Archive for the ‘Baby Education’ Category

Homeschooling Update



Sophie has "graduated" from Nursery!


We completed her Chinese and English workbooks last week! Woo hoo!


We took about 5 months to do so and stopping for about a month when Levi was born. It's not a race but I just wanted to celebrate her efforts so each time she finished a workbook, we celebrated with a glass of milk and cookie! She loves that! She also got a book as a present. I remember I used to get book prizes in primary school and it was just such an encouragement and I felt so proud! She doesn't go to school so we just want to celebrate her efforts at home.


Yeah Sophie! You've done well and Mummy and Daddy are so proud of you!


I'm really thankful that we've managed to keep up the homeschooling this time round and Sophie has really flourished in both languages. I thank God for the strength. It hasn't been that much work on my part and we've kept to the books and basics but it helps that Sophie is a quick learner. Flipside is that she gets bored easily so lessons have to be quick and interesting. The Math book we got is too tedious for her so I stopped using it and only recently changed to another syllabus that is much more interesting (will write more about it next time.).


We take a "school" break for the next two weeks. We'll be in Vanuatu and I'm sure we'll have lots to learn on the journey. When we return, we'll start on the K1 books and new stuff. Excited :)

I’m four!



Here's what I can do at 4:


1. I can read!

Mummy's comments: YES! After teaching her phonics for the past few months, she's beginning to read. We use Reading Made Easy and Explode the Code and of course, lotsa lotsa reading everyday. She can read simple words and know most of the sight words. Mostly she reads by context and part memorization but sometimes she surprises us by reading signs that she'd never seen before. We've got a couple of Strawberry Shortcake readers and she loves to read to Levi (ok that's my trick of getting her to read aloud coz she still prefers us to read to her. If I say to read to Levi, sometimes she'll oblige.)


2. I can write!

Mummy's comments: We're still working on this. When we first started homeschooling this term, she wasn't keen on writing and it was too stressful to get her writing consistently and properly so I gave it a rest. But recently she's starting to want to write again so we've picked it up again and she's doing well!


3. I can talk to anyone about anything. Ok, anyone who would listen.

Mummy's comments: Sophie can REALLY talk. And talk. And talk! One of the best thing about being here is that everyone listens to a kid! Kids are not ignored, told off or brushed off when they speak. Or the worst, patronised. I love the way adults communicate with children here. They really listen to what Sophie have to say and she has lots to say. This has really helped Sophie to develop and form her identity. She is very confident amongst adults and older children and has no problem holding her own ground. Now I just need to teach her not to butt into people's conversations. :)


4. I can carry my didi!

Mummy's comments: She's doing really well as an older sister. I think it's been great to have a 4 yr gap between the two kids. Sophie has been rather patient during the times I need to look after Levi. She'll play or read in her room and wait for me. Sometimes I will just read to her while I'm feeding Levi. In the beginning it was a bit harder but 4 wks in, she's doing very well. She's been having a cough and cold this week and she's been very considerate not to go kiss Levi and remembering to close her mouth when she sneezes or coughs. But James has been really good and been very deliberate in spending more time with her and I think that really helped in the transition. I just wished I have more time to spend with her.


Things I like
1. Anything pink and sparkly
2. Princessy things, dolls, Strawberry Shortcake, ballerinas
3. Bling blings – rings, bracelets, etc
4. Cheese – I share Mummy's love for soft cheeses too!
5. Green leafy veggies and fruits
6. Fairy Tales – I still like reading a lot


Things I dislike
1. Main meals – Mum says it's SO hard to get me to eat!
2. Villains – I hate bad people or characters in movies.
3. Putting on too many layers. I don't feel cold! I'm really a summer kinda girl, give me a t-shirt, shorts and flip flops, I'm happy.

Sophie’s recent artworks



Sophie stopped drawing for a bit and then all of a sudden started picking up the pens and drawing again. And I'm amazed that her ability to control and draw has just improved heaps over this time! Kids' drawings are amazing and I must make it a point to record this.


