Archive for August, 2015

Tiger Mum Awakened?

August 23, 2015

So now that the worrying about him getting adjusted to kindergarten life is dispensed with, I’m back to wondering how I can best teach him so he doesn’t fall behind his peers academically in Singapore. We have been focusing a lot on his motor skills and also Chinese during the summer. We also worked on his handwriting a little when he practices writing some Chinese words. His control of the crayon/ markers have improved a lot. At least now he can form letters that are the size of maybe font 100 as opposed to font 250.

Still, compared to the copious amounts of writing, spelling, 听写 (Chinese spelling), math and English worksheets that the kindergarteners have completed in Singapore, he would have a hard time catching up especially since he would be one of the youngest in his class and he would only have completed half a year of kindergarten by the time Primary 1 starts over there.

Then the tiger mum in me gives a little growl as I wonder if I have not done enough to prepare him academically. I noticed that I am reluctant to introduce things that seem boring to him i.e. those that are not immediately fun and exciting. Firstly because it takes effort to plan the lessons and this summer, I had my hands full just getting as much Chinese in him as I can. Especially for Chinese, I’ve been very careful to keep things short and manageable because I was worried that I would bore him and make him hate the subject forever. On the other hand, because I am observing his reactions carefully and I rarely force him to continue when he is antsy, it should be fine. I would be doing him a great disservice if I let him attend school to find out that he is unable to understand the lessons while his peers have a relatively easy time of it.

I was probably also discouraged by a few flops when I tried introducing some new concepts to him. He probably wasn’t interested because he wasn’t ready for it (it was about summing to 8,9 and 10) and I just needed to take a step back and building up from basics. I am not a trained teacher after all.

I’ve only just begun to experiment experimenting with teaching. Right now, I’m training my skill in teaching as much as he is learning to learn. From the hours we’ve spent on Chinese, I’ve picked up a few tricks so we can get some extra schooling done in whatever pockets of time we have. One key thing is to have multiple short sessions throughout the day (5-10 minute blocks for now) instead of expecting him to sit down for a whole hour. I’ve also been using the Montessori 3 period method to help him remember new words which focuses on Introduction, Recognition and finally Recall.

I hope to fit in one or two sessions of studying every weekday and maybe 4-5 sessions every weekend so we can work on the skills he needs to survive Singapore Primary school if we decide we are going back soon. Since I have extra time during the day, I could use that to plan my weekly lessons. We’ll probably focus on his handwriting, math and Chinese for now. He has been practicing reading in English on his own and we regularly point out words in books etc. The rest of our time will be for books and free play. I’m still hoping to get him at least 1 hour of outdoor time a day. He has two recesses in school so that helps to fulfill most of that. It looks like I have a busy time ahead and I’m looking forward to the challenge 😀

Standing up for Himself

August 22, 2015

For the first time, I have absolutely no idea what happens to Calvin at school. It’s slightly unnerving when he comes back with stories about how other kids make him upset but it seems we have prepared him sufficiently. I’ve always worried about him being bullied in school since he is smaller, of a minority race and likes to be by himself. I mean he was already picked on at 3 years old precisely because of that.

Yesterday, he told him one of his classmates grabbed him by his neck and he told him firmly “Stop it” and the teachers were alerted and came to get the boy to stop. When the notorious S pushed him off the slide, he went and reported to the teacher. I’m trying to ask him to resolve the issue first by perhaps telling S that he shouldn’t push before running off to the teachers so he won’t come off as a tattle tale. I am glad though that he had learned to shout “Stop” at the offenders (by practicing lots on his spiky attacking papa) and show them that he will not quietly accept their wrongdoings.  (P.S. S is the boy who erased Calvin’s journal writing at kindercamp. Thankfully, they are not in the same class but they do share the same recess time)

If nothing else, we are training to run faster. That should come in handy if he has to make a run for it. >_<  Well, maybe more for fitting into groups when they play games.

First Day of Kindergarten

August 20, 2015

It is the first day of school. The child is excited to be meeting new friends. She has been asking to go to school for years. She walked and perhaps even bounced with her mother to the new school nearby, wearing her new uniform and a checkered bag filled with plastic crockery that will be used during snack time. She marveled at the school – it had a roundabout, a big swing and plenty of grassy field to run in. Then her mother said goodbye and turned to leave. The child burst into tears.

So that was me almost 30 years ago and today, Calvin had his first day of official kindergarten. While Calvin was excited just like I was, the difference is that we had a joyful goodbye before he got on the school bus. He carried a backpack laden with spare clothes and his lunch bag.

Me and J went to meet him for lunch and it seems like he had a good time. His teachers love his silly cuteness. He played with some new friends though he did told us rather ruefully that he is slower than the other boys in his class when they were running at the playground. He spent his second recess “policing” S, the kid who erased his journal entry, who was climbing up the slide even though they are not supposed to ( I think?) He also said that he had a hard time staying still when they were on the mat.

