Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Primary One: the 6 things I learnt

Just like that, Dumpling has finished her second week of formal education in Primary School and is attending her third week now. It has been a learning curve for her as much as it has been for me: the-getting-to-know-the-classmates-parents, the mad bento preparation in the morning, teaching her to look at the timetable and pack her school bag, getting her to look through her journal so that we know what homework she has, etc., and the list goes on.

And just like that (and with some dramatic flair *drum rolls*) she's suddenly more grown up and frankly, seems more ready to tackle the weeks ahead than me. Along the way, I learnt as much as the kid, but in different areas. :) Here's sharing some tips with you parents who with children going to P1 next year!

1) Label, label, label! 
Kids lose their belongings and this is a norm. Dumpling has been very blessed to have good teachers who would remind the children to stow and pack away their belongings daily. So far, there has only been one incident where Dumpling left her entire pencil case, yes, ENTIRE pencil case in class. This along with her journal which has records of her daily task / homework.

The good thing is that her school is a single session school so there were no afternoon classes and her items were still there, under her desk the next day. But there have been incidents where she left her lunch bag in the canteen and had to go back to get it. This is where the labels come in handy. We also labelled her shoes as well as her uniforms - pinafore, tee and shorts!

I have been using the value kits from Bright Star Kids labels since Dumpling started attending her Chinese play classes at 18 months and have not looked back. The totally neat thing about this site is that you are able to choose and customize your labels and even preview the artwork before placing an order. Besides the usual pencil labels and book labels, the link above points to a School Labels Value Kit which also includes iron on labels for the uniforms! Some of the labels have been in use for more than 2 years and they have not peeled off. The downside is that they do not have Chinese font at the moment.

2) PVC and Velcro shoes

During my days (yes, I am that old), it was canvas and I recalled having to wash them every Friday evening and then to 'paint' them once they are dried over the weekends. Come this day and age, I suddenly realised that our children have so many choices. For these lower age group children, I strongly recommend PVC shoes with velcro straps. Shoelaces will not be a practical choice for these 7YOs. When we went shoe shopping, there were choices ranging from $20+ to 40+ (and even more). Because the kids spend a fair bit of time walking to and fro (to school hall, canteen, classrooms, washrooms, library, general office, etc.) and that they now have PE lessons weekly, we decided to go with a pair that has a thicker cushioning for better support and comfort. We got ours from Adidas. 

3) Purse
I am a tad paranoid about my kiddo losing her purse and then having to starve the whole day till school ends. So, I reached out to a GF of mine who deals in handmade items and got her to sew a small purse (with an outside zip compartment) AND a strap where the strap is placed through the belt loop. With the back zip compartment, I will place 2 sheets of tissue paper in there for her to use it. It has worked well so far. :)

4) Bento
I am a bento-ing mum who's into her third week of daily morning bentos for the kiddo. On the few occasions that I have been to the school, I noted that there are only 4 stalls in operation. It's simple arithmetic for me. The girls get staggered recess so Dumpling shares a recess time with the P2s. So, technically we have 12 classes of students (avg. of 30 kids?) attempting to queue and eat within 30mins of recess time. That equates to about 360 children. Even if 40% bentos, we still have about more than 200 children queuing up for 4 stalls. Frankly that worries me a bit. Hence, my bento engine restarted. 

Things that I learnt so far:
i) Separate the fruits
If you have a fussy kid like mine, you will need pack your fruits separately when you prepare for items like noodles / rice. The noodles would end up covering the fruits and well, my kid will not touch the fruits then because it is messy. :/

ii) Time saving egg in bread roll! 
Baked egg items are lovely for days that you are in a mad rush. You basically dig out the bread centre (excluding the base) and crack an egg into the 'hole'. Add a dash of herbs and sprinkle some cheese. Pop it into the oven at 170/180 degrees C and bake it for about 20 mins. (Do check on this after 15 mins especially if your oven runs hotter than usual) So this basically frees you up for 20 mins! 

iii) Bite Size
Food that are bite size are often useful. For e.g. Buns / Sandwiches/ Wraps / Mini Shepherds Pie. They are generally nifty and I see that the kiddo finishes more when they are presented that way.  

5) Schedule
As a FTWM I need to be able to have information easily and this is where schedules help me. I have 2 copies of her school's time table. One is on my fridge and the other is in her school bag where we look at packing her bag with her every evening. 

So how I manage to bento daily is that I have a menu plan too. The system works for me as it basically frees me from pondering and panicking every evening. Just 20-30 mins prep and it lasts me for 3 weeks before I repeat the items (unless she asks for the repeats). 

To the right of my menu planner, I also have columns where I indicated if there is veg in these items as I try very hard to make it a balanced diet. 

6) Network
As a homeschooling mum previously, I have basically sort of gotten used to be hands-on. With the kiddo attending formal school, I still intended to be very involved. During week 1, I was on half day leave with the intention to help ease the kiddo into her transition. After hanging around in the canteen, it became very clear that I would not be able to meet most of the parents to get their contacts so as to start a WhatsApp chat group. 

So, I decided to print out some cards and got the kid to hand them out during her recess to her classmates. (I informed the form teacher prior who advised that recess time is the best time for Dumpling to distribute.) It was also a good experience for Dumpling to introduce herself to her classmates too! 

Bit by bit, within a week, I got the response. The network is important because it allows me to cross check matters on homework, etc., with the parents. For e.g. there was a slight confusion on the spelling list. On a summary list, it was stated that "Dan, the Flying Man" list will be tested during week 3. However, on Dan's list, it was stated as week 4! I would not have noticed till much later, until a mum in the group pointed it out. :) 

So there you have it! My 6 survivor tips for P1 so far!  

Edit (3 Jan 2016):
Fellow mum blogger Angie shared a useful shopping list for Primary 1 parents too! Hop on over to find out more! 

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  1. I used to prepare cards for my son to give out to friends with his telephone number(home) and email!

    As for whatsapp, Our class had 6 parent reps on in the 1st hour of school already (all volunteered - no, not me, I've done my time) - and the Whatsapp group was beeping away by 8.30am! By the next day, there was a separate Whatsapp group withe the co-Form teacher included for more "official" matters.

    1. Wa!!!! Your whatsapp chat group is so 'happening'! LOL. There are actually 2 groups at the moment - one was set up before I know about it and by then I had already given out the cards. So, there are 2 groups for the class at the moment. :p


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