Tuesday, October 30, 2007

how he is in school ...

Just as I'm wondering how exactly Z is coping and progressing in school, I get a voicemail message on my phone asking to come in for a chat with Z's immediate group teacher today (message was left yesterday, but I only just heard it about an hour before scheduled appointment time this morning, as I had left my phone at my parents'!). So, as you can imagine, I was that tad bit nervous to go meet the teacher. Any parent-teacher meet is always cause for concern, I'd say. Funny, even now that I'm the parent (and no longer the student accompanied by the mother going in to meet the teacher), I think I worry a lot more. This time round, if anything goes down bad (report-wise) with your child, you know you're somewhat to be blamed - your parenting ways questionable, that sort of thing.

Happy to report here that the meeting went rather well. Better than I had expected. (insert a good sigh of relief here)

I was given a rundown of Z's academic and social progress to date. There were both 'positive positive' and 'negative positive' reports. For this entry, 'positive positive' simply refers to the teacher-says-he's-all-good-hence-no-need-to-worry bits of observation. 'Negative positive' refers to teacher-says-he's-doing-alright-but-should-practice-more-on-these-aspects bits of observation.

Let's do the negative positives first, shall we?

Acacdemically, Z still has a lot of catching up to do in his Language unit; specifically reading. He knows and recognizes the alphabet, but still gets confused with the sounds that they each make. He gets it one day, and the next, he's unsure once again. So yes, while he loves books (much to his request, I still read at least 3 books to him each night before he sleeps), he still can't read on his own. Can't say I'm not worried here, but his teacher has assured me that it isn't such a big problem - she's noted too his keen interest in books and other reading materials, and how he enjoys storytime in school a lot. So, in due time, InsyaAllah, it'll be a case of much practice and then some. I doubt I was a fast learner/reader myself, to be honest. Heck, I only started going to preschool at age 5! So, for now, I'd say Z is doing better than I did at his age. Haha...

note how the 'o' gets smaller and higher as he went along doing this worksheet

Socially, he's often seen to be the quiet one in the group. This is just too-surprising an observation, as he's no doubt, very much the opposite at home! He participates in group activities, enjoys the company of his classmates, but often 'contributes' smiles and laughter, with very little talking thrown in. My concern here is that he may be ignored and, even worse, bullied as a result of being the quiet one. I was constantly compared and questioned as to why I was so shy and quiet in school myself. It wasn't an easy thing for me - mixing with others and shedding my shyness. I suppose Z takes after me when it comes to this. We're quiet outside our home, but much more relaxed at home. Often, we're the obsevers and listeners, rather than those who initiate and contribute most to the conversation. Having said this, the teacher commented he's definitely less shy than was the case earlier part of the year, so, again, hopefully, in due time, and certainly by start of next January, he'll fit in just fine, and not be the shy guy anymore.

Now, for the positive positives then ...

On the academic front, Z is very much a Numbers kid. He seems to be very comfortable with numbers. This, I too have noticed on my own at home when I sit down with him to do some practice work - when given worksheets on number recognition, counting, matching numbers and other puzzles to do with Maths, he seems most relaxed. But I didn't want to conclude my own observation just yet. Hearing his teacher tell me he's at ease with numbers though, just left me with a big grin as it confirmed my own observations. Said the teacher, she isn't at all worried about his understadning of numbers and simple basic Maths that they do at his level now. They've just started learning odd and even numbers, and after slight hesitation, Z was able to grasp the concept. He's sometimes seen to doubt himself when answering, but does give the right answer. Again, a possible spillover case of being shy.

good to see he writes his '8' correctly here; at home, with much humour i suppose(!!), he writes his '8' by drawing 2 circles one above the other, but with a significant gap in between, then draws a line to join them circles as he says "eh mummy, need to join la!". hah ... clown that he is!

Other 2 topics or units they do in school which Z enjoys most are the Practical Life and Culture topics.

Practical Life touches on everyday things and routines one does. Things like the practice of good manners and courtesy, development of motor skills as well as simple everyday tasks like spooning, pouring, putting on your buttoned shirts and shoes. This too, he seems to enjoy doing. Which is just as well, I'm thinking, as I can soon count on him to help me more around the house. ;-) And all the time, be matched with good courteous manner. Sigh . . . A parent will always wish and pray for the best.

Culture, for this semester is on Geography and specifically Malaysia. They do work on the different races, festivals, flags, flowers, fruits as well as some of the notable landmarks we have. Says the teacher, Z shows a keen interest in learning all of this. The other day, driving into Damansara, he spotted the Menara Milenium, and then asked me "is that the Petronas Twin Towers, Mummy?". When I told him it wasn't, he went "oh yea yea ... i forgot ... Petronas Twin Towers has bridge". Hehe. Maybe he should start going for drives around the city with my dad, who'll point out the many buildings - some of them his own designs. One of my all-time fondest childhood memories is of our weekend afternoon drives with my dad showing us his latest project(s) and me imagining myself leaving such a landmark one fine day. Fast forward some 10 years or so, I sadly gave up architecture. But the interest I have for it is still very much there. (but that's another story - excuse the digressing, yea)

how aggressive is that piece of colouring??!

more aggressive colouring and note too how his stripes are all red!

Previous semester, the Culture topic was Zoology, which saw them learning the various groups of animals, their habitats, what they feed on, their basic characteristics and physical attributes. This was concluded with a concert where kids were dancing and singing to diffrent animal songs and an exhibition of thier works (plenty of art and craft work) were on show during the concert open day.

leaving the house for the Open Day

the program and song book

us three at the Open Day - before the concert begun

scenes and various works from the Open Day

On the social front, as mentioned above, Z is the quieter one in the group. While it has it's worrying points, it's also good in that the teacher has said he's definitely not the kind who'd bully or cause any sort of friction or fight among the other kids. (another big sigh of relief here) I would just hate it if my child ends up the bully in the class. Or part of the bullying gang. Nothing worse than having your child cornered for being a baddie of a kid. Any pushing, pinching, punching, tripping, slapping, snatching I see from my child, I'd just tell him off straight away. You never know how he behaves when not in your sight, so when I'm with him, yes, I'm uptight like that, and will constantly remind him to play nicely, not be rough and learn to share. (i have to say though, the sharing part needs more work ... sigh...) Other than this, he's opening up more, but still, possibly a notch up from whispering volume. But teacher says he's getting there.

So. That'll be it then. The report on our Z for now - from Jan this year to October. As per informed by his school/teacher.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

a 'musical' weekend

Our weekend went something like this.

Woke up Saturday morning thinking of them Swedish meatballs and cranberry sauce. So, at half-ten, we were on our way to the famed kitchen which makes them meatballs. After a quick stroll through the store, we headed to the cafe. All great hopes to satisfy my meatball cravings were dampen when Mr Hubs came back (Big Z and I were waiting at a table) to say they'll be out of meatballs for 2 months. 2 months??!! Blaaardy hell!
So we left and walked over to Ikano. Settled for Dome's chicken pie, which is huge, yes, but I was super-hungry by then. I didn't have the pastry top which came with the 'pie' though. Darling Z wanted it, so I dearly gave it up for him. After lunch, since Z put on such a good behaviour for us (really, we were real impressed, didn't even say it for fear of jinxing it; instead we spelt it out to each other! haha...), we went up for a browse in the bookstore, a quick running around and sliding fun for him in the playland thingy and his favourite stop in Ikano - the petstore. It was close to 2pm then and we had to rush home as Mr Hubs had a meeting to attend. Spent the rest of the afternoon lazying around at home, watching DVDs.

That night, we finally went to watch the P. Ramlee Musical. Was looking forward to it ever since sis-in-law got throught the auditions and updates us on the musical. And seeing that I've yet watched and attended any of her performances to date, I just HAD to attend this one. And who doesn't like P. Ramlee. Given that it's a young cast telling us his story in as contemporary a manner as possible whilst retaining the core elements of his life's period, I knew it'd be a great treat. Sean Ghazi in the leading role is plenty of added bonus too! ;-)

Without sounding biased, I really thought it was a great show. Was mostly impressed by the endless change of sets on the stage, and the energy evident in all cast members from beginning to end. The songs were good too. And sis-in-law amused us throughout with her performance - not far from how she is at home with us actually. Hehe ... I won't write more on the musical so as not to ruin any elements of surprise for any of you who have yet watched it, but are going to.

Sunday was nephew's birthday party day. Well, late-morning really. Me being the absent-minded preggie self though, was convinced it wasn't gonna start till 4pm. It was only when I was on the phone with my mom, and she asked why we weren't at the party yet, that she told me to hurry up and get to the party! It was quarter-past-11 when I rang her, and the party started at 11. So, getting ready in lightning speed, we got to the party venue at noon. Hmm... not quite lightning speed after all. Shame on us ... shame on me for forgetting party details!

As soon as we got there, the kids were all seated at the table, eating away. Big Z slipped himself in between the other kids (all of them older than him), and didn't seem to stop chewing on anything that was placed on his plate. The boy can really eat! Soon it was musical chairs time, and once again, our Z confidently and readily joined in the group. Mind you, he's NEVER played musical chairs before (I started thinking at that point if I should have introduced the game to him before, as I was fearing how he'd grasp the objective of the game). In true Z style though, he kinda lives on the motto "never give up". It was probably the second round (or third at the most) when he was left without a chair to sit on. Clearly, he was out of the game. But, I think the games-person-dude was kind enough to allow him to continue playing, maybe being the smallest and youngest in the group gave him that bit of an advantage. At the end of the round, music stopped, all kids hurriedly secured their seats, my Z, once again, stood there, wondering what to do as he was chair-less. Again. Music resumed, and he was part of the group another time. Music stopped, he stopped walking and yup, you guessed it, chair-less. At this point, us adults were just amused to see how he won't give up trying to play, but the instant the music stops, he too freezes. Finally, I told Mr Hubs to just take him out of the game - the poor kid. But he was all in good spirits and didn't put up a fuss. He just smiled and laughed along with us. Hehe. And then parked himself right by the rest of the group, some 2 feet away from the fun.

We concluded that he's possibly the kind of child who'd try anything given to him, nevermind if he knows what and/or how to go about with the given thing - in this case, the party game. He'll also join in the rest of the group eating away (he did the same when he was 2 years old at another party - he was in fact, the FIRST to be seated to eat), nevermind that he spends the whole time just chewing away and smiling at all, but not talking to anyone simply coz he doesn't know the rest, except for his cousin the birthday boy. Put simply, birthday parties and him go well together. Excelling at party games though - not quite his thing, but he'll definitely participate.

After the party, we headed home. And stayed home we all did for the rest of the day.

It wasn't the most hectic of our weekends, but it was eventful enough to leave all three of us zombied out by late afternoon. A simple dinner of pasta soup, some bedtime reading and then it was off to bed. At midnight! Yup. You'd think we'd just sleep in early, but no, not us. There's always some emails to reply and other work matters to see to (Mr Hubs), some blog to update and online window shopping to feast on (yours truly) and some trains to arrange and rearrange time and again (Big Z).

It's almost noon now. I should get lunch ready for Big Z, and then I'll be off to fetch him from school. Hope yours was as eventful, if not more eventful weekend than ours. :-)

Friday, October 26, 2007

traditional Vs Montessori

When our Z first started preschool in Jan '06, I was filled with anxiety, second thoughts but plenty of high hopes too.

Ours (story of how Z began attending preschool) goes like this. It was almost entirely my decision to send our child to school at 2 years 4 months. The Daddy (as did the rest of my entire family) did think it was a tad bit early to start him, but I was keen to send him early. Call me selfish, but being a stay-home mom and having a child who clung on to me practically 24/7, I really needed a bit of break. The arrangement worked out great (this, after the first 2 months struggling through separation anxiety though - both for child AND mother) - I had 4 hours in the morning to myself 3 times a week. In return, Z came home recognising numbers and the alphabet. But still clingy. Hmm...

At the start of this year though, we were abruptly informed of his preschool's closure. Frantically, I searched for the best possible preschool for him to attend - he had already missed 2 weeks of the academic year at this point. I walked in and out of practically all the schools in our area and the next neighourhood too. Each time, bearing the same keen interest a parent would normally display when visiting a potential school for their kid. I had almost given up - read: just enrol him in the last school I figure is not-too-bad-a-choice-for-now until I find a better place. And then, almost at the very last minute, I discovered Children's House Montessori. The instant I drove up to the school w Z that one morning, and was graciously welcomed and ushered in for a visit and a chat with the school's principal, I knew I'd be making many more drives up to the school thereon. I'm happy to note that Z has been attending the-said school now since late January this year.

