Friday, February 25, 2011

Let's try Mummy's Supplementary

Recently, there was some debate in the local media as to whether schools are being too kiasu in introducing supplementary classes from as early as p3. To me, this is one of those issues that will never find consensus. It irks me sometimes to hear people (usually non-parents) make dumb comments like, "Parents are impossible to please lah. Have also complain, don't have also complain." Well, duh, it's never the same set of parents!

I feel the parents who want the supplementary classes treat these the same way they treat tuition (which I wrote about here) - it's a crutch, since everyone else is doing it, their kids better do it too otherwise they'll lose out. Others just consider it free tuition, the more the merrier.

Andre's school implemented compulsory supplementary classes twice a week for p5 kids this year. Previously they only had supplementary classes for the top few classes and remedial classes for the bottom few but parents in the middle classes started complaining so they decided to institute a blanket rule for all.

Andre's schedule is already pretty packed, what with badminton training, piano lessons and Chinese and English tuition. So you can imagine I didn't welcome the news that he would have to attend supplementary classes.

Don't be mistaken, I'm not against supplementary classes per se, I'm just against herd mentality supplementary classes. Remedial classes work because they take place in small groups and target specific kids with specific weaknesses. The problem with most school supplementary classes is that they're really just extended curriculum sessions for the teacher to finish what she couldn't cover in class or do corrections, etc. Sometimes, teachers just dole out extra worksheets and then provide the answer key for kids to mark the work themselves.

I can't really blame the teachers, they have enough on their plates. Supplementary classes mean extra time and extra work for them. For the kids however, this is hardly productive. After 6 hours at school and a short lunch break, they have to sit down for another two hours of drills. I'm pretty sure very little real learning actually takes place. Worse still, by the time they reach home, they're mentally exhausted which means it's a challenge just to get them to finish homework, let alone do extra revision.

So after some heavy pondering, I wrote to his English and math teacher asking if Andre could be excused from the two supplementary classes. My rationale to them was that his two hours would be better spent with me doing one-on-one revision with him (which I would have to give up if he went for supplementary due to the sheer lack of time).

I was hopeful but not entirely optimistic the teachers would acquiesce since the classes were supposed to be compulsory. To my delight and surprise, both teachers agreed to my proposal. They were very understanding and said they would hand him any additional materials that were being done during supplementary classes. (Have I mentioned that I love this school?) I suppose one can construe that they're passing the buck to the parent but I appreciate that they're flexible enough to bend the rules when it makes sense. Not every teacher will do that.

I didn't ask for Andre to be let off Chinese supplementary class because that's one subject I can't help him with, and since the science class is held immediately before the Chinese one, it made sense logistically to let him attend that as well.

So now the onus is on me and I'll admit I'm a little nervous. It takes a great deal of gumption to believe that you can coach your child better than the school can and I'm not that brash to not have my moments of doubt. The CA1 is next week and I guess that's the acid test.

Meanwhile, even though Andre has to stay home and be drilled (and yelled at) by me as the price for missing his supplementary classes, he seems to be relishing it. A classmate asked him indignantly, "How come you don't have to go for supplementary?"

Andre replied with a broad smile, "I live a good life."

Monday, February 21, 2011

Hugs and kisses

Andre's notoriously bad at birthdays. I predict he'll become one of those boyfriends who get into trouble for forgetting their significant other's special day and insist on getting married on Christmas/Valentine's Day/National Day just so he wouldn't have to remember anniversaries.

This year, he completely forgot my birthday (once again). If there are kids reading this, let me alert you to this very important fact: FORGETTING YOUR MOTHER'S BIRTHDAY IS A CARDINAL SIN. It's in the Mother's Bible which your mum received when she was in labour with you. You break that rule, she has the right to remind you loudly about your erroneous ways at strategic moments (when you're in school surrounded by your friends, for instance).

To Andre's credit, to make up for his oversight, instead of rushing to produce a 5-minute spontaneously scribbled birthday card, he spent a whole morning creating this:

Umm... a tissue box? Ah but it's not just any old tissue box. Inside, he'd filled it with little scraps of paper, each with the picture of a pair of hands or lips.

The idea is, anytime I felt like it, I could draw out a piece of paper and if it showed hands, I would get a hug from him. If it showed lips, I would get a kiss. I've used it quite extensively so far and it never gets old.

The best part? Andre assures me the gift will never expire. ♥♥♥

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The girl who is humanities-bound

If there ever was any doubt that Lesley-Anne is right brain-oriented, this removed it once and for all.

This is the result of the Higher Ability Selection Test administered by the Australian Council for Educational Research that Lesley-Anne sat for late last year. The school made all the students who entered via DSA sit for the test, to see if it can replace the current General Ability Test (GAT) for DSA applicants. I suppose they want to assess if the results are consistent with those of the GAT.

