Memoirs of a Budget Mum

Mother to five, parent in progress and occasional kitchenista cookerella

Page 3 of 9

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

A Pressure Cooker Education System? #Giveaway# Tickets to “Don’t Kancheong, Kiasu, Kiasi.”

Today I asked my 10 year old son, who has attended Singapore mainstream school for a year, Australian public school for another and homeschooled locally thereafter; whether he thinks education in Singapore is “stressful”…like a pressure cooker.  Image credit: Smiletutor.sg

 This is his reply: 

[About homeschooling]: 

– “I like it coz we get to breathe fresh air…not “stress-air”…you know?”

– I get to do other things I like (hobbies) and spend more time with my family.

[Three things that can be done to relieve the pressure:]

– “MOE should make students feel that going to school is like going to play. It helps us that way.”

– “More outdoor time. Not just work work work.”

– “To have teachers that are really inspired by the syllabus. (“You mean you think some teachers are not?” I say) …yup, some teachers don’t inspire. If they were, they would teach from the heart. And not try to make it stressful.”

These insights are keenly felt for a little boy his age but I’m sure he’s not the only one feeling this way. The truth is, everyone of us, has something or other to say about the Singapore education system. More often than not though, we keep our grumbling to ourselves, nag out our frustrations on our kids and try to keep the lid of pressure down with remedies like tuition while trying to remind ourselves not to be caught up in the educational arms race. To be honest, nobody really wants to be left-behind and we end up like hamsters in a spin wheel trying to keep up. At the heart of the issue is: what drives us to be “kancheong”, “kiasu”or “kiasi” or rather, how NOT to be?

Well, a group of good people have come together to start this much-needed conversation. 

 

100 Voices, a parent-led advocacy group, together with Buds Theatre, are bringing to you “Don’t Kancheong, Kiasu, Kiasi”, an interactive production based an original piece written by Stanley Seah, conceptualised by Jack Sim (100 Voices) & Claire Devine (BTC).  This forum theatre play aims to challenge perspectives and help the audience to recognise the need for a more open and accepting society  and examine our educational challenges as a nation. I caught up with Dean Yap, founding member of 100 Voices who shares more about this production: 

1. In a nutshell, why this play and why forum theatre? What is at the heart of this work? 

For years, we have been in pressure-cooker education environment. There has been a lot of talk on this, but the situation remains. Why? Education is a complex subject involving many stakeholders. There is no single solution. To reform this, we need to have deep conversations with all stakeholders, so we grow understanding and empathy for each other. Only then, can we effect changes. 

“Don’t Kancheong, Kiasu & Kiasi’ facilitates this conversation by giving every stakeholder a voice to engage with one another.

2. What stories, narratives & conversations does this work hope to bring out? 

The actors will demonstrate the challenges and conflicts in the 4 acts below. 

– a family quarrelling over a child’s exam results.

– an overwhelmed teacher struggling with self-harming students.

– a Principal and MOE Director at a loss to eliminate youth suicides.

– a worry-stricken CEO who can’t find innovative local employees.

Audience can share their opinions, change the scenarios or offer alternative solutions to the actors in the hope of producing new outcomes. 

The forum theatre format helps us to see the perspectives of different stakeholders and start a conversation on the baseline of empathy and betterment. We hope the audience will walk away with broader perspectives and greater empathy for all stakeholders. We hope the work can trigger deeper self reflection and drive changes in our behavior that can alleviate pressure experienced by our children. We hope the audience can see the great misunderstanding that results in misaligned goals, which drive us all into a narrow rat race and pressure-cooker education culture.

3. Who should attend and why? 

Parents, children, youths, teachers, principals, MOE policy makers, college enrollment officers, recruiters, employers should watch this play as they are influential actors at different stages and parts of education system. 

If we can start off by understanding challenges faced by each stakeholder, we can then take the conversation to deeper level to uncover underlying reasons (or triggers). From there, we can explore solutions to reform our education in impactful and inclusive manner. Reform comes from everyone taking his/her own actions to make changes in alignment.

4. Three fun facts about the production 

1. You (the audience) don’t have to sit still and keep quiet throughout the play, unlike the typical performances.

2. You are the Director! You get to tell actors what to do.

3. Your suggestions will be heard by MOE Officials for consideration in shaping the education system.

You will get to know others who face similar challenges like you – you can take heart that you are not alone!

<<*Giveaway* >>2 Tickets to watch “Don’t KKK” on Sunday, 26 Feb 2017, 3pm

To enter the giveaway: 

1. Copy and Share this link on your Facebook Profile (Set to Public) 

2. Leave a comment on what makes you kancheong, kiasu or kiasi as a parent!

*The giveaway will end on Wednesday, 22 February. 

Tickets can be purchased here

Maybe Baby? Our Faith Journey Growing into a Family of 7

One Sunday a good few years ago, my husband and I were sitting rather innocently at the backbenches in church, beside one of the hottest new additions to the cradle roll within our modest family-sized congregation. 

Whatever transpired during the half-hour worship segment is still a mystery to me, but apparently, my husband did something  strikingly sweet; he offered to carry a baby…that was not his own! He hugged him, cooed, cradled and rocked the charming little lad gently to sleep.

This, coming from my man, was pretty unusual then. I could understand why. After all, we conceived half a year into marriage and have had kids prancing around us ever since. 

We’ve have not, up till now, graduated from diaper-changing rituals and a good night’s rest visits us at the frequency of an eclipse. 

