Archive for February, 2014

Lapbooking – Africa

February 28, 2014

Calvin has the most diverse range of interests when it comes to picking subjects for his lapbook or ‘project’ as he calls them. That’s not surprising since he is practically a blank slate and I’m very glad that he is so eager to learn.

One of the biggest obstacles to our lapbooking is the fact that he can’t really read or write yet. In our earlier lapbooks, I used some templates I found online but many of them require the kids to write in them. I ended up doing most of the writing of course but I wonder if that kinda defeats the purpose of having a lapbook that is supposed to be created by him. I tried looking for lapbooks that are geared towards preschoolers like him who can’t write but most of those I find too simplistic and does not go into any depth. They are usually just things that focus on counting ‘Lets count how many butterflies/ cars/ snowmen there are’ or letter recognition.

It’s difficult to find a balance where there is enough detail that he can learn something new about the subject and it is more hands on and requires little writing. I ended up customizing many of his lapbooks myself and it was at that time that I thought it would have been more worthwhile if I was teaching more than one kid.

Take for example this lapbook on Africa. I can’t remember what triggered him to want to learn about the continent, but the scope was so large I sat on it for weeks wondering about it. I read quite a few books by myself and then decided I shouldn’t think too hard on this. In the end, I settled for introducing him to the different terrains and animals that live in Africa and a map of Africa. We had a book that opens out to scenes on the desert, rainforest and savannah and lots of cut out animals that can prance around in them. He was quite amused by the desert animal we read about like the jerboa and the ant lion. We played ant lion a couple of times recently where one of us pretends to be the ant lion eating up the other person with our mandible. The original idea was that he could color the animals/ scenery or both but obviously not much of the coloring was done. This boy is too busy for coloring. In fact, he oftens colors about half of it and tells me that he left some ‘cracks for you to fill in, mama’

Africa Lapbook

We also read quite a few books on the Masai tribe and how they live though we didn’t put any of the details in our lapbook. I figured if he was interested, we could always start another project on a subset of the topic. To be honest, his interests are fleeting and getting a general feel of the topic is probably more important to him so he can move on to the next interesting topic. As it is we have


Goals for the Mama – 2/21

February 27, 2014

Goal 1: Confidence/ Character Building
– Learned to roll up a big sheet of paper
– Learned to wind up the kite string
– Helped me put the wet laundry in the dryer
– Helped to clean up a pee accident so that ‘mama will have less work to do and won’t be too tired’

Goal 2: Chinese
– Read 巴巴爸爸和圣诞礼物,巴巴爸爸搬大树,巴巴爸爸回地球x2, 1只小猪100只狼, 落叶跳舞,吃掉黑暗的怪兽,
– Watched 巧虎
– Downloaded new chinese songs to add to his quiet time music.

Goal 3: Math
– Counting random stuff in books e.g how many arms does the alien have, how many truffula trees are left?
– Comparing snowflakes to see which one is the same and which one different

Goal 4: Reading
– Learning to spell the ‘a’ words with an app called Spellyfish. He’s surprisingly good with it
– Read simple words in familiar books like his baby books that enjoyed a renewed interest recently
– Read the title ‘The Lazy Bear’, at least I think he read it. I don’t remember telling him the name of the book. I’m starting to wonder if he can read better than I imagine, but I don’t want to stress him out by testing him or forcing him to read aloud to me. He does sometimes look through his books during quiet time so if he can read some of them to himself, more power to him. We’d still continue to read to him anyway even though it can be tiring. After he has exhausted papa with a couple of books, he’d say “How about you, mama?”

Goal 5: Fine motor skills
– Cut out lots of car pictures from the magazines. Look at the fine collection below. I’m impressed that he can cut very close to the shape of the pictures that he is cutting out, even though he left a big pile of little magazine scraps all over the carpet.

– Cut out animals for our snow lapbook about animals that hibernate


Attention Deficit

February 27, 2014

At my weekly volunteer class, the usual teacher has been on maternity since December so another teacher has taken the class. Recently, I noticed that there were an unusual number of ‘drifters’ wandering about while the teacher was trying to teach. One was walking around rubbing something in his hands; another walked over to the rocking chair at the side and started rocking on it. One more crawled behind the white board and started fiddling with the paper and tools under it. Not too surprisingly, they were all boys and I think at least one of them is diagnosed with ADHD ( Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). I did read before that many children are misdiagnosed with ADHD. I can well imagine because when I saw those little lost wanderers, they look like mischievous boys who are bored of sitting down or disinterested because the work is too difficult for them. Apparently, some of them come from less fortunate circumstances so that might also contribute to their inability to concentrate.

