Biking With My 7 Year Old

We have been cycling quite a bit recently. During the school holiday, my 7 year old attempted the new Tenah Merah Coast Road. It was the first time for him, the furthest he has cycled.

I haven’t got the courage to bring him along on my own because the stretch of road is long, sunny and windy. It would be painful if I have to deal with a whinny kid who needs coaxing to pedal on.

But a last minute arrangement with some friends kind of got him all hyped up. Despite my effort to warn him that it wouldn’t be an easy ride, his enthusiasm didn’t falter. I think good company and good food at the half way point motivated him.

We followed his pace and took almost 3 hours to complete more than 40 km. He was like this little hamster spinning a wheel. It was amazing how his little muscles and lungs worked so well. So he officially did his first full marathon on his bike!

Then few days later, there was a flypast by the Singapore and Indonesia Air Force to commemorate 50 years of diplomatic relations. It was a rare chance to catch 25 fighter jets airborne and we wouldn’t want to miss it. Unfortunately, the Dad had to work and his brother had something on that day. We decided to head off on our own, just the 2 of us.

I had done my homework, it would be a 26km ride round trip and the new PCN would bring us all the way to one of the vantage points.

I was initially worried that my little guy couldn’t make it especially when his Dad and brother weren’t around to ‘entertain’ him. But the Tanah Merah ride a few days ago kind of boosted his confidence and mine too.

The morning came and it started to rain. The dark clouds started clearing up soon after but my weather app continued to show chances of shower. I was hesitant and worried of getting drench. My 7 year old was however optimistic and insisted that we should just stick to our plan.

It was cool and windy after the rain. He did complain about the headwind but was soon distracted by the sights along the way. The fallen leaves that lined the paths and and the flowers that dotted the trees. It was a pretty sight and I was glad he noticed them. Then there were the rain puddles which were perfect for splashing and making a mess of.

Food was always a great incentive for a long ride like this so we stopped at a cafeteria to gorge on our favourite food, Bolognese pasta for him and Penang Char Kway Teow for me.

We discovered a new cafe which was dressed like a garden with potted plants and hanging greenery. It was a soothing place to escape and relax with a cuppa and indulge in a slice their home baked cakes. We found out that the cafe has been there for a while now but strangely, we have never noticed it before.

I wonder what other things we’ve missed in our daily business when we rushed from here to there.

After having our tummies filled, we continued our ride. The sky started turning dark again and storm clouds loomed in the horizon. Since we still had some time to spare, I decided to make a short detour to show him a new water breaker that I have discovered a few days ago.

The place was deserted with only a few foreign workers in sight. They would be seen toiling under the hot sun, pruning and planting new saplings on normal days.

We took a short walk along the water breaker that seemed to stretch out to no man’s land. He found a stick to poke around and got curious over the air bubbles that filled puddles of water.

Apart from air bubbles, he found a rowing oar and a big piece of styrofoam which he initially thought of bringing home for craft. But a closer look showed that it was too filthy and it raised questions on how the trash got there. He decided to keep the stick and add it to the pile of ‘treasures’ he had amassed from all his outdoor adventures.

It started to drizzle and we decided to double our speed on our bikes before the rain got heavier. I couldn’t remember when was the last time we cycled in the rain but it was surprisingly fun and liberating! I was actually glad that the rain caught us by surprise because on a normal day we would never go cycling in the rain! It turned out to be such a refreshing ride.

When we finally reached the place to catch the flypast, there were already eager spectators all decked out with their umbrellas and cameras. Before long, 20 F16 jets zoomed by in the formation of 2 arrowheads and and they came around 20 minutes later in their 5-0 formation. The show ended with a finale bomb burst by the F15s. It was a great show but if you ask me, the highlight for that day wasn’t the flypast.

Our 3 hour adventure on our bikes left me feeling peaceful and relaxed. We had a simple afternoon where not much was planned and not much happened yet it was exactly what we needed.

It was a slow pace afternoon where we experienced the quiet, beauty and fascination of Nature. My little man’s innocent curiosity and vivid imagination reminds me of the beauty of simplicity.

The simple delights of being out in the fresh air where Nature is the best entertainer, stimulator and teacher all in one.

 

 

 

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Holiday Camp at The Little Executive

My 7 year old was whisked off to a 5 day Globe Trekker holiday camp with The Little Executive at the start of the June school holidays. It was his first time going for a holiday camp and he didn’t quite know what to expect.

I showed him some videos and photos of The Little Executive’s past holiday camps such as the Dino Discovery Camp and Astronaut Training Camp which got him fairly excited, yet I was a little bit concerned because the camp he would be attending didn’t have any of his favourite dinosaurs or spacecraft, he would be ’traveling’ around the world instead.

