Wednesday, November 13, 2013

An extraordinarily busy November

I am busier than usual this month with an unexpected daily responsibility which takes up my entire morning. Then I cram the entire day's routine chores and responsibilities in the afternoon and evening. That leaves me with hardly any room to breathe for anything extra. In fact, I might have to just put some routine stuff on the backburner temporarily too. Definitely no 'me' time for the longest period ever.

And school will be out for the year in a few days' time which means whatever I do, wherever I go, I have one easily irritable pre-teen like a thorn in my side, because the things I do and the places I go to may not be kid-friendly or liked by her.

Not having an extra pair of hands around the house makes it harder. It's in such a time I wish I have a domestic helper whom I can trust to do the no-brainer household chores, prepare food so that my cooking time is cut short, and keep watch on C if I need to go out to run errands for a short while.

It's difficult to not compare myself with other SAHMs who appear to have less things to worry about, less responsibilities to juggle. The list of  'if only' wishes is a long one. On one hand I wish for better circumstances, on the other, I appreciate that my circumstances are not as bad as some others'. I am amazed how some destitute, single mums with five mouths to feed keep it all together and come out triumphant.









Tuesday, October 22, 2013

October updates

October is coming to an end and very quickly, soon, it will be November and December and another year will be gone. This last quarter of 2013 will fly by very swiftly I foresee with all the things that we have to attend to, the activities and all.

C's year-end school exam just ended. As usual, she was cool about it. No revision, despite my frequent prodding. She continued with life as usual, and even made some bread and jelly by herself. She is teaching me to see things in a different way.



During my time, as I was growing up, my generation was taught that we need to study very hard, get into university, get a good job and you're set for life. Sounds like a straight rigid path to follow, knowing what I know now. I wish I had strayed from the path once in a while to find some lovely garden in the midst of the jungle and played there for awhile figuratively speaking. Maybe I could have discovered my true passion that way.

The weekend before her exams, we spent one day exploring Batu Caves and the adjacent Dark Cave. We climbed up the 272 steps of Batu Caves so that she could see what a Hindu temple in a cave is like, the various gods the Hindus worship. On the way down, we visited the Dark Cave, a conservation site. We took the Educational Tour and learned many things about how caves form, the various limestone structures and characteristics of a cave, the unique ecosystem of a cave, and some endangered species that can be found there -- much more interesting than staying at home and memorising the formula of the area of a triangle, I must admit.

 The world's tallest golden statue of Murugan at the base of the stairs.
 
The entrance of Batu Cave at the top of the stairs.

We didn't spot this spider but we spotted cave snails, other spiders, bats and cockroaches.

See here to learn more about Dark Cave.

So here's my take thus far on education, parenting and life. Note that it's MY take and I don't expect anyone to agree with me. I am writing this down to remind myself because I came from a different generation who sees things differently:

1. Every child is unique, so it's useless comparing mine with others.
2. Childhood is to be enjoyed, like I did mine.
3. Children (and adults) learn better and more when it's fun and interesting.
4.The bottomline is that the child must be happy wherever he is and in whatever he is doing.
5. It is important to do well in school (and I don't mean academically only), but it is not the most important thing in a child's life.
6. Exams are over-rated. It's just a way to measure how much one has learned and understood.
7. It is ok to fail an exam, as long as the child tried and did his best.
8. It is good to go to university but it is not a must.
9. Good character and values are more valuable than a string of A's, a high-salaried job or social status.
10. Life is not a race. It is not necessary for a child to read independently at two years of age, or enter university at 12.
11. Not knowing why one is learning, being forced to learn, rote learning, not relating and applying what one has learnt with real life is pointless.
12. It is good to expose a child to many experiences and activities, but only pursue the activity further if the child is interested. This does not mean the child can be allowed to give up an activity he was initially interested in immediately when the going gets too tough.
13. Thinking independently, speaking confidently, arguing rationally, problem solving creatively are good skills to develop.
14. Children grow up very quickly. There are some things I can only do with them when they are young, like teach them personal discipline, self-control, responsibility, love for family and God, i.e. there are many tricks which I can't teach to old dogs.

That's all I can think of for now.

This week, we will be celebrating C's 11th birthday. She is busy at school rehearsing a dance for their year-end concert, she has an outdoor nature camp to attend during the Deepavali long weekend, a drum exam to take the very next day after camp, a school field trip to a batik workshop, and finally, the year-end concert before school closes in mid-November.

I hope I will be able to quote Robert Frost later in life:

“I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I–
I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.”
~ Robert Frost, The Road Not Taken

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Thoughts about teachers

Yesterday, I read this article (please read it if you haven't, for a better background to my thoughts here) written by a young lady who decided to join the Teach For Malaysia programme.  There were comments by other readers who complimented her effort, saying there should be more teachers like her. She took the initiative and trouble. She did not just teach, she educated the children.

The first thought that came to my mind was "it should have been the parents, they should have taught their children, they should have educated them that there are people of other races besides their own, of different faiths, and race is not tied to religion". But I told myself that not all parents know or are aware of this need, not all parents can be there for their children, some parents don't know it themselves as they too grew up that way, not all children have parents. Not all children are so blessed like C to have me sacrifice my progressing career to have a stay-home mother who tries her best to educate her child, not only in academic stuff but in being a well-rounded, upright human being (ah yes, I am still dealing with this sacrifice issue after more than eight years. Maybe I need therapy for this, among other issues, but that's a story for another day).

And therefore, it is good that we have teachers like Cheryl Ann Fernando. Teachers have a great impact on their students. Children who go to regular school (who has heard of homeschooling? ;-) ) spend five to six hours a day with their teachers. Children whose parents work spend maybe an hour or two with their parents. Some get to only say 'good morning' and 'good night' to their parents. Yes, teachers can help, but it is up to them whether they choose to stick to teaching English, Math or whatever they teach, or to go the extra mile to educate them about things and people and values and share some of life's nuggets with them. Teachers can build, or break. Children look up to their teachers who impact their lives positively. There are stories of people attributing their success in life to a particular teacher.They also could go down a wrong path if a teacher, unfortunately, impacted them negatively.

I say this based on the examples drawn from my own life as a child during my schooldays, and as a mother sharing her daughter's life as a student now. When I was in school, I had good, and not-so-good teachers. What some of my teachers did and said back then, 30-40 years ago, still remain in my memory. That's how strongly teachers can touch a child's life in one way or another.

I had a good class teacher in Standard 5, Puan Zainun. She took note of her students' nature and character. She taught us Sejarah (History) in a way that made me listen in class despite hating to remember the dates and facts. When my mother and I went to school to collect the Standard 5 Assessment Exam results (yes, it was that long ago, way before UPSR came into the picture), she said to my mum "Anna is very timid, I shall make her a prefect next year" (to get me out of my shell). Those who know me now may not be able to imagine me back then. I was quiet, shy, timid. Put me on stage and I clam up. I was what C calls, which she has, Miss Goody Two Shoes. I studied hard, I did my homework the minute I got home from school, I even studied the forthcoming chapters without being told to, I revised what I had learnt that day after finishing my homework without being told to as well, I went to bed on time every night, nobody had to nag at me to do what was needed, I never got punished at school, primary school, that is (I had emerged out of my shell by secondary school, thanks to Standard 5 teacher's 'push', haha). Enough about me, back to good and not-so-good teachers. Puan Zainun was nice and good.

