Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Andre's room - please knock!

Ever since we told the kids they would be getting their own rooms, Andre had been super psyched about it. At one point, he was telling me several times a day, "I can't wait till I have my own room!" until I was so sick of hearing about it and snapped, "If you don't stop saying that, I'm going to take it back!"

The instance his room was set up, he pasted this sign on the door:

It reads: 'If you want to come in, knock on the door! Andre's Room'. He took this notice very seriously. On the first day, I'd walked into the room unannounced and he looked rather miffed.

"Mummy, you didn't knock."

"The door was open! Anyway, you don't knock when you come into MY room."

"That's because you didn't put up a sign!"

Ok, so the rules are, you have to knock if you want to enter his room. He will ask, "Who is it?" and you have to answer before he will permit you to go in. Even if he can actually see you standing in the doorway. Heck, it doesn't even matter whether he's in the room or not. He was in the living room and when he saw Lesley-Anne march straight into his room, he yelled across the hallway, "YOU DIDN'T KNOCK!"

This is what his new room (originally my office) looks like. The desk and chair are new, the others are existing furniture. The row of bookshelves and the piano (not shown) are part of the original setup. They have to remain in his room due to lack of space elsewhere but he says he doesn't mind. He actually gets a kick out of having piano lessons in his own room.

There's a little corner by the window and it has turned out to be Andre's absolute favourite spot.

He reads and plays with his toys there. I think he relishes the fact that he's completely out of sight there, if anyone looks into the room. It's his own little space within a space. Oh, there's probably another reason and it's there on the right wall. When Andre found out he was getting his own room, he didn't ask for anything... except, would you believe it, a mirror. That's right, the vain pot was not interested in desks or shelves or cupboards, as long as he could admire himself in the looking glass.

Mirror, mirror on the wall, who's the vainest of them all?


YY said...

hehe, don't you miss the days when they were 'young and innocent'?

My 8.5 yr-old is still sleeping in our bedroom (gasp), tho' he occasionally asks to sleep in his 'che che's former bedroom (che che has vacated her room for university in Montreal--5 whole provinces away..). I will miss him when he finally 'moves out' of our room! He does have a room designated to be his but is not ready to live there, complaining that it is 'full of spiders and bugs', even tho' he claims he is not scared of spiders and is ever ready to pick one up with tissue paper and squash it.

My, your Andre is growing up fast and is exhibiting nascent adolescent tendencies--need to separate and create a sense of self (the mirror is so symbolic). How old is he? Wonder if he is going to read these comments... hee!


monlim said...

YY! Good to have you back. You've been MIA for too long! I wondered if Andre would be apprehensive at first sleeping alone, but not at all, he relished the experience.

Is the mirror thingy a sign of adolescent tendencies? Cos he's loved looking at himself since he was a tot! He's 9 going on 7, btw :P He reads my blog but mostly, he can't be bothered with the words, he just likes looking at pictures of himself (you see? mirror love!)

YY said...

O, I guess the mirror may be just an Andre-thing. What I meant is that as kids enter the teens they become self-conscious and some may suddenly become sensitive to how they look. It is also a time of forming self-identities etc etc.. Hence the mirror sometimes mean all these things..

I guess I have a renewed interest in your blog because we were recently informed that our 3rd-grader (the aforementioned 8.5yr-old) has been selected to be in our province's equivalent of the GEP. It was a lightning bolt totally out of the the blue; we didn't even know he had been tested in the 2nd grade. Upon asking around, it appears they used to test the kids at the end of grade 3 but just this year had started shifting it to the grade 2s. Apparently they used the "Canadian Test of Cognitive Skills (CTCS)"
Parents do not need to be informed as it was an 'inhouse' test.

What I like about the GEP here is that it is totally low-key--as you can tell by now in that we had no whiff at all that all this had been going; even kiddo himself was not aware of having been 'tested'! He probably thought it was just one of the assignments they had to do in class :-)

I like it this way because if I had been informed, I would have become unnecessarily 'gancheong' even if I would tell myself not to be--due to the decades of 'entrainment' received in dear old Singapore. The way all this happened made it possible for me not to have tried to 'prep' my kid for the test.

