The law’s focus on families

There’s so much buzz in the legal community these days about family related issues. There’s the recently tabled Family Justice Bill along with the vibrant debate about maintenance for men (for the record I’m generally opposed save in extreme circumstances where the man is incapacitated or where the man is going to be the primary caregiver and his ability to seek a livelihood is severely compromised as a result. Else my personal experience is that in most cases even women who earn more than the husband also contribute more to the family and children than the husband so why should she be penalised for being able to make more money. Lest I be accused of being overly protective of my own kind, I should say that I am also opposed to the laws on maintenance for the wife as they stand now. In today’s Singapore, most people (save for those incapacitated or suffering other extenuating circumstances), man or woman, should be able to make a living for themselves. Just as I don’t think a man who makes less just because he is less able or more lazy should get maintenance, so too I don’t think a woman who decides to bum and live off her ex-husband should be allowed to do so. That said, maintenance for children is necessary and reasonable and some kind of equitable adjustment for contribution towards the family and children is also desirable (i.e. if one party has care and custody and as a result needs to work shorter hours, then maintenance for that parent to compensate partially for that loss is reasonable).

Also saw today debate about surrogates, which I always found wrong but can understand is an attractive choice for people who may not be able to carry a child to full term on their own. Hard one to legislate on!

Lastly, not directly related to families but another update that caught my eye was an article expressing concern about generating sufficient revenue to cover rising healthcare costs. More people should be thinking along the lines of these authors. Too much of of what I’ve seen on the internet is just commenting that the government is not doing enough. Perhaps these people making demand after demand really need to stop and think where would the resources to meet those demands come from.

At times I’m really glad I have a cautious kid

I’m often disappointed that Sophia isn’t more daring, sociable and outgoing. But being cautious has it’s benefits. Today we brought Sophia to Kids Stop and there’s this dream climber thing which we didn’t notice was meant for ages 5 and up so we sent her up. While she happily climbed her way up, coming down wasn’t as easy. She managed some levels coming down backwards always ensuring that her CG was still on the upper level, clinging on to either the floor or the web and checking from time to time that she was able to go back up whenever she wanted. There was this particular level where she was just an inch short of reaching the next lower level no matter how she tried. It was hilarious to watch only because we knew she was safe, but I shudder to think how she might tumble down if she were “braver”.


Social Enterprise

I’m glad that people are now waking up to the fact that social enterprises need to be regulated and that they are PROFIT MAKING. The first social enterprises may have started with true good intentions and aim to generate revenue just to sustain the livelihood of the people they are helping. Now, however, the term seems to be just thrown around and used extremely loosely. Some social enterprises charge exorbitant prices for things that are not better quality or service that is not necessarily of higher standards. Now, if they came out and said they were a charity and its really a donation that we’re making, fine. But if they are turning a profit which eventually goes to the person who started the business, then wouldn’t there be serious risk of the at-risk groups employed by the social enterprises being exploited by their employer who continues to look like the great philanthropist? Now what I am saying is potentially controversial because social enterprise is the buzzword right now, as if anything associated with it is right and good. When I said I was toying with the idea of starting a preschool with inclusive practices, one of my masters in education classmate immediately said “how about making it a social enterprise”. But why does one need a social enterprise label apart from for marketing purpose to make others more inclined to transact with the business? Can’t my school just hire indiscriminately and treat them properly without going out and shouting that “we’re a social enterprise”?  

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that all social enterprises are frauds, or even that a majority of them are. I’m just saying it strikes me as a door wide open for exploitation at the moment, and I’m glad that people are waking up to it. Apart from calling for regulation and depending on the regulators, though, we as consumers need also be discerning.

Disappointment with preschools

Am I expecting too much? After deciding that Sophia’s current preschool is really too disappointing, I start my search for preschools again.

First stop is a preschool that is known for being strong in Chinese. It is started by a lady who used to teach at a teacher’s college in China so I thought it would have decent Chinese teaching and I only need to worry about English. After visiting the school though, I was not keen for the following reasons:

1) Teacher was too proud of China’s system and constantly criticising Singapore’s school system, which was a put off after a while. There are legitimate issues with Singapore’s system but beyond a point you just think if China is really that much better why didn’t you go back there.

2) When the principal tried to show off her kindergarten children’s mandarin it was clear they only memorised the text without knowing the meanings. That is fine for Chinese classics actually because that is really how one learns it. I first read classics without knowing what it means and over time you just slowly appreciate more and more meaning from it as your knowledge of the language and your experience grows. That is part of the beauty of the Chinese language. But when the children rattled off a strong of idioms in the same fashion, I felt it was wrong. The children do also need to be taught meanings of what they are learning.

