Primary One is Almost Over!

Can you believe it? Primary One is almost over. Four more days to go, to be exact.

A year ago, Edison stepped into his primary school for the first time (during the orientation). He was overwhelmed with the big school and huge number of boys that he hid behind my back most of the time.

After the Orientation, I was frantically trying to prep him for the major transition. From wearing his own uniform, handling buttons and zips, buying his own food, to taking care of his own belongings, he has to be fully independent.

I learnt enough from my friends and peers to believe that the day he started Primary One, he would bid farewell to his childhood. He will spend the next few years locked up in school and tuition centres. He will have lots of homework every day, and I’ll need to take time-off from work whenever he has exam.

Thankfully, that was NOT how his Primary One turned out to be. 🙂

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As a start, the transition to Primary One was not as difficult as I thought. I think it’s mainly because young children of this generation have an amazing capability to adapt to new environment and learn new knowledge quickly.

School hours are long, from 7:25am to 1:45pm, but the amount of homework is very minimal. I think probably because he did all his works at school, which is a good thing. So, he still gets the entire afternoon to play.

Every afternoon, I would call him from my office. How was school today? Did you make any friends? Did you manage to buy food? He would reply with “Okay, school is fine”. Occasionally, he’d say, “Today I had fun!”

My major concern was whether he’s making any friends at school. I was worried that he’ll be alone most of the time. So, the first question I asked his form teacher during the Parent-Teacher meeting was “Does he have friends in school?”

When his teacher told me that he does mingle with the boys sitting near him, I heaved a sigh of relief. My worry was proved to be unfounded. Although he isn’t the type of boy who is actively sociable, he did make the attempt to make friends.

Most of you are aware that there is no semestral assessment in Primary One. He started having topical tests, show & tell and various assessments from Term 2. He didn’t go for any tuition classes or after-school care yet, so he revised his learning from his textbooks and various assessment books that I bought for him.

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Some parents are against assessment books, but I admit that I’m totally obsessed with them. Every day he does a lot of works from these assessment books. Consistency is the key; I want him to do some exercises every day. Especially for Maths, he needs to practice doing all types of questions to strengthen his understanding.

Throughout this year, there were days I felt sad because he didn’t do well in his test. There were days I felt angry because he was turning into a TV addict. And there were days I felt frustrated teaching him Chinese that I almost wanted to give up.

But most of the days, I feel happy to see him blossoming from a painfully shy boy to a self-assured little man.

Grades aside, I witness that he has achieved a greater level of independence – not just at school, but at home too. He can handle fork, spoon and knife without the mess, he can shower and wear his clothes all by himself, and he can practise for his spelling test independently.

At the end of each term, he came home with a teacher evaluation and self-reflection sheet. The thing that I’m particularly interested in is whether he’s paying attention in class.

Yes, our boy is a day-dreamer. I heard that all the time from his teachers since his pre-school days. This term, I was extremely delighted to see this from his English and Math teacher.

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But he got a tick on the “Rarely” column for Chinese. When I questioned him, he said that he couldn’t understand what his teacher was saying. I nearly fell off my chair with that answer.

Truth is – he’s really struggling with Chinese. Maybe it’s my fault for choosing a SAP school for him, and he has to take Higher Chinese despite his poor foundation. Nonetheless, we started sending him for Chinese tuition every Friday (2 hours/lesson) starting from Term 4.

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He’s unable to do questions like these correctly.

Anyway. Primary One is almost over just like that. I need to start thinking of what to do during this holiday.

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My cheeky little boy

If your kids are also completing their P1 this year, let’s give them a pat on their back for all their hard works, adaptability and another milestone achieved!

P2. Here we come!

Starting Primary One: It’s Term 4 Already!

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Click HERE to read all my posts on Starting Primary One series.

Ten months ago, Little Edison started Primary One. I still remember how his eyes were soaking in tears when he had to wake up at 6:15am. It wasn’t due to his reluctance to go to school; in fact, he was looking forward to the Big Day. It’s just that he couldn’t understand why he has to wake up so early.

