Monday 30 September 2013

Montessori: Sound boxes

Or rather, sound capsules! My kids are obsess with Kinder Surprise no thanks to the Youtube. These eggs are not cheap and we are made to buy them every week.
While my kids look forward to cracking the eggs for the toys, I look forward to collecting the capsules (that is use to hold the toys in the egg). My husband laments that I am a trash collector. :D But I just knew one day these capsules would be put into good use! And I was right!
I decided to use the capsules for Montessori Sound box activity. To know more about this activity, read here.
First, I filled the capsules with stuff like rice grains, a piece of Lego and pom pom. Use items such that when you shake the capsule, it makes a sound.  I used 6 capsules, each pair is filled with the same items.
Mix the capsules up and have the child pair the capsules that makes the same sound. As a control of error, I pair up the capsules according to its color.

With reference to the link above, the purpose of this activity is to refine the child's auditory sense. We can also use this activity for language purpose like teaching the child the concept of 'loud' and 'soft' sounds (I didn't know that before this! Ha!).
I think I need to increase the challenge by adding more capsules.

More ranting

Sonshine is going to primary school in a few months time. I told myself that the real rat race will inevitably begin (maybe not in lower primary yet) and I need to put thought as to how I am going to manage it. To be honest, I think I already have one foot in the race that is why it is even more important for me to think it through. Here are some of the things I want to remind myself.
1) Education is not a race
Unfortunately, here in Singapore, we see education as a competition. We are way obsess with who knows more than who, who's doing better than who, who has that 1 mark more than who, who is the number one. My own defination of education is simply put- learning. Not learning competitively and  not learning to compete. I want to remind myself that Sonshine is there to foremost- gain knowledge, how well he does against his peers is secondary or even unimportant. I shall simply rejoice at the knowledge he gain- PERIOD.
2) Right response
I want to be careful in how i respond when he hands me his results. I don't want him to feel that he needs to earn my affirmation & recognition through good grades. Neither do I want him to think that I would love him lesser if he brings back lousy grades. It has to be well balance and end up with affirming him with my love regardless of how well he do in school.
3) Comparing him with himself
Every child is different, has different talents, different learning pace. It is very unfair and even absurd to compare one child with another. It is like comparing a monkey with an elephant. They each have different strengths and a place in this earth. It is near impossible to pit them against each other. So, I want to remind myself that it is not right to compare him his peers. Instead, I'll compare him with himself and celebrate more of his improvements rather than how 'better' he is against someone else.
I don't know if I will be this steadfast when the time comes. I am easily influenced and affected by my environment and what people say- yes, I am weak that way. But even if we get sucked into the competitive waves, I want to make sure it is healthy and that his self esteem is protected. So hopefully, the day when I feel swayed, I'll check back on this particular post and remind myself again!

Sunday 29 September 2013

The hot topic- Tuition

The word 'tuition' is abuzz these days. I can't help but join in the party and put in my 2 cents worth. But I am not targeting at tuition per se, read on.

I read that a boy who is top in his school, but still opt for tuition just because he wants to maintain his position. I cannot help but find fault with this at every level.

First up, I am not opposing parents who opt for tuition for their kids who are struggling to keep up. Personally, I would do the same if my children are doing poorly. I think it makes perfect sense; render help where help is needed.

But, to have tuition so that the child doesn't slip down to number 2 in school is way absurd for me. Excuse me, what is so shameful about being number 2 or 10th or 30th in school or just being an average? I fear that such students think that being number 2 or lesser is equivalent to failing. This belief is so warp! And there you have students struggling hard to even make it to the passing mark! Ridiculous!

