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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Too early, too late? Little David or Goliath?

There is a certain frenzy by educational merchandisers touting parents with the advertising jingle "Teach your child to speak early..." and the likes.

I don't need anything early, I just need it timely.

The world shouts, if you get in first, you'll get the job. If you are faster, you will survive. I don't remember reading any of those concepts in the word of God. Rather there are countless incidents where the smaller tribe gains victory over the bigger one and the famous little shepherd boy named David who slained the Goliath, a giant over 6 feet tall with only 5 stones!

Don't get me wrong, I don't mean to say faster is bad. Rather I would not make my goal to do anything just to go first. To try to get ahead is synonym with fear, the fear of losing out. It is the opposite of trusting someone greater who knows us and knows our children, knit our children in the mothers' womb and holds their future.

There is always an optimal learning time for a child. If we get it at the right time, the child will be so motivated, he will naturally learn it well and learn it quickly. If we aim for speed, at the wrong timing, a child will be demotivated and at worse turn away from the subject.

Too early for a 2-yr old to learn about engineering? Well, not if we are following the lead of our child. My boy loves transportation vehicles. I know lots of boys do. It was especially an interest of topic with daddy being overseas and we talk about how daddy travels. So to start, we watched videos of how planes take off, the interior and different airline commercials online. We began to observe the parts of an aeroplane, its wheels, cockpit, the wings etc. Next week, we are scheduled to take a plane and the timing is just perfect for a little hands-on learning.

In educating our children, are we aiming to churn out little David or Goliath? Its time to fix our eyes upon the one who holds the future of our little ones. Jer 29:11 "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Why must I be so broke at year end?

Sigh... I have spent $600 on medical fees alone. That includes 2 boxes of Seretide accuhaler priced at $295.60 for 2 tubes, and singulair tablets at $103.04 per box! My Flow volume spirometry test at $63.00 and consultation at $55.00 plus other cough related medications. Why is Singapore's medical fees really so out of reach by ordinary folks like me? Is good health-care suppose to be only the elite top 20% of the polulation?

Then there is the halogen oven that is on sale at $70 that I have been eyeing forever - I dream of baking and roasting and more. But more important I wanted to let my kiddo finally have a hand at real cooking. There is the Nike sale going at 20-50%. And I am still waiting for the insurance, CPF board and the hospital to finally send me the final invoice so they could debit the $6K bill into our account.

No, in case you are wondering. I don't get a bonus, and I still wanna give to those less priviledged.

This Christmas, Jesus came so that we might live. But then I guess I could take comfort that I am rich in heaven though a church mouse on earth. ;P Anyone wants to join me?

Friday, December 11, 2009

Against School?

