Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Isaac is six years old already!?

In a blink of an eye, Isaac turns 6 this year. Okay, make that many blinks of many eyes. But look how he's grown. That picture above on the left was taken on the day he was born, barely ten hours since he'd left my womb. The photo on the right was taken this year, two days before his 6th birthday. 

I was just scanning through the blog posts that were written during the month he was born... Sure brings back memories... and the thought that keeps repeating itself in my head surfaces again: My baby Isaac has all grown up! He is no longer a baby, and hasn't been for years. But somehow this year, it seems particularly stark, and in my head, I started to list the reasons why...

Isaac's like a mini-adult now. We can actually have pretty mature, reasonable and sane discussions and conversations with him. We see and hear him disciplining the twins like we do (the kids). And when he hears hubbs and I talking about something, he would often ask what we are talking about and join in our conversation. He has his own thoughts and ideas, and more often than not, his arguments makes sense and he actually has a point to make.

Isaac can read independently now. And boy is he a voracious reader! He reads so quickly that he often finishes reading the stash I borrow from the library by the very next day. We can now sub-contract reading to the twins, to him. The twins usually prefer hubbs or I to read to them, not because they don't want kor kor to do so, but rather, they want me or hubbs to do it. And so we do. But when they see that hubbs and I are really indisposed at the moment, they would happily allow Isaac to read to them.

Isaac can reach the light switches! It's incredible. Suddenly, seemingly overnight, he can switch on the light to the toilet by himself. But, he claims to be afraid of the dark. No fear, we usually send Shawna with him a la...

Isaac: "Mummy, I want to go pass urine! Switch on light for me!"
Me: "You can reach the light switch what. Go switch on the lights yourself!"
Isaac: "But I am afraid of the daaarrrk..."
Shawna: " I am NOT afraid of the dark!"
Me: "Perfect! Shawna, you go with him!"
And Shawna would accompany Isaac into the dark corridor until they reach the toilet where Isaac turns on the light and enters the toilet to pee... 

But seriously, he is growing taller by the minute - unless his pants all shrunk simultaneously, for I am seeing more of his ankles and shins nowadays...
Isaac's going Primary One next year!!! It is truly a milestone when a child begins his formal education. Isaac's been psyched up for primary school too, by his childcare teacher. They have been doing a good job of teaching the K2 class about what to expect next year in a primary school. Isaac's excited and more than once, he has already informed me "Mummy, I am looking forward to going primary school." Truth be told, so am I! I've heard so much about the stresses related to primary school, that I have been mentally prepping myself for it. Also helps that I decided earlier this year, not to look for a full time job (when my previous company closed its Singapore office), and do my My First Games biz full time, in order to have flexi working hours and more time next year to guide Isaac through the vagaries of P1.

Isaac's just had a pep talk on how to deal with bullies. I had initially started writing about it here, and then it started getting too long... so I will have that coming up in another post. But suffice to say that it really struck home the realisation that school-going kids bring home problems of a different nature compared to when they were young, when most problems were either health, eating, sleeping or poo related. We have consciously tried to get Isaac to talk more about his feelings and tell us about what goes on in school, with his friends etc. We want him to be able to talk to us instead of bottling it all up inside...

Thus, as evidenced above, even though my Isaac is currently afraid of the dark (he didn't used to be), and he is still very much a little boy in many ways... He is definitely growing up. I look back on my blog posts, and see my past photos and videos of Isaac when he was much younger, and I kinda miss him. However, we are very blessed, that Isaac's generally very well behaved, a joy to be with, and we pray that he will continue to be the wonderful, smart and kind boy that he is today.

Happy 6th Birthday, my Isaac. Mummy loves you always! :)

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Isaac's Dinosaur Mad Science Party!

August is traditionally a busy time for us, can you guess why? Yes, that's coz Isaac is an August baby! :) We usually do not hold elaborate birthday celebrations for him. We usually just have a simple cake & goodie bag birthday celebration in school for him, and cake cuttings with the respective grandparents etc. The last time we had a huge party celebration for him was his 1 year old celebration. But even just organising the goodie bags and cakes is enough to make us quite busy already!

This year however, is a massive year for Isaac in terms of birthday celebrations. We had just changed the kids childcare a few months ago in May this year, and Isaac took to the transition remarkably well. When we actually asked Isaac "Do you want to celebrate with your old school friends, or your new school friends?" He said "Both!!!" and because he was very accepting of the change in school, we decided to reward him by agreeing to his request! 

