Friday, April 26, 2013

A secret no more

Sometimes I feel that I'm not being honest here.

Because I don't tell you everything about the littles.

I don't tell you that Ryan still wants to hold my hand when we go down the stairs and how that makes me feel loved. I leave out the part where Ryan climbs into his father's lap to have his bottle and his father can't stop running his fingers through Ryan's hair. If Ryan hurts himself somehow, all he needs is for me to kiss it away - I have that superpower and I keep that to myself. But his is the real superpower - he makes me feel like I can do this, this mom thing. He makes me look good - that's my secret.

I don't tell you how this little babydoll lights up the moment she sees me and how much I look forward to that. How it gets me, everytime. I can't express how much I want to protect her, to shield her from everything bad. I haven't told you how she makes her daddy go weak in the knees when her nose crinkles up because her grin is so big. She makes me look like I can juggle everything, be supermom. She's my secret.

And yes, I haven't told you about my husband. How he is naughty sometimes, and how, when he is good, how truly good he is. How he never says no to me. How he says, "I'll take care of it", whether or not he does. What a good father he is. He makes me look like I can do this, this being an adult-with-a-family thing. That's my secret too. 

So I haven't been honest with you here.

Because I didn't want to come across as being better than anyone. Showing off.

But you know what? Everyone should feel that they have the best husband, the best wife, the best son, the best daughter, the best life. Otherwise, what the hell are you doing?

Everyone should feel that they have something to show off. That they love their life so much that their joy is uncontainable, that they need to shout it from the rooftops. Everyone should celebrate their children, so that their children know that they are celebrated, so that their children know that they are worth celebrating.

So, no more hiding. Let the secret out - I have the perfect family. I don't know what I did to deserve these perfect people, but I'm definitely going to celebrate them, loud and proud.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Texture Boards - replay

Last week, I pulled out our texture boards for the littles to have some sensory fun. I made them last year and we didn't play with them long before packing them away. Ryan was just more interested in other stuff at that time. I actually wanted to present the boards to Rachel this time and so I was surprised to see that Ryan was very keen to play as well. The two of them ended up spending a long time going through all the boards.

For Ryan, the difference was striking. A year ago, he was less inclined to express himself verbally. A year on from then, and now he has a comment, if not an opinion, about every board in the box. He is much more confident in asking questions - "What's this?" He contributes conversational pieces - "This is pasta! I like eating pasta!" (he doesn't). He makes jokes - "These look like biscuits!" He makes up games and invites you to play along - "What colour is the next number on the board, mama?" and "Flip the board upside down, papa! The tassels go upside down!" In fact, Ryan was so enthusiastic about the boards that he chose two of his favourites and brought them with him when we left the house for dinner.

For babydoll, it was all about the textures. She pulled every board out from the box and took her time to explore all the different textures. As this is her first experience with the box, I didn't introduce any vocabulary. I didn't want to distract her from the sensorial aspect of the experience.

And yes, Ryan is wearing his Super Grover T-shirt again. Lately, he's been Superman, Batman, and Super Grover. His favourite, however, is still Super Ryan.

I am hoping that we can get more play out of the boards this time round. Rachel definitely loves touching and feeling the different items on the boards so it will probably be interesting to her for quite some time. As for Ryan, I think there is some scope to expand the activity for his level, so I'll do that. Should be fun!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Updates on Rachel

Rachel is getting to be extremely expressive. She doesn't know many words yet but that hasn't stopped her. She carries on as if babbling is a language, complete with different intonations, rhythms and changes in volume. Most delicious of all are her gurgles. And her giggles? Oh my, they are so infectious. She's our ray of sunshine.

Babydoll is growing well, eating well. Her top two teeth sprouted without any fuss, so now she can really bite into biscuits and crackers. I am giving her less breastmilk compared to what Ryan was getting at her age, because she is happy to take solid food unlike Ryan. Having said that, her breastmilk intake should be still about one liter a day, or slightly less.

I am starting to introduce some basic concepts to Rachel. I tell her about big and small, as well as top and bottom, using whatever we have around the house. She doesn't sit still very long, so I keep it quick and simple. I point and say "Big", point and say "Small", repeat a couple of times (or for as long as she is still around). That's it.

