Monday, August 12, 2019

All to get good grades – but is it worth it?

The family had a “big weekend” with the National Day celebration and Hari Raya Haji that just passed. I was actually looking forward to enjoying the rest of the last day of PH where I attended a play with Dumpling in the morning. After the play, I went for lunch with a buddy and her family. The kiddo then was with my buddy’s children and spouse when she suddenly got very upset and showed me her classmate's status update which basically read as such:

“I’m dying”
“I feel depressed”
“I’m not joking. I’m serious”

The girl then proceeded to share that it is because she has to "do 3 exam papers every day” and she has not even a day to rest. (Just to add, the exam papers are not given by the school.) Then it was followed by:

“I do wanna get good grades but I’m dying”
“I wanna cry but I can’t”

And then to our horror, she added on to say 

“She says that XX does more work than me. She’s probably right but still … too much”
“And XX doesn’t have a choice either”
“All to get good grades… it’s not worth it… I just wanna have a day when I can rest… but I can’t”
“I wanna die”

There were more in between and she ended with:
“I’m stuck here… crying”

*XX being Dumpling's name

Firstly, I do not know how it is humanly possible to expect our kids to do 3 sets of practice papers daily. Clearly, the author’s mum’s motto is “more is more”.

Secondly, my kid does not do more work than her kid. My kid does not even smell, let alone touch practice papers monthly. Heck, I will be laughing my way sending her to school if she even remembers to complete her school homework on time.

Thirdly, why is there a need to use my child or any child for that matter a yardstick for comparison? More than that, why is my child being used as an "excuse" to normalize the "3 exam papers daily"? And to dispel any myth, my kiddo is not a top student in her class. That child, however, possibly is one of the top and at the rate she is going, is well on-route to be a scholar.

I am sharing this openly not as an attempt to shame anyone but because as a parent, I am concerned.

Is this the method which we use to get our children to excel – the non-stop practice papers and the pressure by saying that another child is doing more work than yours? Why is there such a need for these comparisons and the need to be so overly focused on just grades? When your child is pushed to a corner where she used her whats app status to share these, does it not say something? When she talks about dying not once, not twice but thrice, does it once again not say something? 

I am sharing this openly also because my child, after seeing the status update was very upset and broke down outside, witnessed by my buddy. In short my child feels that she does not want to do well in school if it means that her friend bears that brunt of it. She also could not understand why she was dragged into it, where "she" (in the status updates) had the impression that my kiddo does exam papers like a machine and my kiddo also did not understand why there is a need for such comparison. Mostly, Dumpling was upset that she will end up not having a friend due to all these competition.

I am sharing this openly because I truly wonder, when have grades become more important than mental health and other things such as values – honesty, perseverance, integrity and responsibility? Why are grades, the only definition of “success”?

I am sharing this because I am worried about the kind of world our children are raised in. Though there are changes to the education landscape where exams are removed, it is very clear here that it would take loads more before such competitions and the the over emphasis of “grades” are lessened in our society. It is sad because in a warp way, what we have done is like what we see in a B-grade movie: we created this grade culture and monster and think that we have it under our control, instead laughably, it has infiltrated our system, "become" the system, gotten into our DNA and it now owns us. Our children end up being drilled endlessly, disliking school and unfortunately, experience first hand how "Kiasuism" and the pursuit of grades drive a wedge in their love for learning and in forging genuine and healthy friendships. 

So, the question aptly asked above resonates deep and true: “all to get good grades – but is it worth it?”

Is your child’s sanity worth it?  


Source

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Wednesday, July 31, 2019

A lesson from "The Great Automatic Grammatizator": what should I be when I grow up?

Lately the kiddo has been pondering over what she wants to be when she grows up. I suppose this is triggered by class discussions as well as the big topic - DSA. Years ago, when I was interviewed for a magazine, I was asked the same question where I quipped "I just want her to be happy." Years on, my answer remains the same.

With Primary 5, I can feel the mounting pressure on academics. There's home work daily for the kiddo (usually an average of 2 subjects) and the time taken is usually around 1.5 to 2 hours. Frankly, on days where she stays back in school for CCA, Higher Chinese and then there's enrichment classes, she has very little wind down time. Hence my reply to her over these years still remains.

However, her reply has been "but most of my friends know what they want to be - lawyers, doctors, etc!"

I, too, have friends who are working with their kids on a said profession - training from young, DSA, etc., where activities have all been carefully planned for from young.

