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Friday, February 27, 2009

Little Notes

My girl likes to write little notes to me in school so I gave her a notebook for that purpose. I guess its her way to make herself feel better when she feels homesick or misses home. I told her that she can also write down things that she wants to remember in there.... just like daddy. Daddy also has a little notebook where he writes down things he wants to remember... including those he wants to remember to tell me.

I love to read her notebook. So far she has written things like....

"Mummy, Daddy, today the naughty boy use the ruler to hit the girl's face."

"Mummy, Daddy, every Tuesday got Ejaan, Every Wednesday got "Ting Seah" and every Friday got Spelling."

"Mummy, just now Mr. T said that "Where's your English book?""

"Mummy, Daddy, today I got 100% in Ting Seah. Yeah!" (And she drew a big heart at the bottom and gave herself some stars. :) )

"Mummy, Daddy, today teacher say I must bring 5cm more of newspaper."

And lots more. She uses them to record everyday things of significance to her that she wants to remember to tell me and shows it to me when she gets back from school.

Yesterday, I sneaked a "I Love You" message decorated with hearts, flowers and stars just the way she likes it, into her notebook. She was happy with that surprise. Hehe.

When I asked her "What is the second best thing you like about school today?" (Since the best thing she likes about school is "Going Home" I had to ask what is the next best thing) Her answer is "Writing message to mummy." She has always loved to draw and write so I think this is another good way for her to communicate to me as well.

One day, I saw that she had drawn pictures into her notebook. In one picture, she drew her school and colored it. In another, she drew a field with some birds, clouds and the sun and colored those as well. The pictures look cheery (I hope that means that she feels better about school now). I praised her pictures and asked her how come she has so much time to draw those.

She says that the English teacher had come in and did not do anything. Just asked "those who never finish homework can do now" (From what I've heard so far, everytime the English teacher who also teaches Science in English is missing from the class or doesn't do anything in class. Hmmm...... Its almost going to be the end of term soon and he hasn't taught much of anything at all. Just Greetings like "Good Morning." "Good Afternoon". "Hello" etc. Hmmmm... I digress).

I asked her what the other kids did and she said some of them read books, some talked etc. So I suggested to her that the next time she has free time like that in school, she can start doing some of her homework so that when she gets back she will have more time to do the things that she likes, like play computer game for example (bad mommy).

The next day, she came home and proudly showed me her completed homework. She said she had done them in between lessons when teacher walked in and out of the classes etc. Then she added...."Mummy, I didn't pay attention to Math lesson." When I asked her why she replied "Because I was doing my homework." *Slaps Forehead* lol. I had to remind her that homework is only to be done "in between" lessons not "during" lessons. I had learned from other seasoned parents that this is how they got their kids to lessen their homework burden at home.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Talking to your Child About School

I found these great articles about how to talk to your child about school that I'd like to share here.

  • From PBS Parents : Talking with Kids about School. This one doesn't have all the text in one page which I prefer, so you'd have to scroll patiently from one page to the next. Still its worth the scrolling :) as the article contains some really useful tips including Talking Strategies and Questions that Work, which I tried out. I'll share them in a while but first here's another site, I'd like to share with parents of school going kids.

  • From SchoolFamily.com : Have a Conversation about School. The article shares how you can get beyond one word answers and find out what your child really thinks and feels about school. I also like this list of Talking About School Articles from SchoolFamily.com. I haven't had the chance to read all of them yet but it looks like a great list and I'll check back on it regularly to read when I come across new challenges with my school going kid. In the meantime, here's an article that is relevant to this post so I'll put the link in here: 20 questions to ask your child.

After reading the articles above, I tried a new strategy of talking to my girl. Instead of asking her "How was school today?" as I often do as soon as I see her or in the car or during lunch. I try not to do that since it usually gets me general answers like "A bit nice" or "A bit not nice" and if I probe more, she'll go "I can't remember. Everyday school is the same. I can't remember.".

