Sunday 27 January 2013

Play for doll

I have finally sort out my shelf and displayed a few activities for babydoll.
Opening boxes. I put in some toys in each of the box as a little surprise for her. She loves this activity and would voluntarily go to the shelf and pull out this activity.

Matching puzzles.

Learning about colors, brown and green. I put a few corresponding colored puzzles in the bag. She had to dig her hands into the bag and match the puzzle to the colored cards.

 My very first attempt to expose the little one to letters. She had to match the letters. I have been in two minds to teach alphabet first or phonics first. I read many times over that the better way is to teach the child the sound of each letter first than its name. But, i guess i am too used to the old way and unsure if this is truly the better way.
Still, i used this activity for her to match the letters. As she matched, i sounded the letters for her instead of naming them. At the same time, i sing the alphabet song to her and read ABC books to her.  

Saturday 26 January 2013

Hanyu Pinyin & 四五快读 (SWKD)

Last week, Sonshine's enrichment class began their first hanyu pinyin (chinese phonics). I have been hesistant to start him with it but looks like there is no escaping now especially when the teacher said he had some problem identifying the sounds.
Now i personally love Hanyu Pinyin (HYPY), it saved my life. If not for it, i wouldn't have gotten my A grade. It helped me to recognise words and look up the correct words in the dictionary with ease.
Yet, i was hesistant to have sonshine learn it so soon. Because i really didn't know how to explain to him what it was about & i much prefer him to read without the aid of HYPY.
Still, i began my very own first HYPY lesson with him.
Sonshine had to circle the correct HYPY as i randomly call them out. This small exercise was to get him practise his listening skills.

I wrote some words and some HYPY. He had to circle the correct HYPY of each word.
As i was teaching him, i realised while he could read the words some of his pronunciation were off (some words were read in 第一声). This means that he will have some problem getting the hypy right. This made me realised i have to brush up on his pronounciation. Prior to this, i always let it go and was contented that he could recognise the words.
He also learnt to write some new words 会,花,山 and he wrote a sentence (twice) with these new words.

Since there were no new words/passage to revised from his enrichment class, i made him start on 四五快读 book 3.
Here i am gonna talk more about 四五快读. The first 2 books are relatively easy, the words are also easy to explain. I used to isolate each of the new words and get sonshine to read the individual words first. When he was familiar with the new words, i then made him to read the accompanying passages as a follow up activity.
But as we progressed on, i felt it more difficult to teach sonshine from the book. I found the words became more abstract and hard to explain like 得,礼,着 etc. Also, the words became more uncommon like 驮 and are not something sonshine (& I) would have heard daily hence it was difficult for him to remember the new words. So i decided to ease off book 3 for a long time until now.
To help him learn faster, I now dive right into the passage and have sonshine to read aloud to me. Since he has learn basic HYPY, i decided to make use of it. I wrote the HYPY of the new words (that first appear on the page) on the book to aid him. I get him to read repeatedly over a few days. When he became more familiar with the new words, i isolate them and have him read to me, now without HYPY. So far this method works magically for him. Whoop!
My conclusion now is that HYPY is actually very useful in helping sonshine learn new words. I am no longer hesistant but actually glad that he has started on HYPY. Awesome! Now we can finally move on with book 3!

Sunday 20 January 2013

Raising early readers- good or bad?