Right up to this day, I still wake up at 5:30am, prepare breakfast, prepare myself for work, and prepare him for school. I still fetch him to school every morning. We leave our house at 6:45am and reach school before 7:10am. Then, there’s another 5 minutes walk from the car park to school. We walk there hand-in-hand.

I still carry his schoolbag until the last point where I’m denied access. And we take forever to hug, kiss, say goodbye and wave goodbye. Then, he walks up a flight of stairs to his classroom. Five seconds after he disappears from my sight, he will pop out again from behind the wall and wave goodbye again.

We wave goodbye again, I stood there for another few seconds before I finally leave the school. Yes, it’s silly like that, but I’m enjoying every moment of it.

I don’t know when he will say, “Hey, Mama! We should stop kissing. I’m a big boy already!” But before that day comes, he’s still very generous with his kisses and hugs.

I’ll continue to enjoy this morning routine. He’s my only son, and he’s always a baby in my heart.

I always remember how my mom would ride a bicycle to send me to school every morning (we didn’t have a car back then). She would assure me and comfort me that all would be well at school.

The journey to school was half an hour. But to her, she spent two hours on the road each day to send me to and from school. Every time I think of those moments, they really warm my heart.

That’s why I want to continue doing the same for my son. Hopefully when he grows up, he will always remember the mornings that we’ve shared during his early school days.

When he reaches home, he will first call me at my office. As usual, I’ll ask how his day is at school. Most of the time, he gives me his classic answer “Fine!” but occasionally, he will tell me interesting stories about his friends and teachers.

The school started having mini tests and various assessments since Term 3. At this point, I still find it difficult to leave him to learn on his own. So, I’ve to step-in to make sure that he’s on track and not lacking behind in school works.

It’s actually harder than I thought. Primary 1 curriculum is getting harder and harder each year. It’s really a far cry from what I’ve learnt in my Primary 1. It focuses on conceptual understanding, ability to recall and apply knowledge rapidly, and holistic development through various activities.

Today, I’ll talk about Maths. The school conducts speed and accuracy test routinely. Students are expected to read and spell mathematical vocabulary at a consistent level, and have mental fluency in doing addition and subtraction questions.

The test questions are not so straightforward like 67 + 13 = ?. They will make it a little tricky like 67 + 13 = ? – 10 or 67 + 13 ones = ? tens. So, the kids really need to read carefully before they write the answer.

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Pictured above are some homework questions that I gave him to prepare him for his upcoming test on addition and subtraction within 100.

In two months’ time, he’ll be going for Primary 2. The year has absolutely flown by, and we look forward to the new challenges in P2.

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Starting Primary One: Term 3 Update

I can’t believe that Term 3 is coming to an end soon. “Time flies” is indeed an understatement in our times. Don’t you agree?

Much to my delight, Term 3 seems to be the shortest and easiest so far. Maybe we’ve accustomed to the primary school routine now. Sleep early, wake up early, learn, play and have fun. That’s how Term 3 turned out to be.

Prior to registering him in a boys’ school, I was most worried about school bullies. Thankfully, that didn’t happen. Instead he talks about making new friends and sometimes losing them, the joys of recess, the funny things that his friends do or say, how his teachers make the boys stay back for recess if they misbehave, etc.

He talks when he’s in the mood to do so. Otherwise when I ask too much, he goes “Mama, I think there are enough of questions now.”

Even though there is no end-of-semester exam in Primary One, there are various assessments and tests starting from Term 2. Spelling test is a weekly affair. We struggled so badly with Chinese spelling test in Term 1, but I’m glad that he’s most improved in this area now.

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I pretty much leave it to him to practice on his own now. I will test him one day before the spelling test – just to make sure he didn’t miss it. I also pasted his test schedule on the wall so that I can check it regularly and do some revisions with him before any tests or assessments (if I know what are the topics to be tested).

