Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Chinese New Year- Sand Art

I don't know about you, but i had an exhuasting but fulfilling Chinese new year! I feel very blessed just by being with my family & friends.

We didn't do much Chinese new year activities but just this:

Chinese New year sandart. We have never done this, this is our first! Since they had Chinese New year themes, i decided to get some to do at home.

Peel off the stickers and sprinkle the colored sand!

This is done by the boy- choice of color fully controlled by the mother.

This is what happens when you let the boy choose his own colors! Purple face, purple eyes... i had to bite my lip and just encouraged him to choose any colors he wanted.

What do we do with the leftover sand? Finger Play!

Blessed Chinese New year!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Mental Sums

When i taught sonshine to add 2 digits, i had expected him to be able to calculate in his head too. Normally, i wouldn't have such expectations but this time i know my son is capable of doing so hence i decided to give him a little nudge.

Initially, he couldn't do it. So i pulled away for a few weeks until i realised, he couldn't do it because he didn't have enough practise on paper i.e. he didn't get enough visual on adding in 2 digits. Hence, i took out the ipad  and worked 3-4 sums with him.

It worked like magic!
I gave him a couple of verbal sums, 19+19? 26+15? etc and
Straight away, he learnt how to add 2 digits- all his head. :)
Have you read this? http://hedgehogcomms.blogspot.com/2011/05/letter-to-mr-heng-swee-kiat.html Alright, i am a little delayed, i've only had the time now to keep up with all the other blogs.

I agree with her every point, paragraph, words- right down to her punctuation marks! I may not be a parent of a school going kid YET, but i can certainly imagine the pain of being one! The point she raised that it closest to my heart is this:

"The backlash is that our children’s self-worth and perception have become intrinsically linked to their academic grades. Teachers, peers and possibly parents judge the value of students according to their academic ability. I know children whose self-esteem is low simply because they don’t do as well in school as their classmates. In the “branded” schools, it also breeds elitism because these students deem others less academically-inclined as somehow inferior"

It's true, the way us parents are driving our kids to achieve academic success may be damaging to their self esteem. The danger is that they link their self worth directly to their academic results. So children who don't score well, or even very well for that matter, may think they are value-less when they don't meet up to academic expectations. But the truth this, we are not our academic success, heck, our jobs don't make us, us!

Coincidentally, the book that i recently shared, made the same point. The 'i will reward you with this if you score well for the test or if you win the race' type of parenting sends a very subtle yet deep message to our children. That is, mummy and daddy values, appeciates you only when you top your studies or competition. Of course, as parents we know in our hearts that we will always love our child despite, but our children may not know that unless we show and tell them. I like what the author did. Once, he gave a set of ice-cream vouchers to his son's baseball (i think) coach. He specifically told the coach treat the team ice cream NOT on their first win but on their first lost. He wanted the kids to know that even when they loose a game, when they failed, they are still being appreciated and valued. How often do we do that?

Long before i read the book and the blog, i asked my then 3 year old son this. When mummy is angry at you, does mummy still love you? Interestingly, he said 'no'. I wasn't expecting a different answer but still i was hit by how a mere 3 year old can make that deduction! What more about school going children? What kind of conclusions will they draw on seeing their parents disappointed, angry faces when they fail to achieve academic expectations?

Straight away, i corrected him. I told him that even when mummy is mad at you, mummy still loves you. These days, i make a more direct point. I specifically tell him even when he can't say add or spell or anything that he feels like he can't do, i still love him. For this is what i want him to know, even if he fails in something, or do well in something, i love him regardless. I want him to feel secure in our love for him, and valued no matter what.

That is why when it comes to academics especially i do my best not show my impatience, annoyance or disappointment when he cannot seem to get an answer or concept correct (though it is hard to do at times). I do not want him to feel less of himself just because he fails at something be it academics or not. Instead, i take the chance to remind him that it is okay mummy still loves you, we can try again later.

