Our firstborn is off to school!

Because we were ill when the new school term started, Q only started school this week. Since we knew he would not have the luxury of parent accompanied orientation days like the rest of his classmates, we did our best to psych him up as far as we could. We talked about how fun school would, be, that there would be playground time, oodles of new friends and, most importantly, it would only last three hours and he would still have time to go do all the fun stuff we used to do, like the zoo.

All things considering, he weathered his first day at school fairly well. He had never been to an accompanied class before after all. There was the usual waterworks but we claim small victories like the fact that he didn’t kick up a fuss on day 2, wearing his uniform happily and trotting off to class albeit in a more somber mood. Teacher reported some intermittent tears but we think he’ll get there at some point. He burst into tears when I came to pick him but calmed down by the time we got home and was quick to tell Evan he had a great time in school even if he cried.

The decision put Q in school was a deeply deliberated one as we considered homeschooling for a long time. After considering our family’s needs and lifestyle, we decided we would send him to school, but to one that was a more relaxed and play-orientated one. And most importantly, a school that understood that loving the kids is always more important to educating them, however crucial that was.

We were originally attending the accompanied cherrytots class at Cherrybrooks- which we loved, but their kindy at 4.5hrs, was longer than we liked. We settled on Gracefields Kindergarten @Gilstead. We really liked the school even if it is not Montessori. (We figured maybe I’d just go get certified. Heh.) The school is a Christian school and runs slightly more like an “old style” kindy with a more relaxed approach to education. The fact at they have three playgrounds and fees that did not cost an arm and a leg didn’t hurt. Also, seeing as our housing plans are still up in the air, their more central location suited us well.

So, In what seems like a twinkling of an eye, we begin this long journey of school. And because we live in a tiger mom rampant age of tuition center placement horror stories, school pressure related child mental meltdowns and suicides, and an incessant barrage of enrichment class ads that tell you that good parenting means packing your child’s day with classes; I do worry for my children but take heart that we are acutely clear that that is not how we want our children to grow up.

A child psychiatrist friend (and soon to be godfather to my kids since he’s marrying Godma) once reminded us that in the face of rat races that can sometimes begin as young as birth, it is our duty as parents to protect our children’s childhood. That they are still meant to climb trees, wade in rivers, catch ants and run through open fields of hope, freedom and unbridled joy.

To our dear son Quentin:

As you embark on your schooling journey, it is our deepest prayer and hope that you will never lose your sense of wonder about the world around you, or your natural curiosity for new things, your tenacity to keep at something till you succeed and the humility to know when to ask for help. And most of all, that you will always rest secure in the knowledge- deeply embedded in the depths of your soul, that you are loved unconditionally and supported unequivocally.

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Mummies don’t get to fall sick, not really.

images-1I am fortunate insofar that I really rarely fall sick. I may have one or two off days but I usually bounce back fairly quickly; life never even misses a beat, I am none worse for wear.

I do my fair share to stay healthy: I eat fairly well, loads of vegetables, fruits and juice. My one big unhealthy indulgence is that I love Lemon Tea- I have been told that too much tea is not great for the system. I reckon, too much most things are bad for any system anyway. Plus, I always joke with W; that mummies are usually not allowed to fall sick. So we rarely do.

It was probably culmination of a crazy work schedule meets travel demands, add a stint of not sleeping well, a dash of far too many activities and festivities and a sprinkle of an over active mind that never stops that finally did me in. Shortly after Christmas, as we entered the new year, not long after W and Q fell to some bug, my body finally gave out on me and left me- even after a two week course of anti-biotics, at the mercy of what will be the worst sinus infection of my life.

I had 38-39 degree fever (chills, shivers and all) for almost a week over the new year, and could only medicate with the usual over the counter Flu and sinus stuff because most medical places were closed and I really needed a specialist cos clearly the GP level stuff weren’t working. During which time, we still had to cope with W being ill, Q’s fever not bating (took him almost five days to be rid of the bug, night sponge baths and all) and Evan generally being unhappy because Mummy could not carry him, Daddy was flat out and Kor Kor was banned from playing with the bub. Gratefully, our helpers stayed healthy, as did Evan.

I was pretty much a wreck: days flowed into nights into days. And my fever persisted, my sinuses were clogged beyond relief and I was developing awful sinus related headaches. I barely ate, felt nauseous mostly (from backdrip) and lost weight that I didn’t have to lose.

