Category Archives: homeschool

Recreating natural disasters

What do the Nepal earthquake, Sydney storm, and Mount Batur in Bali have in common?  They’re all natural disasters!

This weekend, mama decided to run an impromptu lesson on natural disasters based on recent events and trips. As we always do, we borrowed books – on floods, earthquakes and volcanoes …

Books

We talked through the news (printed and online), looked up YouTube videos, and even dug up these water and land formation cards I made when we were homeschooling. Back then I got more out of these than he did, so it was nice to see him actually read some of the words now, recognise more formations and associate what he’s seen like Singapore island, Marina Bay, Macritchie Reservoir, River Valley, Puteri Harbour, Bukit Timah (hill), Jurong Lake, Alexandra Canal, etc.
Formations

Best of all, we recreated these natural disasters at home, getting some hands-on, messy fun along the way!

First, I took out our modeling clay and aluminum food trays. Using the visuals as a guide, I invited B to make a mini volcano and river inside the trays.  I helped him to shape the volcano while he did a good job on the river, adding little trees and animals along it too ….
Clay

Then, I hunted around the house and found these items – baking soda, dish soap, paint, vinegar, paper or plastic cups, water and something to stir with.  If you remember science class (or else, just search online), you’ll know what comes next!
DIY

Fill one cup with vinegar and set aside.  In the other cup, mix a couple of spoonfuls of baking soda, a dash of dish soap and paint (to match what you’re trying to simulate). Add water and stir until it’s a nice even mixture. Pour this into the volcano to get the red “magma” inside or blue “river water” along the banks.
Magma

Lastly, pour the cup with vinegar slowly into the mix and see the volcano erupt with “lava” spilling out,

and the riverbanks overflowing!

How awesome is that? We had so much fun that B asked to do this again. And again.  Science is cool.

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Hole in the bottom of the sea

B and his classmates have been busy preparing for their Term 3 musical showcase – based on Jessica Law’s adaptation of “Hole in the Bottom of the Sea,” with a bit of Camille Saint-Saëns’ “Aquarium” thrown in for the sea effects. Hubby saw B perform live for the first time, and was quite proud of our little “crab!” This renewed B’s interest in sea life which was a nice break from weeks of vehicles and space talk at home. As we had previously done a diorama together, this time we tried a simple book-based craft using Marcus Pfister’s The Rainbow Fish series.

Here’s how we did it:

Borrow the book(s) from the library and read them!

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There are many books in the series, but we chose “Rainbow Fish To The Rescue” as it had a meaningful storyline (about sharing, caring and inclusion) AND it had a shark – which coincided with his school play

Print/draw fish templates for the lil one to colour. We used the fish colouring handouts from a play we attended. I let B choose his own colours and material. I guess he wanted to recreate the book’s actual look and feel as this is what he came up with – colourful crayons, blue/green watercolour paint, and glitter for the shiny scales:

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B’s more self aware now, and is still TRYING to paint inside the lines cleanly. He told me “mama, so messy!” but I said “No worries. We’re cutting the fish out and it’ll look great!”

I got him to broadly cut out the fish, then let him work on his sea animals puzzles while I trimmed the little fishies and prepared the box – drawing inspiration from a craft I found here.

Ha, I think you can tell which one mama did
Ha, I think you can tell which one mama did
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Puzzles help to reinforce and break the monotony of waiting (or painting too long!). While I finished the cutting, B “revised” his 1-10 numbers and Chinese names like 沙鱼 (shark)

Unlike our previous “fixed” diorama, I wanted this to be moveable so I cut horizontal lines (<1 cm width) to slide water bottle caps with the fishes tied and taped at the bottom to give the effect of “swimming.”  Any medium size box will do.  I just flipped our DIY bus/train on the side for this – recycling rocks!

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Top view of the box (jagged lines ‘coz I was doing this super quick!)

Finally, B punched holes, cut pieces of scotch tape and string, and threaded them through each fish.  I helped to tie and fix them to the  top of the box. WP_20140921_006For updates, reviews and more, like me at Finally Mama on Facebook.

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Reduce, reuse, recycle – into a Chinese scrapbook

We love books. We did our first DIY personalised journal in English when B was 18 months and asking more about family, interests, activities and people. I even added a section about preschool before he started. But we never got around to doing a simpler one in Chinese because the thought of ME writing originally in Chinese?  Yikes! 

Reading his first DIY book
Reading his first DIY book

Until now. Having just completed Mandarin Tots at Bibinogs, we both learnt many new words that I wanted to reinforce and keep relevant for him.  Also, while cleaning up the guest room (converted into playroom) and living room before the grandparents return, we found stacks of B’s art pieces, old spiral notebooks and magazines.  So… Time to reduce, reuse and recycle again!  And finally tackle our first Chinese scrapbook together.

