Memoirs of a Budget Mum

Mother to five, parent in progress and occasional kitchenista cookerella

{{No More Reluctant Readers!}} Giveaway: ilovereading.sg Magazines for Children & Youth!

{{Giveaway & Sponsored Post}}


Is Your Child Reading Well?

Does your child read and how much time does he or she spend time reading in a given day? 

It may appear that I’ve asked a redundant question: our children go to school don’t they? Shouldn’t they be reading something and reading enough?  

Perhaps cursorily so- with the obligatory 5-10 minute “silent” reading imposed before the typical school day starts. 

Apart from formal English lessons where they comb through the requisite Stellar books in the classroom and the occasional series from the library,  time for reading may in fact be short.

A good part of the day is easily spent clearing homework set from school, or rushing between tuition, extra-curricular classes and activities. For most, it could be hard to find downtime just to read amidst all these nagging priorities. 

Has reading for pleasure become a lost art? 

What really has become of it?

Reading in Jeopardy 

It isn’t surprising that reading has faced some stiff competition from an onslaught of digital entertainment and the rise of smartphone use among the young. 


Distractions, distractions.
The headlines are depressing and statistics don’t lie. A large proportion of people are preferring online pursuits to reading. 

“Children’s reading shrinking due to apps, games and YouTube” a Nielson Book Survey of 2000 British children reports with a staggering 50% of family households now owning at least one tablet. 

That was in 2013, mind you.

Our very own local broadsheet, The Straits Times declares a similar toil on reading: “Low reading rate: Lack of interest, time cited as factors”, according to a 2016 National Arts Council (NAC) Survey. 

Of the 1,015 Singaporeans and permanent residents surveyed, 56 per cent had not read a literary book between March 2014 and March 2015. And it does not help that a large proportion of people prefer online pursuits to reading books.

So how should we encourage children to read and to be excited to do so? 

ilovereading.sg Magazines 

My kids have always been fairly motivated readers and manage to sneak books in between their daily routines. I do notice their preference for comics and reading magazines and they tend to pick these up and devour them easily. I believe this is true for most children.


First, these are bite-sized and colourfully illustrated. Next, they contain puzzles and activities to make reading fun! 

Recently, we had the pleasure of reviewing a suite of reading magazines in that category by ilovereading.sg, a Singapore-based enterprise, where reading is regarded serious business.

 With their tag line “Cultivating Minds”, the publisher hopes to partner parents in providing good content and reading material for children and young people, in hope of inspiring all to read. 

Content is pleasantly packaged into assorted themes and topics that appeal to various age groups. Articles are presented in various genres and text types in bite-sized portions with huge illustrations so reading doesn’t look tedious. 

Here’s what is recommended for different age groups: 

1. Storytime (From 7years)


For young readers and lower primary school children, Storytime is a kids’ magazine packed with fairy tales, myths, poems – all beautifully written and illustrated, with kids activities like puzzles, games and colouring too! 


Every issue of Storytime comes with five classic stories, one or two poems and an extract from a favourite children’s book.

My younger kids enjoyed the activity sections and filled those in quickly! 


2. “I” (From 10years)


“I” is pitched at learners “who have little interest in the English language, see no reason why they should mind their commas, who cannot seem to get past the first page of anything they read”. 

Wow. It is hard to find a magazine catered to woo reluctant readers!

Word bank at the bottom of the story.


True to its name, ” I” , is all about the learner. 

It features  articles and comic strips of various sub-themes such as Chow Down (food), Line of Work (career), Music & Drama, among others.  

Articles are youth-centric and deal well to serve adolescent’s growing pains: from life hacks of becoming a confident person to managing anger and stress in a smarter manner.

3. INSPIRE (From 11years)


INSPIRE is an English Language magazine targeted at young readers between the ages of 11 and 14. 

This magazine hopes to present “fascinating stories, both fiction and non-fiction”.



 The range is comprehensive in INSPIRE with human-interest true life accounts, to opinion pieces, travelogues, narratives and descriptive texts. 

Texts are authentic and realistic with a good emphasis on general knowledge issues which promote good issues for discussion and debate!

4. iThink (From 14years)

iThink is specially designed for the readers between ages 14 to 16 years old. iThink symbolizes the magazine’s focus on critical thinking. “Is Pop Music Trash Now?, for example, presents a critique on the pop music industry and stories provoke critical evaluation in the reader. It is good companion magazine for advanced readers in Secondary school. 


iThink was nominated Best Educational Title in 2016 by Singapore Book Awards 2016.

Why we like ilovereading.sg magazines:

  • Exposure to text types : The magazines, in particular, I, INSPIRE and iTHINK closely follow the standard and format of texts outlined in the MOE English Language syllabuses, while maintaining the quality and concept of an interesting non-academic magazine. Readers get adequate exposure to text types and writing styles, that are crucial for expanding the breadth and depth of their language skills. If your kids, are not reading widely enough, the magazines will ensure you do. 
  • Engage: There is always an intention to engage the reader with post-reading activities such as language games, crossword puzzles, word search and anagrams. The ” I” also contains a generous sprinkle of spicy info bites (Now You Know), tickling brainteasers (Tease Your Brain), YouTube videos, SEL questions and word banks. Engagement in reading is essential. It allows the child to process content and reflect on their reading, making it more intentional. 

    • Educate: Post-reading follow up is critical and the more advanced magazines have dedicated worksheets that mirror the school exam format to provide readers with additional practice on exam-type questions that assess listening, oral, reading comprehension as well as writing skills. At the end of almost every article, there is a word bank that immediately helps the reader tune into contextual vocabulary and expand it fast and effortlessly. They also welcome student essays which are tweaked and given a makeover.

