Friday 29 March 2013

5 Things I love about Montessori method

I am a HUGE, HUMONGOUS, fan of Montessori- here's why:
1. The child is an active learner
In a regular school setting, the child is expected to sit passively and listen attentively to the teacher yaking away. But in the Montessori setting, the child is an active learner, working on manipulative while the directoress (teacher) is the one who's siting passively, watching & gently guiding the child. It is quite clear under which environment the child learns better. In Montessori, it provides a natural setting for a child to learn as it is more hands on & hence fun.
2. There is no homework.
Need i say more?
3. No lengthy explanations needed.
In a regular school, the teacher would give lengthy explanations on concepts filled with charts, pictures, words etc. But in Montessori, you don't need to tell the children how to do it, you just need to show them.  The trust is in the child to pick up the concept as she works on the activity. For instance, the pink tower. The teacher does not need to tell or explain to the child which block is big, which is small. As the child builds the tower, she will eventually pick up the concept of big, bigger, small, smaller etc.
4. The child is never tested. 
A mother shared with me that she believes there is no need to test a child. As long as we are able to prick their interest in learning, they will naturally learn and pick up concepts. I have to admit, i LOVE to test my son- because i want to know how much he really knows. I think this is the typical Singaporean syndrome. We want to see worksheets/test papers because we just NEED to know how well our children is doing. But this mother is so right. There is really no need to test a child; why test the child to force her to learn (& killing her interest in learning) when we should be nuturing her love for learning so that she will be self motivated to learn?
Therein lies the beauty of Montessori. The lesson is the 'test', the 'test' is the lesson. By observing the child work on the activities, the teacher/parent would instantly receive feedback on how much the child knows. Just by observing- there is no need for tests to prove it.  What's more, Montessori work is designed to look like play. The child does not necessary know she is learning. It is a perfect balance between work and play- that's why learning is fun for Montessori kids.
5. Each child learns at her own pace.
In a regular classroom, the teacher teaches one chapter for all without a care if child A doesn't know how to read yet, child B doesn't know his numbers but child C already knows how to read and recognise numbers. The slower child is expected to keep up- inevitably making her feel inadequate, the faster child is expected to 'slow down'- making her feel stifled. A child should never learn under such circumstances. Learning should be easy and fun.
In Montessori, each child is taught at her level. Each child has the freedom to choose her work in the classroom according to her interest. Child A may be working on phonics, child B may be working on numbers and child C working on reading etc. No child is made feeling like she is any lesser or better than the other. Learning is free from stress and unnecessary pressures.
It is quite obvious to me which learning environment will the child excel in. It is sad that our local school education is going the opposite way clearly making learning so stressful and competitive. It is a sure way to kill any interest and love for learning. I wish for more Montessori system injected into our local schools.

I feel terribly heavy hearted that my son will be stepping into this system very soon. But my husband and i are agreeable that the moment we see sonshine cracking- we will be ready to pull him out of the school either to homeschool him or off we go to another country (for this, i am grateful that this option comes easy for us). Till then, fingers cross!
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Mum in the Making

Wednesday 27 March 2013

Board games- Blokus

Photo credit: Google
Do you play board games?

I remember my childhood filled with board games! I always receive them for Christmas presents from my Uncles and Aunties. I was given Monopoly, UNO, Snakes & Ladders, Ludo, Scrabbles etc. I was very blessed indeed! For this reason, i am thankful i have another sibling who was always as eager as me to play!

As sonshine grew older, we introduced board and card games to him. He loves them all! We started with the simple UNO, then Snakes & Ladders, Monopoly and now Blokus. This is a fairly new board game to me, as in i don't think it ever existed during my childhood.

How to play?

Each piece comes in a tetris like shape. Some are shaped like a square (made up of 4 units), some 'L' (made up of 3/4 or 5 units) etc. Each player picks a color and connect their own color piece on the main board corner to corner. Each piece can only be joint at its corners but not anywhere else (side by side, top-bottom etc). The player who has the least number of pieces left is the winner.

This is a strategy game and requires some thinking. You not only need to find a space to joint your pieces at the corners but also strategically placed them such that you block your opponent. The idea here is to take up as much as space on the board as possible.

Sonshine loves this games to pieces (pun intended)! He plays this with daddy every night and takes each game very seriously. He gets very upset if he doesn't trash his fiercest competitor- his father.

Sonshine's best score was 3- which was really quite amazing for a 5 year old. I can't even beat him (my average score is 15-20, i know i am very bad). Only daddy can play with him head on (though daddy is already whining that it is very difficult to win sonshine these days). It is very interesting to watch him play, because he appears to place each piece down randomly & without a thought. But in reality, he has already mapped out his strategy as you make your move. Quite a scary opponent he is, if you ask me.

So, if you are looking for a strategy game but not too taxing on the brain, then Blokus is a must try! I recommend it to kids from 5 years and above.