But my reply to her was "don't sweat over it."

Grades are no doubt, very important in our society. Though there's changes to the banding system where there's supposedly less emphasis on results, in my humble opinion, it will take a while before our society sees beyond grades. That's because many of us parents now were brought up where academics reigned and things for e.g. such "arts" was hardly heard of as a career choice then. Many may not catch on that the world has changed and is still evolving.

When I was recently asked by a friend what I am grooming the kiddo for, she was surprised that I do not have an answer or goal for the kiddo, while I was equally stumped by her question.

I suppose 2 reasons why I was stumped are:

(1) I have faith that God has a plan for all of us so most certainly, He has a plan for the kiddo.

(2) I see that there's a need to move beyond academics because the world our children will be working in is not like the one which we are in now or the one which we were brought up in. Some of these future jobs have not even been created. Take gaming for e.g., I cannot imagine how our parents can see that as careers 15 years back but just look at how "prized" programmers, animation artists, etc. are now. And with AI and machines taking on more jobs, what will there be left for our children?


Coincidentally, the kiddo devoured this book by Roald Dahl some weeks back when she was nursing a fever at home and was bored up to her ears. If you are not aware, Roald Dahl wrote stories not just for young children but he also wrote a series of stories for teenagers too. And interestingly, it was over this story that allowed me to explain the changing world to the kiddo. 

If you have not had a chance to read this story, here's a short synopsis. This dark story centres around a genius who created a story writing machine (Great Automatic Grammatizator) which quite literally "took over the world" as the machine was able to replace the human author by creating better stories (and stories which people want to read) and in turn creating a monopoly in the market place. Human authors were no longer needed but they were "bought" into this system where they "wrote" stories through the machines, deceiving the unsuspecting world. 

This prompted us to have a really interesting discussion if technology is a useful tool, the power of AI (is it too smart for us?) and the disruptions technology and machines can cause in the business world. So, with that, what skill sets are important for one to thrive in a different world 10 years down the road? What disciplines are less replaceable or still require that human touch? What are the jobs that can be replaced and so, what then are left for this generation? 

So, if you are still gunning purely for academics, this story may let you think otherwise. 

The key question should instead be "what skill sets should your child have as she powers through the future world?" 

If you have enjoyed this post, please follow me on my Facebook Page where I share my parenting thoughts, food photos (be prepared for tons of them!), early shout outs for giveaways and interact with you, my readers! You can also follow me on Pinterest and Instagram 

Monday, June 17, 2019

Motherhood - a lonesome journey


As I journey into my 11th year of motherhood, I have to say that it can be quite a lonesome journey. I am not sure if it is an Asian “tiger mum” thing but seemingly, there’s tons to compare once you become a mother.

I recall during the earlier days, it was the early milestones that had parents in a fluster – which child stood earlier, walked earlier, spoke earlier, read earlier, etc. The popularity of the flashcards then and how it "coaches" toddlers to read did not help to ease first time parents’ anxiety too.

Comes preschool, it was a mad rush to getting places at the “best” (or at least most well-known) preschools with a huge emphasis on literacy. Trust me when I say that this is a HUGE concern; I was in the early childhood industry for years and my role then was in Marketing and Enrolment. I have met thousands of parents with preschoolers over the 5 - 6 years and few of the most common questions that I get are "Will my child be ready for primary school? Will she learn how to read and write and count?" 

Because such is the nature of our culture and society, the underlying current and quiet competition/comparisons start young. I have had a few run-ins with parents during workshops where there were some comments on why certain roles in drama classes were dished out to certain children, how a 5 day camp should be a 3 day camp because their kids cannot attend (though majority could attend), etc. Naively as a first time parent, and when the kiddo was much younger, I used to share more about the activities which we do and even celebrate small successes on my social media posts. However, there seems to be a backlash - I quickly realize that some were quietly comparing and there seems to be some preconceptions of Dumpling too. 

Wins, Win, and Winning: TRIU IPH SOCIETY
 I WILL WIN
 NOT IMMEDIATELY
 BUT DEFINITELY
Classic "scary" mums that I meet 
Credit

Things did not lighten up in Primary school. As she is in a girls' school I dare say that it is more competitive than a co-ed school. In the lower years, it is much easier to attain full marks and I found myself falling into the parenting trap where I sometimes hear myself asking Dumpling who else scored full marks or what's the highest score in her class for a said subject. Dumpling was also made Monitor during Primary 1 and I recall that choice / decision was questioned by another mum - why Dumpling and not her child. So these were unhealthy as well. Fast forward to a few years on. The girls were to work on group projects and I have previously shared that they had to construct a boat individually but work as a group to present and share their thoughts, findings and rationale for the choice of materials for their boat. Dumpling was in charge of collating the slides and was repeatedly "chasing" for the slides from a classmate. After 2 - 3 weeks (nearing the deadline), the girl shared that her parent does not allow for her to email or share her slides with anyone prior the presentation for fear that others would copy her slides / ideas. 

