Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Rachel at Heguru and other updates

Thank you so much for all the wonderful messages sent my way over yesterday's post. It's so uplifting and reassuring to have good vibes coming at you from the universe. Thank you, thank you.

Shall we go back to talking about the good stuff today? Yes, I think so! Let's do the Rachel updates.

A few significant updates this past week. First one is that babydoll is now preferring to walk instead of crawl. I think it was only two updates ago that she was walking but crawling more. I thought it would take some time to make the transition. As it turned out, it's only been a short while and it's already the other way around. This girl is in a hurry!

Last update on Heguru, I wrote that Rachel had reached a turning point because she started paying attention to the class activities and to the teacher. So for her class last weekend, I was curious to see how she would behave. As it turned out, I had to accompany Ryan elsewhere so Richard took her for class. Anyway, it was good because it was Richard's first time at a Heguru class and I was curious to hear what he thought of it.

Well, according to Richard, Rachel was active but stayed close to him. She was interested in the class activities and generally paid attention. In fact, he said that some of the other students were much more restless. She still ate the crayons though, heh heh.

Richard will be accompanying babydoll for the next few classes as I will need to be with Ryan during that time, so this is going to be her new routine. In any case, as Rachel seems to be at the point where she is shifting her focus to the class activities, we will stick to having the same parent accompany her for now, to minimise distraction.

In other news, Richard and Rachel have reverted to sleeping separately from Ryan and me. Apparently it is a guarantee that, when you put Rachel and me in the same room, she is going to wake up and look for me in the middle of the night. Sigh. So, for everyone's sake, we are a divided family when we sleep. Even as it is now, Richard says that babydoll still wakes up once a night and tries to go up the stairs to find me.

Babydoll is still on breastmilk, although much much less than what Ryan was taking when he was this age as she takes a good variety of solids. The other day we let her have some rice with bak ku teh soup, and she loved it!

In terms of learning and development, babydoll is now very interested in "posting" or slotting items into slots, so I am offering her more opportunities to "post" and I sometimes combine that with an "open and close" activity. For "open and close", she started getting interested when she was about eight or nine months old. I gave her lots of containers with lids to play with and board books to flip. She especially liked (and still likes) to play with the flip cover of my phone - she can flip it open with one finger!

Here's a simple example of a "posting" activity combined with an "open and close" activity which we do - we slot coins into a container with a lid and then we take the lid off and empty it and start again. Simple, simple - and it achieves the purpose.

Slotting activities develop hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills. You can increase the difficulty level as your child grows in experience and expertise. I'll show you in another post how we progressed from the very basic "put this ball in this box" to "slot the coin in the piggybank".

In her interactions with others, babydoll is showing up strong - she stands her ground whenever she is "bullied". For example, if Ryan snatches something from her, she snatches it right back. If Ryan tells her "No!", she yells "Ah!" right back at him. Heh heh. I like it. I like it a lot.

Ok, that's all for now. Growing up fast!

Oh the photos in this post were taken in April. I was waiting for the chance to post them! I love a little girl in a tutu, don't you?

Monday, July 29, 2013

Fighting the tide

Our weekend was a heart-stopping mix of highs and lows.

I finished some sewing projects, Ryan started a new class, Rachel started a new routine, Richard collected his new car, we bought yet another bookcase, Richard and I had a fight, I finally decided on a new name for the blog, a pair of expensive spectacles was destroyed, a smartphone drowned in the toilet bowl, and someone's lip got split open.

Which part of that paragraph interested you the most?

Well, let's talk about the lows today. Only because the lows were especially low.

"Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to stay in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!" - The Red Queen, Alice in Wonderland

Sometimes, just sometimes, I feel that, all the years I've lived, all the experience I've accumulated, all the growing-up I've done, all the whatever I have and the whatever I've achieved ... all of that is just me fighting against the tide. No matter how far or how fast I run, I still end up at square one.

A very simple example - keeping the house tidy and uncluttered. No matter how hard I try, the mess always, always returns. And everytime it comes back, it's bigger. Nastier. For every one thing I throw away, three new things take its place. We've run out of storage space and we solved that not by throwing things out but by buying yet another bookcase.

