Sunday, January 29, 2012

A "beary" roaring good time - we' re going on a bear hunt homeschool unit!

I love performing arts especially musicals and plays. I like watching stories come alive especially from my favourite books. There's so much going on in a play that never fails to engage me - music, lights and the punchlines from the actors.

Dumpling and I started going for plays when she was about 2 I think. As Dumpling loves books, I thought that it would be nice to bring her along to experience "theatre". To my surprise, she enjoyed it so much that she would cry at the end of every play!

So, it then became a habit to bring her for such performances whenever it reaches the sunny shores here. To make it more relevant and enjoyable for Dumpling, we often do a unit study on it prior to watching it. With "We're going on a bear hunt", our homeschool unit study was relatively quick as she has read the book before almost a year ago when we used some lapbook materials from homeschool share.

These are some of the pictures taken last March.

Story Sequencing

Learning about prepositions

The wonderful thing about lapbooking is that the elements can be kept and reused again and this is exactly what we did this year. However, as Dumpling is now older, I was on the hunt for more age-appropriate materials and I was blessed with more homeschool resources on this book from homeschool creations which had more preschool level elements. Additionally, between a few friends, we did an exercise called "homeschool swop" where each of us prepares a unit and we swop! One of the packs I was blessed with was on this very same story too. :)

We had loads of fun and inspired by Totally Tots, I decided to take some of the activities outdoors too. Here's Dumpling in action.

Picking up pebbles and making swishy swashy sounds :)

Our resources

Instead of using story sequencing cards, I encouraged Dumpling to build her own scenes 

Uh oh! Thick oozy mud!

Stumble trip

Swirling whirling snowstorm!

Oh no! Its a bear! LOL

Literacy bit: beginning sounds

Literacy (reading and matching of sentences to scenes) and reinforcement on Ordinal Numbers

More math bit (this was part of the homeschool swop exercise). "Adding on" using number line

Numberline with a twist for some kinesthetic fun!

We caught the play earlier in the morning and it was extremely enjoyable. While it did not have as much adult humour as Gruffalo (which we watched last year around this time), the play was definitely entertaining and was very interactive.

While props were simple

Comic timing was great!

But the best part for me personally is the interaction the cast has with the audience. Here, Dumpling took cover under the poster. You will need to watch it to understand what she was hiding from. LOL

All in all, another GREAT homeschooling unit! Loooooooviiiiiiiiinnnnngggg it!!!!

Read about another blogger mum's Bear Hunt activity here

I forgot to add on a YouTube clip of the author narrating the story! Here you go:

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Chinese New Year - 春节!

Wow, this month has been a tremendously busy month for Dumpling and I. Besides our usual thematic HS practice, I decided to simultaneously work on a Chinese New Year theme. It has been challenging (yes, am a bit of a masochist) but I really did not want Dumpling to go through the motion of Chinese New Year without some understanding of the significance behind it.

In one of my previous posts, I wrote about baking pineapple tarts. On the morning of Chinese New Year Day 1, Dumpling, my helper and I made Dumplings: 饺子. Dumplings are traditionally made more in the northern part of China and it symbolises "prosperity" as the shape is similar to gold nugget/ingots. 

I decided to make it with Dumpling as it was easy and also because we were visiting her Great Grandma. Cooked with Mee Suan 面线, it would be easy for Great Grandma to chew on. Besides, 面线 traditionally symbolises longevity so hey, what's not to like about the dish?

We mixed marinated minced pork (a dash of pepper, some corn flour and oyster sauce) with fish paste I bought from the wet market stalls (those that sells uncooked Yong Tau Foo). The mix we use is about 1:1 :) The Dumpling skin of course can be bought from NTUC or even from the same Yong Tau Foo store.

Dumpling helped with separating the Dumpling "skin"

Child labour :p

Dab the edges with either egg white or corn flour mixed with water to seal the edges.
Voila! This is truly a quick 20mins job!

Mum's belief is that the first meal of the year must be good and hence, I added slices of abalone with the dish.


Craft wise, for the Chinese New Year theme, Dumpling and I made the usual lanterns, dragon puppet craft, etc. over the span of 2 - 3 weeks. However, one craft which I waited one full year to do which has been at the back of my mind is doing a painting of 梅花: Plum Blossoms. A tall task with a 3 year old? Absolutely not!

This is a beautiful, beautiful craft and is both fun and easy. Here's a quick look walk through!

What you need:
- Black poster colour diluted with water in palette
- Straws (shorter straws work better for younger kids)
- Finger paints
- Drawing paper

Sprinkle some ink splotches and blow on it with straws. These serve as the "branches" of the Plum Blossom tree

See how the ink is spreading out?

Using finger paints, dab the tips of fingers with red / pink paint and place it on the end of the "branches" to form the Plum Blossoms 

In Art, I always try to remind myself that there should not be any "fixed" rules / be too focused on techniques especially when they are so young. But when Dumpling tried to make the prints using the entire length of her pointer (and with all of them looking to point in the same direction), I could not help but to redirect her to use only tips. 

This did not sit well with her and so I backed off only to realise later that Dumpling's free form style of painting looks really good!

While I was so focused on being asthetically balanced, Dumpling's version had more depth to it. Well, guess what do I know huh? LOL

Can you guess which is Dumpling's?

And finally, to all readers of this blog and to all my friends, here's wishing you a Blessed and Prosperous Lunar New Year - 新年快乐!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Pineapple Tarts!

In preparation for the Lunar New Year, I have been pointing out things (对联), Chinese New Year goodies and other decorations when Dumpling and I head out. And with all our homeschooling themes, I try to involve some cooking / baking activity whenever possible.

