Tuesday, November 11, 2008 ;
9:31 AM
School events in Sept

1. 8 Sep, Mon, 2-3.30pm
Afternoon tea with kindergarten teachers and parents

There was a tea for us first, with some simple cakes, cookies and brownies, with coffee and tea. Then the teachers presented a workshop for us parents (mostly moms, one dad- not DH).
Since it is the first workshop this year, it was on the kids' routine, their homework expectations, reading and other school events.

Homework was going to be a worksheet or two pasted in a book, which will be handed out on Mon. Kids are to do it in the week after school then hand in on Friday. In fact, they are NOT encouraged to hand it in earlier. Any homework handed in earlier will be sent back each day, only to be collected on Friday.

Homework will be the same for all kids initially, until the teachers gauge the kid's individual strengths and weaknesses, then differentiated worksheets will be sent home. Examples of the homework sheets were shown to us parents during the Powerpoint presentation.

Initial work would be writing ABC and 123 in the form of filling in blanks or looking at pictures to write them down. If kids are already beyond that, teachers will assign homework within the same theme and according to what they have been doing in class, but with more writing, eg, writing out the whole word "DOG" instead of filling in the letter "D" which is blanked out under a picture of a dog, as in "__ O G".

Samples of homework sheets the kids will get at the end of the year were shown too, and it does effectively show how much the kids will have progressed. I was impressed with the year-end sheets cos I was thinking if ds1 could do that, I'd be happy. haha.

Then I think back to what Kindy kids are doing in Singapore. At the end of K2, hmm, they'd be way past that. But then, I think again, and as long as I am happy and ds is happy, we'll try not to worry about catching up when we return home.

Now (Nov), ds1 is getting homework which involves a writing section (5Qs), math section (5Qs), a motor skills section (3-4 tasks eg bounce a ball for 10min), an IQ section (1Q, eg. draw 2 lines in this square to make it contain 4 squares) and a thematic section which relates to the theme they are exploring now. A lot of pictures are involved. And the most covers 2 sheets of A4.

So ds1 has no problem finishing it on time. He spends less than 5min on homework each day on average.

I was curious and read the homework guidelines for upper levels, where they stipulate that kids should not have more than a certain amount of time each day for homework. The school does try and make sure the kids are doing other things besides homework too, one of the desired outcomes for the IB child is "Balanced", so they have to focus on sports and other stuff too.

2. 10 Sep, Wed, 8.15-11.15am.
Visit to the Natural History Museum of Tianjin

The teachers did tell us there isn't too many places to bring kids to for field trips here. At the end of the year we will make a trip to Beijing to visit the aquarium there. Past years, there were visits to the Tianjin zoo, but the kids all cried when they visited the zoo here.

The sight of sickly and dying animals caged up (and the smell) made the kids very sad and traumatised, so they decided not to include that anymore.

The Natural History Museum is nothing like the Field in Chicago but it was very fun for these kids, because there was an area where you can feed the turtles, fish and the seals.

There, the kids are clamoring the feed and to look at the sea creatures. ds1 is the one climbing up and leaning far too over the barrier for my liking. The boy pointing to something above is one of ds1's good friends, who is from Malaysia. Lots of moms were there on the trip too.

Admission price is at S$4 per person. Moms have to pay our own of course.

Feed for the animals are extra. The teacher assigned kids whose parents are not there with parents who are there. So I was taking care of S, also ds1's closer friends. He is pictured below, having a snack with ds1, together with the dinos.

Both of them shared the feed for the fish and turtles, which resembled some dried pellets, and the feed for the seals. Which was a cup of fresh fish. Chopsticks were given for the kids to handle the fish to feed the seal, but none of the kids used the chopsticks well, so ds1 just fed the seals out of his hands. He enjoyed it so much more, squealing away whenever the seal leapt out of the water to gobble the fish out. There's somehow the thrill of having a "wild" animal eat out of your hand in a flash.

The moms were all just staring at the very dirty murky water of the seal enclosure and wondering how much rotten fish was in the water, and how much bacteria were multiplying in the water, on the kids hands and so on... Which they were already happily smearing onto their faces, their friends clothes and their hair. The water was greenish-black and when the seal was in the water, you couldn't see it at all. hmmmm.