On many an occasion, I have asked myself, what's the point, just live with it. But I can't. So I keep fighting. Against the tide.

Or an even simpler example - why is it that, after all these years, I still cannot get my hair right? Bad hair days are not the exception in my life. Which makes me very frustrated, because I really do feel better when I think that my hair looks good.

Stuck at square one.

The lowest point of the weekend ... well, there were a couple of lows which are competing for first place - how lucky am I. Anyway, one of the finalists for this award was - fighting with my husband. I cannot adequately explain how frustrating it is to me that we still fight. After knowing each other for more than half our lives, we still fight? Ok, we don't fight much, sure, in fact we fight quite rarely. And I have to clarify that the entire fight comprised of me going on a tirade for about twenty seconds, with him staying silent. Richard doesn't fight with me, I do all the fighting. He is the cool grey to my fiery red.

But the point is - why do we fight at all? And don't give me that spiel about how fighting is good for your relationship. We've been together for more than 20 years. We're long past that.

I can tell you that, precisely because we have known each other for so long, I feel that he should know what makes me angry and he should know how to make me feel better. And that he should know that I hate, absolutely hate, that his "make up" strategy is to Not Talk About It and wait for things to blow over instead. Passive-aggressive? Makes me boil. And the more I boil, the more he withdraws. And the more I boil. If I have only one thing to teach my son about women, it would be this - always apologise. Even if it's not your fault.

Oh, I'm not laying all the blame on my husband. I've lived just as long as him. I've known him just as long as he's known me. I'll admit - there are better ways of handling situations and I don't always choose the best ones. Childish. I should know better, shouldn't I?

So, sometimes, just sometimes, I think that, all those years together, and yet we're no better off than we were when we started. I feel extremely frustrated.

And more than sometimes, I feel demoralised knowing that, all my years of living, and I still deal with situations with the immaturity of a flea.

I'm kicking and kicking furiously in the water and yet, I'm still no further away from (or towards?) the shore.

And what about parenting? Oh, such a sensitive spot. Don't we all try our best? Don't we all give our best? Of course we do. So, why? Why oh why do things like hurt and bleeding lips happen? Why can't my best be enough to shield my littles from everything? It's my job to take care of them and I swear I'm going flat-out here, so what do you mean by telling me that, no matter what I do, I will never be able to protect them from everything? That it's just going to get harder as they grow up? Why does it have to be that way?

Oh, I know all the talk about just doing what we can as parents, and hoping for the best, yadda yadda yadda. It is the truth (is it?). The "truth" is not consoling to me, because I like to believe that all our effort is going to lead somewhere other than square one. In fact, the "truth" sounds arrogant to me. Because if my children turn out horribly, wouldn't it be arrogant to say I was still a good parent?

Actually, my point is - that sort of talk doesn't make me feel better about the blood gushing from the lip.

Kicking. Screaming. One step forward, one step back. For every action, there is an opposite and equal reaction. Pushing against the tide.

I don't want to end off on a sad, depressing note. The weekend had its share of good and happy moments and, already, the low moments are fading from memory. I am perfectly fine (and things at home are all good ... save for that lip.). Having said that, some reflection is always useful - it helps me grow stronger, wiser, better? - so I'll leave things as they are here. I'll be back tomorrow with some cheeriness. Thanks for reading up till here.

And just so you know I'm really ok, here I am.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Ryan at Shichida

Here's Ryan, just before Shichida class last week. He's holding Abby Cadabby (who actually belongs to Rachel). He was actually dancing and bopping about, and I managed only to snap this one good shot. The rest are blurry.

He said he wanted to show Abby Cadabby to Teacher Hirin. Teacher Hirin was Ryan's previous sensei. She has left the school and Ryan started with Teacher Nuraini this term. Last week's class was only the second class of the new term, so Ryan was still thinking that Teacher Hirin was going to be in class. I didn't explain to him otherwise, because I thought he would get upset. For the last class of the previous term, we prepared a bouquet of flowers and a photo momento for Teacher Hirin and I explained to Ryan that this was an appreciation for Teacher Hirin because she would not be teaching him anymore. The result was that he spent half the class on Richard's lap, facing the back of the class, and refusing to acknowledge Teacher Hirin. So upset, he was!