How public education cripples
our kids, and why
By John Taylor Gatto
John Taylor Gatto is a former New York State and New York City Teacher of the
Year and the author, most recently, of The Underground History of American
Education. He was a participant in the Harper's Magazine forum "School on a Hill,"
which appeared in the September 2003 issue.
I taught for thirty years in some of the worst schools in Manhattan, and in some of the best, and during that time I became an expert in boredom. Boredom was everywhere in my world, and if you asked the kids, as I often did, why they felt so bored, they always gave the same answers: They said the work was stupid, that it made no sense, that they already knew it. They said they wanted to be doing something real, not just sitting around. They said teachers didn't seem to know much about their subjects and clearly weren't interested in learning more. And the kids were right: their teachers were every bit as bored as they were.
Boredom is the common condition of schoolteachers, and anyone who has spent time in a teachers' lounge can vouch for the low energy, the whining, the dispirited attitudes, to be found there. When asked why they feel bored, the teachers tend to blame the kids, as you might expect. Who wouldn't get bored teaching students who are rude and interested only in grades? If even that. Of course, teachers are themselves products of the same twelve-year compulsory school programs that so thoroughly bore their students, and as school personnel they are trapped inside structures even more rigid than those imposed upon the children. Who, then, is to blame?
We all are. My grandfather taught me that. One afternoon when I was seven I complained to him of boredom, and he batted me hard on the head. He told me that I was never to use that term in his presence again, that if I was bored it was my fault and no one else's. The obligation to amuse and instruct myself was entirely my own, and people who didn't know that were childish people, to be avoided if possible. Certainty not to be trusted. That episode cured me of boredom forever, and here and there over the years I was able to pass on the lesson to some remarkable student. For the most part, however, I found it futile to challenge the official notion that boredom and childishness were the natural state of affairs in the classroom. Often I had to defy custom, and even bend the law, to help kids break out of this trap.
The empire struck back, of course; childish adults regularly conflate opposition with disloyalty. I once returned from a medical leave to discover t~at all evidence of my having been granted the leave had been purposely destroyed, that my job had been terminated, and that I no longer possessed even a teaching license. After nine months of tormented effort I was able to retrieve the license when a school secretary testified to witnessing the plot unfold. In the meantime my family suffered more than I care to remember. By the time I finally retired in 1991, 1 had more than enough reason to think of our schools-with their long-term, cell-block-style, forced confinement of both students and teachers-as virtual factories of childishness. Yet I honestly could not see why they had to be that way. My own experience had revealed to me what many other teachers must learn along the way, too, yet keep to themselves for fear of reprisal: if we wanted to we could easily and inexpensively jettison the old, stupid structures and help kids take an education rather than merely receive a schooling. We could encourage the best qualities of youthfulness-curiosity, adventure, resilience, the capacity for surprising insightsimply by being more flexible about time, texts, and tests, by introducing kids to truly competent adults, and by giving each student what autonomy he or she needs in order to take a risk every now and then.
But we don't do that. And the more I asked why not, and persisted in thinking about the "problem" of schooling as an engineer might, the more I missed the point: What if there is no "problem" with our schools? What if they are the way they are, so expensively flying in the face of common sense and long experience in how children learn things, not because they are doing something wrong but because they are doing something right? Is it possible that George W. Bush accidentally spoke the truth when he said we would "leave no child behind"? Could it be that our schools are designed to make sure not one of them ever really grows up?
Do we really need school? I don't mean education, just forced schooling: six classes a day, five days a week, nine months a year, for twelve years. Is this deadly routine really necessary? And if so, for what? Don't hide behind reading, writing, and arithmetic as a rationale, because 2 million happy homeschoolers have surely put that banal justification to rest. Even if they hadn't, a considerable number of well-known Americans never went through the twelve-year wringer our kids currently go through, and they turned out all right. George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln? Someone taught them, to be sure, but they were not products of a school system, and not one of them was ever "graduated" from a secondary school. Throughout most of American history, kids generally didn't go to high school, yet the unschooled rose to be admirals, like Farragut; inventors, like Edison; captains of industry like Carnegie and Rockefeller; writers, like Melville and Twain and Conrad; and even scholars, like Margaret Mead. In fact, until pretty recently people who reached the age of thirteen weren't looked upon as children at all. Ariel Durant, who co-wrote an enormous, and very good, multivolume history of the world with her husband, Will, was happily married at fifteen, and who could reasonably claim that Ariel Durant was an uneducated person? Unschooled, perhaps, but not uneducated.
We have been taught (that is, schooled) in this country to think of "success" as synonymous with, or at least dependent upon, "schooling," but historically that isn't true in either an intellectual or a financial sense. And plenty of people throughout the world today find a way to educate themselves without resorting to a system of compulsory secondary schools that all too often resemble prisons. Why, then, do Americans confuse education with just such a system? What exactly is the purpose of our public schools?
Mass schooling of a compulsory nature really got its teeth into the United States between 1905 and 1915, though it was conceived of much earlier and pushed for throughout most of the nineteenth century. The reason given for this enormous upheaval of family life and cultural traditions was, roughly speaking, threefold:
1) To make good people. 2) To make good citizens. 3) To make each person his or her personal best. These goals are still trotted out today on a regular basis, and most of us accept them in one form or another as a decent definition of public education's mission, however short schools actually fall in achieving them. But we are dead wrong. Compounding our error is the fact that the national literature holds numerous and surprisingly consistent statements of compulsory schooling's true purpose. We have, for example, the great H. L. Mencken, who wrote in The American Mercury for April 1924 that the aim of public education is not
to fill the young of the species with knowledge and awaken their intelligence. ... Nothing could be further from the truth. The aim ... is simply to reduce as many individuals as possible to the same safe level, to breed and train a standardized citizenry, to put down dissent and originality. That is its aim in the United States... and that is its aim everywhere else.
Because of Mencken's reputation as a satirist, we might be tempted to dismiss this passage as a bit of hyperbolic sarcasm. His article, however, goes on to trace the template for our own educational system back to the now vanished, though never to be forgotten, military state of Prussia. And although he was certainly aware of the irony that we had recently been at war with Germany, the heir to Prussian thought and culture, Mencken was being perfectly serious here. Our educational system really is Prussian in origin, and that really is cause for concern.
The odd fact of a Prussian provenance for our schools pops up again and again once you know to look for it. William James alluded to it many times at the turn of the century. Orestes Brownson, the hero of Christopher Lasch's 1991 book, The True and Only Heaven, was publicly denouncing the Prussianization of American schools back in the 1840s. Horace Mann's "Seventh Annual Report" to the Massachusetts State Board of Education in 1843 is essentially a paean to the land of Frederick the Great and a call for its schooling to be brought here. That Prussian culture loomed large in America is hardly surprising, given our early association with that utopian state. A Prussian served as Washington's aide during the Revolutionary War, and so many German-speaking people had settled here by 1795 that Congress considered publishing a German-language edition of the federal laws. But what shocks is that we should so eagerly have adopted one of the very worst aspects of Prussian culture: an educational system deliberately designed to produce mediocre intellects, to hamstring the inner life, to deny students appreciable leadership skills, and to ensure docile and incomplete citizens 11 in order to render the populace "manageable."
It was from James Bryant Conant-president of Harvard for twenty years, WWI poison-gas specialist, WWII executive on the atomic-bomb project, high commissioner of the American zone in Germany after WWII, and truly one of the most influential figures of the twentieth century-that I first got wind of the real purposes of American schooling. Without Conant, we would probably not have the same style and degree of standardized testing that we enjoy today, nor would we be blessed with gargantuan high schools that warehouse 2,000 to 4,000 students at a time, like the famous Columbine High in Littleton, Colorado. Shortly after I retired from teaching I picked up Conant's 1959 book-length essay, The Child the Parent and the State, and was more than a little intrigued to see him mention in passing that the modem schools we attend were the result of a "revolution" engineered between 1905 and 1930. A revolution? He declines to elaborate, but he does direct the curious and the uninformed to Alexander Inglis's 1918 book, Principles of Secondary Education, in which "one saw this revolution through the eyes of a revolutionary."
