Monday, November 04, 2013

School Holidays are here! Travelling with kids?

Can't believe it, another year is coming to an end! In another 2 weeks, the school holidays will begin and we are taking our first 3 weeks overseas trip as a family of 5! When we were planning for the trip, it seemed exciting but as the weeks get closer, I'm starting to freak out... What am I going to do with 2 kids and a baby on the 8 hour flight and days of traveling from one place to another! My oldest gets bored easily and I dont really want him to read books in the cars, not good for the eyes and he gets nauseous easily. My second one gets all hyper and whiny and non-cooperative when the trip gets too long - I can imagine the " Are we there yet?" " I cannot wait anymore!" questions! And my baby... hai... dont get me wrong he is a good baby, but somehow we realised in the recent months that he doesn't do so well when we are out and about. He sleeps and eat well when we are home. But when he gets tired and gets restless, he screams! (not cry... ) SCREAMS.. his lungs out.

Anyway... I'm making some preparation. I went to popular and bought them some sketch books -hoping to turn them into travel journal/sketch book and I found fun travel activity book which includes games, puzzles, colourings, word search and stuff. And I found some pretty interesting travel activity book that you can download online for free. :)

This one done for traveling in Australia 

This one is really nice, I like the original colourings and pictures (for 7 years and above or little ones with more advance reading and fine motor skills)

This one is more plain, but there are some nice ideas to adopt like tic tac toe...etc..

But hhmmm... all this seems a bit too tough for Trevor. I found this blog, this mom has made a great effort in creating a travel binder for her 18 days on the road with her kids. I'm going to try some of her ideas. 

This mom has lots of nice ideas too. :)

And here Travel Bingo cards :) Nice!

This mom has some cool games to play too ! And nice printables  :) But not so sure if I would use the reward part... I'm not a big fan of rewarding good behaviour so artificially. The become nice in order to get something. The natural reward should be getting a good meal after a long trip... or.. having a nice shower and clean comfortable sheets to sleep in. That's the reward of being patient.

This is a paid ebook. Ultimate road trip game e-book. nice ideas too.

I'm starting to pack my luggage.. I take forever to pack, so many kids... So many just in case... I hope I don't bring the whole house! :)

Sunday, October 27, 2013

What is the purpose of sending our kids to school?

 A lot on my mind and in my hands lately, having trouble sleeping.
I'm attending a Baha'i Children Class Grade 2 teacher training, it's been inspiring and thought provoking. And at the same time I read some articles someone posted on facebook and met many children and realised that we seriously need to change the way we educate our children! Or at least let me start in a small way, and hopefully in time for my children to benefit from.  There's only a little dilemma in me - how to balance this ambition of mine without compromising my time and relationship with my kids. Is it a Either Or decision or can I do both? So far I'm been chasing this dream of becoming a teacher! I've missed my chance to study early childhood education during my university days, but having got married and having my kids, my love and passion for teaching have grown and I know what I am good at and what I want to do with my life. I want to teach!

I am a mother of 3 now, I do not have the luxury of time and energy to pursue my qualification in education. I guess I just have to be patient and wait till the kids are older. Hopefully it's not too late then. :)

For preschool, we still have the luxury of choices and I am pretty happy with my son's Montessori school. But having said that Montessori till 6 years old is not sufficient, and due to pressure from the parents, and preparing the student for the transition of Montessori learning to Route learning in schools, Montessori schools have to forgo many things and introduce testing, homework, drills...etc.

Just a few things that I've been thinking about. Our school system... is it really good enough? Living in the Southern most city in Malaysia and a stone throw away from Singapore, I can say we have quite a few options of school. Firstly it's the Local Malaysia Schools - Kebangsaan Schools, the Chinese Local Schools, the Private schools doing Malaysian sylllabus, the International School doing International syllabus such as  Cambridge GCSE, IB Programs, IPC programs, Schools in Singapore and the less travelled road which is Home Schooling. Each has it's pros and cons.