We celebrated on the same day that the school was celebrating National Day!
That's why the kids were all decked out in red and white!
It was truly a bonus for us that Mad Science Singapore had gotten in touch with us early this year, offering to throw Isaac a Mad Science Party in school this year, for his 6th birthday celebration. So all we had to do was get a cake and settle our own goodie bag. Easy peazy, lemon squeezy! They have many different party themes they can conduct, but the topic chosen for us was an apt one - on Dinosaurs! Isaac has been reading a series of chapter books called Dinosaur Cove in which the two boys (protagonists) get transported to the world of real dinosaurs through a special portal, and has adventures with real live dinosaurs. Isaac has been so taken with this series of adventure books that he has been praying that he can see a real dinosaur when he prays at night before sleep! I told him that that is one wish that is impossible to fulfill, but we can have a dinosaur themed party for him this year. That appeased him somewhat. Phew!
So a couple of months before August, I touched based with Mad Science again, to confirm that this was on. I understand they are very popular for their parties, so I wanted to make sure the date was locked in for us! Two days before the party, I suddenly thought to myself "Oh no, what if they forget?" but I needn't have worried, for I received a phone call from the very next day, confirming the party once again.
Looking around the classroom walls, I spotted the above collage of the kids' work. Apparently the class also covered the topic of Dinosaurs recently, so this session was very timely indeed! That is Isaac's piece on the right. He wrote:"My pet dinosaur is a Gigantosaurus. My dinosaur can stand guard of my house and my dinosaur's name is Fang Claws"

The Mad Science gang needed about a half hour to prepare and set up. So while we sang the birthday songs (English, Chinese and Malay!) and cut the cake for the kids' tea time snack, the Mad Science team went into the classroom and set up what they needed to, in preparation for the session. 
The Mad Scientist sat the kids down in a classroom lecture style. He was very engaging and had no problem capturing the kids attention at all in the dinosaur themed session. He made it very interactive, asking the children questions about dinosaurs, getting everyone involved with answering questions, had the children thumping the floor like a dinosaur, looking and touching molds of dinosaur bones...
The 6 year old K2 class loved it. They listened attentively, enthusiastically raised hands to volunteer answers, and obediently carried out all instructions given to them during practical hands-on parts of the session.  Even Asher and Shawna who are 3 and a half years old were very attentive, could follow the programme and enjoyed the entire programme thoroughly.
Predictably, however, the kids' favourite bits of the party were the "practical" hands-on parts of it. We had two segments. In the first segment (below), the children got to make their own mold of a dinosaur tooth to take home. With all the materials provided for and laid out, the children simply had to insert the plasticky rubber tooth to make an impression in the sand, before the Mad Science crew poured plaster of paris into the holes, and wait for them to set while a second activity was done.
The children positively loved the second activity we had - they got to be paleontologist dusting for dinosaur bones! The kids were split up into groups of four kids where they huddled around a huge plastic container filled with an inch thick of sand, with a dinosaur skeleton in them. Armed with clean paintbrushes, the junior paleontologists embarked on their task with great fervour.

All too soon, the party came to an end for the kids. Even hubbs and I were so entertained by the whole session that we too felt a pang of disappointment as the party came to an end. That was how hyped up we were! :) But it was a solid 90 minutes of edu-tainment that was the highlight of the afternoon for all the kids and adults present. The kids got to take home their plaster of paris mold of dinosaur tooth in a plastic container too. I could see them eagerly showing the tooth to their parents when they came to pick them up from the childcare.
All in, we had a fantastic experience with Mad Science Singapore. Apparently, they even do workshops, holiday camps and corporate events. Their other birthday party themes are even more science based than the dinosaur themed one, and they really sound very intriguing indeed! So do check them out, and if you are going to have them conduct a party for you, do remember to invite us! :p

Friday, 16 August 2013

Don't change the registration system, Make Every School a Good School instead!

Primary school registration is serious business in Singapore. Some even claim that it was one of the most stressful moments in their lives, to register their child for the school of their choice. It is even seriously business in the way money exchanges hands - no, no, not under table coffee money (have you forgotten that this is Singapore?! ). No, I am talking about the fees that some people pay to the primary school they used to attend when they were young, to be an Official Member of the School Alumni. And we're talking about hundreds of dollars here, not tens of dollars. In any case, if this piece of news is anything to go buy, that may change, in future.

