27 Apr 2012

Fri Art

In our unstructured art class so far, we've been looking at lines and symmetry. (Note: I'm NOT an art teacher, and consider myself a beginner as well, so I  give my children art projects to do based on what I think is logical, or on what my children want to do.)

This week we decided on observation.
1) I gave my children this picture of the Little Red Hen, only I put the book upside down.
Assignment one was to copy the picture exactly as it is, upside down, without turning the book, or paper or head. :) Nel found this difficult, coz she said it felt unnatural to draw things upside down, and couldn't decide where to start. But I think she did a pretty good job.

Assignment 2 was to still look at the upside down picture and now draw it so it is the right way up (again without turning the book, paper, and no standing upside down to view it!). Strangely, Nel found this easier than the other. You'll notice there are minor errors in the picture bu pretty good. And she did it pretty quickly too.

2) We also looked at random pictures and objects and did pictures like the one below. What I wanted my children to see was the lines of the background around the object, and not the object itself (as shown in the red lines) Based on that, Nel did the chalk drawing. You're asking where is Jo in all this? ahh...she was too busy doing other stuff, which I'll show you later.

3) Again, because we were focusing on observation, we took a walk outside and looked at trees, at its branches, and how its bark contains patterns, diagonal and vertical lines. We felt the texture, and then sat back and drew.
Having drawn our tree, we tried using water colour to paint our tree. I asked the children to place the drawing of the tree upside down, wet the paper, and then add colours so it'd flow downwards towards the branches. I encouraged them to pull the colour out to form new branches from the thicker ones.

Jo at work

Nel's completed painting of tree

If you don't mind, here's a badly taken video of me showing my kids what to do. Mind you, camera in left hand, paint brush in right hand. I added too much blue too, but here's just my imperfect demo.

My End product
4) That finished, continuation on a different day, we went back to lines. We reviewed diagonal, vertical and horizontal lines, and we added curved lines. Using these lines, I asked my children to design something. Here's the example that I drew while demonstrating to them.

Here's Nel's End product.
Jo's which was done very hurriedly...and I'll tell you why soon.

Now, here's why Jo's not been participating actively in class. I suspect she's addicted to the IPad, which her uncle gave us. 

See the above? She came to me and said, "Mum, solve these puzzles." They looked strangely familiar, too similar to the game Craziness on Ipad!! (And, yes, she still writes her "g" backwards sometimes, and spelling errors are still common.)

Now, the picture above says it all. I found her writing this. Does this explain it all? :)

26 Apr 2012

Informed Choices

Recently it dawned on me, that perhaps I should add a new aspect  to my children's education, which is the aspect of Emotional Intelligence. As parents we often have to deal with matters such as sibling squabbles, peer influences (bad and good ones), stuff that happens outside of home with friends/teachers/others, bad/good choices that were made by our children,  often times when we were not able to be there to help them think/decide.

So while browsing through the library, I came across this book, "Teaching Emotional Intelligence: Making Informed Choices" by Adina Bloom Lewkowicz. I think it's a pretty good book, that's divided into 3 sections: Feeling Positive, Thinking Wisely and Acting Sensibly. Topics covered include Self Awareness, Managing Emotions, Choice Making, Self Acceptance, Perfectionism, Friendship, Strengthening Family, Peer Pressure, Put downs, Manipulation, Listening, Assertiveness, Cheating, Abuse and so on.

What I like about this book is that lessons provided are broken down into various activities such as discussion, stories, brainstorming, drama, role play and observation.

So today, we started with Chapter one, about making choices.
 We talked about alternatives, choices that we make everyday, consciously and without thinking. We brainstormed and came up with a long list of decisions and choices that we have to make everyday, from what to wear, to more complex choices such as to "friend or not to friend."


Then following an activity suggestion from the book, Nel and Jo took turns walking around the room while the other observed. After the walk, we discussed about the choices made while walking around the room. Did they make deliberate choices, or simply walked automatically and then sat down?