The other thing that puts me off is that there are kids who obviously feel that they can't get to where they are without tuition. Their trust is not in their own abilities but in the tuition. The danger of it is that, if you take away the tuition, you are also taking away their belief in themselves. I was a below average student, almost failing or sometimes failing student. I had tuition but it didn't help me a bit. Until, one day, I was determined to buck up. Picked up the books and taught myself up to the top few positions in my class. In other words, I depended on no one but myself. Even if you gave me tuition, took it away, I would not have faltered because I knew how to get the respectable grades on my own. Little did I know, I taught myself a lesson then. That, I can carve my own success myself. And as I enter into adulthood, I became resilient even in my working life. But I worry for these kids; they probably would be in absolute lost and chaos the minute you cut tuition off from them. Again, I am not against tuition. But I think it is wrong when the child puts more confidence in tuition than in himself.

Morover, this is just Primary school! Can we just chill alittle bit here? Being at the top in Primary level is by no means a measurement of success in later years like Secondary or even adulthood. It makes me wonder, how would these students take it if one day (which I am quite sure would happen) don't make it to the top in other phases of their lives? How would they see themselves? What would happen to their self esteem? You would think being at the top is a glamorous thing. But I think these lot may be in danger for having low self esteem especially if they tie their self worth to their grades. The higher they are, the more pressure they may have to stay up there and the greater their fear of failing. Of course, I may be making an assumption here- but it can & probably has happen(ed).

What kind of kids do we want to have? Those who believe they can't carve success on their own? Those who are fearful of not being number one? Those who are fearful and not resilient to failures?

I think the successful student would be one who has a healthy self esteem regardless of his grades. No gleaming grades can pull him up neither can rotten grades put him down. Schools, media, the Ministry and especially us parents should be constantly there to remind our children that no matter their grades, their positions in school,  they are champions in their own right. That each of them have their one uniqueness with which they can carve a successful and meaning futures for themselves not their glorious report books.

Saturday 28 September 2013

New words!

Doll learn more new words!
She learned to read additional words on colors. These cards were printed from this awesome site.

Say me. correct me, disagree with me all you want, but I am pro- flash cards. Both my kids learn to read through flashcards- I always get results from these sessions. I find it a fast and easy way to get them to read.
With all the words doll has learn, she now can read short phrases like 'red apple', 'pink pig', 'orange ice cream' etc. I am grateful that like her brother, once she learn the word she rarely forgets it. YAHOO!

Friday 27 September 2013

Open ended activities

A recent discussion in one of my FB group got me thinking about open ended play. At first thought, I was aghast that I have not purportedly gave any thought about this. But upon further analysis, I realised my kids have lots of open ended play everyday. The best part of it is, I rarely dictate or plan it that way. It just happen naturally.
I decided to share some of my 'unplan' open ended play/toys here. But I hope to add more on to my list as I research for more ideas.
1. Free play
The best open ended play is Free play. I know I always blog about my kids home learning to a point that it seems we are one sided. Truth is doll gets about 10-15 minutes of home learning and Sonshine only 20 minutes a day. The rest of their time? Free play.
I don't have the habit of sitting down and have one on one play with my kids. I feel like a horrible mother but 24 hour of babysitting is enough to tire me out. So my kids learn to find their own entertainment since they were very young like crawling infants. The good that came out of that is, both have learnt to find ways to keep themselves occupied in the house. I have to add, I rarely entertain my kids with TV shows. My kids can clock 0 hours of TV a day and still find things to play with (and STILL complain they have not enough time to play!).  They can coop up at home 24 hours, a few days straight and won't complain of boredom. I credit this to their independence (in play) & ability in finding their own entertainment. {As I am typing this, doll is finding much joy & amusement just by playing with one sock! How apt!}.

