Tuesday, May 26, 2009 ;
10:34 PM
It's been a hectic and fun-filled week!

Last Friday (22 May), the new art teacher came to teach ds1 painting. She was recommended to us by ds1's current CF art teacher. He even suggested that, in order to increase ds1's level, I should have art lessons at home at least 2x a week. Wow... I said he's kind of busy (playing actually) now, maybe when school hols start. We're trying her out 1x a week first.

She's pretty young but very nice and patient. She just graduated not too long ago, and is doing some design work but seemingly quite flexible with timing. Also, she will be going to Beijing to start some new art course at the end of June so she can only teach till then. I wonder what's the relationship between the CF teacher and her, because ever since I started lessons with this lady, the CF art teacher seemed much friendlier and would often take the initiative to chat about art topics with me.

They painted a helicopter together. She bought all the materials for me. I like it this way because 1. I don't know what to buy -what type of paper, what type of paints, what type of brushes... 2. I don't know where to get such materials... 3. I need to spend time and transport money looking all around Tianjin for such things. She even gave ds1 an art book for free, for his reference.

ds1 enjoyed it very much. He was so excited that, initially, when the art teacher, me and H (who happened to be in my house) were chatting before the start of the lesson, he was very restless and kept shouting "When are we going to start the lesson, mom?"

Problem was with ds2. He kept wanting to be part of it too. The table was not big enough for him to paint alongside, and there was just one paint palette. So I had to keep him occupied and distracted while ds1 painted. And after the lesson, ds2 rushed to paint his own "masterpieces".

After the teacher left, they both continued painting many other sheets of "abstract" art too. haha. So now I strung up 2 strings across the living room for them to clip all their works of art.

The teacher charges 80yuan (S$16) for 1.5hrs. She actually said my house is rather far for her, and she has to change bus and travel quite a distance, so she has to charge me more. I think it is very reasonable! N pays 180yuan for Matt's art teacher, also same duration. Perhaps hers is more qualified, but I'm very satisfied with mine.

My kids love art so much at this juncture, so we have no choice but to spend some money to let them indulge in their passion. If they had this same passion with the violin or piano, we would have saved a lot of money, cos we're all ready to teach them ourselves.

Wonder if they'll ever ask us for lessons??

23 May

It was Sports Day in school.

Normally Sports Day in previous years would be held on a weekday, but this year the school had a day off due to the heater being faulty (in winter), and parents wanted a make-up. So they put Sports Day on Sat. All school buses ran as usual, and parents could follow the kids on the bus.

So Dh and I went with the kids. The whole school was split into teams and we had to wear the colour of our team, which was Dolphin (Gold/ Yellow). Hence our whole family was dressed in yellow tees. The school tried to put all siblings in the same team, so both our sons belonged to the Dolphin Group.

Each coloured group was further split into N-2, upper elementary and high school groups because the activities were different.

Some parents actively joined in the games but Dh and I were content to watch and take pics. Cos for some games, adults would have a clear unfair advantage, so I don't think parents should play. For one game where the kids had to throw beanbags to the other side in a fixed time and had to ensure as few beanbags on their side as possible, I saw a mom frantically helping her son's team, and of course that side won, cos an adult can throw 4-5 beanbags at a time and very quickly.

Of course, all the games were non-competitive, just for fun, so it didn't matter too, not a big deal. But cos both my sons were on the same side, and kept losing the beanbag rounds, I just felt it was a little, hmph, unfair. But my sons didn't seem to mind. This was a great improvement from before, when ds1 always wanted to win.

I'll upload the vid on FB so you can see how funny ds2 was, throwing the beanbag and making a pose before going for another one. Clearly that was the reason why his side lost. haha.

There were many stations and all had some teachers who would explain the rules and get the group to play against each other. It was very tiring for me just to walk in the heat and under the scorching sun, but the kids seemed to have unending energy. They ran and jumped and crawled and kicked balls with so much fervour.

The best part was the 2 inflated bouncy dragons though. The kids absolutely went wild. Will post a vid on FB too.

After 10am, Nursery was led back to class and they had their snack and playtime continued in their Nursery playground. The teachers there supervised them very well and ds2 was having such a fun time. I witness him having a sulky moment that almost led to a tantrum, but the wonderfully-trained teacher was observant enough to spot that, and understood him well enough to talk to him and apply strategies to quickly make him feel better and continue playing again.

I always observe the teachers and find that they are really well-trained and understand the kids very well. They have an infinite amount of patience too.

I think why a lot of preschools prefer kids to do more seat-work because they are quieter and more controlled, thus giving less problems. But in this Nursery, when I see them playing most of the time, I always observe many squabbles, fights, crying and naturally, more injuries. But the teachers know this is a vital part of learning and growing up. And they are willing to solve all these on a daily basis. I am thankful for them, for letting ds2 grow and acquire so many social skills, and tools of the mind. (I recently read an article on Vygotsky's theory on brain development and learning and how preschools should conduct their lessons so young kids learn best, and I feel this school has done it.)

