Sunday, September 21, 2008 ;
3:26 PM
29 Aug
Fri
Orientation

I got this pic off the school website. The classes and teachers were named first, then the kids belonging to that class were called out and the kids would go to their teachers. That was at the start of the Orientation, after the Director of School's Welcome Speech.

That's Matt's mom on the left of the pic and the teacher holding ds1's hand.


Sep 1
Mon
First Day of School for ds1

The Nursery class had too many new students this year. I heard it was 35 kids for Nursery and Pre-K, so for Mon, they wanted just the returning students (pre-K) in school. The teachers wanted to get them used to routine and school before inducting the new ones (Nursery kids) in on Tues and Wed.

ds2's nursery Orientation was on Mon afternoon, which meant he would start school only on Tues. There were other kids whose Orientation was on Tues afternoon, then they start on Wed.

So on Mon, it was ds1's 1st day.

Initially, I did not think I would go to school with him as I wanted to sign them up for the school bus. I registered on Fri during the Kindy orientation but they told me the bus routes are complicated and if I didn't receive a call before Mon, it meant I still had to bring the kids to school myself, till they get the new additions all sorted out.

Since N was taking a day off from work and going with Matt, she offered to give me a lift to school. She was going to stay in school with Matt and asked why shouldn't I, since parents are allowed on the first day.

She even packed a coffee cake, tea and coffee for us. Since ds2's orientation was in the afternoon, also in school, I said ok then.

So early in the morn, both ds and I made our way to N's house and sat in the nice comfy beemer with a chauffeur. They are called "shifu" (master) over here. Matt was in the back seat with me and both ds. N sat in front.

My kids, as usual, started chattering, singing, humming along the way. In the car, with so many of us squeezed behind, I think the sound of their voices were magnified. Although I am used to it I noticed Matt covering his ears. I realised that, being an only child, he is probably not used to so much noise. So I shut both kids up the rest of the journey.

Our place is just 10-15min away from the school. We are considered the nearest place to school, so for the school bus route, we are the last to hop on, and from school-home, we are the first to get off. I was happy for that, cos it meant my kids had no waiting time and could sleep longer.

A lot of kids attend this school, even if they live far away. I don't live in the city center. A lot of kids do. So they take about 40min to an hour to get to school.

Lessons start!

ds1 was pretty independent. He didn't cry and just followed the teacher when they assembled in the gym. A lot of the other kindy kids held their mummies' hands. I had no free hands for ds1 because I was busy with ds2. Many of the other kids were only kids, so they mummies had full attention for them.

I was glad ds1 had not noticed, mentioned or asked me, why he had to share me with his brother and why I cannot have more time for him just like his friends' moms.

Below shows them all crowded at the dino/ animals table as they wait for lessons to start.


This is when the teachers lead their classes from the gym to the classroom.


Mummy gathering
After he went to class, I was afraid to follow, in case after some time, he wanted me to take him home. So I went to the parents' lounge. They had a coffee maker there, magazines, sofas/ couches and a lot of Fisher-Price/ Little Tikes toys for the toddlers to play with. Hence ds2 played happily while I chatted with other moms. Made a lot of new friends in one morning.

The pic below was not from my cam. I got it off the school website. Somehow we got caught in action, having the coffee cake N brought, and sipping our hot beverages. From the left, Pete's mom, me, Z (Sof's mom), N and P. P happens to be a Malaysian, who has lived in Spore for many years. Spore was her hubby's last posting. They lived very close to my in laws in Bt Timah, in fact. haha. What a coincidence. She has 3 sons, and her youngest is the one in Kindy with ds1.

Now her son, YK, and ds1 are in the same clique. haha. ds2 is travelling in his Little Tikes coupe ard the room, and going down the slide for the nth time.


Storytime
Got the pic below from school's site too. Shows the class having storytime. That's ds1's teacher, from Australia. Nice lady, but very firm and strict with the kids. Can tell, certainly. ds1's right in the front row, hidden from view. He's one of the smallest-sized in the class!

His classmates are truly international. And it is tough for the teacher to teach. There are kids from Japan, Korea, China, Spore, Malaysia, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, France, Italy, USA, Taiwan, India, Australia, New Zealand... School-wide, there are even more nationalities represented, because I saw Muslim families with tudungs, who look like they are more from either Msia or Indonesia, and many other European countries because they speak in their own languages.