But be warned! Free play also means a topsy turvy house!
2. Lego/Duplo
This is redundant to say really. But one thing I like to add is that I try to avoid buying those pre-packed theme Lego. I don't see how these stimulates creativity. I don't understand how hard is it to follow step by step instructions to build that magnificant looking structure? I rather my child use his own imagination to build his tallest building, racing car, bus stop, the entire township, angry bird structure. Heck that it looks less than glorious but at least it was born out of his creativity. I think anything that he builds on his own is 100 times more awesome than those pre-packed boxes. So, in my house, we have boxes of assorted Legos and Duplo, three kid-size tables lined up in a row and they are free to build anything they desire. Sonshine loves to build a small little town from scratch and than destroys the who town as he pretends that there's an earthquake. LOL!
3. Playdough
Let me declare here that I HATE PLAYDOUGH! It is so messy! But like all children, my babies LOVE them. Doll ask to play with it EVERYDAY. But yes, playdough is one of the great open ended play- you don't need me to elaborate on this do you?
4. Drawing
Sonshine loves to draw and will ask to do it frequently. I can't say he's drawing is fantastic (looks more like scribbles actually) but it helps him to express himself and let loose his imagination. Nowadays, I buy drawing paper in bulk because it runs out too fast. Doll is picking this up too and love to doodle whenever she sees her big brother drawing away. I have to admit though, my art & crafts corner is not accessible- because I am afraid doll would scribble at the wrong places (and she already has). So I would like to explore and see how I can make this more available for the kids.

These are my kids' daily dose of open ended play. We have other stuff like cooking. cashier and stuff toys for pretend play but my kiddos aren't too keen  though they do play with those toys once in awhile. I am not sure but I get a feeling that it isn't enough and we need to add abit more spice. Hence, I have been researching more activites that can provoke their imagination and creativity- especially for Sonshine.

Some of the ideas (for older kids) I found feasible & doesn't take much time/preparation work:

- Drawing games: You draw a squiggly line or a circle and show how by adding more drawings it can turn into something else like the someone's eyebrow or a happy face. Invite the child to do the same.

- Creating a story: Together with your child work out a story about anything and everything. Once while driving to school, Sonshine and I created a story together about a boy and what happened to him etc. It was quite funny and fun!

- Ask open ended questions: What will happen if people could fly? Brainstorm as many ideas as you can with your child.

When doing these activities, the last thing you want to do is to shoot down his ideas. Welcome all his ideas, though ridiculous they may sound. The objective of these games is to let his creative juices flow NOT to find the politically, technically correct answers.

I am still searching for more ideas, I hope to be inspired!

Wednesday 25 September 2013

Puzzles and numbers!

Recently, I introduced puzzles to doll and she loves it! As I watched her work on the puzzles, an idea sprung up in my mind!
I decided to merge puzzles with learning numbers.
Here's how I did it!
Get a plain puzzle- I got mine from Daiso. I was looking for 20 piece puzzles but unfortunately, Daiso only sells 25 piece set. Oh well...I decided to make do with it.
It comes in two sets (what a steal for TWO bucks!!!) so if you screw up one (like I did), you've got another one for back up! HA! Daiso also has a bigger version of this if you like.

Take a sticker sheet and write down the numbers.
Notice I used all the same colors. I didn't want to differentiate the numbers because I want every thing constant except the numbering. I want Doll to pick the pieces according to the number and not memorise by colors.
However, if you feel you need to spice it up & make it alittle more attractive for your child then you can always vary the sticker colors.

Stick the numbered labels on each of the pieces.
Remove all the pieces, mix them up and have your child fit them back according to the numbers!
{Alternatively, you could simply number your old puzzles. This way, the child gets to see a cute picture as a reward after 'work' is done.}
It is huge hit with doll as I had expected it! She LOVED it, unknown to her I was getting her to revise her numbers. *Evil laughter*
Remember I said I was a little disappointed that I could only get 25 piece puzzle and not 20? Well, it turn out to be a good thing afterall. Because while working on the puzzle she was exposed to numbers from 21-25. Instead of telling her which number is which, I asked her 'Can you guess which one is twenty ONE?' I emphasized the last number loud and clear to help her and true enough she could instantly identify numbers from 21-25! It helps that she already knows 20 and numbers from 1-9, so all she had to do was to put the two together. Yeah, easy road ahead- I HOPE!