I finally got to see my Ear Nose and Throat doctor (the wonderful Dr. Leong Hoo Kwong at Mt. E, if you are interested); second patient, on the second day of the new year. And he took one look at me and figured out I was probably hit by some super sinus bug. W convinced me to get a sinus washout which he (under) described as a mere saline rinse. I almost had a heart attack when the nurse took out two ice-pick looking things and explained the doctor would have to break some bone before being able to do the rinse. I’m sure there’s some cool fangled medical term they use, but, as far as I was concerned, my husband signed me up to be half lobotomised. If I weren’t already LA-ed, set up and in pretty much sinus hell, I would not have signed the consent form.

To cut the gross story short, they did the washout, sent stuff to get tested (its streptococcus pneumoniae) and I was sent home with a new course of antibiotics, more meds, orders to rest rest rest and a hilarious offer for medical leave. Looking back, I should have taken it and given it to Evan; maybe he’d stop being mad at mummy cos she’s suddenly always holed up in bed.

It took another two days for the fever to bate sufficiently, another two after that for my nose to stop bleeding (finally) and as I write a week hence, I am much better, but hardly in the all clear zone. I am still blocked up though my osteopath and Rolfer have done wonders to help with the situation and in helping me ease those awful sinus headaches. I still find myself needing more rest than my schedule can afford.

In between, Q missed his first week of school (he was sick, we were sick, and we didn’t want to be that family that sends the runny nosed, coughing kid to school; worse, with the nose bleeding, nasally congested accompanying mom).

Upside to all this? I got tons of readings done, caught up on all the world news (mainly politics, which is a lot) and spent oodles of time with W, who was also, like me, banned from being around the kids much. We even manage to catch up on some TV shows. Small mercies.

My lovely across the street neighbour- who feeds us ever so often, was quick to remind me that this was probably God’s way of making me rest, slow down and take time for myself. I do many things well, resting is not one of them. As a full time working from home mom, my days are choker-block full. In any given day, I barely have time to be mummy, wife, boss, much less, to simply be me. As is, that I no longer battle housework on the day to day basis, is already absolutely wonderful.

And as I take stock of these very difficult past weeks, and knowing it might be several more before I am completely right as rain, I am grateful the kids are none worse for wear, if only a little cabin fevered. And that W is getting better. And that I have somehow toddled through the worst of work stuff whilst sick leaving the rest of the year fairly easy going (I hope). We have also figured out our work stuff, gave up on some huge projects since we have decided to prioritise our bandwidth better and planned several well spaced family holidays.

Not the greatest way to start the year, but grateful anyway.

Picking a school for Q

Several good friends of mine homeschool their kids to great success. And what I mean by “success” is not how many words their preschoolers can identify or how well their primary/elementary school child can manage fractions or their teenager comprehends Shakespeare. We have a 5yo neighbor who attends a nearby kindergarten that is supposedly “one of the better ones” in the area. This girl is schooled from 830am-530pm, put through semester tests (mental math, english flash cards, mandarin oral…etc) and attends a battery of enrichment classes (phonics, chinese enrichment, swimming.., etc). She came over one (rare) day  and declared she was utterly stressed up. Poor kid.

What I do mean by success is how curious their minds are, how excited they are about learning new things and how adept are they at managing themselves, their environment (static and human) and how well real their learnings are; that is, being able to truly understand 1-2-3s as supposed to simply being able to recite 123s.  Most of the people I know who are against homeschooling cite amongst many other complaints, the lack of social interaction, the lack of classroom structure and exposure to auxiliary learnings (like playground dynamics) and a generally overly austere family environment.  I also realize the ones with the strongest grouses are also the ones who have barely explored what homeschooling is or know any homeschooling family well.

In any case, we have been considering the matter of homeschooling (semi) seriously and for now we are relatively undecided. As a trainer and educator, I would love to school my two boys myself; no less, I have major issues with many preschool teachers and having worked with the education system very closely for over a decade, I worry to send my kids to school as I know it. More on that another time.

Meanwhile, we are lucky to have found a school that we feel happy to send Q to. Its not “real” school yet but it fulfills the basic tenets we place in high regard:

1. The school need to have a teachers/educators/carers that understand that it is more important for them to love my child then to school them.

2. That parents are still the primary care givers and educators and the school should supplement and enable this arrangement. Also, parents should be involved in the school in as many aspects as viable.

3. Learning be self directed, free from overt structure and flexible. At least for now, since Q is not even three. And while there are many great learning paradigms out there, we are partial to the Montessori school. (Why so? Again, another post another day.)

4. It is preferable that class size is small and the ratio be low. Many schools promise this and they make do by counting assisting staff. We would prefer that that is not the case.

5. And no air conditioning please. Firstly, it lowers health issues (less germs spreading); second, it mirrors the home and future (if he goes to school) learning environment since most schools are not air conditioned; and third, the place just generally smells better.

And in case you are wondering, we settled on Cherrybrooks Kindergarten. And no, they did not pay me to write this. I genuinely like the place and its people.