It would be a 5 morning program where the kids ‘travel’ to 4 different countries to learn about their history, traditions, cultures and the languages they speak.

I was excited and thought that the camp could better prepare him for our upcoming Japan trip. Then Day 1 came and he figured out that instead of having the luxury of spending the morning at home, fiddling with his toys, he would be going for some sort of ‘lesson’. It took me more than an hour to cajole and coax him to get out the house.

We met Michelle Wee, one of the 2 brilliant ladies behind The Little Executive. I have known Michelle through a close group of mother bloggers and was drawn to her blog for her very down to earth approach to bringing up 6 kids! Yes, you heard me right. She has 5 girls and 1 boy and in her blog, she often dishes out sane tips and wise parenting advice on how she does it without going broke while maintaining her sanity. Apart from being a mother of 6, she is also a trained occupational therapist and she seems to have married passion with work when she started The Little Executive. I have been eager to find out more about their program, so when Michelle offered a spot for the upcoming Globe Trekker holiday camp, I was quick to grab it.

Marcus quickly met up with the facilitator for the camp. His name was Jim, a very friendly guy and it wasn’t difficult for my playful one to warm up to friendly stranger. Very soon, he forgot about our morning fuss and disappeared into his classroom without bidding goodbye. By the time I picked him up after the class, he was chatty and chirpy and rattling off about what he had learned. They had travelled to Mexico and learned about the Aztec people. They did some worksheets, made some craft and tasted some food. It was not hard to see that a lot of thought has been put into the lesson plan. Everything was planned around the country they ‘travelled’ to that day. I like this thematic way of teaching and learning. There are so many interesting things and ways to learn about a country!

I was glad that he enjoyed his first lesson and that kind of set the mood for the rest of the week. He was eager to know the next country they would ‘travel’ to and the week whisked by quickly. I was curious to find out what made him change his initial impression of a ‘learning’ camp and here are 3 main things that I found out from him that the camp did differently from his school.

1. More interactive teaching and learning

Instead of listening passively to the teacher delivering the lesson, the session was a lot more interactive and provided an end to end learning process.

The kids got to watch interesting videos on the countries they were visiting and that was certainly more interesting than listening to his school teachers’ monotonous voice. Before watching the videos, they were asked to look out for certain objects so that they could complete the given worksheets and the facilitators would discuss further the information that they have gleaned from the video. The kids were particularly attentive and would buzz with excitement while watching the video.

This would follow by a craft session where they would get their hands dirty, making things that were associated with the country they visited that day. Beside Aztec mats, they made boomerangs, sushi, paper origami and even a sandy beach using kinetic sand.

I think these craft sessions are good for tactile learners who learn by touching and doing. The physical activity and “hands-on” craft helped these kids to understand and remember things better.

2. Talking is allowed

Yes, kids are allowed to talk in class. In school, my boy would tell me that he was not allowed to talk even after he has completed his work.

During the camp, the children were allowed to talk and discuss, albeit quietly and respectfully. My boy confessed that he gets bored, sitting whole day in school, listening to his teachers talk. I probably get bored too and I seriously think this is the reason why so many children these days are being diagnosed with ADHD. Well, I probably need more data to justify my assertion. I think interaction and exchange of ideas are such important aspects of learning but sorely absent in our current school classrooms.

3. Peer learning

The age for the kids at the camp ranged from 4 to 8. The class was a mix of kids of different age groups, thus different abilities. It was so completely different from our local schools where the kids are grouped based on age, graded, sorted and further grouped into groups of similar abilities.

During the camp, the older kids got to help out the younger ones. Age appropriate activities of varying complexities were also given to the kids so that the activities were within their abilities. Being an older boy, Marcus was assigned as a group leader. He told me his job as a leader was to help out the younger ones. He loved it and felt mighty pleased with his new role as a ‘big brother’ in the group.

On the last day of the program, the kids were grouped and given the task of doing a presentation to the parents. So I was expecting something like a show-and-tell session my boys did in school, where a written script is required for rating and often parents go to great lengths to help prepare the most impressive presentation materials.

At the camp, I was impressed that the kids did everything themselves and were free to decide how much to present. The older kids would help the younger ones in the group. I saw them whispering to the younger ones during presentation helping them out with what to say. It was so very cute and heartening to watch these little people work as a team.

Personally I like this ‘peer learning’ setting where the children learn and help each other. I think at the camp, they have found a good way of mixing the kids without leaving anyone behind. The younger kids learn by observing how the older ones do things. The older kids learn a great deal when they have to explain what they know to others. It is like reinforcing and internalizing what they’ve learned. As fellow learners, they are more empathetic and understanding towards another kid who is struggling to grasp the new concept. They learn empathy, cooperation and team work. Isn’t that how we have always learned since the beginning of mankind when we lived in small tight communities.