I see a big gap between class room learning and life in general. Just a question: What is the purpose of sending our kids to school?

Answers are many but I don't think we are really certain of what the real purpose should be?

Just from my own understanding - In the industrial period, schools were built and created to prepare the children for the work force, so a standard curriculum was applied to everyone. Every child have to study this subject and that subject and everyone need to pass it to go on the next level. Sounds like a reasonable plan if we are going to produce factory workers who will do the same thing to produce the same product. But in reality, we are humans. No 2 humans are alike and no 2 humans have the same capacity and talents. There's very little room for children to really explore and discover their talents and develop the gifts within them. Education in schools prepare children for the work force, but does it prepare them for life?

 "All men have been created to carry forward an ever-advancing civilization. " Baha'i writings.

Look at our life today, for the past 100 years, life on earth has progress and changed so much. We are so advance in our sciences and discoveries and everyday there are new technologies in the market and we can do so much with the knowledge we acquire now. However as much as we have achieve, we have lost as well. Look at how we treat the earth and how we treat our friends and neighbours? We may be losing more than we have gained.

We have to re-look the purpose of our education system. Is it just for the advancement of ourselves? Most of the children only want to get the best grade, to win and get the gold medal. Most want to study hard, earn lots of money and have a happy life. All of this is good, but a little inward looking, is education a pathway for fulfilling an individual's material needs? And always think, while we are enjoying our life here with 3 television in the house, each room with an aircon, water heater in each bathroom, 2 cars at least, a maid at home and money to eat out every week (I'm guilty as charged!) there are so many people in the world that are worrying if they have food for the next meal, clean water to drink, a shelter to live in, let alone a chance to go to school and learn.

We were talking about 'Justice' the other day in the Bahai children class that I conduct in my home. What is justice? "It's being fair."said one of the students. I did a little activity where I have a number of crayons in my hand, and I pass it to one of the student and the rest do not have any. How is he/she going to act in such a situation. The logical thing is to share it. 1st round I give the first child enough to share 1 crayon with each child. The 2nd and subsequent rounds, I gave less and less and in the end I only had one, they need to work out a situation that is fair to all.

After the activity, I asked the children again, so what is justice? How did they practice being fair? "We have to share it in a way that everyone gets an equal share."

'So justice is more than being fair, it's about sharing what we have.' So we shouldn't just worry about ourselves, and not only worry about our country but we need to look at ourselves as world citizen. We need to worry about our world. The earth is ours and we need to come together in unity to love and take care of it.

So our education should strive towards the betterment of the world.

With this in view, are we doing enough just to put our children through test and exams and go from one grade to another? Are we tapping on our most precious resource and potentials?

My son is in Primary 1, 7 years old and attending a school in Singapore- yes he travel overseas to go to school everyday :) . I was quite happy that Singapore is moving away from examinations and that there's no exam for Primary 1 & 2 but series of different test to evaluate the children's ability. However it's so ingrained in our education system that it's still a long way from ideal. My son came back and told me he feels 'stressed', that he needs to complete the paper in school with so many different questions on time, multiplication, division... etc.

Hmmm... 7 year old feeling stressed? I am also stressed that he can't catch up in school for one of the language subject that I agreed with the teacher's suggestion of tripling his tuition time these past 2 weeks. I'm partly to blame...

And also when I tried to teach him more things, he said 'teacher say just learn this is enough, Don't need to learn so much.' My fears are here, he is slowly becoming the 'exam-child' - only learn to pass the exam that's it. No joy, no curiousity, no creativity. Just memorise and spit out at the exam hall.

I met my nieces today and they are so happy because yeah exams are over and holiday is coming!
There's nothing wrong with that on the surface, but I just wonder why learning can't be fun? So fun that everyday is a holiday? Learning shouldn't be just in school, and not just for passing the exam but every moment is a learning experience whether at home at school or when travelling. Learning should be inspiring, exciting and interesting. Education is like lighting a fire and this light should keep burning brighter and brighter. Learning brings joy, brings laughter, fulfillment and growth. True education should also allow a person to listen, to observe and to think deeply about everything. To discover their talents and interest and work towards it and using the knowledge and expertise to contribute back to the society not just for personal interest.