 

Occasionally, we admit to romancing ourselves with daydreams of idyllic vacations to far-flung destinations where we can sit with none a care in the world and stare vacantly into the vast blue horizon in the pursuit of doing NOTHING. (Trust me when I say that’s a much sought after pursuit after you become a parent!)

But of course, those honeymoon thoughts would quickly evaporate with the sounds of our children bickering over more important earthly affairs – like who should sit at the left, right and centre of me. 

You see, we never thought we would have a larger than usual family. 

Maybe Baby…

I remember years ago, struggling with some resistance in my own heart when I had to come to terms with the practical, economic and social costs of having children. I processed that over a few years where I transitioned gradually from a full-time working mum, to a part-time working mum and finally finding my footing and comfort level as a full-time stay-home mum over the course of a decade or so. These “labels”are really every woman’s necessary sojourn to navigate what she’s comfortable with and what’s best for her family, whatever the final outcome.

Needless to say, my husband struggled too. Whenever I broached the possibility of having another kid, I swear he’d give me the evil eye. When confronted, he’d quickly attribute this to random dust particles invading his line of sight. 

Unfortunately, I had other compelling evidence; like the time he changed the topic totally to something random and inane(distraction), and the time he gave a wearisome look and gazed forlornly at his receding hairline (pity), or the many times when his eyes seemed deliberately glued to the TV news like he was concentrating really, really hard on a slow news night (tuning out). Transitioning from a dual income family to a single income family obviously needed some weighing in.

It appears we were not alone. According to the recent 2015 list by the United Nations, Singapore’s Total Fertility Rate (TFR) figures have been nothing short of dismal. 

Our tiny state has topped the charts globally in many areas and holds a reputation as a country well-known for running with well-oiled efficiency. 

Ironically, we have been sorely unproductive in replacing ourselves; ranking 197/200 and trailing only ahead of Portugal, Moldova and Bosnia (World Bank,2015). 

So what makes having babies in Singapore such an unappealing and unfascinating idea? 

Consider the recently aired episode on Talking Point which polled an audience on their views on TFR and having kids. Here are some views:

“In his early 20s and recently engaged, Eric Tan thinks Singapore is not a country of family-oriented people.

We saw ourselves growing up as individual people who aspire to a certain level of progress,” he said. And while many may aspire to get married, “I think it would stop there”, he added. “You could have all the childcare centres you want, but (having children is) never going to be a lifestyle choice that’s at the top of the mind for us.”

His fiancee, Cherylyn Wee, finds it difficult to balance career advancement and children in Singapore. If forced to choose between them, she said: “Then it takes me a much longer time to think about whether I could really give my best to the child but also give myself the life that I think I deserve.”

(Source: ChannelNewsAsia)

It’s a familar refrain and the media has played to its tune. Children require heavy commitments of time, resources and sacrifice. Let’s not get started on the naggingly stressful education system and inadequate work life balance. 

 (Source: Time Magazine)

Having Children: A Journey from Head to Heart

Going forward with our story, my husband and I have come a long way since that time and developed a renewed faith-based perspective on having children- we now are happy parents to five children.

Together with my husband, we’ve often heard comments from friends and strangers that gush that we are very brave, patriotic and must love children very, very much. Otherwise, and for any other reasons, we might have completely lost our common cents (pardon the pun). Truth be told, we are none of the above but would like to think we still have a good head on our shoulders. What had changed? 

Simply put, our convictions. It was a journey from our head to our hearts.   

Rev Henson Lim, a pastor, founder of Archippus Awakening and father of seven children writes about why couples might think twice about having children or having more children for that matter. I quote: 

“They may be worded differently but the bottomline is the same … children are an intrusion and a burden. They are not worth having at all because they disrupt our lives and careers. Not to mention financial resources and personal freedom. “

Rev Henson, who was also featured some years back in the Straits Times (article below), goes on in his blogpost “Large Families A Calling?”:

 
(Image: The Straits Times)

He continues, [“(My wife) Serene and I never started out wanting many children. Like every other well-trained Singaporean, we were happy just to have two. And interestingly, it was after having two that we were convicted by the Lord. 
If we said we trusted Him, would we trust Him with our family size? If we said we believed in His provision, would we believe Him to provide for all of us? If we agreed that children were blessings, would we allow the Lord to give us more of these blessings? I want you to know that we struggled to say “yes” to the above questions! And the biggest barrier was not whether we were called to have a big family or not, but pure selfishness! Yes, plain ol’ selfishness on our part! 

Like many others, Serene and I also wanted control over our freedom, time and money. We wanted to do what we wanted when we wanted. We wanted to have enough to spend on ourselves, to live comfortably and luxuriously. Any person knows that once he or she becomes a parent, their time is no longer their own! And if that is true for one child, can you imagine if that is multiplied many times over?! No thanks, Lord. Here I am, bless them!

…”But did God call us to have many children? No, He didn’t. He merely challenged us if we would stand on and live according to His Word.”

***

Trust me, this blessed couple has my utmost respect because they speak the truth in love. If you start calculating and doing a cost-benefit analysis of having children, you might have completely missed the point. 

Having children is not an issue of the head. It is an issue of the heart. 

It doesn’t have to all make sense and you don’t necessarily start out having the means to cope nor having all the answers. Rather, it takes simply Faith and Obedience. 

