Choosing a primary school – let your values lead the way

choosing the right primary school

We’re entering July soon and parents of children born in the year 2009 are largely in frantic mode. It’s the time for primary school registration.

Fellow writers have been broaching the subject – from how to choose a school to recognizing that God is in control.

I’ve been wanting to share about how we settled on the school for Vera.

My husband’s alma mater no longer exists, and mine is on the other end of the island, so both options are out.

Over the past year, we shortlisted options A, B, and C. Our choices were based on distance and reputation, so they are all relatively near and relatively good. A is a pretty traditional school, very focused on academics and stressful overall, based on feedback from parents who send their kids there. (I must say that A was initially the leading choice for us, and my husband has been serving as a grassroots leader so that is equivalent to doing PV and should help us to secure a place there in phase 2B.)

B is the new kid of the block, with spanking new facilities and also a reputable principal who’d been moved over from one of the premium schools. It is also the nearest one to us.

C is a Christian girls’ school with a reputation for having a well-rounded focus, and that seems to strike a good balance between academic work and other interests such as the arts and sports.

After some prayer and consideration, we decided to go for C.

Our church affiliation would allow us to get into C via phase 2B. (For more information on phases and registration dates for 2015, go to MOE’s website.)

You might be wondering, then what will happen when it’s JJ’s or Joshie’s turn in a couple of years’ time? Well, we were keen on co-ed schools at first, but when we drilled down to the core, I realised that I did not want to allow our decision to hinge upon just the gender mix of our troop. So the short answer is we’ll cross the bridge when we get there. We may end up with Option B for the boys in future, or consider moving to another location that is nearer the Christian boys’ school that our church has affiliation with. (Currently, the latter option is out as it’s a tad too far away.)

While we shortlisted the schools based on distance and reputation (okay, I should add affiliation in the mix too), we made the final decision based on 2 key factors: my child’s temperament, and our family values.

On temperament:

Vera has a bit of an artist’s streak in her; she’s creative and dreamy, she loves to learn new things and ask questions about everything she observes, she likes to take her time to colour, draw, paint, come up with stories, and perform them. While all these does not necessarily mean she won’t be able to thrive in a more traditional academic-focused environment, I feel she’ll really thrive in a place that offers some space to dream and create, and to cultivate other interests such as art or dance or drama.

On values:

Why is values so important? Well, because every family is unique and has its own set of values, largely determined by the upbringing of both parents and their faith or belief system. Some families value hard work and traditional academic performance. Some families value creativity and could be more drawn towards a less structured education environment for their children. Some families value freedom (and perhaps a striking example of this would be families who choose to homeschool.)

Ours is a bit of a mix because my husband leans towards the traditional academic route while I much prefer options that offer more creativity, free time, and a less structured learning space.

I have considered homeschooling, but that option is not the first one for us right now, as I’ve searched my heart and can honestly now say that my ideal life as a mum is to be able to do some writing or work from home, and to cultivate a space of my own. (We have not ruled out homeschool for JJ though, as I’m not entirely sure how he will fit in within our primary school system, as it currently stands, but we still have two years to figure that one out.)

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So this is how we arrived at our decision. I can’t say for sure that it’s the best choice, because only time will tell, but I am fairly sure that Vera will enjoy her learning and development there. And by God’s grace, we will navigate the primary school years smoothly with our first-born.

How did you decide on a primary school? What factors were important to you?

In every child, there lies a superhero

In every child, there lies a superhero…

superhero me!

Meet Captain Robot. At the press of a button, this robot makes super funny faces and even dances along. His superpower is to make people smile, laugh, and leave the room happier than when they came in.

And Ms Blessing Fairy. She flutters all over the world with her trusty pair of recycled cardboard paper wings, and sprinkles blessing dust onto all of mankind. It’s hard to spot her because she’s really quick and nimble!

Their superhero costumes were all made from recycled material, provided in a little toolkit put together by the creative folks at Startwell for this year’s Superhero Me Festival – Singapore’s first costume crafting festival aimed at empowering children to grow a stronger sense of self, through creativity and imagination.

Head on down to the National Library in your self-made Superhero Me costumes on 27 June from 1pm to 3pm to stand up for childhood and meet other superheroes! The first 100 children in costume will get a goodie bag. Kids will also get to participate in story-telling and craft activities. Register here!