I do not want to fall into the trap of making my children feel their worth is in their studies nor do i want to blindly join the rat race. I told my husband that we should remind each other that it is not about sonshine's academic results. But it is his attitude towards a given task, responsibility or work-that's it. Its not the end but the process that counts.

I will always remember what that author did and have kept a mental note to myself. If the day comes when sonshine fails- be it a test or a competition, i'll go buy him (and myself) an ice-cream and tell him that even if he fails- mummy & daddy still love him!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Mandarin and all...

When we first became parents, i knew we were in trouble when it comes to our kids chinese education. My husband does not speak a word of mandarin, he cannot even differentiate 我 and 大! He was not educated locally so had managed to escape chinese classes and continued to shun away from the dreaded subject when he came here on scholarship.

As for me, i cannot speak mandarin to save my life. I was raised in an English speaking environment and can safely say, i was only exposed to Mandarin when i went to school. I never read a single Mandarin book in my life because the words give me a headache. My friends would beg me to switch to English if i attempt to speak in Mandarin- i am that bad.

Oddly enough, on paper, i am better in Mandarin than English- not that my English is awesome (i know i know, my grammar, tenses, spelling are all over the place!). I was a A/B grade student which was extraordinary since i have no mandarin exposure other than in school nor tuition. No, i didn't enjoy a single chinese lesson and hated almost ALL my chinese teachers. Don't ask me how i did it, my husband thinks i am a joke.

I thought i would pretty much be freed from the language until i gave birth to sonny sonshine. On the hindsight, perhaps that is why God especially helped me in my mandarin (because he knew i was going to marry a potato partner) so that at least now i can in turn 'save' my children!

Well, the saving grace is, i know enough words to read Mandarin somewhat comfortably and understand the text 80% of the time. I am also equipped enough to look up the chinese dictionary when a mandarin word looks alien to me.

It is true, my children may have difficulty conversing in Mandarin- just like their parents. But i am doing what i can- for now. I am reading lots and lots and lots of Mandarin books to sonshine. My first & foremost aim is NOT to get him to learn Mandarin but to find enjoyment in reading even Mandarin books. That's why i began with the simplest of books so that i can read and so that he can understand and enjoy. Right now, i am slowly introducing to him more Mandarin story books so that he can learn to appreciate the language. I've to say, we've been quite successful. There was a little resistance but once he found the storyline interesting he was hook.

So, here is one book we enjoy reading this week:

It is a book told by a child about how great his father is. How his father is not afraid of the big bad wolf, how he can so effortlessly leap over the moon, how his father can sing & dance so superbly etc. But most importantly, how his father loves him so.

I think this book originated in English and was translated in Mandarin. I enjoyed it because, erm, just because the words are simple enough for me to read! :P But sonny enjoys it too and that's good enough!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Adding in 2-digits

Ever since, we did the Montessori stamp game (addition), the boy has been able to add in 2 digits. Today, i whipped out the ipad just to practise. We had fun adding 2 (and more) digit sums together.

I just love how the boy gets so so so so excited whenever we do home teaching stuff like this. I love how i do not need to force him to learn, i love how he so readily, so excitedly, so willingly joins me for, what i call, homeschool-minutes (because that's as long as my 'lessons' last!).

I love how he loves learning. :)

I gave him a sum and he worked on it independently.

He was excited when i showed him we can add the same way in hundreds and even thousands. He has caught on the concept and was able to work on the sums pretty much on his own.

Since i was at it, i showed him how to subtract ( 2 digits) by borrowing over. He seems to have understood but i think i will use the Montessori stamp game to illustrate again.  

Sunday, January 15, 2012

iplay, icreate

Sonny Sonshine has a really pack schedule each day. No, his mama didn't pack his day with home teaching-he is too busy...

Building Angry Bird structure using Legos, pretending to destroy the imaginary pigs with pretend birds (Lego pieces).