Rachel is also getting exposure to these basic concepts in her Shichida and Heguru classes now, so it is a good time to coordinate the learning at home with what is happening in class.

One tip I learned from Montessori: in these presentations, it is a lot more effective to use items that are identical in all respects except for that one characteristic that you want to highlight. So, for a Big and Small presentation, everything should be the same except for the size of the objects. As Rachel does not know her colours yet, it can be confusing for her if I were to show her a big red spoon and a small blue spoon and expect her to know that the words "Big" and "Small" refer to the difference in size rather than the difference in colour.

On a more sentimental note, I don't know if it's just me, but I feel as if Rachel is growing up faster than Ryan did. She seems so eager to grow up, to join the older children, to dive into everything that life has to offer. She's always on the go, as if she needs to catch up, catch up, catch up! Whenever I swoop in for a hug, she always squirms away unless I lift her high into my arms. I want to tell her to slow down, to be still, to be my baby for as long as I need her to be. Can I hit the pause button please?

I received something in the mail yesterday which made me smile! It's my International Montessori Teaching Diploma from NAMC!

I signed up for NAMC's Preschool/Kindergarten Montessori Teaching Training Diploma Programme late last year. I initially thought that I would have some spare time to sign up during my maternity leave. As it turned out, I was so busy during my leave period that I had to put it off till later in the year. Anyway, all's well that end's well and I now have my diploma!

There are 11 subjects for this programme and there is one assignment paper for each subject. It may seem like a lot but the assignments are grouped into three sets and you do one set at a time, so it's absolutely manageable. Let me show off my grades, ok!

So, what now? Well, I intend to use what I learned in the course, together with the materials provided, to come up with some activities for the littles to do at home. Other than that, I don't have any grand plans. I bet you're wondering if I'm going to give up my present career to go into Montessori teaching. No, I'm not. This was something that I just wanted to do, out of interest. I guess it's something like a hobby?

In any event, I won't be able to teach in a preschool unless I have at least a Certificate in Early Childhood Care and Education, which I don't, at the moment.

I can, nevertheless, give parents tips and pointers on using the Montessori way with their children so, if you lovelies have any questions on Montessori, I'd be happy to help.

The programme was a wonderful experience for me. My contacts at NAMC were always professional, helpful and prompt with their responses. My personal mentor, Lisha Hardy, was always encouraging and motivating with her feedback, and an absolute breeze to work with. Many thanks to them!

Also, a big thank you to my hubby, for his encouragement and his support, especially when I needed time away from the children to study and complete the assignments. Muacks Muacks!

This is the post that many of you have asked for. I've refrained, thus far, from writing it because I know that the point of a comparison is the question, "Which school is better?". Yet a verdict of which school is better cannot hold true for all purposes because, although both programmes deliver whole-brain training, they do differ. It is like comparing two children borne of the same parents (which is the reason for the photos of my two children in this post!).

Remember that these are my personal views and these views are not official representations of either of the schools.

Ok, let's start. To reduce it to a general statement, the Shichida method regards the students, first and foremost, as children. In contrast, Heguru is more focused on the children as students. So, the Shichida method is mostly about what happens outside of the class, while Heguru is mostly about what happens during the class.

The Shichida method emphasises that, before any right brain training can be done, the child must feel that he/she is loved and this is the parents' task. The child's mind can only be unlocked if there is a strong bond and a loving relationship between the parent and the child. Shichida advocates the parent as his/her child's best teacher.

This translates to the following features:
  • All the class activities, right-brain and left-brain, can be reproduced at home. The parent is taught how to conduct activities at home (termed "home practice"). There are also additional right-brain activities, which are not done in class, but which you are encouraged to do with your child at home, like the math dots program. 
  • There is ready-made material which parents can buy for home activities.
  • The pace of the class is a little slower compared to Heguru, as most of the activities are carried out at a pace which parents can replicate at home.
  • There are more hands-on activities, which is a better format for parent and child bonding.
  • One parent accompanies the child in class throughout the entire programme (i.e from 0-6  years old).

In Heguru, due acknowledgment is given to the relationship between the parent and the child. However, the parents are not the primary conduits of the right-brain training. The founders of Heguru are teachers and, from what I can see, they believe that, while parenting should be done by parents, teaching should be done by teachers.