Inglis, for whom a lecture in education at Harvard is named, makes it perfectly clear that compulsory schooling on this continent was intended to be just what it had been for Prussia in the 1820s: a fifth column into the burgeoning democratic movement that threatened to give the peasants and the proletarians a voice at the bargaining table. Modern, industrialized, compulsory schooling was to make a sort of surgical incision into the prospective unity of these underclasses. Divide children by subject, by age-grading, by constant rankings on tests, and by many other more subtle means, and it was unlikely that the ignorant mass of mankind, separated in childhood, would ever re-integrate into a dangerous whole.
Inglis breaks down the purpose - the actual purpose - of modem schooling into six basic functions, any one of which is enough to curl the hair of those innocent enough to believe the three traditional goals listed earlier:
1) The adjustive or adaptive function. Schools are to establish fixed habits of reaction to authority. This, of course, precludes critical judgment completely. It also pretty much destroys the idea that useful or interesting material should be taught, because you can't test for reflexive obedience until you know whether you can make kids learn, and do, foolish and boring things.
2) The integrating function. This might well be called "the conformity function," because its intention is to make children as alike as possible. People who conform are predictable, and this is of great use to those who wish to harness and manipulate a large labor force.
3) The diagnostic and directive function. School is meant to determine each student's proper social role. This is done by logging evidence mathematically and anecdotally on cumulative records. As in "your permanent record." Yes, you do have one.
4) The differentiating function. Once their social role has been "diagnosed," children are to be sorted by role and trained only so far as their destination in the social machine merits - and not one step further. So much for making kids their personal best.
5) The selective function. This refers not to human choice at all but to Darwin's theory of natural selection as applied to what he called "the favored races." In short, the idea is to help things along by consciously attempting to improve the breeding stock. Schools are meant to tag the unfit - with poor grades, remedial placement, and other punishments - clearly enough that their peers will accept them as inferior and effectively bar them from the reproductive sweepstakes. That's what all those little humiliations from first grade onward were intended to do: wash the dirt down the drain.
6) The propaedeutic function. The societal system implied by these rules will require an elite group of caretakers. To that end, a small fraction of the kids will quietly be taught how to manage this continuing project, how to watch over and control a population deliberately dumbed down and declawed in order that government might proceed unchallenged and corporations might never want for obedient labor.
That, unfortunately, is the purpose of mandatory public education in this country. And lest you take Inglis for an isolated crank with a rather too cynical take on the educational enterprise, you should know that he was hardly alone in championing these ideas. Conant himself, building on the ideas of Horace Mann and others, campaigned tirelessly for an American school system designed along the same lines. Men like George Peabody, who funded the cause of mandatory schooling throughout the South, surely understood that the Prussian system was useful in creating not only a harmless electorate and a servile labor force but also a virtual herd of mindless consumers. In time a great number of industrial titans came to recognize the enormous profits to be had by cultivating and tending just such a herd via public education, among them Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller.
Tre you have it. Now you know. We don't need Karl Marx's conception of a grand warfare between the classes to see that it is in the interest of complex management, economic or political, to dumb people down, to demoralize them, to divide them from one another, and to discard them if they don't conform. Class may frame the proposition, as when Woodrow Wilson, then president of Princeton University, said the following to the New York City School Teachers Association in 1909: "We want one class of persons to have a liberal education, and we want another class of persons, a very much larger class, of necessity, in every society, to forgo the privileges of a liberal education and fit themselves to perform specific difficult manual tasks." But the motives behind the disgusting decisions that bring about these ends need not be class-based at all. They can stem purely from fear, or from the by now familiar belief that "efficiency" is the paramount virtue, rather than love, lib, erty, laughter, or hope. Above all, they can stem from simple greed.
There were vast fortunes to be made, after all, in an economy based on mass production and organized to favor the large corporation rather than the small business or the family farm. But mass production required mass consumption, and at the turn of the twentieth century most Americans considered it both unnatural and unwise to buy things they didn't actually need. Mandatory schooling was a godsend on that count. School didn't have to train kids in any direct sense to think they should consume nonstop, because it did something even better: it encouraged them not to think at all. And that left them sitting ducks for another great invention of the modem era - marketing.
Now, you needn't have studied marketing to know that there are two groups of people who can always be convinced to consume more than they need to: addicts and children. School has done a pretty good job of turning our children into addicts, but it has done a spectacular job of turning our children into children. Again, this is no accident. Theorists from Plato to Rousseau to our own Dr. Inglis knew that if children could be cloistered with other children, stripped of responsibility and independence, encouraged to develop only the trivializing emotions of greed, envy, jealousy, and fear, they would grow older but never truly grow up. In the 1934 edition of his once well-known book Public Education in the United States, Ellwood P. Cubberley detailed and praised the way the strategy of successive school enlargements had extended childhood by two to six years, and forced schooling was at that point still quite new. This same Cubberley - who was dean of Stanford's School of Education, a textbook editor at Houghton Mifflin, and Conant's friend and correspondent at Harvard - had written the following in the 1922 edition of his book Public School Administration: "Our schools are ... factories in which the raw products (children) are to be shaped and fashioned .... And it is the business of the school to build its pupils according to the specifications laid down."
It's perfectly obvious from our society today what those specifications were. Maturity has by now been banished from nearly every aspect of our lives. Easy divorce laws have removed the need to work at relationships; easy credit has removed the need for fiscal self-control; easy entertainment has removed the need to learn to entertain oneself; easy answers have removed the need to ask questions. We have become a nation of children, happy to surrender our judgments and our wills to political exhortations and commercial blandishments that would insult actual adults. We buy televisions, and then we buy the things we see on the television. We buy computers, and then we buy the things we see on the computer. We buy $150 sneakers whether we need them or not, and when they fall apart too soon we buy another pair. We drive SUVs and believe the lie that they constitute a kind of life insurance, even when we're upside-down in them. And, worst of all, we don't bat an eye when Ari Fleischer tells us to "be careful what you say," even if we remember having been told somewhere back in school that America is the land of the free. We simply buy that one too. Our schooling, as intended, has seen to it.
Now for the good news. Once you understand the logic behind modern schooling, its tricks and traps are fairly easy to avoid. School trains children to be employees and consumers; teach your own to be leaders and adventurers. School trains children to obey reflexively; teach your own to think critically and independently. Well-schooled kids have a low threshold for boredom; help your own to develop an inner life so that they'll never be bored. Urge them to take on the serious material, the grown-up material, in history, literature, philosophy, music, art, economics, theology - all the stuff schoolteachers know well enough to avoid. Challenge your kids with plenty of solitude so that they can learn to enjoy their own company, to conduct inner dialogues. Well-schooled people are conditioned to dread being alone, and they seek constant companionship through the TV, the computer, the cell phone, and through shallow friendships quickly acquired and quickly abandoned. Your children should have a more meaningful life, and they can.
First, though, we must wake up to what our schools really are: laboratories of experimentation on young minds, drill centers for the habits and attitudes that corporate society demands. Mandatory education serves children only incidentally; its real purpose is to turn them into servants. Don't let your own have their childhoods extended, not even for a day. If David Farragut could take command of a captured British warship as a pre-teen, if Thomas Edison could publish a broadsheet at the age of twelve, if Ben Franklin could apprentice himself to a printer at the same age (then put himself through a course of study that would choke a Yale senior today), there's no telling what your own kids could do. After a long life, and thirty years in the public school trenches, I've concluded that genius is as common as dirt. We suppress our genius only because we haven't yet figured out how to manage a population of educated men and women. The solution, I think, is simple and glorious. Let them manage themselves.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Yr 2009 - We are thankful