Undoubtedly, the popular two-parent, two-children family model is neat, reasonable and practical but anything more than that seems to upset the balance and rock the boat. The common, often-fearful conception is a picture of toil; of mother and father, shouldering a life of hard work, trying their best to provide for a big household of little ones amidst the inflating demands of work and life.

As Christians, we often talk about surrendering every aspect of our life to Him; our time, our money, our possessions, our space but what about our families, our family size or even our desire to have or even not to have children? 

It’s easy to close up to the idea of having more children when we live in a society where time and the pursuit of self is revered and material costs of living are rising by the day.  

How startlingly contrary this image is to God’s reassurances about children in Psalms 127:3: 

“Sons are a heritage from the LORD, children a reward from him.”

A reward! Not a burden! A blessing, not a liability! 

Parenting can be, for some, a journey of choosing to put love in action regardless of the obstacles and challenges, knowing full well that God will be faithful despite and in spite of our inadequecies. It may mean choosing to say, “As long as there’s room in our hearts, we’ll find a way.”

Indeed, our children are a blessing and a wonderful gift. We are honoured to be entrusted with these precious ones for our time here. 

Having children prunes us from deep within, and causes us to derive a greater meaning and pleasure in all that we do

We do not count on an early retirement but we look forward to walking hand in hand with them towards the eternal plans and purposes of God- a lasting inheritance of God’s redeeming work through all generations. 

My Year in Review

2016 was a monumental year for our family  for so many reasons. Some were big and some not but the days, always felt full and well-spent. 

We started off the year on unsure footing with the anticipation of welcoming our fifth child in the first quarter. We ended the year graduating our first into teenhood and a new phase of life.

In between that, Life showed up and we have been dealt with kindly, with generous portions of grace for each day. 

Here are some of our key takeaways from our family’s year in review: a necessary exercise in sobriety lest we forget that we have much, much, much to be thankful for. 

1. Recognize and Seize the Gifts

In 2016, we welcomed our fifth child, Jubilee into our family. I actually really gave birth to another human being! 

Although we were not quite sure we would be ready for big family dynamics (when will anyone ever be?), we felt real peace within when we received the news.

It was a peace that transcended the fluttering of anxiety, the fear of the unknown and the future, a peace that filled the void of lack, and a peace that sent societal expectations of what a standard family should look like, crashing. 

We let go of pragmatism and seized the gift. The gift of life is an extraordinary gift. There are no assets you could trade it for that could be worth its value. Such a gift deserves no excuses. 

  
Perhaps our days might be a little inconvenient or slightly topsy turvy, but…we knew we would somehow work it out. We had a precious bundle of life ready to kick her way into the universe and we couldn’t let our microscopic and myopic concerns steal away our joy! 

We spent a good part of the year enjoying our newborn and all the accompanying joys and stresses. Her cherubic smile is worth every ounce of effort and every extra brew of coffee.   

The kids all rose up to their “extra” duties in helping out around the house: not always autopilot but good enough! They know when to replenish her diaper stash and check for poo!  

The word “family” became a verb,  a collective effort . We were each challenged individually to pull our own weight and to do what we could to chip in to help the other. 

In between her siblings’ squabbles, this little one unifies with her adorable expressions and antics. We are a tighter and stronger ship because of her.

2. Flee Parenting Perils

In 2016, we persevered through our third year of homeschooling our two older children and graduated my firstborn through THE PSLE. Both my husband and I are relieved to have survived the aftermath

Was it tough? I don’t deny it was. It was hard because we had to juggle all the other family dynamics together with it. The year was well paced but also intense. We had to constantly evaluate why we do what we do and assess where we were heading, understanding the outcomes we valued and had in mind. 

  

Picture credit: momastery.com

We also had to conquer our fears of the PSLE and renew a vision of success and education that was broader and deeper than a mere T-score.

Ultimately, it was a test of our own parenting-speak and what we said we believed in. 

Through it, we had to remain grounded but at the same time, take leaps of faith. Parenting had never appeared more paradoxical and it was easy to jump into an abyss of insecurity and run with the tide in a mindless paper chase. 

Thankfully, we kept it real and our priorities ordered. The kids are happy with where they are at and ready to embrace the new year.

3. Streamline and Don’t Apologize

On the homefront, we had adjustments to make in order to accomodate all the above changes. The key discipline I had to learn this year was self-control. 

We had to be ruthless in determining how thin we spread ourselves across each 24 hour day. We took caution not to overschedule and overcommit. If that meant we had to cook less and order takeaways, so be it. 

In order to avoid a hectic lifestyle, we had to opt for less: forgo some activities, co-ops, get-togethers and consider them only when we have some breathing space. We also had to streamline logistics and cut out the non-essentials so that we wouldn’t need to do too much running around.

We also used and offered our home more as the base for interactions or for people and friends to drop by. Good friends always did and we never felt isolated nor like we were missing out. 

4. Never say Never 

Most surreal of all this year was stepping out of a comfortable and familiar place. For me, that was the home and in my years as a stay home mom… having a semblance of pursuing my passion was something rare and fleeting in the growing years. 

This year, I never thought it would happen but it did. I was invited to be a part of a panel of experts to share my views on the PSLE in the national newspapers.

  Source credit: The Straits Times

I also wrote a piece from my heart about the PSLE t-score which was published in The Straits Times. In addition, I have started to take on freelance writing and editorial projects on the side. It was a great honour to have the opportunity to enjoy my family and work at what I love doing at the same time. 