This week, I went into class to find that those same drifter boys were left in the class weaving with yarn while the rest were upstairs being tested for giftedness. I happened to sit in on the later part of one of their testing sessions and it seems to require a lot of quiet attention to verbal instructions which these boys were unable to handle. To make matters worse, the substitute teacher wasn’t around and there was a substitute to a substitute and it was absolute chaos in class. After this experience, I’m not sure I’ll enjoy being a teacher to elementary school children. I think I’d probably enjoy tutoring much more since I’d be able to focus more on teaching rather than thinking about instilling discipline.

I wonder how Calvin will be like when he starts formal schooling. When I think back on what I learnt in school, I have to admit it seems much less in depth and less interesting than some of the lapbook projects that me and Calvin are working on. Certainly the picture books we borrow from the library do a better job of illustrating the ideas than a few paragraphs in the textbook and a couple of simplistic pictures. I felt like most of what I did was memorization, perhaps because I did not feel engaged by the information. I certainly did not feel the urge to learn anything more than what was in the textbook.

Maybe one of the reasons why I enjoyed English Lit so much during secondary school was because I felt like I could use my own ingenuity to spot patterns/ symbols in a book and to come up with a compelling argument. That might also explain why I used to write horrible essays when I think the topic is too cliche and overly-discussed. I enjoy writing because I like putting new ideas into words. If it has already been argued to death many times over, I struggle to put together those Frankenstein ideas that do not stem from my own head.

With that, I worry about whether school will engage little Calvin. I wonder if schooling has changed in Singapore. I guess we can always continue our little lapbook projects on the side.

Feeling Old

February 21, 2014

Recently, I feel like there’s just so much I’d like to do and so little time. Most of the time, it’s sleep that gets sacrificed which is totally not ideal because I certainly can feel that I am much worse with less sleep – irritable, no patience, harsher with my words etc, which in turn makes me unhappy because I’ve done some mean things. So ironically, trying to squeeze more pleasures into my life makes me less happy. You’d think after reaching this conclusion I would just go to sleep earlier but there’s just so many temptations. Apart from the usual cooking, cleaning, shopping and general household maintenance, there is a book I’d like to continue, Calvin’s lapbook projects to work on, planning our trip back to Singapore, playing this Puzzle Quest mobile game that is pretty time consuming, just plain playing with Calvin…

I sure feel kinda tired and old, especially when my joints ache and there is white hair on my head. I guess it’s more like “Welcome to reality” after all those years of not feeling not much different from when I graduated from university. I’m tempted blame it on the whole “See what a kid does to you” thing but I think it really is just a sudden realization of how my body is changing. Okay, time to get to reading and then sleep!

Snow Days

February 21, 2014

We had a great big blizzard last week, which saw more than 15 inches of snow dumped on us. It started snowing at night and I decided to bring out our big sandbox size plastic container so we can bring in the fresh snow tomorrow for some digging fun. When we woke up the next morning, the whole container was completely buried in snow. Calvin and I had a fun time digging it out and we ended up spending quite a bit of time outside, digging around and I was making a snowman. It was probably the best snowman I’ve ever made, not that I’ve made many to date. We barely made a dent in that fluffy, powdery, marshmallow looking snow. We went back inside when it started to rain.


We brought in our nice tub of snow so we could continue digging. Calvin decided to bring out his construction vehicles and we used the bean tub for snow painting. We spent the whole morning that way and then in the afternoon,it was raining so we didn’t make any more forays out in the snow.

The next morning, we started round two of the digging duo. Calvin wanted to dig out the recycling bin that was buried under the snow on the sidewalk. All we could see of them were little mounds that were a little higher than the rest. So armed with a shovel, a Duplo box cover and our boots, we went out to dig. I was in front digging a little path before us, while Calvin followed behind, widening the path or doing whatever catches his fancy. We managed to dig a path to that little mound and Calvin excitedly dug it out like it was a pirate’s treasure box laden with loot. Later, we moved on to dig a path leading to our car so we can help clean ‘Car-ry’. That in fact, took more than an hour for us to get to the car and then clean it all off.

When I got in the house, I decided to check my email and saw that his schoolmates were going sledding and I thought ‘Hey, maybe we could sled down the little slope down to the parking area.’ We started looking around the house for a makeshift sled. We scrounged up a few plastic covers and I thought the laundry basket might do the trick. J tried out the plastic cover, but the incline didn’t seem steep enough for him. We had Calvin sit in the laundry basket sled while I pull him around. The snow where we had dug was too lumpy, so he ended up bumping and thumping all around. We finally got him on the slope, papa pushed while mama pushed on the path we had dug while Calvin was on the untouched smooth snow. He had lots of fun and started to say ‘Again!’. One time, Calvin and the whole basket just toppled sideways onto the snow and we all laughed.