Montessori- Sandpaper Numbers

"To introduce the symbols.." David Gettaman
You need:
Ten boards; on each board is the symbol of numeric 0-9 cut out from smooth sandpaper
Show the child to feel the numbers with fingers of the dominant hand. Trace the numbers the way you would write the numbers.
As you trace the number, name it and have the child repeat after you.
You can easily DIY this material but it is rather time consuming. You need to get sturdy card boards and sandpaper. Trace the numbers on the sandpaper, cut them out and paste it over the cardboard. (Sandpaper isn't very easy to cut though).
I didn't do this with Sonshine because by the time i own this set, he already knew his numbers. Still, i think it is a great way to introduce numbers and it lays the foundation on writing numbers. As the child traces the numbers, she not only learns the name of the symbols but also unknowingly learns to write each number.
I have began this with Babydoll. She can now recognise 2, 8 and sometimes 6 & 3, though not through Sandpaper numbers! LOL!  She learnt her numbers typically through everyday learning and seeing them in books and in the environment. Still, i use Sandpaper Numbers to reinforce what she knows and to introduce new numbers to her.

Week # 1 (Term 2)

Last week was school holidays and like any typical Singaporean family, we packed our bags and scoot off! So we didn't do any learning for the entire week obviously. We came back only on Sunday which also meant i was too exhausted to plan anything.

So Sonshine is let off for this week as well.
For Babydoll, i still have some materials (prepared earlier) that i could whip out anytime.
Classified pictures. Inspired by Monkey toes Montessori
Aim of these cards is to help the child get a sense of her environment.
Babydoll of course knows most of the household names, but i made them anyway just for fun. I also added a few other items that she doesn't know like 'water dispenser', 'ladder' etc.
I made it into a game where i would hold up a card and ask her 'where is the sofa?' And she would run to the sofa and point. She loves this hunting game and always play it with a huge grin on her face.
I photocopied some picture cards, laminated them and cut each picture into half.
It is a matching game where doll had to match the other half.

And this was something i made in a spur. Babydoll had to match the correct number of counters on each card. As she places them, i count along and with great enthusiasm I call out the number.

Monday 25 March 2013

My Pride, my worry

My trial and tribulation belongs to.. none other than my son. Yes, sonshine, my pride and also my source of worry.
Let's backdate this to when he was 2.5 years, then he was barely saying a word.
I worried.
When he finally spoke, his pronunciation was off- no one but us could understand what he was saying. He was already 3-4 years old then.
I worried.
When he finally got most of his pronunciation right, we soon discovered he was an introvert child at school. Too introvert. He didn't (still doesn't i think) interact with his classmates although he parallel plays with them.
I worried.
Today, he speaks in sentences but his sentence structures come out in mess. Sometimes it comes out with a totally different meaning he had originally intended, grammatically wrong. Don't get it wrong, he can manage simple sentences like 'i like school because..., i don't like this toy, i like lego better..., please help me, i can't do it..' Generally, he can speak clearly and coherently.
But the moment when he needs to elaborate a thought (think telling a story), he gets all wired up and the sentences all come out wrong.
I worry. I am still worrying.
I have sent him to see therapist and professionals. Funnily, he performed very well during the examinations. So well that the therapists almost scorn at me for over-worrying and none wanted to 'waste time' with any follow up therapy with him.
But i still worry everytime he struggles to speak in proper sentences. Especially when he is turning the dreaded 7  years old next year. How is he going to tackle composition? Let's not even talk about Mandarin!
Perhaps my expectations of him is too high? Well, i think not. Especially when i listen to 4 years old rattling effortlessly.
Yet, when i think back at how he once struggled to say a word proper to where he is now-speaking in full sentences, i know i should be thankful and rejoice. It is also through looking back at his vast improvements year after year that assures me that he will only get better. So at one point, he preferred to be alone. Today, he is playing & interacting with peers and even with friends whom he only met the first time. Although he is still very selective with his friends, it is a wonderful sign that he is beginning to come out of his shell. To heck that he isn't speaking as well as his peers, to heck with compositions (i'll just prepare myself for lots of parental signatures)! The important thing here is, he has improved and will only keep improving.
This is where i will hand my worry over to my Lord. I just know my Lord will turn sonshine's weakness into a strength one day. I just know that Jesus will use my son's weakness to confound the wise. I can't wait for that day!

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Friday 15 March 2013

Favourite local reads

I love to read blogs written by local moms.
I love to see what's up with them and how they mother their kids.
It is the kaypoh (busybody) syndrome in me.
Like many, i have a few blogs that i check in frequently.
I love them because they are unconventional, funky, creative and just different from the typical rat-racing moms. Some of them very often provoke me to re-think my parenting ways. I love how uncommon, untypical they are. Some of them are very intellectual. I secretly aspire to be like them but ah, i am no where near them for i lack courage & intelligence! :( For others, they simply allow me to snoop into their lives, giving me fresh perspectives as to how other moms are the same but different as me. :)
So anyway, here are me fav local blogs in no particular order
There are of course many others i pop over regularly. I find each blog give me different views, inspirations, 'knock on the head', humour at different times. So i find the very wise thing to do is to keep blog hopping and keep getting inspired by other fellow Singaporean moms.