I can read my girl pretty well, so when she goes "A bit nice" or "A bit not nice" I can tell generally how her school day went but it doesn't tell me more than that. So now, I will ask her more specific questions when I have the chance during the day (instead of right away), perhaps while packing her bag together etc.

Yesterday I tried "What was the most not nice part of your day?" and "What was the best part of your day?" and the answer I received? "The most not nice part was when teacher scolded everyone." "The most nice part was going home!" Hahahahaha. We both had a good laugh about that answer and decided that if I asked her that same question everyday, the answer would most probably be the same. lol.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Di Zi Gui (弟子规)

Earlier this week my girl brought home a book on Di Zi Gui (弟子规) and said "My teacher read from the book but I didn't understand what she was saying. I couldn't follow and didn't know which page she was at. Can you tell me what this book is about, mummy? Teacher has asked me to bring this book to school everyday."

I took a look at the book and was totally lost because it contained very difficult words. So, this clueless but resourceful mummy (Ahem -since resources are plentiful on the web) searched the internet and found the following useful explanation about Di Zi Gui to keep here for easy reference as well as to share with other parents.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Adapting to school

My girl has mixed feelings about school now. In the mornings she usually still says she doesn't like school but when I ask her how was school at the end of the day, she says "ok' cheerily. As a summary, here's some of the things that happened to her recently.
  • had her place switched twice. The first time was because the boy beside her kept on borrowing her stationaries and the second because of the normal rotation. They rotate or change positions every fortnight. Her new partner is a talkative boy. She is so worried that she can't hear what teacher is saying during lessons because he keeps on talking to her.
  • had her first gym (pendidikan jasmani) class. She found it amusing that they wore different coloured t-shirts for different teams. Hers is blue. She was scolded for being slow when changing back into her school uniform because she was slow to turn back her uniform which had become overturned when she removed it. The girls changed in the classroom and the boys had to go to the bathroom to change. The teacher made them do jumping jacks and run round the field then asked them to feel their heartbeat. They also have a "pendidikan jasmani" class in theory. They had learned in theory or in the classroom that when they exercise, their heart rate will go up so when they do practical exercises, it supports the theory part. I don't remember us having any "pendidikan jasmani" theory class before in my days.
  • enjoys her music classes where the teacher teaches them to sing Chinese songs.
  • enjoyed using her new glue stick when doing her homework. She thought it was cool because we had been using other types of glue which were harder to handle, more messy and didn't have as nice a result when sticking. To a kid, even little things like that are important and make them happy
  • she is very diligent in doing her school work and packing her bag for school. One day I saw a hole or tear mark in one of her exercise books. "Why is there a hole here?" I asked. She said the hole was caused by her tears (lol) because she had been scolded by teacher for starting the next day's work on a fresh page instead of continuing from the previous day's page.
  • was happy when they distributed out the abacus to them. They have not started lessons on it yet.

At the moment, lessons are still very simple. Basic counting from 1 to 10 for Math. Learning greetings ("Good Morning, Good Evening etc") for English, learning body parts (eyes, ears, etc) for Science, practise daily hand writing for Chinese (she will be doing her first "ting seah" or Chinese spelling this week. There is no ejaan or English spelling yet) and tatabahasa (ba, bi, bu etc) for Malay.

Probably the most difficult homework she has got so far was several pages from a kid's magazine or periodical. The chinese words there are tougher than what she has been learning in class. The magazines or periodicals are in addition to their normal activity books and exercise books. I saw one of them cost RM2.50 a month, another RM0.50 a month. They are included in the list of books we are required to pay for. Hmm..... Extra cost and extra weight for the school bag. Ok, maybe just extra cost lah. The magazines are very thin and printed from newsprint paper type.

Sweet Talker

Last night I was reading to the kids and my girl asked me what the word "mine" meant. I explained to them that "mine" means "something that belongs to me". Then I gave them a few examples. With kids, I always explain using examples. It helps them to understand better.

I pointed to my pillow and said "This is my pillow" so "This pillow is mine." Then I pointed to the blanket and said "This blanket is mine". Then I asked them to give a few examples and the sweet talker (the boy) pointed to me and said "This mummy is mine." lol

The kids are getting more vocal now. Read about what they have to say when they think they are being given unfair treatment compared to their sibling.