This leads to the following:
  • Most of the right-brain activities in class are not easily replicated at home, and are not meant to be. The school takes on the responsibility of providing intense stimulation to the right brain during the class and the parents are not expected to do extra right-brain training at home. Nevertheless, at the end of each class, the teacher will give the parents a few tips on how to reinforce the class learning at home (this usually pertains to left brain stuff). 
  • There is less ready-made material for parents to purchase for use at home.
  • The pace of the class is extremely fast. Two teachers (one head teacher and one assistant) work together to provide a seamless transition from one activity to another so that the stimulation to the right brain is continuous and intense.
  • There are less hands-on activities, as such activities slow down the pace of the class.
  • The pre-school class (for 4-6 years old) is a drop-off programme (ie. not parent-accompanied).

It is critical to bear in mind that things are not black and white. The Shichida method is not all about home practice - attending the class is important and beneficial for many reasons. Heguru is not all about the classroom activities - there are some activities which you are supposed to practise at home, like mandala and peg memory, and the teachers do show the parents how they can continue working with their child at home. Both programmes have due regard for good parenting, and both programmes train their teachers well in order to deliver a stimulating class. 

There is one more distinguishing feature which is, Heguru says that a child who commences their training with the programme at an early age can develop the ability to do "Hado reading" which is the technique of reading a book and understanding its contents just by turning over its pages. A child who can achieve this ability would also have developed considerable right brain skills to be able to learn and memorise other things quickly.

Shichida has a similar technique called "wave reading" but this is not given a lot of emphasis in Shichida. Shichida maintains that it concentrates on whole-brain education to build up a strong desire in a child to contribute his/her best to the world and that "the purpose of education is not to teach knowledge and skills but to create a well-balanced child with enormous abilities, rich creativity and the ability to use a huge proportion of the brain".

There are other differences which I have not addressed in this post. For example: activities such as mandala and peg memory are introduced in Shichida at 4 years old, whereas they are introduced in Heguru from the beginning. Another example: there is a segment in Heguru for the children to dance and do physical activities, whereas Shichida does not have the same. These are not critical differences, I feel.

In conclusion, I can only say this - choose the programme that suits you and your child better. Don't just look at the results that you want to achieve, look at what the programme involves because the results can only be achieved if you and your child can stick with the programme long-term. 

Let me know which school you choose and why!

Friday, April 19, 2013

On juggling and watching television

A popular question from readers is "How do you juggle everything?" I've never answered this question. Because I don't have an answer that would paint an accurate picture. I don't feel that I manage to juggle everything that I want to juggle, so I feel I would be a fraud if I were to tell you how I juggle everything. Still, I recognise that I do juggle more than the average person does and I know that what people want to know is how I juggle all the stuff which I do juggle.

I am quite amused at the number of times the word "juggle" appears in the paragraph above.

On a more serious note, it's Friday, and I am not in the frame of mind to write my usual "this is how I do it" post. I am looking forward to a good weekend, some quality time with the littles and lots of sleep. And not so much juggling, please.

Nevertheless, I promise I will answer that question. I will. I have put it on my "things-to-ponder" list. This is separate from my "to-do" list but, given my procrastinating nature, is an infinitely more important list to me. Once I have pondered, pontificated, and pureed this baffling question, the answer will appear (as if by magic!) on the blog. Watch this space, but not with bated breath, please.

In the meantime, please go visit this old post from MetroDad. See the part that is titled "On Television". That is EXACTLY how I feel. I don't have the opportunity nor the time to watch television/movies. I've not watched television/movies for years (let's not count the sporadic movie here and there). You may think it's a good thing but I feel a little outdated, especially when friends start discussing the latest series or movie and all I can do is to talk about some show in the 80s so that I can at least pretend I'm retro-cool. As MetroDad put it, "Watch too much TV and yes, you’re a loser. But if you don’t watch any TV at all, then you’re a douche and I don’t want to know you."

I don't want to be a douche. :( And I want MetroDad to be my friend. His blog is absolutely brilliant.