Anyway as I had said, the whole thing is very low-key. Due to budget cuts and societal preference to spend more on the 'other' end of the spectrum of 'Special Ed', the entire cohort of Gifted Kids have actually been halved over the last 6-7 yrs. [But interestingly for reasons yet unbeknownst to me, the number of gifted kids in my township (Coquitlam) has doubled over this period of time despite the decreasing trend in the whole region of Vancouver. Maybe it is due to the rapid growth of population in my township from new immigrants.]

And my kid's GEP is a 'pull out' program, where the gifted kids are pulled out of regular curriculum for just ONE HOUR a week to join other similar kids in what they call the 'Challenge' program. Currently in my kid's elementary school of 157 kids, there are about 10 kids in the 'Challenge' program. This program also includes kids not formally tested as 'gifted' but who receive 'Enrichment' in certain areas where they are deemed that they would benefit from. There are also regional GEP variants like 'cluster' programs (where gifted kids from a few schools are clustered), and also a MACC program only available in a certain township. (

As you can see, altho' BC(British Columbia)'s population, being 4.3 million, is quite close to Singapore's, there is a N.American 'wild west' mentality here where 'each does his own thing.' Meaning that you do see each township 'doing its own thing' even in terms of how they want to conduct the GEP. But at least the testing criterias are uniform (ostensibly so) in the form of the standardized CTCS. Still I suspect they would shift the bar up or down the bell-curve based on how many gifted kids per year that they have decided to cater to due to budgetary considerations.


.. to be continued..

YY said...

.. Part ii

Here the GEP falls under 'Special Ed'--which includes those who are academically challenged and need educational assistance, or those who are 'behaviorally challenged' (e.g. ADHD or ODD--Oppositional Defiance Disorder). Gifted kids are also viewed as requiring 'educational assistance' due to the observation that some have actually had dropping grades due to lack of interest in regular curriculum. The GEP is meant to help avert societal maladjustment just as may be expected in kids who are academically or behaviorally challenged. There is this notion that 'gifted kids' should be able to 'fend for themselves', hence there is this attitude in society that, given a choice, they would rather spend their tax monies on those who 'can't fend for themselves'--hence, I guess, the overall trend of budget cuts.[I have observed one developmentally challenged kid being given one-on-one attention from a 'education assistant' the entire day, every day, in school!].

Here in Canada there is a strong culture of egalitarianism--the flip side of which is mediocrity. Some have called Canada socialistic. Part of the unspoken tensions the society has with new immigrants is that new immigrants by and large tend to come from societies that value meritocracy or 'everyone for his own'. The form of socialistic egalitarianism practiced in Canada is comforting especially as one contemplates old age, knowing that there will be a safety net and one does not have to depend on one's own kids who may well have to struggle with economic problems of their own.

Besides philosophical and budgetary constraints, the reason with the 'pull out' format for the GEP, as opposed to a dedicated, separate curriculum, is also driven by the unspoken sense that SOCIALIZATION is the most important thing they want every kid to learn in school, even before acquiring academic know-how. (I had this hammered home to me by my neighbor who commented that when my John first came over from Sgp, he knew a lot of "facts" but "didn't know how to play"!). Even with the 'cluster GEP' programs there is a underlying sense of caution and reservation as everyone knows that the reason they had the GEP in the first place is so that the gifted kids will not become misfits in the system and if they end up preferring a microcosm of their own, the program would have fallen back on its own face. This is so different from Singapore where I think one of the unspoken reasons for the GEP is to sharpen the competitive edge of the country as a whole--which I fully agree, is so crucial to economic survival for Singapore. Conversely, Canada being so blessed with natural resources, they really don't compete with anyone else for economic one-up-man-ship. And, Canadian culture being so placid and amicable, they don't even compete for the heck of being one-up on others (as the other Oriental cultures tend to do). The only arena where competition is deemed 'socially acceptable' seems to be in sports! Generally having been here for 3 yrs, my overwhelming feeling is a sense of being 'safe'--of not having to look over my shoulders or look around to see how far ahead my 'neighbors' have forged ahead vis-a-vis myself!