After a discussion about how we can think about our choices,  the girls walked a second time. The second time, both girls walked with consciously made choices about speed, posture,  direction to take when walking, what to do with objects in the way etc.  This was quite humorous as they made quite a drama out of it!!  :) :)
 Aware then then that choices are made consciously or sub consciously when doing something, we went on to talk about the importance of thinking deliberately before making choices.

We analyzed the process of making choices and alternatives by using a common scenario in their lives: When a friend tells them to exclude their sibling during play time.

Our discussion went like that:

Me: Suppose a friend visits and says "Let's play together, but let's lock your sister out of the room and  not include her. What would you do?  Let's talk first about how you would feel."

My children:
A) I'd feel that I really didn't want to play with my sister. I might dislike her then if she's been irritating.

B) I'd feel like I needed time alone with my friend, without my sister.
C) I'd want to play with my sister too
D) I'd like to play with my sister and friend, but don't know which to choose. Maybe play with my sister later.

Me: Ok, those are true feelings that we feel, and it's ok to feel that way. Now let's discuss how we could  think these feelings through.

My children:
A) I'd think about playing with my friend first and my sister later.
B) I could think to include my sister even if I don't feel like it
C) I like my friend's idea of leaving my sister out, but I shouldn't hurt my sister.
D) Find a solution like find my sister another friend so she'll be happy, then I can go play with mine.

Me: Ok, now that you've thought about it, now comes the important part. How would you act?

My children:
A) Invite another friend over, wait, then let my sister play with her friend, then go play with mine.
B) Sit my friend  and sister down and read them both a story and play together.
C) Encourage my friend to play with my sister.
D) Talk to my sister and explain that I need 10 minutes with my friend first and promise to play with her later.

Me: Ok, good. So we've learnt that despite how we feel about a decision, we should first deliberately think before making a decision and then act on a thought out decision. We should always make deliberate choices instead of just acting on our feelings. About the above,  in reality, if we didn't think, we could have slammed the door on our sister and hurt her badly.

THen a discussion ensued between Jo and Nel about how they've been hurt by this situation before and we liked solution D.

I think this lesson was so needed and effective (at least for today it was.) I'm sure they will need many more reminders before they consciously put this into practice, but it is a start. :)   In fact, I realise I need to put this into practice too!

23 Apr 2012

Your Average Child

What if your child is not a prodigy?
What if when comparing with children in her class, she's at the bottom, no. 48 out of 48 students? What if when other parents are boasting of children with special gifts and  talents in writing, dancing, sports, math or etc, and you can't find your child's giftings?
So many what ifs.

Would you try to push your child like crazy in every area till one shows up stronger, as a gift?
Send her for tuition after tuition till she becomes higher than average?
Would you shout at her and hit her till she understands she's at the bottom and needs to work harder?
Would you try to look and look for that special gift, because you cannot accept the fact that she's average?
Would you mock her, insult her because she's average?
Would you love her less?

All this, despite her being your loving child, the caring and obedient one...but who's unfortunately average or at the bottom of her class?

I'm thankful my parents never did that. For years, I was the average child, I thought I was stupid.
In a class full of enthusiastic students who spoke well, wrote well, I was the dumb one. Several times I came back with a report card that showed I was bottom of the class. 48 of 48.

My vocab then was weak, and I spoke with a voice so soft you could hardly hear me. Once, a classmate who spoke fluently asked me confidently "Would you mind if I put my leg on your chair?"   I didn't know what  "mind" meant, and so I replied "Yes, I mind," thinking it meant  No, I don't mind. The girl was offended and said "Oh" and moved away. And I wondered why she moved away.

There were other weak subjects that I didn't care about. For instance, I flunked math till age 11, I sucked at Geography and I used to score C' in art.
My music teacher told me I was her worse student ever in her entire life!!
In secondary, I flunked most of my Physics and Chemistry tests.
I was hopeless in sports and dance coz I hated people watching me move.
I was hopeless at singing and only squeaked.