    Disclosure: All views are my own. A subscription of the above magazines was sponsored for the purposes of this review. 

    *****

    {Giveaway Alert: Get Your Free Copy of Storytime/I / Inspire /iThink Now!}

    The good folks at ilovereading.sg are giving away 1 FREE issue of a magazine of your choice for 20 lucky MOBM readers

    To participate in the giveaway, click here! 
    a Rafflecopter giveaway

    Terms and conditions

    1. This giveaway ends on 29May 2017; 2359hrs. The winners will be randomly selected from Rafflecopter and announced on this blog post the following day. 

    2. Winners will be contacted via the email address provided and will have 48 hours to respond; failing which a new winner will be selected.

    3. By entering this giveaway, you agree to release your email address to the sponsor for verification, contact and marketing purposes.
This giveaway is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with Facebook.

    ***All the best!!**

    Keep Calm & Mother On

    It is nearly 13 years ago since I became a mother. 

    That feels like a very long time. It probably is. It feels like I had a sudden past life which doesn’t really seem to exist anymore…and an alter ego. It’s hard to explain, but if you’re a mom right here reading this, I’m sure you know what I’m talking about.

    Sometimes that alter ego makes you want to do wild and crazy things, like go undercover, escape on a plane or hatch a rendezvous escapade that involves a swanky beach hat, a divan and a martini, doing nothing but twiddling your manicured toes.


    You need to feel sizzling hot again…and not because you’re slaving at the stove and hanging out the clothes in freaking 35 degree weather. You wish you could wear those stretch marks like a tattoo and not have be conscious of the jiggling jelly fat under your arms.

    It doesn’t help matters that you still feel like a girl in disguise…you remember those young, carefree days but now you’ve got to up your game. You have to try to exercise every good muscle of patience and virtuous living.

    This “motherhood” module feels like one of the most difficult modules to get an “A” on.  There’s no real textbook or manual and you can truly only learn from Experience- which is the “mother” of hindsight. 

    The hardest thing about motherhood is being wise. Or at least acting like you are. When you’re in corporate Mom gear, you get into business and do your job; pull a serious face, give orders and tend to official pressing matters concerning  little people. Every single day. 

    These people are hard to please; they bicker, compare, complain and push your boundaries incessantly. Yet, that get away with mostly everything in your books. Yes, you’re probably biased.

    Motherhood is such hard work it feels crazy. It’s also a little cheesy-especially when you make a fool of yourself to squeeze out those cherubic giggles that make every second worth it. 

    You also didn’t know you had it in you to be a drama queen; to snort silly animal sounds and scream like a rockstar in the 120 decibel range when you step on Lego.

    As a mom, I’ve got my clowning act together, and also my juggling one. Somehow these routines get more and more complicated as the years go by and the best way to deal with it is really to have a very, very, very good sense of humor. 

    You also need to have a bad memory. So you don’t have to kick yourself hard in the foot when you make stupid mistakes or say stupid things that you regret the moment you utter it. Tomorrow will always be better somehow. And in the worst  scenarios, there’s always chocolate and ice cream. 

    Also in your Motherhood Survival Kit, should be the notion that this life, is THE best life. Here. Now. Tantrums. Spills. Messy. Sleep deprived. We are not going to start wishing it away because deep in our hearts we know that this thing called Motherhood–we wouldn’t trade it for the world. It’s probably one of the best things that ever came our way. 

    BASF Kid’s Lab 2017 is back! -Explore the Wonders of Chemistry with hands-on experiments!

    Media Invite

    Over the years, the BASF Kids’ Lab program has been reaching out to children all over the world and this year is no exception- this will be their 20th year in fact! 

    Our family has always looked forward to Kids Lab sessions! 

    Little scientists ready to rock and roll!

    It checks all our boxes for good family fun: free activity (check), educational (check), fun (check) and hands-on and engaging (check)! 
    I mean how often do the kids get a chance to get all decked out in lab gear and goggles, and mess around like it’s their job to!!

    Our session was conducted at BASF’s new and very swanky learning campus near One North. The learning campus, formerly a series of old colonial houses, is now a quaint precinct oozing with old-new world charm and flanked by lush greenery all round! Very nice. 

    Pano view of the grounds

     

    BASF Kid’s Lab adopts a family-friendly approach with its signature hands-on learning of simple chemistry experiments pitched at an easily-digestible level to young children and suiting multiple learning styles! 

    This year the highlight will centre on  two experiments: 

    1.  Poly Lab: children will discover the properties of plastics, and design a kit to separate and recycle plastics, and find out more about the amazing “corn starch” solution! Through hands-on experiments, they will find out how we can use and make plastics in a more environmentally friendly manner
    2. Colorful Butterfly: making use of materials available at home and applying simple science theories, children will be designing their own colorful butterfly.

    Here’s what we love: 

    1. Clear and Simple Steps: We love it that for all experiments, instructions are laid out clearly and simply enough for children to follow with laminated instructions. It’s truly the kids that take ownership for what they are doing and adults can take a step back and let the kids play scientist. 
    2. Recording Observations: Each table is manned by friendly lab assistants who guide the children to record their predictions and observations before and after the experiments and direct the children to uncover key learning points at every stage of exploration! 