Things will always work out somehow. At the end of the year, we need to regale ourselves with such a sentiment. While 2016 sets on us, let us approach the new year with the hope and assurance for greater beginnings, with love from our family to yours.

 

X’mas Giveaway: JJ Science Adventures: Heat & Light by Aurelia Tan up for grabs!

A Budget Mum Review & X’mas Gift-Away!

The best thing about Christmas has to be the giving–the jolly time of the year where we make a mad dash to nearby suburban malls, join snaking queues, grab some gifts that would bring cheer, to the ones we hold so dear. 

Forgive me for that terribly cliched mouthful–perhaps picking out products thrown out on the aisles during Christmas flash sales are a tad consumerist. After all, we don’t need more stuff, do we? 

If I had my way, there’s probably only one kind of gift that the world needs more of. Can you guess it? 

Yes, to all you excellent mindreaders. Books. There’s always room in the universe for another book.

Those who know me, know I have a slight fondness for books (ok, it’s probably more than that.) I might not spend much in a jewellery store nor blow my money in a hair salon or pedicure, but a bookstore almost never allows me to leave empty-handed and wanting.

Books are a thinking girl’s soulmate. They add warmth to my home and character to my household mess-at least that’s what I would like to think. They also manage to cosy up next to my bedside table with a good number of them making pleasurable bedfellows. My husband ought to be jealous.

As a family, we love that good books are gifts that GIVE: they give us time to ourselves, deeper insights and pleasure. They can be enjoyed over and over by different people, and contain timeless messages while filling the creative canvass of our imaginations.  

Physical books help us spontaneously unplug. For a few years now, the kids have taken to comic books because they are mainly visual learners and always enjoy a lighthearted reading. So imagine our delight when we were invited to review JJ Science Adventures:  it was a perfect addition to our comic book collection and our book shelves! Boy, were we in for a treat. Aurelia Tan’s JJ Science Adventures got us right into the thick of action, fun and learning all at the same time.

JJ’s Science Adventure is a series of educational comic books, authored by Aurelia Tan and illustrated by Nicholas Liem,  designed to help young readers  grasp science concepts following the key learning objectives stated in the Ministry of Education’s Primary School Science syllabus AND enjoy them!

 In this reading adventure, the twin protagonists, Joyce and Jonathon (JJ)journey into the World of Heat and Light to unlock challenging puzzle traps. Armed with the birthday presents from their grandfather ; two bags which transform into a talking robot (Robo) and a teleportation portal, the kids discover a portal into a sub-dimensional world created by the ‘World Maker’, an incredible invention by their grandfather to help them learn science.

Through stunning manga-worthy illustrations and intuitive storytelling,  Aurelia, a passionate and experienced Science educator and former teacher, does what she does best: 

The scientific concepts of “Heat & Light”, a primary 3-4 Science topic, are skillfully and effortlessly woven at every twist and turn in the narrative such that the children do not feel they are being presented with a “lesson”. 

It is a graphic novel with a heart: the heart to teach children where and how they learn best: with an engaging plot and context, tight storytelling and a wonderfully illustrated cast of characters. 

“Heat & Light” is the second book in the series. The first, “Magnets”, uses a similar approach to learning. If only Science textbooks were this way! 

Here are a few reasons why this book series is worth a space on your bookshelf:

1. Science concepts are made accessible and relevant 

Science is used to problem solve within the narrative. As the characters go through obstacles, the thought processes of characters  demonstrate how Science is relevant in helping to diagnose and solve problems. 

In this example below, the protagonists attempt to open what appears to be a metal vault. The characters try different methods outlining principles of expansion and contraction to find a way to open the vault, which they eventually do.

 

In this next example, the sibling duo attempt to save the day by creating a shadow.  

 

The factors affecting the size of the shadow are explored by the protagonists: namely, the wall (or screen), object and the light source.     

These practical examples are littered all throughout the book and children get to encounter and revisit their understanding of these concepts. It is incidental learning at its best. 

It’s no wonder my 10 year old has read it five times and my 7 year old three times so far: learning doesn’t get tiresome at all when its this appealing!

  
Don’t worry if you have younger children who have not been exposed to Science. The concepts, being part of the narrative, pose no hindrance to understanding. This book might just get them curious and interested about Science on their own! 

2. Parents learn too!

The key teaching points are printed in colour and in bold so that parents can easily identify them as learning points to highlight to their children.    

As a parent, I greatly appreciate the attention to this detail.  It’s a great bonus when we read with the kids and know exactly what elements to focus on!

  

3. Beautiful and Clear Illustrations
After all that’s been presented here, need I say more? The diagrams are well presented and the scenes humorously and colourfully crafted. It is just delightful flipping through this vibrant book as it feels like a Studio Gibli Science production of sorts!

4. Street Cred

This book has won the Moonbeam Children’s Book Awards 2015, Bronze Medal for Best Book Series and was the Winner of the USA Best Book Awards 2015 in the comics and graphic novels category! Now that certainly says something! 

JJ Science Adventures can be purchased online at the Harvest EduStore or in these retail stores. 

The Great news is that, this X’mas, Harvest Entertainment has sponsored 3 copies of JJ’s Science Adventure: Heat and Light exclusively for Memoirs of a Budget Mum readers!( 1 copy per winner)

Enter this GIVEAWAY in 3 simple steps:

1. SHARE this blog post on your Facebook Wall and TAG 3 friends! Please set the Share settings PUBLIC so we can see. 

2. COMMENT on the FB or MOBM blog post, and tell us 1) what excites you about this book and 2) who you would like the book for. 