One of the most unbelievable thing I heard during the teacher training today was from one of the children class teacher, she herself a mother of 3 kids in local Malaysian schools. She said her daughter told her that the teacher told them no laughing during the examination periods. It seems when you laugh, all the knowledge you learnt will be gone!!! How absurd!!!

"Joy gives us wings! In times of joy our strength is more vital, our intellect keener, and our understanding less clouded. We seem better able to cope with the world and to find our sphere of usefulness. But when sadness visits us we become weak, our strength leaves us, our comprehension is dim and our intelligence veiled. The actualities of life seem to elude our grasp, the eyes of our spirits fail to discover the sacred mysteries, and we become even as dead beings." - Bahai Writings.

Joy should be as the above quote said...
I feel sad that our schools teachers are teaching such things to the kids... real sad...

The other few things I am thinking and also worried about is one the how little we apply what we learn in schools to our life- there's no or very little link between the knowledge we get from school and real life. The second is each subject is very isolated, there's no link between English and Math or Science...etc. There is some but not clear and children sees them separately.  There should be a intergrated curriculum which some of the western school systems have adopted. For example if they are learning about trees, they learn the Language and vocabulary related to trees, they learn the Science of the growth and parts of the tree, they learn the numbers related to tree- maybe years it takes to grow, counting the bark/stem to know how old the tree is...etc, and they do crafts about the tree, eat and cook food that comes from trees, the impact of trees to our environment..etc.

I think this is a very interesting and integrated style of learning that repeats the topic enough times to create a strong neural path in the brain and the child's understanding of trees becomes very strong. This style of learning can also cater to different child's learning ability and their learning preference.

I think that's all for now, I've empty out my thoughts today finally feeling sleepy. Good night. :)

Monday, September 30, 2013

No more ipad, iphone for my boys!

During the last Parent-Teacher meeting in school, Trevor's teacher suggested I stop all iphone/ipad for him. This is same for all the other kids in school as there's an increasing trend of kids getting disengaged in learning, poor socialization skills, kids wearing spectacles and most importantly of all I feel is the addiction! Even when the kids are not playing the games, they are constantly thinking and talking about it. I have been getting frustrated with my boys asking & talking to me about games day and night for some time now, and I know there's something very wrong here. Kids should be spending more time outdoors, catching spiders, playing footballs, excited n curious about everything under the sun! But no... I dont see that in my kids much these days. And who's to blame? I dont know. But as a parent I think I have to be really mindful about planning activites for the kids as it's easy to fall into the trap of the digital age.

The teacher in school told me that she did it with her kids, she totally stop all eletronic games for her 2 kids. At first I was skeptical! I mean.. really!?!?!? HOw??? I talked to Chris that night and we decided that ya, we can't just limit their usage because they are really missing out on so much more wonderful stuff when they are eating, thinking, living in the digital world. So this is it!

We have stopped all smart phone usage for them except for some selected computer games and selected (recorded) suitable TV shows. But it's not easy of course. There's were some withdrawal syndromes, but we stuck to it and in place of it, we started spending more 'quality' time (as mentioned in my last post) playing board games, reading, cooking, planting together. So I guess we are on the right track. Now the challenge is to keep it up and be consistent!

We had some troubles... one main one being other kids having these games and their friends talking and playing these games which they are not allowed to... Well, as a mom, I don't want him to hate me for a start! and I don't want them to the weird kid that did not fit in as well. I tried to explain to him that not all the things that everyone is doing is the right thing to do. I explain to him why we have chosen not to play all these games at all was so that we can have more fun doing other stuff. I can feel him feeling sad when we go out and other parents let their kids play the phone and he doesn't get to play it. But I guess this is part of life, you have to choose what's best for you and your kids. Not what everyone else is doing. Change is painful and a process, it takes time, yet change is necessary for something better.