I was reading an old thread in a local parenting forum about raising early readers. One parent argued that it isn't necessary to teach children to read early because early readers may not be avid readers and it does not mean they are more intelligent.
I find nothing to disagree with that argument. I absolutely think it right.
Still, i want to raise early readers.
1) Being an avid reader doesn't happen magically over night. The seed has to be planted, watered and taken care of. Reading habit needs to be nurtured. You can't do nothing and hope & wish that your kids will be readers one day. You need to instill that habit into their daily living. I find the best years to do this is when they are between the age of 0-3 years old. The earlier the better. I am not saying it will be impossible to raise readers in older kids but it will come with a set of challenges. With younger kids, you have a captive audience. These are the best years to 'take them into hostage'! Sounds manipulative doesn't it? But i rather 'manipulate' than to be hands off & let the harsh forces of the world to influence them. I choose to be the better parent here, thank you very much.
2) I don't believe for one moment that early readers will become intelligent kids. But i think the earlier they read, the more books they will be exposed to. And the more they read, the more knowledge they'll acquire and many doors will be opened to them. Again, 0-5 years old are the best years to expose them to reading habit because they read with no scepticism, no pre-conceived ideas like us adults. They take information as it is. For instance, when they read 'This is a tree', they won't go, 'why is this a tree? It does not look like a tree to me! I need proper research to support this statement!'. :D
I don't know about you but i see only benefits in raising early readers. Even there are no benefits, there is no harm either, so why not? If there is only one thing we take from raising readers, that would be giving us parents another way to bond with our kids. That alone is good enough a reason to raise readers!
Anyway, i enjoy reading myself and i want my kids to pick up this wonderful habit. I am glad that sonshine loves books. He says that one of things why he likes school is he gets to read books (other than playing, of course). And i am also delighted babydoll enjoys our reading session and would have no reservation about stopping her play to read books with me. With an older brother who reads, babydoll also love to follow suit by taking a book, any book, and 'read' (with all the random pointing) to herself. :D
A lovely sight to greet me in the morning!
While waiting for me to wake up from my snooze, sonshine would voluntarily & quietly read his books.
In my effort to raise early readers, here are some of things i do religiously
1) read to my kids everyday- yes even to sonshine though he is an independent reader. I want to read to them for as long as i can, even if that means when they are 18! :) When sonshine was babydoll's age, i made a point to read 3 times a day! Unfortunately, i don't have the luxury or energy to do the same for doll. :I
2) Books are readily available and well within reach. The books are on the lower shelf and in a box, on the floor. The kids know where to get the books. Sometimes i may even find doll in the room by herself, flipping her books. Lovely sight to behold!
3) I bring my children to library every week. I want my kids to have the habit of visiting the library and borrowing books. Both kids love trips to the library & for sonshine it is a must! 

Saturday 19 January 2013

Math & a bit of mandarin

He practised on word problem sums on Kumon Book, grade 2. This week is about calculating money ie "An apple cost 90cents. The apple cost 40 cents more than an orange. How much is the orange?". He was able to work the sums independently while i entertained babydoll. He had all correct except one.

I bought a new assessment book for sonshine since he is about to finish the other one.

I made him do a few pages on patterns. In the above photo, he was suppose to cancel out the pattern that was odd. I thought the 4th (top) and the 6th (below) questions were quite tricky. But he did it correctly with no help.
Another tricky question which i figured out only when i was older. But he was able to get it right without me pointing out to him.
We also revised his Chinese lesson from his enrichment school. This time there was only one new word," 参加". Somehow it was so tough for him to remember this word, he would read 'can' as 'qin, cin' and even resorted to reading it as "回家" (because the last word sounds the same as "加").  But we overcame it, phew!

Fine motor skills

This week i gave babydoll mostly practical life activities.
After numerous practise, she finally was able to successfully thread the beads!

The threading set came with beads of different themes (fruits, numbers, insects etc). I took the chance to 'test' her by asking her to give me 'banana', 'grapes' etc. No sweat!
Scooping and transferring small colored cotton balls.

Another similar activity; this time it was transferring beads into her mother garden toy teapot.
Slotting coins into a piggy bank.

I gave her my credit cards and have her slot them into a (very worn out) box.
A sensory activity: Duplo stamping onto playdough.
I made an effort to teach her the letter 'a'. When asked she can say its 'a' but i am not sure. I suspect if i mix it up with other letters, she may not recognise it. Well, anyway!
Babydoll is 20 months old.