Standard 6 English teachers (or were they in Standard 5?). I had two of them. The first one, Mrs Ong, was one of those who trained overseas back then with the British teachers' training colleges (Kirkby/Brinsford in UK). She brought English to life in the classroom. It was my first time hearing terms like homonyms, learning to come up with a list of them. It was my first time learning phonetics, which was like magic and a new 'language'. She taught us songs, poetry and silly rhymes, she told us stories that expanded my mind's horizon, she made us act out silly skits. Then, she had to leave us for a new posting as headmistress of our sister school which we referred to as School 2 (we were in School 1). We got another English teacher, Mrs Chandy, who was no less wonderful, but a little firmer. She made English fun too. I was encouraged to write compositions that were interesting. She got us working in groups to put up musicals, dramas and dances for the school concert. To this day, I still remember the lyrics of 'The World is a Circle', a song from, I found out later as an adult, the movie Lost Horizon. Four of us also recited the lyrics of that song in a state-level choral recitation competition which we won. A few of my classmates are now journalists and I believe it was those seeds planted then that germinated. I was 12 years old then. I am 45 now. I'm sure if my memory does not fail me, I will remember these teachers and experiences at my deathbed.

For C, she had an English teacher this year whom she liked, Madam Sarah, until the teacher was transferred to another class. I would say C's command of English is relatively good, but she was encouraged to push her boundaries with this teacher because lessons in class were fun and interesting. It is when lessons are interesting and the teacher 'connects' with the kids, that kids will ask 'how high' when told to jump. It is when teachers go beyond merely teaching that kids will listen and accept when taught that Indians may not necessarily be Hindus.

Back then, my school had a well-balanced mix of students of different races. We didn't differentiate ourselves as Hindu, Christian, Buddhist, Chinese, Malay or Indian. We spoke to each other in Malay and English with no difficulty. We played together during recess time, after school and even outside of school in the evenings, we visited one another's homes during Chinese New Year, Deepavali and Hari Raya. We didn't know any better or worse, we just 'were', if you know what I mean. So unlike Cheryl Ann, our teachers didn't have to teach us that, neither did my parents, but like the abovementioned teachers, they taught us other things besides History and English. They taught me to be less timid and shy, to speak up, to acquire leadership skills and to practise teamwork, among others.

We were among the early batches who learned everything (except English) in Bahasa Malaysia when the government changed the syllabus to be taught in the national language. Back then, Mathematics was known as Ilmu Hisab, Geography was Ilmu Alam. It was only in secondary school that Mathematics became Matematik and Geography became Geografi. But I had no issues with switching between both languages. We referred to 'Additional Maths' as it is when we spoke in English, and as Matematik Tambahan when we spoke and learned it in BM. I continued switching between English and Malay terms with no difficulty in a local public university. I'm not sure now (and I don't really care to be honest), but back then, local public universities were to teach in BM despite 99 per cent of tertiary books being in English. My lecturers peppered their lectures in BM with English. We referred to the tripod as 'tungku kaki tiga'. I spelled 'bacteria' as 'bakteria', 'genes' as 'gen-gen' , answered all exam papers and wrote my thesis in BM, using reference books in English.

Today, C hates BM. She hardly mixes with people who speak that language. When asked to provide an adjective for a thin/skinny person, she says 'nipis' instead of 'kurus'. At Year 5, her BM is probably at Year 1 level. Majority of kids at private schools speak English, majority of kids at Chinese schools speak Mandarin, majority of kids from public schools speak Malay. What has happened in the span of one generation? I acknowledge that as parents, we could have done more but we are not entirely at fault here, whether you agree or not. However, that's another discussion.

As for not-so-good teachers, or rather, to be fair, not-so-good experiences with teachers, we do have a few, between C and I. In Standard 3, I had a not-so-good class teacher and I won't mention names for not-so-good teachers. She was strict, fierce and abusive verbally and physically. She would walk around the class wielding a the huge wooden ruler (the big type for drawing lines on the blackboard) calling out names one by one to answer questions. We had to stand up from our seats to answer and if the answer was wrong, we got whacked on the back with the ruler. We were nine years old in Standard 3. We were terrified of her. A classmate had the runs one day and was too afraid to ask for permission to go to the toilet. She sat through class all day drenched from waist down in greenish excrement. The teacher knew but didn't bother. Miss Goody Two Shoes here completed her Math work ahead of the bell, walked up to the teacher at her desk to hand it up to be marked. A swift palm landed on her cheek that left some scars in an otherwise blissful memory of her schooldays. The class was noisy and was grounded in class the entire recess time. Some kids suffered gastritis the next day. There are other horrific things the teacher did but I shall not mention it here.

Thankfully C has not encountered such a tyrant, but earlier this year, her spirit was dented when one teacher said to the entire class "In my 40 years of teaching, your class is the worst".  I had verified with another parent if this did happen. While I understand the teacher could have been stressed out teaching a class with diverse levels of aptitude for that particular subject, with one or two truly mischievous, disruptive boys, I wish she didn't utter those words in haste. I know she is in fact a good teacher. I shouldn't categorise her as a not-so-good teacher but this particular incident is just my way to illustrate how a small thing could be a big thing when it boils down to how a child views a respectable teacher.

Recently, C was called up by another teacher to be reprimanded for talking back to a prefect. C is not Miss Goody Two Shoes like me, she holds her own when it comes to teasing, bullying, and defending herself even when she is the one who did wrong. She felt a little down telling me about it. She said the teacher explained to her that the prefect was chosen because he is 'good and smart'. To give the benefit of doubt, I commend the teacher who must have also explained further in detail why she shouldn't have behaved rudely to the prefect. Maybe I'm over protective or biased but maybe, just maybe, C would have felt differently if she wasn't told that the prefect is 'good and smart'. I told C she is also good and smart. All children are good and smart, in their own unique way. So do you think you can be chosen as a prefect? I asked. Immediately she chimed with a knowing smile, "Noooo waaay!" She said even if she was chosen, she'd decline because she didn't want to wake up extra eraly to get to school for prefect duties, she wanted to enjoy her free time at recess and not do prefect duties. Is that 'good and smart'? Again, I should not categorise this teacher as 'not-so-good', certainly C's teachers mentioned here are far from my Standard 3 tyrant. it's is more like the situation or incident was not so good. But the point I want to make again with these illustrations is that teachers can build or break, because apart from parents, they spend a considerable amount of time with the children.

This may not be related but I want to share it anyway. I had shared some third party information about an educational workshop in an online group comprising teachers, parents and students. I got chided for 'spamming' with the rationale that the teachers would be insulted because it implies that they are not good enough and they and parents need to spend money to get outside help. It was just one post with innocent, good intentions, and not a flood of many 'advertisements' over a period of time. I had even the sensitivity and consideration, albeit after posting, to ask if it was permissible, and I was ungraciously chided, even more so after I replied with an explanation and suggestions on how other people like me could be prevented from doing such things, innocently or otherwise. I'd like to look at it positively that the person in charge cares enough to protect the interest of that online group, especially the teachers, although I felt it was over-reacted upon. I would have accepted it better if I was spoken to more graciously since I had apologised. However, I also wonder if the teachers really felt insulted by that one deed of mine. I would like to think that any qualified, experienced, self-confident teacher worth his or her own salt (not sure if I'm using this idiom correctly) would not have. They would have been open-minded and magnanimous enough to view it as mere information at the very least. Oh well, there's always two sides to a coin and I don't want to determine who's right or wrong.