This was his report for last term:

Dearest Ryan, thank you for being such an adorable, attentive, participative and a cooperative student in Teacher Hirin's class. I appreciate all the effort you have put in and I am so pleased to see such a beautiful and positive growth in you. You have a fantastic photographic memory and I am proud to see you perform during Makoto Club event too! You are a genius, Ryan! Teacher Hirin loves you! You always enjoy learning and you are not afraid in trying or learning something new too! Thank you for all the love for the past 7 terms. I will miss you and your wonderful family! Take good care and may we meet again in the future. All the best in your life, dearest! :)

What a sweet message! We will definitely miss Teacher Hirin. She was wonderful with Ryan, and she was always cheerful and positive in class.

Teacher Nuraini was Ryan's sensei when he started Shichida, before he got Teacher Hirin. So she's not unfamiliar, but I think Ryan still needs to get comfortable with her in certain aspects. When she was his sensei before, he was very very young. He didn't have to (and was not able to) communicate with her verbally. So now, he is a little shy to respond to her verbally. Perhaps he finds it a little strange because he sees her around the school, before and after class with Teacher Hirin, but he doesn't talk to her. I guess the relationship between them has to be re-defined. I'm confident that, once it is, it will be smooth-going.

This term at Shichida, it looks like there will be a lot more memory work for the right brain training segment. For left brain activities, there are more activities involving writing and math.

Ryan seems to be enjoying math a lot now. He might be entering into a "sensitive period" for math, so I'm going to dig up my Montessori math manual and put out some math activities for him at home.

Okay, that's all for this post. Have a great weekend, everyone!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Life of a Model

I took the photo above at an audition today. Ryan has been going for quite a number of auditions lately. At four years old, he is in a popular age group for child models - this is when the children look cute, can take instructions and can wear clothes well. So we have been very busy with his "career".

I've had some readers ask about child modelling, so I'll share a little about it in today's post.

If you want to get your child into modelling, the first thing to do is to get an agent. The agent will assess if your child is suitable for any jobs (both print and film). If so, the agent will send you details of auditions, you send your child to try out, and if successful, then go for the shoot. It's that simple. I would add that your child does not need to be conventionally good-looking - there are all sorts of roles for all sorts of looks.

This career can be inconvenient though, firstly, because things are always arranged at the last minute and most of the time, it is during weekdays. There are some weekend castings but, like I mentioned, it is usually at a moment's notice - we missed quite a few auditions because we frequently travel out of Singapore on weekends and the call may come on Saturday for an audition on Sunday.

Secondly, the child must always be accompanied. When the child is new to modelling or when the child is still very young, the parent plays a very important role in "activating" the child for the camera, keeping the child in a good mood, and explaining the directions to the child in the way that the child can best respond. Of course, the parent has to look after the child's physical needs as well. So if you are not a stay at home parent, it may be a little difficult because you will have to take time off. Most of the time, the auditions can be done around lunchtime (not always), but when it comes to the shoot, it will be much more intensive. A shoot can last half a day and it can also spread over a few days.

Importantly, be aware that your child may be auditioning for ten or twenty jobs, and never get any. So if you're in it for fame and fortune, well, it is not going to be easy. Modelling, both adult and child, is quite competitive.

For us, we value the audition process itself. We view the audition as a way for Ryan to build up confidence, self-awareness and social skills. The job, if he gets it, is a bonus.

Ryan gets to work with different people, from the director and producer to the wardrobe people to the hair and makeup people to the cameramen and of course his co-stars. He learns when he needs to be serious and work, and when he can let loose and play. He can take direction and he can understand instructions. He can interact and socialize with all sorts of people.

It does take time and patience to take up modelling, but it is worth it. When Ryan did his first audition, it was really not good. He wouldn't look at the camera, wouldn't sit on the chair, wouldn't pose, wouldn't respond to the director. It was a big flop. Now, it is amazing to watch him at an audition. Self-assured, confident, able to follow instructions, able to introduce himself to the director on his own, able to come up with his own poses and expressions and even make up his own script - what a change.  And most importantly, he absolutely loves it. In this photo, he was filling out his own casting form - haha! He filled in his name, his age, the colour of his hair, etc. It was so wonderful to sit there and watch him.

