Friday, September 06, 2019

5 survival tips to Walking with Dinosaurs - The Live Experience

Disclaimer: This is a I-paid-for-my-own-tickets post. No monetary compensation was received. All images and opinions are my own, unless otherwise stated.

The talk of the town must be Walking With Dinosaurs: the Live Experience. Ok, at least that’s my opinion when I see all the FB & IG updates. It’s like every other mum or dad I know is posting about WWD. And no wonder. It really is a good show.


Backed by a credible source? Check. Think BBC.
Supported by loads of research and expertise? Check. It’s based on the highly successful Walking With Dinosaurs documentary.
Time travel? Check.
Lesson on evolution for 1 hour 20 min? Check.
18 I-can’t-believe-they-look-so-real live size dinosaurs? Oh yeah.. definitely a check. Plus a wow too!
Comedy? Yup.. that paleontologist Huxley was almost eaten by the T.
Heartwarming parental love? A check for sure.

For those of you who getting up close and personal with these beasts from yonder years over the next few days, here are some tips on how to survive the experience.

Arrive early
Gates open about an hour before showtime. You have to go through security check of your bags, and a second ticket check before you finally step into the area. So arrive early if you want to avoid standing in long queues and don’t want to miss any second of WWD. Arrive earlier if you plan to purchase merchandise and/or buy food. The queues can get terribly. And you don’t want to be stranded in the queues while WWD starts on time. Searching for your seat in the dark with your hands full of snacks & drinks isn’t a fun thing to do.


Choose between the toilet or the snack counter
The intermission is just 20 mins, which isn’t very long at all. So decide whether you want to go to the toilet or snack counter. If you are fast enough, you may be able to visit both, but deciding on one is the safer bet, because the queues for both can get really long really fast. You can do one before the show and one during the intermission. Our suggestion is to visit the snack counter before the show starts, so you can get that cup of beer to relax with while the dinosaurs ‘babysit’ the kids. Another benefit - the kids won’t keep asking for food.

Check before you queue
One of the two snack counters is quite near the merchandise store. Their queues are close to each other and it is easy to be confused between the two as they get longer and longer by the minute. So it’s good to check with the usher to make sure you are in the right queue.


Stay calm
There will be kids chatting, people getting up in the middle of the show because their kids suddenly needs to go to the toilet, or pop corn being accidentally spilled on the floor. Not forgetting the long queues, to the toilet, at the snack counter, at the merchandise store. So be patient and stay calm. Everyone is there for one reason - to see the majestic dinosaurs. So let’s respect and be understanding to each other, so we can all enjoy the show.

Enjoy connecting with the kids
Curious kids will ask you questions endlessly about how the dinosaurs move, why the raptors seem to have two extra legs (they belong to the puppeteers) and so on. This really is a good time to connect with the kids and nurture their inquisitive minds, whether it’s about evolution or puppetry that brings the dinosaurs to life.


If you’ve already bought your WWD  tickets, I really hope these tips help you.

If you are still considering, or never gave WWD a thought because you didn’t think WWD would be so awesome, start thinking. WWD ends on 8 September Sunday, so go grab those tickets NOW. It’s worth it!

If you really want to get up close and personal with the dinosaurs and have them an arm’s length away from you, get the Cat 1 tickets. They aren’t cheap though, and will set you back $148 per ticket.

If just being in the vicinity of dinosaurs is enough, there is a promotion for Cat 2, Cat 3 and Cat 4 tickets.

Cat 2 tickets are now $88 instead of $128.
Cat 3 tickets are now $68 instead of $98.
Cat 4 tickets are now $58 instead of $78.

So what are you waiting for? Go walk with dinosaurs before they stomp away. Last show is on Sunday 8 September.


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Monday, March 11, 2019

Reading Aloud with Charlie and the Chocolate Factory #1

EV and AA are now 9 and 7 years old respectively. They read independently, and it is very obvious that they love it. I love to see them sitting quietly by themselves as they immerse in the wonderful world of whatever book they are reading. And it’s nice to sit or lie next to them doing the same thing. 

Often, EV and AA will still ask me to read aloud to them. I seldom say no, unless it’s really way past their bedtime. I love having them next to me, hearing me try to dramatise the story to them. However, I do wonder: do I still need to read to them since they now can read independently?

Recently, I read an article that told me that my decision to continue reading to EV and AA was right - 'Want your kids’ vocab to improve? Read aloud to them'.

This was the part that caught my attention: “Children may continue to enjoy and benefit from being read to beyond the early years. You should keep reading with your children as long as they let you.

Which echoed my thoughts exactly. If EV and AA still want me to read to them, why would I want to stop this fantastic chance for us to bond and just enjoy stories together?

So I’m sticking to my decision of continuing to read aloud to them, to have this shared reading experience with them every night, for as long as they let me. At the same time, I can also use this shared reading time to have story-based discussions with them. I can also ask questions to nudge their understanding of the story content and also how the author uses language to bring across a point.