     

    Experiment 1: Polylab

    In the first experiment, Poly Lab, the children were briefed on the different types of plastics (plastic bags, cups, bottles) in our immediate environment: 

    They were then led to separate different coloured plastic beads. 


    After adding some salt, the black beads floated to the surface of the water. Kids found out through this that different plastics have different properties! 


    Little scientists recording her observations

    Next, the kids dabbled in the “amazing corn starch” experiment which hopes to point them to future renewable substitutes for plastic.  

    The corn starch solution feels very dense yet malleable…a future plastic substitute!


    Experiment 2: Colourful Butterfly

    This colorful experiment involves red cabbage and is wonderful for younger kids. The kids were instructed to rub the cabbage dye onto the paper butterfly and see the effect of water, lemon juice and soap solution on it! 



    Different liquids yielded different colours! I won’t burst the bubble here to tell you what the result was because you really have to get your child a slot in to find out! 

    BASF 2017: Sign up Now! 

    BASF Kids Lab 2017 is now open for registration. 


    These are the details: 

    Who: Kids 7-12year olds 

    When: June 6-11 2017(Tuesday to Sunday)

    Time: 10.15am, 11.45am, 2.15pm, 3.45pm (1 hr 15min per session) 

    Where: Programme zone, Jurong Regional Library 

    To register:

     1. Go to NLB website 

     2. Search for event: BASF Kids Lab

    Good things must share!!! 

    Cooking for the Village

    Cooking for a large family has always been such a whirl. It always starts with a fluster of inspiration from surfing Pinterest and saving one too many news feeds of Tasty videos. This is followed by the random mad impulse to visit the supermarket to scour for good deals. Usually the Man (my endearingly patient hubby) strategically grabs a basket….with the not so subtle intention to ahem, keep me in line and give me “perimeters” for spending.

    Other than that, here’s what we usually do to keep homecooking on a budget:

    1. Visit good quality supermarkets for reduced items. Just today we flashed by Cold Storage and nabbed some half -priced buys of chicken, flower crab and portabellos. Usually, the reduce have day after use-by dates so one really has to be prepared to whip up something the day itself or the next day. Sometimes if you’re lucky, you get stuff that hold out for longer. Just remember to check when they are due and work your meals around it!

    2. Look in your fridge and work with what you already have. Remember, half the time we over-buy and over-stock as we forget what we have in our pantry. It’s the same with fresh produce. Check in with what u already have and Google their pairings. There could be recipes you never thought existed. Today, I had an epiphany while staring at the miso tub in my fridge and its remaining shelf life. Typically miso goes in soup but garlic and miso is an ingenious pairing and when used as a marinade on chicken, is an absolute recipe keeper. The pictures speak for themselves!

    3. Think of ways to extend the meal. Plan to use every item/part of the cooking process well. Some days ago, I bought mint leaves which I used in a tzatziki dip. I rolled over the remaining leaves in some vietnamese rice rolls the next day. Today’s winning miso chicken dish was also dutifully extended. The chicken and miso juices left in the pan were fully absorbed by the lovely Daiso udon noodles I boiled specially for our carbo-nivores.

    This is tonight’s complete Japanese Fusion Weekend pig out: Garlic Miso Chicken, absolutely delectable in that garlicky saltiness. Cucumber Wakame Seaweed Salad, a 5 minute refreshing sweet sour crunch to cut through the oil and udon that’s soaks up the delicious juices and layered with furikake and seaweed.

    Here’s the modified recipe just for those of you who would like to feed a village 😉


    Garlic Miso Chicken (adapted fr justonecookbook.com) Feeds 10 pax

    Ingredients:

    Parts of chicken (I used 6 thighs and 6 drums)

    1 bulb of garlic, finely minced

    4 Tbsp. Miso – I used white miso

    3 Tbsp. soy sauce

    3 Tbsp. mirin

    1 Tbsp. sugar

    1. Prick the chicken with a fork. Combine minced garlic with miso, add soy sauce, mirin, sugar in a bowl and stir into a marinade. Rub it over the chicken and set it to marinade in the fridge for at least three hours.

    2. Set to broiler mode, 180degrees in the oven for 50minutes, turning the chicken midway. Keep an eye on chicken towards the end to estimate doneness.

    Cucumber Wakame Salad


    http://www.japanesecooking101.com/cucumber-and-wakame-seaw…/

    Udon

    Flat udon noodles. $2 a pack from Daiso. Boil noodles till al dente. Throw into juices in pan and sprinkle furikake to taste. Top with crispy seaweed(optional)

    Getting The Kids Involved at Home – A Labour Day Post!

    It’s Labour Day today and I really had no intention of timing this follow-up post specially to coincide with it. However, since Labour Day is the only day this harried mama enjoys some downtime to expound on how we do chores in this family—it’s probably a sign that the heavens are in agreement!

    I used to cringe at home management. For someone organizationally and administratively challenged like me, I genuinely shuddered at the thought of setting up a spreadsheet for everyone’s chores…AND maintaining it.

    It sounded like I was setting myself up for failure: when things are put in a box within a scheduled time and you didn’t manage to put a check on it, it just wears you down slowly but surely and soon you’ll discover that you’re in a rut.

    Because of that, I literally dumped the idea of having a chore roster and chose to implement chores  according to the flow of what we were doing that day:  whether our day was a fluid one (running groceries, after-school activities) or a structured one (lots of seatwork), we tried to impress on the children to render help where it was needed. The idea was to simply invite the children to be involved in age-appropriate tasks/ chores as we went along. It went with the grain of simply encouraging them to be helpful! If you’re organizationally-phobic like me, there’s hope! 

