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getting ready for school

getting ready for school

The night(mare) before school reopens

How awesome is it that the kids are finally back in school?? Very, very, very, very, very much so. Was that too many very’s? Are you kidding? If anything, it’s too few. Let’s throw in a couple more very’s in there.

I typically try not to delight in their misery but when their level of misery is directly proportionate to my level of delight, I shall allow myself a discreet but very celebratory victory dance in the bathroom. Which I did several times and there may or may not have been some involuntary whooping. The kids were like “what are you doing inside, mom??” and I had to be all “oh um nothing, everything’s fine, carry on.

Every school holidays, I feel like I’ve aged 3 years and at this rate, I’ll be 70 by the time Hayley gets to primary 1.

But you know what’s the worst part about school holidays? The last night before they have to go back to school. Specifically, 30 minutes before bedtime on this dreaded night.

Okay, let me back up a bit. I’m not a noob at this parental torture called school holidays. I know how this goes so at the start of every holidays, I’ll get the kids to take out all their homework and finish it up. Week 1 is always all about the homework and there will be no fun activities until everything is done. I usually spend this week asking them repeatedly to check and double check any and all homework requirements because I will not have any surprises on the night before school starts.

They assured me that it was all done so weeks 2, 3, and 4 were all about having fun. They went to Sentosa, went for camps, went to the museum, went to the playground, went swimming, went to Sentosa again two more times, went to more playgrounds, it was glorious.

Furthermore, we were blessed with an extra public holiday called Hari Raya Puasa two days ago, so I gave myself a headstart and started nagging at them to pack their bags and do a final check of their homework on Sunday afternoon. With that done, we spent our bonus public holiday having fun rock climbing, and all was well until bedtime that night.

I delivered a final instruction to make sure everything was packed and ready for school the next day, and it was at this most auspicious moment that Truett discovered he had 3 copies of 新朋友 magazine undone, plus his completed chinese essay had gone missing.

I legit burst an artery at this point.

It’s scientifically proven that 30 minutes before bedtime on this night is when the gates of homework hell opens up and unleashes the spirits of uncompleted assignments upon you. Work that has been done will mysteriously disappear and formerly nonexistent homework will suddenly come haunt you with their cold, undead fingers. To vanquish this great evil requires a very advanced level of tiger mom powers and sadly, I’m not quite levelled up enough.

Let’s just say that this particular night was filled with much unspeakable pain and gnashing of teeth.

Thankfully, that ordeal is now over and to make up for the suffering, I shall gaze upon this photo of of their joyful school holiday exploits to remind myself of happier times.

getting ready for school

Progress report: week 1

A whole week in and Primary 1 has been good so far. Truett is adjusting to the hours and making new friends and learning all kinds of new stuff. It’s like he’s made the jump to being a smarty pants primary schooler in a week, in a good way. He knows how things work now.

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Me, I’m still adjusting. I still get flashbacks of my time in the system, like the other day when I followed a trail of parents to cut across the school carpark after picking Truett up. From nowhere, the principal appeared behind me and started booming, “PARENTS, PLEASE SET A GOOD EXAMPLE AND WALK ON THE PAVEMENT!”

We were like barely 3 feet from the pavement that was packed with parents and the carpark was completely clear but “YES, MA’AM, RIGHT AWAY!!” In front of me, all the other parents scurried off hastily, each one quickly making sure both feet found a spot up on the crowded pavement. It would have been funny if I wasn’t also scurrying. In a different scenario, I might have told her to loosen up a little but 20 something years on, there’s still something about having the principal bark orders at me. I’m like the elephant who had his leg tied to a stake as a baby, y’know. What I’d like to know is whether all primary school principals are this terrifying. Like when you want to apply for the job of school principal, there’s an audition for the role. “Stand over there, put on your fierce face and bark orders…GO! Ok, too docile, next!”

Anyway, everyday when I pick Truett up from school, I’ll give him a monster hug and ask him the same question, “How was school today?”

