Celebrating our kids achievements, big and small

It’s the end of the school term for us. I’m sure many parents are celebrating the fact that we get to sleep in a little later on weekdays… at least until 2 Jan 2018.

From the start of the week, my Facebook timeline has been flooded with photos where my friends have been sharing their kids’ achievements and awards in school. It’s so heart-warming to hear each and every one of their journey of success and I smiled reading every post from their proud parents.

Awards or not, I’m still proud of you

While Sophie may not have topped her standard, her class or even got first in any subjects, I’m still so proud of her. When she showed me her report book yesterday, I pointed out that there was a marked improvement in her Mathematics and it was all down to regular practice and being less careless in her work.

Sophie was however disappointed that she didn’t managed to maintain her 100 score in Higher Chinese when we focused on pulling her grades up for Maths. I guess I was overly anxious about her Maths results and we dedicated more time on it at the expense of other subjects.

Sophie with her BFF from class

She told me the names of her classmates who topped her class and we added that she doesn’t have to be the top. The most important thing is that she does her best and always strives to reach the goals that she has set for herself.

Progress not perfection

Beyond her grades, we’re glad to read her teachers’ recognition of her leadership potential and hope that she’ll get the opportunity to take on a leadership role next year. Her teacher have feedback that Sophie is a very cheerful girl who is well liked by her peers and I hope she never loses her sparkle.

I’ve always emphasised to Sophie that while grades are important, they are just one dimension to measure how good you are as a student.

In fact, there are also many areas that she can develop like her character, her values, her way of thinking which are sometimes not as recognised as academic excellence. But they are the very skills that will see her through life when she has to learn to work with others, and learn how to uphold herself to the values she’s been taught.

And more importantly, it is my desire for her to always remember that her identity is secure in God. That she is dearly loved and cherished and God sees her as unique and fashioned her to be one of a kind.

Though she didn’t come home with any awards, Sophie confidently told me that she’s in one of the top 2 classes for Primary 3, going by her deduction that the top students are in the same class as her. Her teachers didn’t want to confirm that since MOE doesn’t encourage competition among students and parents, so we’ll leave it as that 🙂

A working mum’s struggle

As a working mum, I do feel bad that I can’t spend more time to coach Sophie myself. And inevitably, I ask myself how I could have helped her more and if I should consider sending Sophie for enrichment next year since everyone has warned me to anticipate a huge jump from Primary 2 to primary 3. Things may get more busy on the work front with new challenges for me too and I hope we’ll be able to manage it well especially when she has to take on a new subject (Science) plus CCA.

And with the end of the school year, it also spells the start of the school holidays. It pains me to hear her asking why her neighbours’ mothers can take their kids out while I’m the only one working. And despite how understanding she is, the school holidays are always hard to bear for her since she’ll see so little of us. So right on the first day of her school holidays, both Alexis and myself took leave today and brought her ice skating.

I know it means the world to her to have our company and I hope she’ll always remember that she has a wonderful childhood filled with many beautiful memories of how we have always been rooting and cheering for her 🙂 Love you lots Sophie dear.

The Sound of Music in Singapore, 2017

The hills are alive with The Sound of Music in Singapore at the Master Cards Theatres. This beloved classic musical returns to Singapore this November and we were thrilled to be at the opening gala night, especially little Sophie as she was looking forward to see so many kids performing.

The family watching Sound of Music in Singapore

This 1965 movie that won five Oscars is one our favourite family movie where the songs never fail to get on our feet as we belt out at the top of our voices to songs like Do-Re- Mi, My Favourite Things, and of course The Sound of Music where reach those high notes in gusto.

It was hard not to sing along when these familiar tunes were sung by the amazing cast and twice, I had to cover Sophie’s mouth when her zealous humming got louder and louder much to the amusement of the ladies seated beside us.

The Sound of Music in Singapore

Maria played by Carmen Pretorius performed her role with sincerity as she navigated her way as a free-spirited governess to 7 children. You’ll feel yourself rooting for Maria as she tries to break into their regimental routine set by their retired naval officer father, Captain Von Trapp played by Nicholas Maude by in introducing music into their lives.