What to do during the June holidays? Head to Masak Masak at the National Museum

We visited Masak Masak 2015 at the National Museum of Singapore. The exhibition, made up of 10 installations by local as well as international artists, features familiar playgrounds and activities from the past. Even NAFA and SOTA students have been roped in for this year’s exhibition, so you can expect lots of interesting and interactive activities for little ones.

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Step into the museum and you’ll be greeted by this rainbow origami installation by Mademoiselle Maurice from France.

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This is Mademoiselle Maurice herself sharing about the inspirations behind Spectrum of Paper, a beautiful origami mural done in response to Jeanette Aw’s newly launched book, Sol’s Journey. At first glance, it reminds me of birds in migration. In this gallery, your child can learn how to fold an origami bird.

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At Simple Pleasures in Life by Jeanette Aw, children are given free rein to colour in the wall art or to draw anything they please.

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Time for wayang kulit, or shadow puppetry! The story is about a young princess who wanders away from her palace, and meets some naughty spirits from a nearby forest. The puppetry performance is on every weekend at 2.30pm. Tickets are selling fast from Sistic.

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Vera making her own shadow puppet.

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Here’s an interesting installation that kids who love to crawl and hide in tunnels would enjoy. Aptly named Wanderlust, this installation is fashioned from simple materials such as crepe paper. I hope it withstands the the curious fingers of little tots!

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Next to Wanderlust, children can get a glimpse into the history of woodblock printing. This artform gained prominence in Singapore after WWII, and often depicts life on the streets. Children can do some serious stamping here, just to get a flavour of how woodblock printing works.

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On the ground floor, kids can wander around and admire dancing solar flowers, or try their hands at this giant version of Ring-a-bottle.

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Or they can test their general knowledge by fitting the right country name to the flag. This is actually meant to be a large-scale version of the old-school eraser game. So pick your opponent and try to flip your eraser above his!

Masak_2015_10 The kids’ favourite room in the entire exhibition has got to be Luma-city. Shrouded in darkness, coloured lights leave a trail on the floor when you move over it by pushing a giant plastic vehicle. The trio spent a good 10 minutes racing around amok in the room, and made the poor staff pretty busy.

Beware if it’s too crowded though; it’s no fun to be run over by a giant toy car or boat.

The other hot (literally) favourite? The bouncy playgrounds on the lawn. This is open to small visitors every Saturday and Sunday, 10-12pm or 4-6pm.

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The best solution to a hot day? Ice-cream!

Masak Masak 2015 is open till 10 August, daily, 10am-6pm. Do remember to check out the special programmes on the main museum website. Have fun checking it out during the hols!

A letter to my highly sensitive child (who turns 4)

Dear JJ,

We’ve come a long way from the start of this year, when you experienced some difficult moments and exhibited repetitive behaviour.

After some sessions with the OT (and lots of frenzied seaching for answers on the Internet and everywhere else), I started to see you in a different light. I started to understand your needs and preference for order. I tried harder to see things from your perspective. I also adjusted my expectations of you. Slowly, things began to make sense, and the future didn’t look so bleak.

Along the way, a good friend recommended me this book: The Highly Sensitive Child. That was when more pieces of the puzzle clicked into place. It’s true, you’re a highly sensitive child. You notice when mama changes her clothes or wears a new dress. You notice and you ask questions when a stranger looks sad or a baby is crying somewhere. You pick up vibes that other people do not. You remember the words I utter, and sometimes even use them against me when they seem to contradict with reality. “Mummy, but you said…” I’ve learnt to be really careful about the things I say, and to make only promises that I’m able to keep.

Labels of clothes irritate you. So do socks that don’t fit well on your toes and heel. You dislike it when the string of your pants are tied lopsided (you want the loops on the left and right to be equal). These preferences are often challenging for us and it’s sometimes necessary to remove the issue altogether by thinking twice about every purchase we make for you. (By the way, all the clothes that you dislike have been passed on to your baby brother, in case you’re wondering why he looks like he’s wearing oversized clothes half the time…)

To help transition from activity to activity, we have to prep you beforehand and pay close attention to what you’re trying to say when you resist moving on. We try to address your needs before we can move on together. Of course, many times, I get impatient and play the “you listen to me young man” card. But these days, I catch myself and am quicker to soften up and ease you along without further pushing. I hope you know…I am learning along with you too.

