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Truett goes to school

Truett goes to school

Apply Yo Self!

We’ve survived Truett’s first exams, somebody pour me a stiff drink!

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Post exam happy.

I used to look at moms of Primary-schoolers getting all frazzled over something so trivial as Primary 1 exams(??!) and think that I’d be different. I’d be cool. I’d make learning fun and exciting. I’d help them to develop a love for learning. Hahahahahaha.

Wellllll, I’m not. Turns out that I am the very definition of a tiger mom. More assessment books! More test papers! What break?? Face book and study!! You do not get off this chair until I say you’re done. The concept of relaxed laissez-faire learning is a nice thought but it’s nonsense because Truett will laissez-faire his way to the iPad all day if he could.

We’ve been all about learning through play (code for “here’s some lego, have fun!”) the past 6 years and I wanted to push Tru to see how much hardcore studying he could take.

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Truett hitting the books even while we’re out grocery shopping.

On Wednesday, he came home with the results of his English paper.

“I got 28/30 and my teacher gave me stickers!” he said excitedly.

I took a moment to process the information. Ok not bad, 28. Then for a split second, I thought “Why only 28?? Why not 30? What happened to the other 2 marks? That’s 2 WHOLE QUESTIONS WRONG. WHAT HAPPENED HERE??? Did you know that last time, mommy used to get full marks for almost every paper right up till Primary 3?”

Except it was last time. Last time, policemen wore shorts. Last time, mommy was in a school where pooping in your pants in class was considered normal. Last time, getting an education wasn’t this hard. It hasn’t been last time for a long time and now, kids have to answer questions about stupid Cheryl’s birthday that present-day mommy can’t solve without the help of a youtube video.

So I turned on the enthusiasm and said “CONGRATULATIONS!! Great job, Tru!! Mommy is so proud of you!!!”

He beamed.

Yesterday, he got the results of his Math paper.

“How did you do???” I asked when I saw him.

“I got 23…” he said.

It took me even longer to process this information. 23. That’s…mediocre at best. I immediately thought about all the extra hours we’d have to put in during the school holidays, maybe start him on some of those Unlock Your Inner Math Genius type of class. What is the appropriate response to a 23? Maybe dial back on the congratulatory enthusiasm and go with a “Good effort, mommy’s proud of you. We’ll go through the questions together when you get the paper back ok?”

“But not out of 30. It’s 23 out of 25,” he continued.

PHEWWWW!!! I don’t know if he noticed but I was visibly relieved. Very much so. I could work with 23/25. That’s not so bad. We can hold off on the classes; several more assessment books from Popular should suffice for now.

“Awesome job, Truett!! That’s amazing, well done!”

He’ll be getting his Chinese paper back today and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that it’s ok but I’m mentally prepared for this.

Navigating this world of academic learning is very new to me. I have my thoughts on standardised testing at such a young age (WHY IS THIS NECESSARY FOR 7-YEAR-OLDS?) and academic results aren’t everything, I know that. I certainly wasn’t planning on being so involved. But I’ve pushed him to do well because he has to sit for an exam that will put a label on his ability and I want him to know that he can do this.

More importantly, what I really wanted him to learn was the value of tenacity, diligence and hard work. Or as Walter White would say, “APPLY YOURSELF!”

Truett goes to school

The best part about school is…

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After having spent an entire semester pursuing a formal education, I asked Truett what’s the best part about Primary School and he practically yelled “SCHOOL HOLIDAYS!!”

Nice. His favourite part about school is not being in it.

Was I really expecting a different answer though? Because I’m not even going to pretend like it wasn’t also my favourite part about school when I was a kid. But I thought maybe I should play my responsible mom card and try to inject some level of enthusiasm into the other parts of his school-going experience, particularly the parts where he’s actually in it. So I went with a leading question and asked him about his favourite subjects. Hopefully there are some that he actually enjoys.

“PE! I get to play with my friends during PE, you know? PE is the best.”

“Good choice. Yeah PE is really fun. Um, how about your next favourite?”

He thought for a while. Either he had too many favourites or none at all. Probably the second one.

“English is also quite fun.” he said, after a considerable pause.

“English! Phew! That’s my favourite too! Why do you like English?”

“I always get 10/10 for my spelling and my teacher will give me a smiley face sticker.”

This wasn’t always the case. The first couple of times he had spelling, he came home with 4/10. Then it got worse. 3/10. I’d try to teach him the words and he would tell me about how much his head hurt, or he was so bored, or that he needed to poop. Practising spelling or 听写 always magically made him want to poop. On the bright side, he didn’t have to worry about constipation during those first few weeks of school.

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Then one spelling day, he came home with 10/10. From that point on, it seemed like everything changed. He started getting full marks every week and he would rush home to show Kirsten his happy emoticon sticker.

Spelling practice didn’t make him want to poop anymore. He actually WANTED to learn! He would spend his afternoons writing the words over and over again in his little practice book and even when I had to take a timeout to feed Theo, he’d get Kirsten to test him on the words until he nailed every single one of them. Suddenly, he wasn’t tripping over bark or tea like he used to. He was spelling fire-engine and vintage car like a pro.