The picture on the left is of the A-frame (our communal dining hall. Here's a real picture of it.). She's drawn an apple tree on the left and orange tree on the right and someone on a ladder climbing the orange tree.


The picture on the right is the princess castle and she's drawn a princess on a horse with a golden ball. She was trying to copy the cover of a book called Princess Fairy.

I understand k?

Ok… the Chinese lessons are definitely working.


Twice I caught myself trying to tell James something over Sophie's head in Chinese, hoping that she didn't understand and each time she did.


Just a few days ago, I told James in Chinese, "Don't give her too much ice cream, just a little will do" and immediately Sophie looked up at me and said back in Chinese "No! More!"…. sigh… gone are the days we can talk "behind her back"!


Need to find a new language! :) :)

Dance Class



Sophie loves dancing so I signed her up for a weekly dance class in town.


It's held in the same venue as our church and her teacher is our pastor's wife, Stac! Her sister, Tammy, runs the dance school. It's a serious dance school for jazz and hip hop for the older kids and adults but they started a preschool class (mostly 4 yr olds) this term. The aim is for children to gain performance confidence and learn to listen and follow instructions. They learn things like expressing themselves (Sophie likes this coz she gets to make funny faces), movement and tempo. Very cool.


It's only for 1/2 an hr but it's so good for the kiddos coz they need to be fast, follow and learn to be independent. Parents can watch from a window that can only look in.


I'm really thankful for this outlet for our little entertainer.

Learning Mandarin

I’ve been really encouraged with Sophie’s recent interest in Mandarin that I thought I will share what we’ve been doing in this area.


For a long time I really struggled with having to prepare Sophie for school, in case we decide to return to Singapore to put Sophie in Primary 1. Esp in the area of CHINESE! Eeeeks! I had Chinese tuition from Primary 3 all the way till JC2 and it didn’t help at all! I still hardly read or write.


I’m really thankful that James’ family speaks Mandarin at home. My mum in law is actually a Chinese teacher at a kindy! In fact, my own conversational Mandarin improved heaps when we got married and lived with them. I can even joke in Chinese now, don’t play play. Cantonese is another ball game altogether though. I still feel like I’m in another country when I’m with his family sometimes.


On our recent trip back, Sophie picked up quite a bit of conversational Mandarin because of the exposure even though most of the time my in laws spoke to her in English. Which just reminded me that language can only be really picked up if someone keeps speaking it, even if it was in drips and drapes! But it was good enough to get us going! She started answering in Mandarin if we spoke to her in Mandarin. Previously, she had refused! And guess what were her first words? NO!


Our conversations went something like this (in Mandarin, I’m not going to put my hanyu pinyin to the test so just imagine the conversation):-
Me: Sophie, would you like some bread for breakfast?
Sophie: NO!
Faint… I guess in any language, kids learn to say “NO!” first!
Argh…. Ok, better than nothing.


I was really encouraged and decided to continue doing that here.


We picked up a couple of Chinese audio CDs, videos and books from Maha Yuyi (They are located at Bras Basah Shopping Complex and they also have an online store.) and Popular Bookstore (They also have an online store). This was in addition to the storybooks we already bought in China last year. Btw, China has a great selection of storybooks for kids at really good prices e.g. S$3 per book.


Here’s how I selected them, bearing in mind that my own reading and writing ability for Chinese is also at preschool level:


For Story Books:
1. It must have Hanyu Pinyin! If it is accompanied by an audio CD, all the better!
2. Preferably only 1-2 sentences PER page. Beyond that, I can’t read fast enough and it’ll bore Sophie while I try to figure out the hanyu pinyin.
2. Stick to the plan. I figured out my aim for this year is for CONVERSATION and EXPOSURE. I’m not trying to get Sophie to be brilliant in reading and writing. So it has to be FUN and of interest to her! I simply chose story books that were of interest to her e.g. planting, cooking, dancing etc.