So, if you're thinking of getting into child modelling - go for it! It's an interesting and enriching activity for your little one!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Too much going on

I haven't had the luxury of posting every week day over the past few weeks, due to a few blog-gy projects I have been working on. I hope not to drop more posts because my backlog of updates on the littles keeps growing. As this blog is, first and foremost, a memory bank for the littles, I want very much to update close to the event so that I don't lose any precious memories. I hope to preserve as much as I can, so that the littles will know the rich and beautiful life that they have given us and how much Richard and I cherish every moment.

The second, and also very powerful, motivation for blogging, is the wonderful support I have from readers. I receive a lot of emails from readers and lately, I've been getting a lot more. Many readers have queries, and I am happy to assist where I can. Some just want to say hello, and I am happy to say hello back. It's one of the pleasures of my day.

Having said that, there's only so much time that I can or want to spend with my computer, so sometimes the blogging has to take a backseat.

So what have I been working on? Well, a few things. Firstly, even though I haven't been blogging furiously, I've actually been thinking about the blog and about making a few changes to it. I've been tossing some ideas about for a long time and will probably toss them around for a bit more before you see any changes here, but I'm getting there. One big thing which has stumped me for the longest time is - should I keep the blog's name as it is? I called it "The Bub in the Belly" because I started it as a pregnancy journal. Obviously, it has outlived that purpose! So, time for a change, I think.

I've been playing with a few ideas for a new name - still no inspiration though. What do you think? Maybe I'll put some options up for discussion!

One thing I'm definitely changing is the blogroll. It needs an overhaul. So if you need a link from the present blogroll, do save it somewhere!

Apart from that, the blog needs a general springcleaning and I'm not in the mood to do a piecemeal job. I'm just going to change the whole thing at one go! Hopefully, you all will still continue to pop by, even when it looks different.

There is one other project I'm working on with a couple of friends - something exciting! Hopefully we can get it up and running soon, and I'll let you all in on it then.

Anyway, I've really nothing much to say today. Just wanted an excuse to share some photos of my lovelies and I thought it would be funny to show them doing nothing when the title of my post is the opposite. I did think of titling this post - Two Rs having Two Rs. Get it? Thought it would be too corny...

Ok, I'll be back tomorrow!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Rachel at Heguru

Today, I want to pen an update on how I think Rachel is doing at Heguru.

Babydoll started in January this year at the Eunos outlet with Teacher Paige in the Infant and Toddlers programme. Since April/May, Teacher Rhian has taken over the reins from Teacher Paige, and Teacher Paige has moved on to teach the Preschool I programme.

At this time, I do not feel that Rachel is clicking with the programme.

I also feel that this is normal. Does that sound right? Haha, let me explain.

Rachel is, by far, the most inquisitive and alert student in the class. She may not be paying attention to the teacher, but that does not mean she's zoning out or stoning in one corner. She is always moving about, always investigating and always trying to find out more about what's around her.

Rachel has climbed onto the tables at the side of the classroom, wrestled with the window blinds, pressed the electric switches (which are childproofed), and messed up her classmates' belongings (which are stashed at the back of the classroom). She has pulled a container of flashcards off the trolley (that container was full of flashcards and was twice her size!) She has also pulled down the giant plastic wallchart which hangs at the side of the classroom. Everytime she wanders near the TV near the white board, I have a real worry that she will pull the TV down. Flashcards don't hold her interest at all. Everytime she hears it's time for "Super Flash" - she's off like a bullet to explore the far corners of the classroom. It's almost as if they called to her, "Ready, Get set, Go!"

Rachel is the only student who has dared to crawl up to the teacher and sit right in front of the teacher. She will sit beside the teacher, sometimes even behind the teacher. She is the only student who is curious enough to go up to the assistant teacher sitting at the side, to check out what's happening over there. She has gone right up to the giant abacus in the front of the classroom to see how it works. She makes it all the way past the teacher to the white board at least three times every class, to check out the pointer, the white board marker, whatever. She always messes up the name cards. She has tried to re-park the air purifier in a different place. She will plank herself on the carpet in the middle of the classroom en route to somewhere and when I fetch her back to our seat, she will gently pat the lap of the parent next to her (not me) and stroke the hand/leg of the student next to her. She eats the crayons. She eats the blocks. She eats the cards. She eats the stickers. Actually, she eats everything.

