Tips On Persevering On A Musical Instrument

It is easy to start a child on a musical instrument but it is difficult to sustain the interest.  How can you, as parents, help your child to persevere on?  Here are some tips, from my experience:

1)   Set aside time practising the instrument daily, be it 30 mins, 45 mins, 1 hour or more.  The child needs to cultivate this habit of doing it daily.

2)   Sit (or stand around for that matter) with the child as he/she practises.  The child needs to know you are serious with him/her picking up this musical instrument.

3)   If possible, always have a short talk with the teacher after every lesson.  Constant communication with the music teacher will help you keep abreast with your child’s performance.

4)   Do music theory exercises with him/her together.  In the beginning, the theory is pretty easy, so you should seize the opportunity to learn together with your child so that you can coach him/her along the way.

5)   Avoid going for every grading exam if possible.  The essential ones are Grade 5, Grade 8, Diploma & above.  Having to handle music exam in every level will deprive your child from learning more music pieces as much time has to be spent practising on exam pieces.

Hope the above tips are helpful in helping your child!

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The City - Interactive Learning Playground

During the March school holidays, AJ & his schoolmate went to The City - an interactive learning playground in Liang Court. It is Singapore's first-of-its-kind playtime experience for children aged 3-8.

In The City, children get to try out different adult roles & professions.  They can transform themselves into Cooks, Cashiers, Grocer, Doctors, Nurses or Policemen, dressing themselves in the uniforms & outfits that make their fantasy play come alive. They can drive on mini streets, navigate traffic signs & lights, & explore small-scale real-life locations, such as the supermarket, cafe, post office, beauty salon, medical clinic, nursery, etc. 

In my opinion, The City is more suitable for preschoolers.  For Primary School goers, the environment/set up can be too kiddos.  The place is small, to my surprise, thus if it gets crowded, children really have not much to play with.

Do remember to bring socks for yourself & your children.  The centre will charge $5 for a pair if you were to buy.  You & your children can stay as long as you like, you may also have a breakkie & return to the centre to continue playing in the same day as long as the maximum no. of children has not been met.


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The Death That Changed My Life

I recently read some FTWMs’ blogs on why they could not be a SAHM.  Alas, they all sounded so familiar!  

I was an ambitious career woman prior to having AJ.  I enjoyed my job. I had a supportive boss who was my mentor for 5 years. I had a wonderful team of colleagues whom I worked closely with. I had a good salary to draw on. I climbed the corporate ladder & had a career path.

Staying at home, looking after my child was never in mind.  I love having a career, it was a sense of self-achievement.  In fact, I was 1 of the selected candidates to be groomed for next promotion.  I was also earning more than the father then, so it did not make economic sense for me to quit my job to look after a little one.

My combined 4-month maternity leave & 1-month annual leave was a confirmation to me that I could not quit my job to take care of my child.  That period was a nightmare.  AJ was a difficult child – making him sleep & drink could drive anyone nut.  He took a long time to sleep & he took a long time to drink.  My patience ran dry, post-natal blue crept in.  I could not imagine myself facing this baby 24/7 within the 4 walls.  Suddenly, I felt so disconnected with the world out there. I wanted to escape from these, it was scary to think that I would be locking myself out from the world.  No way! I had to get back to work!

However, the internal battle never stopped. My pastor had always encouraged all mothers to stay at home looking after their own children.  It was his conviction (still is) & he constantly preached about this.  His ‘nagging’ never left me.

So I planned for my return to work. BUT, her death came. The death that changed my life. You may  read about this matter here.  This month marks her 6th death anniversary too. To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die (Ecclesiastes 3: 1-2 KJV)

So here I am, a WAHM.  This was how the Lord has shaped my path. One can only have peace obeying God's Will. 

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[Review] Beanstro Food Tasting

We were invited by Beanstro (a new restaurant by The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf) for food tasting recently. So, during this 1 week of March school holiday, the father took a day's leave to join us for the lunch.

The ambience of Beanstro is very much the same as its coffee & tea cafe chain - earth-tone colours that set the relax mood & soft lighting to set the romantic mood.

We ordered our drinks: Cafe Hazelnut for me, Hazelnut Latte (Decafe) for the father & Hot Double Chocolate with Marshmallows for AJ. We did not expect such tall glasses. At less than $7 per glass, it is definitely worthy. 