Week #10 for Sonshine

This is English/Mandarin week for sonshine. 
Other then the SKWD (now at the 25th lesson), he worked on a few pages from the following book.
I bought this book from Popular bookshop sometime back, like last year. I didn't quite start him earlier because i realised the standard was bit too high for him. I almost gave it away when recently, i discovered he's vocabulary has grown more- good enough for him to start this book.
There are several sections to this book- i am going to share a few.
Look at the picture and write. I didn't make him write because some of the words he hadn't learn. (I tell you, as we progress into higher level of Mandarin it gets really tough- especially with the writing). So i made him tell me the appropriate words for each picture. I was very pleased that he had little problem.
This is akin to cloze passage. Read the sentence and select the correct words.
Complete the sentence. Sonshine needed some guidance for the last two questions.
Choosing the write word. If you notice, the multiple choice answers given are very close to each other. One must be able to read, recognise and understand the meanings to do this.
Of course, Hanyu Pinyin.
I used to dislike this book because i thought it was too tough. Now i love it! I feel that this book really test the child's understanding and usage of mandarin. It is one thing to recognise the words, it is another thing to understand what is being read & knowing how to apply them. Though Sonshine didn't get everything right but i am happy enough that he was able to get most correct without my help. It reaffirms to me that he can read AND understand!
He also did one section from this book.
Another practice on the Effective Grammar book.
I have also embarked him on Writing with ease curriculum. This week he did 2 copywork and 2 comprehension passages. In the latter, i read out a short passage provided in the book and i asked questions set by the author. He was expected to answer in full sentences. This, as the author claim (i say 'claim' because i am not sure yet) that this lay the foundation in writing proper sentences.
WOW, it looked like he did alot didn't he? Well, truth is, we only spend 10-15 minutes max a day. I do not want to overwhelm him, so i usually give him 2-3 pages each day. I am careful with what i choose, making sure it is not too hard (because i don't want to discourage him) and not too easy for him.

Week #10 with doll

I didn't plan much for doll this week. Too exhausted. That is why household knick knacks come in handy for time such as this! No planning needed, just need to hunt around the house for activities to do!

Sorting buttons. I kept all those Gerber bottles because i knew they would come in handy one day! Doll sort them by color and as she picked each button, i say out the color. That's how she learnt 'pink and white' (she already knows green). Yay!
Next, she did some pouring at her own will.

More pouring, scooping and merry mess making!

We did some dot to do art. LOVE it! I love the size of each paint- very nice to hold especially for small hands. I love that the paint dries up easily. I love the effect of the dots! Pretty!

When left alone, doll would take out the Duplo box and play with it. Most days i just leave her be but today i sat down with her. That was how i accidentally found out she knows her colors. As she took out each piece, she named their colors. Whoohoo!

Containers lid matching. Doll enjoyed this, i enjoyed watching her enjoying it. :)
I have also been letting her watch Letter factory. Very pleased that she has picked out some of the letter sounds from this show. However, my only grouse is that they use capital letters and not small letters. :(

Wednesday 13 March 2013

I am a SAHM

I have been a SAHM for 6 years now. As i said earlier, i don't quite understand why they say SAHM is very hard. I think being a FTWM is more challenging & that's why all FTWMs have my utmost respect! I don't think i'll be capable of waking up early in the morning, dealing with the expectations at work only to come home to manage more demands albiet domestic. I am not one who can handle stress and to juggle too many things is a sure way to make me snap. That's why i think FTWM are very capable lot of mummies!
Nevertheless, i think all moms have the right to decide if they want to work or stay home. No one, not even fellow moms, can tell us if we should be at home or remain in the corporate world. I personally think moms must be happy and feel fulfilled first, otherwise if mom is unhappy, so will everyone in the household. Everyone has their own reasons why they choose to be FTWM or SAHM, i am no exception. Here are some of my reasons:
1) There was no ideal candidate to take care of my son.
Personally, infant care is a huge no-no for me. I didn't like the idea that my infant would not have one on one attention from the caregiver. I also didn't like having a nanny to take care because first, i didn't have a good contact, i didn't think a stranger could love my son as much as i did. My parents and in-laws were not an option either.
Instinctively, i knew the best person to care for son was, me. No other.
2) Financially sound
I did a quick check and was happy that we could live comfortably with one income. I took that it as a sign that SAHM was the way to go. Besides, i believe money can always be earned back. But once you miss the child's childhood, it will be gone forever. No amount of work will ever earn you back their early years. I do not to live it up. I am willing to give up luxurious lifestyle just for my kids. I think kids who has SAHM are more like the privilege even though some may have to go for less holidays, make do with lesser toys etc.
3) I had my own plans
I knew exactly how i wanted to raise my son and what kind of environment i want him to grow up in. For instance, the television must never be switched on if the child is awake. As i said, i knew if someone else was to care for my son, i could not expect her to follow through my expectations & demands 100%. I know most nannies would readily have their TV sets on & since it's their house, i have no right to tell them to do otherwise.
4) My own experience with a FTWM
My own mom was a full fledged working mom. Because of her work, my sister & i were left to a nanny and later my grandma's on the weekdays. We only went home during the weekends. I remember she was like my only fortress for sense of security.
However, since she wasn't by my side most of the time, i felt very insecure and lost throughout my childhood. At my nanny's, i knew it wasn't my home so i needed to be at my best behaviour. My nanny wasn't the most gentle of women either. It also didn't helped that i knew my grandma favoured my sister over me. So I grew up being a timid, inferior and low self esteem little girl. Looking back, i am certain things would have been different if my mom was home with me more.
Naturally, i didn't want my kids to grow up feeling the same way as i did. I believe children feels the most secure and safe when they are home with their parents. I remember i yearn for the weekends and oh how delighted & at ease i was to be at my own home but near to depression on Sunday evenings!  So, i wanted my son to grow up in a place where he feels secure & where he can come home after school knowing his mom is home to welcome him back with open arms.
Now, i am not saying all kids who grow up under the grandparents, nanny or childcare would definitely feel insecure. I am just saying, the home is one of the natural & sure place to provide a sense of comfort & security to a child. I am sure there are many successful stories of kids who were taken care by other caregivers. I was just the unfortunate few. :( Likewise, i doubt all kids who are taken care by their moms grow up secure, it all depends on the caregiver. To be honest, from time to time i do wonder if my staying home benefit my kids or not (given that i am constantly nagging and scolding). Still, i believe in general, moms are the most nurturing lot and best candidate to care for their own kids. There's simply no other love like a mother's.
Drawing this to our government call for more SAHM to join the workforce- all for the economy's sake? Well, i would NEVER trade nor risk my child's self esteem just for a bullish economy. So if our economy is bustling with dollar signs but filled with unhappy, low self worth citizens? What good is that? (Of course, i am not implying that FTWM kids are low self esteem kids- don't wrongly quote me, okay?)
As a mom, my children's emotional well being comes above anything & everything else. As long as i am able to stay home with and for my kids to give them a stable safe haven & save them from all the shuttling from house to house, i will do it. No amount of carrot dangling will make me exchange my role as a SAHM for any job, thank you very much.
To wrap this up, i leave you this quote from Playful Parents
"Because I believe there is so much misunderstanding about what moms who stay home really do. Because I believe that we CANNOT qualify the importance and worth of every endeavor using money. Because I believe being a mother is MORE than just providing for our children’s physical and intellectual well-being. Because I believe that when our economy and society learns to respect and value the place of family, the quality of work and life will improve immeasurably."
Hear hear!