Let me point out that all this happens during class, when classroom activities are going on.

Thankfully, she does not disrupt the class. She does not cry, she does not fuss, she does not scream and she does not shout. She does not bully the other students and she is nice to other people. When things are not going her way, she just goes off and finds something else. The only time she lets out a hint of displeasure is when I restrain her from messing up the link memory cards on the floor. We usually wrestle a while and then I'll carry her in my arms until the cards are kept.

As long as she's not disrupting the class, I let her be. If truth be told, I love that she has such a curious nature. I love that she has such a love for learning. She's not learning what I brought her to class to learn, but she is definitely learning what she feels she needs to learn. If she wants to learn what crayon tastes like, instead of how to use a microscope, that's absolutely fine by me. Besides, if I force her to sit down with me, she is not going to like it and she is not going to learn the lesson being taught by the teacher anyway.

Last week, babydoll actually paid attention to the lesson for a while. She watched as Teacher Rhian went through the time, the weather, the date, the weekly proverb, etc. She was content to sit with me and watch, although I had to hold her in a bit of a hug. Until it came to image visualisation. Teacher Rhian showed the class a large board with an image on it and Rachel couldn't resist. She crawled up to the board, expecting to be able to touch it and feel it. But she wasn't allowed to, because the lesson was going on.

There were other similar instances of "see no touch". The most frustrating for Rachel was the link memory. Forty cards laid out on the floor right in front of her and none of them could be touched. For peg memory, there were ten cards laid out on the floor and she could only have one even though she wanted a good look at the rest. By the time we got to intuitive calculation, she had lost all interest and she had climbed up on the table at the side. 

To be honest, that lesson last weekend was the best ever for Rachel in terms of how much attention she gave to the activities. She was actually attentive for more than half the class, which is a record. She was interested to see what each new activity was about and she tried to access the materials for each. Although she was denied some, there were also some hands-on activities which pacified her a bit.

That lesson, babydoll was also the most interested she had ever been in engaging with the teacher. She approached Teacher Rhian a few times during the class - and I was very happy to see her so confident, sociable and so interested. Of course, Teacher Rhian had to continue with the lesson instead of engaging one-on-one with her so eventually Rachel moved on to something else. Actually, I feel that the way the class is set up encourages the children to get close to the teacher. Everyone sits on the floor and there is nothing between the children and the teacher - a perfect scenario for the children to approach the teacher, to bond with the teacher, to touch the materials. Yet, because the lessons are delivered in a "performance" format, the children are supposed to just sit down and watch. So it's a little confusing, at least to me.

Anyway, the point is that Rachel doesn't do "sit down and watch". She doesn't like to watch TV, she doesn't like to use the iPad/smartphone. She doesn't even give us 26 seconds to point out the 26 letters of the alphabet in one sitting. When the teacher waves a wand with a picture attached to its end on a string, she wants to grab it and have a better look. She wants to participate, she wants to touch, she wants to feel, she wants to engage, she wants to share, she wants to explore. For her, there's so much to see, so much to do. She is quick, she is decisive and she won't give you a second chance.

I should add that it's not a matter of building powers of concentration and focus. At home, I've seen her going through various learning experiences, with full concentration. Focusing is not a problem for her - when the activity interests her. What she wants is to do her own thinking, to direct her own learning and to learn through her hands.

So the problem, rather, is that the methodology of the Heguru class gives rise to frequent situations where babydoll will be approaching the teachers or attempting to grab something she's not supposed to touch. The teachers usually say very nicely, "Go back and sit with mummy". Or I will grab her myself. But I fear that the message that she receives may be, "Go away, this lesson is not for you", which turns her away completely and directs her attention to anything else but the lesson. So, the "hands-off" part is a big factor, as well as the fact that it is difficult for the teachers to interact with each of the students during the class. Also, she doesn't seem interested in some of the activities - but this changes over time so I'll leave that for now.