    I discussed my chore philosophy in this earlier post but to sum it up, we felt teaching children to become cooperative members of a household is one of the best ways to teach them responsibility that would naturally lead to them being caring and considerate adults. 

    So how do we go about the process of assigning chores? 

    ARE CHORES GENDER SPECIFIC? 

    Firstly, hubby and I believe that girls and boys alike should do chores. There’s not really a need for differentiation at this point.

     Essentially, boys who learn to help at home and do household jobs will eventually grow into men who contribute actively in the household and ready to partner their wives through seasons of life—which goes a long way into making marriages work! All moms say “Yes!” Their future wives will thank you! 

    Boys need not be taught to do only typically “manly” tasks such as “cutting grass, and taking out the garbage.” Author Anne Roiphe puts it in more dramatic terms: If we raise boys to know that diapers need to be changed and refrigerators need to be cleaned, there’s hope for the next generation.”

    TRAINING HABITS

    While learning the alphabet and learning to read are important, knowing how to run the laundry, make the bed, dusting and basic kitchen work are also skills sets that are equally laudable. 


    The former are milestones while the latter are not  milestones per se but habits of the mind! Unlike milestones, which focus on achieving a certain skill,  good habits need to be cultivated and reinforced through time and practiced over and over till they stick.

    WHEN IN DOUBT, START YOUNG

    It may be surprising to some parents but many young children can do lots of helping around the house.  As Jean Ross Peterson observes: “Chores begin when your child can pick it up, put it away, fold, sort it, or carry it out the door.”

    The picture above is a guide so don’t feel restricted if you haven’t got this started. Expectations as to what jobs children can do will depend on family circumstances, numbers and ages of children and whether both parents work outside of the home. Whatever the circumstances, set aside time to train them in appropriate tasks. Give them space and communicate the expectation that they will soon grow into it! 

    My then 3 year old used to whine and cry when she was made to pack her toys. She used to take books off the shelves and throw them all over the floor. She found it difficult to return the books back on the original shelf as she couldn’t manage the load of the other books while trying to slot the one she had in. 

    The easy way was to pick up after her. But we reminded her each time to keep trying, offered some help and left her on her own. Slowly she realized how to lean the books one way and to put books in with their spines facing out. She still litters the floor today but doesn’t whine when told to pick up. It’s clear she’s acquired some confidence in this and she knows she’s expected to take care of her “library”.

    Just like we take time to master any given skill and to be good at it, giving our children room and sufficient grace to grow into the rhythm of help, takes the pressure off them. 

    A few months should do the trick and select one or two skills to reinforce at any given time so there will be focus. 

    GETTING SCHOOL-GOING CHILDREN TO PITCH IN

    Most children at a school-going age are eager to participate in doing things around the house. They are usually capable helpers and you can scale up adequately with some  harder chores.


    In our home, when grandpa goes on holidays, he assigns the 7 & 10yo  to help him water the plants in his garden while he’s out of the country. 

    This includes the front garden, the back garden, and two balcony patios and feeding the fish in the small pond. They were taught the specific methodology of watering : which species needed less, and which more(my dad is Mr Green Fingers: plants are as important as grandchildren hehe.)

    When they first started out, there were a few plants that were “slain” in the process and starved of water but slowly the kids got better. Given the ownership and responsibility, they surprised us one day by figuring out how to unlock and lock the padlock to the back door.

    Incidental learning is one of the great plus points of doing chores too…they end up picking up more than you intended to teach.

    TEENS & PROBLEM SPOTS

    This charm of helping out may last for a spell. To be honest, I have faced resistance  from older children in doing chores especially when they are NOT as eager to please and there’s competition with school activities, homework, and time with friends. During transitional phases like these, enforced schedules may not work. 

    According to Fred Gosman’s “How to Be a Happy Parent”, kids can come up with ingenious ideas for avoiding their chores.  One teenager whose job was to make sure there was always toilet paper in the bathroom piled 42 rolls next to each toilet. Another left the pan unwashed because he was only supposed to do “dishes”. 

    To avoid power struggles and get chores done:

     Negotiate negotiables & non-negotiables 

    • It is ok to feel tired and ask for help if you don’t feel up to it. As family, we can help to chip in.  It is NOT ok to show an attitude and be calculative. Almost always, it is likely to be a heart issue rather than a task issue and it may be wise to get to the root of it. 
    • Focus on the task at hand; rather than say “That’s so inconsiderate of you,” say, “I don’t like that I have to do my job and yours as well.”

    This is our journey in chore training. Do you have any helpful handles to share? 

    Singapore Kindness Run 2017 Kid’s Dash Giveaway!

    Recently, I’ve taken to running and it’s taken me by surprise. 

    I am glad for my creaky muscles that are overdue for conditioning. 

    I am glad for my running pals; a group of super determined ladies who are so set on their goals towards better health and fitness it is inspiring. 

    I am glad that this new rigour is going to get me back in shape. Every pregnancy has piled on more and more weight, and it’s about time I did something for me. 

    I am glad for the mornings that I get to come off my usual routine, to spend time amidst nature. Running helps you reconnect …with yourself.

     So for all those who are hesitating to get fit for whatever reason…I do understand how you feel because for most of the years before this one, I thought the same. There’s never enough time nor energy. 

    But…there’s always a first time. 

    And there are always good reasons to start and a good race to start with. 