The chemistry between the 2 leads felt a little awkward initially when they shared a dance. But soon you’ll be captivated by their quiet affection towards each other as love blossoms.

But the stars of the night were no doubt the talented kids who were so charming. Each time they appeared on stage, they received thunderous applause from the audience.

The littlest one of all who played Gretyl was oh so cute that we couldn’t help but snigger when she pouted, stomped off or shot her papa a death stare.

The wonderful kids harmonised perfectly and the musical’s cherographeed version of So long, farewell, especially the part where the girls went cuckoo , cuckoo was even more delightful than the movie.

As a mum, it was heart aching to see how these kids longed for the attention from their distant father and the scene when they were all wrapped in a warm embrace turned me into mush. A reminder that all our kids really want from us is simply our presence and affection.

The stage set up was pretty elaborate and when the first scene opened with the hills of Austria, Sophie went WOW! The changes between the scenes from the hills to church, and different parts of Von Trapp’s home were all done swiftly and effortlessly as they transported us from scene to scene.

The unsung heros of every musical, the live orchestra was phenomenal as they lent their musical prowess to the singing that night.

And how can I not mention about the powerhouse that night by the Reverend Mother where she reached those crazy sky high notes with Climb Every Mountain. She sang with so much power and conviction that you’ll find courage rising within you to remember to follow our dreams.

Even though some parts of the musical felt a little heavy for kids to understand, like the impending loss of their homeland to the Nazis, Sophie was able to follow the story line. The scene where the Nazi flags were flown was chillingly realistic when we found ourselves being the very audience when the family sang Edelweiss as a farewell before the Captain had to accept a omission in the German Navy.

Overall the Sound of Music musical was a captivating and timeless performance that the whole family will certainly enjoy this holiday season. Many of my friends are looking forward to it and I heard that tickets are selling out fast too. So do book your tickets before the musical ends their run on 3 December 2017.

 

Get Your Sound of Music Tickets Today 

Dates: 7 November to 3 December 2017

Show times: Tue – Fri: 7.30pm, Sat: 2pm & 7.30pm, Sun: 1pm & 6pm

Venue: Mastercard Theatres at Marina Bay Sands

Duration: Approximately 155 minutes (including 20 mins interval)

Ticket Pricing: from S$65 to S$195

Book through Sistic here.

 

*A Juggling Mom received complimentary tickets to watch The Sound of Music. No monetary compensation was received. All opinions are honest and are my own. Photos are used with credits to Base Entertainment and Sliding Doors.

Kyoto with kids – The Wonder of Arashiyama Bamboo Grove

When we decided on squeezing in Kyoto for our Japan itinerary with a day trip from Osaka, a must visit was the Bamboo Grove in the Arashiyama district.

If you don’t already know, the Bamboo Grove is Kyoto’s most instagrammable spot and voted as one of the most amazing attractions not to be missed. As for my other half? He was less than impressed.

He may be my Instagram Husband but the mere thought of walking through bamboo forests, visiting shrines and temples was not what he had signed up for on this trip. And an Instagrammable Bamboo Grove? He wanted to roll his eyes at me and was skeptical if Sophie would even appreciate it.

However I beg to differ.

Sure, there are other kid-friendly attractions like the themeparks that will certainly appeal to my 8-year-old (and might I add even for my almost 40 year-old hubby), but the whole point about travelling with kids is to show them the beauty that is waiting for her to discover in another part of the world.

Nevertheless, hubby was happy to go along with what I’ve mapped out for our itinerary and that my friend is when the magic happened.

Getting to the Bamboo Grove 

For us city folks, Kyoto was an amazing escape from the busyness of the city. It was a welcoming respite where one feels instantly rebalanced with the embrace of Mother Nature. 

Arashiyama is a popular district to enjoy what nature has to offer particularly during the cherry blossom. In Autumn, it’s foliage transform the whole backdrop into a breathtaking picturesque scenery.

To get to the bamboo forest, we had to enter through the Tenryu-ji Temple, which is one of Kyoto’s many UNESCO World Heritage Sites. We were initially expecting to make a quick exit from the garden and head directly to the bamboo forest. But we were captivated by the lovely scenery and lingered a little longer as we took in the tranquil sights of the garden that dates back to the 14th century.