Maybe you're thinking I'm making excuses. Maybe you're thinking, what about the rest of the students - they're all paying attention, they're all fine, there's nothing wrong! But if so, then you'd be misunderstanding me because I'm not criticising the programme or the teachers. What I am saying is that Rachel is not (yet?) a fit for the programme or vice versa.

If I can compare it to buying a pair of shorts, well, then you can say that Rachel is a size too big/small for the shorts. The question is, do I wait for her to change, to lose/put on some weight, to mould herself into the pair of shorts? Or do I go shopping for a new pair which will fit her now?

When we started the programme, I knew that there would be a period of settling in. I knew that we would have to wait for her to explore everything until the only "exciting" thing left in the classroom was the lesson. So now that she has started turning her attention to the lesson, I will be able to properly assess whether this type of learning experience is right for her. 

So, we'll give it a while more and see. I'll also have a chat with the teachers and see whether there is anything I can do to make her experience better for her. 

Friday, July 19, 2013

Updates on Rachel

This weekend, we are going to rest and relax and, hopefully, meet up with some friends. We are going to be very busy next week so this weekend is very precious!

Babydoll is becoming a lot more comfortable on her feet. I am slowly getting used to seeing her walking about, although part of me still denies that she is walking - haha! I've been denying it since she took her first tentative steps at 9 months old - I am hanging on tight to every babylicious moment.

She is eating like a champ. Her nanny's family has given her the nickname "Miss Mum Mum". She insists on having a share of whatever other people are eating. She has even eaten some of her nanny's fried rice so I guess that means I can start her on rice proper!

Babydoll is babbling a lot more and trying hard to communicate with other people so I will be introducing some helpful vocabulary to her. Her "Mama" and "mum mum" have become quite distinct now, plus she can say "Papa". She can even say "Nah!" when she hands you something, meaning, "Here you go!" She knows a few more words like "Bye Bye" and clap hands in Mandarin. We are talking to her in Cantonese as well - something that we didn't do with Ryan.

Oh, I want to pen a note here that her nanny and her nanny's husband absolutely adore her! Her nanny's husband is her personal taxi - when he comes home from work every evening, she will stand up in her playpen and call out to him. He will pick her up and carry her around and play with her for the rest of the evening until we arrive to fetch her home. Everytime we arrive at her nanny's home, she is playing happily with him, sometimes together with his grandson who is a few weeks older than babydoll. Sometimes babydoll is playing with both her nanny and her husband, in which case we will arrive to see this old couple sitting on the floor with babydoll laughing in between them. Really heartwarming.

I've been trying out different learning experiences with Rachel - some successful, some not so much. I will try to compile and share.

Ok, that's all, have a great weekend, everyone!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Life of a Model

On Tuesday, Ryan had a full-day shoot for a print advertisement, from 7.30 am to 5.30 pm. There were two different locations. The first location was Cold Storage and we were there from 7.30 to 11 am. The crew and models caused quite a stir as shoppers stopped and stared.

Here are some photos of Ryan resting in-between working. He's playing Rush Hour Jr. We gave the set away to his co-star at the end of the shoot (I'll explain later).

Checking out Pocoyo and Alphablocks on Youtube at the makeshift hair and makeup station.

Doing some colouring in his co-star's storybook!

This is his co-star, Lauren - what a sweetie! She is American-Scottish-German-Malay-Chinese all rolled into a delicious 3 year old. Ryan and Lauren are siblings in the ad, which got me a little surprised at first, but the more I looked at Lauren, the more I saw Rachel, so the casting agent has a good eye!

Next location was outdoors. It was hot! Ryan pretended to suntan and bask in the sun and refused to come into the shade! Hahaha! The crew were all standing in the shade and staring out at him, predicting that he'll come back with tan lines.

There was one shot where Ryan was supposed to be topless with just his shorts and sandals. He was not happy about that and insisted on having his shirt on. Luckily, the director said ok. Once Ryan put his shirt on, he told everyone, "THIS is nice" and the director told everyone to applaud. Hahaha!

Another shot of the two little co-stars - they're actually holding hands here. There were adult models as well, but I think these two are cuter, heh heh.