Dear teachers, I take my hat off to you for what you are doing. I am not worthy to join your circle because I am not qualified as one, I don't have the care, patience and dedication to deal with even one not-so-goody-two-shoes at home, let alone a whole classroom full of boisterous, but precious, kids. I pray that you will impact each child you meet along your journey as teachers in mostly positive ways. I understand that there could be negative moments because that's just the way life is. We're all not perfect. We just need to remember to strive towards it.

Thank you for bearing with me in this very, very long post. I've not written such a long one in a very, very long time. I felt I needed to.






Friday, September 27, 2013

Don't Carpe Diem

I haven't posted here for over a month. Usually my longest is 2-3 weeks. There's been too much going on lately and right now, I can't even place a finger on the 'what and where' of all that's 'going on'. My mind's rather blank, not that it's 'blank' blank, but like when you go to a huge library, with rows and rows of books on rows and rows of shelves from wall to wall, floor to ceiling....you can't see an individual book but a big, huge blurry image of so many, many books. Gee, I don't even know if what I've just written makes any sense!

Anyway, just some quick updates with whatever I can recall. The days have been rather routine....and for those in temperate countries in the northern hemisphere, summer's just gone and fall has come. We're entering the final quarter of 2013! Gosh, where did the year go? C's going to take her school's end-of-year exam in mid October. We're at another crossroad. She will be in Year 6 next year. Her final year of primary school. As we had switched her to an international syllabus this year, she has the option to sit or not sit for the UPSR. Yes or no? I'm still wondering. When we don't have any choices, we complain. When we have, we also complain....

C's eczema and allergies as usual are roller-coastering. I took her yesterday to get an alternative approach to managing it. Will see how it goes within the next few weeks before I provide more information here. The place is in Desa Seri Hartamas, the other end of KL and this specialist is a busy one so I managed to get an appointment which saw us arriving straight from school just in time. After we got done, we decided to have an early dinner at the adjacent mall before heading home. We got caught in after-office traffic and it took us 1.5 hours to reach home. It was a long day for both of us but we managed. It helped that we heard a song on radio closer towards home -- this parody of the current, strange hit of " The Fox". For me, it's Gangnam meets Bollywood by a Norwegian group.

And this is the parody by our local radio station:
 


I continue my love-hate relationship with writing for some money. The same goes with parenting. Recently I read an article in Huffington Post which expressed this really well.

Don't Carpe Diem
Every time I'm out with my kids -- this seems to happen:
An older woman stops us, puts her hand over her heart and says something like, "Oh, Enjoy every moment. This time goes by so fast."

Everywhere I go, someone is telling me to seize the moment, raise my awareness, be happy, enjoy every second, etc, etc, etc.

I know that this message is right and good. But, I have finally allowed myself to admit that it just doesn't work for me. It bugs me. This CARPE DIEM message makes me paranoid and panicky. Especially during this phase of my life - while I'm raising young kids. Being told, in a million different ways to CARPE DIEM makes me worry that if I'm not in a constant state of intense gratitude and ecstasy, I'm doing something wrong.

I think parenting young children (and old ones, I've heard) is a little like climbing Mount Everest. Brave, adventurous souls try it because they've heard there's magic in the climb. They try because they believe that finishing, or even attempting the climb are impressive accomplishments. They try because during the climb, if they allow themselves to pause and lift their eyes and minds from the pain and drudgery, the views are breathtaking. They try because even though it hurts and it's hard, there are moments that make it worth the hard. These moments are so intense and unique that many people who reach the top start planning, almost immediately, to climb again. Even though any climber will tell you that most of the climb is treacherous, exhausting, killer. That they literally cried most of the way up.

And so I think that if there were people stationed, say, every thirty feet along Mount Everest yelling to the climbers -- "ARE YOU ENJOYING YOURSELF!? IF NOT, YOU SHOULD BE! ONE DAY YOU'LL BE SORRY YOU DIDN'T!" TRUST US!! IT'LL BE OVER TOO SOON! CARPE DIEM!" -- those well-meaning, nostalgic cheerleaders might be physically thrown from the mountain.

Now. I'm not suggesting that the sweet old ladies who tell me to ENJOY MYSELF be thrown from a mountain. These are wonderful ladies. Monkees, probably. But last week, a woman approached me in the Target line and said the following: "Sugar, I hope you are enjoying this. I loved every single second of parenting my two girls. Every single moment. These days go by so fast."
At that particular moment, Amma had arranged one of the new bras I was buying on top of her sweater and was sucking a lollipop that she must have found on the ground. She also had three shop-lifted clip-on neon feathers stuck in her hair. She looked exactly like a contestant from Toddlers and Tiaras. I couldn't find Chase anywhere, and Tish was grabbing the pen on the credit card swiper thing WHILE the woman in front of me was trying to use it. And so I just looked at the woman, smiled and said, "Thank you. Yes. Me too. I am enjoying every single moment. Especially this one. Yes. Thank you."


That's not exactly what I wanted to say, though.
There was a famous writer who, when asked if he loved writing, replied, "No. but I love having written." What I wanted to say to this sweet woman was, "Are you sure? Are you sure you don't mean you love having parented?"

I love having written. And I love having parented. My favorite part of each day is when the kids are put to sleep (to bed) and Craig and I sink into the couch to watch some quality TV, like Celebrity Wife Swap, and congratulate each other on a job well done. Or a job done, at least.

Every time I write a post like this, I get emails suggesting that I'm being negative. I have received this particular message four or five times -- G, if you can't handle the three you have, why do you want a fourth?
That one always stings, and I don't think it's quite fair. Parenting is hard. Just like lots of important jobs are hard. Why is it that the second a mother admits that it's hard, people feel the need to suggest that maybe she's not doing it right? Or that she certainly shouldn't add more to her load. Maybe the fact that it's so hard means she IS doing it right...in her own way...and she happens to be honest.


Craig is a software salesman. It's a hard job in this economy. And he comes home each day and talks a little bit about how hard it is. And I don't ever feel the need to suggest that he's not doing it right, or that he's negative for noticing that it's hard, or that maybe he shouldn't even consider taking on more responsibility. And I doubt anybody comes by his office to make sure he's ENJOYING HIMSELF. I doubt his boss peeks in his office and says: "This career stuff...it goes by so fast...ARE YOU ENJOYING EVERY MOMENT IN THERE, CRAIG???? CARPE DIEM, CRAIG!"
My point is this. I used to worry that not only was I failing to do a good enough job at parenting, but that I wasn't enjoying it enough. Double failure. I felt guilty because I wasn't in parental ecstasy every hour of every day and I wasn't MAKING THE MOST OF EVERY MOMENT like the mamas in the parenting magazines seemed to be doing. I felt guilty because honestly, I was tired and cranky and ready for the day to be over quite often. And because I knew that one day, I'd wake up and the kids would be gone, and I'd be the old lady in the grocery store with my hand over my heart. Would I be able to say I enjoyed every moment? No.


But the fact remains that I will be that nostalgic lady. I just hope to be one with a clear memory. And here's what I hope to say to the younger mama  gritting her teeth in line:
"It's helluva hard, isn't it? You're a good mom, I can tell. And I like your kids, especially that one peeing in the corner. She's my favorite. Carry on, warrior. Six hours till bedtime." And hopefully, every once in a while, I'll add -- "Let me pick up that grocery bill for ya, sister. Go put those kids in the van and pull on up -- I'll have them bring your groceries out."
Anyway. Clearly, Carpe Diem doesn't work for me. I can't even carpe fifteen minutes in a row, so a whole diem is out of the question.