The test comprises a few comprehension passages, a series of math questions and a writing test. Since there are two English components and only one math component, it seems to me the test is slightly skewed in favour of those good in language. That definitely contributed towards Lesley-Anne's total score (not that we're complaining).

Anyway, this test sort of came at the right time. Since Lesley-Anne is is in sec 2, she'll have to choose her stream for sec 3 and 4 by the end of this year. The results confirm our belief that she'll fare much better going down the humanities route instead of the ever popular triple-science stream.

Friday, February 11, 2011

The red shoes

You're looking at the most expensive pair of shoes in our household. And it belongs to the youngest member of our family.

It's not that we believe in spoiling our kids. What really happened was, two days before Chinese New Year, Andre's badminton shoes tore. It couldn't have happened at a more inopportune time. He had intensive training lined up and it was right smack in the middle of the zonal inter-school badminton tournament. With shops closing for the CNY holidays, it was a race against time.

So began a desperate hunt for a pair of replacement shoes and it was a frustrating one. Andre's feet are at an awkward size now, too large for junior sizes and too small for adult sizes. We also realised that compared to say, tennis shoes or running shoes where a myriad of brands and choices await, badminton shoes are annoyingly limited.

After several calls, we finally found a shop which had something to offer - this eye-catching crimson pair at a whopping $140 (discounted from $189!) Even then, the shopkeeper didn't have them on stock and had to collect them from the Yonex store. Apparently, this is the model Taufik Hidayat wears.

In case you're not aware, Taufik (right pic) is an Indonesia badminton player and former Olympic champion. As at Feb 2011, he's ranked the World no. 2, just behind Malaysian Lee Chong Wei. In fact, Yonex also carries the pair that Lee wears but it costs an additional $5 and I was adamant about not parting with any more cash.

"At $140, you better start playing like Taufik or I'm returning them!" threatened this very demanding mother. Andre was undaunted. He loved his red shoes and proclaimed that they helped him jump higher, run faster, even feel taller.

Astonishingly, at the very next badminton match, Andre played like a demon, impressing even the coach. He still lost the match (he met some extremely formidable opponents this year) but it's nice to see that he can hold his own against some of the stronger players in his cohort.

So was it the shoes? I'm sure it's more psychological than miracle but at least he's earned the right to wear them for now.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Hoppy New Year! 兔年快乐!

How did you usher in the Year of the Rabbit?

Ours was one of over-eating... as usual. Chinese New Year brings out the gluttons in all of us and right from the Reunion dinner, we steadily feasted our way through a series of delectable meals, peppered with snacks in between. Even as I type this post, I have a bottle of prawn rolls in front of me and wondering why my pants have again, mysteriously shrunk in the wash.

This being the year of the Rabbit, of course the White Rabbit sweet had to make an appearance. I hear melamine in small doses is harmless. Oh wait, didn't they change the formula? Too bad, I think it was the melamine that made it yummy.

Then there was the saga of our pussy willow. Usually, we buy pussy willow that comes in a bundle and just stick them in a narrow pot. This year, we decided on the spur of the moment to buy the potted pussy willow from Ikea (mainly because the accompanying crimson pot with the auspicious 福 was so pretty).

We'd never encountered pussy willow grown in soil before, so we were totally fascinated when it started sprouting leaves. Kenneth, not wanting it to bloom too much, decided not to water it, leading to all the leaves wilting about a week before CNY. We're a family of blue fingers.

After trimming the dead leaves, we discovered the branches had begun to lean to one side. Plant moves towards sunlight, ohhhhh.... It was like an evolving science lesson. Futile attempts were made to coax the branches towards a more balanced position.

In the end, it kinda worked itself out (with a little help from newspaper stuffing in the pot).

Chinese New Year is primarily about family afterall and it was great fun catching up with relatives we see just once a year. It's also a little sobering to realise that the number of places you visit decreases as the years go by, due to deaths of older folks. Always a timely reminder to cherish loved ones.

兔年吉祥, 年年有馀!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Footballer for a day (or month)

For the past few weeks, Andre has been dressed in the garb of his favourite footballer. This was a shirt and shorts set we found in Bangkok and bought just for fun. I think we paid about THB 220 for it or about S$10.

What we didn't count on was that Andre would wear this day in, day out and only remove it reluctantly when it became grimy enough for me to yell at him to change. The minute it's laundered and dry, he wears it again. If he could wear it to sleep, he would.

I've already heard Kenneth groaning more than a couple of times, "Messi again??"

I'm not sure what it is, Andre isn't even a soccer fan. Messi is one of the few footballers he knows, I don't think he can name 5 others. I've come to the conclusion it must be material of the shirt - it's soft, cool and very comfortable.

So Lilian, if you're ever back at Chatuchak, I just might have to tompang you to get me an entire football team's worth of shirt sets.

(Mini Messi from the back)
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