Okay first up, if you are confused about what I am going on about, you need to read the following links which will give you a good overview of the issue at hand and the Primary school registration system in Singapore.  

The Mad Scramble to Navigate P1 Registration by Little Blue Bottle will give you an insight into what an average Singaporean HAS TO ask themselves when registering their young ones for primary school. Navigating P1 registration - Selecting a primary school - by Little Blue Bottle will tell you what an average Singaporean SHOULD ask themselves when registering their young ones for primary school. And lastly,  Should the Primary School Registration System be Tweaked? by the same Little Blue Bottle will tell you what this whole issue about the possible change in registration rules is about.

Now, let me state for the record which side of the fence I am on. The hubbs and I both hail from reputable primary schools. So, yes, we are FOR the current system of primary school registration which gives priority to alumni of the respective school. 

In fact, about a month ago, we just registered Isaac for hubbs' alumni school. We thought long and hard about this, whether we should register Isaac for the school. The main factor going against it was the fact that we stay quite far from the school, and we are not likely to move nearer to it. However, the main reason why we decided to go ahead and register Isaac for the school, is mainly because hubbs feels patriotic towards his school. I am not kidding. The only reason why I am not objecting to this, is because it is a good school.

Also, like hubbs, I feel patriotic towards my own primary school as well. I would love to have my daughter go to the same school I did. Gosh, if I even had a choice, I would even want my daughter to go to the same secondary school I was in. Thus, I totally understand hubbs' sense of patriotism. And I think that many people who were from schools they feel patriotic to, would most likely feel the same way.

Some people say this is elitism. Why? Because they are jealous and want to get into these schools too? But why? Most Singaporean parents nowadays are born and bred here, meaning they would be alumni of some primary school as well. In the event that your old school has closed down, I understand you can call MOE to enquire and they will tell you which primary school you can qualify under Phase 2A for as the old schools closed down are usually merged with other primary schools to form a new primary school currently in existence. Hence, almost everyone, barring the non-Singaporeans, would have an alumni school to register at. So why are these people not registering at their own alumni schools but hankering after other people's alumni schools? 

I can tell you why. It is because, it would appear, that the popular schools that have most of their places taken up in Phase2A (the alumni phase) are in fact schools which are above average, good schools. So that is the real issue at the heart of it, isn't it? People want their kids to get into good schools. It doesn't really matter what name it has. I also know of people from so-called neighbourhood schools, who are proud of their schools. And we all know of the neighbourhood schools that have done so well that they have elevated themselves from the moniker of neighbourhood school into a 'branded school' status. These schools also have the Phase 2A alumni issue at play. Is it because these schools have a rich alumni that screams of elitism? No. These schools have the alumni issue because they are good schools! 

So let's face it. The issue is not the registration system. The issue is the quality of the schools. If the Ministry of Education makes good on its promise to Make Every School A Good School like it says it wants to do, then everyone would be more than happy to send their child to their alumni school, or in fact, any school at all - since they are supposedly all good, right? Thus, instead of wasting time and energy to change the registration system, they should work on the real issue of making every school a good school.

The current primary school registration gives priority to alumni, parent volunteering, religious and grassroots connections and also the distance one stays from the school in question. The distance rules have been in place for as long as I can remember. So, now, with the news put out that the Ministry of Education is seriously considering tweaking the primary registration rules, what other option do they have to use as a entrance qualifier? Distance? This smacks even more of elitism, to me.Or rather, it favours the rich. For this means that they can almost guarantee themselves a place if they stay near enough to the school. And we all know that property prices near the good schools are all priced higher because of it.

A fallacy? I hear some of you say? Now, let me assure you that I am probably one of the most qualified people in Singapore to say that it is true that property prices around a good school is higher because of the school. Why? Because I proved it. With empirical evidence. It was my dissertation topic back when I was in school. Here's the proof below, you can go look it up in the Building & Real Estate Library in the National University of Singapore. But yes, it is true 10 years ago, and I am certain it still holds true now. So, to tweak a system such that it will favour the rich the most? Now, if that isn't elitism, I don't know what is.