Now the wonderful part, was that I had great parents. Because my parents loved me, they didn't believe the music teacher and moved me to an understanding teacher. Because they loved me, my dad took time to teach me math. Because they loved me, they understood and accepted me for who I was. They got me lots and lots of books, coz that's what I loved, reading. They didn't bombard me with endless tuition, they didn't expect A's, although they were a little disappointed that I was frequently bottom of the class, 48 out of 48.

 Still, they loved me. Then strangely some things happened.

At age 12, I began passing and then acing my math. By age 16, I was giving math tuition to 15 year olds earning RM50 per hour!
During the SRP (PMR) and SPM exams, I scored  A's in art (and math too!).
In music, just before my grade 8 exam, my British teacher discovered I had perfect pitch and  I'm a music lecturer today!  :)
I may still be an average writer with average scores for grammar, but at least I'm motivated to write and maintain this blog.  :D
When I couldn't sing, now I've sung for countless weddings and occasions, accompanying myself on the piano.
In my college days, together with buddies we directed plays, I acted and sang and danced! *gulp*
I started scoring closer to A's in Physics and Chemistry just before my SPM exam, and began loving these subjects  :). It's like something clicked, and I began to figure it out all in my head without my teacher's help. (talk about late bloomer!)

I took up painting a few years ago even though my secondary teacher said I was hopeless in painting. I'm not fantastic but the latest teacher told me I had much potential. :)

I'm not exceptionally gifted, I'm still your average adult. The only thing is, I no longer think I'm dumb and stupid. I've discovered, through the help of my parents, and self reflection and time, the various gifts that emerged later in life. Some gifts like the gift of music had always been there, it's just that my teacher chose to ignore it coz she believed a pop musician is dumb, only a classical musician is smart. So many more examples  to give, but I'll end here.

(P.S notice, a lot of things happened after the age of 12, actually I discovered most  things and started getting good at stuff only at the age of 19 or so! Way pass primary/secondary schooling age...and I'm still discovering, learning. Perhaps this is a trait of the visual learner, late bloomer.)

Now back to your average child, the one who has undiscovered gifts. What would you do? How would you treat her? I'd say, stop looking for every sign just to discover her gift, as if looking for gold. Stop berating her, stop comparing her.

Start loving her, start understanding her, start accepting her for who she is. For in acceptance, you will allow her to grow and discover herself, that is, When the TIME IS RIGHT. Every flower has it's own time for blossom. Let her blossom at her own time, not yours. And even if it takes forever to discover her strengths, even you can't find a distinct one, love her, darn it, love her. Every child deserves to be loved for who she is, not for what she's achieved.

(FOrgive my grammar and spelling mistakes..I'm your visual, right brained adult who just happened to enjoy blogging. By the way, found this  test titled I'm not stupid, I'm right brained)

22 Apr 2012

I am Malaysian: Visiting Kuala Lumpur

We decided on spending our weekend differently this week. I decided that perhaps it was  time for my children to experience some places that represent the heart of Malaysia. Kuala Lumpur was our stop for this weekend, not the shopping mall, or KLCC, but cultural and historical places- Central Market, Padang Merdeka (Merdeka Square) and KTM (Keretapi Tanah Melayu).

Before we left, this moth, a Laos Brown Butterfly  (Lyssa Zampa) flew into our porch and landed for us to view. It stayed for a while and fascinated we took multiple pictures of it.

Finally we left for our first destination, Central Market. This is a place I used to hang out years ago when there weren't many malls around. I love it coz it had and still has lovely knick knacks, cultural stuff and a mini artists lane at the back. I remember frequently browsing through stalls looking for silver bangles that came in chunks, unique pieces of earrings and necklaces, batik...ah the list goes on. I remember conversation with college friends, bus rides from the dusty Klang Station nearby. :)

 While we were there, this concert was going on. The Impatient Sisters were singing at a conservation event for SunBears. The girls loved the music, and we ended up sitting through the whole concert, as well as listening to two different speakers speak about Sunbears.