Here's what does work for me:
There are two different types of time. Chronos time is what we live in. It's regular time, it's one minute at a time, it's staring down the clock till bedtime time, it's ten excruciating minutes in the Target line time, it's four screaming minutes in time out time, it's two hours till daddy gets home time. Chronos is the hard, slow passing time we parents often live in.
Then there's Kairos time. Kairos is God's time. It's time outside of time. It's metaphysical time. It's those magical moments in which time stands still. I have a few of those moments each day. And I cherish them.

Like when I actually stop what I'm doing and really look at Tish. I notice how perfectly smooth and brownish her skin is. I notice the perfect curves of her teeny elf mouth and her asianish brown eyes, and I breathe in her soft Tishy smell. In these moments, I see that her mouth is moving but I can't hear her because all I can think is -- This is the first time I've really seen Tish all day, and my God -- she is so beautiful. Kairos.

Like when I'm stuck in chronos time in the grocery line and I'm haggard and annoyed and angry at the slow check-out clerk. And then I look at my cart and I'm transported out of chronos. And suddenly I notice the piles and piles of healthy food I'll feed my children to grow their bodies and minds and I remember that most of the world's mamas would kill for this opportunity. This chance to stand in a grocery line with enough money to pay. And I just stare at my cart. At the abundance. The bounty. Thank you, God. Kairos.

Or when I curl up in my cozy bed with Theo asleep at my feet and Craig asleep by my side and I listen to them both breathing. And for a moment, I think- how did a girl like me get so lucky? To go to bed each night surrounded by this breath, this love, this peace, this warmth? Kairos.

These kairos moments leave as fast as they come- but I mark them. I say the word kairos in my head each time I leave chronos. And at the end of the day, I don't remember exactly what my kairos moments were, but I remember I had them. And that makes the pain of the daily parenting climb worth it.

If I had a couple Kairos moments during the day, I call it a success.

Carpe a couple of Kairoses a day.

Good enough for me.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

School holidays are here again!

I'm forever lamenting here in this blog that time flies way, way too fast. It's one month since I updated this blog. We're in the midst of school holidays, again! This time it was preceded by the Hari Raya holiday which fell on last Thursday and Friday and school has been out since then till end of this week.

It's a good thing that C didn't get any homework at all from school this time around. Either that, or she decided not to bring the work home! She's capable of that at times! But I trust that the teachers really didn't give any homework this time :)

As usual, we, or rather C, has grand plans to do many things during her free time. But since she is the type who dawdles and lives in the moment, she is pretty slow (by my standards) in getting things moving.

She however surprised us on the first morning of the holidays by waking up at 6.30am. On normal school days, that would be rare as we'd have to shake her out to get to school on time! She couldn't go back to sleep so I jokingly suggested she went and got breakfast ready. Lo and behold, she did. She came to us with a notebook and pencil and asked us for our breakfast orders *rolling my eyes*

While E and I continued to laze in bed for a while, she made sandwiches with butter and jam, and a fried egg for E, cereal with milk and an omelette for me, plus coffee for both of us.


 
 
During the Hari Raya break, we caught two movies, Wolverine and Percy Jackson on two separate days, at two different movie theatres. The two sweet-tooth people in my family had to have popcorn, of course.
 
Apart from movies, tv, iPad and computer games and videos from Brainpop, C started another 'storybook' of her own, writing an assortment of her own stories.
 
Yesterday, we sent her to a 3-day, 2-night nature camp at Janda Baik. She was so excited to go that she awoke at 4am. After dropping her off and returning to KL, E and I decided to visit Petaling Street, KL's Chinatown.
 
It's been more than 10 years since I last went there. Things have changed in that old part of KL. The roads were rather messy with the construction of LRT tracks. Some old buildings were demolished to make way for them, what a pity. What's 'Chinese' that remains of Chinatown is the food, some of the shops selling clothes, bags, shoes, etc. As for the stalls lining the roadside selling all sorts of knock offs, most of them are now manned by foreigners like Bangaldeshis :( 

 
 
Murals by a group of people who want to preserve the heritage on Jalan Sultan where six lots of buildings have been demolished to make way for development. Watch this video for more info:




 
 
Foreigners manning stalls
 
But some 'historical' gems are still there if you've lived in KL long enough to know. For a foodie like me, I took note of the stalls that have been faithful residents there for decades, although they could now be manned by a younger generation.

 
The daughter of the original salted roast duck seller is now continuing the business. They have been here for decades, selling their roast ducks and wrapped duck feet delicacy out of this cart by the roadside.

 
The roast duck seller's well-known name, 'Sze Ngan Chye' (Four-eyed Guy). This highly recognisable signage with red and white letterings in this typical typeface has not changed at all. Talk about strong branding! 

 
 
This 'air mata kuching' (longan drink) stall has been here for as long as I can remember, at the corner of Hong Leong Bank. It used to be a must-buy for E long ago during our single days when we visited this place, so yesterday, he re-lived 'history' by buying a cup, now priced at RM1.50. Those days, they served it in a bowl and many people would stand around the stall, drinking from the bowl.
 

 
This is another decades-old stall selling fried snacks and some specialty Cantonese kuih, including 'sat kei ma', 'siu hou chou', 'ham chim peng', 'mah kiok', 'hup tou sou', etc.
 

 
On our way home, we had to stop at a the traffic light junction facing Central Market. The former wet market of old, now a cultural/handicraft centre named Pasar Seni (Art Market) is now painted in light blue (I remember it as greyish or green back then). Alongside it, the alley has been transformed to what's called Kasturi Walk, with a giant wau (Malaysian traditional kite) fronting it!
 
 
It's good that I got to visit Petaling Street and drive past the areas surrounding it yesterday to take a look at the changes in town. Puduraya, the old central bus station got a facelift and the busy roundabout there is gone. The Klang Bus Station also got a facelift. The heart of old KL feels totally different from the one I used to know when I first moved here to live and work in the early 1990s....
 
Driving past Jalan Pudu on our way home, I could still at least feel that there wasn't as much change on that road, despite some new buildings coming up and the Pudu Jail gone. The popular Teochew porridge shop behind Berjaya Times Square (I can't stop thinking about food :-p) is still there too! 
 



 



Monday, July 15, 2013

Half a year's gone by!

Whoa! It's mid July already! It felt like just yesterday when I was thinking to myself on the first day of July that we've reached the half-year mark of 2013....So much to do, so much not done...the must-do's keep taking priority over the want-to-do's...it's just so exhausting and demotivating for me. But didn't I just go on a holiday to Singapore about 1.5 months ago? Speaking of which I have yet to write about the things we did and the places we went to there. Will I ever write about it? At this juncture, I'm doubtful....

Continuing from the previous post where I mentioned my brother and his family visiting, well, they left last weekend. We ate a lot, we caught up and chatted. We took a family photograph back at my parents' home :) The kids and C had fun together but typical of children, they fought a fair bit too, especially between C and her eight-year-old cousin. They are similar in some ways -- must always win and have the last say, practise tit-for tat, and will make very good lawyers in future. Meanwhile, the cute little five-year-old was happily tailing the two older ones everywhere and joining them in watching tv, playing toys and games on their handheld gadgets. There were times when the two older ones didn't give in to her and let's just say, the house was hardly quiet during those times.

Now that our guests have left, ACE is back to routine. However, the past two days were a little different. Cousin R, six years of age, is one active boy and he visited us on Saturday. He enjoys C's company (and adores 'che che' a lot) although the same cannot be said of C who, apart from Lego and tv, prefers other forms of entertainment at her age. However, they share a common interest in soccer. E who also enjoys the game took out his portable goal posts and set it up in our car porch. Saturday afternoon soccer between one adult and two kids took place. They had fun kicking the mini soccer ball around while the rest of us had fun watching.