    The good folks at Singapore Kindness Run 2017 have a gentle run planned for you and your little ones. Here are a few reasons why this is an awesome family run:

     

    1. Race Etiquette Experience Zones

    It’s one of the unique runs with character building and soft skills factored in. A key highlight: a dedicated Experience Zone with Experiential Learning Stations to discover  Race Etiquette Tips for little junior. Well, not surprising as this IS the Kindness Run! 

     
    2. Kid’s Friendly Family Fun

     This could be your Little Junior’s First Run. The 800m dash is an achievable distance to start and the kids would be thrilled with this winner’s  box collectible of the adorable Singa Lion! 

      
    More  Singa Lion!  Can’t resist. 

      
     

     3. Run by the Beach

    Pasir Ris Park with its leafy greens and beachside view is a nice place to have a run. Easterners will be happy and city folks happy with the change of scene. One of my favorite places I run at every week too-away from maddening crowd!

     The familiar leafy terrain of Pasir Ris Park on a typical run morning.

    Some highlights after the run include family photo opportunities with Singa the Lion and a chance to mingle with sports and celebrity ambassadors!   

    Here are some FAQS answered: 

    1. When will the Singapore Kindness Run 2017 be held?

    The race will be held on 14th May 2017, Sunday.

    2. Where will the Singapore Kindness Run 2017 be held?

    Pasir Ris Park, Native Lawn (next to Car Park C).

    3. How do I get to the Race:

    Please make your own arrangements. You can use Google Maps and enter destination as Pasir Ris Park Carpark C for directions from your location.

    4. What are the categories?

    The following are the race categories for the Singapore Kindness Run 2017. There are 3 race categories. Please refer below:

    10KM Men’s Open (min age 13 years or older)

    10KM Womens’ Open (min age 13 years or older)

    800M Kid’s Dash

    7-9 years old

    9-12 years old

    5. How much is it to participate in the Singapore Kindness Run 2017?

    Please refer to the chart below:

    Category    Early Bird         Normal

    10KM           $45                     $50

    Bundle: 1x10KM + 1x800M

                           $70                     $75

    800M Kids Dash

                           $25                     $30

    6. What is the flag off times of the respective categories?

    10KM – 7:00am

    800M Kids Dash – 9:30am

    ALSO IN YOUR RACE PACK:

    Racing Bib with Timing Chip

    Flying Cape All-you-can-Learn Buffet voucher – choose from any of the 1,200 classes and attend for free (UP: $25)

    Mother Earth Healthy Snack from New Zealand  

    Drawstring Bag

     Registration ends 28 April 2017.

    Click here to sign up!

    ***

    *GIVEAWAY ALERT*

    In addition, MOBM has one Kids Dash race for your little one (aged 7-12years) worth $30 to giveaway on the blog! 

    To participate in the giveaway: 

    1. Like Memoirs of a Budget Mum Facebook  & Instagram: @memoirsofabudgetmum

    2. Share this blog post on your Facebook Wall and tag three friends. Remember to ensure that privacy settings are set to “Public”
    For additional chance to WIN: 

    3. Comment on the post here on why you and your little one would be keen to take part in the run!

     *Leave your email address so we can contact you should you win the contest!

    Giveaway ends 26 April, Wednesday @6pm. All entries are to be submitted by then! 

    All the Best!😊

    **Congratulations! Joyce Loh! 

    Teaching Children to Help at Home

    My husband and I decided way back (when I decided to quit my teaching job to stay home with the kids) that we would not have a live-in helper, and model what home management would look like to our kids. 

    The principle was simple: if we, as parents, modeled what it looked like to manage our homes, it would be natural for the children to pick it up as a part of life. We believed and still do, that this would sustain our household to be self-sufficient in the long run. It would also train the children to be independent and know how to pick up after themselves. Collectively, we learn to serve one another. 

      That was at least seven years back. We have since moved from our cosy flat to live in with my parents in their landed home. The area has expanded and so has our family size. For awhile, it was tempting to call for help. Before we decided yet again to manage on our own despite having a relatively young family. 

    Most people look aghast when they find out we do not have any help managing a household of 7. Some parents have asked me to share my strategies on how I “get” my kids to do chores. Some have even quipped mock seriously that they might like their kids to come by for “bootcamps” to pick up these skills. 

    To be honest, I don’t have any formulaic strategy to impart. I do not even have a  basic chore chart or roster (am organizational-phobic in that way). But by and large, we get by, and we are ploughing through with this somehow. 

    Are the kids happy to help out? I would say yes, with exceptions for when they are tired or grumpy.  

      
    There’s still so much work in progress but what sees us through are our convictions and some guiding principles. These frame our mindset towards our philosophy of household management: 

    1. Everyone should chip in to help around the house. 

    This burden of work shouldn’t fall on one person alone (mom or maid or grandma etc) but be shared by every family member. Many hands make work light. 

    2. A cheerful & helpful spirit

    It’s not so important what you do but it’s the willingness and cheerfulness behind it that we hope to cultivate. It is the practical application of Colossians 3:23: “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men,..”. Do it not because you are MADE to do it, but because you would be happy to. 

    3. Don’t make it a “chore”

    Ah…the word “chores”, sound well, tiresome, before you even start. I try not to use this word if I can help it. 

    When the kids were younger, I often found opportunities to reframe household tasks. I might add an element of fun to the task especially with young children and allow them achievable tasks so they can accomplish them. This makes them want to do it! 

    More importantly, I would invite them to be a part of what I was doing. The focus is not on the task at hand, but the time we spend doing it together. 