So I started with the classic story by Roald Dahl, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. The version I have is a very old one, which I bought pre-loved. As I read aloud to the kids, I would use different types of voices and intonation to try and bring the characters to life. I would try to use some action too where possible. It’s like putting on a one-person theatre show with only two audiences. Well, that’s not bad. At least, my ‘performance’ will always be flawless. :)


In between my ‘performance’, I might stop and ask questions to see if EV and AA understand the content, or what the writer is trying to convey. I think this is helpful in EV’s and AA’s language development, and I think, in the long run, better prepare them to answer comprehension questions in school.

What I will try to do is to share areas of discussion that I had with EV and AA, here on my blog. Feel free to use them in your shared reading experiences with your kids.

To start, I will begin with Chapters 1 to 5 of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. (Note: As I’m using a different version, the page numbers might be different.)

Chapter 1: Here Comes Charlie
Page 17 - Why was it ‘pure torture’ for Charlie to ‘see other children taking bars of creamy chocolate out of their pockets and munching them greedily’?
In the earlier paragraphs, Roald Dahl elaborated how poor Charlie’s family was, and described how much, or how little, the family had to eat each day because they could not afford to buy food. It was also highlighted that Charlie ‘went about from morning till night with a horrible empty feeling’ in his tummy. Hence, when Charlie saw other children who had easy access to chocolate, one of his favourite foods, and eating it in front of him, it was very distressing to him. Not only could he not eat chocolate as and when he liked, he also had to tolerate a hungry stomach all the time. The discussion could also veer to focus on the real world, and the plight of many different people around the world.

Page 17 - When Charlie receives a small chocolate bar on his birthday, why does he ‘treasure it as though it were a bar of solid gold’?
As Charlie only receives one bar of chocolate a year on his birthday, the chocolate was extremely precious to him, and he wanted it to last as long as possible. There can also be some discussion about the literary technique used here - simile. The way Charlie treated his bar of chocolate was being compared to how people would treat a bar of gold.

Chapter 2: Mr Willy Wonka’s Factory
Page 19 - Charlie’s grandparents are described to be ‘as shrivelled as prunes’ and ‘as bony as skeletons’. What does this tell you about his grandparents’ physical appearance?
His grandparents’ skin are extremely wrinkled and they are also very thin. The literary technique of simile was used to compare his grandparents’ physical appearance with that of shrivelled prunes and skeletons.

Chapter 4: The Secret Workers
Page 29 - What was ‘one of the great mysteries of the chocolate-making world’?
The mystery is who Willy Wonka engaged as employees to run his factory and produce chocolates and sweets. In the earlier part of this dialogue between Charlie and Grandpa Joe, Grandpa Joe mentioned that nobody knows who Mr Wonka is using. So the great mystery that Grandpa Joe is referring to can be referenced to this.

So there.. Some ideas for your discussions as you read aloud Charlie and the Chocolate Factory with your kids. Hope this helps!

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Friday, September 21, 2018

Life beyond grades... when grades did play a part in defining me

{Long post - approximately 6 min read}

Recently, the internet has been abuzz with a topic discussion that is close to the hearts of many parents – that of grades. This signals that time of the year again – PSLE. I don’t have to spell out the discussion here, you already know what I’m talking about. This topic has been discussed till death, almost every year when PSLE looms. It’s interesting how the discussion seems focused on the PSLE score and not N-Levels O-Levels or any other exams grading. So, these other exams are not high stakes too? So grades from exams other than PSLE don’t define a person?

Anyhow, I’m not here to define the discussion. To each its own, really. Everyone has their own perspectives, and their own stories. It is my opinion that there is life beyond grades. It is also my opinion that my grades didn’t define me, but it did play a part.


Part of what defined me
235. That was my PSLE score. Pretty average, and enough to get me back into my affiliated secondary school. That was good enough for me. Secondary school sailed by and I kept failing additional maths in secondary three, to my mum’s frustration, as I was still cruising along one year before O-Level. After all, grades don’t define me right? O-Level year, and with this all important exam just around the corner, I went to 闭关, literally keeping myself to my room and studied endlessly. Fast forward to results day, and I had a shock of my life. I wanted to only score enough to head to the affiliated junior college, but lo and behold, I scored a single digit, good enough to enter one of the top JCs.

And that was what I did. I performed way beyond my expectations, my head got big, I got complacent, and I thought I could handle it in a top JC. I became over confident in my own ability. Within one year, I went from being at the top, to being at the bottom, failing every core subject. The principal’s message: either repeat or get out of my junior college so you can stop bringing my school’s aggregate scores down. 

Imagine, being told that at 16, that I was not good enough. That chat in the principal's office put such a dent in my growing up years that till now, my mum still remembers it clearly. I was at rock bottom. I felt lost, disillusioned, I just wanted out of the Singapore school system. My parents were disappointed, hurt. Fortunately for me, my parents were able to send me to Australia. At 17, all alone in a foreign country, in a boarding school, I worked hard to pull myself out of the doldrums and regain my confidence. I faced a challenge though – for the first time in my life, I failed English. Yes, English! A subject that I’m usually strong in. I spent a lot of time after reflecting why I scored well in that subject in Singapore, but couldn’t seem to do so in Australia. My failure made me realise the difference – the English we learn in Singapore is generally very functional, while in Australia, it was about self-expression. So my poor English grades in Australia forced me to adapt, and that has moulded my thinking and written expression. And I soldiered on in my one year of college in boarding school. Getting grades good enough to go to a university was the only way I could redeem myself, after my major failure a year prior.