Attention Span

When sonny was very young, i was very meticulous about not exposing him to too many television programs. At that time, there was no Ipad, iphone to worry about, so it was very easy to control. Up to now, he is not into watching any shows. In fact, he watches 0 hours of television shows a day (unless we manage to borrow his favourite Curious George DVD). We don't subscribe to any of the kids' channels so there is no battles to fight with him in this department.
However, things are a little different with doll. While our television is switched off most of the day, she somehow found her puny fingers to the ipad. Due to my desperate attempt to make her eat better, i mistakenly introduced to her the Youtube once. Since that day, she knows where to go for her Barney or High Five fix. Some days, she would find her way through and all of the sudden i can hear Barney squealing or High Five playing at the background. As it is, she is already watching television shows twice a day, perhaps about 20-30 minutes each time during her, what else meals. Which means now she associates eating with watching television.
Not very happy with her media exposure, i have made a point to hide the ipad each morning when i wake up (my husband tend to use it the night before and leave it lying on the sofa). Also, i discovered she is drawn to the i-things because she sees us on it quite frequently (whoopsie, monkey see monkey do). Hence, i try not to be on the iphone when she's awake (but that's really hard too).
No thanks to the plenty of research proving that kids who spend more time on the media tend to have lower attention span, i am very careful when it comes to my kids exposure to the media. Looking back i found the following things i did with sonshine helped to sharpen his concentration skills (though i can't tell for sure if they are truly directly related). So these would also be my goals for doll:
1) Read books MORE often
I think the best ways to prevent poor attention span is by reading books. Reading books is a great way to hone one's ability to focus. I am very glad that doll readily says 'YES' to books and so it is always a good way to lure her away from the ipad. I used to settle with reading once a day. But i now i aim to read to her at least 3 times a day. So far so good.
2) Doing activities with her daily
My purpose of doing activity with her daily is not solely to teach her but so that she gets used to the idea of doing work. It is not like she sits down for straight 20 minutes to do the activities. But as she works on one activity, she sits down and fully concentrating at the task at hand, whatever it may be. Of course, for now that's only like 5 minutes or so. But as she gets older, i will make the activities a little more challenging thereby requiring her to concentrate longer.
3) Flash cards
Somehow i think kids who can sit still and look at the flash cards have better concentration power than kids who do not. While i hope as i flash the cards, she would pick up reading but more so because i want to sharpen her ability to focus.

4) Educational Shows first

I started to let doll watch Barney, High-5 first because she didn't take to those educational shows (Baby can read, Wink to learn) very well. Having her eat her food was more important than anything so i relented. Nowadays, there's more room for negotiation with her. So instead of playing the usual shows, i switch on educational ones like Leapfrog letter factory. It's fantastic 'cause she has picked up a couple phonics through this show. Since i can't beat her, i shall join her! At least she is learning something while watching!
I very well understand toddlers have very short attention span and that's normal. Obviously i am not expecting the stars and moon from her. But i believe there are some things we can control that can either help or harm them. I choose to do the former by laying out the above foundations for her. Hope it works!