Although I haven't seen too many preschools in Singapore, I know there is a big range and there are several good ones like what Vygotsky outlined, and incorporate a lot of learning through active play, but there are still many that involve too much sitting, restriction and completion of worksheets.

The very first, and only preschool ds1 attended in Spore was somewhat like that. It was a good school, the teachers were great, I liked them, but ds1 cried all the time and refused to go to school, so we had to pull him out after a few months. He was 3 then, and we though maybe he was not ready. Because when he was 4 and went to preschool 2x a week in Utah, he loved it. But that preschool was all play too. No sitting down to do any sort of writing.

Thinking back, I recall sitting through at least 2 days worth of lessons at that 1st preschool in Spore. It involved singing, English lessons, then Chinese lessons, Math and Montessori mat time. I realised now that it was too structured for ds1. He was only 3 then. To shift from class to class, with different teachers, and having to do worksheets was probably too overwhelming. Some kids do settle in quickly, but apparently not ds1. The teachers wrote in his home-school comm book that he "had trouble with transitions", i.e. he cried a lot when he had to move from English to Chinese and then Chinese to Montessori. Each time he settled and warmed up to something, it was time for the next lesson.

A bit too rigid for him. And not much playtime, just a short break for snack and play. I don't blame the teachers. I know they say the parents expect them to give worksheets, otherwise they think there is no learning. And then they won't put their kids there, because YY preschool gives so many worksheets each week. The kids there must be learning a lot more!

ds2 in contrast, enjoys every single day of school. He has never cried and has no problem going to school in the morning. So does ds1 now. ds2 has never brought home a single worksheet, and I have NEVER seen him sit down to do any writing in school! But I have seen how much he has grown, and I am convinced that before the age of 6, kids do not need to have that kind of training. True, kids who learn how to write and write more earlier may have a headstart but I believe the gap or difference will taper off later. Both my sons have never undergone any phonics enrichment class, nor "I-can-read" classes nor flashcards (Glen Doman and all), but they both can read very well now. They speak and listen alright, and they will write well in time. Whether they will do well in future school exams or not, I don't know, and I hope I won't be too bothered.

I digress...

So ds2 was upset that his pants were wet. He had already dirtied his original set of clothes, which another teacher had changed for him, into his spare set that's always kept in school. He engaged in water-play and wet this 2nd set. He was not happy and wanted me to change for him when he saw me. I told him there were no more clothes for him to change into, and just bear with it. It wasn't very wet, just some wet patches here and there.

He sulked, and stomped off. The main teacher saw that, and went to ask him what the matter was. He said his pants are wet and he wants to change them.

She said, "Oh, your pants are wet." He nodded. (I recognise this strategy from "How to listen when your kids talk and how to talk so your kids will listen"!)

Teacher: You feel uncomfortable because your pants are wet.
ds2: nods.
Teacher: Where is it most uncomfortable?
ds2: (points to left knee, where there is a large wet patch) (still sulking but not so angry anymore)
Teacher: (feels wet patch) Oh, it feels wet against your skin, doesn't it?
Let me see... (takes time to think) Would it be better if we rolled the pants up so you don't feel the wet patch anymore?
ds2: (already very pleased to have someone fully empathise) ok.
Teacher: (further empowers him by giving him a choice) Would you like both sides rolled up or just one side?
ds2: One side. (very happy now)
Teacher: (starts to roll it up for him)
ds2: (does the rolling up himself, taking over from teacher)
Teacher: (lavishing praise) Wow, look at that, you can roll it up yourself!
ds2: (smug, proud look)
Teacher: Ok, now you can give mommy a big hug and go back to riding your bike!
ds2: (promptly gives me a hug and returns to bike)!!!!!

I take my hat off to the teacher because she has 27-28 kids. All of them have such problems everyday, all the time. She had just settled another crying boy before ds2. She has so much patience.

This scenario is not new to me. Of course, these things replay themselves everyday at home. Sometimes I remember the strategies and if I am in a good mood and patient, I can usually resolve things in an amicable manner too. But it doesn't happen all the time. I typically lose my patience and shout at both of them. And I force them to do whatever I feel is right without listening to what they have to say, or acknowledge their feelings. True, I may be right, but I usually just settle things by the quickest way, that is force them to do it my way quickly, so they may cry or be angry but still have to follow my instruction.

Like in this case, it would be me telling ds2 in a stern voice, "You don't have anymore clothes to change into. Stop sulking, go back and play with your bike and stop whining and wipe that look off your face!!" And he'll definitely continue to sulk. He might follow my instructions, but he'll be unhappy about that. Or he may cry and keep touching that wet patch on his pants.

Anyway, after that, since ds2 was so happy riding his bike with his good friends, Dh and I left the Nursery and joined ds1 and the rest of the school for the rest of the day.

In the afternoon, ds1 still had drum lesson for 1.5hrs. And then all of us set off for art class at CF!

It was a very eventful day indeed!

rainbows every day, do not worry for the morrow

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