(Of course, from countries like Spore and Msia, there's just 1 representative in ds1's class. Majority are still from Korea.)

It is very interesting to learn from all these cultures, yet on the other hand, it is difficult for the teacher to teach English as most of the kids learn English as a second language. They split the class up for some language periods, to ESL and non-ESL classes. Other periods, they are grouped together to do cooperative reading and writing.

When I read the syllabi and curriculum, as well as the teachers' lesson plans, (provided to all parents on the 1st day) they look so familiar. Then I recall all those Curriculum Studies classes we had to take in NIE. And all the language arts lectures. ahhh. Remember doing Big Book lessons as a group and the teacher filming us (micro-teaching). So funny.

After 5 yrs of teaching Bio, I had forgotten a lot of those strategies to teach the younger kids literacy and writing skills. Now I am revisiting them with my own kids.

Group management
(Sub-note: when I see these, I get reminded of how we can get the attention of larger groups of students:
1. Clapping in a rhythm and getting the kids to clap back the same rhythm once they hear you clap. It effectively makes all the kids stop their own work/ talking and listen to you. Some teachers make the kids raise their hands once they hear a tune or clap rhythm or whistle blow.

This is practised in ds2's class now. I hear him clapping "ta-tata-ta-ta" and saying "tidy up!" after that, at home. So funny, he is imitating his teacher. He says teachers says must clap after her when she claps like that. Then everyone must tidy up and gather in front.

2. In the whole school assemblies, the head of school or teacher sings "Are we listening?" (to the tune of "Where is Johnny, where is johnny, is he here, is he here?"). Just once. And just that one phrase.
All the kids will sing back "We are listening".

3. ds1 also told me, when the teacher sings "C G G G# G .." the kids must all sing back "... B C". They sing it using "la la la la la..." or "deng deng deng deng deng..." then the kids echo the last 2 notes in the melody: "la la" or "..deng deng!"

i.e. all kids stop talking and have to listen up.

Ahh, my fellow NIE mates, sounds familiar ya?)



In the lounge, I heard a lot of gossip, a lot of suggestions as to where SAHMs should go during the day when kids are in school, and so on. N would once in a while go to the classroom to peek and report back to us. So far, ds1 was doing fine and did not cry.

Then they had a welcome back to school speech by the director of the school at the hall. Pic below (also from sch's web). It was after this that trouble began.


Crying episode
ds1 must've gotten tired or bored and missed home? After the speeches came the snack time, and I didn't go peek too. But after snack time, they were allowed to play in the playground. He got bitten by some bugs and cos one of the bites was on the eyelid, it swelled up considerably. They feared he was allergic and brought him to the school nurse.

Actually it would've been ok. He's not allergic. It's just that as he scratches, it swells, and on the eyelid, it tends to look bigger than on the arm. The swelling covered his eyes a bit.

However, at the same time, Matt was asking for his mom, so the teacher decided to bring both ds1 and Matt to the lounge. To let Matt see his mom and be reassured and to inform me about ds1's bites and ask if he was allergic.

Guess what? The moment ds1 saw me and his brother, feelings of homesickness overcame him. He burst into tears! He cries very loudly, so I was pretty embarrassed.

The teacher thought it was the bites, but I told her it probably wasn't. Ds1 has been bitten by bugs countless times and he doesn't cry this type of cry when he gets bitten.

The teacher then told him it was fine, I'd be in the room, and he can follow her back to class. She said he had been doing marvellously this whole morning.

When she pulled his hand and he refused to follow, I asked to have a talk with him first. She told me to bring him to the library when he is done crying. Cos it was Library period then.

I asked him what was the matter, and he said he missed us, and wanted to go home. Actually, he probably was tired too, because he had not been subjected to a structured and scheduled routine like this in his 5 years. In preschool in Utah, it was more flexible and very hands-on kind of fun.

He also said it was boring, but I reminded him of storytime. Then he said, ok, everything except storytime was boring. Then I asked, what about snack time? He said ok, everything except storytime and snacktime was boring.

I said, what about everything being interesting, except the speech? I knew it was the speech that did him in. All the first day regulations, rules, procedures and then the lengthy speech in the hall... I know it is a little monotonous for a normally active 5 yr old like him.