Monday 11 March 2013

The ABCs

Do you teach the ABCs first? Or the phonics? Or sight words first?
I NEVER, (really, NEVER) taught sonshine the alphabet nor phonics. He just picked them up either through the media or school. I only taught him to read by sight words (Glenn Doman Method) and by 12 months old, he could recognise a list or words. From there, reading was never an issue with him, neither his alphabets. And hence my 'work' was easy peasy with him.
Unfortunately, doll is different. She doesn't take in sight words as readily as her brother. So i have been researching how else i can teach her to read. I have seen most local mothers teach the name of the alphabets first but my research shows that it should be otherwise.
I am an avid fan of Glenn Doman and Maria Montessori. Both of them have smilar but still different views when it comes to teaching a young child to read. However, both suggest NOT to teach the alphabet names first. Both have different reasons for this suggestion and also differing recommendations on how to do it.
Glenn Doman
He suggest to teach the child words first before the the alphabets. He's reason? Very simple! When i read it, i immediately went 'but of course!'. Well, here's why. You cannot attach any meaning to the letters, say 'A'. How do you explain to a child what 'A' means? You can tell them, oh A stands for Apple, Aeroplane. Sure, but what exactly is 'A'? There is no meaning to it when it stands alone. BUT, if you teach the child the word 'apple', you can easily & instantly attach a meaning to the word by showing him a picture of an apple. The child would immediately draw the conclusion that the word 'apple' means the object apple.  After the child learns to read, then, you can teach them that each word is made of letters like 'a'. From there, the child would better appreciate the purpose and meaning of the alphabets.
Maria Montessori
She also believes that it isn't necessary to teach the names of the letter first. She proposes to teach the sound of each letter- which we all know is phonics. This, she claims, would help to lay the right foundation for reading. I found children who learn to read by phonics first are better in spelling than kids who are not. Sonshine cannot spell without committing to memory. I suspect it is because he learnt to read by looking at the word as a whole rather than at the letters. Fortunately, he still attempts to decode a new word mostly by 'chunking'.
The other smilier views both hold is not to teach Capital letters first but always start with the small letters. Why so? Look at this post, how many capital letters do you see versus small letters? In any print, small letters are more dominant and common then Capital letters. So, always start with the one that child would see more frequently- small letters.
What do i think?
 I honestly think that even if we start with the alphabet first, it is not a dead end. I was taught that way and i learnt to read successfully (but poor at spelling though). However, i think with each method there is an advantage over the other. I found Glenn Doman method the fastest and easiest way to teach a child to read whereas phonics is a slower, step by step method. But, as i found out with my doll, Glenn Doman does not sit well with all children.  And as i said, phonics lay a very good foundation for spelling. However, I actually don't believe kids who learn phonics first are better readers. I think learning to read by phonics is very slow, breaks the momentum when reading & therefore dulls the reading process. Moreover, i think they will all eventually learn to read by sight-words.
With doll, i am still trying various method. I think i'll embark both journey at the same time. Teaching her to read by sight-words and phonics. I hope it won't confuse her!

Saturday 9 March 2013

Week # 9- Sonshine

If you can't tell by now, i am working on a routine with sonshine. Monday to Wednesday, he would work on English or Maths (i'll alternate every week) and every Thursday to Friday, he would work on Mandarin.
This week, it is Math and mandarin.
Math: we continued with Kumon grade 3 Word problems. He did multiplication word problems. This time, he did it with ease, correctly selecting the multiplicand and multiplier.
I also bought him Kumon book Addition and subtraction. I used to laugh at people who bought this book. Because i think it's a total waste of money. Why need to buy when you can come up with the questions yourself? But yes, i went to buy it & now i know the answer. Because we are too lazy to set the questions ourselves!
I wanted sonshine to do, because i want him to get as much practice as possible. He actually was able to them with ease.
For mandarin, we did our usual SWKD. And worked on a page in one of the Primary 1 assessment book we own. In it, he had to select the correct words that fit into the sentence.

We continued to work on Europe map. By now, he's able to complete the puzzle 70% on his own. I love this, because he naturally remembered the location of each country. He also studied the county outline of Portugal, Spain and one more that i forgot. :P

Week #9- Babydoll

Our work shelf is pretty much the same as last week. Babydoll is still working on the Montessori Pink tower and word matching cards. She is improving! Yeah!
Some other things we did. Working on this animal puzzle. Too easy for her but i took it out just to spice our work shelf a little. Also, as she work on them, it gave me a chance to name the animals in mandarin. So happens that we are reading an animal book that has exactly the same set of animals as this puzzle!

She worked on alphabet puzzle. She loves to push each foam pieces out of its place. Through this work, i accidentally found out she could sound out the letters 'm, o and s'! Hooray!