Monday, February 16, 2009

ABRSM Grade 1 Piano Trial Exam for Scales

My girl was supposed to sit for her ABRSM Grade 1 Piano Scales Trial Exam just before CNY but I felt that she was far from prepared so I informed the school that we could not make it..... twice!

Finally, she sat for her trial on Sunday. We could not delay it any further. :P The examiner said that she was good, her fingers nicely curved and she played with confidence. There were only some small mistakes here and there to watch out for.

The teacher had informed us on Wednesday that she was to sit for her trial on Sunday. That gave us 3-4 days of "intensive" practise. "Intensive" means 30 minutes to 45 minutes each day. Thats all we can afford with school and homework being given priority. We had practised here and there after Chinese New Year but not very seriously because I wanted to give her more time to adjust to school.

I am afraid that I did not know enough of what was invoved in the examinations and should have found out more about it. During the end of last year when the teacher approached us to sign my girl up for the exams, we asked the teacher what was her recommendation and whether she felt that my girl was ready. The teacher said yes and we relied on her recommendation.

However, on hindsight, with my girl having to adjust to Chinese primary school, lots of homework etc, I would probably have waited longer before allowing her to sit for any examinations. She's not yet 7 and just started learning in July last year, so whats the hurry? Sigh.

Anyway we have already signed up and paid for it so we will make the most of it without too much pressure. She will have some more trial exams to sit for in April and June plus a concert in June for kids taking the exam. Then she will sit for the exam in July. That is a lot of work that needs to be managed well without pressuring her too much.

I do not want to pressure her when she is not ready, that is why I turned down the first two trial exams. The teacher said its ok, its only a trial, its ok even if she fails but to me, that is not ok. Even if it is only a trial, I would like her to go into the trial prepared so that she feels confident. The trial is to boost her confidence, not put a dent to it from failure. I think the teacher fails to understand that. She also gives us very short notice about the exams giving us very little time to prepare.

Fortunately, after delaying it twice and pushing it as far back as we could, we had enough time to be more prepared and it boosted my girl's confidence that she did well.

She has finished learning her scales and broken chords so she just needs to practise them. She has just started to learn the first piece from her exam pieces. Initially I was panicked when I saw 9 pieces in all. How was she going to complete all of that and sit for a trial in April, I thought. However, after checking the ABRSM website I realised she only needs to play 3 pieces. Phew! I did mention that I know very little of whats involved.

This week she will start Aural training. There are 4 parts to the exam, Scales, Aural, Sight Reading and Exam Pieces. I wonder what is the importance of each section for the examination ie how many marks will be given for each section. Does anyone know?

I am not very happy that the teacher makes recommendations without explaining to us what is involved and discussing with us how much work is required. She also gives us very short notice about the exams and I feel that she has not prepared my girl enough for it. She had just begun to teach my girl the scales for a couple of lessons when she asked my girl to sit for the Scales Trials. And she gave us a few days notice for it. I had to step in with my little knowledge to help my girl with her practise. And I was annoyed that they got my girl's name wrong for the exams despite me pointing it out to them specifically not to get it wrong because they had got it wrong in several occassions. Now they need the birth cert, need to apply to the Ministry of Education etc etc. Hmmm.... Sorry, I'm ranting.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Singing for Charity

The kindy teacher told me that my boy has been selected to sing in a project for charity. 16 of them were selected to sing together. The teacher told me that they were selected based on good behaviour, not on talent. Hahaha. I guess it will be easier to control the kids when they are out. "But you have to pay for the costumes" she added. Thats not new.

I think my boy will be really thrilled. End of last year, he had followed me to the kindy to watch his sister practise for her year end concert. Ever since then, he has wanted to perform in a concert. Hahaha.