It is no surprise that as such I do not mingle much with the other parents from Dumpling's school - as a FTWM my time is stretched and honestly, I lack the time and stamina to manage such "comparisons" and it also helps me manage my own expectations better. And maybe because of the fact that I have seen so much of these "dramas" I am often uncomfortable to comment or share much about Dumpling and how her classmates are faring when I am asked by other parents in casual conversations. I find myself guarded, worried that things that I share may be misunderstood and misconstrued. When we had small successes, I was hesitant to comment much, only occasionally sharing about fun stuff, vacations, etc. for "fear" of more backlash or further pressure from these unhealthy competitions. 

Having said that, I am very thankful that I have other girlfriends in my life who keep me sane - only a few from "outside" circle and even fewer from her school. With these mums, I do not have to worry much about sharing the bad news (where I could potentially be judged as being too pushy or am a tiger mum reincarnate) or the good stuff (where once again I could be judged as being boastful or arrogant). Frankly in the current days of social media consumption and a change in communication form (whats app), things could often be misunderstood where gossips can spiral out of control. 

So yes, motherhood can be a lonesome journey where it is a case of "darn if you do" and "darn if you don't". So, if you are wondering why I have not been blogging much, this is the reason. I do not want Dumpling to be "judged" or to have my blog infringe into her privacy especially now that she is older. People sometimes think that just because I have photos on my FB or IG sharing glimpses of our lives, they assume that they know us well and well enough to judge and comment. 

I will still be blogging randomly and will share more on my perspectives and unless the kiddo is comfortable with me sharing hers, she will not be making much of an "appearance". If she does, then it would be more of a "cameo".  :p 

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Travelogue: Koh Phi Phi

Some years ago, I brought Dumpling to Krabi for a surprise trip. Then she was still in K2 and I wanted to bring her away to do something different before formal school starts. We both have fond memories of the trip with us spending time in the pool, doing island hopping and snorkelling in the open sea, walks on the beach etc.

It has always been my wish to try and bring her to Krabi and Koh Phi Phi again. Interestingly, that’s rarely a choice destination amongst my friends with children. In fact, many ask why that choice and what do we and can do there. 

With that, I thought to share a bit on what we did in Koh Phi Phi as my first ever vacation post (I usually am very lazy to take notes and photos conscientiously when on vacay!)

:: Getting to Koh Phi Phi
If you have not been there before, here’s some background on PP. Koh Phi Phi is a standalone island where you will need to take a ferry to get there. If you are travelling out of SG, I guess the easiest way is to either take a flight to Phuket and then change to a ferry or to head to Krabi then change to a ferry.

I have always preferred Krabi to Phuket as it is less crowded and I prefer the small streets at Ao Nang.

Here’s a ferry schedule from Krabi:



:: Getting to hotel

You can either arrange for a hotel transfer via your hotel in Krabi or you can do it online. Here’s a link to where I got my hotel transfer from (about 150THB cheaper than the hotel quote). I have stayed in Krabi Ao Nang thrice – Golden Beach Resort (this is located like at a corner, on one end of the shopping area), La Playa (not entirely new but not as old as Golden Beach but the breakfast selection was good) as well as GLOW, our latest choice there (great if you have young children as there’s a children’s room and a lap pool and the hotel is really nice and rooms are nicely decked out).



:: Koh Phi Phi
Koh Phi Phi is somewhat a tad like Sentosa where it is standalone but with many stalls and shops, which reminds me of the pasar malam (night markets) here in Singapore. During my recent visit, there’s even a McDonald’s now but sorry, no Starbucks yet. :p

There are many choices for hotels and resorts, and the only advice that I can give is to choose one which is nearest to the places you wish to visit, for e.g. the diving centre.


 :: Activities
Once you are in Koh Phi Phi, I guess many would think of snorkelling and island hopping. But if your child is minimally 10 YO, here’s 2 recommendations which you can consider.