 This is Kasturi Walk (newly constructed), situated right outside Central Market. It has lots of touristy souvenirs, not all made in Malaysia though!

This is the main area in Central Market, stalls and stalls with a variety of knick knacks, some made in Malaysia, but also many items from places like China, Bangladesh, India, Middle East and etc. However, I did not see many tourists, and sales people confirmed that the number of tourists have dropped. Perhaps they're now all in KLCC? 
 Girls were fascinated by the art of calligraphy and enjoyed seeing how this artist's strokes seemed to flow so fluidly.

My favourite area in Central Market, is the back area where several artists have their own shops. There's a hands on Batik shop, shops where you can get your portraits drawn/painted and other craft shops.
 By mid afternoon, feeling hungry we decided to head to a shop nearby where they serve delicious Beef Soup noodles. Since I'm not a fan of beef soup noodle, I decided on Char Kuey Teow. Yummm...was delicious although a little oily, still delicious!

 This is the tiny lady who cooks it. She's been doing it for the last 20 years. When she first started a plate cost RM 1.60, now it costs RM 4.50.

The name of the coffee shop "Kedai Kopi Lai Foong"

After spending several hours in Central Market, we decided to head on to Padang Merdeka. On the way we passed by the Old High Court, Kuala Lumpur and took a quick snap from the car.

Our second destination of the day, Padang Merdeka. (Independence Square)
Taken from Wikipedia "It was here the Union Flag was lowered and the Malayan flag hoisted for the first time at midnight (time: 12:01 AM) on August 31, 1957. Since then, Merdeka Square has been the usual venue for the annual Merdeka Parade (National Day Parade)."

 I've been wanting to bring my girls here for a long time, to see the place that symbolizes Independence. Here's Nel running towards the flag, and the tents where there were many performers dressed in very elaborate and colourful costumes, preparing for the grand concert for our newly installed Yang di-Pertuan Agong.

Jo running excitedly in this field shouting "Freedom...Merdeka!"   :D

Sultan Abdul Samad Building. The yellow flags and metal structures are not part of the building, but temporarily put up for the Agong's grand concert.  
"The structure takes its name from Sultan Abdul Samad, the reigning sultan of Selangor at the time when construction began. It was designed by A.C. Norman and built in 1894-1897 to house several important government departments during the British administration. A.C. Norman spent time in Africa and saw Muslim mosques in India which led him to use Moorish architecture in the building's design. In 1945, when World War II ended, Britain resumed control again, but Malaya's independence movement had matured and organized itself in an alliance under Tunku Abdul Rahman. When the British flag was finally lowered in Kuala Lumpur's Merdeka Square in 1957, Tunku became the first prime minister of Malaya." Wikipedia.

Since we were in the vicinity, we decided to visit KTMB, (Keretapi Tanah Melayu), formerly known as Malayan Railway Administration. The place dates back to British Colonial Era and you can read more on its history here.  Currently this station is used as a commuter station and all long distance trains have been moved to KL Sentral.  I've fond memories of trips on trains from this station to various places with cousins and friends.  The night journey was  especially more interesting as cousins and I used to walk through the train, giggling at sleeping, snoring passengers. :D

 A view of the building taken from the overhead bridge.

One final snap before we called it a day.

It was overall a very exciting day for us. For me it was walking through memory lane, for my children, a first exposure to some parts of our history. We will be making many more such trips for I think this is important in establishing my children's identity as Malaysians.

19 Apr 2012

Releasing butterflies

Today we headed to the Science Library as all our books were overdue. While there, the girls begged and begged to visit the little butterfly farm there. It's been a while since we visited, so I relented and we went. Girls have come to love butterflies, especially since seeing our own little caterpillar transform into a butterfly some months ago, (read it here)  and they've been bugging me to start a butterfly farm at home, in our teeny garden. (Nel's research to be).