It was quite important for the shot for the two children to be friends and bond, so I asked Ryan to give Lauren his Hello Kitty toy from his Happy Meal lunch and he did. After that, the two cuties bonded over the cars and trucks in Ryan's Rush Hour Jr game. They each took a vehicle and ran around, zooming up and down the place. Lauren continued to hold onto her truck the whole time that she was doing the last shot. After we were done, and I'd packed up the cars and trucks, she came up to me and asked me if she could have the one that she was playing with. Poor little girl was in tears and asked so sweetly! I couldn't give her just one truck because the game requires all the vehicles, so I gave her the whole thing, all the cars and trucks, the playing cards and the playing board. Ryan didn't mind and she was delighted! 

Watching the two of them working, I realised how far Ryan has come as a model. Lauren is an experienced model too but she is still a 3 year old and just like when Ryan was a three year old - it does take some work to get the shot. As an older child though, Ryan is much more "directable" and I didn't have to do much at all.

Ryan had such a great time that the next day, he didn't want to go to school - he said he wanted to go back to the shoot and play with Lauren!

Of late, most of readers' emails to me and comments on the blog have been mainly about pre-school. Many of you have asked for my thoughts on pre-school selection and many of you are curious about which pre-school Ryan attends. Some of you read the series of posts on this blog where I gave my thoughts on the pre-schools which we visited when we were deciding on one for Ryan.  

Well today I thought I'd write about how we decided on the pre-school for Ryan. I'm not saying that you should use this guide, because every family has different circumstances and priorities, but I do hope it will be helpful, if only just to offer another perspective. 

1. Proximity. The first factor is proximity. Ryan's pre-school is a very short drive from home and on the way to work/his nanny's place. We chauffeur him to and fro everyday. I have to say that this is one of the most important factors. I do not see the point of commuting halfway across the island twice a day just for preschool. Plus, God forbid if there is an emergency, I want to be able to be at the pre-school immediately.

2. Environment. I'm not going to talk about safety and hygiene and stuff like that. That's a given. What I'm referring to here is the surroundings, both in the classroom and outdoors. We were looking for a place where the children can appreciate the beauty of the world around them, a place which draws the children in, a place which makes learning attractive, a place that offers the children dreams and fantasy, a place that stimulates imagination and creativity, and a place which is calm and peaceful. The photos in this post were taken around Ryan's pre-school and I think they show what I mean.

3.  Lots of outdoor play. One of the biggest reasons we decided that it was time to finally let go and put Ryan in pre-school was that he was starting to need more of the outdoors and we could not provide that for him at home. So the pre-school's outdoor portion was important to us - there is a lot of opportunity for physical activity, and there is also a lot of opportunity to explore and learn about nature.

4. Good opportunities to build friendships and build social skills. No surprises here. Another of the reasons for sending Ryan to pre-school was to provide him with the company of other children.

5. No stress. I initially wanted to write "less emphasis on academics". Then I realised that this wasn't really accurate because I do want Ryan to have whatever "academics" he is supposed to have for his age, although I'll admit that whether something falls under the term "academics" or not is up for debate. In any event, what we were looking for was an environment where the learning was not stressful. If he is learning hard-core academics, then if it is done in a positive way, without sacrificing other worthy pursuits, without stress, then I see no issue.

Ok, I'll admit that we didn't have to worry about academics because, at the age that Ryan started pre-school, he already knew how to read, he already knew his numbers and quantities, he could think creatively and solve problems. That was way ahead of the standard expected of his age. I'm not saying he is ahead of his peers - I know some of his peers who can do amazing things. I'm saying that we didn't worry about academics, not because it wasn't important, but because that part had already been taken care of.

6. A good and established pedagogy. For us, the philosophical foundation and theoretical underpinnings of the methods used by the pre-school were very important. We wanted to see a conscious application of sound principles and we were interested to see how the teachers create a learning environment for the students. In particular, we were looking for a child-led approach which was based on respect for the child. I wanted to see a lot of hands-on activities and I was not interested in worksheets at all.