Not many know but Koh Phi Phi boasts of a cooking school where you can learn how to cook some of your favourite Thai dishes. For that morning, Dumpling chose 3 dishes and I chose another 3 (be prepared to spend 3 hours there including the eating time!) 


If your child has never done cooking before and you are worried about things such as an open flame, fret not as Pum Cooking School uses induction stoves. 


Upon entering, R2 who is a chef there, conducted the class in English for us. A simple note book plus condiments tray, etc., were all prepared in advance. 


To be honest, I expected R2 to delve right into the cooking class but what was interesting was that he took the time to explain to us and got us to sample the various condiments and sauces used commonly in Thai cooking. 

Did you know that the fish sauce used in their cooking is made from sardines, which is different from Chinese fish sauce and even those used in Vietnamese cuisine? We also learnt about the types of chili used and when to use them in the various Thai dishes. 


 After getting "suited" up, we are good to go!


If you are worried about the cleanliness / hygiene level, you can rest assured that Pum Cooking School runs like a well-oiled engine where the ingredients are also prepared in individual portions, placed neatly on plates at your designated cooking stations.

One of Dumpling's dishes was Phad Thai. You can tell how passionate R2 is in sharing and imparting his knowledge. He was also very encouraging towards Dumpling. Before we started cooking, R2 shared that he really likes it when young children show an interest in cooking and also told me to try and be "hands-off" so that she can attempt it on her own.



Tada! 

Dumpling also chose to cook Gluay Buat Chee (bananas in coconut milk) for her dessert. Though she was unwell on that day and as the cooking class progressed, her energy level plummeted, she still wanted to try her hand to learn to make this dish. 


And in case you are wondering if it is all child labour, here's 2 of mine ~ Thai Beef Salad and Sweet & Sour Chicken.  

  
  • Sea sport! 
Choices are a plenty when it comes to sea sports / activities. Besides island hopping, you can also consider snorkelling. Many dive centres run these eco snorkelling tours; we originally signed up for one but we cancelled it as there was a sudden surge of jelly fish that few evenings. 

If your child is 10 and above, you can also consider "Discover SCUBA". Dumpling completed only half of the course (with Blue View Divers ~ this was the same place that I went to when I got my open water licence years back!)  as unfortunately she was sick so we will need to return back in a few months time.

Here's sharing some photos!


Caroline, one of the owners of Blue View Divers, with Dumpling at a pool session right outside the centre. Pool session with a gorgeous view! 



The pool session goes through basic drills (clearing of mask, retrieval of your regulator, etc), hand signs and safety checks etc., before going into the open sea for the actual dives.

Dumpling was a real trooper as she told us to go ahead with our own dives while she waited for us at the dive centre. Here's some photos of the various fish we spotted:

Moray Eel


African Clowns (feisty these ones are!)




Koh Phi Phi being a standalone island has its own convenience stores and pharmacies peppered throughout it. As Dumpling started having fever shortly after, we were quite relieved that we were able to get paracaetamol, electrolyte sachets (she threw up) and lozenges (ya, she had the full works) etc., all on the island, though they were easily selling for twice the amount as compared to main land Krabi itself. There is also a medic centre if you need to see a doctor (so guys, please purchase your travel insurance!) 


Importantly, while their tap water is ok for general brushing and washing up, they are not suitable for drinking hence your resort / hotel will typically provide you with a regular sized bottle for each person staying there, which is hardly enough. So you will need to purchase them from the mini marts / convenience stalls. 

Food wise, choices are aplenty. From pizzas to thai food to seafood places which overlook the beaches (great for evening sunsets!) 


to simple food stands selling pancakes and sandwiches / burgers 


The pricing is pretty affordable. Most of these restaurants also offer free WiFi too! We will be back at Koh Phi Phi in a few months time and will update our travelogue! 

If you have enjoyed this post, please follow me on my Facebook Page where I share my parenting thoughts, food photos (be prepared for tons of them!), early shout outs for giveaways and interact with you, my readers! You can also follow me on Pinterest and Instagram 

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Our Ortho-K journey: prologue

As a family, we have been quite careful with Dumpling’s vision by reminding her to take vision breaks. Sadly though, she was diagnosed with myopia this year. I’ve heard friends sharing that once diagnosed, their “degree” goes up quite quickly and so, I’ve been really paranoid about her vision. I’ve heard of Ortho-K and have been reading up on this as a few of Dumpling’s friends are also on it.
Having gone through LASIK years ago, I’d say that’s one of the best decisions I made. With children however, they are of course too young for such an invasive method. Hence the next best possible option is to look at myopia control.
As I am writing this post, we are in the midst of waiting for Dumpling’s lenses collection after her initial eye examination. While waiting, I got Jason, Consulting Optometrist of The Eye Initiative to answer some questions and debunk some myths.