    4. Going beyond the call of duty

    I have kind of avoided a roster with fixed chores. This is specific to my nature as a big picture person. However, it does have hidden benefits: it corrects the thinking that your duty is done when you’re done with what’s assigned as opposed to being ready to help when help is needed. 

    5. Show Appreciation 

    This is not a strategy. It is genuinely what we feel must be done when someone in the family takes the effort to do a task, regardless of how “well” the task is done. Giving children a sense of responsibility for what they can accomplish on their own without assistance,does a great deal for their confidence. It’s important to let the child see that his contribution is valued or valuable.

    In the next post, I will share more about the specifics of how we do it in our household. Do share some of the ideas that work in your family!

    A Journalist for a Day (!) and other Great Reasons to Visit SmartKids Asia 2017

    Media Invite 

    The March Holidays is here and there’s an exciting round-up at SmartKids Asia 2017 for the whole family! Hailed as the continent’s “biggest educational kids fair”, SmartKids Asia back this year from 17 to 19 March 2017 at Singapore Expo Hall 6 and there’s much to do and look forward to!  

     

    Here’s our family’s take on some of the best highlights of this year’s installment: 

    1. Be a Roving WWII Reporter (New!)

    Nothing beats experiential learning and one steeped in history and time travel! To commemorate the 75th anniversary of the fall of Singapore, The Straits Times Young Storymakers Camp, is a two-day camp that brings young explorers back in time, and into the shoes of a war reporter.   

    Participants from ages nine to 12 will get to walk through Singapore’s rich history, and learn news reporting techniques from The Straits Times journalists. This is an awesome opportunity to gain insight to the profession too!

    Register here.

    2. Parent your way to Success

     

    Also making its debut is The Straits Times Parenting Masterclasses – a two-day seminar for parents to learn and discuss parenting tips from experts such as Sha-En Yeo, a positive psychology coach and award-winning author. 

    The News-in-Education specialists from The Straits Times Schools Team will also discuss how news stories are useful resources for imparting character education and English language skills to pupils.

    Check out the list of speakers & lineup

    3. SmartKids Asia Storyland (New!)

     

    In partnership with National Library Board, the event will unveil SmartKids Asia Storyland for the first time.

     For three days, this segment will showcase timeless classics in the form of theatrical plays and storytelling from Goldilocks & The Three Bears, Little Red Riding Hood to Hansel & Gretel, and more. 

    Pororo Park Singapore, the Official Play Partner of SmartKids Asia 2017, will also be a part of SmartKids Asia Storyland presenting a rendition of Jack & The Beanstalk featuring its main character, Pororo The Penguin. 

    Visitors at SmartKids Asia 2017 can also look forward to a host of other fun activities:  

     

    1. Meet & Greet sessions

    SmartKids Asia will bring forth two sets of popular characters: My Little Pony featuring Apple Jack, Twilight Sparkle and Rainbow Dash; and Pororo & Friends featuring Pororo, Krong and Petty for three days of performances and Meet & Greet sessions.   

    2. Free Trial Classes

    Three days of trial classes from educational and enrichment providers will happen from 10am to 8pm daily. The programmes are tailored for ages 2 – 12 years old, encompassing English, Maths, Science, technology, arts and more. Registration is available here.

    3. SmartKids Asia Activity Area The Activity Area will have hands-on activities specially crafted for parents and children ages 3 to 7. Parents can look forward to arts and crafts activities such as puppet-making, cake-pop making and printmaking from partners such as Playeum, and Spurbox.

    4.  Daily Lucky Draws with prizes worth more than $10,000

    Visitors will be entitled to one chance in the lucky draw with every receipt of purchase. Happening daily at 7.30pm, $10,000 worth of prizes will include a family suite at Amara Sanctuary Resort worth $2,800, family passes to Bounce Singapore and many more.

    5. Goodie Bag Giveaway (Worth up to $50)

    With a total of 1,500 goodie bags to be given away, registrants are to redeem the Goodie Bags at the event from 10am onwards. Participants can reserve a goodie bag through pre-registration on SmartKids Asia Facebook page or be the first 200 to queue at the door. 

    6.  SmartKids Asia’s Fun Passport

    The Fun Passport is an interactive activity for children of all ages. Participants are to complete activities from different pit stops held at various booths. Completion of the Fun Passport entitles one to spin the prize wheel with exclusive prizes up for grabs.

    7. SmartKids Asia Talent Time  

    As a new stage segment, Talent Time is open to children from all walks of life to display skills and talents in the areas of dancing, singing, and playing an instrument for the coveted title of SmartKids Asia Talent Time champion. The top participants will walk away with prizes worth more than $1,000 in total. Registration is available here.

    8. SmartKids Asia Art Contest 

    In partnership with The Dim Sum Place, a new F&B joint by the creators of The Ramen Stall, the art competition caters to children ages 9 – 12 to showcase their creativity at SmartKids Asia. The top 10 winners will walk away with retail vouchers from The Dim Sum Place worth more than $500 and more. Register here.

    9. Stabilo Junior Colouring Contest  

    SmartKids Asia and Stabilo is introducing a Colouring Contest for children in the younger age group of 5 to 8 years old. Happening on all three days, the winners of the contest will walk away with prizes worth more than $500 in total. Registration is available here

    **Bonus fun FREE Inflatables!!  

    Hope to see you there! 

    For more information on the latest updates and event highlights, visit www.smartkidsasia.com or www.facebook.com/smartkidsasia.