All in all, I like the fact that the camp focused on the journey and the process of learning rather than the outcome. I think this runs against the grain of the Singaporean psyche where outcome is the penultimate. It is not easy putting such a program together and I think at The Little Executive, they have done exceedingly well in delivering such a program.

To find out more about The Little Executive’s curriculum and programs for children from Nursery to P2 Level, please visit their website or follow their FB page

You can reach them at

Address : 144 Bukit Timah Road Singapore 229844
Telephone : +65 6908 1889
Email : knockknock@thelittleexecutive.asia

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I Have A Teenager In The House

My elder boy turned 13 this week and he is now officially a teenager! Gawk!

At 52 kg and 170 cm, he looks like a grown man with a baby face (well, maybe not so baby anymore!) People think he is sporty but we often tease that he is actually a nerd in disguise. We tell him that we should probably thank us for his sporty look. Since young, we made him go outdoor and he now enjoys swimming, biking, hiking and skiing. Recently he was identified to be ‘Track and Field worthy’ in his school and was made captain for the sports he does. Our jaws dropped when he told us that.

‘Sorry Son, our reaction wasn’t sarcasm, your Dad and I were just too proud of you.’

He loves Maths and Science and given a choice he would stay home to read his books and play his games. He reads ‘History of Pi’ and ‘A Brief History of Time’ but he doesn’t bring these books to school because it’s not very cool. He still struggles with Chinese but is fascinated with Conlang and is considering picking up Sindarin this school holiday. For a long time JRR Tolkien was unmatched until recently, he discovered more books by Orson Scott Card.

He is big on computer games but he would emphasize, only the types that require ‘brain’. He is allowed to play his games during the time when I cook dinner, which is EVERYDAY. The rule is simple, finish your work and you get to play. We have this arrangement for a long time now and it applies even during exam periods. There are times when it gets out of hand, when he rushes through his work or produces shabby work and we would ban him from his computer.

Recently, it’s been working well and he has managed to secure this privilege even now in Secondary school because he was able to bring home his As and A*s for his PSLE. He learned to manage his time and that includes doing his Maths homework way ahead so that he can free up more time! Gosh. And now he thinks aiming for 75 is good enough since getting 90 will only earn you the same grade. The Law of Diminishing Returns, he got it figured out while playing Vainglory and I was like, seriously?!

Apart from computer games and YouTube videos, he fiddles with some programming on his own. He doesn’t attend any tuition, so other than schoolwork and CCA, he is pretty much left to do his own things.

His younger brother has a Math test coming up and the school requires him to answer 60 Multiplication questions in 5 minutes. Frankly I was too lazy to write out every 60 questions to test him and his elder brother swiftly suggested a computer program to take over the job. He created a simple Scratch program that randomly generates 60 Multiplication questions that expires in 5 minutes.

It was a very basic program and I thought it could be refined to make it more interactive and interesting so that his brother will have more ‘fun’ doing it but he thought it was too much work!

‘Son, you are given a good brain and it is good that you put it into good use. Remember that the best way to pursue happiness is to help others. Take pride in your appearance and that applies to the work you do.’

He has outgrown themed birthday parties and I was glad we did an epic one for him 4 years back and this Minecraft Birthday cake was probably the last theme birthday cake I baked for him. Last year, he was a great help when we prepared for his brother’s Harry Potter birthday party.

So this year, I got him to plan for his own birthday party. His idea was simple, a pool party with some pizzas thrown in, best if we allowed them to end it with gaming session, having a cake wasn’t even in his list!

We realised that he had his friends grouped according to the types of games they played, the Clash Royale and the Vainglory clan. He almost wanted different parties for the different groups because he was worried that it would be awkward for them to mix. He can be thoughtful to a fault.

One of his friend gifted him a Google Play prepaid card and he explained that this friend was trying to turn him to the ‘dark side’. I was horrified! What ‘dark side’?! Apparently, he is known for paying ZERO dollars to play games. He only download free games and he doesn’t spend money on aesthetic upgrades. He doesn’t pay much attention to looking good but spend his time thinking and researching on good strategies and brushing up skills.

‘Dear Son, I know, peer pressure is a scary thing and I am glad that you are handling it well. Work towards being a good leader and others will follow you.’

So we did go according to his plan, we had some of his friends over, they were shooed off to the pool to get their outdoor time before given access to free Wi-Fi for the rest of the party. It was a simple party, the kind a teenager would like, hanging out with friends and doing their favourite thing!

And I almost took his ‘NO CAKE’ suggestion seriously. Thankfully my common sense got the better of me. I baked him his favourite cheesecake at the very last minute, the serious looking kind with no fanciful frosting! It was a perfect choice because one can NEVER go wrong with an Orea Cheesecake, especially with a bunch of teenage boys!

 

 

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