:: What exactly is Ortho-K? How does it work?
Jason: Ortho-K is a process where we prescribe kids with specially designed hard rigid gas permeable (RGP) lenses that temporarily reshape the shape of the cornea to reduce myopia. This is a great technique to control myopia as it make use of the peripheral defocus (which is to bring the light rays in front of the retina) which is a proven method to ensure the increment of myopia stops/reduces. Apart from that, the advantage for Ortho-K is that it also allows the end-user the freedom of not using spectacles or contact lens in the day time.

:: Is Ortho-K safe, after all my child will be wearing it to sleep?

Jason: All contact lenses have a risk of infection, usually due to the negligence of hygiene. As long as the hygiene regimen of the individual is upheld there should not be any risk of infection. The use of Ortho-K to sleep is very safe, mainly because it is a hard lens so it:

- reduces the chances of hypoxia (lack of oxygen) and
- the chances of infection as hard lenses are not hydrophilic ( water-loving) as compared to soft contact lenses. This means that there are lesser chances of microbes sticking on the lenses.



(Jason explaining to Dumpling how Ortho-K works and showing her how the lenses look like)

:: How often and long does my child need to wear it for?

Jason: For best results, we encourage the child to wear them every day as this will ensure that the effect of myopia control is optimal. We also recommend to wear it till 16 years old as it is the 'plastic period' of the kids eyes (the period where the prescription changes significantly.) 

:: Ok, I am keen but what is the “running cost” and how often do I need to replace the lenses?

Jason: The “running” cost would be saline solution which is quite minimal. Lenses wise, they should be replaced every 2-3 years because of wear and tear.

:: As this is a long-term partnership, what should I look for in an optometrist for my child?

Jason: The optometrist must be well versed in his contact lenses knowledge and more than that, should be practising ortho-k for at least a year. Additionally, the setting of the optical shop must have a few compulsory equipment: the topographer, slit lamp and auto-refractometer as these are essential equipment for us to design the lenses.


:: What should the Ortho-K package consist of?

Jason: The cost of ortho k for eyesight.sg starts from $1,800 and it consists:
  • Eye examinations (prior and after wearing to track progress)
  • Unlimited consultations
  • A pair of standby glasses
  • One set of solution for the kids to start learning about the hygiene of Ortho-K and last but not least
  • The contact lenses

:: The decision

As with my usual parenting style, Dumpling and I would discuss all matters regarding her welfare and interests - from enrichment classes to holidays to camps, so Ortho-K was no different. My viewpoint is simple: the kid must want it and be responsible for it. After all, it is her life and she has to learn to be accountable for her decision.

Thankfully, this seems to be the same approach for Eyesight.sg because at the end of the explanation, Jason turned to Dumpling and asked her for her thoughts and if she would be able to be responsible to take care of the hygiene and be responsible for the cleansing of her lenses, etc.



Dumpling doing her eye examination

And I am really glad to share that in the end, Dumpling decided that she will proceed with the journey!

Update: we've collected our lenses 2 evenings back and Dumpling has just started her journey so next up, we will be sharing her experience + some tips I learn along the way. 


About Eyesight.sg

At Eyesight.sg, previously known as The Eye Care Initiative, we offer a comprehensive eye check as we believe that regular eye examination is the key to improving the quality of one’s life as it helps prevent damage to vision brought about by diabetes and other sight-threatening eye diseases.

Eyesight.sg’s slogan is 'improving life with primary eye care' and we achieve this by having a more health-based approach in our eye examinations as we believe that we are here to add value to every customer by assisting them to know more and care more about their eye health.

Apart from that, we are a team of optometrist that is passionate in paediatric optometric practice and that is the reason why we strive and take pride in using Ortho-K to help every child in their journey of myopia control and enjoying a better quality of life.

Disclaimer: this is a series of collaboration as invited by Eyesight.sg so that Dumpling and I can share our reviews and experience on this new Ortho-K journey.

If you have enjoyed this post, please follow me on my Facebook Page where I share my parenting thoughts, food photos (be prepared for tons of them!), early shout outs for giveaways and interact with you, my readers! You can also follow me on Pinterest and Instagram 
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