C and I recently got ourselves rollerblades. We went over to the skating rink near the PJ Hockey Stadium and tried them out on Sunday evening. The last time I rollerbladed was before E and I were married when we and a couple of friends decided to make it a weekend thing together. I never got to master it then so it was back to the drawing board for me yesterday. I could skate, albeit slowly, and my stunts were limited to ungraceful landings on palms and knees and my saggy bottom. Hee hee hee. C did better although she is also a beginner learner. It's an age thing for sure. When you're young, you're fearless.

These physical activities are the wee beginnings of my desire to get C to be more active physically and for us to be outdoors more. I wish C's school is more supportive of female soccer. They initially discouraged C from joining but after she went and 'argued' her case to the principal, they allowed her to join the after-school practices last year. She was the only girl there. However, being a school that does not seem to emphasise too much on sports, their practices were axed when inter-school football season ended. Just last week, they announced that football practice is back on and C signed up but she changed her mind as again, she is the only girl on the field and didn't think she'd enjoy it this time. As much as I'd like her to be active in some outdoor activity or sport at school, especially in something she has interest in, I decided to let her forego soccer this year, looking at how she didn't gain much from last year's experience, being the only girl there...






Thursday, June 27, 2013

Home Affairs

I've been too busy to update this blog. June is a busy month and I foresee in July, I'll be playing catch-up with many things.

During the school holidays, we spent three nights in Singapore. We went to Universal Studios in Sentosa Island and Gardens by the Bay in Marina. We enjoyed ourselves in the short time we had there. I hope to be able to write more in detail about these places when I have the time.

This week and next, my brother and his family from overseas are visiting. So for the past one week, I was busy cleaning the house from top to bottom to make sure everything is in order for our guests so that there are clean rooms and beds for everyone, including my parents who also stayed over. Imagine cleaning, dusting and tidying a three-storey home, five bedrooms, five bathrooms, without the help of a maid or part-time cleaners and you can get an idea of how much time it takes. I didn't even do any windows or doors.

I realised that it takes an entire week to vacuum, mop, tidy up clutter, wipe dust off, and wash bathrooms for the entire house by doing all these bit by bit each day since there are other routine stuff like cooking, watering plants, grocery shopping, paying bills, writing, sending and fetching C, to attend to within a day. 

Since Saturday, ACE had a busy time enjoying the company of parents, siblings and cousins, catching up after quite a few years of not meeting up, and ensuring breakfast, lunch and dinner are taken care of.

Today I have a little breather as they have gone out of town. However, there are other stuff to attend to. I wish time could stand still. I'm behind in my writing and there's always unexpected 'problems' to attend to.

Yesterday morning the aircon technician finally came. Our living room aircon broke down on Saturday, the day my brother arrived. And it was very bad timing because of the haze. All our doors and window were shut tight to minimise the foul air from entering and we had to rely on just one aircon in the dining room to ventilate both the living and dining area. Thankfully, the other aircons in the bedrooms were ok and we could sleep comfortably at night.

After the aircon was fixed, there was a fuse for the circuit powering my fridge and washing machine. So I had to make a frantic call to the electrician to come and fix it. Luckily he made it by mid-afternoon and power was restored to the all-important fridge.

Maintaining a house is hard work and time consuming. Besides keeping it clean, tidy and comfortable, you have to keep attending to other physical problems like roof leakages, cracks on walls, electrical malfunctions of appliances and wiring, plumbing, security, gardening and pets, if you have any.

A "home minister's" job never ends.....

With the recent spate of fixes to various parts and things in the house, some of which were due to inferior materials and shoddy workmanship by the property developer, C asked if we could sue them. She jokingly said she'd be the lawyer. E suggested we sell the house and live in a tent. As for me, it would be nice if I could resign as home minister and go on a luxurious Mediterranean cruise.

Dre-e-e-am, dream, dream, dream...(you know that old song by the Everly Brothers?)

Monday, June 10, 2013

Privacy?

I am wondering if I should limit readership of this blog to 'selected' and 'by request only' readers. The reason is that this blog has stopped being an income-generating one for quite a few years, therefore it does not require full public exposure....

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Scholastic Books




I like Scholastic, the book publisher, because they have many nice children's books. They have a programme with schools for students to order books from their catalogues at a cheaper price, compared to the ones retailed at bookstores. There are also books that you can only get from this school catalogue that you cannot get at bookstores. Some book sets are sold at affordable prices too.

We have been getting many Scholastic books for C from this school programme since kindergarten. We are fortunate that her primary school is also participating in this programme so our 'supply' continues. Today, she came back with her latest order of 22 books amounting to RM244. She has read three in school and another one in the car on the way home.

Given a chance, she'll probably be reading all the books non-stop and finish reading all within a few days, so I told her she can read only two a day, and I'll be taking custody of all the new books. This is so that she will have time to do other stuff like practise her music, do new activities as the school holidays start next week, and not be sedentary with her nose buried in a book all day.

As for the two-week school holidays that starts next week, I'm hoping we will take the opportunity to utilise our time productively.

 

Monday, May 20, 2013

Relief

The school mid-year exam's over and it's me who feels relieved. C, as usual, was unfazed. 'Exam' is not a scary word for her. Don't get me wrong, she's not a genius academically. She just does what is required i.e. minimum work. I've advised and suggested that she does revision at least on a weekly basis on what she has learned during the week so that when it comes to exam time, she doesn't have to cram. The suggestion goes in one ear and out the other. Two weeks before exams, I tell her she should start revising. That also fell on deaf ears. And even one day before the exam, she does nothing much, maybe flip through the pages of the textbook and reluctantly work on some exercises in a workbook, for all of half an hour maybe. Life is as usual for her during exam week -- tv, story books, sketching, attend music classes....

I'm not that kind of person. I'm just the opposite. When I was a student, I studied hard. I planned my study timetable. I'd sit quietly at my desk and concentrate hard, reading, doing past year questions, etc. I could hear my heart beating fast as I sat in the exam hall. So with a child like this, imagine my difficulty in accepting her 'style'. I get stressed when I see her enjoying a story book instead of a textbook during exam week. I get angry when I ask her what exam she has the next day and she answers, "don't know". So, I am simply relieved now that the exam's over.

Was I supposed to drag her to a table and chair, pull out all her books, pile them up nicely and sit down with her and make her revise? Maybe that would be what some parents and their kids do. Some parents (kudos to them) take efforts to teach their kids how to do revision, how to draw up a revision schedule, how to do extra workbook exercises, question them verbally to check if they remembered/memorised the facts correctly. Later, the kids will learn to study independently on their own, and most likely score A's left, right and centre.

If I recall correctly, I tried doing a bit of that before when she was younger. It didn't bring about much change in her attitude towards studies or her exam results. So what did I do or didn't do that produces a result different from other parents and kids? I don't think that's a question I should even ask. I have come to learn that with C, forcing her to do something does not work. Persuasion? Reason? Threats? They don't work either. She will do only what she is interested in, she is not afraid of failure, she is not 'kiasu', she doesn't bother comparing herself with others.

There are pros and cons to these traits. When she is interested in something, nothing will stop her from pursuing it. That's when I see her ability to focus surface, and she will learn and progress in that area of interest. When she does not like something, she will just not like it, no matter how much you persuade or reason with her to get her to like it. Unfortunately, life sometimes cannot be lived that way because there'll be times when there are things which you don't like to do but you still have to do.

