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!

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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.”

Grrr…

Little girls’ fashion sense

Daphne from Mother Inc recently wrote about Kirsten’s choice of a strawberry dress¬†which made for an interesting post (and it was actually a rather normal looking girl’s dress to me actually, not overly sickeningly sweet) but the timing was impeccable as Sophia decided to make her own questionable fashion choice as well, insisting to go out shopping in my shirt worn as a dress.

Like Kirsten’s strawberry dress choice, its something that rather grows on you actually and if you didn’t actually know its an adult top, it actually looks rather cool on a toddler. Grandpa was extremely distressed about her fashion choice though.

My pregnancy nutrition guide (which I’m hoping I’ll follow better if I write it down here)

1) Get your folic acid. Around 600 mcg is probably good and up to 1000 mcg is probably safe, anything above that take only if there is a particular health reason for it.

2) Might as well throw in a multivitamin while you are at it. You do need a variety of vitamins and minerals so why not include a safety net in case your diet does not provide enough. Do check that you don’t overdose on certain nutrients (such as folic acid) if you are taking multiple supplements.

3) DHA. No strong evidence it helps but no real harm taking it is my view as long as you are taking a pharmaceutical grade / molecularly distilled one (ie with most mercury etc removed). You can also get DHA from diet but there is always the risk of mercury over-consumption if you try to get too much from fish. Of course there are other sources like eggs but I don’t think they deliver as much punch. My rule of thumb is salmon when I can get it plus a pill a day.

3) Eggs. I did say it may not be as good for DHA as fish but it sure packs in loads of vitamins and minerals and good old protein.

4) Protein. Get a variety. There’s lots of claims that chicken is the worst in terms of being loaded with hormones these days. No idea if its true so I hedge my bets by varying my protein source. Beans, eggs (esp whites) also count. Organic is great of course but its quite troublesome to get it where I am.

5) Vegetables. You can’t get enough of it.

6) Fruits. Have loads if you are having a normal pregnancy. Avoid if you have diabetes, gestational diabetes or any history of sugar/insulin related issues. Replace with more vegetables and potentially a fibre supplement if necessary.

7) Snacks. Especially in the first trimester where nausea sets in with hunger but even generally small frequent meals is the healthier way to eat. If you have no insulin problems then whole grain cereal, whole wheat biscuits or fresh fruit are probably all good options. If you do, however, these will be too high in sugar. You can try pairing them with protein/fat and see how it works (e.g. fruit with greek yoghurt, crackers with cheese or sugar free peanut butter) else you may be down to almost completely protein options that are more of a hassle and you may need to prepare in advance such as hard boiled egg whites, poached chicken breast or nuts.

8) Water. Highly essential. I get put off by the taste especially in the first trimester so its a struggle but just do it. If lemon/cucumber slices help, go ahead, else just force yourself. Juices/sodas/milk/soup don’t count. Your healthcare professional may say otherwise but my personal experience as to level of thirst after drinking different liquids tell me they don’t count.

Camp Magic

So after a week of Camp Asia, Sophia and cousin Samuel are sent off to Camp Magic. I was initially slightly sceptical about Camp Magic because they just gave an impression of being less professional in terms of things like not having online payment modes etc but there was much more of a human touch with Bruce replying to all emails personally and also being on site to answer questions and handle the kids¬†(wonder if he is permanently in a jester’s hat on site).

At least with Camp Magic Sophia didn’t come back saying I don’t want to go, I’m scared. There were no tears on the first day either given the registration grounds is the playground area where no kid can bear to be sad at.

What’s Sophia’s feedback? I have no idea. She mumbled something about not being able to get on a boat. Which I take to mean they engaged in some play-acting which she really got into. I think we’ll be back at Camp Magic next holiday!