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Another year that wouldnt have gone without a trace of of God's gentle embrace.

The birth of Elias just three days short of yr2009 was a joy, for us and also for our eldest son, Theo. He immediately assumed the role of a big brother. It is joy for us to see his servanthood spirit. Looking on at the way they snuggle up each other is joy so immense no words can describe.

It is also a year of 'the last lap'. Despite our newborn, David had to persevere and fight through work pressure, ministry role and numerous obligatory business trips to wrap up his ministerial studies. He aced it through with grace. He was ever selfless in serving our family, from spending time with the boys, to cooking up a feast. I thank God for his unwavering spirit.

Each child are special thus making each challenge unique. From refusal to nurse to refusal of bottle. We don't have all the answers in the countless situations, but we have a God who love. Through harrowing are some of the events, but God was the one who held the fort for us, fought our battles and gave us courage to go on. He is the one who lightened our footsteps and gave us songs to sing.

God chose to test our family in a rare holiday trip. We realised that it is in true repentance and submission that he will grant rest. He took and he gave and we were so grateful.

There are many others whom we do not have space to show photos of, especially of family members we often take for granted for.

For my mum who often took time out to babysit our children so we can go for a date, or attend to ministry. For her selfless care in our children's nutritional needs and lending her car so the children can have a comfortable ride home, even if it was only 5mins away!
For my brother, who equally took time to babysit and be an musical inspiration to Theo.

For my friend & mentor, Melodi - God orchestrated this friendship and I am so grateful of her time and wisdom. God answered my desire to be a better helpmeet, a wise mother and a godly homemaker.
For David's mentor, Pastor S - He is an answer to his cry to be used as a man of God & bring him glory.

For our dear Sis Kian - You ignited a love for history in me never found before. I want to travel with you to Jerusalem or the Red Sea, just name the date!

For Fey, Grace, Lynette & many more - You were the faithful hands that held mine.

For our superb confinement lady - so good, it was peace through the 1-month confinement.


This story has got to be one of the greatest in history. Mark 5: 25-34

Sickness is something we have come to be accustomed with since we live in a fallen world. We know that when our child becomes ill, parents suffer sleepless nights. This also usually becomes a time of challenge but also a time of test for the family.

We know young children are prone to falling ill, and we have two of them. At 20months apart, we find outselves having to separate them once one of our boys fall ill, to no avail! It is also quite usual when all family members fall ill, one after another.

Last month, my checkup led to doctor's diagnosis that I have asthma. My husband has childhood asthma. My elder son has constipation and does not like to poo. It has been almost 2years now that he has this issue. My younger son had bronchitis when he was only 9months old. I am praying for healing for my family. I am praying according to the woman's faith in this story.

25And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. 26She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse. 27When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, 28because she thought, "If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed." 29Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering.

30At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, "Who touched my clothes?"

31"You see the people crowding against you," his disciples answered, "and yet you can ask, 'Who touched me?' "

32But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it. 33Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth. 34He said to her, "Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering."

Monday, November 30, 2009

Bonding day!

Today is bonding day! We dedicate 2 such full days in a week and then scatter them generously throughout the week. Bonding creates security in a child and allows child to obey us easily.

Bonding day is a day where mummy spends time and follows child's leading most of the time. Activities are spontaneous. There is no unit studies and we follow no curriculum. We do anything and play anything within boundary. Character training is as always, first.

We started worship on Piano. Mummy plays "God is good" and child plays drums. We went on to "jingle bells" and Theo picks the guitar to play. After that Theo asked to play the piano and suggested for mummy to play the guitar. We played that for awhile. Little Elias was having his breakfast.

We moved along to a music & movement and pretended to move like various animals. Then we played 'freeze', both to songs on a CD, by Greg & Steve. Little Elias was given a shaker as he sat on his highchair looking on. (He is put on highchair with a toy in hand for awhile after meal as he is too full to move about. Doing so will risk him throwing up)

Breakfast time
Theo started his breakfast on his own. Mummy took little Elias to play in playpen.
Mummy sat down with Theo for breakfast.

Mummy took Elias to the bedroom and read a book. Put him to bed and went out to spend time with Theo.

Mummy sat on the floor and asked child what he likes to play.
Child picks Lego but mummy suggest BBQ. (background: Lego is often a family game and in a bid to break away from old habit of always playing Leogo, mummy was thinking playing something we left off for some time.)

Child was happy, he took out the BBQ pit, mummy took out some toy food and plates and Theo took the food to roast on the BBQ pit. Mummy noticed the BBQ pit was dusty. I asked Theo to get a pink clothe to clean the BBQ pit. Theo helped mummy cleaned it up.