Pretending that mama's wardrobe is a train, sliding the doors open & close while announcing "DOORS ARE CLOSING *tu tu tu tu tu*". Some days he would place his Lego men inside the wardrobe, pretending that they are on board the train. We would hear him say 'XXX (he makes up his own train station name) station, Please mind the platform gap'.

Once, i even 'board' the train with him. I almost fainted, it was so stuffy, so claustrophobic but the boy refused to let me out since i have not arrived my 'destination'. It was quite an experience.

Making an overhead train station using his Thomas Train toys.

Another Lego man, on another train.

While big brother busy himself in his imaginary world, little sister rummages through his Tomica Carpark toy. Another aspiring transport minister in the house?

I just love how kids pretend play. Don't you?

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Enriching or Robbing?

My soon-to-be 5 year old has yet to attend any enrichment classes. Well, he did attend one when he was about 2 years old, but we stopped and have not send him to any classes since.

I use to wonder if i was depriving him of 'exposure' but as he grew older, i've pretty much concluded that there is really no need to send him to any classes. Academically, i am satisfied with his progress. I would like to think that if we pluck him out of kindergarten and send him straight to Primary school today, he would survive.

As for the non-academic classes, my husband and i have been telling each other, we should really send him to some music class or maybe sports like soccer etc. But, neither of us actually got to it. Moreover, Sonshine has no interest in any of them.

He is still young and may not know what he likes. If ever we have to send him to any classes, we have to second-guess what he may be interested in the future but that is tantamount to forcing him (if we guess it wrongly) isn't it? So i figured, we'll just let him decide. As long as he has the interest and passion, it will not be too late to pick up anything- even if it means he learns in his teens or even older. I would rather this way then to force him to learn music or pick up a sport against his interest. Otherwise he would end up like my husband (who was forced to learn) having a deep dislike toward playing the piano . But consider our friend who didn't learn any form of music as a child but taught himself how to play the piano by ear in his adulthood. He plays far more confidently and beautifully than my dear husband, mind you.

On another note, whenever i hear a group of mothers share about their kids attending this and that (academic) classes, i use to feel that their children were given a great head start- perhaps i should send mine too. But i corrected my thinking. I realised that my son is the privilege few who does not need to attend any classes. While other children are spending their after school hours in enrichment classes, he has the fortune to stay home and play with his toys or just hang out his pop and mom.

Of course, he isn't perfect academically. His mandarin is quite lacking and i've contemplated sending him for extra classes after school. But i feel guilty for making him spend additional hours in school- i think 3 hour school on the weekday is just nice, anything more would be suffocating. Weekends are a no-no because we spend our Sundays in church and Saturdays, well, we really enjoy waking up and just doing whatever we feel like doing as a family- and that's pretty much the only day in the week we can do so. Rather than working around his class schedules, which will probably restrict the time & places we go.  

Sending him for classes at this age would make me feel like i am robbing him of his childhood. I have decided, i shall teach whatever i can at home for now. At least, when i teach him, we get to spend time together as well.

In this day and age, it is hard not to put our kids up for extra lessons without feeling the pressure. I don't blame parents for packing their children's weekends with enrichment classes but it is really sad that the kids these days are spending their after-school hours on more academic classes- and that include mere 4/5 year olds! And the only parent-child bonding they have is in between classes.

I foresaw that this day may come, that is why i opted to teach sonshine as early as 2 years old and i am glad i did. Looking at him now, it would be difficult to teach him because i would have to compete with his toys, his imaginary play etc. Moreover, he is old enough to choose what and when he wants to learn. But when he was younger, i had a captive audience in him. Anything and everything were captivating to him such that i could teach him without receiving any resistance.

Friends, family shook their heads at me as if i saying i was a typical 'paper-chasing' mom & robbing my son of his childhood. Today, the very same people are frantically sending their pre-schoolers to this class and that class in bid to prepare them for Primary school. On the contrary, here i am kicking off my shoes, just chilling and my son's home playing. So who's robbing of their kid's childhood now? Right back at ya!