We were stopped by 2 local university students who were dressed in kimonos and assisted them with a short survey. In return, they happily obliged with a photo and I think Sophie played a part in charming them too.

While there was lot of walking, Sophie welcomed the change in environment and we slowed down our usual hurried pace as we took in the sights. Along the path, we saw lots of beautiful blooms during Summer and Sophie was enchanted.

She observed and marveled at the flora beauty as she pointed out their names and attempted to read the Chinese character of the signages. She even asked for daddy’s GoPro camera as they were too pretty not to be captured in a photo memory.

Arashiyama Bamboo Grove

Awestruck at the Kyoto Bamboo Grove

As we exited Tenryu-ji temple by the north gate, we caught sight of the Bamboo Grove.

Standing among these giant bamboo tree made me feel so so tiny. And as Sophie puts it so aptly, “Just wow”.

It dawned on me that it was the best decision to stick to my guns to make it to the Bamboo Grove. It’s one thing to read or watch what the Bamboo Forest. But to stand there and marvel at its towering beauty, it was simply out of this world and we felt so enveloped by nature. 

And when I turned to look at Sophie, her eyes were filled with wonder.

I imagined that if I could read her thoughts, it would be filled with so many questions waiting to be answered.

How tall are the bamboo trees?

Why do they grow so tall?

What do they look like in the different seasons?

 

To catch a glimpse of your child lighting up with wonder in their eyes, that’s a priceless feeling that all parents desire to give our kids.

And that’s why Sophie will always be welcome when we jet off on holidays despite the sacrifices we have to make to accommodate a more family friendly itinerary. After all, they wouldn’t stick around with us on holidays forever.

2 words that Sophie used to describe the Bamboo Grove – just wow

TIP: According to reviews Trip Advisor, some advised coming either early in the morning or late in the afternoon if you want to have a calm and peaceful experience in the bamboo grove.

As much as I wished to say it was a tranquil and peaceful experience like what is portrayed online, it was lined with huge crowds when we were there around noon on Sunday.

Kimono Forest in Kyoto

Since we are on the topic of forest, you don’t want to miss the Kimono Forest.

This lesser known forest is actually a man-made “forest”  marked with a footpath lined with 600 pillars that creates a dramatic entrance to the Randen Arashiyama Station.

Within the pillars, pieces of fabric dyed in the Kyo Yuzen style decorated each cylindrical pillar with a unique design. Each print was intricate and beautiful in their own way and they made a delightful backdrop for photos.

From the natural Bamboo Forest to a man made Kimono Forest, both attractions in Kyoto were captivating in their own right. 

Before we headed back to Osaka, we also stopped by the Togetsukyo Bridge, another well known landmark where you can spot folks on rented boats. Make sure, you linger a little longer here and take in the sights and sounds of nature.

Travelling to Japan soon?

More about our Japan holiday in the next post, on our amazing Universal Studio Japan experience and the most adorable Minion Town that just opened this year in 2017.

If you’re heading to Japan soon, don’t miss my earlier Japan posts below.

 

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You can also follow me on Twitter (@Susankoh) or Instagram (@ajugglingmom) for more travel and parenting posts. See all the places that we visited on our Japan holiday with the hashtag #TaysinJapan

Exam preparation tips for working parents

The blog has taken a back seat this month because I was solo parenting for 3 whole weeks since the start of the month. That was a first for me because hubby has never been away for such a long work trip and I even joked that he’s abandoned me to be the Merlion Mum and puke blood as I prepare Sophie for her SA 2 while he was in Sydney. 

It’s surprising how his absence made me realize how often we take each other for granted and I was so so relieved to have him home to share the parenting load. He’s my knight in shining armor and has lighten some of my responsibilities so that I can take a breather and finally blog about the month of October.

Another highlight in October was Sophie receiving her Edusave Merit Award.  Unlike the bursary award which is given by MOE, this was awarded by the GRC to acknowledge and encourage kids who were in the top 25% of their school’s cohort. It was a pity that hubby couldn’t be present for the ceremony but Sophie knows that daddy is so proud of her achievement. 