Sometimes, he would ask me to watch his "concert" (assembly) in the mornings. lol. He just can't wait to perform. Now, he'll get his chance and not be a shadow to his cheh cheh. :)

Thursday, February 12, 2009

School bags and school time table

School Bag

We waited till school was in session for about 2 weeks to see the actual situation at school before deciding whether to get a stroller bag or a back pack for my girl. Eventually we got her, her hearts desire, a stroller bag.

At the point when we were buying the bag, she said "I like the stroller bag but if mummy and daddy say I must have the back pack then I will take that." but her face changed when we pointed to the back pack. Hahaha. We got her the stroller back because I think its only once in your life that you are seven years old and yearn to have a stroller bag so much. lol.

I am very glad we did because her class is on the ground floor. There are no stairs to navigate so the stroller bag works perfectly to take the weight off her back. There is a long corridor which leads to her classroom. She loves to run on the corridor with her stroller bag trailing behind her. She loves her bag very much.

School Time Table

Each evening, I will get my girl to pack her own school bag. I don't pack her school bag for her because she has to learn to do things on her own and accept responsibility for her own things. She actually enjoys this activity.

We will sit together while she takes out her time table. I ask her what day tomorrow is. After we have established that, I ask her to pack her bag according to her timetable. In addition to whats on the timetable for the next day, she also has to remember to bring all the homework that she has done each day for handing up the next day.

Sometimes I leave her to pack on her own and tell her that I will come back later to help her check. Sometimes I sit and watch her do it. She has to remember what text book, activity books and exercise books to bring and how she wants to put it in her bag so that she will not have a hard time finding it when teacher asks them to bring their books out. (The first time teacher asked them to take their books out, she couldn't find her book and cried out of fear.) There can be as many as half a dozen book to bring for a subject. Its crazy.

She doesn't have a locker in school but teacher has said that its ok for them to leave their books in their desks but she doesn't want to do this because she is afraid that she will forget. So each day, she brings back all her books and brings them back to school the next day. I don't blame her for even I would forget. It can be confusing deciding which books to bring!

I am glad we bought the trolley bag. It serves our circumstances well.

Creating Wealth for our Children

One of the most important things we can do as a parent is to teach our children about money and wealth. Most of us teach our children ABCs and 123s. We try to teach our children the difference between right and wrong and how to be responsible adults. However, we forget about money and wealth. We forget to teach them how to handle money and more importantly grow their money so that they will have a more secure future.

It was that case with me. My parents never taught me about money. Oh I guess they taught me about the importance of money. They taught me that money should not be wasted. Perhaps they even taught me how to save money. But they never taught me one important thing. How to achieve financial success.

When I was a young working adult, I decided that I could afford to buy an apartment and so I did. I bought a modest apartment in a convenient part of town with shops and transport within easy access. I had saved enough money to pay a downpayment but thats it. That was the extent of my financial knowledge. I paid the downpayment, took up a loan from the bank and started paying. I didn't understand about interests and how it would affect my loan. I just worked hard and paid my loan each month. And after a few years, I owed the bank even more than what I borrowed!

It wasn't until I met my husband, that he taught me to pay off my loan so that I can reduce my debts and work towards investing and growing my money instead of using my money to pay off debts.

Having experienced this myself, I was happy to find a book that talks about how to help our children achieve financial success in life. I won't go into too much detail on the book and spoil it for you but in short, I find the book a good starting point for me personally to understand about financial issues and how to master money.

It teaches me as a parent to first understand finance before teaching my child about financial responsibility and how to create wealth. It teaches me how to teach my children about money and wealth at various ages starting from as young as 2 to 20 and beyond. Many young people today live their life on credit. We must teach our children how not to do this and in order to do this we must start teaching them early. There are some money games outlined in the book to play with your child.

The picture above is savings boxes for my girl and my boy. The book tells me that the way to teach my kids about wealth is to show them where that money can be put or invested and show them how it grows instead of allowing them to save and remove it to buy toys. Oops! I never thought of that before I read this book.

This book also teaches me how to invest for my child early and how my child's funds should be invested. Investing for my child not only means keeping money aside for the further education. It is for education and beyond. It is investing so that they will have a substantial amount of wealth by the time he or she graduates college. It talks about investing with your younger child, investing with your older child and the dangers of your child having money.