3. LIKE the Harvest Edutainment FB Page and Memoirs of A Budget Mum Facebook Page. Proceed to the giveaway below.

*The Giveaway will end on 22 December 2016. 

*Please state your email address as winners will be notified via email. 

*This giveaway is open to those residing in Singapore.

Congratulations to our Giveaway Winners:

1. Shirley Chin

2. Grace Wong

3. Grace Tan

Happy X’mas to all! 

Disclaimer: I was given a copy of JJ’s Science Adventure: Magnets for the purpose of this review. All opinions are mine.

PSLE Results: What’s in a T Score?

The day draws near. This day, the PSLE Results Day, is all too familiar for parents in Singapore and needs no introduction. The results and the yearly sorting exercise of thousands of primary school children send many into states of mild panic with careful analysis of cut-off points, school research, strategies for application and thoughts about what this might mean for our children. 

Every year, we live to retell the tale: we are still that tiny nation that’s continually obsessed with big grades, one that houses a booming home tuition industry, and an educational system in overdrive. 

 In 2016, the Ministry of Education announced that “the T-Score Aggregate will be replaced by the PSLE Score, which is the sum of the AL for each subject. PSLE Scores will range from 4 to 32 – reducing the number of possible PSLE Scores to 29, from more than 200 T-score Aggregates currently.” This is a move in the right direction and commendable. However, it is left to be seen how this move might pan out in effectively releasing the pressure in the intense, high-stakes educational climate of Singapore.

Over the years, the T-score, has really sealed and defined our concept of education more than we realise. Many seem to have bought the idea that the score alone, is a huge indication of success. It is the impetus for some to improve and excel. For others, it drives them to outdo competition and gain that definitive edge that is worth all returns in time and investment, judging from the size of the tuition industry here.

The T score has caused the hearts of many parents to do curious flutter kicks and flip flaps. In it, lie glimpses of hope, pride, dread, doubt and fear. They indicate the start of a new beginning, one that seems to set forth a pre-determined course. These numbers are the aggregate of much toil, support and hard work. On their own, they have shifted family dynamics, routines and relationships in many households. 

The T score has captured the imagination of parents left to contemplate an expectation of the future and what it could behold. A future littered with “what ifs” for a life laid out in a reel of endless possibilities. Like a deck of cards, we’re not sure if we’ve played it right and if we would be dealt the upper hand. It’s the day of reckoning for some. For others, a wild card. 

The T score is also the way we have as a society, conveniently learnt to assign meaning: by making it easy to mentally sort, categorize, typecast the future of other human beings by a mere number. 

Not surprisingly, the T score has also taken hostage of many dreams. These numbers, have been given the power to cruelly differentiate – to sift the wheat from the chaff, the cream from the crop, the scholars from the farmers. There is no nuance in it. For some, these numbers elevate. For others, they are cold, hard numbers that offer no solace. As a whole, these numbers have fueled desires that can be inspiring, ambitious or punishing. We have, in fact, been taken captive by it—more than we should. 

Last month, a community group 100 Voices, came together to rally for a change of mindset and push forward the message that “grades aren’t everything”. Led by Mr Dean Yap, a stay-home father, 100 Voices is a laudable attempt to speak a new voice for success apart from the narrow definition of grades, numbers and t-scores.

The campaign seeks to share the stories of at least 100 individuals who can give testament to the fact that you do not necessarily need to be academically smart to excel and find success in the real world. These individuals, comprising both ordinary residents and well-known personalities, intuitively know and have personally experienced success in many different forms apart from conventional routes. The message is simply to celebrate our children’s progress in multiple facets, wherever they are on the academic ladder.

How can we take a leaf or two from this ground initiative in our response towards PSLE scores? 

How should we take this opportunity to expand on our narrow and limiting beliefs? 

How can we prepare ourselves to face our children, our nephew or niece, our student, our neighbour’s child down the street, so that we can be quick to encourage in speech rather than judge in our minds? 

How can we lend our voices to define a realistic and inclusive idea of success? 

More Than A Number

First, we need to understand and believe without a doubt, that our children are more than numbers. These test scores certainly do not represent the entirety of who our children are and what they can become. 

We have to internalize this fact more than ever. 

The road to education must first be a pleasurable journey of sights, sounds and wonder. It’s aim-to create a pool of cognizant, wholehearted individuals positioned to do better for society and the generations to come. If we take education like a mad sprint to finish and as an end on its own rather than a means, we will lose many precious opportunities along the way. 

Our children need time to pace, and discover where they fit themselves in this rapidly changing world. They need white space to explore in order to find real purpose and meaning. The T score is just a signpost along the way on that huge journey of discovery. 

 

A Broad Definition of Success

Next, we need to have a broad definition of success. One that not only celebrates success where it is evident and acceptable but also accords strength and value in making mistakes. Failure is a wonderful teacher whom we give less credit to, than we should. Some people take the longer route, and like the proverbial tortoise and the hare, there should be no shame nor stigma attached to that.

Don’t Take These Grades Personally

Lastly, and most importantly, we must be careful that we do not let this number take on more power and significance than it should. As parents, we need not take our children’s grades too personally. If our children are struggling, we may reflect and question our own efficacy and philosophy in parenting or we blame their bad habits. Most times, our pride gets in the way: we encounter brutal attacks on our own self-worth while squirming to find the right ways and methods to parent. We are aching from our harsh words and bowing at the burdens of our self-imposed expectations. 