And yes, it was after feeding the animals, that the kids had their snack.

3. 12 Sep, Fri, Water Fun Day

4. 16 Sep, Tues, start of Gym Sports and 19 Sep, Fri, Chess
After school activities (what Spore calls CCAs) start this week. Most Kindy kids sign up for 2 activities. Ds1 signed up for Gym Sports and Chess.

Most other kindy kids chose Gym Sports and Built It (a construction CCA) but ds1 insisted he wanted Chess instead of Built It. So I had to write to the Chess teacher to get special permission. Chess was offered only for the Grade 2-5 kids. Fortunately the Chess teacher (who happens to be S's dad. S is the boy I took care of at the museum) is very open, and agreed to give ds1 3 weeks trial.

The teacher said most 5 year old kids will not be able to sit through an hour of chess at 3.30-4.30pm after a whole day of school. It's true, I know how tired ds1 can be. He wakes up at 6.45am, has PE (on the same day as chess) and so many other physically and mentally demanding activities in school from 8.10am to 3.10pm, he may be really tired and cranky. I tried talking to ds1 again, but he was very stubborn and insisted he will like it.

So we let him try it. The teacher even asked that I be present so that I can bring him home if he finds it too much.

That week happened to be the week Dh was out of town on business, so I lugged a sleepy ds2 at 2.15pm, walked out of my estate to catch a cab. Ds2 was having his nap, so while I carried him, I waited 30min for the cab!! Usually it is easy to get a cab, but not at this timing, I guess. The drivers could be taking a siesta.

Finally got to school and the teacher asked me to wait in the lounge. If ds1 has any problems, he will bring ds1 out to me. I brought some books to read. Waited right till 4.30pm, when all the kids were dismissed and a radiantly beaming ds1 rushed out, saying he loves chess very much and will "do chess" every week from now on.

Asked the teacher if I still needed to be in school after this. Fortunately he said no, so I am spared now. Happy that ds1 is enjoying himself and I can save the hassle of going to school.

Basically during chess, there is not much instruction. The kids are paired off and they play. After they finish their game, they switch partners. The teacher walks around the classroom to offer suggestions and pointers. That's all. So probably ds1 finds it fun that way. The teacher says he plays very well, so probably it is the feeling of winning that makes him like to play. I know how he can act, if he loses.

For Gym Sports, initially most of the kindy kids did not enjoy it, cos a gymnastics expert from the Tianjin Uni PE College was engaged to teach the kids from age 5-8. The older ones could take it, but the younger ones felt very bored. They were doing stretching, forward rolls, and gym drills.

So the PE teacher of the school took the 5 yr olds out now, and have them play soccer, basketball, and other running games each Tuesday afternoon. Ds1 enjoys this so much more now.

Older kids have more after school activities. The girl who lives in the same estate told me she joined 4, so she stays back in school everyday of the week except for Wed. A lot of fun things are offered, so I guess older kids would take up more since they won't get tired so easily.

And yes, the school bus kids will still be sent home on the bus, no need to pay extra. So I think it works out very well for me. As long as ds1 enjoys it, I will let him choose whatever he wants to join.

5. 18 Sep, Thurs, 6.20-8pm, Elementary School Back to School Night.

Dh was out of town on business, so I had to leave both kids with N's babysitter and ayi. She kindly offered, so I left them with Matt and the childminders, and set off with N to school.

Fortunately I dressed up, because the rest were dressed well too. The director gave a talk, then the Elem. School Head gave her speech and intro all the teachers in the school, as well as all those committees and people holding whatever positions... Basically telling the parents, now, you know who to complain to if you find fault with something.

I was distracted by some of the more attractive looking teachers of the school, both male and female.

Ok, seriously, then we were ushered to the Kindy class for yet another workshop, it was about assessment.

Then there were refreshments and we could meet with the specialist teachers (ie Music, Art, PE, Mother Tongue...).

That's about it for Sept.

rainbows every day, do not worry for the morrow

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