I count ourselves really blessed because i am able to stay home and teach my own kids, hence sparing them of additional make-up classes (at least for now). It is indeed a privilege to not attend enrichment classes

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

How i teach the words '目' and '眉'

I am currently on a mission to teach sonshine Mandarin words. One of the 2 words i am teaching this week is '目' which i find quite difficult to explain to a child. So i came up with an ingenious plan- at least that's what I think.

I remember we learnt about 'Homophones': words that sound the same but spelled differently & have different meanings. This N knows very well.

Sonshine knows how to read the word '木'. So i took out the 2 word cards '木' and '目'. I told him i'll be showing him chinese homophones. I asked him to first read  '木' and then i showed him the word '目' and told him that this word sounds exactly the same. I asked him if these words are spelled the same? To which he said, 'no'. But do they sound the same? He said 'yes'. And that was it.

The second time, i showed him the '目' card and ask him to read out for me. He read it out aloud without  any hesitation. I knew my ingenious plan had worked! *WINK* of course, i didn't let him off without explaining the meaning to him (i'll  share this another time).

The other word is '眉'. Unlike the word '目', this word can be explained by using a picture. But my challenge is getting sonshine to remember how it sounds. The first couple of times, sonshine couldn't remember how to pronounce the word though he knows the meaning. So, i ditched the card and stopped asking him to read out the word. I reiterated what the word meant and kept asking him, '你的毛在那里?'. Though he knows where to point, what word it is, i just kept repeating the question while emphasizing the word '眉'. The purpose was to let him hear the word as many times as possible. When i thought it has finally drilled into him, i whipped out the card and asked him read to me. No sweat. YIPPEEE!

谁的自行车- book review

This is a simple Mandarin book. When i say simple, i mean even if your mandarin hinges at Primary school level, you should be well able to read the entire book! Er, yup i am talking about myself!

Anyway, it's another mandarin book we've been reading. On each page the reader will see different types of bicycles, long, short, tall, small etc. Each character will stumble on the next bicycle and ask 'Whose bicycle is this?'. The next character on the following page will say 'It is mine'. That's pretty much the text in the entire book.

I like its repetitive text. In a way, sonshine gets to see the words over and over again- hence drilling him to recognise the words.

ISBN: 9787512301207

贪心的小绵羊- book review

ISBN: 9787532478941, 7532478947

Here's another lovely mandarin book to share. I have to say that some mandarin words are quite alien to me but i am proud i managed (well enough to understand the story)!

It's about this little sheep who was unsatisfied with himself. He thinks he is too small, too slow as compared with the other sheep. He went on an eating spree till he grew bigger, bigger than his friends, bigger than the forest and soon big enough to eat the globe! He stopped eating when he was satisfied with his size but soon realised he was all alone (cause he ate the whole earth including his sheep friends). He felt lonely and sad. Suddenly, he felt the urge to throw up. He threw up everything he ate, including his friends. Soon, everything was back to normal, even his size.
He felt relieved and happy that he was himself again.

Yes, it is a story about accepting oneself & being satisfied with what you have. What you desire may not exactly be the best thing.

Lovely story with lovely graphics. Initially, sonshine wasn't interested (because it was a rather wordy mandarin book- erm by our standards) and sat at the other far end of the bed. But once the story picked up, he quickly came over and even made me flip back the pages so that he can keep up. *SCORE!*

Monday, January 9, 2012


In the last few months, i've slowly introduced Fractions to the boy. I read a couple of Fraction books to him just to expose him to the concept.

I also gave him some half-minute verbal lessons. For instance, i'd ask him how many in our family own Crocs shoes, and he would say 2. I then ask him how many people are there in our family, he'd answer 4. So i told him that 2 out of 4 people in our family has Crocs Shoes! I would throw him similar questions using our everyday lives as the subject. And that was that until...

the school holidays when he asked and asked and asked and asked to 'play' with the Fractions game set on our shelf. I rejected him a couple of times (because i hadn't done any research on how to play it) but finally had no heart to decline him again. So we just dived into it without any lessons planned.