Monday 23 September 2013

M is for Maths

I haven't been sharing much about Sonshine. Just because he has been doing assessment books after assessment books. It is too boring to blog about it.
But, today, I'll just be boring.
Instead of teaching him more advance Maths level, I decided to just give him revision and some challenging word problem sums to work on.
This book is filled with problem sums of varying topics and degree of difficulty.

Sometimes I think our Math curriculum is testing the child's English more than anything. Call me slow but at times, I may even have to read the questions twice over before understanding it.
Sonshine has been working on problem sums that require 2 steps equations like the pictured above. He didn't get it instantly; and I had to ask step by step questions like in this case, 'how many does Krishnan have?' before he knows that he needs to subtract 7 from 17.

After some struggles, I would say he's getting a hang of it.

The previous questions have helping guides so that he knows he needs to write down 2 equations. But subsequently, there were none and he had to figure it out. The above  question, he finally was able to crack it on his own.

Each chapter is peppered with challenging questions like the above. I had a hunch that he was able to solve this on his own and he did in a short time!

He is more comfortable with pattern questions like the above than the word problem sums!
The other day he asked me if 15X8 is 120. I asked him how he figured that out. He said he took 150-30. I barked at him for plucking the numbers out of nowhere- I thought he was giving me another equation for getting 120 as an answer. After some promptings I realised he was doing this (15 X 10)-(15 X 2). So embarrassing- I had wrongly scolded him for nothing. :(

I is for Introverts

When Sonshine was a toddler, one could instantly distinguish him from the rest of the children. The pack would be at one corner playing with each other, while he would be at the other end, happily playing on his own. This was a common scene and even till now.
I was worried sick to say the least! I thought, convinced, he has some developmental issues. To cut the long story short, he's fine say the professionals. Still, I couldn't reconcile why he is always alone and he can't seem to strike up a conversation with other kids. He has very little friends and he can come home without speaking a word to anyone! At home, he's a different person. He talks to us alot- many a times we have to ask him to keep quiet. It is as if he has a public personality and private persona.
The odd thing to me was I knew he's not shy. Because he would readily join in a game with others- if it interests him that much. Otherwise, he has no qualms stepping away from the party, reside into his corner and just play on his own. It is not as if he doesn't play with anyone- he does but extremely selective and dependable on several factors. 1-It must be an activity he likes, 2- the smaller the group the better. In big groups, he fades into the background, 3-he must be familiar with the playmates although I have seen him play with complete strangers, I guess point 1 supersedes point 3 during those rare times!
When it comes to social gatherings, he  always appears to be bored during meal times where we would normally congregate and chit chat with our friends. He finds eating a chore and deems chatting as boring. He'd literally turn his body away from the group and just observe his environment. He also needs a longer time to process his thoughts which means he takes a longer time to answer questions. The more you hurry him, press him for an answer, the more chaotic his mind becomes and he will never be able to give you the answer he truly feels.
He dislikes, hates even, to be the center of attention. He refused to allow me to celebrate his birthday in school because, I suspect, he finds the attention overwhelming. He reminds me every year not to hold a huge party for him. When he was very young, he cried when the entire party sang to him the birthday song! He cried when he won a game and everyone in the class clapped for him. He just doesn't like to have the spotlight shine on him. BUT, at home, he is delighted when we put him on the pedestal.
He is also not expressive and will keep his thoughts to himself. He may share it with us but NEVER to others. This is why over the years, none of the teachers discover that his learning ability is faster than the average. None of the teachers know how much he knows because he will never vocalised it. Many a times, he prefers to express himself through drawing and imaginative play- which he does alot during his free time.
He listens more than he talks- outside of the house that is. The teachers often tell me, he is very attentive in class albeit quiet. He would often tell me he doesn't like to talk in class because he wants to listen to the teachers! How to counter-argue with that?! BUT at home, he is the other way around!
These 2 years has been a struggle for me. I battled with worrying thoughts that there was something severely wrong with him. Thinking that I got to help him be what the society says is 'normal' (being vocal and participative socially) I pushed, demanded, scolded, threatened, bribed, used harsh words on him just to get him out of the shell. Until, I realised, this is a typical behaviour of introverts.