I’ve been observing when our routines do work for you, and when they don’t. It’s already obvious that busy days don’t serve us well as rushing about tends to stress your system. So we tend to take it easier on the weekends, by planning only one major outing per day.

For your birthday celebration, we only invited our usual friends around to celebrate with you. It’s not that we didn’t want to plan a big party for you, but we realised that this is what you’re most comfortable with right now, and we really really wanted you to just be yourself and not be over-stimulated by a large group of people. I’m thankful that you enjoyed yourself thoroughly, and that your little friends did too.

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There are challenges but there are also joys.

I want you to know that I see the small steps you take.

You’re learning to express your emotions in words, and to explain your frustrations to mama and daddy.

You’re learning to let go when your play or reading is disrupted by your siblings or others.

You also make us roll over in laughter many-a-times with your silly expressions and all the funny things you say.

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Recently I’ve started to place the problem-solving back in your hands by asking the question “What can we do to help you?” or “What do you think we can do about this problem?” You’ve surprised me occasionally with the ways you’ve suggested to solve the problem, and more often than not, after thinking about it, you’d just say, actually it’s okay. Almost like you’re learning to live with the messiness of this life we have here on earth. Hearing you say those words puts a silent smile on my face.

When you’re engaged in a learning activity, like swimming and piano, you’re happy to be immersed in that learning space, and you respond really well to teachers. I’ve seen you grow in leaps and bounds in swimming. Where is that fear of being in the deep pool now? You’re now utterly enjoying yourself in the water, and the swim coaches are telling me how much you love it. (Of course, although I’m trying to get some laps done now that you’re in independent classes, I often peek over when I’m close enough, and I see it for myself too.)

On good days, you show us that you’re capable of being very loving, to us as well as your siblings. When little Josh is crying, you will sometimes help him by distracting him or offering a toy.

When we’re out on our special dates, you’re usually happy and cheery. On those occasions, I’d hardly hear a whine from you. It’s led me to conclude:

Attention and affirmation are the best medicine for your sensitive child-soul.

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Obviously at this age, you’re happy to channel your super-heros into daily life. From Batman, to Captain America, to Spiderman, and even Fireman. We often call upon your heros to remind you of how you can be bigger and braver than you think you are. (And oh, also to eat your veggies, because that’s what super-heroes do all the time.)

I searched through my blog archives and realised that I’ve written a lot about you. Here are a few of my favourite (and not-so-favourite) moments:

on taming your anger

on re-discovering my middle child

on being my sunshine

on the terrible twos

the day we nearly lost you

on making up with daddy

– when you penned your thoughts at 15 months

Reading through the old posts, I can’t help but realise…What a journey it’s been for us.

God has taught me patience and trust through it all. He’s also been gracious to allow us to catch glimpses of your progress, your good attitude towards learning, and your loving acts on good days. These things, though small, remind me of God’s faithfulness. He’s telling us to trust in Him more, and to seek His wisdom as we raise you and your big sis and little bro.

As we celebrate you turning four, my prayer is that you’ll grow strong wings, and sink in deep roots in faith in God. May He grow you to become a God-fearing, and people-loving man, who will walk closely and in obedience to God. May you be brave to take flight and soar wherever He may lead you.

Happy birthday, my buddy boy. Apart from your daddy, you’ll always be my favourite superhero.

Hugs and kisses,

Mama

Batman suit

8 great reasons why you should go on a holiday without kids

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Some moons ago, I wrote a piece sharing 20 reasons why you should lug your kids on holidays. Today I thought it’s time to do a piece on reasons why you should do the opposite.

The hubs and I just came back from a trip to Phuket and I must say it’s made quite the difference in the way we treat each other and communicate. So yes…this post is inspired by that.

Here goes. :)

1. To reconnect
It’s easy to lose touch with your spouse amidst the stresses and busyness of daily life. Work demands, kid demands, and so on can really drain the energy and quality of the marriage relationship. Taking time to intentionally draw close to each other – emotionally, mentally and physically – is really necessary in today’s context. The trick is to leave the phone behind or forget about asking for the password to the hotel’s free wifi; instead take the time to just focus on each other.