On an entirely administrative note, I was alerted (thanks BikBik & RoRo!) to the fact that the word verification for my comments was wonky and people have not been able to leave comments as a result. Problem has been fixed - I got rid of the word verification thingy! Comment away! Incidentally, BikBik & RoRo spotted the reference in my last post to the 70s/80s TV show called Fantasy Island. Good ol' Tattoo shouts, "De Plane! De Plane!" at the start of each episode. Retro-cool, that's me.

Ok, time to go. Here's little babydoll wishing you a lovely weekend, filled with moderate amounts of TV. Be good.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Put the rubbish where it belongs

I am feeling a little under the weather. The doctor told me I needed three nights of solid rest. In my mind, I was thinking, "De plane! De plane!" (if you know what I'm referring to, you win my next giveaway on the blog. Don't cheat by using Google!) 

I had another post lined up for today but I need to tinker with it a bit more, plus I remembered that April is World Autism Awareness Month so I thought I'd share this 2011 article with you about vaccines and autism. I love the last sentence: "But I think we've reached the real tipping point in public perception, and that from this moment on, it will be a real rarity to hear someone ask, "Do you think vaccines cause autism?" and a standard to hear, "Can you believe people used to think vaccines cause autism?""  

On a related note, I've seen a lot of rubbish being spread irresponsibly across Facebook and other social media. I wish that people would just do their research before clicking the "share" button, especially if sharing some lame piece from some dubious source is going to cause fear and panic. Lately, I have had a few pieces come across my social media platforms which I first saw years and years ago. Even though these rubbish-y things have been shown to be untruths, they stay in circulation forever because people share blindly, without logic nor rational thought, and certainly without responsibility. The myth that vaccines cause autism will take years to die off only because people are continuing to give life to it by declaring it as God's truth. In the meantime, lives are being lost because people are not getting their vaccinations done. Put the rubbish where it belongs, don't pass it on please. And if you're not sure whether something is true, please don't share it "just in case". It probably isn't true.

I'm sharing some unrelated photos of babydoll, because that's how I roll and because I can verify that they are true. Goodnight all.

Rachel, our babydoll, continues to explore and investigate everything that she can access. She has an insatiable curiousity about the world and her environment and is always, always on the go. We let her roam freely around the house (we follow her closely, of course) and she is allowed to touch and feel whatever she finds. This includes the dog's waterbowl as I've shown you before.

I passed her a plastic tub to compare against the ceramic dog bowl.

Babydoll loves to play games and learns very quickly - the other day I was carrying her and repeatedly making a sound from soft to loud that went something like, "Errrr...yah! Errrr...yah!" She followed right along and together, we found a rhythm immediately. It was a fun game and we were both chuckling and grinning at each other.

We also play a game where I roll a small ball towards her and she picks it up and throws it back in my direction. I was surprised that she could play this game, actually. I wasn't expecting her to throw the ball back to me but, as it turned out, this activity occupied us for quite a while. I should clarify that "quite a while" in Rachel's world means about a minute! That little lady is never still for long.

She has recently realised that there are a few other rooms in our home and she has expanded her explorations to suss them out. Here she is in our tiny kitchen, checking out the knobs on the oven.

We do have some electrical stuff out in the open (on the console for the TV and the related gadgets) and she does play near them. As I mentioned, an adult, if not two, is always with her, so she's never in any danger.

Actually, babydoll needs a lot of supervision because she is completely fearless. Here she is, standing on top of some CDs and yes, she got up there by herself.

Here, her right foot is on CDs which are in a box, her left foot is on CDs which are propped up on the mat. This girl is unstoppable. (I'm sitting next to her, just outside the frame.) 

Babydoll loves straws. It is one of the "toys" I give her to keep her entertained during car rides.

Pulling wet wipes out of the box. She attacks tissue boxes as well. I'm sure most children do this, don't they? We let her carry on to her heart's content. After she's done, we just stuff everything back in.

Here she is with the other common child-magnet - the remote (in this case, the remote for the air-conditioner).

Babydoll likes to flip through books, whether they are paperbacks, board books or comics. Here she is fiddling with a board book. She had already ransacked Richard's stash of comics which you can see behind her.