Let’s be released from this weight. Let’s take the lessons and move on knowing that the true prize is not that medal or academic accolade, but the hearts and happiness of our children when they find their purpose and significance in life. Let’s have the assurance that if we walk wholeheartedly with our children, they will find their way. 

A good T score may make some immediately great. But for many others otherwise, it is merely the start of many great beginnings. 

Review: DIY Pretty Accessories Workshop for Kids!

The holidays are a week away and already, the girls are gearing up towards their “Beads Fest” which comprises a good few hours each day, of squeezing strings into little holes and making patterns with brightly coloured and finely detailed accessories.
 

We had rearranged our bead collection recently using recycled mooncake box skins that came in really handy to create tiers for classification and organization. That revived some interest and the girls were happy to play with their really “neat” beads.  

 

Also, when you’re the mother of girls, you might have a  happy problem:  you’ll understand what it means to have girls who possess a whole collection of every possible kind of bead and still never feel like they have enough! My girls are avid collectors of all wierd things and beads are one of their favourites. 

Beads, to me, are in the same category as Lego; they could drive you insane if they spew over the floor – the only redeeming thing about that? They are slightly prettier and more charming. Nevertheless, most of the beading collection is kept well-hidden from sight most days, and then magically taken out when the days are longer and more free, for a fun afternoon of busy hands, pretty colours and girly imaginations. 

The girls interest in beading went up a few notches recently when a dear friend of mine, popped over recently for afternoon tea. She brought along her whole collection of big beads, small beads, fat beads, patterned beads, cloth beads–you get the picture–it was beads galore and the girls were fascinated. 

Ingrid is a crafty mom. And crafty moms are one of my favourite kind of moms :). She’s  has magical fingers that weave, a keen eye for design & a predisposition to create — juxtaposing simple elements together into a unique and interesting pieces.   

She taught the girls how to thread and how to arrange the pieces in an interesting manner. The girls had a free hand in picking their choice of colours too and were twiddling their fingers at the sheer choice of possibilities.

To top it off, Ingrid’s bead collection is amazing: so much variety to choose from that the girls couldn’t complain. Also, the beads are of the right size for small fingers: unlike the commercial beads, these are big enough for small fingers to manage with holes that are easy to thread. 

 
Together with Ingrid’s help, this was the work of their fertile imaginations that afternoon. My favourite has to be the blue one…as it looks like something I could wear too-gasp! 

The good news is…Ingrid is one of the instructors for the “DIY Pretty Accessories” Workshop happening next weekend. 

This is one of the series of workshops organised by CraftySG, a community of crafters in Singapore, which has been tailored to accommodate both newbies (children 10 years and above) and hobbyists to work on independently in an afternoon of crafting fun.

In this workshop, the participants will learn to make 3 different bespoke accessories out of a variety of craft supplies. 

 * A Pretty Keychain (that doubles up as a charm)  * A Chic Bib Necklace (with chain)  *A Funky Beaded Necklace (for the young at heart)

Participants will get to choose from a variety of materials to create their own bespoke accessories, so that no one piece is alike. 

<<DIY PRETTY ACCESSORIES WORKSHOP>>

Date: 19 Nov 2016 (Sat)

Time: 2.30pm to 4.00pm

Venue: Block B, Goodman Arts Centre, #03-1

Course Fee: $50 (includes materials) 

**Promotion: Sign up with 1 friend to enjoy a 5% discount. Sign up with 2 friends or more to enjoy a 10% discount.

Sign up here

Follow Ingrid on Instagram or contact limeflower@me.com for enquiries on customized craft workshops for birthday parties, private or community events. 

*Each participant will be given a set of materials, which they will get to take home. 

*Leftover supplies can be taken over after the session. No tools are required for all 3 projects. 

*Some material used may differ slightly from pictures on the day of workshop.

*This workshop is recommended for ages 10 and above.

Image courtesy of CraftySG

Quick Family Getaways that Won’t Break Our Banks Nor Our Backs

Being a mum of five has always been challenging. But bringing five children under the age of 12 on a vacation takes “challenging” to a whole new level. Most people might look at us queerly with visible question marks emanating from their foreheads (of course, I’m exaggerating) but I can so feel it. THIS question:

 “Is it even possible to have a get-away with so many kids?!”

And of course it’s a valid question and completely logical to wonder so! First, together with my dear obliging better-half of a husband, travelling as a family of seven leaves us grossly outnumbered (2parents vs 5kids). In fact,it feels like we’ve signed up on the threadmill for the qualifying trials of the Justice League of Superhero Parents. 

Not that we ARE superheroes don’t be mistaken, but we definitely need to channel some superpowers: 

Imagine if one of us became Dr Packer. He’s the one who will multitask for our multiples by counting, auditing and accounting for every shirt, dress, and underwear that’s needed, smack it in, and whip it in and out of the luggages in a jiffy at our command. All this before you can say “Where’s my neon pink -coloured hair clip and notebook that I put in my grey coloured duffel bag?”. Well, “rummaging” won’t even be a word anymore and Dr Strange may be put to shame. 

And imagine again,Mrs Itinerarine, sister of Wolverine- but more organised. She can incredibly put together in a split second, a spectacular programme for everyone (from whiny kid to grumpy adult), schedule activities around meal time and naps, eliminate complaints and make everyone super pumped up, relaxed and amazingly happy. I’d apply in an instant. 