I took the opporunity to toss out my $1 coin and $2 notes puts it in a wallet (a transparent box) and pass it to him. He is now a customer who will patronise my BBQ shop. he helped me set up my stall by putting everything on grill! I sold a piece of drumstick for $1 and he bought it while I throw in a free drink. I sold an Eclair for $2. When he is done eating, I kept all the food in the basket. Customer was so smart, he retrieved all his money from me before leaving home on a bus. He remembers his wallet and taps it against the validator with a "beep".

Then its time for snack. I took out a bowl of papapa and fed him on the sofa (this is a treat, since he usually feed himself!). We pretended that the sofa is a boat and we had to put our feet up. I threw two big cushions on the floor and pretended that they are huge boulders. We took out the fish and Theo went fishing.

Papaya's finished and so is the fishing game. Mummy took out a worksheet for pasting and colouring. Theo tells me ahead of pasting where each each animals should go. Then he did the pasting and waited for glue to dry.

We read some books and did "spot the items" on a page filled with so many pictures. Theo picked out the items one by one.

We returned to to do pencil rubbings on the $1 coin. We observed the picture on both coin and notes. Theo spotted the 'flower' on the coin. After that we practise colouring with both hands. Theo drew circles of all sizes concurently with both hands, using different coloured crayons each time, creating a riot of colourful circles. Theo clips them on the window grille for daddy to see when he comes home tonite.

Weather was good and cool and we went downstairs to play "hide-and-seek" and kicked a ball. Theo put the ball in the bathroom and await bath time to wash the ball himself.

We returned and Theo went on to colour his boat & sea animals. I surfed the web. Theo continues game of hawker. Now he is hawker, I am his customer. I order 4 items and Theo got it all right first time.

End of school.

Skills learnt: Imaginative play (hawker, boating, bus), fine motor skills (Handling glue, pasting, colouring), Observation skills (picture on currency, items on page), Math (buy & sell, counting), Large motor & co-odination (kicking ball) Creativity of left, right brain (random drawing with both hands), Art (pencil rubbing), memory (order of food items), music exposure.

Character traits: Following instructions, First time obedience, responsibility.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Teaching our kids

This is an important post that I should have done it ages ago. So here it is. When I read this verse, my heart skipped abit. I didnt know where to begin but I felt a stirring in my spirit and then a burden in my soul.

Deut 11: 18-21 - Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 19 Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 20 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates, 21 so that your days and the days of your children may be many in the land that the LORD swore to give your forefathers, as many as the days that the heavens are above the earth.

For a few weeks my burden grew. What exactly did God want me to do? How can I do it? I knew, that God had sent a child / children to me for a special purpose. My job is to steward them well.

I bumped into a friend recently and I tell her I never knew I could teach. Teaching wasn't even my gifting much less a vocation. Teaching was just something other 'knowledgeable' people do, those who can remember 101 facts and answer every questions with precision. Boy! Was I wrong. Two years on today. I am learning as my toddler is learning. I found out that 'Toucan' is a bird with colourful beak and there are more drains in our country compared to lakes, oceans or rivers! I learnt that boys love to press buttons, turn knobs, fix things, take them apart, then fix them again. I learnt that my boy prefers noodles and western food over asian dishes. I also learnt that he is motivated by praise and usually performs up to my expectation of him. I learnt that my younger boy is a very determined boy and moves swiftly towards his goal.

Gone are the preconcieved idea of what a teacher should be. I was taking daily walks with my child, discovering nature as I talked about God's creation. I can't believed he saw mushrooms the other day in this concrete jungle we lived it! It was a 'high' for him. kids gets motivated when they make the discovery and not us. I know because he remembered it in his prayer at bedtime.
we picked up different flowers that had fallen to the ground and talked about their size and colours.

We discovered the drain and he wanted to throw a leaf inside to watch it float by. I know he gets excited when it rains because he will run to the window and look at the flooded drain. We talk about how quickly the water flows and look how dangerous it is to go near the drain full of water. At the kitchen sink we sometimes lift him up to wash his hands, he tells my helper "don't drop me inside the water!"

Staying home as a mother gives me the time and pleasure to discover and learn with him. I have gradually become a teacher I never thought I would. As surely as God had laid that burden in my heart to steward my child, he had transform me into who he has purposed me to be when he sent a child into my life. Now I have two boys. I am looking forward to discover more with them in this lifelong journey!

Homeschool sure thrills with young ones.