Sunday 13 January 2013

Skip grades for gifted kids?

I was reading a post by a mother who was appealing to MOE (Ministry Of Education) to allow her child to enter Primary school at 5 years old. Her objective is to get MOE to match her child's (and gifted kids) academic ability rather than age-appropriateness. Someone else wrote back and suggest that this may not be a good idea because while (gifted) kids may be academically ready, they may not be socially & emotionally ready to lean and mingle with older kids.
I have to agree and disagree with both sides. I'll give two examples to support my reason.
First, sonshine. While i hesitate to say he is gifted, i do think he was ready- academically to enter Primary one at 5 years old. However, i will not, even resist, to send him to Primary school this early. Simply because i think he was/is not socially and emotionally mature enough. For sonshine, he prefers to be in an environment where learning is easy, the easier the better. It does not matter if the things taught in class are like ABCs to him, as long as it is easy, he loves it. Most parents would worry that their child will get bored or stifled, but i am not. My son thrives (socially and emotionally) in a relax, slow pace environment and he feels happy though his learning ability is faster. I much prefer to level his social & emotional needs rather than according to his academic ability.
On the other hand, i have a smarty niece who just returned from overseas (my sister's family was relocated). In her school abroad, they gave her a one-time interview and deemed that she was ready to join a class one year up her age. Unfortunately, when she returned to Singapore, the school assigned her to a class according to her age. She has been complaining daily about boredom and how she has to help everyone else in her class in their work. It looks like she is going to resent school soon since she seems to be unhappy being stifled academically. For her, it seems necessary & even urgent to get her join a class that levels up to her learning ability. I look at her and have no doubt she is ready to skip a grade, academically, emotionally and socially. Yet, we all know that it is tedious and extremely difficult to get MOE to nod it's head to allow her to skip a grade. So it looks like she is going to be unhappy at school for some time.
So what exactly is my stand? I think allowing a child to jump grades cannot entirely be based on academics alone. There are other aspects like social, emotional, maturity, child's personality to consider and to be given equal weight to his/her learning capability. We want the child to be happy in all aspects. A child who is academically ready does not automatically means he is socially & emotionally ready. I guess that is why MOE states that the child has to be exceptionally gifted in order to skip grade? At the same time, we shouldn't hesistate to allow a child who is ready in all aspect to join a class according to his/her own ability. By insisting to place such a child according to age, it's deterimental to the child's love for learning. I know of a few parents with exceptionally gifted kids who are frustrated with MOE's inflexibilty that they chose to relocate elsewhere. I can totally understand. As i said, MOE should reconsider their stand because we want the kids to be happy in ALL aspects not just academically, not just socially, not just emotionally.

Friday 11 January 2013

Colors of blue & yellow

Oh babydoll! It is so hard to fit a teaching activity for her in our routine!
The best time is when sonshine is at school but she usually have her lunch and nap all the way till it's time to pick her brother up.
So i try to aim to do one, just one activity with her a day. I try to make it as short & quick as possible. This week, i taught her blue & yellow. She has no problems matching the colors, so i know she knows the colors. But when i asked her what color is something, her answer is always 'red!'. LOL! However, i played a high-5 game with her, asking her to high-5 the blue/yellow card and she got it correct. So i am trying not to sweat it about the 'red' answer. Since she does know her colors!

A quick and fun activity for her. I cut up blue and yellow straws into short strips & took out blue and yellow playdough. She poked the colored straws into the corresponding color playdough. She enjoyed this! And i was happy that it kept her well entertained for...10 minutes. :I

First week at homeschool@sg

Phew! We did quite a massive lot this week! Whoohoo!
I am trying to up our homeschool work since he's older & due for Primary school next year.
We finished on Singular & Plural nouns. I splashed lots of assessment exercises on him. :)

I created my own 'worksheet', wanted to make sure he entirely understood what he learnt.