Unfortunately, no one at Marvel has thought of our piteous plight as parents and our dreams of applying for superhuman upgrades is far from happening. So we do the next best thing, bite the bullet and make it work. We did manage to skim the surface. 

This is what we did in two short getaways that didn’t burn our pockets and which felt good enough to want to do it again.

1. Lock in Family Deals
We’ve been to Legoland when it first opened and when the kids were younger. However, we thought it might be worthwhile to go again as they were now older and could finally qualify for all the the hair-raising roller coasters with their latest height. 
We chanced upon the Legoland Kids Go Free Promotion while surfing the Internet. This promotion is quite a deal: it includes 2 paid adult tickets and three complimentary child tickets for Legoland and the Waterpark  for two days when you book a minimum one night’s stay at the Legoland hotel with breakfast thrown in! (Terms & Conditions apply)  

Photo credit: Legoland Malaysia Website

That meant we didn’t have to rush through panting our way around two huge parks and could park hop as and when we felt like it. The key thing that spoke to our large family logistics: there’s no need to rush. And that’s what a holiday should be about: resting from all that rushing around!

“I want to stay here forever!”

With this as a starting point, we booked one nights’ stay without hesitation and spent two full days exploring both parks without the hassle of long queues and without time constraints. We then further trimmed the budget by not incurring a second night at Legoland itself by moving to a nearby hotel. Stay tuned for our next post on what we did around Legoland! 

Meanwhile, aside from the regular rides at park, we were happy with the ongoing FREE activities that were at the hotel. There was something on everyday and they held mini contests everyday to encourage the children to busy themselves with Lego. The kids would never be bored and we enjoyed the various challenges that encouraged them to think, create and play!

  
  

 

Halloween corner

 

 

30 min 3D building challenge

 

 

3D cat

 

2. Minimise travel and expenses 

For us, we had great fun and ease when we chose to go to Malaysia for a short getaway. We could gain mileage from saving both energy and time because we didn’t have to travel far. One hour and we’re in. That meant less packing too. The currency exchange also brought much relief and we could happily spend without feeling the pinch. Travelling with young children is tiring both for you and for your kids. So plan not to go too far and energy can be spent enjoying each other’s company instead. 

3. Go Budget, it’s not THAT Bad

We spent a weekend staycation at a budget hotel in Singapore only a few streets away from our home. At first, we were doubtful if we could experience the “get-away” experience. Strangely, it worked out. The quaint heritage hotel at Joo Chiat was quite accommodating towards our large family and we managed to get rooms big enough for us and at a reasonable rate when we booked through Agoda. Also, we saved some cash with last minute deals (booked the morning we checked in) to take advantage of rack rates. 

Aqueen Heritage Hotel sits at a quiet corner in the heart of Joo Chiat and has charming Peranakan Styled rooms and decor. The rooms are tight but very comfortable. Best of all, we could take our time to explore the good eats and richness of culture around Joo Chiat. It felt like a multicultural experience without having to leave the country!

Photo credit: aqueenhotels.com

 
 

King bed with single

  

Vintage lamps adorn the halls

   

Pretty Stained Glass

   

Lobby

 

Stay tuned for our unbiased review of our stay there and what we did around Joo Chiat. 

Here are our tips when a large family with many kids travel. It’s achievable and affordable. With our experience, we didn’t need to do very far or plan very hard-and that was the best part! 

Share this if it gives you ideas for your quick getaway! 

*Opinions all our own. No compensation was received for sharing this.

To Stand and Stare

What is this life if, full of care, 

We have no time to stand and stare.    



The hauntingly wise and poetic words of William Henry Davies echo in my thoughts this evening as I wind down, and try hard to keep my eyelids open, mildly conscious of the dull ache in my ankles and muscles from a day spent standing,cooking, teaching and doing chores.  These are the last hours and moments of the passing of a yet another day…a day well “spent”? 

It’s easy to let the days of motherhood slip by. Time sneaks past my bedroom door and when I’m not aware, I am reading to my Cares bedtime stories. Tonight, I pause for a moment to take stock. 

Did I take it all in?  The richness and brevity of this season in its fullness and glory? The million little echoes of laughter and wonderment? 

***

No time to stand beneath the boughs 

And stare as long as sheep or cows.

***

Mum, are you listening to me?”

“Yes I am…”

“No you’re not. Put down your phone. Now.”

“Yes…”

“Now look at me…as I was telling you…”

***

No time to see, when woods we pass, 

Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass. 

No time to see, in broad daylight, 

Streams full of stars, like skies at night.

 ***

  
“Mummy, look here, I want to show you something…”

“Not now darling, I’m in the middle of something important now..”

“Will you just take a look here, it will only take 5minutes…”

“Oh alright….what is it you want to show me?”

“Look at this, it’s a spider and it’s spinning a web!”

***

No time to turn at Beauty’s glance, 

And watch her feet, how they can dance. 

***              

“Hey sweetie, did you notice the flowers here? They’re in bloom. I wonder when they suddenly sprung up.”

“They were here last week, and maybe even the week before, mummy.”

“Really?”

“Uh-huh.”

***

No time to wait till her mouth can 

Enrich that smile her eyes began. 

***  

“What are you doing sweet pea?”

(Giggles) “Nothing much.”

“Oh?”

“Just counting the number of moles I have on my hand.”

“Haha!”

“And how many do you have?”