    I’m a Social Media “Mom”Derator

    Social Media has been both a boon and a bane in my life. Being a stay-home mum, who’s mostly home bound with the kids or otherwise shuttling around with errands to run, leaves me very little time to connect face to face with friends and the “outside world”. Believe you me, it’s been challenging.   Logistically, it has been hard to find a sweet spot in my schedule for “me” or “we” time, if any at all. The truth is, I have come to terms with the stark reality that without technology, I might have very well become a primordial cave woman, stuck in the trenches of my own jungle. 

    Like it or not, Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, Snapchat(the list goes on), have all been ubiquitous features of modern digital survival that we live and breathe with.

    This joke is a case in point:  

     

    Social Media & Me

    These social media platforms function so efficiently to “feed” me information, updates or photos of my friends’ activity and help me feel more in touch with them in the midst of my grinding routines and chores. 

    I never have to worry about missing another birthday as Facebook reminds me so. 

    I am also reminded of “memories” of what I said in status updates yonks ago. Occasionally, a cute picture of my now grown-up kid crops up, together with mom-guilt regarding the fun and crafty things I USED to and no longer do when I had more energy and fewer children. 

    FB Messenger helps me to network efficiently. I can drop a text instantly in such a way that makes email feel snail-crawlingly slow.

     Instastories show me live snippets condensed in 5seconds of airtime and I can “follow” people I like from all over the world without so much as moving an inch.

      Image credit: Mashable  

    As a blogger and writer serving the needs of my clients online, I am further vested to read more widely and deeply, mostly from online sources and links. 

    I do confess enjoying exchanging quick texts and messages on my social media groups on WhatsApp that help me move the social pinwheels of my life, slowly but surely. I have multiple social groups on a myriad of topics and with various people that revolve around all my direct needs in life: education, faith, exercise, prayer, friendship, business.

     Amongst a group of us mums, we joke and banter with one another like we would face-to-face in a cafe–except that we’re not in a cafe, but a chat group. And only in the digital economy of today, can we describe and identify with how an “existential and ephemeral space” like a chat group, can actually feel nice, warm and cozy. 

    At the risk of sounding like a technological luddite, how can this possibly be?

     There’s nothing remotely welcoming within the hollow echoes of chat room walls apart from cutesy or pretty wallpaper we can choose to download…but how is it that we can actually connect intimately, deeply, and superficially all at the same time?   Image: Cute Bebe Kitty

    How is it that something that brings me such exponential good and convenience can also bring some equally dilemmatic and compromising concerns as well? 

    Social Media “Mom”derator

    The dilemma started when I became a social media “mom”derator to my 13 year old who recently acquired a mobile device of her own.

     I’ve purposefully played on the word “moderator” because it is undeniably and shockingly apt. Ever since my daughter started to be the first child in our family to be using a phone, we’ve have invested hours on end researching strategies to moderate her use of it, whether it is through reading and formulating social media contracts, trying out parenting control apps, setting time-outs and implementing privacy boundaries. 

      
    Image: Netgear

    In doing so, it feels like we have unlocked the dimensions to a whole new parenting universe; finding ways to keep up with social media controls and up the ante on our technological backwardness! 

    Why are we struggling? It’s obvious that the same staggering convenience opens up the Pandora’s box to a host of other not-so-good issues that most parents would be or should be acquainted with: digital addiction, pornography, preying, extremism, scam & fake news, cyber bullying, pornography and even (gasp) online drug purchase.   At Facebook Singapore headquarters playing with the humongous touchscreen 

    Thus, when I was invited to attend a panel discussion covering issues and trends in social media use and helping children build healthy media habits, I didn’t hesitate. 

    The panel discussion, entitled “How To Raise Kids Wisely in a Social Media Generation”was jointly organized by Facebook Singapore, Flying Cape and Trainium Academy, and supported by the Media Literacy Council

    Facilitated by Trainium Academy founder Mr Eugene Seah, the panel comprised the following panelists from the Media Literacy Council:

    • Mr Alvin Tan, Head of Public Policy, South East Asia Facebook
    • Ms Iris Lin, Head of Youth Services, Fei Yue 
    • Walter Lim, Founder, Cooler Insights who shares the finer points of discussion here

     Held at Facebook Singapore Headquarters, it pieced together some insights for me. Here are my key takeaways in three Ps: 

    1. Plug into Relationships

    The greatest asset we can create for our children in the digital age is the security and solidarity of our relationship.

    More than ever before, our children and teens are looking outward for affirmation and something to rest their identity upon. They are constantly saturated with all kinds of images, influences and ideas in a one stop multi-sensory click. 

    In a transient online world where things are here today and gone in 30 seconds, tangible real life relationships are what counts and helps them anchor themselves and balance their perspectives. 

    Parents need to set boundaries for our children and observe their online and offline behavior. We need to plug in…less into our devices but more into our relationships with our kids. 

    When we set rules and guidelines, we need to walk the talk ourselves and model what good online habits are. In managing their social media challenges, this quote says it well: 

    “Rules with relationship lead to respect.

    “Rules without relationship lead to rebellion.”

    2. Protect with Parental Guidance 

    Protection is not a bad word. There are so many things we can do to prepare a safe place for children to connect healthily online.   Image: Kapersky Kids

    We can start by using privacy settings on our computers or blocking sites with unsavory content as far as we can. We can use time limits to moderate healthy versus excessive screentime.

    We can take interest in reviewing the kind of material, movies, you tube vids our kids are watching or keen to watch, and share with them our viewpoints on what is desirable, what is not and how to discern between the two. 