We have doing sorting since last week, i was too lazy to take pictures. We sorted with lots of stuff around the house like red dates, macaroni, barley seeds and duplo. In the above picture, doll was sorting the duplos by color. Like any Montessori work, i didn't have to 'teach' her, i just sat & watched. It was intriguing that whenever she placed the wrong color duplo under a column, she would freeze for a moment, looking at the piece hard. Then in seconds, she would remove the piece and place it at its corresponding color column. She did this without me prompting her her error. :)

A new stuff we did. I made two print outs. On one, there is an oval and circle, on the other sheet, there is the square and rectangle. Previously, doll would name ovals as circles and rectangles as squares. Hence, i deliberately printed t he two similar shapes in the same sheet, side by side. Again, this was kind of inspired by Montessori. I didn't need to give her a whole load of explanation that rectangles has longer lengths than its breaths while squares have equal dimensions all side. All i had to do was to point to the square and say 'Square' and same to the rectangle. Instantly, a child would be able to see that two shapes are different. Soon after this activity, she is able to show me which is oval and which is rectangle.

I also made phonics book. On each page is a letter and a picture that starts with that letter. I do not say the name of the letter but i say its sound as we go through the book.

I made a similar book but this time is pictures of our family. Not that she can't recognise who is who in the family, this book was more for word recognition.

Friday 8 March 2013

Montessori- Pink Tower

"Aim: To help develop the child's visual discrimination of differences in three dimensions. " - David Gettaman, Basic Montessori Learning Activities for Under-Fives.
Material: 10 pink wooden cubes each differing equally in all dimensions by increments by one centimetre.

My interpretation: To teach the child concepts like 'big, small', 'biggest to smallest' and 'bigger, smaller'. May i also add that it can be indirectly used to teach route counting.
All the blocks are made of the same material, same color but differ in sizes. The biggest block is 1 centimetre larger than the second biggest block; the second block in turn is 1 centimetre larger than the third and so on.
How to play? Stack the blocks from the biggest to the smallest.
You can also teach 'big, small' concept by isolating the biggest and smallest cube.
If you are familiar with Montessori, you know that there is no need to give much verbal instruction to the child. What you need to do is to demonstrate and then let the child have a turn & explore. As the child work on the material, she would gradually understand that in order to successfully build a tower, she would have to stack them from the biggest to smallest. Therein, she will subtly learn to visually identify which block is the bigger/smaller.
I witnessed this with doll. At the beginning, she would just randomly stack the blocks which of course would collapse mid way. Now, she is slowly beginning to understand that she has to select the biggest block first. Of course, during the course, i did guide her along by asking her 'which is the big block now?'. Now, she can more or less successfully build the tower with some guidance. What's more important, she has learnt to identify which are the 'big' and 'small' blocks. Some times she would pick a big block and exclaim 'BIG!' or 'MALL' for the small blocks. :)
Now a word on why it is important that all the blocks must be of the same color and texture. Simply because you want to the child to take away learning just one message. Having too many variants in the material will confuse the child.
Take for example, the above colored stacking ring toy. Very colorful, bright and surely would attract a child right? The very purpose of this toy is obviously to 'teach' the child the concept of 'biggest to smallest'. However, it is unfortunate that each ring not only differ in size but also color. Which means, the child can play this game either by color coding or by size. 
In Montessori work, each set of material all have the same variant except for one- the one variant would depend on what 'lesson' we want the child to learn.
So, is it necessary to buy Montessori material? Well, not quite. Although Montessori is known to be very costly, but not many know that we can still use Montessori method at home without burning a hole. Look around your house, you'll probably find something. Like this cookie cutter i bought at Daiso for just $2. Each cutter is of the same color, shape and texture but graduating in size. Also, perfect to teach concept like 'biggest to smallest' isn't it? :)
If you are tech savy, you can also make Pink tower cards on the computer. Do a little cutting & laminating, viola! A 2 dimension pink tower! Of course a 3-D is more fun and attractive. But i always believe as long as the concept is brought across it doesn't really matter if it's 3-D or 2-D!
Or if you feeling crafty, you can always trace out squares 10cm by 10cm on pink paper, making sure the other squares dimensions gradually decrease by 1cm.
Sprinkle some creativity, look around your house (and sometimes at Daiso), you'll sure to find something that be of use for Montessori activities at home. :)

 For those who are neither tech savy or feeling crafty, or just looking for 'short cuts', I will be most willing to share my Pink Tower PDF copy with you. However, i would also like to be rewarded for my effort. Hence, i will be charging a nominal fee of $2.
You can give me tinkle at homeschool(underscore)sg(atmark)yahoo(dot)com(dot)sg.

Here's doll almost succeeding in building the tower without any guidance from me. 
Lastly, i am really no expert in Montessori. These are just my sharing from my own understanding and learning/teaching journey.

