Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Falling sick on Christmas Day

Poor EV had a bad bout of fever on Christmas Day which lasted three days. It started Christmas Day morning and by the afternoon, when we were at a relative’s house, we were putting cool towels on her forehead to cool her down. By evening, her fever rose to almost 40 degrees, and we rushed her to a doctor which was opened. The medicine he prescribed gave some relief that night, and for a while, we were able to relax a little.

The next morning, her temperature was lower, but went up to 40 degrees again in the evening. I alternated her new fever medicine with the one previously given by her usual doctor. In between dosages, we wiped her with cool water to curtail the fever. Eventually, I gave only the fever medicine that her usual doctor gave her, as she was reacting more positively to it. By 1am, her fever went down and we gave her another dosage. While her fever didn’t go up to 40 degrees again, we continued to monitor and give the fever medicine, and mopping her with cool water. By the late of the third day and into the fourth day, her temperature was stable. All I can say is, it was a really worrying and sleepless experience for me and hubby.  

Thursday, December 22, 2011

EV is learning incredibly fast

The brain of a toddler is like a sponge, with the ability to absorb and learn at an incredible speed. This is not just hearsay, based on educators’ research or teaching methods like Shichida. This I have witnessed myself and am truly amazed.

For the last one month, EV has been learning incredibly fast. Previously, she kept saying the same words like ‘moon’, ‘star’, ‘ball’ and ‘balloon’. I was wondering if she was absorbing what we were teaching her. Shame on mummy to doubt her abilities. EV was absorbing everything, but she was just keeping it all and binding her time in expressing it.

Until she learnt the word ‘no’, that is. After that, there seems like there’s no stopping her. She learnt her alphabets, numbers and words so extremely fast. She also started to string words together to express herself, eg ‘key’ and ‘bag’, to tell us to take the key, bag and go out. Here are some of her achievements:

a. Saying A to Z and calling out the next letter after us in sequence (eg, we say A, she say B)

b. Saying 1 to 12 and saying the next number in sequence after us (eg, we say 2 and she says 3)

c. Increased vocabulary, eg book, bread, write, fish, dog, open, fly, raisin, aeroplane

d. String words together, eg ‘book to read’, ‘aeroplane fly’, ‘key open’, ‘eat bread’, ‘drink milk’

e. Ability to say simple Chinese words eg , , 三, , 爸爸, 小, 狗, 猪, , 鸡, 牛

f. Recognising written English words and Chinese characters, eg apple, ball, book, moon, star, , , 三, , 狗, 人, 大, 天

g. Able to sing ‘do, re, mi, fa, so, la, ti, do’

h. able to understand what adults say and respond by nodding or shaking the head, sometimes even responding with her own babbles as though she is sharing with us her views

Clearly, EV is learning at an amazing speed. She has absorbed whatever we taught her previously, even things we say day to day and is now exhibiting them, and absorbing even more. I knew it was time to do more home learning. More on that in another post.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Recommendation: Colouring & Tracing books

Here are some colouring and tracing books which I find are quite useful. They're also quite handy to bring around on outdoor adventures, and helpful in keeping EV occupied when we are having our meals. They were purchased from Popular, which also has heaps of other similar books.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Swissotel Stamford staycation

Last weekend, we took a one-day family staycation at Swissotel Stamford. As usual, my little beauty princess put on her charming smile and charmed everyone from the receptionist to the restaurant waitress. She even helped herself to a Korean tourist’s toy while we were waiting for our turn to check in.

The weather was fantastic and we brought EV swimming. She was elated at seeing so many kids at the pool. We didn’t bring any floats but as I was just right beside her, it was OK. She tripped on the stairs twice and got her head underwater. Being close by, I quickly held and hugged her. So she was fine in seconds.

EV managed to borrow a pail, a plastic watering can and a float from another girl of similar age. It was interesting to see how both girls wanted to lay claim to the toys and float and both parents asking them to share. No screaming fights ensued, and both girls managed to have their turn at the toys and floats, under careful and watchful ‘management’ by both parents.

