The Season For Giving

December month, my favourite month of the year, there is so much to love about this month. The cooler weather, the annual family vacation and the beautiful Christmas light up everywhere you go. It’s a month for shopping, feasting and merry making.

I have to admit, it’s hard not to be sucked in by the commercialization of Christmas where gift buying and fancy Christmas decorations has become the focus of the holiday and it’s even harder to teach our kids that Christmas is not all about ticking items off their wish list.

But we try.

Our home decoration has been kept simple for the last couple of years. Our Christmas ‘tree’ is made from some fallen branches collected from the park or a dead tree we found in the backyard

Apart from our very simple tree, we also re-use most of the Christmas craft ornaments we’ve made over the last couple of years. We love the simplicity of it all and are pleased that we have helped to save another young fir from being decapitated.

This year, apart from recycling our ‘tree’ from last year, the boys did a very last minute fund raising project by selling their handcrafted Harry Potter wands.

They learned in school that some of their classmates have to rely on financial aid for their daily meals during recess and that led us to Straits Time School Money Pocket Fund.

From their website,

Straits Time School Money Pocket Fund provides pocket money to children from low-income families to help them through school. The children can use this money for school-related expenses, such as buying a meal during recess, paying for transport or using it to meet other schooling needs. The financial help also eases the burden of the many parents who are already struggling to feed their families on their meagre incomes.

The boys made some of these wands to sell at their school’s charity flea market and found out that they were a hit with the kids. They decided to make more wands during the school holiday. The initial plan was to make 100 wands for our charity project and sell them at $5 each.

Unfortunately, we ran out of time as we had to fly off for our vacation. We only managed to make 64 wands and raise SGD 400.

However our friends at SimplyLampchops continued the project while we were away and together, we managed to raise a total of SGD 605, exceeding the initial target of SGD 500 that we have set!

Here’s a heartfelt thanks to friends and readers who helped spread the words and bought the wands. With your help, this holiday is a little more meaningful for our children. They have learned that with enough effort, even the wee little ones can help make a difference and experience the joy of giving. Hopefully they will continue to do so not just this Christmas but throughout the year!

Have a very Merry Christmas!

xoxo

 

 

 

 

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From A First Time PSLE Mom

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PSLE, a national examination that every Singaporean kid needs to take at 12 years old. Whether you are formally schooled or homeschooled, it’s almost certain that you can’t run away from it. 

So my husband and I have agreed to take a more hands off approach when it comes to our kids’ school work. The elder one is pretty much on his own when it comes to his school work. The younger one who is in Primary 1 still needs nagging before he settles down to do his work everyday. These days, he knows that it is his job to ask if he doesn’t understand and if he doesn’t finish his work, he will have to answer to his teachers.

We want them to be accountable for their own schooling and we want them to understand that knowing their school work is their responsibility. There isn’t really any special arrangement to prepare them for tests or examinations, the only work they do on a daily basis is homework brought back from school.  The teachers have put in a lot of effort to prepare them for PSLE. They started supplementary classes since P4 and now in P6, worksheets and past years papers are regular drills. Because of  that, life at home could remain pretty much the same even during this period. The boys spend most of their time doing their own things, mostly school unrelated.

It’s my first time being a PSLE mum and even though we try to keep things at home as usual, I have to admit that the stress is real.  It’s coming from parents, teachers, friends, colleagues and even the social media. I have found that the best way to deal with the stress is, shut them out. But if you can’t, the next best way is, go get a good workout! And yes, I think it is the adults who need to destress because when the adults feel stressed, it would most likely cascade down to the kids!

So why is PSLE so stressful? Why do kids kill themselves over PSLE? 

Our general belief is that PSLE is an important milestone in life and this is reinforced by what we see around us. It gets you into the elite schools. A disproportionate number of scholarship winners and top achievers come from these schools. Anybody who seem to be somebody in Singapore come from these elite schools – ministers, top civil servants, etc. Many of us having not been able to get into these top schools, would want the best opportunities for our children. That, we believe, is probably one of the best and most important things that we can do for our children. We do not want to compete against the law of statistics. Getting to one of the elite schools will probably give your children the best chance to succeed in life.