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“Helicopter? So easy.” were his exact words. Now can be so hao lian.

What changed? I’m not really sure. I’m guessing it’s both confidence and the satisfaction that comes from knowing that he’s good at something. When he was convinced that he couldn’t do it, spelling practice seemed as painful as eating glass shards. But once he started getting good at it, spelling became like a super fun piece of cake.

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“Hey Tru, how about Chinese? 听写 can be quite fun too, right?” I asked, perhaps a little too enthusiastically.

“Hahahahahahahha good one, mom. Chinese is not even a little bit fun. Chinese is zero fun.”

Well, that was worth a shot.

Truett goes to school

Primary One Registration, the low down


Truett starts Primary One next year and this whole school enrolment is supposed to be like a big deal. Alumnis! Parent volunteering! School Advisory Committees!

I feel like I should be more anxious about this but I haven’t done any volunteering and my alma mater doesn’t even exist anymore so all I have at this point is a list of all the schools within 1km of our house (C’mon, phase 2C!). There are 5 around here and none of them are the Ivy League equivalent of Primary Schools in the country. Just regular neighbourhood schools that may or may not ruin his future. Kidding!

So how important is it to get into a school with pedigree? I don’t know, I’ve never been to one.

I spent 6 years in Ping Yi Primary School. Exactly how bad was it? Back then, there were Primary 7 & 8 students who would gather and smoke outside the school gate and I’d have to walk through a cloud of smoke on the way home everyday. There was a kid in class who excreted in his pants all the time. One of my teachers had the most bizarre accent (she was really old) and I could understand like at most 30% of all the words that came out of her mouth. I guess it was so bad they decided it had to be shut down permanently.

But it was also a place where I had some really great teachers. In Primary 2, my English teacher gave me a copy of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and that was my introduction to the wonderful world of Roald Dahl.

I learnt most of the academic lessons I needed to learn in that school, plus a little bit more. Like how it’s down to me to work hard for what I wanted even if the conditions weren’t the most ideal. To apply myself and make the most of what I had because nobody owed me anything. Also, to identify the smell of poop in the seat next to mine and get the hell away from it as quick as I could. And after 6 years, I think I did ok.

If I could, I’d like to give my kids a shot at the very best schools available. But the odds of them getting into Raffles or Nanyang or Tao Nan is close to zero and we’re ok with that. We’ll take our chances with the 5 schools available nearby and hopefully, the kids don’t turn out as delinquents.

Balloting starts next week, wish me luck!

homeschooling, Kirsten goes to school, Truett goes to school, unqualified parenting tips

Shampoo-making fun

It’s June! Which means the school holidays are upon us. While that technically makes no difference to my kids who are on permanent school holiday, I’m happy because June means I’ve got lots of options to keep the kids occupied with fun and potentially educational activities.

After 5 months of home-schooling, I’m running out of ideas to make learning FUN AND EXCITING for the kids. Crayons? Boring! Chalk on the sidewalk? Huh, not again! Clay modeling? Don’t want. All they want to do is sit on the couch and watch Pixar animated movies all day. But no, I never agree to that because I’m a VERY RESPONSIBLE mother. Except when I’m busy. Or tired. Or feel like being a slug and watching Monsters, Inc for the 25th time.

Last weekend, we brought the kids for a shampoo-making class organized by Little Newtons at Forum, Orchard. It was great because 1) I’ve never made my own shampoo before, 2) the kids could learn something scientific for a change and 3) I could steal the recipe and never have to buy shampoo again.

The lesson was meant for kids above 4 but the prerequisite for joining was the ability to hold a beaker and stir, which my kids are fairly good at after all those cooking lessons.

Peruse Specimen A: stirring like champs.

In fact, Tru was stoning away like “um, you got something more challenging for me? I can stir without looking aight…”

I was surprised that they enjoyed it as much as they did because this is not what happens when I conduct lessons at home. They just sat there and listened to words like ammonium chloride and super-shampoo-strawberry-serumide (or it could have been some superlong sulphate word) with rapt attention.

I tried doing a science lesson at home once and they were climbing everywhere and stuffing toys in my nostrils. Not cool, guys.

They got to present their work to the class right at the end, which was a nice touch because it’s never too early for kids to learn public speaking.

BTW, if you’re into home-made shampoos and stuff, you probably want to check out Four Cow Farm, an organic range of home-made shampoos and baby creams. The kids have been using it for a couple of weeks and it’s really quite good. I love the Nappy Balm and the Calendula Remedy, which are like a miracle balms for eczema, rashes, bites, minor cuts, burns and grazes. I keep it in the fridge and now the kids know how to ask for the “cold cream” when they’re itching or injured.

According to company founder, Delphinia, all the ingredients are pure enough to eat and they’re all cooked in a huge pot in her mother-in-law’s kitchen in Australia. That’s pretty awesome.