As many would know, for Chinese, the play of words and symbols especially for festive and happy occasions is a common occurrence. This is primarily to symbolize good wishes. For the upcoming Chinese New Year, Dumpling and I made pineapple tarts over the weekend. Due to the colour and the hokkien name of fruit (凤梨; fènglí), pineapples are known to symbolize wealth, luck and excellent fortune. I decided to make that with Dumpling because it is messy fun and primarily, it is yummy. :p

 I downloaded a recipe I got from Phoon Huat but made some amendments to it.


GOLDTREE Salted Butter 500 gm

RED MAN Cake flour 600 gm

RED MAN Skimmed Milk powder * 100 gm

RED MAN Caster Sugar * 50 gm

Egg yolk 4 nos

RED MAN Vanilla Essence 1 Tablespoon


RED MAN Pineapple Tart Filling 1kg


1. Knead butter, sugar, vanilla essence, milk powder and flour together.

2. Add in yolk, blend into a soft dough, do not over work.

3. Measure 10-13 gm of dough to 8-10 gm of pineapple tart filling to form into shapes at your own desire, brush tarts with egg yolk

4. Bake at 190oC for 20 minutes

For my version, I reduced the sugar from 50 to 40-45gm. I also replaced Skimmed Milk Powder with Full Cream Milk Powder for a creamier and richer taste. (Indicated by asterisk above)

Lastly, I baked mine at 180oC for 16 minutes for the first batch and subsequently reducing the time by a min – 2 for the next 2 batches. For this, it is best to check on your tarts once you approach the 13 min mark.

As with most of the festive celebrations, C and I will pack it into as a small gift for her classmates. This is especially so since she attends a pure chinese Nursery class and the school usually includes a unit on such festivals. So with these baking activities, I hope to complement the good work her school does.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Adventures in Learning - Preschool Ready Packed Curriculum

One of the challenges that I face once in a while being a FTWM is the shortage of time . The lack of time to research, prepare learning aids and materials for Dumpling, as well as the time to cut and laminate, etc.

With that challenge, I spent some time last year researching on homeschool curriculums which I can use with Dumpling. I first ordered from Calvert when I read some reviews on this curriculum and after plowing through their website. There were lesson plans and some prepacked materials in the kit. Thereafter I decided I wanted to order something which is easier and chanced upon Adventures in Learning.

Adventures in Learning is from the US and is apparently used in several preschools / daycare centres there. But the main selling point for me was that it is pre-packed into sort of daily packs. Craft pieces are precut / perforated, books and instructions are included along with some other learning aids. So basically all I needed to do was to read up prior and the deliver the session.

How you can place your order is to look through the various months they have and choose which topics you would want to do with your child. Here's the themes for 2011 / 2012. You will need to have a US suite / shipping address and have it shipped there before getting it sent to SG. I use Borderlinx because its via DHL and I have had only great customer service with Borderlinx so for me, it is worth the cost.

After researching and getting the backend shipping issues sorted out, I decided to then try this out and here are some pictures and thoughts on the curriculum (I will touch on Calvert in another post).

This is what the kit contains:
- a starter kit (this is with every first set of curriculum purchased) with some basic stationery 
- a book (for my month, it was Humpty Dumpty)
- lesson plans
- daily activity sheets, craft materials, etc.  

The monthly curriculum kit and the starter kit

Part of the starter kit included a felt calendar. Unfortunately, some months were missing from the kit hence my handwritten effort

For the "month/theme" I purchased last year, it was on "Homes and Family". So all the crafts and activities were centred around this theme.

Here we have Country Mouse and City Mouse story sheet and the paper cut outs. I think it was just meant to be a colouring exercise but Dumpling likes dramatization so we added popsicle sticks for that purpose.

Then there were cutting exercises. This activity focused on how many members there are in Dumpling's family where she counted, then cut out accordingly 

For more Math bits, there was another sheet with printed figures which we were to attach to toilet paper rolls (included) and sort them according to size.  

There was also a simple game with the "board game sheet" seen below as well as the figurines.

Included in the kit was also a simple "race" which Dumpling and I took turns throwing the die and then moving the corresponding number of steps with our representative figurines.

We also had a go at a "house-matching" game

There was also "discussion" time included in the lesson plan. For the below, it was a session on classification of homes which we can and cannot stay in.

The craft bit - G for Grandparents

We also had some discussions on family time and family activities.
Here the guide suggested for us to make something which can be used during family dinners and we made pizza toast!

And of course, some writing exercise.

And finally, Dumpling's first family portrait :)

From a curriculum perspective, my personal thought is that it is a fairly interesting program though the quality of some of the print outs was not that great. But I like that Dumpling is being exposed to a different set of curriculum as compared to the local system as there is clearly more discussion involved and it uses a mix of inquiry and multiple intelligences approach. So this is clearly not for a parent / homeschooler who is very academic driven - rote learning or needing to achieve certain literacy milestones.

The downside? The monthly box costs about USD55-60 (including domestic shipping) and the freight to SG costs about SGD30-35. However, even after conversion, it is still cheaper compared to sending our kids for enrichment since this has 20 - 23 days of lessons and materials packed in it. As a working parent, it saves me loads of time though I need to read up prior to the sessions and I also borrowed books to extend the lesson.

BUT, the main issue I have with AIL is customer service. There was not only missing "month labels" for my calendar but also one missing "lesson". Email replies are terrible (I think they have yet to reply to my last email a few months back) and customer service is quite terrible in that sense. Being an international "customer" I had questions on shipping and curriculum contents and after a few exchanges, there was no reply at all. I read from some forums that some parents / customers experienced the same thing as I did.

So, if you are not fussy about customer service, you can certainly give it a try. Be it for the experience or to have something on standby for weeks which you are too busy to create the lesson plans or even as a home based enrichment / home learning activity over the weekends. Enjoy!
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