Unlikely my smarty niece, i need to make sonshine commit to memory when it comes to spelling. But the good thing is, it doesn't take him long to remember. I cashed in on that and made him memorise the spelling of numbers from 1-19 in a shot.

We also did Chinese! I made a few card words based on his lessons from the enrichment school. I shuffled the words and made him form the phrases as i call them out. My purpose was first to get him to recognise the words and hear me say the words.

I made him read aloud the entire passage (he got from his enrichment school) until he could read fluently and remember the new words. I think the flashcard activity (above) helped him alot in remembering the new words. I even had him check a Chinese dictionary for words he didn't understand.

He did some writing practice, 4 new words! Well, actually he probably learnt them in school (that's why he kept telling me it was so easy!). :P

Monday 7 January 2013

Cardboard Fun!

I was quite inspired by how Mum in the making convert her cupboard boxes into playthings for her boys. I was itching to make one for my kids and i finally got a box to do just that!
I bought a rice cooker and i decided to make a fridge/cupboard using the box that came with it. It was unbelievably easy! I love it!
I was inspired by the 'Build and test' play at Legoland to make two tracks for the boy. I cut out from a huge Lego box we had to make 2 racing tracks. The girl also gets to play too by rolling balls down the tracks. She was so delighted! So much fun!

Favourite books

Sonshine and i have been reading alot, alot, alot of books since he was a toddler. We read books ranging from fiction to non fiction. When he was younger, i get to control what books we read. Now that he is older, he chooses his own books. At the moment he has two favourite series and he would always look for these books during each library visit.
One of his must-borrow books is Berenstain bears.
If i had a choice, i would not select this series for him. I think the text is too chunky for him. But what do i know? I just have to follow his interest right? Still, i love the theme of these series because it focuses on moral values, manners, character building etc.
The other of his favourite series is Curious George. We have wiped out all the books in the series- not that there were alot to start with. The poor boy is still hoping he can find new titles whenever we are the library. I highly recommend this series, especially to boys. It is about a monkey who's curiosity always gets him into trouble. I like that the stories tell of how his mischiefs always end up helping other people. I also particularly like the DVD series which Sonshine also loves to watch. In the shows, George encounters some difficulties but he would try to think of creative ways using everyday things to solve his problems. Needless to say, it always ends up well and nice.
I am now in a panic mode because we are almost done with Berenstain Bear books series. I don't know what other books would interest him next.

Sunday 6 January 2013

2013 for babydoll

A quick glance at 2012 for babydoll and my immediate take on it was a wasted year. A year of accomplishing nothing (in terms of cognitive development) for her. Wow, that sounds like i am some academic crazy mom, doesn't it? Anyway, on closer examination, i conclude she did in fact achieve something. It is just that i didn't quite plan and sit down with her & teach her. She learnt in her own ways and very much impromptu. But the important thing is, she did learn some things. That thought itself makes me heave a sigh of relieve.
Let's see, last year she learnt basic shapes like circle, triangle, star & square. She also learnt the names of some animals, the sounds that some animal make, names of fruits & general things around her. She learnt them all through play and interaction with us. Nothing formal.
I think last year i harbour the expectation that she would learn exactly the way brother sonshine did. But all the homeschool lessons i pen out for sonshine didn't work on her. I shall be honest and say, i was quite disappointed that her learning curve isn't the same as her brother's. Because this means one thing- that i have to research on new ways to teach her.
At this point of my life, i feel quite lazy to think creatively and look up for new ideas. I was also disappointed because i was hoping she could read by Glenn Doman flash card method like sonshine did. I found this method the easiest and fastest way to teach a child to read. I didn't teach sonshine the alphabet at all. All i taught him was to read by sight-words and everything else fell into place. He recognised the alphabets naturally and by watching enrichment programs like Leapfrog. I didn't even have to go through the phonics either. So i cannot relate to teaching methods like starting with alphabet than phonics etc. But it looks like i have to start from the beginning, step by step with babydoll. :( I am feeling lazy and sluggish already. *yawn*
So this year my plan for babydoll is
-Learn colours
- Begin to learn numbers
- Recognise alphabets and hopefully some simple words
Yup, that is all. I dare not set too high an expectation since alot of my focus will be on sonshine- as always. :I
Although she is different from her brother, still, her difference is a breath of fresh air. My experience as her mother is all new and it is like i am being a first time mom all over again! That makes it all exciting!