Wednesday 6 March 2013

My goals as SAHM

I have been a SAHM for 6 years now. I actually enjoy being at home with kids and quite frankly, i think it is easier than being a FTWM (don't throw eggs at me). It is not like i am threading on roses everyday. In fact, i am rather a snappy, temper raging, annoyed and shouting mother. I have been labelled by my husband as an angsty mother AND wife. -_-While i know it was said in a jest but i guess there is relative truth in it. I ain't the most patient and sweet talking of moms, probably right down at the bottom of the scale.
Still, i enjoy motherhood. I enjoy being at home and i must honestly say, it isn't  as hectic as most SAHMs' lives and i get to enjoy many breathers in between. I think i am really bless because i get two quiet times a day and during one of them, i get to enjoy a nice afternoon nap  like daily. I don't think i can get that if i were a working mom.
My fellow SAHM friend said i make being SAHM look easy. She said she is up to her neck despite having a helper. I have another friend who has a set of elders AND a helper but she still says she can't cope with her two kids. I don't have a helper, yet i don't quite find my life as hectic as chaotic as breathless as them. They don't understand how i manage, and like wise, i can't comprehend why they still can't cope with so many help.
After some not-so-in-depth thought, i think perhaps it boils down to our priorities as a SAHM.
I was comparing notes with my friend and it seems she cannot tolerate messy and untidy house. Chores must be done, none must be delayed. For me, chores are secondary. I don't stress myself with housework. I do the minimal. I do what i can. I don't do housework when the kids are sleeping or away at school. I only do it when they are awake. The rationale? I want my quiet time. I take that chance to earn my sanity back. When they rest, i rest. I refuse to lift a finger to do any chores during this time. So, the laundry is mounting, the dining table barely has space for us to eat, the floor/cabinet/'windows are dusty, a sink full of unwashed dishes- i don't care. I allow myself physical, mental and emotional break. I think by not stressing myself over housework lift alot off my shoulders. I see my 'working hours' as during the time when the kids are awake and at home. My 'off hours' are when they are napping. Chores are a no-no during this time.
I am very clear that my role as a SAHM is to be involve in their learning. That is paramount to me. So everything else comes in second. To me, as long as i clock in homeschooling time- i have accomplished my purpose as SAHM. Who cares if the floor is littered with toys, hair and dust.
Neither do i drown myself with daily activities a day like grocery shopping, cooking two meals as day etc. I take 'short cuts' whenever i can. Grocery is done only once a week, i buy a week's supply so that i save myself from daily trips to the market. I cook one standard meals for lunch AND dinner (just re-heat the remaining portion for dinner). Even cooking, i don't trouble myself with frying multiple dishes. I aim to do just all in one dish which i merely steam over the rice cooker along with rice. Even re-heating, i just re-heat them all in the rice cooker.
Yes, i am rather slack, I know some moms would shudder & cringe at my 'short cut' ways. But i guess, to each their own. Everyone has different goals, different objectives. This is how i do it, i first identify what are important to me as a SAHM (one of which is teaching my kids) and what are not. Those that are important, i give more time & attention, those that are not, i try to take the shortest possible 'route' and cut myself some slack. Ultimately, as long as nobody dies, we are all okay!
I personally think some SAHMs are drained out because they want it all. Grocery must be done daily because they want their food fresh, meals must be cook twice a day with new dishes each meals, they want to be involve with their kids education, they want to spend minimum hours playing their kids, they want the house to be in tip top, sparkling clean condition everyday etc. I don't think these are all possible without ample help. Otherwise, something's got to give. We can't have it all. If we want it all, with little help, that the 'thing' that is going to give is us, moms.
I am very glad that my husband and i are well 'trained'. We have learnt to live with over due chores and acknowledge that a messy house is no biggy- as long as our family are in good health, we've got food on our table- we are doing absolutely fantastic!

My favorites reads are these

Here are some of my top Montessori/teaching blog reads, in no particular order:
This mama's kid is just about the same age as babydoll. So whatever she is doing with her kid gives me ideas on what i can do with mine.
First, of all, MAAAAN, i love her house! It looks so bright, clean and spacious! I love to pop over her blog because i think she is the real deal. As in, she truly creates a Montessori environment for her kids and is very successful doing so. I wish i could do the same as her but it would be very costly and impractical especially living here in Singapore. So i pop over to her blog from time to time to sort of live my dreams- virtually.
This blog has full of home teaching ideas. I just love it, period.
This is one of me favourite because her ideas are almost always cost efficient. She uses cheap household items and still acheive the teaching objective perfectly. There's no need to splurge, just a little creative will do!
This is another real deal Montessori mama. But her montessori ways are more academic sense. She homeschools her boys using Montessori curriculum. She follows through the entire curriculum and she has like all the materials needed. *DROOL* Again, i pop over her blog to live my other dream. *SWOON*
And these are my must have Montessori book reads
Warning: this is a very dry read. You either need to have some understanding of Montessori or you have to watch some Montessori YouTube to understand the description. But it is a very detailed book on how to teach  using the Montessori method.
This was the very first Montessori book i read which i stumbled upon at the library. It inspired me to read more about the Montessori method and left me totally in awe of Montessori. But it is very basic and i would recommend to parents with young children say 1 year to 2 years old. I like this book because you don't need Montessori materials to do the activities. All you need to do is look around your house for the materials.
To be honest, i didn't follow this book to teach sonshine read & write. But i believe in the methodology and it gives detailed, step by step on how to do it, right from scratch. I am hoping to use this on doll who's learning curve is waaaaaaaaaaaay different from her brother. sigh.

