Friday, November 27, 2009

Another god

Caitlin making up a story:...The two reindeer fell in love and mated. Then the female got pregnant.

Me trying to throw a spanner in: But they didn't get married... They have to get married first before they mate. God says must get married first, then only can mate and get pregnant.

Caitlin: They believe in another god lah...

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Ramblings after the music exam

After six months of learning her exam pieces, Caitlin finally completed her Grade 1 drum kit exam about 2.5 hours ago. She played her pieces well but it sounded like she was unsure and made some mistakes in the improvisation test. Whatever it is, I'm glad it's over. Being the non-practiser (she only started practising on a daily basis two weeks ago while averaging one practice a week on normal days), I think she has done well enough so far. While it would be great if she scored a distinction, just like how it'd be great if she scored straight A's in school, it's the effort that counts in the end as no one can be perfect at everything. Learning has to be fun, not a stressful chore.

I remember learning the piano as fun in my lower grades but when I reached grade 6 onwards, it started becoming a pain and a chore at times, especially nearing the exams. Those days, (I think even these days), most of the exams were the ABRSM ones which focused on classical pieces only, and required you to master the playing technics very well, and practise your scales, arpeggios like crazy. It was tiresome playing those three classical pieces over and over again for one whole year. Although the teacher also taught other pieces for leisure, most of them were still classical pieces. And the theory exams were also increasingly difficult with music history, composition and harmony in the higher grades, and all also classical based. Nevertheless, I managed to complete Grade 8.

Trinity Guildhall has non-classical syllabus but we didn't know about it then (the teachers did I'm sure but did not offer us the option). Trinity lets you play contemporary pieces like jazz for exams. And only Trinity has the syllabus for the drum kit (i.e. playing the entire drum set) while ABRSM's syllabus for the drum is only for the snare drum, under the percussion syllabus (more for classical/orchestral purpose I guess). If I had known about the Trinity syllabus, I'd probably have opted for that for my Grade 8 piano. While being able to play classical music well is good, I think it's better to be versatile with different styles of music and being able to play a variety of genres. Learning harmony only at Grade 6 is a bit too late in my opinion. Playing by ear is not even in the syllabus.

That's where I see the Yamaha Music syllabus giving the headstart and advantage for the child to develop his/her musical hearing, playing by ear, rhythm and composition abilities. At age 6, they are already leaning to compose songs, find the accompanying chords to given melodies and even transpose. Although not every child will be able to master these, at least they are learning it unlike ABRSM where I remember, only at age 15 or so, I learnt about writing chords and composing, and had not been given the opportunity to sharpen aural skills. I picked up playing by ear on my own but did not master it as I think I lacked the foundation (taking the ABRSM syllabus)and maybe also the natural talent.

Whatever it is, I think parents should be clear with the reasons they are giving their children music education. I had shared before (see here) why music education is beneficial. Like everything else, a child must not be forced or manipulated to learn something, simply because the parents think it would look good to have credentials for playing a musical instrument. Or even at least two musical instruments plus numerous co-curriculum activities in order to gain a place in a prestigious institution of higher learning. Or worse, if it is simply to keep up with the Joneses. The neighbour's child is learning the flute, violin and piano, so must their child....scary...why the need to compare, the need to be one up?

The child is the one who will be learning and playing the instrument(s) so it's best to ask the child if he/she is interested. (More here.) I believe care must also be exercised not to 'brainwash' the child to think that they will like a particular instrument of your personal choice. Also, whether they do well in the exams (if they do take them) should not be the measure of their worth. What's important is that they tried their best and are enjoying themselves learning.

I should remind myself of all these whenever I attempt to get Caitlin to practise or perfect a particular piece, or even in her studies. The piano and drums were after all her own choice even before I seriously considered starting her on musical instruments. I must learn to trust her to know what to do. We may think she's only seven and doesn't know what's good for herself but time and again she has shown she knows. Like drums and piano for instance. We nag at her to practise but when the time comes, at the last minute, she will practise on her own (even though we feel it could have been better if she started earlier!)I must not get caught up with the 'kiasu' mentality that's pretty rife in this ratrace society....

Meanwhile, there are many fun things awaiting us the next few weeks of the school holiday. Even getting C's Year 2 schoolbooks could be fun, with checking out the contents and wrapping the books, visiting some friends and their kids, taking short trips (hopefully) and a one-week holiday in Singapore visiting mostly kids' attraction places and catching up with relatives there.

First few days of long holiday

School officially ended last Friday although Caitlin skipped school that day. Her school was having 'gotong royong' on that day to clean the classrooms etc and since she was having slight runny nose and also gets into sneezing fits when she's in a dusty environment, I decided to keep her out of school.