So the question is whether our children can succeed in life without making it to one of these elite schools? Are they condemned to a life of mediocrity if they don’t? What is the positive correlation between success in life and good PSLE results? Does PSLE results have a positive correlation with success in life?

And we can’t answer these questions without first understanding our underlying assumptions about success in life. What is succeeding in life? Should we define it against a list of material possessions and the monthly pay check? 

We should also re-examine our underlying assumption that what has worked over the last two generations will continue to work in the future. My generation grew up in a rapidly developing Singapore. We were told to study hard, do well in school, go to university, and get a good job. If you landed a job in a MNC, you have got it made. Yet, many of these dreams were shattered when the MNCs relocated to lower cost countries. What do we know about the future of our country? Of our economy, of our children? Should we continue to shape our children into the moulds that worked generations ago?

Empirical evidence also casts doubts about the importance of going to an elite school. There are people who are top in their fields who do not come from these elite schools. There are also many that go to these elite schools that do not do well in life. 

In the larger scheme of things, the PSLE is an exam for getting our children into the secondary school. That’s about it. It does not guarantee happiness or success in life. It may even be totally irrelevant. It is ridiculous to think that our children’s fates are sealed over this 4 day event. Having a child who thinks that life is not worth living over PSLE result is the saddest things in life. Our children deserve more than that and we should let them find their own way in this ever changing world.

 
 

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Happy Teacher’s Day

It’s Teacher’s Day and the boys had their celebration in school yesterday. Every year, we would make it a point to brainstorm on gift ideas for their favourite teachers. I have to admit that most of the time, the boys were clueless and Mom ended up being the one scouring the internet for ideas. So far, the internet has served us well.

We made Granola last year and Rainbow Bath Salt the year before. This year we found these cute printables and decided to make these candy cards for their teachers. They were really easy to make. Just print, cut and stick.

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We used Hershey’s Nuggets which were just the right size for the printed candy wrappers. The elder brother helped to hot glue all the candy wrappers to the candies and the little one did the easier job of sticking the candies onto the cards. I contributed by giving them access to my stash of card stock. We had a little problem trying to get the cards to stand due to the weight of the candies and had to improvise by sticking some sturdier cardboards to the back of the cards. Thankfully it worked!

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My elder son is actually at the stage where ‘it is not very cool to give a teacher’s day gift’ but these were so cute, he decided to grab a handful of them to place on the teachers’ desks. The little one was delighted when told by his form teacher that his candy card was the BEST present she had received this year. It was delightful to know that the teachers enjoyed this simple gift.

My husband chirped that he had NEVER given any present to his teachers before! Perhaps it’s a guy thing and it made me wonder how many teachers went away feeling unappreciated because they did not receive a card or a gift on Teacher’s Day.

Teaching is a very noble profession that shapes the character, caliber, and future of an individual. If the people remember me as a good teacher, that will be the biggest honor for me. ~ A.P.J. Abdul Kalam

I always believe that teaching is a noble profession and that the really passionate ones are often driven by more than a fat pay check. Unlike a parent who teaches her own offsprings, it takes a big heart for someone to dedicate his/her time to teaching and shaping minds of little ones who are totally unrelated to them. What drives and motivates a good teacher is usually intrinsic and perhaps even beyond the tangible.

If children are the future pillars of our nation then teachers are the ones, along with parents, who help lay the foundation for our pillars. What job can be more important than this?

It is not an exaggeration to say that a great teacher can change a student’s life. I have seen in my boys, how a good teacher can make them enjoy a lesson on a subject that they hate. They are motivated to do well for the subject because they don’t want to disappoint their teachers.

Then there are teachers who may not always hold it together. These are times when we get the opportunity to teach the kids about empathy and respect.

They learn that they should hold their tongues and show respect even if the teachers weren’t always nice. That if their mom can go berserk trying to manage 2 kids, what more for a teacher who needs to teach a class of rowdy kids on a daily basis.

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The work a teacher put in might seem invisible but I believe that the effect goes beyond an award, a gold star or what KPIs can measure. We probably can’t tell when their influence will stop but we know it will leave a trail on the hearts of the students that were being taught.

So to the teachers who inspire, motivate, encourage or simply show us that you are just human, thank you and Happy Teacher’s Day.

 

 

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