I’m still not super convinced that he will eat much of the school lunch (except  the chocolate milk, bread and sweet fruit cups). On the other hand, I don’t want him to have to look on enviously as other kids eat the school lunches (mostly they eat all the sweet stuff and ignore the rest :0[ ). For now, I’ll pack his lunch and maybe he can have one day of the week going through the lunch line.


Scaffolding & Learning New Skills

August 17, 2015

It’s funny but I never realized what a bookish child I was. Ever since I was 3 years old, my siblings have been in school. So I spend hours at home reading by myself when my siblings are in school. We do not have a yard to run around outdoors, just a small garden. So I was a pretty nonathletic kid even though I didn’t know it. When I went to kindergarten, I finally noticed that I run slower than most of the other kids and felt quite dejected. It didn’t stop me from playing lots of police and thief (兵抓贼)or other tag games.

Calvin isn’t as athletic as other kids perhaps because he was premature and was a late walker. Maybe we were just over protective first time parents. He also does not relish physical challenges. Whatever the case, we found ourselves needing to encourage and teach him things that other children may pick up naturally. He also gets easily discouraged so I’ve learned to provide more scaffolding for him by breaking the task into smaller steps so he can get enjoyment from small successes and building on each small step, incrementally being able to perform the task. For example, recently he was trying to climb down the rock wall and after lying on his belly trying to reach his foot down, declared “I can’t do it! I’m too scared!”. I asked him to try from the bottom and start with climbing two steps up, then climb down. If successful, try 3 steps up, then climb down. And repeat until he gets all the way up. He managed to do it and was even able to show his papa what he could do later.

He has been saying that baseball is his favorite sport so I made a bat out of rolled up brown paper and hung a ball from a tree so he could practice swinging. We’ve been playing ball games too, throwing, catching, kicking, bouncing etc. I have been consciously trying to get us at least 1 hour of outdoor time a day this summer. Part of it was because of this research I read that time spent outdoors is inversely correlated with incidence of myopia. (We suspect that Calvin is myopic but I’m hoping it will not progress or may even get better over time) The environment in family housing is very conducive since there is a large playground and open grassy areas right outside our door. I’m starting to really enjoy being outside and Calvin loves being outdoors and would not hesitate to sit down on any patch of grass or dirt. We are both noticeably more energetic after having some outside time. Hopefully, we’ll continue our outdoors habit even when school starts.

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Learning Math – Montessori Inspired

August 14, 2015

We’ve been neglecting his math a bit and I thought I would be doing him a disservice since he is so into building and science and math would be indispensable.

Sometimes I give him word problems to work on counting and addition/ subtraction within 10, sometimes with his snacks or just in the car to pass the time. Today, we also practiced writing letters in a tray of colored salt so I can help correct his strokes.

I would like to be a little more organized and systematic and decided to try out some of the Montessori ideas. I don’t really want to spend money on special teaching materials like the golden beads and stamp game etc so we’ll have to make do with Lego and some homemade tools. Right now I’m introducing number cards to him to teach him what 100s and 1000s look like. After that, we’ll try working on a hundred board if I can finally get myself to make one and arithmetic using the stamp game.

P.S: Yay, effort spent on making the cards paid off as he seems to have gotten the hang of what a string of numbers actually mean. Like how 58 means fifty eight or 234 means two hundred and thirty four. He used to read them as a string of unrelated numbers.

Preparing for Kindergarten – Waking up Early

August 13, 2015

We have one week before kindergarten starts and the biggest problem we have is probably waking up in time to catch the school bus. The bus comes around 7am which means we’ll have to be up by 6:30am? so he can have breakfast. So today, I set my alarm to wake me up at 7am and get everyone up early. Mr Papa gets to wake up one hour after me but he managed to burrow himself in there for another half hour. Mr Calvin spent a good amount of time whining about how tired he is. We might try to do a nap later to get our energy up but nothing was better than some good exercise outdoors to get our energy up.

Back from DC

August 9, 2015

Went to Dc for a night so we can pick up Calvin’s new passport. Had pretty decent meals: my favorite Pho and a new to us  Mediterranean place that served yummy gyro and lamb shank. We also visited a few new places like the Spark lab in American History museum and the great cats and reptile exhibit of the zoo. And the highlight for Calvin: hopping on and off escalators and riding the Metro.

Short “Diary” Entries

August 4, 2015

After reading the picture book called “Matchbox Diary”, I’m inspired to write a sentence or two of my thoughts and every day life. When the years have passed, I’ll probably forget most of what has happened. Even my juvenile diary last time were pretty funny so we’ll see how it goes.

Calvin’s interest in Chinese seems waning despite my best efforts to make it more interesting. I guess the memorization and reading is inevitable practice that we have to do. He doesn’t seem eager to learn new words so I can’t even whip out those superhero minifigs as tokens to celebrate how much he has learnt. I’m loathed to openly bribing him to learn so he can get a prize…

Friend Moving

August 3, 2015

Our neighbor downstairs has moved back to China. Calvin likes to play with the girl who’s 6 months older. I wonder if they will miss each other now that she is gone.

On the other hand, I don’t think I missed my kindergarten playmates when I went to Primary school.