I noticed that there weren't many butterflies, except for some old ones. After studying a few, especially looking at how butterflies use their proboscis to get nectar, I decided to leave (my children reluctantly though). It's by a wonderful timing, that as soon as we put one foot out of the exit door, someone called my children "Dik, mari lepaskan butterfly." (child, come release butterflies). I called my kids back, and we saw the staff there bringing in at least 100 new butterflies, wrapped up in thin paper envelopes, waiting to be released. Apparently butterflies can be kept in paper from 1 to 3 days.

So happily, my kids and I released these beauties. We released more than 50, but sadly, among these were many dead ones who didn't make it. As I opened each envelop, I felt joy releasing the strong ones, but such sadness whenever chancing upon a dead one. There was even one, that flapped its wings several times and then died. Still... we were thankful for the joy and opportunity to release the ones that survived.

For the first time, I'd like to apologize for bad photos. I never expected to visit, so didn't bring a camera except my old handphone. (I don't have a modern handphone coz I refuse to be bounded to one!) So here, blur pictures for today.

Unwrapping the envelope with a butterfly in it
Some butterflies wait a while before flying, some fly out immediately with great energy

This one landed on Jo's hand for a while before taking off
A butterfly on Nel's finger. How lovely to hold such beauty

So many species we saw today. Here's one I set free.

Nel let several of these free. She loves this species, they look like flying tigers she said. :)
Some don't make it.  :(

Another beauty I released today.

18 Apr 2012

Be Specific when giving instructions

My living room upstairs is often a mess, well, more than often. What can I say...there's so little time that if I spent all my time cleaning up and down, I'd have no time to do all the necessary things I do each day. Well...anyways, this time it was really a mess with children's things on sofa, under the table, on  the sides of the hall, just in almost every corner and side. So I pushed everything to the center and told my children "Pack or I'll throw everything away!" I'll let the picture do the telling. But I learnt an important lesson, to be more specific when giving instructions. haha..

Nel and Jo has been bugging me to do this Eggsperiment, where you light a fire, put in the bottle and quickly put an egg on top of the opening. We've come across this experiment many times, but never bothered to do it. Well we finally had an empty glass bottle and decided to try it. Only thing is this bottle has a rather long neck, not very ideal for this experiment where you have to get the egg into the bottle. Still we had a go. Because of it's long neck, it took a lot of fire in there before the experiment succeeded.

But alas, because of it's long neck and narrow opening,.....here's what happened to the egg. :)

 Cool right. :)   Now, let me go clean up. P.s Did I mention, I also have the smell of vinegar stinking up my house coz the kids have got an egg in that too so they can do the second part of the eggsperiment.


16 Apr 2012

My child taught me a lesson today

My daughter taught me a Very Very Important lesson this morning. I'd given her an autobiographical poetry assignment similar to the one Jo did last week. It starts with "I may be..."

Initially she couldn't think of lines that would describe herself. I then recommended, "Why not list down words first, that would describe you?"

 She wrote down the words pretty quickly, and showed them to me. My eyes popped out and my heart stopped beating for a moment as I read her words. On her list were negative words I'd used on her in my fit of anger. Let's not even mention the words she wrote....except for perhaps lazy and greedy.
During moments where I've lacked patience, I'd said stuff like "Stop being lazy, hurry and finish your work." Or "Leave some cookies for your dad, don't be so greedy."

There were other words on that list.....and as I read them, I thought to myself, "How could I have ever used such words? Mean mummy!" Furthermore, I've taught my children, never to call people names, and I realise how often I've contradicted myself by doing the exact opposite on my own children!

I asked my child, "Why did you even think of all those words?"
"Well..mum, you just used some this morning, you called me greedy just this morning," she said with a grin. I suspect she did this all on purpose, to send me a message.