Next, we had Cream of Mushroom Soup & Caesar Salad. The soup was tasty, & I personally like the in-house salad dressing a lot! 

When it comes to dining out, we try to stick to fish because we are wary of antibiotics & hormones injected meat. To my delight, Beanstro serves grass fed steak, so I happily ordered Rib Eye Steak for myself. The 2 boys had Cod Fish & Salmon Skewer. 

I love this very much! The pan-seared Chilean cod fish simply melted in my mouth with no fishy smell at all! And the crispy fish skin had become part of AJ's enjoyment of this dish :)

We eat Salmon quite often at home because it is full of Omega 3! It is not easy to master the tenderness of this fish & I do find this a little let down as the meat was not as tender as I have expected. The Salmon was marinated with ginger & soya, but I could not taste them.

The Australian grass fed Rib Eye Steak was done in perfect medium well. The meat was very tender.  Even the father, who shy red meat, commented that it was very tender & juicy.  It is certainly worth trying!

To conclude our lunch, we had Warm Apple Crumble & Bread & Butter Pudding for desserts. I have a soft spot for desserts because I have sweet tooth.  It is hard to resist the temptation, especially when the waitress told me that there are customers who purposely come for their signature Bread & Butter Pudding. Oh boy! So we ordered 2 calories laden desserts. 


The Bread & Butter Pudding tasted heavenly especially when it was served warm.  AJ loved every bit of it. The Warm Apple Crumble was not too sweet. I love them both.

If you work near Ngee Ann City or Marina Bay Sands, you should consider trying out their Weekday Set Lunch Special. A main course that comes with complimentary soup and drinks satisfy your hunger at the right amount. There is also Tea-Time Special for shoppers! 

Overall we had an enjoyable lunch in Beanstro.  The service crew was warm & helpful, the food was nice, albeit the serving size can be huge for some, the ambience was good & the price reasonable.  Would I visit again? Yes, I sure would.

* We were invited for food tasting by Beanstro. All opinions & text are my own.

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Morning Prayer - Tchaikovsky

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To Kumon Or Not?

I’m not sure about you, but this topic had been a struggle for my family. If you google ‘Reviews on Kumon’, you will get a lot of positive reviews, at the same time, a lot of negative reviews too.  & if you survey the parents, most of them will agree that it is good. On the other hand, if you survey the children, most of them will tell you they hate it.

So, is Kumon for you and your child?

We tried AJ on Kumon when he was 2.5 years old. Yes, only 2.5.  He was assessed & accepted into the centre.  He was youngest student then, and in the history of that centre too. Why did we start AJ that young?  AJ exhibited some academic intelligence at a very young age. That triggered us to think whether we should have some structured learning for him in terms of Math. As first-time parents, we did many ‘trial-and-error’ because we were unsure what best fits.

AJ progressed fast in the centre.  He had enjoyed doing the worksheets given by the centre, because – they are of big fonts & printed in colours.  The worksheets for beginners were colourful and interesting, so AJ did not mind doing them.

2 months on, things changed. He dread to go to the centre. He did not want to do the worksheets. AJ was no longer at the level where the worksheets were colourful.  They had become black & white, & many boring addition sums squeezed into an A5 page. Naturally, a boy who was not yet 3 would not like.  But the centre has its KPI (Key Performance Indicators) to follow. You have to achieve good speed & high accuracy in order to progress to the next level.  If you do not, you have to repeat that level until proven.

AJ had the accuracy, but not the speed.  Not that he was not capable of, if you ask him verbally, he could give you the right answers. But writing was a chore for the little one. At that age, he could not write fast because his finger muscles were not strong. So he could not proceed to the next level even though he knew the answers.  Such was the struggle he had.  I fought for him, citing AJ’s physical limitation but in vain.  It had come to a stage where I had to place a cane on the table to get him to finish up the worksheets. It was a torture for both of us & I reckoned that it should not go on lest I kill his interest in learning. So we put a stop to Kumon.

I started improvising my own method teaching him Math.

Fast forward 3 years, the father suddenly asked ‘Do you think AJ should be given more drilling, especially on foundations pertaining to Math?’ I did not agree, but I did not want to argue.  I then told the father that I would bring him for an assessment (again) at the nearest Kumon centre & hear what they have to say.