These are some of the books that we chose: –

Left: The Winnie the Pooh book, Two Little Cats, I can Read (the one with rabbits) and Wizard of Oz books were from Maha Yuyi. All of them come with audio CD except I can Read. Sophie loves the I Can Read book because it's stories of two little rabbits and their family. Very easy to read. The two pink books are from Popular and there are lots to choose from. Sophie and I really like these coz they are so relevant and so easy to understand and read. The fairy tale book comes in a set of stories and I think my in laws got them in China but I've seen them at Popular.

Right: This book is a treasure! I found it at Maha Yuyi. It shows how the Chinese characters were formed over the ages. Very visually interesting. Love it. It's more for me to stimulate my own interest, ha!


For Workbooks:
1. I prefer workbooks with topical sections with lots of opportunities for discussion and conversation rather than those that focused on writing and word recognition.
2. Instructions for each section needs to come with an example, in case I can’t read the instructions. HAHAHA!


This is the book that we’re using and I love it. It's from Popular. It really suits the level we’re at or I’m at (ha!). Sophie loves it too. She can go on for 10 pages at a time, which I think is pretty good! I’ve only been homeschooling her for a month or so and we’ve finished almost half the book! She can also recognize almost 10 Chinese words!



Why I like about this book
1. Word recognition through learning how the characters have been formed over the years, very visual (SO GOOD!). They even have creative ways to help the kids remember how the characters look.
2. No writing required. She just needs to draw links and do ticks or crosses.
3. Lots of opportunities for conversation and discussion. I notice that most of these local workbooks have incorporated civic and moral education e.g it is right to throw the rubbish in the bin and not on the floor (so Singaporean ah…). Very interesting and been quite good for me to teach them to Sophie.


For others e.g Media:

I just bought and tried whatever I could find. I wouldn’t say that they are the best around or that Sophie really enjoys them but seriously, for the price range that we can afford, the selection is quite limited.


These are some that we are using:-

Left: Very old school and cheena but quite good. Got that from John Little

Right: Good song selection with flash cards of Chinese characters. From Maha Yuyi.

P/s: – I also found out that it pays to be really humble at a Chinese bookshop and just tell the salesgirl that I’m really pathetic in Chinese and want find some stuff for my little girl. HELP! Oh yes, and now Sophie can say things like “Ma ma, wo yao che xiang jiao.” (Mum, I would like to eat a banana.) That’s pretty cool ya?

Homemade playdough


We've dried up all our PlayDoh stuff after frequent playing over the past year and I finally allowed Sophie to mix all the colours up and of course, it looks awful!


So I finally decided to junk all of them and MAKE OUR OWN!


The recipe looked really easy but it took a lot more time than I thought. But the results were AMAZING! The texture is even better than PlayDoh! We love it!


Got this recipe from the Freestones:
(To be cooked in microwave)


1 cup of water
1 cup of flour
2 tsp tartar
1 tbsp oil
1/2 cup salt


1. Cook for 1 min. Stir.
2. Cook for 30 seconds more, or until the dough rolls up into a ball nicely. (I found that it took at least 3-4 minutes more of cooking for our microwave)
3. Add food colouring (Sophie's fav part! It's fun!)


Now we've got 3 good blobs of playdough and it hardly cost us anything! PlayDoh is just too expensive to upkeep.


Sophie also inherited our tiny wooden chopping board (YA! Can't imagine how we used this tiny chopping board over the year. We finally got ourselves another bigger one for this year.) and I got her a rolling pin from Melissa and Doug (love their stuff).


Love how happy she is! :)

Visiting The Library

We live next to the library.


That is the coolest thing ever. It’s like having an endless supply of books, magazines and……. the latest thing is that you can borrow up to 2 DVDs/VCDs on your library card! You used to have to pay for a special membership to borrow the video and audio materials. Now it’s free! Woo hoo! And it’s just next door! 3 mins walk for adults and 10 mins walk for a pregnant lady with a curious 3 year old who stops to pick up plants and rubber bands (it was prob less but it felt like 10 mins in the hot sun).