3) Teachers were not dynamic nor appeared loving.

Second was one that came highly recommended by Sophia’s cousin who went there for a year, went to BRMCK then decided to go back. The good things about it are that (1) it is a childcare so there are no holidays, (2) there are comments that the Chinese standard is high, (3) low turnover, (4) teachers were affectionate to Sophia’s cousin, (5) full day sessions available so Sophia doesn’t spend so much time getting spoilt by grandpa and (6) family day and PTCs are conducted on weekends. We were all ready to sign up when we went but… at the visit…

1) We didn’t feel welcomed. At least I didn’t.

2) Sophia enjoyed playing with their facilities but ultimately did not express a wish to attend the school.

3) We were told that at N2 they were still learning the alphabets and their sounds! Gosh, Sophia knew the alphabets, their names and their sounds at 2, Pats taught her again at playgroup, BRMCK taught her again at N1 and now she needs to learn the same thing the 4th time?? That seems like a massive waste of her time and surefire way to get her bored.

4) Students were speaking English to each other even in the Chinese classroom which indicates that their mandarin is not all that strong. The Chinese teacher’s accent was also a bit off, it was the southern China type accent where it might have been influenced by hokkien or similar dialect.

5) There were too many Japanese students, about 40%, which is worrying because, with the focus on the very difficult Japanese language, it is inevitable that their English and Mandarin will not be as good.

Today I called up a church kindergarten that was also supposed to be strong in Chinese and from talking to the person at the office, gathered that it was run much the same way as Sophia’s current kindergarten – as a black box keeping out the parents. The good thing is that the main teacher is the Chinese teacher so there is lots of exposure but there is the same issue of short hours and long holidays being a kindergarten, and also their N2 are learning alphabets.

Ultimately I just had to conclude that we cannot rely on preschools to teach our children well. I begin to understand why so many mothers choose to stay at home. I do still think that it is important to send the children to school if just to pick up social skills. But ultimately real learning may need to take place at home. How disappointing.

What’s your preschool search experience and have you found a right fit for your child?

Giving voice to a child

In my course on early childhood education, we keep reading about children being silenced and their views not being heard. Thinking I’ll put what I learnt into practice, I’ve decided to ask Sophia what she thought about her school and she told me she doesn’t like it. The thought of changing schools for her has been lingering in my mind anyway since I wasn’t too keen on the school myself so I asked whether she wanted to change schools and she said yes. So the search starts…. until a colleague reminded me that by doing so I am encouraging her to give up when the going gets tough. It may have been ok to switch schools if I hadn’t talked to her about it, but now that I had, I’d better stick with it.
This morning when we dressed her for school, she asked which school and when we said Barker Road school, she asked “why…..” but when I explained to her that she cannot give up school when its tough and if there is a problem she can tell us what is the problem and we fix it together, she gave a resigned look and went to school, not without trying to read numerous books, walk around etc before going out but otherwise without much of a fight. Here’s hoping this episode is over for now and she’ll just happily attend school.

Why hadn’t I heard of this dental clinic earlier?

After hearing that a friend’s wife (who’s now also a friend) is a dentist, I made an appointment with her clinic, not knowing initially that she was the child dental specialist there! I was just looking for a female dentist I could trust.

Wow, what a surprise when I walked into Oral Care Novena. Extremely warm and cosy place with lots of toys neatly laid out and, most impressive of all, very well maintained. I’ve been to other clinics recommended for children (one of the Q&Ms and GPA) but both has a dismal display of half spoilt toys that look dirty and old tucked in a corner. This clinic has a whole room full of toys, enough to keep Sophia occupied on her own while I chat with my friend for more than half an hour after her session (it was a quiet weekday morning).

Dr Ng Jing Jing was also excellent with children, full of praise for children and even managed to make Sophia answer she’s in N1 within the first 5 minutes. No mean feat to make my shy girl open her mouth in front of someone she doesn’t know I assure you.

All in all, I highly recommend this clinic. Check it out if you have kids!





Funny face

Sometimes you wish children won’t be so honest.

I’ve never been too interested in dolling myself up so I really only take off my glasses and slap on some makeup when there are special events. Today a friend’s daughter is getting married and I was invited to the wedding dinner so I put on very light makeup, making use of the time when Sophia is out for swimming with her dad.

When she came back, she said “mama, I want to make my face like yours. Your face is different.” Feeling quite pleased with myself, I said “yar it’s different isn’t it? Is it nice?” To my horror, she said “not nice.” Not giving up, I went “if it’s not nice why do you want to make your face like mine?” What did my most precious daughter say? “I want to make a funny face.”