The next day we went.  AJ was assessed exactly the level I think he should be in but the centre wanted him to start 1 level down. They claimed that this is the way that they usually do, to ensure that the students have a base to build on.  They also told me not to be too concerned, if AJ is a fast learner, he will progress to the next level in matter of weeks.

I thanked the centre supervisor, telling her that I would discuss this with the father. Of course, I never return.

This reinforces that going to Kumon centre is not for AJ & me. To assure the father that AJ is well-rooted in his foundation in Math, I got the Kumon Workbooks for AJ to do instead of going to the centre.  Everyday, he will do 1 or 2 exercises from the Workbook, topic by topic, level by level, using the methods I have taught him. We have been on this route for 4 months, both the father & the son have no complaints.  The father is glad that AJ has his foundation well-rooted, AJ is happy that he did not have to do the masses of repetition work in order to progress to the next level.  Every progress is determined by the ability to finish each exercise correctly within a stipulated time frame.  He is glad that he did not have to rush to clear all the backlogs if he is sick, or has other things that take priority. I am glad that this way works better for all of us.

So is Kumon for you & your child?  Generally, Kumon is good if you:
(1)   are very organized & disciplined;
(2)   are willing to be involved in the child’s learning; &
(3)   prefer a structure programme.

Would you like to receive an independent review of Kumon Method? If you do, please drop me an email at to join in the mailing list.

This video was taken end Feb'13 when AJ was at the last page of Grade 3 Multiplication.  
He is now in Grade 3 Division. 

Mar'13 - AJ has completed Addition & Subtraction, Geometry & Measurement, & Multiplication.  
He is now halfway through Division. We target to finish this level by middle of this year.

[Review] I Can Read iPad Application (我会读iPad 应用软件)

I have always been an ardent supporter of Glenn Doman's teaching. In fact I used his method to coach AJ on English, Math & Chinese.  I have received wonderful results using this method. Naturally, I am a firm believer that his method works because I have a walking testimony right at home!

My friend's mother who wrote & published Chinese books basing on Glenn Doman's teaching method has a wide collection of Chinese storybooks for tods to children of lower primary level. I bought some books from her when AJ was very young.  I find them so effective in teaching AJ to master Chinese at an early age.  Recently, my friend told me that her mom's books have gone digital.  Wow! I must really take a look!

While I do not encourage young children to stare at electronic gadgets at all, I understand that we are living in a society where we cannot live without one. Staring at electronic gadgets means getting the radiation emitted by these gadgets at closer proximity.  The flickering screen will also cause the eyes of your little ones to strain & thus their eyes get tired easily.  Not surprising, we have children wearing spectacles at much younger age these days due to short-sightedness.  So, I would strongly recommend children under 3 not to be exposed to electronic gadgets at all, if possible.

I am glad to know that the e-books by tots can read starts from level 4, which is for age 3 up.  If you did not start your child on Chinese early, he/she may not be able to read at this level until he/she is 4, 5 or 6.

I downloaded the application in ipad & tried it myself.  I assessed this application from the angle of a mother teaching her child Chinese.  I like what I have tested very much.

This is the front page of the application. 

When you click 'Read Now', this is what you will see. When you click on the box where the arrow is pointing, the sentence will be read out.  Thus, you have full control on when you want it to be read.

Towards the end, there is a revision. When you click on the triangle, the sentence will be read out.  When you click on the Chinese character, that particular character will be read out.  If you would like the English explanation, which is useful for 'potato' children (& parents), click on the sentence in English.  Again, full control on the progress of mastering Chinese.  I like!

& there is Word Game too!  You could use that to revise new Chinese characters covered in this story.  You should let your child attempt to read them first, then tap each Chinese character to hear it.  This way you help him/her enforces what he/she has learned.

At the end of the Word Game, there is a score chart.  Reward your child when he/she has improved with each lesson!

At US$0.99 on itunes, this is a steal, consider that it could teach your child Chinese effectively and double up as a digital baby sitter as well. 

If you prefer to get the physical books, you can purchase them here.

Learning Chinese can be fun & easy when you have appropriate tools.   :)