Sophie and I have been hiding in the library once a week since we got back. I get my weekly dose of magazines (for free!) and she gets to browse all the books (for free!). Plus free aircon! Now she even gets to borrow DVDs like Little Einsteins, Dora, Ni-Hao Kai Lan, Bindi etc for free! Now only if we had more time to read and watch. :)


For Singapore homeschooling parents, the local library is such a blessing and good resource! They’ve got most of the good books that are recommended by Sonlight and Five in A Row.

Helping with the chores


As mentioned in the previous post, I had in mind a daily plan but as I implemented it, I decided to improvise and added daily chores into our early morning routine.


Now that we do not have to rush out of the house for classes/meetings in the morning, it gave us some time to do some chores like washing the dishes, cleaning the house etc. At first I was doing it by myself but then I thought "Sophie can wash dishes!" so I got her to help and she’s amazing! Over those couple of days, she helped to wash up our breakfast and lunch dishes, with some supervision from me. Of course she uses too much detergent, figures out that putting a spoon under the tap makes a fountain and that squeezing lotsa soap makes it all the more fun and she leaves the water running BUT BUT overall, she gets the job done! While she does that, I can wipe the dishes and put them away! So so cool! Best part is she enjoys it! It’s a bit stressful for me I must admit at times when she handles the glass plates but I’m thankful she’s rather careful.


When we are done, we try to do one chore a day e.g. vacuuming/cleaning the windows. I try to assign her something that she can do like spraying soap and water and cleaning tables or silly things like wipe the doors. While I do the real work. Of course she doesn’t really know she’s not doing much but she loves it!


I hope we can keep this going because I doubt we’ll ever have a maid in our lifetime and I’m hoping if we start young, she’ll see that doing chores is what a family does together and not something that only mum does or a kid must be given a reward/paid to do it. Also I’m really hoping that she’ll be a good help when baby comes along. :) Hopefully the novelty doesn’t wear out! Will let you know :)

Charlotte Mason

I like Charlotte Mason’s homeschooling philosophy but I don’t think I have fully grasped the fullness of it yet. This is how the Simply Charlotte Mason website describes it: – "A method of education popular with homeschoolers in which children are taught as whole persons through a wide range of interesting living books, firsthand experiences, and good habits."


There are essentially 3 parts to the education she prescribes – living books, experiences and good habits.


Living books are books that are usually stories written by an author with a passion for the subject and the subject comes alive. For example, Sophie has a book called "The Little Rabbit" (It is part of the Before Five In A Row reading list. She’s almost read it to death! The edges are bent and slightly torn.) It’s a story about how a little girl’s pet bunny gives birth and the life of the bunny. It’s a really simple story but the pictures are real photos. From it, one can learn about the life cycle of a rabbit, differentiate a pet bunny from a wild bunny, know what rabbits eat etc. It’s not a dry textbook or encyclopedia. Sophie loves encyclopedia type books as well but reading living books triggers her love to know more and understand more. 


Experiences – Charlotte Mason believed in providing a child with real life experiences. Reading from a book is not enough. Experiencing nature and culture is also needed. Sophie gets that a lot here but not sure how to fully implement that when we return for good to Singapore.


Lastly, teaching good habits – I’ve not figured out how to incorporate this fully into our lives yet but we’re getting there. Charlotte Mason has a whole list of how to do this and it’s a pretty hard read and almost seem archaic. BUT BUT so much truth to it. Just needs real discipling and vision to implement it.


Well, we’re starting somewhere. Not every book we have in the house is a living book but we pay a lot of attention to the kind of books Sophie reads. The Sonlight P3/4 books that we bought somewhat subscribes to the Charlotte Mason philosophy but in comparison, I much prefer the Five In A Row books and manual. There are some stories in the Sonlight books that are repetitive (e.g. the Fairy Tales) and Fairy tales, I find, are rather gruesome! E.g. stomping giants, ugly witches and magic potions etc.