Btw just y'day I had been trawling your archives to revisit which books I can interest my kid in. Currently he is into Roald Dahl but I am thinking ahead to when he will exhaust this source. And later today I am going to borrow a Adam Blade 'Beast Quest' book to see if he takes to it, as per your recommendation! :-)


monlim said...

YY: Good for you and congrats to the kid! Beast Quest is great for raising interest. I'm currently trying to wean Andre off them though, as I think they're too simple for him now. But can't find any suitable replacements. If you come across any fantasy books for boys that are one step up (in difficulty) from Beast Quest, let me know!

Lilian said...

So nice to see him in his little book nook :) He looks soooo content, like this is all he needs in the world right now. And of course the mirror is a must lah, how else is your little future heart-throb gonna perfect his Michael Chang look? :P

monlim said...

Lilian: Aiyoh, you shd see him admiring himself there! Wait a few years, I'm sure I'll see a big tub of hair gel on the cupboard :P

Anonymous said...

Hi Monica,
have been a passive reader of your blog for a while now. :) Growing up, I love fantasy and sci-fi books. One series that you may want to check out that's along the fantasy quest-epic line is The Belgariad series by David Eddings.

Another one that has good reviews and is written more recently is the series Chronicles of Ancient Darkness which is set in Stone Age, written with researched details by Michelle Paver.

Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy is another series that can be read at many levels, but may offend some religious sensibilities.

Not fantasy, but more light-hearted and fun is The Mysterious Benedict Society series by Trenton Lee Stewart.

happy reading! :)


monlim said...

Iris: Nice to "meet" you! Thanks for all the recs. I'm not sure if most of them would be too advanced for Andre but it's always good to have a list of books he can aspire to. Will check them out!

YY said...

So y'day I borrowed a few of the Beast Quest books. My little scaredy cat took one look and promptly got freaked out by the 'eye' icon in the letter 'Q' that reminded him of the bad guy in Lord of the Rings ;-P [see the cover of this edition:]. He promptly went on to complain that 'Tartok the Ice Beast' ( is a 'copy' of the Abominable Snowman, and that Tagus the Night Horse ( is a 'copy' of a character from Narnia..

I told him repeatedly that he can't 'judge a book by its cover' ;-(

I guess he is still a little boy who prefers 'lovable' monsters rather than really scary ones.. Sigh! It's a pity the pictures on the covers are rather 'dark'..

My daughter read the Philip Pullman books when she was in P5/6, but later she went on to have an abiding absorption with fantasy books which, at times worried us as she already tended to spend too much time in her own 'dream world' to the neglect of daily practical responsibilities, and seemed to show a fascination with 'dark' themes. That combined with teenage angst and anger that beset her at one stage, really made things worrying for us at that time.


monlim said...

YY: Some kids do get scared by dark illustrations or vivid descriptions. Don't worry, I'm sure you'll find something more suitable for him.

Alcovelet said...

I just love this little piece on Andre! He's unique lah! About this vanity thing - definitely a very boy thing that only mummies are privy too otherwise they won't seem so macho. RK is now tall enough to see himself in the lift mirror - the number of times I have to yank him out because he's so lost in roughing up his own hair this way and that, aiyo ...

BTW, am really quite frazzled about finding reading material too. Will blog about it, uh, soon.

monlim said...

Ad: A few years from now, we both sponsor the hair gel companies, k? And yes, post about reading material! I need ideas!

Anonymous said...

I am sure a boy's room would really be different from a girl's one even if you can start them off with the same setting so it is wise to let them have their own world now and see its transformation. It is interesting to note how much Andre values his private space with his notice board. :)


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