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B reading through his very own DIY 读卡书 🙂

Here’s how we made it:  Browse through newspapers and magazines and cut out pictures for your chosen theme or alternately, based on vocabulary he’s learning at school. Print the characters out in large font if you don’t have enrichment class material such as flash cards. Invite him to read (or repeat) the words, match them to the right pictures, helping to cut where possible.  If you have old artwork or cardstock, resize them for your notebook before gluing both pictures and words on it first.  Finally stick them all on the (reinforced) spiral notebooks with double sided tape.  If you don’t have used notebooks, punch a hole on the sides to bind the “book.”

Reduce, reuse, recycle!
Reduce, reuse, recycle!

In our case, we did lots of cutting and glue-ing to work on B’s fine motor skills. He’s also more keen to read Chinese when the books are interactive (flaps, pull out tabs, stickers) … and now, when he’s actually had a hand in making it!

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There and Back Again: Returning to Full Time Work

“Validate one another: Moms who work outside the home should regard moms who work inside the home as real workers. And likewise.” – Debora Spar

I feel it’s important for a woman to have her own career to gain financial security and self-reliance.  After 12 years of a blissful dual income no kids life, everything changed in 2011 when baby #1 arrived! While being a stay at home mom was unexpected, I had the rare chance to make priceless memories and witness all those amazing milestones in his early years. I also came to appreciate the many choices mothers and moms-to-be need to make.  As I started considering my how, when and where to return to full time work, I came across this article which challenged my attitude and approach.

“Take investment intervals when needed.” There are times when moms need to trade off personal desires for spouse, elderly parents, kids, health, career, etc. Looking back, my Plan A had seemed so straightforward when I was (finally) pregnant: Take 3 months off and return with a one/two-day flexi work arrangement. After maternity leave, a major reorg and my aging parents led me to decide to stay at home for a while – Plan B.  Sometime after #1 turned 1, I had a miscarriage and became a homeschooling mumpreneur while I recovered – Plan C. Eventually we found a great nursery drop off and childcare, freeing mama to pursue full time work again – Plan D!

childcare“Don’t choose a career for flexibility, but one for passion.” We shouldn’t just be drawn to busy work, highest paid or most flexible jobs. Any work commitment will take you away from home and family, and you need a compelling reason – a meaningful ROI – as to why you’re still out there doing it. When deciding to return full time, I only considered jobs that I really wanted to do with a family-friendly boss and/or environment (ideally, both). This means fewer but better options in the long run.

Switching hatsThe freedom to be anything doesn’t mean the responsibility to do everything!” Super women are a myth. I admit I’ve a hard time NOT mothering 24/7 but in preparation for full time work and travel, I have to LET IT GO! I’m entrusting him to regular childcare, after-school drop-offs, visiting grandparents and the school bus on weekdays. I’ll pick him up from preschool if I can, but at the very least, will commit to be home by 7p for dinner and our evening routine (bath, book, bed) together before lights off at 9p.  After then, I have time to catch up with hubby, downtime for myself and/or late night work, if needed. Weekends will remain family time – church, doing what we enjoy like music, plays, parks, pool, and catching up with others as and when.

The busier life is, the more we should take time out for reflection and self-calibration. If your circumstances have changed or compromises are being made that are not what you intended, don’t be afraid to stop and ask “what if?” Having gone through multiple plans, all I can say is you won’t know till you try – be it working full time, staying at home, or something in between!

This post is part of a blog train hosted by Christy from Kids ‘R’ Simple, where 22 FTWMs from Singapore Mom Bloggers aim to give other (current or soon to be) working mums inspiration and support. I’m writing to share my transition to full time work and hope to revisit later with an update on how my after-work hours really turn out :0

A Peek into the After Work Hours of a FTWM
Hop onto the last stop with Meiling from Universal Scribbles!

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A mother to two primary-school aged kids who mean the world to her, she tries to balance their childhood with as much fun and happiness as she can. Read how she manages work, kids, school and family life as she journeyed from a stay-at-home mom, full-time working mom, part-time working mom, to finally settling on being a mom with a full-time flexible work arrangement on her blog.

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Flashback Friday to the good old days

There was no class today so mama and B spent the whole day together. It’s been a while since we had such a fun yet fruitful time, as B started nursery and we were on-and-off sick this month.  While I miss our homeschooling days last year, I’d forgotten how busy it can be if you really want to fully engage your kid.  Can’t wait for school to start again next week, grateful for good teachers, friends, and a preschool / child care center that doesn’t have a long holiday break like many international or MOE-calendar ones out there.

Letterland review
Letterland review
Art: Finishing the DIY craft from our National Museum visit
Art: Finishing the DIY craft from our National Museum visit
Drama: Outing to Central Library followed by Spot The Difference (awesome play) and lunch
Fine motor skills: Tracing, threading, sorting, counting, pretend play with DIY home manipulatives

And of course, our daily “music with mama” sessions, free play indoors (i.e. cars and blocks) and outdoors (i.e. playground) when mama was busy or needed a break 🙂

Pheew, TGIF!