Nonetheless, for this season, we’re reading Fairy Tales, for exposure sake. :) It’s quite fun re-reading these stories for myself too! Just to share some stuff that we’ve been doing with these stories: –



Jack & The Beanstalk

We painted some plants and planted some herbs. I meant to do a little booklet with Sophie about parts of a plant and life cycle of a plant but the internet failed on me so didn’t manage to get materials in time.



Sleeping Beauty

We made a castle out of a tissue box, toilet rolls and egg carton. I sewed a pillow for "sleeping beauty". Took out the lovely princess dress up cut outs that Steph gave Sophie for her birthday last year and she played dress up with them for a bit.

Homeschooling Schedule

Now that school is over and most of our friends are gone, it’s time for us to resume to our grand plans of homeschooling. If we remain here for the next year, it kinda means that I can only homeschool Sophie 6 months in a year because school/creche is on for 3 months at a time, twice a year. Realistically speaking, counting going home on holidays and mission trips, I am probably only schooling Sophie a good 3 months a year! Eeeks! Well, we’ll see how it goes.


We started in April when school was slowing down and Sophie was so thrilled. We’re into Fairy Tales right now so we do 2-3 stories a week. So far we’ve read Emperor’s New Clothes, The Gingerbread Man, Sleeping Beauty, The Ugly Duckling, Jack and the Beanstalk.


Our Daily Schedule

8 – 9 am – Breakfast, Clean up, Chores (We read our Weekly Bible Passage over breakfast and sometimes we listen to stories/music.)

9 – 10 am – Homeschool – that essentially means reading a story, doing activities related to the story, writing, and phonics.

10 – 11 am – Free play and snack (I need a break ah! Normally I cook or bake something here. She doesn’t really like just playing on her own so she’ll just have her snack and then hang around and help out.)

11 – 12 pm – Craft

12 – 1245 pm – Outdoor/Friend Time/TV (Depending on the weather)

1245 – 2 pm – Lunch

2 – 3 pm – Quiet TIme (This means I take a rest and Sophie either reads on her own or takes a nap)

3- 5.30 pm – Daddy Time (It’s the hols now so Daddy is a bit freer but once he’s working again and Baby No 2 is here, we’ll need to figure out what to do here.)

5.30 – 6.30 pm – Dinner

6.30 pm – 7 pm – Bath and Stories

7pm – 7am – Sleep


Schedules are great but I’m not really good at keeping to it. I try to flow with Sophie as well. The schedule just keeps me sane and aware of what I’m doing. It helps to give Sophie a structure and what to expect. For example, she’s starting to understand what I mean when I say "Free Play time!" The thing about being an only child and being 3 going on 4 is that she loves to do stuff and play pretend. But she needs company and that means me most of the time if her friends are not around! She’s not so keen on doing her own thing if I’m around. In structuring a free play time, I’m hoping that it’ll give her some space to discover things on her own and learn to play on her own for a bit.


Our Weekly Plan

Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays are English story days. I incorporate Social Sciences and Science into these days, depending on the topic at hand.

Wednesdays are Chinese story days.

Fridays are Creative Math lessons and outing days.

We don’t school on Saturdays and Sundays.

Which comes first?!?

Sophie could spell her name even before she could recognise alphabets. That was only coz I kept repeating it to her.


Recently I found out that she can spell Toby, Evan, Cow, Dog! I didn’t even know that kids could spell before they can read or write?!! Is that normal? I’ve not intentionally taught her how to spell these words but I think she picked them up when we read. "Cow" really surprised me coz one day she drew a cow and then wrote the word "cow" under it.


This homeschooling business is a lot more complicated than I thought. I keep thinking there must be a process to all this, e.g. recognise alphabets, learn sounds, write (Montessori book says that they learn to write before reading), read, spell. Sophie seems to have got them all jumbled up and I’m confused. Wish I had studied some early childhood education degree rather than my econs/euro studies degree.


Anyways, I’m happy she’s picking up things along the way.