Don't get me wrong. I am not trying to limit him with the label but now that I know he is displaying introvert personality- I understand him better and have stop pushing him out of his comfort zone. I recall I used to be an introvert too. I abhor it when my auntie and friends try to drag me out of my shell. The more I am pushed, the more I would retreat. The worst thing to do to introverts is to force them out of their comfort zone. You must be wondering since I was an introvert (I say 'was' because I have evolved into an extrovert now- me thinks), why couldn't I identify that in my son? I blame it on those articles online, signs of this, signs of that...until I was obsessed with finding what exactly he has that I forgot that he could simply just be an introvert. How silly.

If you are curious or like to read more, this article (different from the one I shared on my facebook) list down the characteristics of an introvert. I was nodding my head through and through this article! Suddenly, everything I couldn't figure out about my son (for years) makes sense! What an eye opener for me!

Saturday 21 September 2013

Cardboard FUN!

I am always reluctant to let go cardboards especially those that are massive in size. So when my husband was about to discard this HUGE cardboard box- I HAD to stop him. I knew what I wanted to do with it!

I slit the slides and open up the box.

Give the kids water guns and let them shoot away!
The kids had a whale of a time (while mummy kicked off her feet and space out). It was a GREAT way to entertain the kids without being involved much! :P

It doubled up as a painting board! The girl painted away and mummy didn't care if she spill the paint because the floor was nicely protected by the other side of the box. :D

I was delighted when I discovered we could also doodle away with chalk.
SO MUCH FUN! We haven't throw it away yet. The kids are still loving it!

Friday 20 September 2013

5 Favourite Buys from Daiso

Justina at Mum in the making is running a fun linky: Great Buys at Daiso.
Here's my FIVE favourite buys from Daiso (for home teaching):
I try to emulate Montessori style of learning. Display the activities on the shelf and let the child choose her desired activity she wants to work on. Hence, trays are very important. It helps the child understand that one activity = one tray & all the essential kits for that activity is placed in that one tray. The child does not need to scramble from place to place to get the necessary materials for that activity.

Colored pom pom balls!
There are so many ways to use these babies! They come in many sizes. You can teach colors, sorting, counting, differentiating sizes etc. Also one can use it for practical life activity such as scooping, tonging and transferring them with chopsticks. Considering the numerous ways we can use them, $2 for a pack of them is definitely a steal!
I am obsessed with their felt materials!
Again, I think it is so economical to get them from Daiso. I am the sort who won't be able to use up the entire felt cloth. So it helps that Daiso sells them in a pack of smaller cut out felts and in each pack there are a variety of colors.
I used it to buy make learning aids or simply for pretend play. I made these felt sandwich for Sonshine and I blog about it in my old site here. You can also read about the felt fishing activity i made!

Wooden blocks!
You would have read how I used them for teaching doll numbers. Daiso also sells wooden volumetric shapes like sphere, pyramids, rectangular prism etc which I think it can be used to present this Montessori activity- so who says you need to burn your pocket to buy Montessori kits?
Cookie cutters!
Most would use this for their baking needs while I use them to teach doll about graduating sizes- although I occasionally use them to to cut out star shape bread for the kids.
So there you have it! These are my Five favourite Daiso buys- SO FAR. I say that because you know, there is never a top 5 favourite buys at Daiso. Almost everything is a favourite buy! LOL!
Linking it up with:

Wednesday 4 September 2013

Wordless Wednesday: Work it!

Have a Wonderful Wednesday y'all!
Linking up:

Counting & numbers

Learning number sequence is different from counting. But to be able to count, the child needs to learn the former first. Once she learns number sequence, it is time to teach her the true meanings of numbers- learning how to count!
I prepared a few boxes, in each of them are some items. Each box has different number of items in it.
Doll takes one box and throws the item one by one into this wooden bowl. As she throws them, she counts. Once she determines how many items there are in the box, she selects the number tablet & return all the items back to the box.

