Toy Story

This is my preschooler with his favourite toys.

His elder brother would probably be in the picture if he was at home when I took this picture.

These Duplos were the only toys they had when we moved over to the States 10 months ago and his elder brother played with them since he was 2.

Because they were their only toys, they had to find new ways to play with them.

They played Minecraft, building zombies and houses.

They built futuristic planes, weapons, bazooka and night vision googles.

They built things we never knew existed and they held web conferences with my family back home to narrate the stories behind their creation.

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And I have to admit that I was the one having the hardest time, resisting the temptation of Lego sales at Target

But last month I relented and I bought them new Legos, that is, after 9 months of playing with Duplos.

It was liberation for me, to be finally coming out of sales detox ! yeah !

The boys were thrilled with their new Lego, they stayed up late and woke up early to get their new Lego set fixed.

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Because it took them so long to complete the set, they are often reluctant to dismantle it once it’s fixed.

Yet, the creative part about playing with Lego is to deconstruct reality and create one’s own vision of that reality

The Lego blocks are just an extension of the builder’s imagination, an expression of his creativity

So unless one doesn’t give a hoot about wrecking what had been painstakingly built, playing with the nice expensive Lego sets doesn’t really foster real creativity and imagination

With all these Lego box sets, creativity stops at the Lego designer’s table where all these fanciful design and themes are churned out.

I have to confess that I used to be the one who was anal about taking care of the built up Lego sets, which means that they were only good for one thing, display.

And since my boys still couldn’t bear to wreck what they had painstakingly built, they ended up going back to playing with their Duplos .

And they are happy doing that.

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Today they are a wacky duo on a secret mission.

I think I just lost one reason to go shopping.


P/s : This post was inspired by Italian photographer Gabriele Galimberti’s Toy Story

Do you have a toy story to share ?



Learning History

I came from a generation where History was taught in lower secondary school as a compulsory subject. I remember my history teacher vivdly. I could remember her slouching posture as she sauntered into the classroom, her squinty eyes behind thick glasses and her murmuring from the textbook. Her lesson was undeniably one of the most boring one but surprisingly, I did well for the subject. My husband on the other hand failed his history miserably.

I credit my good History grade to my ability to memorize and rote learn, my husband on the other hand, hated to memorize anything.

I could memorize 5 essays and spit everything out on the day of the exam (provided I memorized the right essays). Unfortunately today, I couldn’t remember a thing I learned during my history lessons.

For a long while, I questioned the relevance of learning History. Why would anybody need to know about William Faquhar and Sir Stamford Raffles ?

It was not until much later did I understand how history has shaped the world we are living in today. From hard sciences to philosophy and politics. If you think that you have thought of something new, look into history and chances are that someone has probably thought about it before.

Even so, I wasn’t convinced that a 9 year old kid will be able to appreciate or see the relevance.

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9 months ago, I found out that the schools here teach History in elementary school. I was prepared for Malcolm to be like me, not remembering a thing he learned, or hating the subject like his Dad.

I couldn’t be more wrong. history turned out to be one of Malcolm’s favourite subjects.  He knows more about history here than Singapore’s and I could imagine him telling the story of Alabama over a cup of kopi-O or teh-O siu dai

So what happened?  What was wrong with my premise? Why was I proven so wrong?  I realised two things

First, the teachers explained to the kids how history has shaped life here today.

Malcolm found it fascinating that the ocean levels changed and allowed ancient peoples to cross the Bearing land bridge and migrate all the way to America.

He found it interesting that one of the first White Houses of the Confederate States is still standing in here.

The teacher explained to them how water gushing naturally out of artesian wells led to the forming of a town near us, and how you can still get free and fresh drinking water today from these wells.

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They brought them for field trips to historical places to reinforce what they learned and visit the traces of history. In class, the lessons are conducted in an interactive manner where students get to speak up and share their experiences. It was never purely worksheets or memorizing facts from the textbook.

Teaching history without explaining or discussing its relevance to the present day encourages children to rote learn.  At best, they would do well in exams like me but have no inkling as to why they are learning history.  As worst, they would turn disengage and give up that subject altogether.

The second thing I realised was the teachers provided an interesting environment to learn history.  Who would have thought that craft and play could be used to teach history?

I wouldn’t.

I remember thinking long and hard on how History could be taught so that kids would find it interesting. I came to the grim conclusion that there probably isn’t a way. It has to be a boring subject through and through. Which kid would care about what happen hundreds or thousands of years before him ?

So I was wrong.

While they were learning about the native American tribes, the class was split into 4 groups and they were given sticks, twigs, tape and craft paper. The students brought scraps from home and they built replicas of the structures and weapons of the various tribes.  By doing so, they imagined, they created and they internalised what they learned from the textbook.

Bottom line, it was fun and that was the best way to learn, even for a subject such as History.

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An engaging teaching plan will go a long way to spur the students’ interest in history and I was dastardly wrong that teaching history to a 9 year old is a waste of time.

I think that most Singaporeans, including me, do not have a healthy enough respect for their own history and how knowledge of our own history could empower us.

‘Study the past if you would define the future’ ~ Confusius 

I think that the first place that we should start to remedy this is in school. We should teach history in school and we need to teach it the right way.


A Pictorial Of Our Weekend

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Woke up to this beautiful sight. Some said they are dogwood, some said they might be almond blossom like the ones Van Gogh painted. I am still trying to find out.

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Went to a cultural event, where the adults pigged out and the kids hung out having fun talking about poo .. oh well, boys !

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Headed for the Big Red Barn but too much of the poo talk made us missed the carnival

Sunday morning was wet and perfect for snuggling up with Dad who had just came home.

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The weather cleared up during noon, so we headed out for lunch. On the way home, we spotted a lovely sight, so we pulled over the car for this.

It was St Patrick’s week  and my 4 year old learned a great deal in school and we learned a great deal from him. He told us about ‘shamrock’, which is essentially the Irish word for ‘young clover’. It is a type of weed that usually has  3 leaves. If you ever find one that has 4 leaves, it would bring you good luck.

We came home and had the best doughnuts for tea, the Krispy Kreme kind that melts in your mouth,  and Dunkin Donut just can’t beat.

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So it was our 11th wedding anniversary and instead of 2 new rings, we bought ourselves 4 new ones. The little one helped the Dad put everything together while his elder brother busied himself with some secret mission.

We later found out that he was working on a video for us, compiling pictures downloaded from this blog, completed with our wedding march in song. He can be this sweet !

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And of course, we had to have a family portrait on this special day.

It was a quiet sort of happy day.



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