PS. Update from Delphinia: These days, the products aren’t make in the kitchen anymore because it got too small so they converted one of the old dairy sheds into a production/kitchen room and her MIL makes the products there. So instead of a regular kitchen, it’s now made in a larger sort of kitchen that’s just dedicated to cooking creams.

Truett goes to school

The first graduation, kind of a big deal

My little man Truett graduated from playgroup last week, with a killer performance and everything. I watched him get jiggy on the stage and it was like he boogeyed the remaining shreds of his babyness right off.

And my heart almost burst.


A year ago, he put on his uniform for the first time and stood at the school gate looking apprehensive. He held my hand tightly with his little one, refusing to let go even though momma said “Bye sweetie, I love you” for the 27th time.

Not this time. This time, he took my hand and walked me into his class to show me all the art pieces he’s done.

When it was time for his performance, he gave me a wave, got up on that stage with his newfound friends and started grooving to the beat, looking all confident and debonair.

Next year, it’ll be a new school and a new chapter. But for now, I’ll play that video on repeat for another couple of days while I try to hang on to my 2-and-a-half-year-old boy for just a little while longer.

Kirsten goes to school, Truett goes to school

Here’s hoping for a miracle

So there’s been an interesting turn of events in this school searching situation. As it turns out, it seems like there’s a glimmer of hope that Emmanuel Playgroup may continue its program next year.

A couple of days ago, some of the mothers came together to petition for the school to continue next year. Yes, hi, I’m 12. The last time I petitioned for something was in Primary School and it involved multi colored shoelaces because that was the one thing that made you cooler than the rest of the white-laced school population. That and a skirt 2 inches shorter than everyone else. If you must know, it wasn’t even remotely close to being successful.

Anyhow, we’re in the midst of petitioning the school board to keep its doors open next year for our little bundles of *raw potential*. Uncut diamonds. The dreams of the next generation. You know, the sort of inspirational euphemisms we use to describe kids in order to divert attention from the compulsive screaming terrors that they actually are.

Hopefully, we’ll have some good news in the next few days. Or I’ll have to start camping outside with placards. Or chain myself to the school gate.

In semi-related news, the same group of awesome mothers put together a farewell lunch for all the teachers on Tuesday. We got to spend a little time with the people who have been taking care of our kids this past year and it was a splendid time. Also, I never turn down a buffet of butter naans and masala.

The mothers with the teachers of Joy class.

Long story short, I never thought I’d be chilling out having lunch with my son’s teachers but I’m really glad we did. Totally not weird at all.

Kirsten goes to school, Truett goes to school

I forgot how fun it is to ditch school

Today, baby girl and I made plans to go school shopping, which was every bit as difficult as I remembered it to be. I keep making all these lists of why I should go with each school and I got more confused than ever.

Halfway through, we decided that getting all uptight about education at this point wasn’t doing anyone any good so we ditched it and went to the park instead. The way I see it, if she starts playgroup in January, I’m going to miss all these girly moments where it’s just me and my princess, so the school hunting can wait.

I got more important things to do today, like tumble around and pluck grass out of each others’ hair. Or rather have her put grass in my hair and laugh hysterically while I pluck it out.

PS. Give me a holler if you have a school in the Tampines/Simei area to recommend. I can go all the way up to East Coast area but if I can find something near home it’d be great. Also, I need a place that takes in 18-month-old kids, with great teachers and hopefully some Mandarin exposure. I can’t believe I’m having to do this all over again.

PPS. Yes, the photo with the bambi eyes was intentional. To translate, it means “Pretty please, I’d like to find a good school so I can get an education and all.”

Updated: This is going to be longish so I thought I’d reply the comments here instead. I did consider keeping baby girl at home with me till she was older or even home-schooling the kids for now but after seeing Tru adjust so well in school, I do feel that there are tremendous benefits of learning in a group setting, with socialization, following instructions, dealing with peer pressure among the top reasons.

Tru comes home telling me about his best friends and the things he learnt in school (I was surprised he knows caterpillars become butterflies). His teachers update me on his progress regularly and I love that he loves going to school. These days, Kirsten sees him going to school and she points to herself saying “school, school!”

I was hoping to put her in the same school as Tru but the bad news is that they’re not going to continue with their playgroup program next year so I now have to find a place that will take in the both of them. Also, I’m not really looking for a full-day or half-day childcare but just a 2-3 hour program in the morning. It’s mostly for the exposure and I’d like them to come back for their lunch, showers and naps, plus I get to spend the afternoons with them.

In my research, most kindergarten-style programs only take in kids turning 3, which is just right for Tru. Emmanuel playgroup would have been the perfect place but now that they’re closing, I’m scrambling to find somewhere that will take in Kirsten as well. If they won’t take her at 18 months, I don’t mind if they can take her in July after she turns 2.

On another note, I’m thinking of taking on more writing projects next year so it would be real nice to have 3 hours in the morning to get that done instead of having to start work at 10pm at night.