Read the full passage here: Deuteronomy 11

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Homeschooling Benefits

Children less preoccupied with peer acceptance

Friday, March 19, 1999

MOST FOLKS who have never met a homeschooling family imagine that the kids are about as socially isolated (and as socially awkward) as Bobby Boucher, the Cajun ``Momma's boy'' Adam Sandler portrays in the recent hit film, ``The Waterboy.''
But some new research by Brian Ray of the National Home Education Research Institute suggests otherwise. Indeed, Ray's research helps to explain why the number of homeschoolers in America continues to grow and now totals more than 1.4 million children. Ray reports the typical homeschooled child is involved in 5.2 social activities outside the home each week. These activities include afternoon and weekend programs with conventionally schooled kids, such as ballet classes, Little League teams, Scout troops, church groups and neighborhood play. They include midday field trips and cooperative learning programs organized by groups of homeschooling families. For example, some Washington, D.C., families run a homeschool drama troupe that performs at a local dinner theater.
So, what most distinguishes a homeschooler's social life from that of a conventionally schooled child? Ray says homeschooled children tend to interact more with people of different ages.
This is actually more akin to the ``real world'' -- what businessperson's social interaction is largely restricted to those born in the same year? It reduces the degree to which children find themselves constantly being compared to, and comparing themselves with, other kids their age. Interestingly, this reduced consciousness about age tends to help homeschooled ``late bloomers'' avoid being stigmatized as ``slow learners'' -- which is one of the many reasons homeschoolers, on average, score 30 to 37 percentile points higher than conventionally schooled students on the most commonly administered K-8 standardized tests.
Moreover, homeschooled children tend to draw their primary social identity from their membership in a particular family rather than from their membership in ``a tribe apart.'' That's the phrase author Patricia Hersch uses to describe the conventionally schooled kids she followed through adolescence. According to Hersch, many school kids today feel isolated from the grown-up world and alienated from parents who fail to take an interest in their lives and to set boundaries for their behavior.
Now, Hersch's intention isn't to make a case for homeschooling. (She doesn't significantly address the issue.) But the angst- ridden teens she describes in her book closely resemble the peer-obsessed students Seattle public high school teacher David Guterson talks about in his compelling book, ``Family Matters: Why Homeschooling Makes Sense,'' (Harcourt-Brace Jovanovich, 1992). Guterson reports that the kids in his conventional school often have difficulty navigating the turbulent social scene at school, with ``its cliques, rumors and relentless gossip, its shifting alliances and expedient betrayals.'' Guterson says that their preoccupation with peer acceptance often encourages young people to become ``acutely attuned to a pre-adult commercial culture that usurps their attention (M-TV, Nintendo, fashion magazines, teen cinema)'' and frequently fosters a sense of alien ation from people of other ages.
Interestingly, educational researcher Susannah Sheffer of Cambridge, Mass., says facilitating peer-dependency is part of ``how schools shortchange girls'' (to borrow the title of a highly publicized report issued several years ago by the American Association of University Women). In a recent study of self-esteem among adolescent girls, Sheffer found that unlike their conventionally schooled counterparts, homeschooled girls did not typically lose confidence in themselves when their ideas and opinions weren't embraced by their friends.
Now, none of this means that every homeschooler is socially well-adjusted. Or that homeschooling is the only way for parents to raise children successfully. Or that good things never happen in conventional schools. But these studies do suggest that homeschooling offers more than just educational benefits. No wonder a growing number of families are now giving home education a try.
This article appeared on page A - 23 of the San Francisco Chronicle

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Book Review: Einstein Never Used Flash Cards

Einstein Never Used Flash Cards - Roberta Michnick Golinkoff Ph.D. (Author), Kathy Hirsh-Pasek Ph.D. (Author), Diane Eyer Ph.D. (Author)

Publishers Weekly
"Play is to early childhood as gas is to a car," say Hirsh-Pasek and Golinkoff, explaining that reciting and memorizing will produce "trained seals" rather than creative thinkers. Creativity and independent thinking, they argue, are true 21st-century skills; IQ and other test scores provide a narrow view of intelligence. The authors walk parents through much of the recent research on the way children learn, debunking such myths as the Mozart effect, and pointing out that much learning unravels naturally, programmed through centuries of evolution.
The current frenzy of sending kids into schools as early as one or two year old, gearing them up to be ahead academically calls for a re-look at how children really learn best. It talks about how society buys into "Faster, better, more" syndrome.

Myth 1: The First 3 years and the "critical period" theory.
Author describes 'critical period" as one that comes from biology. It is a window of time in which some important aspect of development occurs and it has a beginning and end.
*There appear to be more and less receptive periods for learning certain behaviours, like language & visual learning.
*There does not appear to be a "critical period" that is suddenly over at a certain point in time for learning these behaviours. The window for language learning doesnt snap shut after first 3 years of life.
*Responsive periods do not seem to exist at all for behaviours like chess and gymnastics.

Key predictors of healthy intellectual and emotional developments are 'responsive, nurturing relationships with parents and caregivers." - National Research Council of Institute Medicine.

Myth 2: "If the neurons are used, they become integrated with the circuitry of the brain by connecting to other neurons; if they are not used, they may die" theory.
*Media have us thinking that synapses are developing fast and furious in infancy, we want to keep as many of them as possible. More is better? Bigger is better? No. If children have more synapes then adults, they will have trillions of excess connections. These connections will shed the way a snake shed its skin in order to accomodate a bigger body. Brain downsize for the same reason many 'organizations' do. With streamlined networks, they can function more efficiently.

*Throughout developmental process, the brain is ALWAYS growing and changing, producing new synapses, strengthening exisiting ones that are used often and eliminating onces that arent used often enough,

*Scientists found that more stimulation were actually contributing problems of attention deficit and hyperactivity.

*Very ambitious early enrichment and teaching programs may lead to crowding effects and to an early decrease in the size and number of brain regions that are largely unspecified but necessary for creativity in adolescent and adult.

What is play and Why?*Play needs to stern from Child's desire. We can provide some boundaries and let them choose from these options.
*Play is spontaneous and voluntary.
*Play must be pleasurable and enjoyable.
*Plan contains a certain element of make-believe.
Yale Professor and noted researcher Dorothy Singer says " Through mae-believe games, children can be anyone they wish and go anywhere they want. When they engage in sociodramatic play, they learn how to cope with feelings, how to bring the large, confusing world into a small manageble size and how to become socially adept as they share, take turns and cooperate with each other. When children play, they are learning new words, how to problem solve and how to be flexible. Most of all, they are just plain having fun."

Balance is the key
*Buy less, spend more time with children.
*Ask ourselves " Am I buying this so that I can teach my child the ways of adult world or Am I interested in what will intrigue and challenge my child within his reach? Emphasize process, not product.

When you're always rushed and tied and not enjoying parenting, things are out of balance. The hurried parent who is often, though not always, misdirected.

Preschool that emphasize play often has

*kids' projects that are done by kids and not teachers who make them look like its the kids
*Books that are within reach
*Play corner (dramatic corner), gym area
*Child level art area, sands, water play
*Outdoor Play area ; playground, cars etc
*Field trips
*Children are excited and interacts with teacher
*Slot where children can make free choices, free to make mistakes
*Toys that are within reach

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


Today was a day of disbelief.