“I have three and this one’s the biggest!”(wide grin)

***

A poor life this is if, full of care, 

We have no time to stand and stare.

***

  
Counselled by the words of this poetic balm, I am: 

1. Thankful for this ride called motherhood. Sometimes I need to come off the driver’s seat in order to take in the beauty of it all. 

2. Thankful for my children who help me keep the right pace, and stop me from hurtling through life like a speeding rocket. They are such a blessing and joy. 

3. Reminded to take my cares a day at a time, to be awake to stare into each living and breathing moment. These are the most divine gifts we must never take for granted. 

Good night and love to you all. 

***

“Leisure” is a poem by Welsh poet W. H. Davies, appearing originally in his Songs Of Joy and Others, published in 1911 by A. C. Fifield and then in Davies’ first anthology Collected Poems, by the same publisher in 1916.

Post-Exam Idea: A Free Parent-Child Workshop  On Critical Thinking & Creativity!

A Budget Mum Review: Artistic Strategies: A creative writing course for children.

With the exams drawing to a close very soon, what better way to spend time with your child then doing something creative and meaningful together!

The good news is Artistic Strategies, is offering you all of that, and more! The creative writing academy, whose mission is to groom young writers, is celebrating the opening of its new think space at Kitchener Complex by organizing an exclusive Artistic Strategies parent-child workshop (valued at $45) on critical thinking and creativity at absolutely no cost!  This is such a seriously great offer and here’s why: 

Writing has always been a passion close to my heart. As a former teacher and now homeschooling mum, writing represents the art AND the heart of expressing oneself. 

Words can weave magic, heal, whet our imagination and take our emotions on a tailspin and back. When expressed well, the gift of words is probably one of the most treasured gifts. Thus the art of honing this gift to emerge from each one of us is a valuable exercise in and of itself. 

Recently, we had the pleasure of chatting with Ms Claudine Fernandaz, founder and principal instructor of Artistic Strategies, a creative writing program that uses the arts both as a lens to view the world and as a tool for generating ideas.

Harvard-trained Ms Claudine makes it her personal mission to groom the next generation of writers through the arts and help children navigate a major pitfall of creative writing: a lack of original idea through various modalities.

In fact, the Artistic Writing™ programme, according to Ms Claudine, is the first in Singapore that marries the arts and writing. “By engaging in the arts, our students become inspired to write about their artistic creations. Many come up with such original and inventive narratives, surprising even their parents.” she explains.   

Claudine instructs E to fold an origami heart where she pens an original haiku to her bffs.

 
 

Creating before writing is a staple feature of the course .It makes a remarkable difference when children write about what they have created!

  

Budding writers do NOT start with a long dreary list of good phrases to incorporate or model essays drilled by rote methods. 

Instead, every writing activity starts with a creation: origami, food craft, modelling clay, storyboard or recycled materials. Students create something from scratch and through Art, grow ideas and process their thoughts about what they want to express and why.   

This is such a difference from the staid method that the kids go through in school due to the lack of time, and a punishing volume of syllabus to cover. As a parent, I benefitted from observing Ms Claudine combine so many different modalities: song, art, craft, poetry into one lesson. It really showed me how the barriers can be broken and our thought processes free to roam creatively. Writing doesn’t have to be dry!

Creative sticks : used to pick elements of plot, character, setting. Seriously funny when put together. The kids giggled like crazy.

It was great to have experienced some of the artistic strategies in writing, employing some of the many fantastic ideas from her book “Every Child’s Guide to Write Away”, a guide to inspiring children to write.

     
Overall,the class was a breath of fresh air and we picked up some tips on how to trigger and inspire writing through artistic activities. 

Here are some writing tips from Claudine and suggestions on how to use the book.

1. What should children write? How should they write? 

“Children should write about what interests them and not worry so much about form or structure at first. The main thing is to put their ideas down on paper, whenever they feel inspired. It could be something interesting that they had experienced or noticed on a normal day or it could be a life changing event.

Additionally, they shouldn’t be too bothered about writing the “perfect” piece. Writing, like any art form, is a process, and it never is completed. One can always go back to it to rewrite or change certain parts.

Even at a young age, children should get feedback from their peers and adults about their writing. By being open and receptive to what others have to say, they can work on getting better at their craft.”

2. Tell us more about your book and how it can be used.

“The book that I wrote features a variety of artistic and writing exercises revolving around universal and accessible themes like family and friendship and includes opportunities for children to experiment with writing about imaginary worlds and characters. 

Both teachers and parents could use this book as a guide to encourage the love of writing in children aged 7-12. The exercises also include guiding questions and examples, so that children would feel reassured and comfortable while navigating through the different exercises. There is also a chapter entitled, “Making your writing better” which provides concrete strategies for students to edit and improve upon their work.”

Exclusive: MOBM readers and get a 10% discount of “Every Child’s Guide to Write Away!” at the workshop. Promo code: MOBM

Claim your Free Parent-Child Workshop (worth $45) on Creativity & Critical Thinking Now! 

When: Sunday, 6th November, 2016

Where: 809, Kitchener Complex, #04-160 S(200809), next to Lavender MRT

Time: 10-11.30am OR 12.30pm-2pm

Seats are limited so participants will be selected on a first-come-first-served basis.

Participants get to use Tickle Your Senses sensory products and Stabilo stationary for free. All materials provided.

Register now!: http://tinyurl.com/officialopening

Page 3 of 9

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén