Friday, November 25, 2011

Montessori Chinese (Preschoolers) 新蒙氏阅读

Being the HS junkie, I stumbled upon this set quite by accident while surfing on some FB shops.
What attracted me to the set was that it is thematic and this makes it easier for me to use with Dumpling. The activities in this series seems to be short which is great for kids at this age.

There are 8 sets in this series with each consisting of some picture/word cards and 2 books. One book is story based (a few short stories) and the other is mainly poems / rhymes with some simple activities designed for the parent / teacher to have some quick Q&A with the child and to encourage the child to discuss the story.

The word cards complement the poems as they are the key words which are presented in the poems (though not all are listed).

I saw firsthand, how simple rhymes and songs help Dumpling with her grasp of the Chinese language and that primarily was half of what contributed to my purchase.

In her class, the children are exposed to songs being play softly in the background (sublimal programming perhaps?) and each week, the children learns a new rhyme / song (at the minimum).

From such activities, Dumpling's grasp of vocabulary has improved. I personally felt that this also contributed to her speaking in short sentences more and very naturally.

How we use this at home was that I would scan and print an enlarged version of the poem / rhyme so its easier for Dumpling and I to share. After going through it, we would then play some games. This is usually either a picture / word match or a word hunt game.

On the left is how the word cards look like.

The downside of this set is that I wish the word cards were printed on thicker art card though it did have perforation which makes "tearing" easier (I shudder to think how much cutting is involved if they are not perforated!). Additionally, to play the picture match game, you will need to make a copy of either side because the cards are printed back-to-back with pictures on one side and the words on the other. So you will need the extra set to match the words with the pictures. Hence for Dumpling and I, we needed to prep a bit before using the set. I bought this set of materials from this facebook seller:!/unikidsbabies

Here, Dumpling attempts to read the short rhyme (read to her on 2 occasions prior and she was able to grasp it quite quickly so I do think the rhythm and early exposure are seem to be useful).

It consists of word / picture match. The next page can be a memory word game where you print 2 copies with the next page on stringing the words together which forms some of the sentences in the rhyme. I have also included some writing exercise. Please leave a comment if you have the set and find this useful or have other suggestions to share. :)  
Lastly, I also prepared some very simple learning aids to help with word recognition (so that I know she's not just reciting / memorising) and for her to build short sentences together. I have uploaded the learnings file here.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

More Free talks!

Wow, seems to be the season of free talks.

1) Workshop: How To Teach Your Baby To Read, A Glenn Doman Approach

Come join us in our monthly workshops. Here we discuss techniques, trash out different myths about teaching children, go crazy with our revolutionary methods and at the end, hopefully, every parent goes home eager to teach their children to read. If you have a baby who is not reading single words aged between 3 months - 3 years, you should consider attending this workshop.

Speaker: Daryl Ang (who is certified from Institutes for the Achievement of the Human Potential IAHP in Philadelphia)

Date: 26th November 2011

Time: 11 am to 12 pm

Venue: GD BABY PROGRAMS (S) PTE LTD 28 Sin Ming Lane #03-131 Midview City Singapore 573972

(Registration is closed for 26 Nov 2011 session)

Limited to the first 10 parents. Every set of parents that participates will receive a free trial class at our school, GymnAdemics worth $88. Parents who had already attended trial class before are not entitled for another trial. Trial is only available for 1 attendance.

To register please send in your name, mobile number and number of attendees to:

Tel: 6456 3526

2) "How to prepare your child for primary school mathematics"

The seminar session will last about 1 - 1.5 hour.

Date: 3rd and 17th of December, Saturday at 1pm.

The agenda for the seminar is as below:

• Introduction to Singapore Maths-MOE curriculum
• Concepts on Primary Mathematics Syllabus
• Processes and Skills to solve Mathematics Problems
• Activities to Solving Maths Problems

Venue:  28 Holland Grove Road, #01-28/3, Singapore 278805
Organiser: S.A.M (Seriously Addictive Maths)


Monday, November 21, 2011

Art Class

Weekends are somewhat a tad tight for Dumpling and I, especially on Saturdays. This is because Dumpling has Arts in the morning and then swimming in the afternoon after her nap. I started her on Arts because I do not want to do anything “academic” during the weekends. Additionally, from PTM and our HS sessions, this seems to be one area she likes very much. I also wanted her to have exposure to different mediums and techniques (not just drawing or painting) and more importantly, to expose her to a drop off class and build her confidence.

The first few sessions were tough because she cried and did not participate much. I also went through a short phase of having to sit on the “yellow chair” (fellow mummy friends would know what I am referring to!). After having gone through 2 terms, I am happy to share that she enjoys her class once she reaches there (can’t say much about her “complaints” before she leaves the house for class) and has better focus and does her pieces happily. 

How the school based their art work is using a story theme which spans over 4 weeks. For this term, it was on Gingerbread man and the children painted a glove and also on some “dough” which they helped to knead and cut using a cookie cutter. What I like most for this theme was the oven. During her first lesson, the children were taught to make some textured paper which they used in the last lesson for the “oven”. Here, Dumpling also had the chance to use a metallic paint for her oven as well as decorate it with some embellishments. I love the mix of colours + materials and the various techniques used.

The piece is not finished yet. The teachers are to add on a box behind the door to create the depth of an oven and there's where Dumpling can place the pink gingerbread man

The below is based on the story "Stomp Chomp Dinosaur"

Like the other pieces, this is also story based. I think it was something to do with 3 little owls and the teachers also taught them the various owl breeds, etc.

Though she does enjoy her Arts session I have decided to take a break for a term or 2 and perhaps let her try something else. For myself, having seen the artworks for the past 2 terms spanning over 4 different stories, it gave me loads of new ideas on some extension activities during our homeschool sessions. Here’s to share on what we did at home for an ocean theme recently.

Dumpling used a mix of colours for her jelly fish and strings for the tentacles. She also decided to add on eyebrows. lol

And for the record, I just want to list down some of the items I want to share in this blog over the next few weeks as a personal reminder. Haha…

- Storybox

- Feedback on a new Chinese resource set which Dumpling likes for me to work with her on some evenings

- Our Science journey

- Math games

- Arts

Hope I make it through the list! :)

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Reading for Sure Seminar

Received this in my email yesterday. For parents who want to learn more about "reading", you can give them a call to find out more. Its FOC for teachers too! :)


We are proud to invite Dr. Julia Solomon (Australian Clinical Psychologist; Teacher Educator; Founder & Director of ‘Reading For Sure’) to Singapore to conduct seminars for Teachers and Parents on how to make English Literacy achievable using ‘Reading For Sure’ programme.

Ø For Pre-School Teachers
Date: 14th December 2011 (Wednesday)
Time: 10am to 12pm (Registration starts at 9.30am)
Fee: Free

Ø For Parents
Date: 15th December 2011 (Thursday)
Time: 7.30pm to 9pm (Registration starts at 7am)
Fee: $10 per pax (redeemable on purchase of “Reading for Sure’ products)
* Participants will receive a FREE COPY of the ‘Reading for Sure’ sample book. *

Ø For Primary School Teachers
Date: 16th December 2011 (Friday)

Time: 10am to 12pm (Registration starts at 9.30am)

Fee: Free

Please refer to the attached or log in to the website for more information:

For interested Teachers / Parents, you may RSVP via email. Kindly state the following for RSVP.
1. Preferred attending date
2. Total number of participants (with names)
3. Name of school (only applicable for Teachers)
4. Contact number(s).

As seats are limited, do register with us early.

Do help us to disseminate to your friends/colleagues.

We hope to see you here.

Thank You.

Best Regards,

Catherine Tan
Education Resource Consultant
Mobile : +65 9777 2458
Email :
For the above seminars, venue will be at Big Tree Edu Aids Consultancy Pte Ltd (Office cum showroom).

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Letterland ABC Trilogy eBooks on iPad and iPhone now!

Wow, just when I just shared Dumpling's experience using Letterland Living ABC Software and the company came up with this! :)

Click here to for a preview!  

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


While working on Part 2 of Literacy Readiness, I wanted to do a quick post on how Songs and Music helped Dumpling with her grasp of Chinese.

While I am certainly not a big fan of rote learning, I do understand that for Chinese language, a fair bit of rote is expected as the language is as such. Because I technically “outsource” the Chinese part of Dumpling’s “education”, I do not really know what and how much the school is doing for that language until she comes home and starts chatting to me in bursts of mandarin and is suddenly singing / reciting a poem or rhyme.

It was then that I appreciate the flow of the rhyme and the musical approach. From 健康歌, she now is able to tell me which is her left hand and which is her right (左右手). That is certainly much better than me when I was her age! :p

From such an exposure, children are also exposed to better pronunciation. Here Dumpling did a Mandarin version of Itsy Bitsy Spider (which I have never heard it in my life prior).

Here, Dumpling acts out a rhyme. From cute rhymes as such, Dumpling also gets introduced to some vocabulary, etc. For English speaking environment, this is certainly something which you can easily incorporate into your home. There are quite a few children DVDs and audio CDs from Popular bookstores.    

At home, I also put up simple small rhymes like these and read with Dumpling. Over time, through repeition, she is able to recall the words (much like readers) and we also act out for some added physical activity.

Tongue Twisters are also great fun too. Here's something I picked up from Popular some time back.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Literacy Readiness

Following the Chinese homelearning sharing below, I thought to share a bit on literacy readiness. Incidentally, I was having a chat with one of Dumpling’s classmates’ mum who is an Australian and she has very rightfully pointed out that in other countries, children are not expected to be able to read when they are in Primary school but that does not seem to be the same for Singapore.

And she is right of course. Just look at all the “reading” and “enrichment” centres sprouting across the island. I had a personal experience where I left my details because I wanted to visit a fairly reputable preschool as I was contemplating in the earlier days if I will homeschool Dumpling all the way through preschool. Interestingly, this school has a reading program where they were giving away complimentary reading assessments where you can then assess your kid (starts as young as 3) and see which “level” your child is at.

I only have 2 issues.

1) At 3 YO, where / which level would you expect most kids to be at? So why this unnecessary pressure?

2) The promoter could not answer / advise me when I asked how the school teaches and what methods it uses with its program. Is it pure phonics (and if so, what “system”) or whole words (how then do they attempt to teach this – flashcards?) or if the school has its proprietory program.

Needless to say, I did not turn up for the “assessment” and did not take up any of their repeated offers despite many follow up calls. Experiences as such, thus, prompted me to homeschool.

When I first started homeschooling, I did not sit down and analyse how big a task it is. I just jumped right in and the enormity of my decision only hit me much later when I suddenly realised that I alone, am responsible for her preschool years! Everything from reading to numbers to motorskills. I must confess that I freaked out a bit then. Ha ha ha…

Similarly, many mummy friends shared with me their worries, fears and how daunting it is to “teach” their child. It is just “safer” to send to the experts. It is absolutely alright with sending your child to enrichment centres but I wanted to also dedicate this post to how you can be part of the learning journey with your child, regardless if you are doing just 20 mins a day or 30 mins in 2 days.

Since “reading” seems to be such a hot topic and concern, I thought it would be apt to share what Dumpling and I do and how we do it at home. Each child’s learning style and interest is different so please adapt accordingly to best suit your child.

I have simplified the steps as below:

1) Letter sounds

2) Letter names

3) Beginning sounds

4) CVC Blends

5) Whole words

There are of course more “stages” after this – decoding of digraphs and word families, etc but I feel that once you have done the above, the rest should be much easier to catch on.

Just for today’s, I will share on points 1 to 3 otherwise; this post will be a tad too long.

1) Letter sounds

I did not teach Dumpling the letter names at all and still do not teach her now (more on that below). I started with just letter sounds for her to build the association where each letter makes a special sound. I also made a conscious effort not to teach similar looking shapes – e.g. b with d. A good reference to for the letter groups is using what Jolly phonics as a guide.

Letter sounds, to me, are more important than letter names because words are built according to sounds. For e.g. “cat” is sounded out as “ker / a / ttt” instead the child memorizing it as the letters C / A / T.

Though whole words are important (especially recognizing those on Dolch word walls), the main advantage of phonics for me is it aids Dumpling in being able to sound out words she does not know and it will definitely be useful for spelling.

For letter sounds, I only used one resource which is Letterland as I have initially shared. The CDROM is mainly song based which I personally feel is great for children.

It teaches a child the letter sounds through songs and not forgetting upper/lower case match through games and activities.

The writing of the letters is also taught using songs.

Some parents are concerned that the child will not be able to identify the letters as a standalone when it is paired with a character like that. For Letterland, I did not have such experience with Dumpling but what I did from day 1 was to also have letter tiles with us and I will get her to place it over the Letterland letter so that she can identify the standalone letter too.

I bought my Letterland items from an online seller which is not selling them now I believe. However, you can view some of Letterland's items from this seller. Two key things I like about Letterland is that you can buy other activity books and materials to support what you have learnt from the CD ROM. Additionally, it also uses the Queen's English which is what we are taught here in Singapore.

2) Letter names

I actually did not teach this at all but after learning all the letter sounds, Dumpling then learnt it via Leap Frog videos. A good place to get these DVDs at a reasonable rate locally is here.

3) Beginning sounds

Once Dumpling was able say the sound when I hold up the letters, I started building awareness of the starting word / beginning word sound. This helped her in being more aware that all letters make a sound and they then form a word. Additionally, this also set the basis of CVC blend for us.

If you like, you may wish to use the ladybird key words series C (starting from book 4). A seller at Singapore Motherhood Forum sells them here. However, what I personally did was to read a lot with her and using popular readers like “Oxford Reading Tree” and as we read, I would prompt her by placing my finger under a certain word and then emphasize the sound. For e.g. “I am kkkk /ipper” (I am Kipper).

I also read series such as the songbird phonics written by bestselling author of The Gruffalo, Julia Donaldson, amongst many orders.

As you can see, we read a lot in this household as I strongly believe that the key to reading is reading. More than that, it’s a wonderful way to bond with Dumpling as we act out parts, improvise on the story and discuss alternative endings. Nothing is as magical as going on a imaginative journey with your child and viewing her world through her language and interpretation.

This is post #1 of a 2 part series. Here's post #2 where I discussed other areas such as CVC blends and sight words too. 

Next post: should be on something math / science related? Or leave me a comment if you have a special request?

Note: I would like to add that I am not getting any commission or payment of any kind from the links provided above. I have purchased things from these sellers at one point or another and my experience has been quite positive hence the sharing.  

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

One of my greatest love is cooking. I love cooking as much as I love eating :p so I love to try out new recipes and find myself glued to Masterchef on cable whenever it is on TV.

Before Dumpling came along, I used to cook very frequently but between juggling a full time job and homeschool and weekends being so precious, I admit I have not exactly cooked much for her.

I was thinking about pies recently and incidentally, I saw a recipe in Young Parents for pies. I recalled how much I used to enjoy making cottage pies since it does not require any pastry. So with some potatoes, onions, root vegetables, mushrooms, cheese and minced beef, I was ready.

Here's the recipe to share:

What you need:

1. 2 medium to big potatoes, diced

2. 1 to 2 diced black mushrooms (I used the canned types 'cos Chinese mushrooms takes very long to soak well)

3. Minced beef (Pre-marinated with a dash of pepper, corn flour and light soya sauce / oyster sauce / A1 sauce. I used about 150gm of it but it really depends on how much you love your meat!) * you can substitute with minced pork or chicken and marinate accordingly

4. 1 stick of carrot, finely diced

5. Half a rice bowl of chopped pumpkins
(I used root vegetables because these bake well)
6. 1 big onion (I used yellow)

7. 1 slice of cheddar cheese / a handful of shaved mozzarella cheese


1. Preheat oven at 210 degrees for about 8-10 mins

2. In the meantime, steam potatoes and carrots and pumpkin till soft

3. While the items are being steamed, heat up about 1 table spoon of oil and add in the chopped onions. Fry till fragrant and lightly caramelized then add in mushrooms and minced beef. Stir fry till cooked

4. Mash the potatoes with a bit of butter (if you prefer richer taste, you can add 1-2 table spoons of cream)

5. Mix the carrots and pumpkin with the minced beef, mushrooms and onions

6. Lay the base of a casserole dish with the mixture above

7. Then lay strips of cheddar cheese / shaved mozzarella cheese (as above picture)

8. Spread the layer of mash potatoes

9. Finally lay some more cheese as the top layer

10. Place in oven for 3 – 5 mins at 210 degrees. As all the ingredients are basically cooked prior, this last step is to melt the cheese so do check to constantly to ensure that the top layer is baked to a light golden brown

11. Serve warm!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Chinese Homelearning: Story box, fairy tales and pictograms

Chinese is an especially hard area for me to homelearn with Dumpling when we first started off as that is not a language that I am comfortable in. I did well in school but I did not really like the subject because it was hard hard work and frankly, a lot of rote learning which was boring for me.

Since Dumpling goes to Mandarin N1, I thought I can have a break and just opt the easy way out - outsource to the school. But as Dumpling becomes more proficient in the language, she will engage me in that language sometimes and wants to read Chinese books and do some Chinese homelearning activities.

Dumpling is a visual-audio learner so the best way for her case to teach is to read with her and get her familiarised with the words. These are some of my resources that I use with her.

I started reading classic tales with her and then extending it into something fun. With Dumpling being so young then, my aim is really to get her interested than for her to recognise the words. This works for her because the pretend-play gets them running and "playing" as she acts out the parts.

So I made a story box using a old empty cardboard box. The one on the right was what Dumpling and I did for "The Ugly Duckling".
Add on: Please leave a comment if you wish for more information on storyboxes and I will share in another post how we made ours.
Then I printed these out from here and we made toilet roll crafts and used them for as a "puppet theatre".

After the interest is established, I bought fun activity booklets  and will bring them out with me whenever we head out. In the series below, each set comes in 6 booklets and are theme based - colours, numbers, on the farm, etc.

You can find a good series of classic tales here at Happy Cottage's website. She has 2 series and you can find part 2 on the right of her page under the navigation links.

Dumpling likes stickers so this was fun to do plus because each book is thin, it is light to bring out with us too.

The titles are according to age group and I bought the first set 2 - 3YO locally (sorry, but I cannot recall where I got them from). For theses 2 other sets, I ordered via

During a PTM with the school, I understood that Dumpling was picking up on words quite quickly and so, the teacher encouraged me to do more with Dumpling at home. I chanced upon these titles also from "Happy Cottage" and I love the pictogram approach. You can view them here

Chinese words evolved from drawings from a long time ago.

So it made sense to help Dumpling make sense of how the word came about and this series does just that. From the pictures below, you can draw out each "stage" and discuss with your child.

Now, Dumpling can recall how the word looks like because there is a story behind the words.

Depending on the child's age and learning style, you will have to decide how many words you wish to teach at one go. For Dumpling, I do not teach more than three per time and I definitely do not do this daily but as and when we have extra time for Chinese homelearning or when she requests for it.

I also came across this activity book from dangdang too which further complements the approach. The only gripe I have about this title is that sometimes the stock from dangdang are very old and so, the stickers from this book do not stick anymore and I have to use a roller double sided tape to stick them on. But Dumpling does not seem to mind as she finds it fun to roll the tape on.

Dumpling and I are also using other materials and approaches to Chinese in addition to those mentioned above but I will leave them for another post. :) Please post a comment so I know that there are people reading the blog!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Useful homeschool resources

Eversince I have homeschooled for a while, I have had some good and some bad buys. However, I have been very blessed to have been gifted with some good and useful homeschool resources too.

Here's a quick sharing of items which came in useful for me.

1) My cannot-live-without Whiteboard / Chalkboard

Gifted by a dear GF, this is especially useful ever since Dumpling has been able to trace letters and such and for me to elaborate the formation of Chinese words as well as using it for illustration / explanation of anything from Science (examples on how we record our journals) to Math readiness (introduction to number line etc.) This board is also magnetic and its good for magnetic letter / number titles and even any magnetic pieces from books we have which I can then use as manipulatives.

2) More is great when it comes to craft!

Tub of markers / crayons, etc.
Gifted with this tub of colouring pens from ELC recently. As a box of 100, there is no way I can miss them or lose them as we only take out what we need and once its done, it goes right back into the tub. With such a big container, it cannot be easily misplaced.

Of course, other colouring and craft resources from Crayola (finger paint, water colour, etc.) are great and safe resources for craft too.

3) Reading readiness
Phonics - Letterland Living ABC
I did not HS Dumpling with a said target of the achievements of certain milestones. While I am certainly thankful that Dumpling really liked books when we first started HS, I wanted to show her the basics of phonics so that she is able to sound out any new words on her own and the skill will aid her in spelling I believe. And that was all I did for phonics. With this CDROM.
For each of the letters, there are 2 songs: one for the sound of the letter and the other, a song which teaches you how to write out the letter. 1+ years on, when Dumpling gets stuck at writing, I will sing out the song and it helps her recall how the strokes should be "drawn" out.

To familiar the child with the letter sounds and the letter shapes, there are games and activities for each letter.
We will use this as and when Dumpling wants it though initially I started off with a more structured plan but it did not work for us as her attention span would differ daily and there are days when she prefers not to do phonics.
Whole words

I will publicly announce that I dislike flashcards. I use flashcards to stick on walls and boards but that's about it. I am sure I am flaunting every rule that whole word gurus advocate but it is not something which I am personally keen on because I find it boring to be flashing cards in front of my tot day in and day out.
Instead, we read. A LOT. With a whole mix of books. There are good readers out there which I do have some sets but I do not rely on them. In fact, Dumpling and I read a variety of stories, fairy tales and non fictional titles from the library.
Through the vast amount of words she is exposed to daily, she taught herself how to read. To be frank, it took us by surprise because she did not indicate that she was retaining the words. She was about to read some words here and there but before she turned 2.5, one fine day, she opened up a book, put it in her lap and sat next to me and she pointed to each word and slowly started reading. She finished the page of 3 sentences.
From there, she went through a language explosion where Dumpling is now able to read for e.g. fun stories such as Elmer and Curious George independently.

But if you are keen to encourage your child to start off with some sight words, here's a link which is both useful and fun. The key is really to read a lot with your child. If attention span is a concern, then start with short simple stories and bright pictures. You do not even need to finish the whole book but perhaps 2 pages to start off.
Dumpling likes word tracing and colouring and I downloaded a set of printables from here. Dumpling really likes colouring by number and the creater of this pack provides a simple reader in each of her unit along with activities such as "Read it, Paste it, Trace it pages", Picture/Word match and my favourites - "Word Sort that works with the new word families and CVC box printables" for word blending exercises.
Additionally, you may wish to use good readers such as these box sets from Now I'm Reading which provides rewards stickers for the child too. The sentences are kept short and through ryhmes and simple repetition, the child should catch on in time. I personally find that readers can be a tad boring but children usually do very well with repetition. And it is with this repetition that helps them gain confidence as they are able to "read" thereafter.
A lot of time, I hear my friends sharing that their kids are memorising and do not really "read". But that to me, is one of the first steps to "reading". The next step is then to help the child associate the word (by sight and placing finger under the words) to the sound of it (according to what he / she recalls.) You can look at these readers here

4) Sid and The Frizz

I am sure many of you are going "what science? Our kids are so young?" And that's the fun of homelearning as I am very sure that if Dumpling were to be in a bilingual preschool, she would not have been able to dabble as much as she can in early exposure to Science.

We use mainly 2 "series" at home: Magic School Bus and Sid the Science Kid.

While The Magic School Bus is more "serious" in tone, it is nonetheless digestible for children with its exciting field trips with their teacher, Ms. Frizzle as they fly their way from the Artic (and learn about heat / insulation) to rivers (where Dumpling learn about migration).

As for Sid, its more contemporary with 3D animation. What I like about it is that it shows real life examples / clips and encourages children to conduct the same experiments and shows charting / recording in journals which I feel is a great way for children to detail down / doodle / draw the observations.

The show also has catchy songs and funny jokes so Dumpling enjoys these tremendously too.

Both series have books and DVDs and we use a mixture of each. :)

So are preschoolers too young to know more about Science? Of course not? Dumpling understood "Reversible Change" and can explain to me in simple terms the process of photosynthesis.
How do I bring these concepts alive besides books? These very same two resources :)
Enjoy! Please do share any of your resources too!
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