And another thing that I'm trying to do... (haven't figure it out yet) is to cut down digital time for me as well! Children learn through modelling. They learn their ways through imitating and habits at home. You can see why the child behave in certain ways when you see the parents and siblings. They all behave the same/similar ways. It's quite cute actually! SOoo.. where did they first learn to play these electronic games? through us! the Adults in their life!

When I first got my smart phone, I was so excited as I can do so much when during the time I'm breastfeeding or waiting in line... etc... But I realised I am compromising my quality with my baby. I used to sing rhymes and prayers to my other kids when I breastfeed them. Now, I'm just checking my emails and facebook when I feed Tyler... I think smart phones are a wonderful inventions and I still my smartphone but if we're not careful it's consuming our lives, we are no longer living the moments and we are compromising on more important things in life.
 I saw this video... it's so true and sad isn't it?

This is from a book that I'm reading now, I can't find the quote that I wanted to share... but it has something to do with comparing kids getting addicted to these electronics as losing your child's soul to the digital world... Scary! you wont see the effects until they are older but habits start from young, so we should be really careful what we are giving to our kids.

Will do a little book review later on but this is another good read for anyone who has son/s. I realized my problem of not getting through to my kids may be because I'm not a boy! I have 3 boys so I probably need to know understand them and how to talk to them.

Boys Should Be Boys: 7 Secrets to Raising Healthy Sons by Meg Meeker
(you can read some pages of the book on amazon, and there're some great reviews by other parents.)
(I googled the title and this came up- a summary/content of what's in this book, have a read :)

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Spending one on one time with each child, tough but it's the secret to obedient children!

I have been having some tough time with kids last couple of months getting them to listen to me and getting them to do simple routine everyday task like brush your teeth, eat your breakfast, wash your hands, go and bathe, do your school homework..etc.. No one knew how tough it is to get kids to do these task independently!

A few months back, I came across Amy McCready's, attended their webinar, but I didnt sign up for their online parenting course. ( I think I need it but not so willing to pay for it yet) so I got hold of the book "If I Have to Tell You One More Time..." read it and but didnt put it in practice.

When I hit rock bottom of screaming at kids every single day... risking my baby going deaf... and buying a 'rotan' and keeping behind my bedroom door I realised I need help! I thought to myself, my boys aren't 'bad' kids, it's just that they gets on my nerves when I have to tell them to do simple stuff like a million times a day!

I read the book again and this time I took a note book and wrote down notes. The author uses 'toolbox' to describe the different strategy of tackling parenting challenges.  She says that everyone need to feel a sense of belonging and significance. If they can't get it positively, they will get the attention they need negatively (without realising it). And the first thing that hit me was this: " a rebellious child is a discouraged child " which is so true. A uncooperative/disengaged child is a child who wants to be loved, who is feeling neglected and who feels they don't belong and are not significant in the world. This is true and pretty sad when I think about it.

So.. the first tool that I attempted is 'Mind Body and Soul' which is spending special one to one time with each child, preferably 2 X 10 mins a day. I am starting with once 10mins a day before bedtime or before school.  Well I'm a stay at home mom and I practically spend 24 hours a day 7 days a week with them, but I realised that I am with them physically but my mind is somewhere else. So I've started  since 1st September with what I call it 'Special Time' with each of my boys, almost everyday, and I am happy to say that I'm screaming less!  It's not magic, but I can see that they are more responsive when I call them and more willing to cooperate to get the routine stuff done. Which is such a relieve for a mom!

The goal, like the author said, 'is to forget when was the last time I raised my voice'!

Here's another article that talks about this special one on one time with each child as well. Read it, it's enlightening.

I'm taking it step by step, hopefully I will read the goal! :)


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