Five years later, I graduated with a university degree, proving to myself, and to the people around me, that I could do it. Not to say that I couldn’t have done this by staying in Singapore. Sometimes, I do think that if I had bitten the bullet and repeated JC1 or gone to another JC, my life would have been very different, I would have been able to keep in touch with many of my friends. But because I left, I also left a part of me behind.

As a nice lady at the Canadian Embassy reminded me (mum was considering of sending me to Vancouver then because she had cousins there, but dad wanted me close by in Australia), does being physically in a different country mean that I can study better and get better results? No, it is all about me and my attitude. And it was my grades that put me in a situation to learn that.

So did my grades define me? Yes, it has played a part. It was a lesson I would always remember – not to be complacent of my own abilities. At the same time, if I’m at rock bottom, I know I can pull myself up again. Like the time I was retrenched and less than two weeks later, my boyfriend of six years decided to end our relationship. Like the time my ex-boss criticised me so much that I began to doubt my own work abilities. Like the time I had a freak accident and lost my grandmother, all within six months. 

And that is what I want to teach my kids. Grades aren’t everything, but through their grades, they can learn a bit more about themselves, how to tackle certain situations, and to persevere.

Grades, results, KPIs…
Grades, results, whatever. They are the same thing, just different expressions. If I only look at grades academically, then I’m rather narrow minded. Sure, beyond academics, there are other interests to pursue, such as piano, dance, sports etc. However, doesn’t progress in these interests also look at grades and results? In ABRSM piano, one needs to get at least 100 marks to pass, and at least 130 to get distinction. Similarly for sports, aren’t there grading systems before one can progress to the next level. Even the very casual roller blading classes that EV and AA joins on the weekends have a ‘tick’ system where they have to get a number of ticks before they can learn a new skill. Even in uniformed groups, such as girl guides where one learns different skills like survival skills, there are gradings to assess one’s proficiency in that particular skill.

Now, in the working world, aren’t there KPIs that everyone has to meet? How about the annual performance reviews? Aren’t these essentially grades or results of our working performance, which determines whether we get a bonus, a pay increase or a promotion? How is this different from grades or results of a child’s learning performance, which determines whether the child is promoted to the next level? 

Living in a results-oriented world
We are living in a results-oriented world, there’s no denying that. As a parent in today’s world, it is more challenging to parent, what with the internet and cyberbullying and so on. Cost of living is increasing ever so rapidly, yet our pay hasn’t, and we are continually fighting to survive. What we can do is to continually get good grades for our working performance, and fight for that pay increase or promotion. Unless we are one of the lucky few who can be a successful entrepreneur and leave an established business to our children Even then, as a business owner, one also needs ensure that the company gets good ‘grades’ in terms of its performance, if it wants to survive.

As a child in today’s world, it is also more challenging. As a student in today’s world, the challenge is greater. It is somewhat right to say that PSLE grades don’t define a person, because…. Wait till you get to secondary school. The learning curve, demands and expectations jump, and some really find it a challenge to tackle the vast change from primary to secondary school. Think of topics like ableism at secondary 2, and questions on consumerism at secondary 4. 

And then there’s the future world, where technology, artificial intelligence and robots are reportedly going to take away many jobs that we know of now. They will not exist anymore and the future job market will be even more competitive than today’s. How will an employer decide on the right candidate for one position out of 100 applicants? I would guess that results would be one obvious deciding factor – academic results, extracurricular activities results, performance in leadership capability and so on.



Teaching my kids to survive
So is there life beyond grades? Yeah, for sure. Yet, it is important for EV and AA to know that they are living in a results-oriented world. Grades may not be everything. Grades may not completely define a person. However, grades are still important. Grades do play a part in defining a person’s growing up journey, a person’s attitude to situations and challenges, a person’s perseverance and ability to bounce back again. Of course, having said that, I’m not expecting them to be studying and doing assessment books 24/7 (yes, like most parents with primary school kids, it’s inevitable to have assessment books, like the photo here shows). No, a tiger mum I am not. They must also have their me-time, time to read, play and do whatever they want.

Grades are part of our everyday life, when learning and working. Grades aren’t going to go away anytime soon, and it is not limited to the educational system, not even Singapore’s (check out Hong Kong’s. There is no national exam similar to PSLE, but grades are still important to ensure promotion to a secondary school). 

My children are living in a results-oriented world, and my responsibility is to nurture them so that they can survive it.

You may agree with me, you may not. Like I mentioned at the beginning of this post, everyone has their own perspective of this topic, and this is just mine. I think the important thing is we recognise the existence of these different views, and respect each other. There’s no right, there’s no wrong; just different views from parents who all want the best for their kids.

If you are seeing this, thanks so much for reading my story!

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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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