Sunday 3 March 2013

Some admin stuff

First, i apologise for the grammatical errors that is evident all over my blog. But i typically write each post with a toddler pestering me by my side and a pre-schooler yelling 'MOM! MOM!'.So when i am writing, my mind is split in a million ways. Okay, the real reason is probably because my English is poor. :P Although whenever i read back and read my errors i cringe but i am too lazy to switch to the puter & correct the errors.
Secondly, emails. I have receive emails and responded to all of them. But i think it is strange that i get zero response back. It is not the no-response i am concern about, i am more worried that my emails didn't get through- and that would make me look like some unfriendly, stuck up mother. So, just in case you are still waiting for me to write back or are harbouring some bad thoughts about me, please know i have replied to your emails. If you haven't received them, please feel free to drop me another note.

Book Review: Sherlock Sam

(Photo credit: Epigram Books)
First up, a confession. The authors of this book are my friends. So the book review could be slightly bias, just a wee a little bit!
This book is about a little boy name Samuel who prefers to be known as 'Sherlock Sam'. As the name suggest, he loves a good mystery, throw in local food, even better! In this series, a mystery landed right onto his lap when a family friend lost her precious Peranakan recipe book, a family heirloom. Together with his side kick, a robot he built himself, his elder sister and his classmate, they go in search of the missing book.
Mummy's rave:
1) I love the feel and look of the entire book. From the cover page, illustrations right down to the font size! The overall look gives an instant impression that this book is easy to read- and it is! With just nine chapters, this book is manageable for any kid!
2) Local delight! It is written by locals so of course expect lots of local flavors from the book. The book will bring you to places like Katong, Marine Parade and present to you local food like chicken rice. It makes the story very realistic to young kids since these are familiar road names and dishes they have tasted. I suspect this was one of the many reason why sonshine enjoyed this book. His eyes lit up whenever we come across familiar places and food.
3) Witty banter and use of words. I thought their play of words were pretty entertaining. Those with annoying, pesky siblings would also surely relate to the exchanges between Sherlock Sam's and his sister!
4) Perhaps it was due to my own expectation but the ending really caught me off guard. Throughout the entire book i thought i knew where the heirloom was (i thought i was the clever adult who could surely unravel a children's mystery book). So i was totally surprised by how the it was solved.
5) Entertaining characters. Kids surely will be amused by the cute characters, from Sherlock Sam himself, Watson the robot and the 'not so clever' classmate of Sam's. Each with their own antics and 'silliness'.
6) Rich cultural exposure. The kids will learn about the Peranakan culture, particularly the food. 
Sonshine's rave
To be quite honest, i think he was pretty much lost with all the dialogues. He is probably too immature or under-exposed to appreciate most of the on goings Although he understood enough to know simply that a book was lost, the kids went in search for it and then it was found! LOL. So i reckon this book may good for older kids like 7 years up.
Before this story, he didn't know what a mystery is nor the Peranakan culture. I was worried that he would be bored since he was not familiar with most of the contents. Surprisingly, he thoroughly enjoyed the book despite. Funnily, a recent show shot a footage of Buah Keluak (a nonya dish that you will read alot about in the book) and sonshine was so excited that he dashed into the room yelling 'MOM! BUAH KELUAK!'. Ah, yes so now he knows a little bit more about Nonya food.
Overall, sonshine loved the book. Everyday, after school. he would ask to read the book, two chapters a day at least, no less. He is now looking forward to their second book!
 I recommend this book to all local kids who appreciate a good mystery and of course good food!
 You can get your copy from Popular bookstores and i am sure most bookstores (i am not sure :P).

Disclaimer: I was not asked by my friends to do this review nor are they even aware i own a blog! This was written entirely on my own accord simply because sonshine & i truly enjoyed the book.

Saturday 2 March 2013

This and that

Last 2 weeks, Sonshine worked on Math, English and mandarin.

I have started Kumon grade 3 book with sonshine. He worked on multiplication problem sums. I was particular about him getting the multiplicant and multiplier right. It was down right confusing for both of us but i had to insist that he gets it right because this is what the schools are expecting.

My attempt to help him understand which is the multiplicant and which is the multiplier. I drew pictures and group them. I taught him that say 3 groups of 2 meant that we have to multiply 3 by 2 i.e 3X2 not 2X3 (yes, i know, both give the same answer). The page was eventually scribbled by doll, who else?

I love this Grammar assesment book. I think it really test the child's grammar. The questions are in multiple choice format which works very well for sonshine since he hates to write. And the questions are not straight-forward, requires some thinking and full understanding of the grammatical rules. The questions work as a check for me to see how well he understood the grammatical rules.

We completed 2 more chapters of SWKD. I must say he is doing very well. I appreciate that it does not take him long to remember and recognise new words. Phew. I dread it when it comes to doll cause i suspect she is not quite like her brother in this department. -__-

He learn to write two new words, one of which conincidently was a new word he learnt from SWKD book. Works well for me since it helps to reinforce his learning.
I wanted to inject more fun stuff  in our home learning. So i am re-introducing continent work to him, something he is interested in. I am hoping as he work more on this puzzle, it will edge in his mind the locations of the countries in the continent.
I also made cards on European countries. On each card is a shape of a country on the continent. So far, he has learnt to recognise Italy, Germany, Denmark and Sweden just by looking at their country outline. We also revised the capitals of these countries which he has forgotten.