In addition to the award, Sophie received $70 Popular books vouchers which she intends to purchase more storybooks even though I was plotting on buying assessment books for the new school term. 

The award was no doubt a confidence booster for Sophie especially with her SA 2 round the corner and I hope it encourages her to continue to strive for her personal best. 

READ ALSOExam Preparation for Primary 2

Getting our kids on the right footing 

When it comes to studies, I believe that nurture is just as important if not more important than nature. I don’t see myself as a tiger mum despite the fact that I make Sophie diligently revise her homework everyday.

No honestly, compared to some mums I know I’m far from being a tiger mum who doesn’t pack her weekends with classes and have unreasonable demands on scores as long as she’s done her best. I hold fast that success has many pathways and is not merely defined by academic success. 

But I’m a firm believer that we need to help our kids lay a good foundation to reach their potential especially from Primary 1. Though as a working mum, I don’t have the luxury of time to coach Sophie but I believe that not everything can be outsourced to the teachers, or tutors and parental involvement plays a role to our child’s learning.

So these are some things I did to get Sophie on the right footing and I hope it gives parents especially working parents hope that we can play an active role in their learning journey without being too overbearing.

The importance of time management

When Sophie was in Primary 1, I gave her an after-school timetable detailing the time for meals, shower, homework, revision, TV and play time. To keep her meaningfully occupied, I bought assessment books for every subject and made her do daily revision. The work was nothing excessive, usually just 2 or 3 page for 2 subjects per day and my aim was to teach her to spend the time in the afternoon wisely.

Plus, my rationale is that it’s easier to get her used to this daily discipline of revision than to struggle with it when homework starts to pile up from Primary 2 and up. And trust me, she always manages to have time for reading and playing in the afternoon.

This discipline continued in Primary 2 and in fact she’s given more leeway this year where she has to plan her own time to get her To Do List of school work and daily revision checked off before dinner time. I’m also thankful that Sophie has  been responsible and self-motivated to get things done.

Being disciplined even in the small matters because they matter

One thing that I’ve inculcated in Sophie is to have a spirit of excellence as a student. 

Attitude is way way important that aptitude and it shows in the little things like handwriting. Having good handwriting shows that you take pride in your work. Being careful shows that you’re not sloppy and being disciplined shows that you’re always on top of things. 

It was a process of course as these things don’t come naturally, in fact some adults are still struggling to get their act together even at work too. Even till now I still see messy handwriting, careless mistakes, half hearted writing and the reminders, or read nagging mode in me is set off. 

It may seem like a hard thing to do initially but once she recognises the heart behind it, the intention of why it’s important, it was easier to get her on board to start making those changes. Slowly but surely we’ll get there somehow.

Helping kids to learn from mistakes

The last point, which is also the hardest, is teaching our kids that we learn from our mistakes. And the reason why it’s so hard, is because we’ve been brought up to see mistakes as a bad thing. 

But the problem is, once our kids have that mentality, they will not dare to speak up, they will feel judged for not knowing the right answer and they would rather say that they don’t know than to attempt to answer a question. 

This is also an area that I have to keep reminding myself and reframe it it in a way that doesn’t dampen Sophie to find out the answer and how to get there.

Finding your Parent Support Group

As parents, we can get all the help we need. Some may turn to enrichment centers, tuition if you feel limited by what you can teach. I’m definitely not judging and suspect I may go down that route when it comes to upper primary Maths and Science. 

You can also get into online support groups via Facebook groups, forums and I have a few WhatsApp group where mummies discuss and share resources which are helpful for our children. What I appreciate is also the focus on equipping our kids with lifelong skills that will help them go a long way into adulthood. 

Last but not least, parents do prepared to do your own homework too. For me, its planning for Sophie’s daily revision, marking her assessment books, going through her work with her and even reading with her. It’s easy for me with just one kid and I know how crazy things can get with 2 or more kids. 