It's a Montessori preschool where he is. The whole of last year while he was in his old preschool, I went through some reads on the Montessori method, as opposed to the other more traditional preschool teaching methods available here. For the longest time, I had concluded (even if just in my mind) that Z will not be suited for a Montessori approach of learning. I thought he'd be the kind of kid to benefit from a more rigid, classroom-like teaching method - think local primary school teacher-to-blackboard-to-pupil-to-paper method. I figured the Montessori approach of having the child conduct their own self-directed learning would not go down well with Z.

Now, closing in on his first year at a Montessori preschool, I have to say, I couldn't be more pleased and happy with our decision to enrol him in the school. Gone are his extremely shy and clingy days that was my Z before. He's now a much more confident child than he ever was, but still, ever the affectionate one too. Most noted as well, is his increase in vocabulary since starting at the Children's House. From a boy who was a typical case of pelat up till the time he started at the school, he now speaks so much (that I wonder each day when he'll want to take a break from all the many chats!), even I'm amazed and pleasantly surprised each time he throws in a new word in his conversation(s) with us.

Don't get me wrong - I'm not saying he's a genius of a kid, not even in the conversing part - but believe me, when all I used to hear were remarks saying how slow and pelat and difficult a child he was before (the worst was having this lady recommend a speech therapist for Z!!), I'm thankful to note he now gets himself heard and understood accordingly, and remarks saying he's slow and pelat are practically non-existant now. For a parent (more so a first-time parent, I'd think), that's just an incredible change to observe.

I recently came across a short article in the UK parenting magazine Junior. According to a research carried out by a team at the University of Virginia, children who attended Montessori schools fared better, both socially and academically, than those from traditional education backgrounds. Their studies and research found that once at primary-level education, Montessori children were better in both Maths and English. They were also noted to be able to interact, play and cope better with other kids and peers than was the case with the traditional-streamed kids. There was a better understanding of sharing with their peers among Montessori kids, compared to traditional kids who were seen to display more physically rough mannerisms when at play.

Now, just based on the research mentioned above, I'd naturally like to think and definitely hope and pray that my kid(s) will fare well both socially and academically, regardless of their background in education (preschool level). If being in a Montessori does that extra bit in fostering better social habits as well as learning capablilities, all the more better then, as I'm definitely not going to hunt for another school for Z! ;-) We're very happy where he is now, so let's just hope he'll prove the research by the University of Virginia right.

Having said all this, I'm not championing the Montessori method over the traditional and any other teaching methods. I'm just highlighting the fact that as a parent who took the step to enrol her child in a Montessori preschool, I'm happy to note that we've seen positive developments from him since. There are no doubt, child geniuses from traditional education backgrounds too, but it's just interesting to read and then discover yourself how in fact, a certain characteristic, interest and habit may well have fostered simply by default of your child's education background.

On that last note, it'd be great to read about your respective preferences and choice in your child's preschool education, since it's from preschool age that apparently significant characteristics are formed in children.

starting anew

Here we go again!

The start of a new thing. The birth of a new thing. The excitement and enthusiasm thrown into expecting and welcoming a new thing. By 'thing' here, we're referrring to blog.

I've decided to start another blog here. While my other up-and-running blog is all about my love for patterns and art, this one will be about the rest of my life. The part where things are generally left un-patterned, put simply. As much as I plan, map-out and arrange for things to fall into place in a certain way, a certain pattern, a certain routine, has to be said that more often than not, life happens sans pattern. That'll be the case for us (over at Big Lime) at least.

So, this, if you like, is a collection of notes, observations, queries and rantings of my life as a mom who tries to complete each day as best to her ability, possibly without the initial plans and/or patterns to guide her. It's the spontaneity, the rawness and the reality that is, my life as a mother, a wife, a daughter, a friend, and a blogger.

Happy reading, y'all. If it gets too laborious for you, just skip this one and click on the next blog.