7. The curriculum. We definitely needed a programme that incorporated Mandarin and English. We also wanted a good mix of art, music, literature, ... the list goes on and on. Most pre-schools do provide a mix and a balance of worthy pursuits.

Again, whether the curriculum incorporates "academics" is, to me, not really the issue because "academics" is always going to be part of pre-school. More important is how the curriculum is delivered. For example, Ryan's pre-school does not have a single alphabet chart pasted on the classroom walls, yet the children know their ABCs.

8. Students and staff. In terms of students, we hoped to give Ryan the opportunity to make friends with people from different backgrounds. As for teaching staff, we had the usual criteria every parent has - professional, caring, speaks well, etc. We noted that the pre-school looked after its teachers in terms of their professional development, so that their teachers were happy and their skills were updated. The pre-school itself has plans for advancement and improvement, which we take as a sign of how seriously and professionally they view their work.

9. Individual attention. It was important to us that Ryan's progress and development would be monitored closely, and that he would get as much attention as he needed. It was not enough for us to be satisfied that the ratio of teachers to students was acceptable. We wanted a classroom methodology which was centred on personal contact with the child, respect for each child's unique personalities, and bonding with the child to bring out the best in them.

I would add that there is a lot of parent and teacher/school communication - I think we get an email every week on something or other from the teachers/school. This is absolutely wonderful as it keeps us in the loop about Ryan's learning experiences, and it builds our confidence and trust in the teachers.

10. The X-factor. This is the intangible part of the decision-making process. To be honest, I had two schools in mind when I was making the final decision. Both had strong points. The difference was that Ryan's pre-school had the X-factor. Walking around the school, I knew that he would be very happy there. I knew that I could trust the pre-school to do what they were supposed to do. I knew that I would never need to doubt the pre-school on what they were doing or how they were doing it. I knew that I would never have to re-visit my decision on enrolling Ryan. Basically, I knew in my heart that this was the one.

Well, that's the list of ten things. There are many other things about Ryan's pre-school that we are very happy with, but those things are icing on the cake, which we discovered after we enrolled in the programme.  Hope you find the perfect pre-school for your child!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Weekend update

Rachel at Shichida class

The weekend disappeared in a flash! Saturday was such a busy day - Rachel had Heguru in the morning and Ryan had an audition to go to around the same time. In the afternoon, Richard left us to attend a long meeting. I stayed home with the littles and Rachel had me all to herself because Ryan took a long nap. In the evening, Richard and I had dinner with one of his clients at Lei Garden in CHIJMES. We asked our nanny to babysit the littles and she very kindly agreed. It was a very long (and pleasant) dinner and, by the time we all got home, it was past 11 pm. Babydoll hadn't slept all day and was out like a light. Ryan survived a little longer. 

Anyway, that was Saturday. It felt like we were at work because we felt like we hadn't been with the littles much and because we were actually working.


Sunday was much better in terms of family time. Rachel and Ryan attended their classes and, in the afternoon, I brought Rachel for a playdate at Happy Willow with some of the SMH June 2012 babies. 

Here's babydoll on the rocking horse - her favourite! We have two at home and every morning she will climb onto them and rock away. She's quite the expert!

Babydoll wasn't too keen on the ballpit. Not very glamorous, to be slipping and sliding about.

She was much happier when she found stable ground. I couldn't let her stay there long because people were coming down the slide, so we left the ball pit soon after.

Richard and Ryan came over to join us after Ryan's Shichida class, and Ryan couldn't leave without giving the obstacle course several tries, so we spent another hour plus there. After that, Richard and I were quite reluctant to call an end to our very short weekend so we drove over to Holland Village for a quick walkabout and dinner at nydc, before finally, finally, surrendering.

This was Rachel's second time at an indoor playground. She went to Singkids at T3 last weekend. Actually Ryan was there, and she insisted on sneaking in to join him. Here's a video of her!

I wanted to share this because it shows her personality perfectly. First, she went into the ball pit fearlessly, without hesitation. Then when she wanted to get out and couldn't, she kept trying and trying and trying and trying. She didn't kick up a fuss, she didn't get disheartened. She was so determined, she just kept trying different spots and different techniques and, in the end, she succeeded. And then, just like that, she was off, fearlessly again, on her next adventure.

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