Lastly it talks about wills, insurance and trusts. Afterall, we must put our own financial house in order so that our children will not be negatively impacted in future from our own financial problems. And there is a nice little section in the end giving 14 simple rules of wealth.

All in all, I find the book an easy read with short little chapters. I can't take more in my busy day! I think Creating Wealth for our Children is one of the most important things we can do for our kids. If you don't know how, you can start by reading this book: Wealthy Child.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Her class teacher

After hubby told her class teacher that my girl is afraid of her, I think the class teacher has been trying a different approach with my girl. My girl told me that her class teacher told her that she has to scold everyone because she needs to control the class. She also asked my girl "Do you still like me?" According to my girl, she said "Yes."

When I said "Thats great, now you like your class teacher" she said "No" Hahaha. Yesterday, I asked her the same question "Do you like your class teacher?" She said "I will never like her but now I like her a little bit only. She is my class teacher mah."

And when the class teacher is fierce and scolds the entire class, she does not take it personally anymore. She says "She scolds because she is a teacher mah."

Her class teacher has also been giving her little jobs. Eg: To clean the whiteboard, To carry up the homework to her desk in the staff room. My girl feels happy to do these jobs. I guess it makes her feel involved. Perhaps, her class teacher has found the right button to push for my girl.

She still feels that school is "long" especially when she has one hour lessons but each day I try to get her to look forward to certain subjects eg. "Hey today is Wednesday, you have Art Class, isn't that great?" or "Its Thursday, you have computer class today!" This way she has things to look forward to instead of dreading class and lessons.

Perhaps we may have been wrong about her class teacher. We had found her rather hard to approach and difficult to talk to at first. We decided to give her the benefit of doubt. And it looks like she is not that bad after all.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

He certainly has a way with words

My boy is the most affectionate little boy. He also loves attention. Lots and lots of it. The other day his sister was practising piano. He was bored and felt left out so I told him to bring two cushions so we could lie down on the floor near the piano to chit chat.

"Mummy, look at me lah, mummy, look at me."

When I turned to look at him, he touched my face and said...

"Mummy, I like to look at you. I like to look at your eyes, your nose, your mouth. I like to look at you. Look at me lah, mummy. Why you look at the ceiling? I am not on the ceiling...."

He is such a sweet and dear little boy. He is the most charming, little gentleman. And he certainly has a way with words! :)

Friday, February 06, 2009

Fierce Teachers

Yesterday, my girl came home and told me that her class teacher had called her up to the front of the class and asked her why she was crying. I was surprised because she did not cry before leaving the house. She informed the teacher that she was crying because the boy sitting beside her wanted to borrow her pencil some time ago but she was afraid to do so because teacher will scold.

My girl said that she was confused because teacher had said they could not lend or borrow stationaries from each other but when she refused to lend her stuff the other students insisted that she was wrong.

Teacher then called the boy up to the front and asked him to show his pencil case. Teacher then scolded him for having only one pencil (they are required to have 5) and asked him to go back to his seat. Then she asked my girl to switch places with another girl and asked the boy not to borrow pencils from this girl as well. Alamak! I hope that she has not made a new enemy. lol. I asked her whether the boy was unhappy that she had told teacher but she said no.

Well,.... that was her side of the story.......

This morning when hubby sent my girl to school, her class teacher approached him and told him that my girl has been crying quite a lot in class and each time she asked her why, she said "Dunno". So yesterday, she insisted that she must tell her why. (I guess thats why she told teacher about the borrowing pencil story but I think that is only one of the reasons why she is unhappy). Teacher said that each time she will say loudly "Don't cry." to stop her from crying. Aiyoyo.

Anyway, teacher said that she gave her a task to do, to clean the whiteboard at the end of the day and she saw that she was happier by the end of the day (which kid isn't happy at the end of the day? :) Usually, I see the crying ones happy, smiling and running out when school's out.) and hubby informed teacher that my girl was afraid of her. Hahaha.