Saturday was a rather slow start to the school holidays. We woke up late and I made frendch toast for breakfast. After doing some stuff around the house, we went out to lunch, hoping to catch the last day of the Isetan and Jusco sale to get some Christmas pressies for family. Caitlin likes to go to Jusco to play at the children's amusement place. It's a place where parents' money gets wasted in my opinion. Upon arrival at the mall, we had lunch first, then we headed to Isetan despite constant grumbles from C as she wanted to go to Jusco first. The grumbles got louder and louder and more annoying so after 15 minutes in Isetan and not having the freedom to shop around, we decided to head to Jusco. Managed to get a few presents in Jusco while Caitlin satisfied her craving at the amusement place.

Sunday morning saw me giving Rusty a much-needed bath. Caitlin offered to help because I said Rusty is actually her dog. But as usual, her helping was just a few minutes of holding the hose, getting some shampoo on her hands and rubbing his body a few times, and screaming everytime Rusty shakes.

After lunch, Caitlin and I headed to a friend's house for a birthday party. It was a chef's hat and cupcake decorating party for my friend's 6-year-old daughter. It was an all-girl party i.e. very manageable with 12-13 kids, minus the kungfu fighting type of rowdiness you tend to get with boys around. The girls in their pretty dresses just sat quietly drawing paterns, pictures, sticking stickers and glitter glue on the paper hat, no fights for the art materials etc. They then wore their hats and decorated cupcakes.

Yesterday (Monday), we went out to lunch before doing some grocery shopping. Then in the evening, Caitlin had her last drum lesson before her exam later today at noon.

I'm planning to take it easy today so that we're not too stressed out before her exam. After that, we'll head to lunch somewhere near the exam place. In the evening, she has her usual weekly art class. That leaves me free for two hours. I'll most likely visit the farmer's market nearby and pack some dinner from there. Hopefully it doesn't rain.

That's how the school holiday has been for us so far. I have to remind myself to go to school and get her school books for next year soon.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Last week of school

This week is the last week of school for 2009! I'm so happy that starting next week, Caitlin and I don't have to wake up at 6 a.m. on weekdays! Maybe Eugene also can wake up a bit later as he doesn't need to send Caitlin to school before heading to his office. But the dilemma is what I'm going to do with Caitlin. How to keep her occupied and out of my hair while I do the household chores and spend time on the computer? She'll probably want to use the computer too, and want my attention when it comes to playing, especially board games....and she has rather short attention span and is a pretty impatient girl. Books can keep her occupied but once she starts reading a book, she won't put it down. She can finish a book like Geronimo Stilton in less than an hour. This means I need to have a big stack ready....but one thing good is she'll re-read them many times over so hopefully she'll do that when she runs out of things to do.

She needs to practise more intensively this week for her drum exam which will take place next Tuesday. Hopefully, she will remember to play in the right tempo and expression. She is over-confident with her playing and tends to get carried away and plays too fast, and as a result, makes mistakes and ignores when she should be playing loud or soft or crescendo etc.

I've not made any structured plans to keep her occupied unlike some mothers. They are so hardworking that they'll plan a timetable with lots of entertaining and educational activities to occupy their kids during the holidays. And they'll sit down together with the kids to do all the activities like puzzle books, art and craft, computer-based learning, reading, games etc. I'm getting lazier over the years.

Other moms will look out for holiday programmes offered by all those expensive enrichment centres and enrol their kids there to keep them occupied and learn something. That's the easy and expensive way out. These exnrichment centres make extra income during school holidays. They know that parents are willing to pay any amount for their kids' benefit. Actually, some of the programmes they offer can be easily duplicated at home if you are hardworking enough to source for the info and materials yourself, especially from the Internet, and sacrifice your personal time to spend with and homeschool your kids. That's a better way I believe although some parents may argue that they are working, they are not experts in certain subjects etc. Whatever it is, to each their own I guess. We need to only bear in mind that our kids get a balanced, fun and healthy lifestyle during the holidays.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The boring subject of weather (continued)

I posted the earlier post this afternoon while seated at the waiting area of Caitlin's school. School dismisses at 2.35pm and I was there at 1.50pm i.e. 45 minutes early. These days, I prefer to get there earlier before it starts to pour. By going earlier, I also get a better chance to get a spot to park my car along the roadside nearer to the school entrance.

The school has a queue system for cars whereby we can queue and drive up to the school gate and display a placard with our child/children's name for the teacher on duty to call them out and they hop into the car when it's our turn. But that takes a very long time because sometimes the kids belonging to cars in front of us come out of their classrooms later or slower than mine. And some parents plus transporters are so kiasu that they want to be first in line, so they arrive at school 1.5 to 2 hours before dismissal, and park their car in line already.

Parents like me who don't want to get caught waiting for ages in line to pick up our kids will therefore park further down the road, walk up the steep slope and meet the kids at the waiting area and walk them back to the car. I get my daily exercise walking up the slope but that kind of puts a strain to my bad knee.

Sometimes, a mother of Caitlin's classmate gets there early around the same time as me so we chat. Today, I was extra early and I didn't bring any reading material with me so I decided to meddle with my mobile phone and check email, Facebook and finally decided to blog a bit. Blogging using my mobile phone is tedious and the connection is slow. And my mobile phone is not the type which has extra large screen or the qwerty keypad. Hence, the rather disjointed and abruptly ended post below.

