there is still formula or fresh milk.
3. Think positive. It's not the end of the world if you decide to wean, or if you're not able to breastfeed for whatever reasons. Like I said, there's always formula or fresh milk, and in my opinion, both are perfectly good substitutes.

Even if you're not successful in your breastfeeding journey, don't ever ever doubt yourself as a mum because of that. It is ok.

Every mum is a good mum, in their own ways. Whether they breastfeed or not.

I hope you've enjoyed reading my very long account about why I breastfed my two kids. Oh, which pump do I use? Here are two reviews of my Philips Avent pump (here and here). It was the best mummy-hood investment I made. Thank you for reading!

Tomorrow, Nadia from Itchyfingers will share about the joys and woes of her breastfeeding journey.

Nadia of Ichyfingers
About Nadia
Nadia is a mother to two boys, both in their very young and early years, and is a full time stay-at-home mother who takes three nights off her mothering job to pursue her passion in early childhood studies. She is also a freelance photographer who loves putting a frame onto memories she holds on to endearingly. On her blog, she writes about advocating play for all young children in their freedom of pursuit for their childhood expressively and naturally, and she also advocates breastfeeding as part of her idea of bringing up her children in a raw and natural environment. Not an easy task, but read all about it tomorrow on her blog!

This post is part of a Blog Train hosted by Madeline at MadPsychMum. Head on over to read the other breastfeeding stories by Singapore Mom Bloggers!

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. 

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Review + Giveaway: Kidz Literacy Cove

As some of you may know, I use Jolly Phonics at home to teach my kids. And while attending the workshops, I had already heard of Kidz Literacy Cove. It was set up by a young lady Sarah Toh, who was formerly a preschool teacher before deciding to strike out on her own. During my interactions with her, I found that she is a very warm and approachable person, and it was clear that she loves kids. It's not easy to be an entrepreneur and I salute her for taking the big step. She also recently gave birth to a beautiful daughter.

She invited us for a trial lesson at Kidz Literacy Cove last year, and I was glad to get a first hand experience of how Jolly Phonics is used in an enrichment centre environment. There really is just so many things one can do to transform a simple room into a conducive learning environment. And in this area, there's lots to learn from Kidz Literacy Cove.

Kidz Literacy 1

Nestled in a cosy corner near Serangoon Gardens, Kidz Literacy Cove is a non-descript enrichment centre with a simple white wall facade. While some might be shocked by its simplicity, really, don't judge a book by its cover. What's important is the learning environment inside and the people who deliver the content. In these areas, I think Kidz Literacy Cove has more than fulfilled.

Kidz Literacy 6

Beyond the reception area, where there is a line of chairs for parents to sit and mingle while waiting for their kids, Kidz Literary Cove has two lesson rooms. Our trial occurred in the bigger room. Understandably, EV was a little wary of the new environment, but it didn't take long for her to warm up to Sarah, who was visibly pregnant at that time. Perhaps Sarah reminded EV of the time her own mummy was pregnant with her little brother, she was unbelievably sweet and courteous to Sarah.

The trial lesson was conducted by one of Sarah's teachers. The sound of the day was 'x', and several words with this letter was introduced to EV. What I like about this part of the lesson is the location it was conducted, while sitting on a big alphabet carpet, in front of an easel. I think the carpet is just so apt and if the teacher needed to make quick reference to other letters, she can point to the carpet too, rather than just write them in the easel. It's something more tangible so that kids can really 'touch and feel' the letters.

Kidz Literacy 2

Kidz Literacy 5

At the corner of the room is a nice cosy story telling area, where the next part of the lesson was held. Besides telling the story, the teacher also engaged in a conversation to ask EV about the story, to gauge her understanding of it, and the words inside it. This was followed by some table activities where EV did art and crafts and some writing. She had fun pasting the cotton wool on the clouds.

Kidz Literacy 4

One of the key things I like about Kidz Literacy Cove is the colourful and insightful alphabet related pin ups on the wall. A fraction of it is related to Jolly Phonics, obviously, like the sound freize and the hat of tricky words. Other wall installations like the word tree are helpful in inspiring the children and in creating a conducive learning environment. I also like the way kids' work is hung up, using a clothes peg hanger. So innovative!

Kidz Literacy 3

Here's your chance to win one of five trial classes which Kidz Literacy Cove has so kindly sponsored. Just follow the instructions below. Good luck!

Terms and conditions:
- Entries that do not fulfill the requirements stated will be disqualified without notice.
- Winners will be notified by email, through the email address provided in the Rafflecopter widget.
- Winners must confirm by reply email, within three days. Otherwise, a new winner will be picked.
- This giveaway is open to Singapore residents only.
- Giveaway starts on 11 March and ends on 25 March (inclusive) at midnight.
- Winners will be announced on this post and my Facebook page by 28 March.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclaimer: Kidz Literacy Cove sponsored a trial session for the purpose of this review. No monetary compensation was received. All opinions  and images are my own.


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.