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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.