This was the first set we 'played'. It was passed down to me by my sister. I've NO idea where she got this from (and neither does she remember). I've seen this series on shapes, spelling etc everywhere but not the Fraction set.

Using the pieces to reinforced to Sonshine that 2 halves make a whole. He already knows this as well as 4 quarters make a whole, 3 one-thirds make a whole etc. But i still used them to reiterate it.

What i love about this fraction set is that i could also show him that 2 quarters equal a half!

We also discovered that one 1/5 and three 1/10s also make a half!

I was clearly out of my mind. I went on to make felt fractions for him in the midst of my crazy schedule! This was inspired by Counting Coconuts. But unlike her, i deliberately used the same colored felt ('cause i wanted to make all things equal except the size) and i didn't write down the fraction on each piece ('cause i wanted N to tell me himself).

Right after we finished that set, he asked to do another set! Here, he had to match the fraction to the correct picture.

This is the set, in case anyone out there is interested. I think i bought it from Toysrus.

At other times, i would grab a few pieces of Lego, say 3 yellow and 2 red. I would ask him how many out of how many are yellow (3 out of 5) and how many red? I think he's gotten it. :)

Sunday, January 8, 2012


I rarely blog about babydoll last year just 'cause she was still at the infancy stage. But she has quickly become a little explorer in her own right.

Typically, i try to allow her to explore without any restriction unless of course it crosses the safety boundary. I use to allow sonshine to mess up anything, cupboards, shelves etc. I wanted to encourage him to explore and not restrict his curiosity. However, this time, it is really hard to give babydoll free reign, since i'm the one who has to tidy up & i don't have as much time as before!

At this stage, it's all about sensory; touching, feeling, tasting (arrg). At one stage, she was into balls. So i gathered whatever i had and dump them in a little container. If you noticed, the balls come in different size and texture.

The Happy and intrigue explorer

Hold your breathe, ladies & gentlemen..the explorer digs her hands into a box of (gasp) LEGOs! Do not worry, mama watches her with eagle eyes and makes sure nothing small goes into her mouth! As i said, i try to let her touch and feel as many things as she wants. I want to encourage her to explore & discover. so yes, even Legos are allowed.

She has started to crawl at about 7/8 months. She doesn't like to crawl actually but is warming up to it. But unlike her brother, she crawls for just a while and then looks up at me for cries for help (ARRRRRG).

How to teach your baby to read- Glenn Doman

I know Glenn Doman's flashcards method have received much flak. But it has its believers too- and im one of them. I've seen the results in my niece, nephew & my own son, it's impossible not to believe in it.

I started flashing word cards to Sonshine when he was 5 months old. By 10 months, he was able to recognise words although he couldn't speak nor point. How's that possible? Against GD's advice, i 'tested' him by holding up 2 word cards. As i call out one of the word, i watched his eyes shift to the correct card. 10 out of 10 times i did so, he got it right. But it sounded quite absurd, so i chose to tell people he could read by 1 plus (which is more believable). When he was on fours, i would lay out 2 picture cards and held up a word card describing one of the picture card. He would then crawl to the respective picture card and hand it to me.

Yes, i also read to him alot at the same time. But the words on the books were too small for him to read (although i believe he picked up more words during our read alouds when he was older & his vision, sharper).

I recommend:

1) The parent read the above book first. Alot of parents jump the band wagon without researching the why & the how. Hence, most give up mid way or claim it doesn't work. The book inspired me alot and probably that spurred me to finish the course.

2) Though GD claim it is suitable from birth, i think it is best to do it at 6 months onwards. For the very simple reason that the babies would not recognise the words although it would give them good visual stimulation.