So I told him, the long part of the day is over already. This welcome speech is done only once in a blue moon. He stopped crying by then.

He saw ds2 playing with the cash register and pretending he was shopping in a supermarket. So of course he felt some imbalance/ unfairness. haha. He asked to play for 5 min. I said ok, just 5min.

After that, he did quietly and willingly give up the toys and followed me to the library. Once there, the teacher took over and let him choose a book. Then she turned around and gave me the "ok" sign, and "please run away and hide now" signal. Ha. so I left quickly.

The rest of the day went very well. Phew.

Lunchtime
Then it was lunchtime at 12pm. Before 12pm, I had brought ds2 to the cafeteria and camped out at the side already. On one hand, I needed to eat my lunch too. On the other hand, I needed to check out the cafeteria and see if it was hygienic, and if the food was healthy, balanced and if the procedures in getting food were easy for kindy kids to handle.

School lunch verdict
Report:
Plus points:
1. Clean and hygienic.
2. Balanced meals: having always carboh/ protein/ veg/ fruit/ soup/ dessert.
3. Buffet style, can have as much as you want. Yes, incl the ice cream and drinks.
4. Some things are rather yummy. Like the stew and roasted potatoes.
5. Food is fresh and warm. Unlike if I pack from home for him.

Minus points:
1. The tray holder level is high. Just nice for adults, but for ds1 to handle a tray and get food, with the tray holder at his face level, it is just a little unstable.
2. The queues are so long. The whole elementary school is out at 12pm for lunch. There are soooo many kids, up to 11-12 yrs old. All so much bigger and taller than ds1.
3. The food is laid out like in a buffet, widely spread out. How is ds1 going to point out what he wants. He isn't going to know the names furthermore. He wouldn't know that soupy thing is french onion soup. Neither will he know that's a chicken stew. He can only point. But he is shorter than the furthest dish, how to point?
4. Some items, like the ice cream, and the soup, are not displayed, because they have to be kept at a certain temperature. The menu is displayed prominently, and all parents have a copy before the week starts. We have a menu for the whole week, and they serve different things every day.
However, ds1 will not know they have ice cream a certain day, and will most certainly miss asking for it. Not very worth it then, isn't it?
5. A little costly. It is S$4 for each student, regardless of age, which I think is not very fair for the younger kids. Ds1 eats very little and he eats much slower than a 12 yr old boy. So for him, it is costly. For me, I enjoyed the meal very much and of course took a big portion. Yet for me, it is also $4.

So I decided to let ds1 have school lunch only when I can't cook for him. For now, he will have packed lunch from home. There are microwave ovens at the side for students to heat up their meals. I showed them to ds1 and taught him how to use it. But later on, the teacher said, he can get teaching assistants (TAs) to do it for him too.

Observations about lunch
Also, I later found out that kindy kids who have school lunch will have their food in a covered tray set out for them. They need not queue up. However, that means they don't get to choose their food. And I observed a lot of wastage. A lot of kindy kids just eat what they like on the tray. What they like, they don't get enough of, and what they don't like gets all thrown away.

I let ds1 try out school lunch already. I observed him once (without him knowing), when I happened to be in school for an event. He loved the potatoes but didn't know he can go ask for more. And he thought that when the whistle blew, he had to go to class. The whistle blew just 15 min after he sat down to eat. So he threw a lot of food away, and I think of my $4 with some heartache, but I didn't approach him at all that day.

I did feel proud of him when he carried his tray all the way to place it at the tray collection area, and came back to remind a girl classmate to put hers back too, since she was getting ready to run away from his tray.

There are problems with home-packed lunch too. I realised the queues for the microwave ovens are long, and ds1 got to eat his fried rice or noodles rather late. He again can't finish when the whistle blew. I observed some kids still eating after the whistle blew (actually it was for the kids who have finished to raise their hands and get permission to leave). So I have since informed him to finish his food first before running off. So he had only like 5 min to eat his rice those few times.

Then I experimented with stuff that did not need reheating, like sushi. He did much better with that, so I did let him have such lunches most of the days. However, I still think hot meals with a large variety are good for him. With the sushi, he doesn't like many types of filling, so often, it is just the egg, rice, seaweed combi.

I have tried bento type too. Finger food mostly.

