Today

Today, like any other day, I was there to fetch you before most of your classmates marched into extended care.
You were one of the few who get to leave school at noon and go home for lunch.

Like always, your eyes lit up the moment you saw me and you went on with your silly dance with skips and jumps.
Your teachers said that you were seldom this silly during class, I guess you had little time to be silly when there was so much work to be done
Sometime you complained that your little hands hurt from all the colouring, but still, you finished what you were tasked to do.
I know going to school is hard work for you.

We came home and had your favourite pasta for lunch, you called them spring pastas because they spiralled round and round like springs.
You polished up every single bit in your bowl and was recharged with new energy.

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It was a beautiful day, so we headed out into the backyard.
You were thrilled to find some shamrocks sprouting from the ground.
It’s been a while since we played in the yard because of the cold winter weather, and dried up lawn just isn’t great for outdoor play.
It’s good that we are getting the rain and the greenery back.
You learned that Spring is beautiful with colours everywhere.

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You found some dandelions and got really excited.
You were eager to show me what your teacher did with them.
You grabbed hold of a stalk and started blowing.
The little seeds flew and you took off in your tiny feet chasing after them, squealing and giggling with joy till the last seed settled.
You did that for every dandelion you could find in our yard.

photo-002Exhausted from all the chasing, you went indoor to rest
On the sofa, you realised that a little fellow had followed you home.
You let him crawl all over you, leading him with your little fingers.
From fingers to arms to shoulder, you stopped it just in time before it wiggled into your armpit.
It was a delightful sight to watch.

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Then as if you had enough, you picked your new friend up and headed for the door
By the lawn you set him down, and I heard you whisper in your little voice.
‘Time to go find your Daddy and Mummy, Ladybug’
It is little things like this you do that melt my heart.

 

 

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Toy Story

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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.

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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 ?

 

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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.

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