Some detractors of the alumni system also say the parents who hail from good schools did nothing and just benefited from it. So one day, out of curiosity, I asked my mum how she managed to get my older sister into our primary school. "Because I ligated. Government say Stop at Two."  When I heard this, I was simultaneously shocked, disgusted and felt sorrowful as I remembered how I used to openly hint to my parents that I wanted a younger sibling until my older sister came to me and said "Can you stop it?! Mummy cannot have any more children!" Government said Stop at Two, and we did. And we could go to a good school. Suddenly, I wondered if it wasn't a coincidence that a lot of my and my sister's primary school friends all only had one other sibling. 

A few months ago, at the dinner table at my in laws place, we asked my father-in-law (FIL) the same question: How did he manage to register hubbs for the primary school? This story emerged... Apparently, at that time, there was no unified nor clear system of registration. My FIL went to the school and queued up to want to register hubbs for the school. After quite a few hours, he reached the top of the queue, but the Principal said to him:"Come back tomorrow." The next day, he went again, and was told to "Come back tomorrow" again. He did that every day, for a whole week. Until he got fed up, and told the principal "I have been coming everyday like you told me, for a whole week, and still you have not allowed me to register my son into your school." To which, the principal replied:"Tell me why I should allow you to register? You are not an alumni, you are not even of the same religious belief, so why should we allow you to register?" My FIL replied:"Because the Government said to Stop at Two, and we did!" And so he was allowed to register hubbs for the school. TRUE STORY. I kid you not.

So that is the price we had to pay in order for us to have studied in a good school, and it is a heavy price that is more weighty than 60 hours of volunteer work. It is telling how similar both stories are. It is also sad, that it is this Stop at Two policy that has landed us as the sandwich generation made to bear the cost and stresses of an aging population.

Thus, I have a proposition. You want people to have more kids? Then let people who have three or more kids have their choice of primary school for all their kids. Plus free local university education - detailed discussion of that is for another post. But, I can confidently tell you. that if the government agrees to this two points, this method will definitely bear fruit - pun fully intended. 

Coming back to the real issue however... Make every school a good school! Don't distract the population with changing the registration rules. The only perfect solution to these problems is to truly make every school a good school. When that is done, school registration would merely be a formality. And everyone would be proud of the good schools they come from. So leave the registration system alone and get to work making every school a good school!!!

Friday, 2 August 2013

MegaBugs is buggerific!

Have you guys been to MegaBugs Return! at the Singapore Science Centre? If you haven't, you should do so really quickly, as the MegaBugs Return! exhibition's last day is on 18th August 2013! Just look at this humongous mosquito?! Ain't it cool!? It's the only mosquito I really wanna see - a fake one! :) 
The whole idea behind this MegaBugs exhibition is that they took the world of the buys and enlarged it so much that you feel like those kids in the Honey, I Shrunk the Kids! movie! The bugs have been done so well, so realistic looking, that I'm sure those army pilots who fly past Science Centre in the sky would have gotten a shock of their lives had they looked down and saw the gigantic bugs in the carpark of the Science Centre!
This is one exhibition I really enjoyed very much. The bugs were realistically made, and they even put in some electronics to make some of its limbs move. Seriously cool. The kids enjoyed it too! Do you know, we didn't just go MegaBugs once, we went twice! And the kids are still asking us to go again! Surprisingly, it was Asher and Shawna who kept requesting to go back to MegaBugs. I thought 6 year old Isaac would have been more interested in this than the 3 and a half year old twins.
Huge models aside (and there were so many!), most exhibits came with a info board that gave more info on the gargantuan bug we were looking at. There were also mega-infoboards with all sorts of interesting info and trivia on bugs. This red console below is an activity counter where you can hear the sound of a bug, and try to guess which bug made that sound.
And what's a bug exhibition without real bugs?! They do have several displays with live bugs, as well as dead bugs. The boys liked the one where you could see the dead bugs kinda glowing in the ultraviolet light. I like the one where you can see like more than 20 huge cockroaches in a tank (middle picture below). Shawna preferred the exhibit of the dead as a doorknob bugs in a framed box below :p
Oh and if you have the time and energy, do shell out a few more bucks to catch the 3D film of "Bugs 3D - A Rainforest Adventure" that is screened in Annex Hall 1 of the Science Centre. It was very interesting, like seeing an episode of National Geographic on bugs, in 3D on the big screen. Now, Isaac really liked that one.

So, do plan a trip down soon, if you haven't seen it already! :)

Note: We were invited by P'Art 1 Design and the Singapore Science Centre to the exhibition on separate occasions. Both times which we enjoyed thoroughly :) Opinions expressed above are entirely our own!


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