Back to the weather. It looks like globally, the weather patterns have changed. Typhoons, floods, droughts etc seem to be more frequent and threatening. I remember years ago when the year-end monsoon season started only in December. Now, it's raining everyday heavily and continuously, causing floods in the northern states of Kedah, Kelantan and Trengganu. In the Klang Valley, flash floods and landslides threaten cars and commuters during peak traffic hours and houses, and high-rise apartments built on hillslopes are at risk....

The boring subject of weather

It has been raining everyday the past few weeks. The upside to that is I don't need to water my plants. The down side is that it always rains right at the time when school dismisses. It is a hassle getting Caitlin from school with the raincoat and umbrella plus having to carry her schoolbag. And her school is located on a hillslope.
Walking downhill with rainwater gushing down the road, we have to be very careful.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Good mind, bad mind

Caitlin was rather chatty at dinnertime today, telling numerous stories about school and her activities, sharing opinions and ideas. In the course of the conversation she used the word 'poophead'.

I seldom hear that particular word but it struck me as an alternative to "sh*thead" that people in general often use. So I asked her how and where she got that word from. Her reply was very simple, spontaneous and glib.

"I made it up myself. No, I didn't read it in any book or hear it in the TV. It's just the bad side of my mind that came up with it. The bad side infected the good side of my mind. The left side of my mind is the good side, the God side. The right side of my mind is the bad side, the Devil side...."

Aiyo, there goes my 'loyar buruk' again....

I'm back

Hello! I'm back here again. We actually got a new computer monitor last week, a slightly larger one, which somehow gives me the odd feeling like everything on the screen has become smaller!

I've recovered from the stress of the two parties I had to coordinate - the one at school for Children's Day and two days after that, Caitlin's birthday. I actually returned home rather hoarse from shouting at the top of my lungs at Caitlin's class to listen to instructions of the games we wanted them to play. Once the games got started, they lasted for about 10 minutes at best! These kids just didn't have the attention span and preferred to simply rough about, jump about, scream and shout, especially the boys who were the majority in Caitlin's class. Some of the games were literally abandoned with the kids (especially those at the back) just turning away to do their own thing, so we simply gave up on them after three games. It was only when we were about to dismiss them and hand out the goodie bags (the attention grabber) that they listened.

As for Caitlin's birthday party, it turned out well. About 21 (out of 26) kids from her class turned up! And we also had about 10 cousins, friends and some siblings of classmates. The activity organiser (luckily not me!) had her hands full getting them to dance to music and play games. There were games that included parents as well. The parents were very sporting, joining in the fun with loads of enthusiasm. Caitln's Pokemon-design birthday cake was a hit among some of the kids (especially the boys) and they came lining up repeatedly while I was cutting it to get their second, third, fourth helpings. Despite getting numerous food/drink breaks with ample food served, they must have been very hungry still after all the dancing, jumping and running.

Caitlin had a gala time opening all her presents that evening. But that was after she recovered from a rather long bout of sulking because some parent ate her favourite part of the cake with Pikachu's (a Pokemon character) picture on it. Partly my mistake. She had told me earlier she wanted it. I should have set it aside in a separate container since she didn't want to eat it then. After I served everyone, I had covered the cake box and set it aside in a corner, not expecting anyone to open it and help themselves to extra servings. But as Murphy's Law would have it, some parent (I was told) took the liberty to do so and unfortunately, it was that part that he or she cut off.....

Rusty turned one last Sunday. We didn't manage to celebrate it for him as we were simply busy catching up with stuff before the weekend ended. Poor thing...

About the weather -- it's been raining daily since mid last week. It usually starts in the late afternoon with drizzles and heavy downpours. On some days, it rains heavily in the middle of the night or early morning, making the next day a wet, gloomy day. Bad for laundry.

Caitlin brought home her report card for the recent year-end exams. Overall, she did better than we thought. When we got her exam papers for each subject, we felt she could have done better. But since she didn't put much effort into preparing for the exam, we accepted the results. On the whole, she scored above average marks. Glad that she got A's and a few B's, and no C's or D's or F's! Anyway, she's only in Year One. She's got a long way more to go where formal education is concerned so we should not be too 'kan cheong'. Her drum exam is coming up in 2.5 weeks' time. Expect her to be cool about it too.

I'd like to view her 'coolness' about exams positively. It's good in some ways that one should not be fazed by the tension of exams. They are simply a way of assessing if one has understood what he or she has learned. What good is it if you score straight A's simply because you are good at memorisingng facts and figures without fully understanding the subject? And different people learn at different paces, have different interests, talents, abilities. So we should not compare our children with others. So what if the neighbours kid scores 10 A's? So what if your friend's child can play the violin, piano, cello and dance ballet, jazz and hip hop? Am I going to copy what others are doing simply because I want to keep up, be one-up? It's scary when I see many parents filling up their kids' daily schedule with activity after activity, class after class in the name of trying to maximise their potential..... Sadly, this happens a lot in cities like Singapore and Kuala Lumpur.