3) Not suited for 2 years and above. Again, although GD says it works on older child, i disagree (but he did mention it would be challenging for older kids). 2 years old and older kids tend to be more distracted, it'd be difficult to expect them to sit there for even 1 minute to watch you flash word cards to them. You would need a more interesting and inviting method altogether.

4) If you are flashing to kids less than 1.5 years old, i suggest you buy the original GD flashcards and not the commercial, cheaper ones. The correct cards should have very huge fonts for visibility, the copied versions usually use smaller fonts.

And to reiterate some of the tips GD mentioned in the book

1) Always flash when the parent AND child are in a positive mood.
2) Always stop when the child is still interested, ie. stop before he gets bored.
3) Show the cards quickly, the speed should be even faster for older kids (due to their shorter attention span).
4) Never test your child, trust that he/she has absorb what you've showed. (WHOOPS!)

Lastly, if you cannot afford the time, do not fret. It doesn't mean if you don't start your kid on flashcard at 6 months, he/she is doom. Nonsense! Just find 5-10 minutes each day to just read aloud to your kid, he'll learn to read in no time. Read, read and read is the key not flashcards (it should treated as a complement to reading).

Saturday, January 7, 2012

He can tell the time

Sonshine can now tell the time by looking at a face clock. He can tell me the hour and exact minutes. He initially was able to tell by the hour and half-hour. He could read the digital clock, 24-hour as well. I taught him to read the minute hand before but he was alittle rusty hence i decided it's time to brush up! With a little help from some books on telling time and this trusty clock (bought from Popular Bookshop), the boy can read time like 4:23 or 10:09 etc. Some days, i would ask him to look at the digital clock and arrange the hour & minute hand accordingly. No sweat! PASS!

Friday, January 6, 2012


Of late, i've been feeling a little short in my parenting. I couldn't quite point a finger to it until i read How to be a Hero to Your Kids. It's a christian parenting book but i think the principles are so logical that even non-christians can benefit from it.

But the point where the book spoke right to me was when the author shared how he would act on an instance whenever his children do wrong. He feels the need to immediately correct their behavior and not wait. But when the kids do something right, he would make a mental note to praise them later- eventually he may not do. Then it occured to him that the message he's been sending to his kids- the way to get his immediate attention is to do something wrong. He suggest the right way is to give more heed to right behaviour then wrong.

My husband was very quick to tell me 'I HOPE THIS SPEAKS TO YOU!'. Whoops. I think i've been paying more attention at every little thing that the boy does wrong but fail to give the same amount of attention when he does right. I've been rather harsh on the boy, expecting nothing short of perfect behavior from him. But, it may backfire on me, he's a kid after all.

Hence, i've been consciously praising the kid when he does right. Thanking him for the small things he does, like waiting patiently for us when we busy ourselves with babydoll, obeying our instructions etc. The beam on his face is simply priceless. Of course, i am not there yet, i still fall short. But, it's quite a knock on my head, still is. It's a great lesson learnt. Hope you're doing better than me in this department!


ISBN: 7509403324, 9787509403327

Some Chinese fairy must have sprinkled magic dust all over me, i feel a sudden surge of inspiration and energy to read Mandarin books with N (gasp!). I'll share more of this later.

But, here's a book i chanced upon recently. I love it so much that i had to come here and share.

It's a simple book, VERY simple book about a loose star-shaped button that had dropped on the floor. The book takes the readers on a quest to search for its owner. Was it the snowman's? No, his buttons are circle in shape. Was it the witch's? No, her's triangle. Was it the King's? No, he owns square shape buttons. OH! It belongs to a little child!

If you're teaching your kids about shapes in mandarin, this book is just about right to read to them. As i said, it is a very simple book. I borrowed it, even though, N knows his shapes in Mandarin, because i wanted to intrigue him, entice him to mandarin books. THis book was beautifully written and worked on Sonshine just the way i wanted!
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