My girl said that all the teachers are very fierce and she is afraid of them all. She said that her English teacher has started carrying a rotan to class with him. This is so different from the preschool environment she was used to where she had very good rapport with the teachers and asked them questions regularly etc.

I told her that she will have to go to school no matter what (because school is where you go to learn lots of things) and she can choose to be happy or sad. So, why not chooose to be happy and think about the happy things about school that she likes? Think about the new friends she is making, the new things she is learning, the new books she is getting (she loves books) and the new lessons she is having? Why not choose to be happy? I don't think its too early to teach a child how to think positively. :)

I told her that teacher has to be fierce in order to control the whole class all 42 of them, so many. I told her that teacher must make sure that the naughty boys in class do not bully nice girls like you. Teacher has a very hard job to do don't you think? Imagine if you are teacher. Don't you think you have to be fierce too to make sure that all the students are paying attention? Teaching her about emphathy.

I can see that my girl is stressed out and very anxious. I told her to forget it after a while when teacher scolds the same way you always forget it after mummy scolds you. Hahaha. I am worried that she is getting over anxious and I am trying to tell her not to take everything too seriously but I am not quite sure how to tell her. Hmmm... Yesterday she kept on wanting to check her bag again and again to make sure that she has not forgotten to finish or missed out on any homework, she wanted to make sure that she has brought her scissors to school because teacher said must bring etc etc.

Anyway, we'll see how it goes from here.....

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Little Miss Worrier

My Girl is still afraid of school and the teachers. Each day she worries about whether she has packed all her books. She worries she will be scolded if she forgets. She worries that she may forget doing her homework and handing it in. There are many different sets of books for each book and she has to remember to differentiate between them. For example, for Mathematics, she has a text book and an activity book for Maths in Chinese. She has another text book for Mathematics using the Abacus plus a numbers book for Maths in English. (She may have more as we have not been given the full set of books yet.) She insists on bringing most of her books "just in case". "Mummy, I want to bring this math book too just in case teacher asks for it." This increases her bag load but for now I let her bring her books "just in case" ... until we are surer of what books are needed for each subject.

She dare not lend her pencils and color pencils to those around her when they ask for it because "Teacher said we cannot lend or borrow from each other. I am scared that teacher will scold me." Then she is unhappy because her friends call her selfish.

As soon as she woke up yesterday, the first words that she uttered was "I think I need to bring some glue today because today is arts and crafts day. Can we put it in the bag?"

At school she cried when teacher asked them to take out a text book and she could not find her text book in the bag. Later on she discovered it was in her bag but she had missed it out when searching but she panicked and cried. Then she cried again when she saw the boy next to her taking out a book which she did not bring. Then she checked her timetable and realised that the book was not required for the day.

This morning, before she left, she wanted to check her bag again to make sure that she has not forgotten to do any homework that was required. "What if I forget?" she asks worriedly.

"The teachers are so fierce." "School is so long" (school hours is so long. She finds 1 hour for a subject to be very long). "The teacher scolds me everyday even when I did not do anything wrong." (When the teacher scolds the class, she takes it personally.) "I don't like school. I don't want to go to school."

The best thing we can do is to listen to her, support her but not manja her because that would not be helping her. She has to learn to toughen up and accept school life for what it is. The fierce teachers, the longer school hours as compared to preschool, the heavy school bags, the homework. Good thing I did not sign her up for any after school activities which lasts up to 3.10pm for Std 1 and 2 kids and up to 3.40pm for kids from Std 3 onwards. After school activities is compulsory from Std 3 onwards.

She is getting braver in speaking in Mandarin to some classmates now. "The boys speak to each other in English most of the time but the girls speak to each other in Chinese." Funny. This was what I observed too, when I visited the school earlier on before she started Std 1.

As for lessons, they have only just begun. There were no lessons for the first 3 weeks of school. Lessons now are still very simple. Much simpler than what she has learned at kindy. At the moment, her little brother still brings home more homework than her.

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