Ugh, it's just so hard to find a balance and be a nurturing parent.... I have to keep reminding myself that academic excellence is not everything. Specialised skills can get you to the top too. It is better to have a well-rounded child with proper emotional and social development than have an academic genius who doesn't know how to relate to people and the real world. They need to learn things like consideration, responsibility, independence, self-confidence, commitment, decision making, dealing with people of different ages, cultures, personalities, other life skills......so much to learn and be exposed to beyond 'school' stuff.

Bite-size bit:

Career advice from an 11-year-old.

 Dad said he is taking on a new portfolio at work.
Kid: Are you getting a raise?
Dad: No.
Kid: You should ask for a raise! Tell them "If u want me, you have to give me more money." It's like 'bribery'.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Happiness and Peace

This post was triggered by C who gave a 'bottomline' that she just wants to live a "happy and peaceful life" in a conversation I had with her yesterday. She was annoyed and disturbed by what took place in class the day before.

A few kids, including her, were reprimanded by their Math teacher for being careless and making mistakes in their work. To add fuel to the fire, a classmate who constantly loves to compare, asked her "How come  you are smarter than me, but you make so many mistakes?" C is often riled by this girl who regularly bugs her to compare how they both fared in school. C said to me, "I don't care about grades. I just want a happy and peaceful life."

I agree. While it's important to get good grades to the best of our abilities, we need to have a balanced view about how we go about life.  No point being successful academically, have a great job, lots of money, etc, and not be happy and at peace.

There are many, many quotes out there about happiness -- some I can recall off the top of my head are 'state of mind', and 'a choice'. Does it take effort to be happy? I think it does, especially if you're not happy and want to be happy. After some practice, you get the hang of it, and learn not to sweat the small stuff. You look for silver linings, you become more positive, you count your blessings more, you look outward more than inward, you give more than you take,.....

Here's something I found:

75 Happiness Quotes to Live By

Later in the evening, she came up with another one about 'peace'.

Me: I have a bad headache.
Her: Okay, do this. Breathe in, breathe out, breathe in, breathe out. Now, count to ten. How is it?
Me: Still have it.
Her: You need to be at peace! Then it'll go away.

The 'guru' of the ACE household has spoken ;-)

p.s. I'm not sure if C is 'smarter' than her classmate as claimed. In that particular context, C made more mistakes simply because she did her homework on her own. She tends to be careless. I don't check her work. I only help her if it's something she really doesn't know how to do. She's not caught up with wanting to ensure her work is perfect. She just wants to get it done (at the last minute usually) so that she can move on with more interesting stuff life has to offer. As for her classmate, her parents sit down with her and guide her through her homework, so I'm sure her work is more 'perfect' with less mistakes.



Saturday, May 4, 2013

'Slow and steady' -- not my motto

When I was reading the book I mentioned in the preceding post below, I gained some insight as to why I always get so worked up with C being what I view as not having any sense of urgency, lacking time consciousness, doing things at the very last minute. Her learning style profile is the opposite of mine.

This afternoon, she has a birthday party to attend. We told her she has to complete all her homework before going. After breakfast, I reminded her about her homework. And guess what? Miss Slow-and-Steady did not jump into her homework like her pants was on fire. Instead, it took what to me was ages before she sat down and opened her books. After that was done, it took her some time to pick up her pencil and work on her math calculations. Before she could even finish one question, she got off her chair and was heading upstairs.

Me: What are you doing?
Her: Going to look for a calculator. (obviously, trying to find a shortcut to complete her homework faster).
Me: Why do you need a calculator? You're not supposed to use a calculator! blah, blah, blah, blah.... (my short fuse at work again).

Dad comes into the picture: You cannot use a calculator.
Her: Then why XXX (classmate) can use?
Dad continues to give reasons, including: You need to know how to calculate on your own first, learn to work out how the numbers should be calculated, then you can get the right answer, even if you use a calculator. What if all the calculators in the world disappear?
Her: Get a genius, like Einstein, to make new ones.
Dad: He's dead.
Her: Thomas Edison?
Dad: Dead.
Her: Isaac Newton?
Dad: Dead.
Her: Their descendants?
Dad: If they are geniuses, why aren't they well known?
Her: Maybe they are publicity shy.
Dad: Okay, you've wasted enough time, just start your homework.

I'd have yelled "shut up, and just do your work!" which I admit I have done before, but that's not how parenting works these days. Back in our elders' days, it's common to do that.  We'd go by the saying "children should be seen and not heard" and tell them not to question and to simply do as they are told "because I'm your mother and I said so". 

It does feel like parenting was easier back then. Or were children more compliant then? As parents, we continue to learn on the job. Trial and error, different strokes for different folks, one size does not fit all, and sometimes, slow and steady does win the race like the Aesop fable.

Recent thoughts

About Reading

I have always been frustrated with the dilemma of C's love of books and reading. On one hand it's good but on the other, her extremism meets a daily battle with life's routine and schoolwork, ...... and teachers (who confiscate her books). But today, after reading many parents' challenges of teaching and getting their kids interested in reading (in a FB parenting group), I am thankful that at least I never had such problems as she somehow took to reading like duck to water. So, I should chill more about this. It's ok as long as she is happy.


About teaching and learning

C went outside one evening to play with Rusty. I saw her filling up one of his toys with kibble. It was a ball with holes where you can insert kibble inside. In order for the dog to get the kibble, he has to play with the ball and make the kibble spill out. I asked her what she was doing and she replied, "I'm giving Rusty a puzzle to teach him to be smart without him knowing."


What she said reminded me that it is the same with us humans. Learning through play helps us to learn more effectively. 'Indeliberate' learning, learning that is natural, learning through experience, like what she said, "becoming smart without knowing (realising) it", is better than forced learning, rote learning.

I'm reading a book titled "Every Child Can Succeed - making the most out of your child's learning style" which tells about how knowing your child's learning style can help make teaching, learning, homework and revision less of a pain. The book contains easy-to-understand info which at least for my situation, is very spot-on in defining C's style. Of course, what's on paper is easier than putting it into practice. The amount of conscious effort, awareness, and patience (which I severely lack!) required to bring this book to life is another story, or rather, a possible book about this book! Nevertheless, I find reading such books helpful to broaden our parenting perspectives.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Late, delayed updates

My average of fortnightly posts here took a backseat this time. I knew I was supposed to write last week but things got hectic. Somehow, there are always things that crop up unexpectedly that require time and attention. It's part and parcel of life for sure, so we just have to live with it.

Right now, I just can't seem to recall exactly what took place in ACE's lives last week. The week seems to have whizzed past in a blur....

I'm way behind in 'stocking up' on my writing for my fortnightly column as the existing stockpile is depleting quite quickly. A check on my last submission to the editor shows an email dated March 26. That means I've not been writing for a month. And a few days ago, I got another 'job' with a 6 May deadline....If it works out, I might become a regular 'supplier' for a new website. I think I'm getting too old and lazy for such 'pressure'. Why do I still do it, I wonder at times. Guess I'm a sucker for torture, and money, even if it's pittance. Gone are the days when work pressure and deadlines were a hundred times more when I was in the corporate world. I believe it has to do with mid-life crisis (my excuse), burnout and being uninspired -- a sticky rut to be stuck in. But maybe I shouldn't compare as things were different then. I had a full time job which paid a full time salary, EPF, sick leave, annual leave, medical benefits. Now, I have a full time job with no salary, freelance job which pays an annual sum of what I used to get as a monthly salary as an employee, no EPF or sick/annual leave or medical benefits. Sometimes, I think it's a scary thing to do -- to leave a good, full time career to be a SAHM.