I shook my head, thinking to myself, "And what did I just tell a friend last night?" Just last night in conversation with a close friend I'd confided, "I used to be such a patient person, happy usually. When did I start piling up on all these negative traits? Where did they come from? I need to unpile them, I need to unload them and throw them away so they do not become a permanent part of my personality."

"You've been too busy Martha," said my friend. I agreed, and realise that an over busy mother, with an overpacked schedule can really, surely become a mean mother. And I am praying, that God will help me with this, to reschedule, to loosen up more time for my children, to prioritize, to be the mum God has destined me to be, to be a powerful positive influence on my children and not a meany.

Back to my daughter, I then kidded....Well Nel, you could write a poem about your mother that goes like this:

My mother says I'm Lazy
But doesn't mean I lie in bed all day
Doesn't mean I am a bum
Doesn't mean I don't bathe
Doesn't mean she's right.

My mother says I'm greedy
But doesn't mean I eat all the time
Doesn't mean I finish everyone else's food
Doesn't mean I am fat
Doesn't mean she's right!

My mother says I'm this and that
Doesn't mean she's right, Doesn't mean she's right.

Strangely, my daughter started laughing...and then tearing at the corner of her eyes, as I started tearing too. And she said, "Mum, sometimes you make me cry out of anger, but sometimes you make me cry in a good way like now, coz it's too funny."

She took out some tissue, one for her, one for me. We wiped our eyes....and I said, "A lot of those words do NOT describe you. I am mean sometimes, and not perfect. I make lots of mistakes. Let's talk about the wonderful things you are Nel." And we just rewrote the whole thing, where I told her what I really thought of her- Gracious, kind, compassionate, animal lover, crazy about food with cheese, bookworm..etc.

 I've learnt a very important lesson today. I've a lot to think about, a lot to get down on my knees to pray for, especially a prayer that goes like this "God CHANGE ME for the BETTER, so I can be a Better Mum!"


15 Apr 2012

Walking in the rain helps

It's old news that I often do not sleep well. Some days are better, some days worse. Well these few days have been pretty bad. As I head to bed each night, there is a cacophony of thoughts in my mind, each begging to be heard. And even as I sleep in short bouts, I suspect my mind has been working overtime for they show up in vivid dreams. And finally I awake each morn feeling like I've not slept at all.

To shake this feeling off, I decided on an evening walk with my best poochie (my poodle). Barely 10 mins out, I felt the clutter in my mind clearing, as thoughts began to sort themselves out. But then, black clouds started looming over us, as the faint sound of thunder rumbled in the horizon. Not wanting to turn back coz I badly needed the walk, I told my lil Pooch, "We'll keep walking lil companion. A lil rain won't hurt us. :)"

I expected a thunderstorm, I was sooo ready to get drenched, wet, soaked. I WANTED to get drenched, how delightful it would have been! But it was only a pathetic light rain. Still, as every raindrop touched my skin, I felt liberty, a lightening of weight from my shoulders. Finally, we headed home, and I went in to grab my camera just for a few shots.

Yeah, walking in the rain, plus some photography, is so therapeutic. Try it the next time you feel down. :)

As rain refreshes the leaves, it refreshes my soul. Rain, and a talk with God, that is.

There is still beauty,  even in wilting leaves.

I'm not a poetic person, I'm almost out of words. ..(:P)  but hey....I am right brained  :P

A mushroom...so? Well...I love mushrooms, I love eating them, and I love chancing upon them in some unsuspecting place. It's always a delight to spot a mushroom.

Though my mum frequently eyes my flowers with anticipation, hoping I'd remember the next time to cut some for her to add flavour her already delicious asam curry, I never succeed in cutting these flowers. They are so beautiful to me.

As these flowers were refreshed by the light rain, I think I'm refreshed too, ready to face the coming week.
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