Conclusion about lunch
So now, I let him have packed lunches on some days and school lunch on days that he likes most of the items on the menu. I read the items on the menu to him the night before and ask if he would like to have school or packed lunch the next day, and he gets to choose. That way, he also remembers what he can have in school and will ask for the ice cream when there is ice cream that day too.

The school goes by a card system. Older kids handle their own cards but kindy kids have the TAs hold the cards for them. So ds1 reported to me that when he went to ask for extra items after he finished his on his tray, there was confusion amongst the staff. The staff are all local Chinese, so it was very funny, the way ds1 mimicked their chinese accent and recounted the episode.

He said they all asked each other why he didn't have the card. Some said kindy kids need not have cards and said to give ds1 the food he wanted, but some said, he might not have paid for it and didn't want to give him the food. ds1 told me it wasted a lot of his time, time that he could've been playing in the playground (!!@$%#), so he said he rather not ask for extra food next time. I told him he can ask the TA to get for him next time, since they hold his card.

I may be very concerned about his food consumption, but if he were big for his age, I wouldn't worry. It is precisely because he is picky about food, and so thin, that's why I must ensure that he eats well in school.

Fortunately, by now, everything has settled into a routine, and ds1 knows exactly what to do during lunchtime.

Cafeteria
This below shows the cafeteria. I was sitting far behind the Kindy area with ds2 that first day. ds1 did not see me at all. The mom there is Z. She's sitting right behind Sof, telling her to eat more greens. :-)


Playground
This below is the bigger playground where ds1 always rushes to, right after lunch. Look at all the sand. No wonder he AND ds2 always come home with sand in the underpants, shoes, socks, pockets, hair... I really wonder what they do, lie in the sand and bury themselves! The amount from their shoes lie in a mountainous heap in my front porch now. It'll be a beach soon.

Below shows ds1 being the last lone ranger, heading back into school, after the whistle was blown, signifying the end of lunch break. (When he was playing at the playground, I was hidden from view too. Because I didn't want him to stick to me and ds2, which is what he'll do if he sees us.)

For the first few days of school, ds1 reported to me that he often cannot find his classroom after lunch break. He'll walk around and around the school (which scares me) before he finds it.

I asked him what did teacher say. And he replied, "Where have you been all day, T?"

I asked him why didn't he ask someone for directions. He said, "I thought I can find it. I will ask for directions when I think I can't find it."

He is becoming like his dad so early on??!?

I wrote in the Home-School communication book that ds1 still doesn't know his way around schoo, pardon his tardiness. The TA replied the next day that she has since walked the route with him several times till he was familiar with it. She took action at once, after she saw my note. Now he really knows the way well already. Nice job.

The teacher is very quick in responding to whatever we write too.

Finally, end of 1st school day!

N.B. In the USA, Kindergarten level is part of Elementary School, unlike Kindys in Spore. In the UK, Reception year is also part of Primary school. Correct me if I am wrong, but Reception kids are 4 years old right?

So Kindergarteners usually follow the same school day as the rest of Elementary school, which is normally from around 8.30am to 3.30pm. Ds1's school day is from 8.10am to 3.10pm.
On Wed, they have early dismissal for staff meeting. Similar to contact time in Spore schools.

Initially, I was very apprehensive about the long school hours for a 5 yr old, especially since ds1 had not been to full time school before. But the timetable includes a lot of play in between, so ds1 doesn't feel bored. Now he has settled in very well.

So we proceeded to ds2's orientation which is slated for 3.30pm.

Nursery Orientation
His classrooms look so fun. There are 3 rooms for the NPK class. Very colorful, full of art work and hands-on materials. Makes me want to be a Nursery kid. In contrast, ds1's classrooms (also 3 rooms) look so much more serious. hehe.

The teachers talked to us parents and gave us an orientation while the kids played around the classroom, read books, fiddled with playdoh.. Below shows one of his teachers. There are 3 teachers and 2 TAs for his class. Still, the teacher-student ratio is low, because there are 35 kids. Is 1:7 good enough? I don't know. But ds2 is having a lot of fun indeed.

Dh joined us for this orientation after his work day.

Journey home
After the orientation, guess what, our very kind neighbor N, sent her driver in the BMW to pick us up! She'd already returned home with Matt at 3.30pm. She is too nice!