Dr Yeo of C T Yeo Respiratory and Medical Centre tells me I have asthma. He tells me that I need to be on long term medication to help open up my airways. I was put through a test where they measure output of air (by method of inhale/exhale). My score was a pathetic 60 percent. An average normal person is at least 85 percent. The entire procedure was painless, but when the bill came, I felt the pain.

After hearing the entire discourse of how asthma could have developed in me, I was just in the low.

Having Asthma in both parents meant that our kids have a 75% and more chance of having them. I have a choice to listen to the statistics or listen to God.

Having Asthma explains why my stamina has been dropping and I feel fatigue at the slightest walk in the park.

Having Asthma means I have to be paying all the medication for as long as I have this condition.

Well, having Asthma is not the end of the world, so why am I feeling like it it?

Being so low, I guess the only direction I could look is upwards.

Friday, October 23, 2009

That little bit of haven

There is a sign I wrote to be pasted on the wall of our living room. It says "It will soon pass". It was meant to be an encouragement to all in our family. It all started with Theo catching an ordinary cough. Then he passed it to my baby. Before long, baby passed it to David, and he passed it to me. I had what seemed like an ordinary cough plus a strain of flu and before long, I had unknowingly passed it to my baby. What resulted was baby having bronchitis. We were administering nebulizer for baby for 5 days.

Being the primary care-giver, I suffered sleepless nights and fatigue, soon I became the prime candidate for virus invasion. On the day Elias recovered, I was diagnosed with acute bronchitis and pneumonia. A chest Xray revealed the need for me to be admitted right away.

As if things were to fall apart from the series of events happening in my family, I experienced a most surreal moment - a moment of solitude and rest in the hospital like never before. I call it 'that little bit of haven'. Amidst all the chaos, the timing was perfect. Perfect to be sick? Well, not really. No time is a good time to be ill. But the moment I was declared "out of service", my mum and David had to change all their plans to help babysit our children. I think my mum enjoyed those time with her grandchildren and David became the better at parenting.

In addition, it happened over just one week-end and over one public holiday so that timing was good. I figured, God must have thought I just needed to get away and REST.

"I couldnt really breathe very well" I told my doctor, a respiratory specialist. I never knew that I couldnt really breathe until I was examined that day. Our spiritual life is like that sometimes, our relationship with God can take a nosedive even amidst daily devotions. The run-of-the-mill religious 'rituals' just doesnt guarantee his presence. I guess I was too busy with the children to notice anything really wrong with me. I know, I am really due for a REST both physically and emotionally.

Waiting at the hospital lobby for my number to be called, I imagined myself to be on holiday, perhaps a resort or something. "I'm sorry, single room not available, either two-bedder or four-bedder or deluxe room." I ran a quick check with different sources and decided to go for single deluxe room. Acknowledging my need for rest, I asked for a quiet room, but not too far from the reception area in case I needed help. I was given a very nice room on the tenth floor, just right next to the reception and not too noisy too.

This is what my first day look like:
5.30am - Woke up and set up to pump milk
6.30am - Shower
7.30am - Ready to conquer the world
8.00am - Waited for my chest physio to come. He didnt turn up
9.00am - Took my breakfast.
10.00am - Physio time.
11.00am- Morning nap
12noon - administered nebulizer, fixed up the drip of antibiotic, got my blood pressure checked, temperature checked, as well as oxygen saturation checked.
1.30pm - Lunch
2.00pm - Physio again
2.30pm - pumping milk
3.30pm - Neb
4pm - Tea break, menu selection for the next day.
4.30pm - Quiet afternoon nap

The rest of 5-days stay was surreal. I would be up at around 6.30am everyday to draw the curtains and watch a sunrise creep to interrupt the tranquility of the neighbourhood. At dawn, I am usually surprised at the stillness of the neighbourhood. In the evening posh condominiums around me continued in hush silence, I let my mind wander, curious why occupants never seem to be at home. Perhaps they were too busy making money. I always thought people with loads of money don't have time, and those who have time don't have money. Its a strange thought but because of this, I thought I would like have enough of money and loads of time. Meanwhile, this has yet to become a reality for me.

I actually don't feel too bad in the hospital. The nurses were a friendly lot, although in my opinion, they were pretty frantic with what they need to do with me. I guess, they were just doing their job really, making sure I had the right medications and physiotherapy on time. I managed to surf the channels. I think I watched the "balloon boy" so many times that I became so sick at how a simple news can ballooned into a tabloid over two days!

I ate mostly western meals throughout my stay. Pan fried salmon fillet with coriander cream sauce, green beans, and capellini pasta, grilled sirlion beef with black pepper sauce, roasted roots vegetables and potato and the likes. I am fed 6 meals a day (3 mains and 3 tea breaks), it felt so divine to be in the comfort of aircon 24-hrs a day and eating right out of the bed. I know, very spoilt!

At 7.30am sharp, a very cheerful lady will bring in the paper of the day. She is the lady who cleans the room everyday and changes the sheet. She reminds me of always putting a smile while serving others. I am also reminded how city dwellers people lived such multi-faceted lives. We really mustn't be so consumed with what we do that we ignore the world and its needs, even if people looked OK on the outside.

At home, I was told that the frozen milk packs were going at the speed of lightning. One such drawer full of milk was wiped out in 5-days. Nevertheless, I thank God for the extra supply, especially in time of as such.

day 4 - David brought Theo for a surprise visit. He had a whale of a time discovering all the buttons that made the bed go up or down. That's hospital for him, although he also knows ambulances go to the hospital.