Music with mama: Trial classes at MYC and Seimpi

Recently, B attended trial classes at Music For Young Children (Orchard) and Seimpi School of Music (Funan).  Both programs are parent accompanied, utilise a whole brain approach and go beyond generic music appreciation to introduce basic music fundamentals and early musicianship pre-Grade 1).

1) Music For Young Children: Sunrise class (27-36 months)
This was a special trial for B and his friends. We learnt about a variety of instruments, tonal and rhythm patterns using early learning and pre-reading concepts such as counting, direction (right/left), speed (fast/slow), dynamics (loud/quiet), sorting (shapes/colours). Class time alternated rapidly between singing, dancing, body plays, simple games, crafts, stories, listening activities, percussion play-along and ensembles.  For example, here’s the keyboard section: Each student takes turns to sing while pressing a key on a large sensory floor keyboard, teacher uses tactile visual aids (flashcards, storyboard, toys, props to demo “standing still” (same note) “stepping up” (moving up a scale), students then reinforce how to recognise and relate these notes, sounds and actions through worksheets, magnets, stickers, various manipulatives and games.

What we liked: Time flies! Concepts are presented and then reinforced in an array of learning styles – visual, auditory, kinesthetic, digital, analytical, etc. to engage your little learner. The repetition – listening, responding and singing – is effective as the kids were still talking about class days after the trial.

Check it out: If you’re looking for a fast paced, multi-sensory, early music class that emphasises verbal confidence and eventually composition. Regular students will receive a package that includes instruments and a comprehensive manual with singing, warm-ups, keyboard, listening, rhythm, and assignment sections. Give the code “FINALLYMAMA” for a special trial class and waiver of registration fee if you sign up. They also have an upcoming June music holiday camp – look for the FB promo in May.

2) Seimpi School of Music: MIM® Playtime class (2-3 years)
We joined an existing class which felt like a typical music and movement session with elements of their hallmark Music for the Intelligent Mind (MIM) programs like exposure to early note reading and key recognition, eye, ear, concentration and memory training.  For example, here’s the keyboard section: Each student takes turn to place stuffed animals on the black keys, then set and ring pitched desk bells on the white keys on a large floor mat, teacher reviews notes with a notation cloth, demos a few nursery songs, introduces a finger exercise song, and then guides each student individually to play simple pieces on a keyboard (there’s enough for each student).

What we liked: Exposure to note reading and proper playing techniques (i.e. using all fingers, not just your pointer) at an early age in a relaxed environment. Instead of solfège, students were introduced directly to notes (positioning) and keys (e.g. C-D-E).

Check it out: If you’re keen to start your child early on piano playing and theory, can commit to consistent follow up at home and have some music knowledge to do so. Regular students will receive two workbooks – activity (fundamentals) and piano playing book (beginner), with an audio CD.  Ask for a free trial – it’s an ongoing promo.

As for us, we enjoyed them and will revisit these schools when B turns 3 or so.  Meanwhile, they are an inspiration to continue with our home music learning 🙂

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Music with mama: Keyboard 101

A month into our structured home learning music times, and we’re making good progress. We’ve settled into a routine roughly ~5x a week, typically weekday evenings before dinner. Within the Little Musician program, his  favourites remain “solfège” where he can now identify the right sound when he hears it, and sometimes when he sees the notes on the stave (though not always at the right pitch), and “clap-along” when he enjoys moving around to the rhythm (though not always at the defined beats and time values). B regularly asks to repeat these sections, and I’ll oblige until he’s ready to move on. We’re also putting our instruments at home to good use: The DIY and Kindermusik percussion, ukulele and electronic keyboard. I’m quite tempted to get a violin, but may wait till I find a cheap second hand (or convince someone to “gift” it to us)

I’ve since introduced a practical keyboard component by sticking makeshift labels to help B focus on pressing, listening to and singing the individual keys (and chords). This was a natural progression as he was consistently singing do-re-mi when prompted by hearing the note sound or seeing the note on the stave. All I did was buy a pack of basic white label stickers from Popular, colour and label accordingly, stick away and viola! Initially, I only labelled 2 scales (intending to reflect treble and bass) but ever observant B kept pointing out that the rest of the keys were empty, so I had to oblige 🙂

Colour coded keyboard stickers with notes and solfège
Colour coded keyboard stickers with notes and solfège

At the moment, he tends to press one note at a time with his pointy (2nd) finger, using one hand to scale up and the other hand to scale down. Once in a while, he’ll also sing solfège while pressing the correct key. And of course, nothing makes him happier than to randomly bang/dance/sing along. A good start!

Will continue to work on association between what he sees, hears and does (eye, ear, hand coordination), pitch and rhythm. Plan to introduce music-related craft and exercises soon, starting with these:

Hand positioning and fingering
Hand positioning and fingering
Linking solfège, notes and keys

For updates, reviews and more, like me at Finally Mama on Facebook. For music ideas, come visit my Pinterest tot music ideas board.