As she is so curious, wherever there is action, you can count on her to make herself part of it. This bothers Ryan sometimes, especially when he's playing with his letters and numbers. He likes things to be neat and tidy and all sorted out. Babydoll comes along and everything gets messed up. Other times, they get along very well.

Playing with her brother's stuff, while her brother isn't looking.

A few mornings ago, babydoll was rummaging through Ryan's luggage (which I had not yet unpacked after our staycation). She flipped open the luggage (which was unzipped), reached in and grabbed an item, pulled out the item and put the flap back down. Then she flipped the flap open again and repeated the steps. I grabbed my camera to film her but by the time I got it, she had already moved on to play with something else, being satisfied that she had mastered the skills needed for that activity.

I did not show her how to do any of that, so I was pretty impressed. It was interesting to see her so focused and going through the steps systematically and repeatedly till she was satisfied that she had mastered what she set out to do. It was like watching her do a Montessori Practical Life activity!

Another shot of the cheeky girl. This time, she's ransacking the bookshelf.

The bookshelf is just opposite our staircase and, after pulling out some books, babydoll turned around and decided to crawl up the stairs!

She initially brought some reading material for her adventure but after the first few steps, she realised that crawling up the stairs was fun enough, so she chucked the book aside.

She made it upstairs all on her own and was mighty pleased with herself. I was pleased too because we managed to get it on video! That was on Friday, 5 April, and since then, she's crawled up a few times. Here's the video!

Ok, that's it for this post. Happy mid-week, everyone!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Updates on Ryan's learning at home

Today, I'm sharing an update on Ryan's learning at home and tomorrow, I will share an update on Rachel. 

Ryan is still in love with the alphabet and spends most of his free time on alphabet-related and letter-related activities. He's an expert on those already and comes up with his own games and activities, and so I haven't worked with him on those for a long time now. As I showed you in this post, when I work with him now, I offer him more math and writing activities.  

Here's Ryan working on addition. He rolls two dice at a time and adds the numbers that come up. I check that his answer is correct and then he has another go at it. 

Once he starts using the dice as building blocks, then I know the activity is done.

For writing skills, I have been thinking about introducing copywork but was hesitant because I was afraid that Ryan might find it too boring. I was also not sure how to start off - with one word? with two? - and so I wanted to read up more on it first.

As it turned out, he was given some Shichida homework which provided me with the opportunity to try some copywork with him. He was supposed to write down five ways to save electricity. After we discussed the topic, I wrote down the five ways on a piece of paper and asked him to copy them onto the Shichida homework sheet. Some of the sentences were pretty long, like "Switch off lights when you leave the room" but he kept going at a steady pace and finished all five sentences in one sitting.

Ryan was very pleased with his work! I'll show you the completed work when we get it back from his sensei.

In case you're wondering, Ryan is wearing a Super Grover T-shirt with an attached cape, which we bought from Universal Studios.

In other Shichida news, here's what Ryan's sensei wrote in his term report for last term:

"Dearest Ryan, you have amazed Teacher Hirin with your ability to recite different sets of linking memory every month! Wow! Your memory is moving so fast like a bullet train! You demonstrate superior work in writing activities, addition matrix, understanding composition of numbers and able to draw simple drawings too! Teacher Hirin enjoys your little conversations with Mummy and I'm more happy to see when you are happy with the achievement you made in class! You are shining bright like a star, Ryan! Hip Hip Hooray for Ryan! :) "

Ryan had a bit of an upset in his first Shichida class this term (which was two weekends ago). Towards the end of the class, he was returning the materials to his sensei and after packing them into the plastic packet, he gave it a little push. He didn't expect the plastic packet to be so smooth, I think. The packet shot quickly across the table and landed on his sensei's desk (he was sitting right in front of her). Although he gave it only a light push, it seemed as though he had shoved it forcefully. His sensei remarked that he should have been more gentle. He got upset at the thought that he had upset her (she wasn't actually upset, but Ryan is quite fond of her). I had to talk to him quietly and calm him down. I told him that he could apologise to her and things would be all right. He was too upset at first but eventually agreed, so, after the class, he went up to her straightaway and said sorry. He was so contrite that he didn't want to collect a sticker, although his sensei offered him one. Ah, my little sensitive soul.

Ok, that's all for now. Come back tomorrow to see what Rachel has been up to!

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