Dinner consisted of noodles, carrot cake and ha kau (the Szechuan Kitchen restaurant at the hotel was still serving it). After which we took a walk around the mall and showed her Christmas trees, which she was able to appreciate more compared to last year. Every time she saw a Christmas tree, she would say ‘ball ball!’, and pointed to the decorations. In the mall, we met an Indonesian couple with two boys. When the father opened his pack of Yakult drinks, our EV caught sight of it, stood in front of him and looked up with a cute ‘can I have some’ expression. The father gave a bottle to her, and she responded with a brilliant grin. My cheeky little girl!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Teaching EV Chinese

Look around, and everyone's talking about putting the young ones into a Chinese-integrated preschool or sign up for enrichment classes. It's hard not to be stressed, especially when hubby and I converse mostly in English.

So from very early on, I decided that EV must be exposed to the Chinese language from an early age. From when she was still a baby, I made it a point to speak to her in Mandarin, sometimes even Cantonese. I have also been reading Chinese books to her, and showed her Chinese flashcards, so that she is exposed to the written language at a young age. Here are some books that I've been reading to her, and which EV enjoys very much.

As for the simple Chinese characters, I recently began with those that have simple strokes, and by adding another stroke, becomes another character, such as , , 三, , 大, 天. So far, she's been responding well. My Chinese-educated father-in-law also shows her various Chinese characters and strokes, from a wall chart. My mom read Chinese poems to her. So hopefully, we are starting on the right track in Chinese. 

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Books: Daddy Kiss

By Margaret Allum & Jonathan Bentley

The moment I found this book at the library, I knew I had to get it. It is currently EV's favourite book, and tells a charming tale of a girl giving kisses to everything and everyone, like a big kiss to a lion, or a fluttery kiss to butterflies, or a frosty kiss on a cold wintry day, or a sad kiss when saying goodbye, or a yucky kiss to a baby brother. The tale then leads to warm, snuggly kisses by grandmothers and mummies, and ends with a great big daddy kiss, which she loves best of all. When I read this book, I follow the words and do the actions, and hubby and I give her kisses when it describes a mummy or daddy kiss. Soon, EV could recognise which kiss comes next, and eagerly waits to give hubby a great big daddy kiss. Sometimes, she even goes to daddy even before I start reading the page. A really endearing tale that daddy, mummy and baby will love.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Moving EV to another playgroup

EV has been attending playgroup at My Montessori My World near my mom's place this quarter. While the location is perfect, and the principal was nice to give EV make-up classes (she was sick and missed classes for about three weeks), we felt that there didn't seem to have any curriculum, even the simplest one, and we had not idea what EV was learning. There were only two toddlers, including her, in her group, and often, they had to be integrated with the older kids from the nursery and kindergarten sessions, which isn't a bad thing, but like I mentioned, we didn't know what she was getting out of it. And a group of two toddlers doesn't give her much opportunity to socialise with kids of her age. Plus, the feeds were expensive – almost $1100 for a three-day weekly programme. While we believe that the Montessori environment is a good one, we weren't certain EV was benefitting at this preschool. Convenience and location were some deciding factors for enrolling in this expensive playgroup, but really, we weren't sure there's much return value. So we decided to look at alternatives.

We found out that the Residents' Committee near our home was offering a part-Montesorri programme just a few blocks away. Location was also perfect, and when we enquired about the fees, we were surprised at just how affordable it was. $130 per month for a two-hour daily programme. Plus, we were happy to find out that it already had eight kids enrolled for the 2012 January intake. This would give EV more opportunities to socialise and develop her social skills. So we decided to give it at try for the January term. More on how EV is taking the class when it starts next year.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Books: Toot & Puddle - Puddle's ABC

Written by Holly Hobbie

A fun book to begin ABCs with the little one. Featuring whimsical pigs, Puddle teaches his friend Otto the letters of the alphabet so Otto can spell his name. And he uses a creative way to teach too, by using his own original words and pictures, like 'Ballerina Blowing Bubbles' and 'Crocodiles Crunching Carrots'. While reading to EV, I enjoyed the various phrases used to describe each individual letter too.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Recommendation: Web/Blog - Starfall

This is quite a popular site for parents looking for good online material. I personally like the ABC section, a flash-enabled section which teaches the letters A to Z and their respective sounds. Each letter also includes mini games to match the upper and lower case of each letter. Other online materials are catered for older children, such as the Learn To Read, It's Fun To Read and I'm Reading sections.

This site also has a download centre to get materials such as ABC printouts or printouts of online books, which can be used as supplementary activities at home. Some of these, though, will need to be purchased from the store.

A great interactive site that's colourful and entertainment for the young ones.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Books: Eric Carle

While reading up on parenting books when I was pregnant with EV, I have often read about Eric Carle's books, and know that there are some classic titles that are popular with kids and parents alike. So when I chanced upon an Eric Carle book promotion at September 21 (wholesaler of education & learning materials) when I was attending the phonics workshop, I took the opportunity to stock up.

Here are some of EV's favourite titles, which teach various concepts like time (The Grouchy Ladybug, The Very Hungry Caterpillar), colours (Brown Bear, Brown Bear What Do You See?), animals (The Very Busy Spider) and the general world around us (10 Little Rubber Ducks, Have You Seen My Cat?).

Thursday, October 27, 2011

EV is having a little brother!

After EV was born, darling hubby and I knew we wanted a second child. We decided to let nature take its course and not stress ourselves out. With both of us so preoccupied with work and EV, we were pleasantly surprised to find out in July that I was pregnant. Everyone was obviously happy for us. At the same time, when we did a financial forecast for the new baby, we were shocked to realise just how expensive it was to raise kids in Singapore. We knew it somewhat, but the coming of the second kid cemented that knowledge. Still, we were determined to provide our kids the best we could, and at the same time, strike a balance with our financial capability. Because really, kids are a blessing and EV is our pride and joy. So will our new baby.

So now I’m five months pregnant and just went for the gender scan. Little EV is going to have a little brother! Everyone were extremely thrilled. Especially hubby and myself. Now we have done our ‘duty’ and can stop at two!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Exposing EV to phonics

I started exposing EV to what I had learnt at Jolly Phonics to help increase her awareness of letter sounds, and the way I did it was to include the Finger Phonics Books (complete set contains seven books) as one of her bedtime story books. I first started on the first group of letter sounds – s, a, t, i, p, n. Beginning slowly, I gradually introduced the six letter sounds in book 1 to her, as well as words associated with them, like ant, apple, snake and so on. Because this range of books was full of pictures, I also used it for a 'treasure hunt' game. I would name an item and ask her where it is. To help her, I would sometimes draw finger circles in the air around the item to draw her attention to it, or discreetly point to them. I would also use directional words like 'next to', 'under', 'above' to help her and expose her to such words at the same time. Gradually, she knew more words and could easily point out the items. I've also started showing book 2 to her.  Using letters from these two books, simple three-letter words can be made, like cat, hat, pen etc.

Though she did not seem to respond at first, after a while, she could identify the sound for 'T'. Outside, when I see things that she is familiar with, like c-a-t, I would break the word into their respective sounds, as a way to help her understand that words are made up of letters and their sounds. I would also sometimes write down the words and break them up to highlight the written word and its sounds to her. It may seem early to introduce phonics to EV, but my purpose is not for her to immediately know the phonics or know how to use phonics to blend words together. Rather, my aim is to expose her to it and to increase her phonemic awareness of letters and their sounds.

The Finger Phonics books also had raised letters for finger tracing. EV is still too young to trace the letters correctly. Again, I exposed her to it by showing her how the letter is traced, guide her to do it, then letting her do it on her own. Obviously, she can't follow it and her finger goes in all directions except the correct one. But I let her be, so that it becomes more of a fun game for her. She enjoys it and often reaches her finger to the raised letters, which shows me that she is enthusiastic about it, rather than put off by it.

Friday, October 07, 2011

Recommendation: Kumon First Steps Workbooks

We all know that developing fine motor skills like folding, colouring, cutting paper and pasting is an important part of learning for our young ones. But, the issue many of us, especially full time working mothers, face is thinking of creative ideas that also allow them to develop in other areas, like learning various fruit and vegetable names.

The Kumon First Step Workbooks solves that by providing lots of fun and colourful mini projects for the young ones. Kids aged two onwards can start with the 'Let's Fold', 'Let's Sticker & Paste', 'Let's Colour' and 'Let's Cut Paper' books. 

'Let's Fold' begins with projects on folding horizontal lines (eg, folding an apple so that when it is 'unfolded', a cut apple is revealed), before advancing to diagonal lines and basic origami activities. The 'Let's Sticker & Paste' starts with several sticker projects, followed by those that require pasting with glue (eg, pasting a square face on to a picture of a horse), including simple puzzles and pasting parts of an animal's face to make a mask. 'Let's Colour' begins with projects that allow children to colour the whole picture, before more advanced ones that require them to colour a white dot in the middle of an object, eg a tomato. The projects feature different things, such as fruits, vegetables and animals, allowing parents to teach their names at the end. A good way to reinforce what was learnt during the activity. The 'More..' books feature even more of these activities.

EV is having lots of fun with the beginner books, often able to finish around five mini projects at one go.

Once these beginning books are completed, it will be time to move on to the more advanced books like 'My First Book of Tracing', 'My First Book of Uppercase Letters', 'My Book of Easy Mazes' or 'My Book of Colouring'. Here is a guide that illustrates this.

Friday, September 30, 2011

EV's first word

EV has just uttered her first word! It's 猫, or cat in Chinese. Yups, not daddy, or mummy. But cat!!!???!!! Guess it's because she sees too many wild cats around our home.

Monday, September 12, 2011

EV's development at 18 months

EV has reached another milestone – that of 18 months. Below are her achievements:

a. saying favourite words moon, star, ball (she gets extremely excited each time she goes past the basketball court near our home. She goes 'ball ball!')

b. associating spoken words to objects or pictures, eg light, butterfly, bee (once, when she was learning about 'heavy & light' in her Shichida class, she looked up and pointed at the ceiling light when the teacher said 'light')

c. identifying shapes, colours and musical instruments like piano, guitar

d. Recognising & making sounds of objects, eg trumpet (po, po, po), train (chooo...) & aeroplane (wooo....)

At the same time, we are also considering to put EV in a playgroup. One option we were looking at was My World My Montessori, which is just conveniently located opposite my mom's place. It has a three-times weekly playgroup session for toddlers about 18 months but the new intake would take place only in October, so we decided to wait. We were already going to my mom's place three times a week, so this playgroup fit our schedules perfectly.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Books: Pig learn to count

If you are looking for a Chinese book to teach your little one how to count, this book is a good place to start. It features many different farm animals and pets, such as pig, duck, mouse, cat and dog. It tells the story of a mummy pig in search of her lost pigs, and along the way, the other animals join in the search. The numbers are simple, and are based on the types of animals eg two chicken, three pigs and so on. 

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Books: Babyberry Pie

Written by Heather Vogel Frederick
Illustrated by Amy Schwartz

This is a delightful book about bathing a baby and putting him to sleep, and how he refuses to stay in the bath. It makes the process look very fun and lighthearted, by describing how to transform baby into a 'babyberry pie' such as putting sugar on his belly button and toes. What I like about this book is the rhythm and rhyme. It is an easy read, and babies and toddlers alike will like the large pictures inside.

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Learning Jolly Phonics

As I shared previously, I attended a Jolly Phonics two-day workshop in mid-June to learn about phonics and 42 letter sounds, which is broken up into 7 groups of 6 sounds under this method. I may have been the only parent there, but at the end of the day, we were all there for the same goal, though mine was more personal.

Instructor Victoria Carlton hails from Perth, Western Australia and has her own school that uses the Jolly Phonics method, which was put together many years ago by a UK English teacher Sue Lloyd. Victoria got everyone warmed up from the start by asking us to choose a puppet that we like from a pile, and introduce ourselves. We had to also say why we chose that particular puppet. Besides teaching the various letter sounds and actions, Victoria also gave advice on teaching young children and various activities that can be used to help them learn the letter sounds, blended sounds and tricky words. She also shared tips on choosing suitable books and recommended a few. One very good idea she shared to encourage recognition of letters and sounds was to use an alphabet floor mat and getting the child to hop on the letter when you say it. For older children, to encourage them to write, a good idea is to use a letter box and exchange notes with the child. With this method, often, one can identify language concepts that the child has not grasped, eg spelling, and subsequently teach that concept again.

The course also covered simple grammar for older kids, which was interesting to me, though not applicable yet. Overall, the workshop was extremely interactive and I absolutely learnt a lot.

While EV is young for phonics training, Victoria shared that is was done to expose her to it in a relaxed way, and to increase her phonemic awareness. That is, the awareness that each letter makes a particular sound, and that these sounds combine to make words. For example, when we see a cat, we can say the word 'cat', break it up into the individual letter and sounds c-a-t, and then repeating the word again. Something like this can be incorporated into every day life and things, says Victoria, and will help her as she slowly gains more formal knowledge of the alphabet and letter sounds. This is definitely what I'm planning to do.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Starting a phonics adventure

Yes, I am quite particular about using proper English whether it’s written or spoken. Call me anal or whatever, but I feel it’s one of the basic requirements. So at home, I’m always peeved by the usage of phrases like ‘bread where?’, ‘you want what?’, ‘daddy do what?’ and so on. You get the idea. No, I don’t think that the whole family has to speak or write proper English. Being in Singapore, where there is a harmonious blend between proper English and Singlish, it is good to expose her to both. Hey! I do get into that ‘do what’ mode myself too! My point is that there needs to be at least one person in the family who uses proper English, and inculcate a sense of pronunciation, grammar and so on in both written and spoken English in the young one from a young age. This I think will help tremendously as EV goes into pre-school and then formal education.

I remember breaking up a word into its various parts and learning the spelling. Only recently, I learnt that this has to do with something called phonics. And it seems it is making a comeback to help children read and spell. I wanted to know how it works, so I can support EV in her learning, whether it is home teaching or supplementing school teaching with home teaching in future.

There are many methods of phonics teaching, eg Zoophonics, Letterland, Fitzroy Phonics and Jolly Phonics. Many of them are used by preschools as a way to teach phonics but only Jolly Phonics and Fitzroy Phonics conduct workshops for teachers and parents. In the end, I signed up for a two-day Jolly Phonics workshop as the method emphases more on letter sounds. Plus, it is used by the British Council for its Young Learners Programme, so it should be quite an effective method, I hope. More on that in another post, when I start my very own phonics adventure in June.  

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

EV loves her enrichment classes

EV has been attending Neuro Star Academy since January, and she enjoys it tremendously! She really looked forward to class each week, and even when we are in the waiting area, she's already pointing to her class, or she would walk in herself. Guess the decision to enroll her there was a right one. But Neuro Star was moving to Toa Payoh so hubby suggested changing and enrolling in Shichida instead. Well, since EV likes the flashcard style and I had already been 'exposed' to a milder form at Neuro Star, I agreed to it. Whatever's best for EV.

At Shichida, parent involvement is emphasized more to the point where all parents have to attend an orientation seminar followed by a workshop, each lasting about three hours. A compulsory paid seminar and workshop on top of the expensive lesson fees. Yes, ouch! But the seminar fees are refundable after enrolling for a full year. While it's a small amount compared to the investment we would put over a year, well, it's still a refund.

Honestly, I think the seminar and workshop can be combined into one single session. The seminar, which was conducted by the lady who introduced the method to Singapore, was simply a session to explain the history, philosophy and concept of the Shichida method, with one to two experiments for parents to take part in, like hand reading, where you cover up two cards, and use your hand to 'read' and find a particular card. She also touched on the importance of being positive with your kid and believing in their abilities, the eight-second hug (not too long, because apparently, that would spoil the kid) and the five minute persuasion method, where you talk softly into the kid's ear when he/she has just fallen asleep and try to 'psycho' the kid towards an achievement with positive words. (We tried the last tip after the session, to try to get EV to sleep through the night. After a few nights, she seemed to do it, but we can't tell positively whether it's due to this persuasion method.)

Other than that, it was mostly the principal sharing her experiences and taking the opportunity to do marketing, and boasting about the method. Nothing wrong for her to do some 'selling', but halfway through, even though there was a break, the session became very draggy. Fine, we've heard success stories about the Shichida method, but is there a need to go on and on about it?

Similarly, the workshop was helpful to a certain extent, as they showed how flashcards can be held so they can be flashed fast. But again, it became too draggy.

When EV first attended the class, you could see a questioning look on her face, as though asking where are we? But she settled in quite quickly as she recognised the set up and lesson format. There is a progress book for teachers and parents to record the things learnt weekly, so that was helpful for reference. We also bought some flashcard materials so that we could do it with her at home. These cards were more complicated, involving concepts of visuals, puzzles, words, time and so on, and quite unlike the ones we have at home (ABC, 123, vegetables, transport etc). While good supplementary materials, the cast was not cheap. Ouch! We will have to source for other alternatives, or make our own.

We also signed EV up for music enrichment sessions at Kindermusik (Tanglin Mall). Our main aim was to balance the more 'serious' learning at Shichida, with something in the area of the arts. Music was a natural choice as she is beginning to show interest in music, which may or may not be due to my daily piano practise. It was obvious she enjoyed Kindermusik from the first session. And we were able to witness her sense of curiosity again, when she went straight to the source of the music (CD player). Plus, she really like the teacher Yim Ching, who was extremely patient and can sing. She's still getting used to the activities and what she needs to do, but I'm sure she'll get it in no time at all.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Breastfeeding for 1 year 2 months – I can't believe I did it

About two weeks ago, I stopped breastfeeding, one year two months after I gave birth to EV. When I share this with others, they always ask how I managed to do so for so long. Honestly speaking, I didn't expect it. For the first few months, I was always feeling stressed that I wasn't producing enough for EV, even though I let her suckle at every chance, or I express. I hunted through the internet for ways to increase production, and even tried remedies like sacred tea. They weren't much help.

In the end, I gave up. Not giving up breastfeeding, but giving up stressing myself out. I told myself that as long as I can breastfeed EV for at least six months, I will be very happy. If I do end up breastfeeding for longer, it would be an added plus. And I started 'drowning' myself in even more water.

Perhaps it's because I finally overcame a psychological hurdle that I gave myself. I'm not sure. But after that, amazingly, my milk just kept coming and comping, to a point when I got worried I was producing too much! I had to find ways to use the breast milk, including making steamed milk pudding or other recipes. In the end, though, it all worked out fine and I was able to breastfeed EV for over a year. I could have been able to continue, but EV was having more teeth and sometimes she would bite unknowingly. A couple of times, when she did that, I jerked in pain and I could see the fear in her eyes. She was fine after I soothed her. I tried to use a nipple protector, but that didn't quite work. Plus, after breastfeeding for so long, I felt it was finally time to let go. I finally stopped in April 2011, exactly one year two months after the birth of EV. Part of me still things back fondly at the closeness I enjoyed with EV when breastfeeding her. I miss it something and wish I could breastfeed her forever. That of course is not possible. But the memories I will treasure for a long time.

Monday, February 21, 2011

EV has turned 1 and taken her first steps!

EV has just turned 1, and she's taken her first steps, aided by furniture like table and sofa. Sometimes, when she's sitting on her chair, and one of us is sitting in front of her, she would attempt to take one or two tiny steps towards us. My little EV is growing fast! But honestly, I'm not rushing her to walk independently. I still want to carry and cuddle her! Once she masters the art of walking, I'm sure she'll be walking around non-stop to experiment with her new found skills. When that time comes, she'll not want to be carried too much. In the meantime, I'm treasuring all the cuddling moments I have with her, when she's still dependent on us adults to get from point A to B. 

Friday, February 11, 2011

Ella's 1!

Ella has turned 1!! Her birthday coincided with the 6th day of Chinese New Year this year. We didn’t have any big celebration at our place, as it would be toooo expensive to get catering. Instead, we bought birthday cakes and brought them to family gatherings, so that everyone can get to celebrate with us. Yups, so Ella got 3 birthday cakes! She just went with the flow, and absolutely enjoyed herself. Oh.. she sat on grass for the first time too, and she didn’t like it at all.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Tiny feet, tiny steps

Ella has started standing by herself, and she’s slowly taking tiny steps while holding on to a support. Very soon, my little baby will be walking on her own. I better carry her as much as I can now.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Review: Neuro Star Academy trial class

These two weeks, we've been attending trials at Neuro Star Academy at Parkway Parade. This is an enrichment centre based on what they call right brain development, where they talk about enhancing a child's memory skills, speed reading skills and so on. Hubby felt that this is worth checking out.

The first trial lesson that we attended, in fact, the moment I stepped into the lesson room, I was totally appalled by it. Basically, Neuro Star is a spin off of the hugely successful Shichida method, where kids sit in a classroom setting, with the teacher in front, kids sitting behind a row of tables. For baby and toddler classes, one parent sits behind the child. This wasn't what I was looking for for EV. I prefer a more relaxed environment where EV can learn through play. She's after all just turning 1, and I didn't want to put her in a classroom setting at all. I preferred to let her have more free play.

I was equally appalled by the speed at which the flashcards were flashed. It's absolutely stressful and tiring. I was totally against it. I told Hubby that this was not what I wanted EV to be subjected to. We decided that he would attend the next trial (there were two trials to attend as classes are conducted in English for one week, and Chinese the next) to see how he felt about it, and then decide from there.

After the next trial, Hubby's conclusion was that, the class was ok. His view was that, since we've identified her huge sense of curiosity, we need to harness on that. Also, as EV is such an active child, he felt that it is important to develop her sense of concentration from a young age, so that she can settle down for a certain period of time and focus. He felt that Neuro Star's method would be able to help in that area. He also brought up one important point - EV was reacting negatively during the two trials. In fact, she seemed contented to be in the class. So perhaps she was enjoying it?

I still stand by the play group method but we reached a consensus. We would enrol EV at Neuro Star for one term, and see how she reacts. After all, while we want the best for our children as parents, sometimes it is still best to leave the decision to them.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Review: Bibinogs Preschool trial class

We’ve been toying with the idea of sending EV to a playgroup for some time now, but have been resisting it as we felt she was still too young. Now that she’s almost two, we felt it’s time to check out some of the playgroups out there. Location was important, as was the date of the class, as we were looking for something that is convenient to get to, and also allowed us to accompany EV. And of course, the enrichment centre needed to have programmes that catered to toddlers EV’s age. We narrowed to two choices: Julia Gabriel Centre For Learning and Bibinogs Preschool. We decided against Julia Gabriel, as theirs was a twice weekly programme on a weekday and weekend. Weekends are no problem, but weekdays are. Our work doesn’t allow us to take time out so often, and also, Julia Gabriel’s two branch locations also make it difficult for either side of grandparents. While we know of Julia Gabriel’s good reputation, we had to opt for another because it didn’t fit our criteria. It’s EV’s learning and development, so we wanted to make sure we found a programme that allowed us to be as involved as possible, instead of leaving it to our parents, or even the helper, to accompany her half the time.

Instead, we looked at Bibinogs, which is located at Serene Centre and UE Square. It is a relatively new preschool, so we weren’t sure of its reputation. But we decided to give it a trial, we were curious about the Intelligences@Play curriculum outlined on its website, claiming that they adopt multiple approaches, materials and activities to stimulate various intelligences, such as linguistic, music, logic, body, spatial and interpersonal.  And of course, it is a once a week programme, so that means either of us will be able to accompany her one hundred percent of the time.

We attended the trial at the UE Square branch last Saturday. EV seemed a little unsure at first, and was a little apprehensive about playing the toys during the warm up session. It is not unexpected, since it is something new for her. Gradually, she warmed up to the toys, the two teachers and two other little friends. As it was a small class, the two teachers were able to give lots of attention to the children. The Bubbly Babes class started with some fingerplay activities, such as pulling a scarf out of a cardboard tube, lots of singing and music, and playing with musical rattlers. At the end of each activity, there would be a sing-a-long song to get the children to put the items back into the boxes, and to gather back to the centre of the room, which is indicated by a carpet. There was free play moments, during which the teacher would blow soup bubbles. It was quite interesting to watch EV’s reaction. Instead of playing with the floating bubbles, she crawled right to the teacher blowing the bubbles.

EV loved the story book time, as she usually does at home, but she was a little hesitant during art and craft time. She made a little crocodile handbag, with Mommy’s help of course.

After the snack time, during which Gerber Graduates Fruit Puffs was served and EV tried to show that she was a big girl by drinking from the cup, it was phonics time. One of the teachers role-played as an archer, and brought along ‘animal puppets’ that start with the letter ‘a’, such as ant. They also taught a song ‘Annie Ant goes marching A, A, A’, which goes to the tune of ‘If You’re Happy’. After which the teachers went through the whole alphabet, with each alphabet being associated to a living thing which starts with that letter, for example, C with Cat. EV enjoyed the song, but I’m not too sure whether she grasped the idea of the alphabets.

The last 15 minutes of the class was devoted to Mandarin, where a native speaking teacher read a story book. Due to the short time, there was not much that she could do. I think EV enjoyed it, because she was grabbing the story book and wanted to flip it herself!

It was obvious that EV thoroughly enjoyed herself. She was moving to the music, prancing around to explore the room, engaged with the teachers during storytelling time, and well, she loved her favourite Gerber puffs. However, we think that the class was too long, and the teachers seemed like they were scrambling to cover too many topics in order to fill up the 1.5 hours. The Mandarin session was too short, and at 15 minutes long, we are not sure what sort of benefits it would bring to the child. Perhaps it might be better to shorten the English session, and devote more time to Mandarin, so that there is also a change of pace.