Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Learning Mandarin

I just received an SMS report from Caitlin's Mandarin teacher:
She can read 9 cards of 'body parts', 8 cards of 'family members', now proceeding to 9 cards of 'action' words. Total learned: 26 words this month.

Caitlin just started Mandarin classes a month ago. The method used by her teacher is by way of flash cards, recognising and memorising whole Chinese characters. This method apparently, is better than the traditional one where one learns the strokes after which, the strokes are then combined to form the characters/words. The latter method is still being used by some and unfortunately, that is how Mandarin is taught at her kindergarten.

Compared to one year's learning at her kindy where she has learnt probably about 10 words so far, the flash card method appears far better, having taught her 26 words in just one month.

Anyone out there with comments on the flash card/memory method? Since I'm new to this (and not able to read more than 5 words of Mandarin!) do you think Caitlin's progress is good for starters?

I hope to be able to meet her teacher tomorrow to find out more. Her teacher is home-based with a language teaching franchise business. As such, her fees are lower compared to full-fledged children's language centres such as 'Bao Bei' or 'Skylace', which are more established and expensive. They however do have their plus points such as properly set up classrooms, more fun and entertaining programmes like singing, poetry and games to aid learning.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

What do our children learn at school?

Besides the usual academic stuff like language, science, and math, Caitlin's kindergarten exposes the kids to various other important subjects such as the environment, practical life lessons, music and movement, swmimming, cookery and theme-based stuff.

I'm glad that Caitlin is attending this kindergarten as she does enjoy most of the activities. Of course,there are days (many, in fact)when she says she does not want to go to school and prefers to stay at home to play. But most times, she is happy once she steps into the school grounds, participating in the action songs at assembly and getting chatty with me when I pick her up after school, relating what she did or what happened that day. She can be quite a 'gossipper' at times telling me who was naughty and got scolded, who cried, who was sick and threw up and what colour medicine she took, which girl has long hair and what hair accessories she had, what type of nail polish a classmate had.....

It is clear to me that her kindergarten attempts to be well-rounded in covering as many areas as possible in 'educating' the kids. How successful they are is a different thing since there are so many variables. Every teacher and the level of dedication and attention he/she gives is different, every child is different.

What is important is our involvement to complement and enhance what they have been taught at school. Her school tries to get parents involved by giving a simple homework every week based on the week's theme for parent and child to do together. Last week's theme was "My Family" and the kids learnt about family members and their duties. We had to paste our family photo in the homework book and Caitlin had to write how many members there are in our family and share what she learnt of the duties of each family member.

I was pretty disappointed when she told me teacher said daddy washes the car and goes to office while mummy cooks and washes. Maybe she was taught more but only remembered those few facts or maybe it's what she sees in her own family. After some prompting, she revealed that mummy also does go to the office while I added 'alternative' ideas to avoid the stereotyping. But what amused me most was when I asked her what her duty was and very innocently, she said, "Playing with toys".....

Monday, March 26, 2007

Internet opportunities

The internet has indeed opened many doors for those who choose not to be tied down to a nine-to-five job. There are so many people earning their keep and even much more just by taking advantage of the various possibilities the internet offers nowadays.

The most recent one I've come across is writing comments or reviews of websites,products or services advertised in dedicated sites offering bloggers such opportunities.

The internet presents flexibility so people like homemakers, retirees,students and also those with nine-to-five jobs can earn extra cash by offering products and services at their own time. And if they are newbies at this, help is available online through forums, support groups, websites. And there are lots of other resources out there it's totally information overload at times once you start searching, Google-ing, etc.

Even billion-dollar 'traditional' brick-and-mortar businesses have also gone online while there are also newer businesses who have become billion-dollar ones simply by conducting its business through the internet. It's "e-commerce", "e-this" "e-that" nowadays...

And this also presents opportunists an avenue to make quick bucks by duping, cheating or doing business the unscrupulous way. It's important to be aware and know the difference between legal and illegal transactions, products, and companies, to find out more about the people or company behind the business.

Thursday, March 22, 2007


Oh my, it's been raining heavily almost non-stop for three days now. Prior to this, we were suffering from the scorching heat and Caitlin was dressed in sexy tank tops, halter and spaghettis most afternoons. Now, I have to make sure it's not too cold for her at night or in the early mornings. Her not-so-strong lungs have to be treated with tender loving care. It's hard sometimes to draw the line where keeping her health in check is concerned.

She has stopped using her inhalers for 4-5 months already and so far, she's been fine except for two episodes of high fever. When do you stop an almost 5-year-old from running, jumping, shouting, crying, screaming and from having lots of fun before she starts coughing as her lungs can't take all that hyperactivity? Like in everything we do in life, we just have to manage, manage and manage somehow!

Prior to Caitlin being diagnosed as having mild asthma, I had always thought that asthma is a severe lung condition which symptoms are only wheezing and breathlessness , with 'attacks' happening frequently, like when one of my Singaporean cousins turned blue one night umpteen years ago while holidaying at our home in Melaka.

After having experienced it firsthand through Caitlin, we are now more educated about the condition. Thankfully, Caitlin's is currently under control and while she had some episodes of wheezing and bad, chronic coughs in her early days, she has never had any attacks which required us to rush her to the hospital.

Check out this site for more info about this condition.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Remembering Jennifer

My dear friend Jennifer would have turned 39 today if not for the Big C which took her away from us one week shy of her birthday last year. She faced it bravely and was one of the most positive persons I have ever known. With her faith in God, courage and determination to not let the illness take over whatever was left of her time here on earth, she outlived her doctor's prognosis. Typical of the Jennifer I knew who was the perfectionist who always had everything planned and organised, her funeral was a beautiful one which celebrated her new life in heaven, instead of one filled with hopelessness and sorrow. Even her obituary read "Junior's Mummy Goes To Heaven" with a beautiful portrait of her smiling.

I remember the one day I spent 'babysitting' her at home simply chatting, listening, and massaging her. I didnt' think then that it would be my last time of being in her conscious presence. I am however glad that we said goodbye that way. We exchanged smiles and "I love you"s.

Death is inevitable. However, I believe that when it's faced with faith, hope and love, the journey could be a little more pleasant for everyone.

Happy Birthday Jennifer and I believe you are having a heavenly party as you normally would!

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

A new adventure

I call this an open journal, one that is open literally to the world. In the days before the worldwide web existed, the world seemed unreachable and journals were mostly 'closed' or secret. The last time I kept a real journal was over 20 years ago when I was in my teens, jotting my thoughts, feelings and detailing my daily experiences in a secret diary. I still have them stashed away somewhere in an old shoe box in the recesses of a location I should not disclose!

I had first thought of blogging close to six months ago and the idea remained just an idea at the back of my mind, taken over by the daily demands of life, a new business venture and the mischievous antics of my playful and active daughter Caitlin. Later, a close friend created one for our close-knit circle of friends to post and share thoughts and updates on our lives. Thus began my blogging experience and I found it quite fun and helpful.

Whilst a joint blog among friends catered to certain common needs, I found it limiting as I was still not free to write about some things of my own and mainly, what I wrote could not be viewed by others outside that circle, my other friends and family.

So here it is, 'Stories of ACE', my own blog -- a new adventure among the many adventures I have taken and am taking as I travel through the ups and downs of life. It is here where I hope my family and friends can take a peek into the happenings of the lives of Anna, Caitlin and Eugene if they wish to.