Day 5 - I was due to go home. Yipee! I felt ready to conquer the world once more. I guess that's what everyone would identify as HOPE. Bidding the nurses good-bye, I felt surreal once more.

Once home, we realised that we left a packet of frozen milk in the hospital. The head nurse suggested that once they locate the packet, she will deliver it to my home! That sure is going the extra mile. While many would choose to busk away in exotic isles or sail away on an Alaska cruise, I choose this moment to thank God for the little bit of haven that happened to me.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

goal setting for our family

I'm into a phase of goal-setting recently. Its one of the making-our-home-a-better-place for our family things that moms do all the time. It all started when I am missing the dates that my husband used to take me out to! Yikes! Big deal? Yes of course! Take out courtship after marriage and we can be sure that the foundations of family life becomes rocky.

Why do I set goals when the list look like a bunch of common sense items. Well, if we do not have a line to start us off, it will not be long before we criss-cross all the lines, trying to do everything that everyone else is doing. Before long, we will realise that it does not fit into our family value. simply put, by following the crowd, we are allowing OTHERS to dictate where we are going.

There is no right and wrong most of the time. But what we discover is that what we place as priority is different from another family.

Hence, this distinctly identifies our family make-up. Or if you like, how God has gifted each household.

One family I know is outdoorsy, while the other is into table games. While some loves shopping the others simply love the natural environment. Some families have more of this and less of the other and that is fine. We have 2 unique kids, one is gentle, perceptive & musical, while the other is an fast & agile. I have artistic veins running through my blood while my better half loves cramming facts & info. That is my family.

Goals may change overtime depending on the stage of family life we're at. I am blessed to be a staying home mom, not because we are living luxuriously, but because I could sit and contemplate about my family and how best I can serve them.

I sat penning my thoughts. There are about a list of do-ables. Goals should be SMART - Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timely.

In the dating section, I penned a date out at least once a month.

In the family atmosphere, I penned Joy, encouragement and praise. Celebration to keep our spirits high, I penned to have spontaneous celebrations over and above birthdays. Need not be pompous, could be a simple treat of ice-cream.

In family unity, I penned family outings every weekend, preferring natural parks and environment over shopping malls. What better way to admire the creation of God and for fresh air and sunlight.

In our relationship with our Lord Jesus, I penned total dependence on God through consistent prayer weaved into our daily going in's and out's, calling on God everytime FIRST time in all situation.

In health, I penned on providing natural and wholesome food for the family through natural plant supplement and other weekly home-cook soups.

In nurturing our children, I penned stewarding their giftings and rooting their foundation in our Lord Jesus. (Actual details are too long to be included in this post.)

Setting Goals for the family is a gradual process of discovering and adpating to the needs and fit that works best for the family. Alike a child picking seashells from the seashore, each one is unique, each one is beautiful. Family is a gift from heaven. Treasure it.

Monday, March 23, 2009

The milkmaid - Servanthood

I have this painting by my living room. I love oil painting depicting human beings going about in their daily lives. It reveals alot in peoples' lives.

I am a mother of two sons. I have a maid. Our maid and I have something in common. We serve. I serve my family - I make sure that the roster at home serves our needs; children are asleep by 9pm. I keep watch of their poo - since they are so young, this is essential to their health. I pray with them and for them and train them to be people who would come to love and know our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I pray that they grow to be more and more like Jesus in many ways.

I make sure our helper has a roster to keep the house clean and serve healthy meals on time. I teach her how to manage her time, so we can run our family effectively in a way that we can spend time together. She also becomes my sons playmate whenever I am occupied, so I train her in ways to play and to speak. This is to ensure that the family's speech and mannerism is always filled with grace and joy. We respect each other, we are polite and we don't shout. We learn to give thanks, learn to clean up after use, and learn to always help each other out.

My helper is a blessing to us. She never complains about the food she eats, she eats whatever we eat although she comes from a completely different culture. Servanthood is assimiliation. Servanthood is humility.

I make sure my husband spends quality time with the children and reminds him of important dates that we need to keep. I organise celebrations, outings, and try to do special things for our family. Things like taking photos together for special milestone, or special occasions.
On days my husband needs to be in Bible college, rush for assignments at home or catch up with reading, I keep watch over the children.

I volunteer myself whenever I can to any ministry in church that needs me. My time, my resources, I give my service unto the Lord. I take great pleasure of co-ordinating gifts and birthday celebrations for our Caregroup, and is always on the lookout for discipling people to serve God in greater depth. I take care of Toronto missions related events. I help to think of ideas to spur the church on creatively.

Do I falter, do I grow weary? Sure I do. In fact so many times. Since I am also breastfeeding my 2 mth-old baby, fatigue and despair from challenges in Breastfeeding wears me down. The truth is Servanthood is not my giftings. It is not even in the lowest score card on my giftings list. Yet, I serve in growing magnitude. I know that it is not myself, but only by the grace of God. I finally understood what transforming power there is in following Christ.

We are transformed not because we are gifted, but because we are willing.

The painting of "The Milkmaid" hangs in my living room. It is God's reminder that servanthood is the mark of Christ. It is God'sBIG assurance that his grace will always be sufficient.

[The Milkmaid shines in quiet beauty, but if you look hard enough you can hear the milk splash as she pours it from her pitcher. Through his dazzling use of light, Vermeer elevates this simple moment of hearty provision into a heavenly vision of God's providential care. Artist: Jan Vemeer
.Dutch Baroque Era Painter, 1632-1675]

Saturday, March 14, 2009

My wish-list

Today is the DAY to love myself a little more

My wish List

1) Kindle - An electronic gadget to read ebooks!
2) An adjustable piano chair to play my keyboard
3) A stick-on Screen to block off the glare on my Compaq laptop.(My brother just got me this a a gift!Who-hoo!)

Books, Music, Writing ... you can never go wrong with gifts associated with these top favorites.