Here were some of the other stuff she counted. Yay, now at least I know she can count!

I am stuck at teaching her numbers from 11-20. She can number them but stumbles at 13 and 15...arrrrrGgGGGh! All because she pronounces them wrongly. Her 15 sounds like 16 and that makes her think she is at 16 and would go on to 17. Got to admit, I am over-driving this and it is killing her interest. Oops.
Anyway, I made the above activity to help her recognise the numbers. She simply matches the numbered block to the place mat.

I found this idea from this blogger (sorry, I am too lazy to find her direct site- I saved the link on me iphone) and thought this idea is WAY cool! I had to do it! Doll was interested at first until she found out it was numbers from 11-20 AGAIN. :I Yikes. I had to gently ask her to try. Teaching her numbers is such a long drawn affair. I remember Sonshine learnt his numbers in a flash and could count to 50 by 2.5 years old.
Oh doll, can we move on please? *yawn*

Montessori (Sensorial): Brown Stairs & extension

"Aim: To help develop the child's
1) visual discrimination of differences in 2 dimensions.
2) muscular cordination.
Indirectly preparing the child for later work in geometry through observation of geometrically differences in size & volumes. Indirectly prearing the child for the concept of numbers, unit differences in height and width."
{Above extracted from " Basic Montessori learning activities for under-fives" by David Gettman}

Material needed: 10 brown wooden, rectangular blocks. E
In this activity, the child arranges the blocks from the thickest to the thinnest. All are of the same length but increasing in thickness (differing by 1 cm from the next). As the  child works on this, she is able to instantly see the differing thickness of each block.

Not coincidentally, the Pink tower blocks are of the same measurement as the square end of the brown stair blocks. As an extension to these 2 activities, you can have the child match the Pink tower to the brown stairs to their corresponding sizes.

There are 10 blocks in both the Pink tower and Brown stair set. So as the child arranges them in order, you can also count along!

I never knew of this until I surf around other Montessori blogs! That's the beauty of Montessori- so clever! Each activity is build on the one before it. One activity subtlety helps to the child to acquire a skill that is needed for the next activity. That's how each Montessori activity is linked! WOW! Genius!

DIY numbering Elmo puzzle

This idea is not uniquely mine. In fact I've seen it for years- since Sonshine was a toddler. But it was too late to make for him by the time I discovered it so I made sure Doll has a go at it.
Simply take your child's favourite picture, divide the picture into 10 columns and number them from 1-10. Laminate and cut the strips out. Mix the strips and have the child arrange them in sequence. Ta-da! A complete picture!

Angry Birds are another recognisable characters! This set starts from 11-20.
Oh! Be sure to make the strips thicker for easy handling. I made them too thin. :(

All that matters.

Sonshine has been learning about the different types of matter and their properties.
But I thought the information were all over the place and wanted him to have a visual aid to compare the different properties.

Hence, I made this simple chart using post-it pad. Whoops- just realised some stickers fell off.
We also took the chance to experiment which of the properties float and which sink. With this chart, Sonshine can make a comparison and I made him tell me for instance 'Metal is heavy but plastic is light' etc.

Word Recognition Printables

Doll's been picking up more words.
As usual, I made some printables to reinforce what she learnt.

Matching animal pictures to the cards.

Fruit printables.

Sensory Play- Moon sand

Weather's too nasty to go outside and play? Or just too lazy to bring the kids out?
Then make Moon sand you must!
I saw this on Pinterest- my favourite online site and since I've the ingredients I decided to make some too!
All you need is flour and baby oil. I used A LOT of baby oil- like half a bottle. Good thing is, the baby oil is due for throwing else it does feel like wasting actually.
Took the tray out to our balcony and just PLAY away! I sprinkled some beads into the moon sand just to make it look prettier. You can add other stuff like animal toys for the kids to 'dig' out. But ah, I was too lazy.

Easy Peasy outdoor fun- indoors! Have fun!