2. To remember you are first husband and wife, then parents
When the kids came along, I recall being so caught up in the demands of child-rearing and devouring all the parenting books with a vengeance. Now that they are a tad older, and we can breathe a little, go on date nights every fortnight, etc etc, I find myself seeking out more marriage-related books and wanting to invest more energy into building my marriage.

I think it’s a normal process that we go through when kids enter the picture. Their needs are pressing and their voices are loud. But we also need to remember that marriage came first, then kids.

3. To have the conversations you’ve been meaning to have
There are times I’ve shelved a discussion I’ve been meaning to have just because of lack of time or mental energy to deal with it.

But sometimes the conversation is important enough for you to plan ahead and to get it off your chest. For instance, if there is a family issue that’s been bothering you, and you don’t know how to resolve it.

When you’re relaxed and rested during a holiday, it might just be the best time to deal with it head on, in partnership with your spouse.

4. To enjoy each other
When was the last time you had fun with your spouse? When you could laugh at each other, and just do wacky, silly things together? A holiday provides you with ample opportunities to go on exciting mini-journeys and day trips, and seize the day and do (or learn) something new with your mate.

Of course, physical intimacy is an important part of the whole package. For a couple of days you get to be like crazy honeymooners who are madly in love. Need I say more?

5. To make a baby
Friends will laugh at this one, because they know we’ve officially “closed shop” in the baby department. But lots of people take time off to “make babies” and let’s admit it it always sounds glamourous to say, “Oh this baby was made in Bali / Koh Samui / Tokyo.”

6. To forgive and heal from past hurts
An idyllic resort getaway provides an ideal setting for married couples to work through a rough patch, to hone their communication, and to seek restoration of friendship, love and trust. It’s no wonder that lots of churches organise marriage retreat programmes to help their members work through and resolve marital problems.

You don’t have to wait for a big issue to arise before retreat-ing as a couple. Taking time off regularly  helps build a healthy loving relationship, and that should put you in a better place to deal with life’s hurdles as they come.

7. To envision a better future
What are our goals as a family? What steps do we need to take to align everyone to these goals? Which activities do we take on, and which do we say no to?

Most families these days have to deal with very hectic routines and schedules. We all become great do-ers and runners, but it’s easy to lose sight of the big picture.

Time is a precious resource, and we want to invest it on things that matter. In order to know what matters, and what doesn’t, it’s essential to take a step back to evaluate your purpose and goals, and to plan concrete steps on how to achieve that ideal life for your family.

8. To recharge for the journey ahead
Parenting is a life journey – people say it gets easier but I think the truth is, there will always be challenges; they just change from stage to stage.

One thing is for sure. That we’re all in it for the long haul. And every seasoned sojourner will tell you how important it is to rest and take pit stops at regular points, in order to finish the race well.

What do you love most about going on holidays sans kids? I’d love to hear your views!

Inspiring mumpreneurs: Ruth Wong, life coach and founder of My Philosoulphy

I’m excited to have Ruth Wong, founder of My Philosoulphy, share her entrepreneurial journey with us. I’ve known Ruth since from our early blogging days. She’s been an inspiration to me, always reminding me how important it is to keep my focus, and to never stop working towards my dreams and aspirations.   

Here is Ruth’s story…

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1) What gave you the courage or motivation to start your own business?

I knew long ago that working for someone else isn’t for me and that living life on my own terms and doing work I really love are important to me. But it wasn’t until the sudden death of a good friend that motivated me to take action. He and his wife were both killed in a car accident while on their honeymoon. It left me in shock, yet at the same time made me realized that life is just too unpredictable and I had to start doing something about my dreams or it may be too late. That’s what got me started on a journey to discovering my passion and talents, and reconnecting with my dreams.

I value freedom and flexibility and desire to be a stay-home mom.

2) How did you decide to do coaching?

I did freelance writing for a few years around the time when my son was born. While I enjoy writing, I began to feel restless, like something was missing. I came to realise that it was my desire to do meaningful work – work that makes a difference in people’s lives – calling out to me.

I evaluated my options – I am a social worker by training but I didn’t want to go back to the sector; I value freedom and flexibility and desire to be a stay-home mom. My search eventually led me to the field of coaching and I am absolutely love the work I am doing. I help women design and achieve their goals, and work towards their ideal life. I help them to reconnect with their dreams and desires, overcome limiting beliefs, confidence and self-worth issues and expand their wealth-consciousness so that they can live with greater purpose, passion and prosperity.