E's birthday last week was a subdued affair as we don't usually make a big thing out of our birthdays, except for C's. It's enough that the extended family celebrates for every single member of the family, young and old (except for us 'out'laws, haha!). Twelve birthdays, Chinese New Year, Western New Year, Mother's Day, Father's Day, Christmas, wedding anniversaries at times (because everyone got married in November!), (and what other events?), bring the entire family together often enough to maintain the family togetherness.

Last Sunday, C and I played the drums and piano at church together so I had some practising to do. That took up some time as I had to figure out notes and chords on my own, something which I hadn't done in a long time, since schooldays, in fact, when I used to play in school, Girl's Brigade, and church.

C's school sports day turned out to be a non-affair last weekend as she insisted there was no point for her to go. Due to poor handling by the teacher-in-charge (my personal opinion) and apparent 'instigation' from a rival classmate, she was tossed between being a 4X100m runner and a reserve a couple of times, according to her. She got fed up with the whole thing so she didn't see the need to participate in the telematch as well since she didn't like telematches. Lately, school has not been too fun for C.... We tried encouraging her to go for team spirit reasons etc but to no avail.

This week, we faced yet another household kink. It's the outdoor water filter system this time. The pressure gauge became faulty and it also didn't do its periodic automatic flushing. Called the service people who said they'd come yesterday but as u-u-u-s-u-u-a-a-a-l, and not surprisingly, they didn't turn up. So it looks like I'll have to make another phone call on Monday... In addition, my mobile phone battery decided it was time to die so I'm in the process of getting a new one. Meanwhile, I have to put up with very short battery lifespan. I use the phone only when necessary and not whenever I feel like checking email, Facebook, take photographs, watch YouTube or TED videos.

I had been procrastinating in maintain my water lily jar for some time. The fish that I had that eats up the algae died mysteriously and the jar became too algae-ish for my liking. I don't know what that fish is called although the local aquarium shop people refer to it as 'bandaraya', as in the DBKL city council that's responsible for keeping the city clean. I felt bored yesterday so I decided it was time to do something about it. I went out and bought two 'bandaraya' fish. I decided it would be a more colourful ecosystem too if I added more guppies to the existing population so I got two male-female pairs of guppies. A row of Bettas (what we usually refer to as fighting fish) caught my eye, so for fun, I got a small, cheap one. I decided to name the betta James. The guppies are Samson and Delilah, and Joseph and Mary, while the 'bandaraya' are DB and KL. (A bored and tired soul needed to find a creative outlet!)

Hello, James!


Thursday, April 4, 2013

The recent school holidays

The one-week school holiday was over too quickly! A and C spent the entire week at home, while E went to work as usual except for Friday when he took the day off for Good Friday. We got into a routine of work and play, mostly led by C herself as she drew up daily checklists of work items she  needed to look into, such as household chores I said she had to do, homework given by her teachers, music practice, and ideas/projects of her own.

Day 1: C's handwriting is very untidy! Since we told her she needs to earn her own money to buy things she wants, as well as for savings, she's been thinking of ideas, but so far, her ideas have yet to be put into action. Obviously, 'optional' in item no. 5 indicates some reluctance!
 
Day 2: She did quite a good job washing her shower stall but concluded that she would "never, never, ever want to do it again". It was hard work scrubbing the tiles, and floor and washing the glass door.  Her illustration on the whiteboard echoed my dream of being on a paradise island, instead of being stuck at home!
 
Later in the week, 'help do chore' got bumped to the bottom of the list, and indeed she did only one chore, insisting that she had written 'chore', a singular noun according to her, and not 'chores'.
 
Helping to mop the floor was one of the 'help do chores' activities.


We made meatballs for a soupy noodle one afternoon.
 
Caitlin's home-made lunch
 

We took a day off our work-and-play routine and went out to a mall for some fun and shopping in the middle of the week. Coincidentally, there was a free workshop with an eco-friendly theme at the concourse. You could participate if you had a certain credit card, or spent at least RM50 at the mall. She made an accessories hanger using recycled wood from tree stems or branches.
 
 
 
 
 And we did more cooking. One evening, C cooked a dish of basil chicken all by herself, with me providing the verbal instructions. We had it for dinner and it was a rare instance where she actually ate leafy greens (the basil leaves). This is one example that proves (although not all the time) that kids are more willing to try new food or food they dislike when you involve them in the cooking.
 

Caitlin's basil chicken stir fry.
 
On Saturday afternoon, C's five-year-old cousin came over to play and they made some cookies.

Apart from these, C managed to complete all her homework, and practised her piano and drums adequately. Her BM tuition and music lessons went on as usual. We went to church on Good Friday and Easter Sunday. She played the drums at church for the praise and worship session.

Phew, we survived the school holidays quite well this time, and now we're back to the grind. Earlier this week, we had some difficulty waking early and getting back into our daily routine.

This month of April, we will have a few events to take note of -- C's school sports day, a field trip for a theatrical play of Roald Dahl's 'George's Marvellous Medicine', and of course, the long-awaited 13th General Elections. The PM had announced the dissolution of Parliament yesterday and now we're waiting for the announcement of the polling date. Also, E will be another year older this month.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Today

"I was going about my day when I came across a cuboid-shaped black box. I touched it and got transported through a portal. I saw very bright lights and found myself in a strange city. I asked the people there where that place was and they told me it was Malaysia. The year was 2095. So I asked why am I not in school? They said there are no schools. No such thing as schools. And then I noticed (but kept it to myself) that the people were wearing handphones as shoes. And they were playing games on their shoes!"

Caitlin dreamed this last night. That part about schools not existing in 2095 definitely reflects her current sentiment about school. She currently doesn't like going to school because the friends she likes are no longer in the same class as her. They have switched over to the international syllabus which the school has started offering this year, while she remains in the local syllabus. She doesn't like studying Bahasa Malaysia. She wants to study literature, history and geography (besides English, science and math), and all subjects in the English language. She is not looking forward to taking the UPSR, the standardised government exam for Year 6. She said she had a tummy ache this morning and is skipping school today ...

And what about me? Yeah, I have dreams (or are they worries?) too about the future. Meanwhile, the current reality about life in general, and C's education is a dark cloud with a yet-to-be found silver lining. But I have hope, and I need to put out the laundry now.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Kidzania - C's first visit

Last Saturday, more than one year after Kidzania's launch in February 2012, Caitlin got to experience this kid's edutainment indoor theme park that everyone in town has been raving about. Firstly, the entrance fee was quite a deterrent for our single-income family -- RM60 for Malaysian kids above four years, RM35 for adults who are required to accompany children below eight years, higher fee for non-Malaysians. When it first launched, I felt that it was rather pricey but now I can see why and feel that it is quite justified considering that other theme parks here and overseas also cost as much, if not more. If C had not pestered us for it, I don't think I would have made a conscious effort to take her there as to me, this place is not a must-see, must-go kind of place.

Secondly, I kept hearing that due to its popularity, it's always very, very crowded, especially on weekends, school and public holidays, and I simply hate going to crowded places. That meant that there'll be queues everywhere all the time -- queue to enter, queue to participate in the activities, queue at food outlet, maybe even queue at the toilet. Having to queue for everything just takes the enjoyment out of going to such places and wastes a lot of time. The opening hours during non-peak periods (weekdays, and if you're lucky, certain weekends) are between 10am to 5pm, while during peak days, there are two sessions i.e. 10am-3pm and 4pm-9pm. I guess this is to help them manage the crowd and capacity for each activity.