However, Dh had the feeling we were giving others the impression that we're wealthy and that that's our car. Cos the Nursery class teachers as well as others saw the driver drive us out of the school compound in the car. The driver will open the doors for us too.

I must be a suaku (frog in the well) cos I had a problem closing the doors. Actually they close and lock by themselves, no need to slam the doors close. Aiyah, I didn't know, cos I've not had that kind of car before. The driver showed me, then I understood. Oh ok.

Back home, both kids acted like they haven't played freely for ages. And as if they hadn't seen each other for ages. They ran around, climbed up and down, shrieked wildly, hugged each other a lot, and played their grizzly bear and bear den game with my clothes rack, again.



2 Sept
Tues
2nd day of school for ds1
1st day of school for ds2
1st day on school bus for both


School said school bus was ready to take us, and Matt also. N decided that, if ds2 can take the bus on his own, then her Matt can too. For the past 2 years, Matt was sent to school in the car by the driver. Now, because my kids are on the bus, she is putting him on it too, so he can fit in with the rest. When Z heard that, her jaw dropped. She was so shocked, and exclaimed that she never thought N would ever put Matt on the bus.

We woke at 6.30am, Dh and I. Both ds woke about 7am. By 7.30am, everyone has had breakfast and are changed. Oops, a little late, after getting the bags and shoes ready.

So Dh put ds2 on his shoulders and I carried ds1's heavy bag, and we all ran towards the bus stop.

We saw Matt there with his ayi too. That's not all. The driver was there too, in the beemer, behind the school bus. After Matt got on, the ayi hopped into the car, and together with the driver, followed the bus to school. Wow. Still must ensure he is safe and happy!

Both ds got on the school bus (more like a van, because our route does not have full capacity yet) excitedly. They've always liked sitting on school buses.

Below shows the bus ayi buckling up for ds2. ds1 could buckle up himself. All the school buses and vans have seats with seat belts. The ayi will ensure everyone is seated and buckled up before the driver moves off. That was a strong reason why I chose to let them sit on the bus. The cabs are very dangerous, and traffic on the road is dangerous too. Everyday will be a risk if I were to send the kids to school in a cab myself.

The cost turn out to be the same or even less (for the bus), because I need not pay for the trips when I am in the cab alone (i.e. return from school when I drop them off, and going to school to pick them up). Furthermore, the boys are dismissed at different times. ds2's on a half-day nursery program that lasts till 12pm.


This pic below was taken after they switched our van to a huge bus. Those coach type bus. Very comfy and spacious. Now our route had more kids. It had much more space too, so whenever us parents want to go to school or come back from school, we can ride free too.

Sometimes the kids sit together. But recently, ds1 has gotten very popular. An Indian boy, V, same age, keeps saying he must sit with ds1. His mom also tells me how her son talks about ds1 all the time at home, repeating what ds1 tells him. She says he teaches her son all about knights, crossbow infantry and so on. I was like, huh??? I just hope it is not bad influence.

Another boy who gets on the bus at the same venue is M. He's got a Japanese mom and Italian dad. Very cute. Because he has golden hair but speaks fluent Japanese, and it is so enthralling to hear him go on and on in Japanese. I just find it so interesting. He and ds1 have a love-hate r'ship too. Sometimes they HAVE to sit together, sometimes they fight.

ds1 gets along with some of the older girls too, and he'll actually share his snacks with them!

So now, I notice that ds2 always sits by himself. And he likes it. Sometimes we are early, and they get on the bus first. I will wait at the side till the bus leaves. So I'll stand there and see ds1 talking to his friends while ds2 sits by himself. I think he looks so lonely, but he is happily in his own world, smiling, singing and talking to himself. Quite amusing.

The bus will always wait till 7.46am for all kids. It has left before, without all the kids having got onboard, cos time was up. So I am always stressed and make sure I get the kids there before 7.45am.


Somehow, with the help of the school bus, and friends on the bus, both kids have not cried when going to school yet. Always happy and cheerful. The only problem for me lies with waking them up in the morning. They are really sulky when I drag them out of bed. But usually after breakfast they are all ready to get going.

I am so glad for the bus service. Even if I have to walk to the bus stop 6x a day. :-)


rainbows every day, do not worry for the morrow
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