A woman who wants to have it all can’t do it all.

3) Can you share with us your biggest setback so far and the lessons you learnt from it?

I started another business with a friend before going into coaching. Unfortunately, I experienced betrayal and the partnership fell through as a result. It was also during that time that I suffered a miscarriage. It was altogether a very painful time for me but a precious lesson learned. It taught me how important it is to have a contract in a business partnership. I would advise everyone who is going into a partnership to have a contract drawn up even in the early days, and even if the partner is your spouse or sibling. A business is a business and you do what a businesswoman has to do.

It took me about a year to finally let go of what happened, both the business and the miscarriage, and see the positive side of things. I am also thankful that because of this incident, I can now have a coaching business I love.

The thing with entrepreneurship is that the first business idea usually doesn’t work out for various reasons. I think statistically, the number is that 80% of businesses closed within their first two years. The important thing is not to lose sight of our vision and dreams. I always believe that when God closes one door, He will open another even better one, and it’s been true in so many instances of my life.

4) Balancing business and family is not easy. How do you do it?

It’s definitely not an easy task. I put my family’s needs as priority but it doesn’t mean I sacrifice my dreams. Instead, I learn to work smarter.

I love what my mentor says: A woman who wants to have it all can’t do it all. We have to drop the mentality that we need to do it all by ourselves. It serves no one by trying to be a martyr. One way is to delegate as much as possible – outsource the house chores; hire a virtual assistant; if you don’t have the funds to do that yet, then at least outsource on project basis to freelancers. Be resourceful and find help that meets your budget, such as going to places like Fiverr, Odesk and Elance.

I also learn to say “no” more often and not be afraid to offend people. I would periodically examine all the activities and commitments I’m involved in to see if they will move me towards my goals or distract me from them. Some activities may be fun to do but they don’t necessarily help me with my business or add value to my family life.

Ultimately, it boils down to keeping our focus on what’s most important in our lives and living in alignment with our dreams, values and desires. It’s about making smart choices with the limited time and resources we have.

 

5) Finally, what advice would you give to mums who are thinking about becoming a mumpreneur?

There are many things I would love to share but I’ll limit myself to three:

  1. Start a passion-based business that aligns with your essence

I feel this is especially important for women entrepreneurs, because many of us are more emotionally-driven and heart-centred than men. It may sound clichéd but when you start a business, the early days are going to be tough and if you don’t love what you do, it is going to be so much harder. The learning curve will be steep (unless you already have some business related experience), there won’t be anyone telling you what to do; and you will face setbacks and challenges. But when you do something you are passionate about, and which aligns with your essence and core values, your business will stand a higher chance of making it. Don’t let money be the main motivating factor.

  1. Hire a coach or mentor

For first-time mompreneurs, it is helpful to work with a coach or mentor. See it as an investment in yourself and your business. It will help collapse the timeline when you learn from someone who’s been there, done that. It also saves you from much heartache and unnecessary mistakes.

That said, take your time to find the right coach and mentor. Bear in mind that it’s important to not only work with them on the systems, structures and strategies – all these form just 20-30% of the business. The rest of it is about mindset. That’s why in my coaching, I also help my clients to examine their limiting beliefs, confidence or self-worth issues as well as wealth-consciousness. All these can have a huge impact on the success of your business.

  1. Have the right mindset and attitude

In the end, no one else but you are responsible for achieving your dreams and goals. Treat your business as a business and not a hobby; it’s either you are all in or not.

Remember, you make your life happen. It doesn’t depend on anyone else. Because if it does, you are giving your power away and you are not allowing the real brilliance in you to emerge.

I’d like to end with one of my favorite business quotes:

Entrepreneurship is not about building a great business, it’s about building a great life.

But, you will never get what you want from the way you contribute to the world until you learn how to align your actions with your essence. And you cannot do that until you know who you are.

If your work lights you up, lets you express yourself, tap fiercely into your potential, play with people you love and earn enough to live well in the world, rock on.”  – Jonathan Fields

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If you’d like to get in touch with Ruth, you can reach her via My Philosoulphy’s Facebook page! Thank you, Ruth, for sharing your story and tips with us!

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