Goals for the Mama – 2/14

February 20, 2014

Goal 1: Confidence/ Character Building
– Had a good playdate at Cyrus’s house
– Digging in the snow. See Snow Day post for more details
– Sledding at our backyard. See Snow Day post for more details
– Gave out Valentines. Calvin helped to poke the lollipops into the cards.
– Random tidbit but Calvin has been asking repeatedly when he will get a present.

Goal 2: Chinese

– Read 乒乒和乓乓抓大鱼,两棵树, 巴巴爸爸和圣诞礼物,变色龙不变色, 落叶跳舞,11只小猫做苦工 . He hasn’t been asking to read his Chinese books so I’m back to sniping him with them when he’s doing his big business or when he’s having snack. Captive audience for the win!
– Watched 巧虎x4
– Listened to 1.5 hours of kids chinese music during quiet time. It’s amazing but he really remembers the words very well and if I explain them, he will remember what it means later. His pronunciation has improved quite a bit.


Goal 3: Math

Goal 4: Reading

Goal 5: Fine motor skills
– Cut paper (receipts, catalogs etc) into random shapes
– Cut out animals for our Africa Project. Only one casualty this time – one ostrich head.

Goals for the Mama – 2/7

February 13, 2014

Goal 1: Confidence/ Character Building
– Hosted a good play date with Cyrus. They shared toys and took turns very nicely. Looks like they have the most fun playing vehicles together – driving cars down the ramp, building a car store

Goal 2: Chinese

– Read 小布丁爱偷听,巴巴爸爸搬大树, 骑恐龙去上学, 巴巴爸爸的马戏团
– Watched 巧虎x5

Goal 5: Fine motor skills
– Scooping and pouring beans

Pretend Play Fun

February 9, 2014

Its been a lot more interesting doing pretend play with Calvin. Most of the time, we’re playing Transformers, but there is a lot more variety to his play and the stories he tells can get quite vivid and exciting. He is totally obsessed with the 1st Generation Transformers with the super boxy robots. Yes, that is the one me and J watched when we were kids. He’s watched the old movie so many times that he thinks the flashy new ones look strange.

He’s been giving his toys names, usually random but consistent. Names like Fresh, Rauder, Constructy, Smasher (that doesn’t smash), Doah the robot dog etc. And then all the car minions will come out when Decepticons attack and we are “outnumbered”, as Perceptor in the movie says.

As he reads more books, he gets new ideas to interject into the movies too, like space bandits that attack and then get smashed by him. And then he talks about how we need strategy to win. I was pretty impressed with his vocabulary even if it’s all in the context of shooting and killing imaginary evil robots. Sometimes I wonder if we should try to stop him from the more violent pretend play but it’s probably cathartic and we do try to give him suggestions to capture them and put them in jail or make them fall asleep or chase them away etc. His recent compromise is that after he smashes them, he fixes them up and change them to be good autobots.

Some of the props we use are pretty hilarious. Like big toilet roll packs as launchers, long blocks/rulers for swords, large rectangles Lego covers, little bowls for shields, Easter basket as helmet and also Tinkertoy gun or even at times just a hand gun (he poked his thumb down and explained that it is the handle).

His playground is finally getting a lot more use as his fortress/ space shuttle/ factory. He’s having so much fun climbing all over it that it dashed my plans to sell it if we move to the university’s family apartment.

Goals for the Mama – 1/24

February 1, 2014

Goal 1: Confidence/ Character Building
– Helped to clean up his toys
– Made an invitation card for Cyrus to invite him to our house. He drew the cutest stick figure of Cyrus with legs up like a ‘V’ which he says means that Cyrus is running towards him.
– Told us he played with Cyrus in school today. They played a game called Noise Bingo.
– He entertained himself at the restaurant by playing a ‘step only on the white tile’ game while we finish dinner.

Goal 2: Chinese

– Read 巴巴爸爸的马戏团x3,巴巴爸爸去火星旅行, 落叶跳舞,肚子里的火车站, 巴巴爸爸找巴巴妈妈, 巴巴爸爸建新家x3, 巴巴爸爸回到地球,
– Watched 巧虎x3

Goal 3: Math
– Added things like how many times he gargled, packs of sugar at the restaurant

Goal 4: Reading

Goal 5: Fine motor skills

– Played with beans (burying trains, making pies/ cakes/ ice cream, burying spaceships, running bean factory)