First Grammar lesson of 2013!

This holiday we did a great deal of nothing. Just nothing. We lazed around, played, meet people, had grands over for 2 weeks, and did more lazing. It was a holiday of nothing-ness. I almost thought i lost my mojo.
Somehow, we got our engine started on the very day sonshine started school. We started our first Homeschool lesson of the year with grammar lesson.
The topic was on singular and plural nouns.  
These are some of the visual aids i made to help sonshine learn faster & accurately. He learnt that with most words we add a 's' at the end to change them into plural forms. Otherwise words ending with 'ch', 'sh', 's', 'ss' and 'x' we have to add an 'es'. We will be continuing the lesson with other exceptional words like words ending with 'y', vowel before 'y' etc.
This was just a simple worksheet i whipped out to help him revise.

To be honest, i think he doesn't quite need this lesson. He has read widely enough to know instinctively the plural forms of most words. But i insist on going through this chapter because of my own experience. In terms of English language, i always go by instinct, what sounds right and what feels right. But i never took into heart the grammatical rules hence my grammar, actually my entire English language, is very poor & inconsistent. I want sonshine to know as many grammatical rules as possible. I believe it will help him somewhat, i hope?

Saturday 5 January 2013

2012 was, 2013 is

2012 went by me in a whizz. I emerged from it empty-handed emotionally & spiritually. To put it in a nutshell, it was a Year of waste. Not that it was filled with misfortune, in fact, we were very blessed, happy & healthy. I say it was a waste because I spent a chunk of it worrying, running in circles & accomplishing nothing. Worst of all, I didn't put Christ in the center of my life. I chose to run on my own, plan on my own, solve on my own, resulting in very little. Too much self and too little Christ.

This year, I decide to abandon my flesh, my humanly efforts and lean more on God, put Christ in the center of my life. Pursue the word of God, trust my concerns into His hands and follow His lead in all aspects of my life particularly:

I am horrified that I spent my year yelling, shrieking, scolding, screaming etc. I am ashamed that I have been ungracious toward my son especially in my words & actions. This year, I want less yelling and more in control. I want to inject love into my discipline toward my kids without being harsh. I shall strive to be authoritative but not an authoritarian. I shall seek God especially when I'm at the crossroads & not depend on my own understanding.

Character building
I hate to admit this on public site but I think my son has grown to be quite self centered. To him, the world revolves around him & everyone else comes second. I want to focus on bringing up a boy who is thoughtful, appreciative & kind. As I type this, I feel its quite a tall order. I don't have a plan on how I can achieve this. But when I don't know how, I know my Lord knows the perfect plan for us. I trust He will show me the way.

Last year homeschooling was lots of trial & error, hitting walls after walls. Like my spiritual life, this aspect was empty. I think I was trying to do too much. This year, I shall focus on his weak areas in bid to prepare him for Primary school next year. I will be paying more attention on the 2 languages and less on Math.

- grammar
- spelling
- oral

- vocabulary
- oral
- writing

- revision

As you can see, I said nothing about baby doll. What about her? Well, I have no clue! She's another ball game altogether with a different set of rules. I think I will have to think hard and write a separate post for her!

By God's grace & leadership, I trust that end 2013, I shall look back and be in awe of the supernatural breakthroughs we experience in all areas of our lives. Oh boy, I wrote myself happy & excited! Can't wait to see & experience what the Lord has install for me and my family! To a year of supernatural breakthroughs & God's never ending goodness raining upon me & my household! Amen!