According to its website, "KidZania Kuala Lumpur is an indoor family edutainment centre which offers an interactive learning and entertainment experience for kids in a kid-sized city to deliver the first-of-its-kind edutainment fun. The KidZania experience is about real-life experiences, empowering, inspiring and educating kids through role-play."

Kidzania has over 90 interactive and fun learning activities at more than 60 establishments. What the kids do is go to the various establishments they would like to try their hand at the particular career offered there, for e.g. the dental clinic to be a dentist, and get paid for the work they did, in Kidzania's national currency, kidZos (notes) and Zents (coins). They can also spend their 'money' at the establishments, for e.g. at the hair salon where C got her hair tied into pigtails.

We were lucky that last Satuday was not a peak day in Kidzania's calendar. I had purchased the tickets online a few days before (you can buy it there too if you don't mind queueing) so when we arrived, we headed over to 'Air Asia terminal" (main lobby entrance) to get the 'boarding pass' and wrist tag.

Kidzania Kuala Lumpur International Airport showing locations of other Kidzania cities around the world
 
 Ticketing counter
 
Wrist tag

Among the careers C participated in were news reader, dentist, bricklayer, secret agent, baker (made real Oreo cookies), chocolatier (Cadbury chocolate factory), supermarket cashier, security guard delivering money to the bank, and telecommunications engineer. After earning and spending her money, she went to the bank to open an account and deposited the balance. They gave her an ATM (which actually works apparently) so that the next time she visits Kidzania, she can withdraw her kidZos from the ATM and use it. In between the activities, she took a lunch break at the 'food court' there. You pay with real RM currency when you buy food there. Food sold is kid-friendly. To give you an idea of pricing, a plate of spaghetti costs RM15.

 A little firefighter working hard at putting out a blazing inferno

She spent a total of about five hours there. For peak days where they have two sessions, you are required to leave one hour before the next session begins.

C enjoyed herself that day with two of her cousins and would like to go again to try out other activities, one of which is to learn how to drive a car. You can also go to medical school to get certified as a doctor. If you do that, you earn more kidZos when you work as a doctor at the clinic/hospital.

In my opinion, Kidzania is an interactive fun place for kids to experience role-play in an environment that is as real as it can get, which will be hard to replicate at home. There is a little bit of learning involved although at a superficial level. I guess that's because each activity is limited to a certain period of time for a limited number of kids each time.

Note the capacity, duration and height restriction for certain activities
 
Like many theme parks, they take photographs of your kids participating in the various activities and offer them for sale. You are not obligated to purchase any but if you wish, one picture costs RM15. After purchasing the picture, they provide you with a link to download soft copies for free, as stated in the brochure they give you (see picture below). That's quite a good idea. I wish other theme parks offer this benefit so that we could at least have a soft copy saved in the event the expensive hard copy gets torn, fades or lost.
 


Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Homeschooling

Yesterday, I listened to a radio interview of two homeschooling parents who are among the pioneers of homeschooling in Malaysia. They started homeschooling their two sons 15 years ago and both boys are now in college/university. They provided clarification on basic questions about homeschooling and shared their experience and knowledge. Here is the podcast if you'd like to have a lsiten.

I'm also awed by this story. How does one have so many children and successfully raise and homeschool all of them? And study for an engineering degree too?! I guess if you love your family, you will find a way. Both husband and wife need to work together to make it work. And it would help if family and friends are supportive of your decision to homeschool without making uninformed judgments and comments. One of my fears if we decide to homeschool C is that I may lack the courage to face negative comments by certain parties who do not understand this system of education.

The homeschooling concept is more common in the US so it's accepted more easily. Although it is growing in Malaysia, Asian parents and grandparents are not convinced and could even be mortified that the children are not getting a 'proper' education if homeschooled. They have no confidence that the parents have enough knowledge or skills to teach, believing that qualified teachers at schools can do a better job with a structured curriculum. Many also think that being homeschooled means you lack socialisation and are not in touch with the real world.

If you click on the link, there's the tv news clip about it that helps you see how things work for this family of seven children. I've also copied and pasted the text here.

AURORA - When you're in a family with seven kids, you need to be quick at the dinner table. You need to be patient with your siblings. But, you don't always need more than one letter for everyone's name.

"Jayde, Jeven, Jhia, Jarec, Jake, Jenna, and Jordan," said Janelle Henderson, mother of seven. "And, my siblings and I are all Js. So, everyone in my entire family starts with J."

Everyone, except dad.

"My name is Wayde Henderson, Junior. I have a "J" in my name," Wayde Henderson said.

The Henderson family likes to do things a little differently than most. Not only does Janelle Henderson have to keep up with the whereabouts of all seven kids, she homeschooled all of them.

"I've been homeschooling for 21 years now," Janelle said. "There was a time where I worked all night and came home and homeschooled my kids in the day."

Janelle tries to play the role of mom and teacher while drilling her kids on math equations and spelling tests. She says the homeschooling happened by accident. While shopping at a school supply store, she heard the store owner talking about it, which piqued her interest.

That's when she decided, homeschooling could work for her family.

"I just took it very seriously that I really have to make sure they're getting everything they need to know," Janelle said.

So far, it appears to be working. All of the older kids have gone on to college at the age of 16.

"What people say is impossible really isn't," Janelle said.

Jarec and Jake currently take classes at the Community College of Aurora.

"I've been excited for college since I was probably three or four," Jarec, 18 said.

The three oldest siblings went on to 4-year colleges to get bachelor's degrees and more.

"I don't think there was ever a time where I didn't know I was going to college," Jhia, the third oldest of the seven, said. "Growing up in this house, it was always expected that you were going to finish school and go to college."

Janelle believes strongly in sending her kids to community college first. She says not only is it saving her "hundreds of thousands of dollars," allowing her to kids to have a full education, she says it's a natural transition from homeschooling.

"I just think that community college gives you the opportunity to graduate into adult life," Janelle said. "Without community college, it would've been a different path."

All of her children have high expectations. They are seeking careers such architecture or engineering after receiving their college degrees.

"I want them to have a story to tell," Janelle said.

When you're in a family with seven kids who are involved in sports and other extra-curricular activities, mom says, you better have an organized schedule.

"While we're doing this, Jhia's at school. Jeven's at school. Jayde's at work," Janelle said. "I actually have on the computer, like a detailed a schedule of where everybody is."

Jake says he is still amazed that it can all work.

"To me, it seems stressful for my parents," Jake said.

So, each kid helps with a different chore everyday to help. They prepare half the meals. They take each other to and from basketball practice. All this while dad works three jobs including counseling folks at the Denver Rescue Mission.

"That's my way of supporting the family by doing whatever is needed and what it takes," Wayde said.

And, even though the family does not have a lot of money, Janelle says her kids belong in school instead of working to help the finances.

"I don't think it's my kids' job to support the family," Janelle said. "I think if we decided to have seven kids, it's our job to support the family."

In the meantime, Janelle also works on getting her master's degree in mechanical engineering from Metro State University of Denver.

"You only live once. I don't want to be like 60 saying, I never did anything," Janelle said.

When you're in a family with seven kids, you expect the house to be loud. That is not the case at the Hendersons.

"It's actually not very loud at our house at all," Jake said. "We were raised not to be loud and obnoxious."

Janelle says if all seven kids were boisterous, it would feel like the house would explode.

"I'm not going to have a crazy household," Janelle said. "I am simply not going to have it."

The kids say mom rules the roost with a system of tough love and laughter.

"It's like you will do what you have to do," Jarec said.