 

Ultimately call it a kiasu parent or a well prepared parent, you be the judge yourself. When it comes to parenting, I’ve discovered that there is no one universal formula that works for everyone. We are all just doing what works best for our kids, our families and make tweaks along the way if it doesn’t work out.

Ultimately school life should be an enjoyable part of our kids childhood so let’s remember to give them time and space to develop at their pace and seek out what makes them uniquely them.

 

Here are some other useful links on primary school learning that you may be keen to read too.

 

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Caltex Fuel Your School – Tech Jam 2017

One thing Sophie’s been looking forward to in Primary Three next year is learning Science. It’s one of those subjects that she finds fascinating and she loves that it when she learnt show things work from her Science magazine which gets me stumped for answers. Plus there are so many opportunities for practical application and hands-on activities.

With more emphasis on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) and creative thinking for the new economy, kids would benefit from getting a wider exposure to coding and tinkering, etc.

If this is an area you’ll like your child to get exposed to, then don’t miss Caltex Fuel Your School – Tech Jam 2017 that will be open to the public on 14 and 15 October 2017.

Caltex Fuel Your School – Tech Jam 2017

Tech Jam is an enrichment program organised by Caltex Singapore and Singapore Science Centre and we were invited for a preview last week.

Preview of Tech Jam 2017

Tech Jam aims to spark curiosity and inspire kids’ passion for innovation through free interactive workshops where kids can work on different learning projects.

Before the session started, the facilitators shared some big ideas on how parents can encourage our kids to get the most from this session.

  • Allowing the child take the lead – let them come up with the idea
  • Giving real tools in the hands of the children – trust that they can listen to instructions on how to handle them
  • They will get it wrong before getting it right – let children figure out how to troubleshoot and solve their obstacle
  • Projects needs to have meaning to the child – can just be fun and frivolous as long as it’s meaningful to them

 

Sophie working on her paper circuit

Sophie got to create a paper circuit and she had little difficulty with the task even though this was the first time she’s learning about basic electronics. There was also a facilitator who guided her with probing questions on how she could make it work.

It’s such a joy to see her eye light up when her paper circuit lighted up at the flip of her button battery and that’s the spark that kids have when they see their work come alive.

The girls also got the chance to come up with their own creation and Sophie created a lighted balloon city together with Dana. The duo worked with glue guns and applied what they learnt about creating a circuit and they were mighty proud of their successful project.

Sophie and Dana’s lighted balloon city

Sewing with Electronics

At Tech Jam, there’ll be other equally interesting learning projects on 14-15 October such as Sewing with Electronics, Creating Music with Makey-Makey and Programming with Arduino.

Tech Jam is open to kids of all ages but personally I feel that kids age 5 and above will be more suitable.

Admission is free for this program but if you present a recent Caltex fuel transaction receipt along with a Plus! card you’ll be entitled to priority entry on a first-come-first-served basis. On top of this priority access, you will also get 20% off admission to Science Centre Singapore (valid till 31 December 17).

For more information, do visit Tech Jam’s Event Page here.

– – – – – – – -– – – – – GIVEAWAY FOR A JUGGLING MUM READERS  – – – – – – – – – – – –

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Here’s you chance to win a Fuel Your School- Tech Jam goody bag for 1 lucky winner. The set will include:

  • 2 sets of goodie bags (consisting of VR headsets, paper circuit bookmarks and notebooks)
  • Family tickets to Science Centre Singapore for 4

All you have to do is:
1) ‘LIKE’ our Facebook Page
2) ‘SHARE’ this post and tag 2 other friends, “Hey friends, take part to win family tickets to Science Centre Singapore ”.

Complete both steps to be eligible for the giveaway. ONE lucky winner will be drawn and announced on the blog and Facebook on 11 October, Wednesday.

 

 

Please note:

  • Giveaway ends on 11 October, Wednesday 23:59
  • Only readers residing in Singapore are eligible for this giveaway
  • Winners will be notified via email and have 48 hours to respond to email otherwise a new winner will be drawn
  • All false FB accounts will be disqualified from the giveaway

 

*A Juggling Mom was invited for a media preview to Caltex Fuel Your School – Tech Jam 2017 for this review .