    We can teach them the lens from which to view what they read online with a critical eye. How do we discern real from fake? What makes this piece of news balanced and credible? Should we rant online? How do we use it social media positively?  

    The key thing is to educate rather than evade. Rather than merely setting limits, take a keen interest in understanding social media trends and bring them up for discussion at the dinner table. 

    3.  Personify our values 

     Image: Media Literacy Council

    The evidence is clear. There’s really no room for distracted parenting. If we have heard cries from our kids to “Put the phone away Mom, when I’m talking” and we rationalize or justify it as multitasking, , we might be missing the point. 

    We could be subtly rejecting communication and it makes our children feel invisible. Soon, they too might be drawn by the allure of media devices, and  use them as substitutes for unmet attention and affirmation. That would be a sad, sad day. 

    Here are some pro-tips for us to personify the values of responsible media use as adults to our children. 

      
    Image: Media Literacy Council

    With the March holidays getting ready to roll, let’s give our children a gift that’s priceless, and worth more than any data plan. It is the gift of our presence: by plugging into them and taking interest in what they are doing, providing parental guidance and personifying our walk so that they know we mean what we say!!

    **The Media Literacy Council has produced an excellent online resource called Clique Click: Bringing up Children in the Digital Age which is available here

    Highly recommended:

    http://www.medialiteracycouncil.sg/Pages/default.aspx

    Why Change in the Education System Really Starts from Within Us

    Each of us are change agents and change in the education system must start from within. Today’s performance of “Don’t Kancheong, Kiasu, Kiasi” drove this point home well.

    A collaboration between 100 Voices and Bud’s Theatre with support by education platform Flying Cape; the interactive play held in forum theatre style, swiftly brought to fore hot button issues in education through familiar scenarios involving key stakeholders in the education system–students, parents, employers, educators and the education ministry.

    The plot holds a mirror up to the current educational reality: escalating stress on our young, high parental expectations, KPI-driven education, weary teachers and jaded employers.

    As a former educator and mum of five children (with children both homeschooling and in school), the script and action resonated on many fronts. The lines are familiar ones that I could have uttered from my own mouth as a Singaporean parent finding my footing in a Kancheong, Kiasu, Kiasi landscape. Here are some choice scenes:

    Scene 1:  Tommy, just 10 years old has just failed his exam and his mother is having a fit over it. She hurls her worries and exasperation at Tommy’s father, who doesn’t seem to think it’s much of an issue. They can’t agree on how to respond to their son’s poor grades.

      
    “Boy, if you don’t do well, you probably need to…have tuition.”says his weary father, not because he really believes tuition to be the remedy but because it could be the one solution to calm his livid wife. Frustrated Tommy, who sees his parents quarrelling, feels sorry for the trouble he’s caused and threatens suicide. 

    Scene 2: Tommy’s form teacher is hurled an email and called to the Principal’s office to account for the suicide threat. 

     “When something good happens it’s always about good parenting or our good school system, but when something goes wrong, it’s always the teacher’s fault.”, she laments as she feels the weight of the system bearing down on her, piling on more responsibility than she is comfortable with. One blindspot she says is, “All parents want their kids to be number one. The only problem is there can only ever be one number one.”

    Scene 3: The Principal meets her Superintendent who moots the idea of a (gasp)”suicide seminar”. “Our education system is the best.”says the official, obviously proud of the system’s efficacy and reputation across the world. He speaks of the latest changes: “With the new PSLE scoring system, let’s hope parents will stop pressurizing their children to chase the last mark?”

     

    Scene 4: Tommy’s mother, who also holds a management position in an SME, bemoans to her HR manager the hiring woes she’s faced in employing locals. “…Every top scholar seems to come from China or India. I’m not going to hire locals, they are just too troublesome. When was the last local we hired? “James Lee Wei Wen.” How long? 15 days. Why? He quit to go scuba diving in the Philippines. ”  

    Thrust into the thick of this action, the play invites the audience to “act” on the outcome. 

      
    Traditionally, forum theatre, otherwise known as the “theatre of the oppressed” demands audience members to be change agents. The audience can stop a performance, suggest different actions for the actors to carry out on-stage or reenact a portion of the play. 

    The interventionist nature of the play incites change and invokes action– which quite a number of audience members readily engaged in. Surprisingly, many spoke up, which is good, as change must always start with conversations. 

    This is also why the play’s format is appealing: it nudges us to stop being passive consumers within the education system and to merely sit back, watch and complain. Given the power to change the plot, it is no longer acceptable to be an armchair critic or inert byproducts of a system that manufactures consent. 

    In fact, it is not enough to speak up for change…we have to BE that change. 

    That is the mental mindset we need to overcome. 

    Rather than push the blame if you are a parent to the school, or as a teacher to the system, or as a ministry to the parents or as employers to the greater universe, we can start with ourselves. How can we invoke change where we already are? 

    The play reminds us of the complex interactions between all stakeholders in education, pulling us into an intriguing exchange of perspectives. By representing the myriad of constraints and considerations on all ends, we get a glimpse of what attitudes and mindsets may ultimately inhibit us from moving forward. 

     Undeniably though, we HAVE inched closer in stitching together the fabric of conversations and I am grateful to the good people from 100 Voices for leading that change. 

    The greatest tragedy that could result from this would be to make this a play that is “all talk, but no action”. 

    We need to take action: to be that curious and unfazzled student, that supportive parent, that enlightened educator and employer.  Perhaps we don’t need the education ministry to first lead the way because real change begins with us.

     Image credit: Flying Cape

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