“Good,” he’ll say, like 7-year-olds do in their noncommital way.

“Well, elaborate!!”

“What’s laborate?”

“E-laborate. It means tell me more. I need details!” Apart from my inquisitive mom instincts kicking in, I really do like hearing him talk about his day in school.

“I had chicken rice again and I ordered it myself, my buddy didn’t have to help me.” (that’s 6 days of chicken rice in a row, I’ll have to try this legendary chicken rice sometime.) “My friends like my book, they think it’s funny.” (it is. Press Here is his new favourite book and it’s a great one.) “I drew a leaf today,” he said, pulling out a crumpled piece of green paper from his bag. (at least it’s not torn, yay! that’s improvement.)

Earlier in the week, he also said “I think my chinese is not so good, all my friends can speak chinese but I don’t understand what the teacher is saying in class.” He looked troubled as he said it, and I felt really bad for him.

My thoughts about how we teach Mandarin in schools have been well documented and I won’t talk about it again, but looking at him worry about his ability to cope with this blasted subject on his first week in school was heartbreaking. Maybe it’s time to cave and re-enrol him in Mandarin classes or hire a private tutor. We’re still weighing our options but step 1 of the intervention plan has begun – I’ve been going through his 华文课本 with him after school.

Today, when I asked him about how school was, he said “When teacher said chinese things, I understood what she was saying. I don’t know how I know but I just know, it’s a miracle.”

Ok, baby steps, we’ll get there.

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getting ready for school

Why, Chinese, Why?

I finally succumbed to my tiger mom instincts and enrolled the kids in one of those preparatory Chinese classes. I thought it’d be good to expose them to an environment of Mandarin-speaking people and they’d get to sing some happy Chinese songs or learn some rhymey Chinese rhymes, dance around a little bit, that sort of thing.

The first week in, Truett came home with a list for 听写. Ok, so maybe they’re diving head first into the deep end but it can’t be so bad, right? Probably a few easy words like 人 or 天.


I took a look at the list and the first word was 跳舞. Really? 舞 has like 14 strokes, or ten thousand. I have difficulty just looking at 舞, it makes my head hurt. I’ve seen entire paragraphs in Sanskrit that looked easier to replicate than 舞.

Being the diligent and responsible parent that I am, I sat down with Truett and got him to write 跳舞 5 times. It took him 20 minutes. And then 5 more times. That took even longer.

At which point, he was grabbing his head and looking downright miserable so I covered up the word and told him to try writing it out from memory.

“Just try your best,” I said. “It’s ok if you get it wrong.”

He came up with an elaborate drawing of what looked like a rocket spaceship exploding into a house. Pretty close.

That 听写, he came home with 0 for 3 and he drew a sad face next to his piece of paper. My heart broke into a thousand tiny pieces because my little boy was trying so hard but he was made to feel like a failure by stupid Chinese words. I wanted to sucker punch the Chinese language in the face for being such an ass. I thought of pulling him out of the class to let him enjoy what was left of his pre-Primary carefree life. But the husband said maybe we should just let him soak in the environment of Chineseness for that 100 minutes every week. Even if he failed every 听写, so be it.

I took out the piece of 听写 paper with the big fat 0, cancelled out the sad face and drew a GINORMOUS HAPPY ONE. I drew the happiest face I could draw and told him that this guy was happy because he tried his best and that was something to be happy about. And then I drew a whole bunch of other happy faces because all these people were so damn proud of Mr Happy Face here.

This week was round 2 of 听写. His 3 words were 运动, 电脑 and 巴刹. After 3 days of practice, he could write 运动 entirely from memory, half of 电脑 and 巴刹 still looked like a bunch of random lines.

But it was progress. I’d take 1.5 of 3.

I’ve known it since I was a kid, that the Chinese language was designed to destroy me slowly and in the most painful way possible. I thought I escaped relatively unscathed after taking my final Chinese paper 14 years ago but here it is again, back to torment me. I think this calls for a dramatic sigh.