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Semester 2 Test Schedule

Until now, his school didn’t release information about the highest or lowest grades in each subject, as well as each boy’s standing in his class. So, I’ve no idea how he’s faring in school. Judging from his scores which usually fall within the range of 70 to 80, I think he’s doing pretty okay.

Looking at his test questions, I really don’t expect him to get full marks. Some questions are really too challenging for his level. And it doesn’t matter to me whether he scores 90 or 60. The learning at this stage is still very basic. What’s more important to me is that he learns from his mistakes and gradually improves himself from there on.

As he grows up, he also needs to learn other important skills like managing his time efficiently during test, check his answers and make sure he doesn’t miss out any questions, etc. He will slowly pick-up these skills by himself after going through several tests at school.

Our major challenge, however, is still the Chinese Language. The fact that he’s studying in a SAP school, it’s even tougher as he’s learning the Higher Chinese. This term, he had his first Chinese Show & Tell. That was a HUGE challenge for a boy who rarely speaks in Chinese at home.

The script is 8 sentences long and the topic is about his school. I made him memorize one sentence each day, and he took 1.5 weeks to memorize the whole script. He came back with 29/36 for that Show & Tell, and I was completely amazed.

Since the beginning of the year, my decision has been made that I’m not going to send him for tuition classes after school. As much as possible, I want him to stay at home, rest, read at his own pace, more outdoor playtime, and have a carefree lower primary life.

But unfortunately, that didn’t happen. Thanks to all the distractions from TV and electronic games. We’re both at work, and my parents-in-law has been a little too lenient to him. So I finally succumbed to my tiger mom instincts and enrolled him for a Chinese tuition class after school on Wednesday.

I thought it’d be good to have a teacher to teach him Chinese after school, and expose him to more Mandarin-speaking environment. The class duration is 2 hours, and I ask my parents-in-law to send him there. I will pick-up him up when the lesson is over.

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He just started the Chinese tuition two weeks ago, and so far so good. He’s adapting well and no complaint. I’m glad to ‘outsource’ the Chinese Language to a qualified teacher as I’ve difficulty teaching him the language myself. At home, we play some Chinese word games and read Chinese story books to develop his interest in learning the language.

I encourage him to take up a sport and start learning it since young. I gave him a choice, and he chose golf. So, he started his golf lessons three months ago. One hour every Saturday, and he totally enjoys it.

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And Sunday will be all play day for him now.

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8 Ways to Prepare Your Child for Primary One

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I’ve recently received e-mails from readers asking about Primary One registration and preparation. While I’ve tried my best to reply to all your e-mails, I apologize if I’ve missed out any of you, or if my replies seemed too short for you.

The topic of preparing our child for Primary One is too broad, and I can’t really summarize it all in one e-mail or comment. Thus, I’m sharing with you in a blog post – which took me quite a long time to prepare. Hope you’ll find it useful.

First of all, I’d like to emphasize that preparation for Primary One does not require a major effort. In fact the simpler and more relaxed the process is, the easier and more relaxed it will be for your child. So, please bear this in mind.

In fact, the preparation process happens more naturally through the everyday experiences that we give to our children. We can provide additional opportunities for them to practice their independent and self-help skills at home too.

8 Tips for Getting Ready for Primary One

1. Learn to ask for permission & practice the proper use of toilet independently

This used to be my primary concern because Edison is a shy and quiet boy. To help him muster the courage to speak up, we role-played. I (the student) raised my hand to ask him (the teacher) for permission to be excused, and vice-versa. While he’s plucking up his courage, I also trained him on the proper use of toilet by himself.

2. Learn to pack and organize things

Children need to be taught on how to take care of their own belongings at school. Missing item is a common problem, especially on first week of school. For a record, our boy lost three water bottles within the first two weeks of school.

Teach them how to pack their school bags, organize things, label their belongings, and most importantly, keep their pocket money securely.

3. Learn to take the right bus

There are usually some forms of identification given by the bus service providers. Talk to them to understand the process, i.e. their identification method, bus number, pick-up location, emergency contact, etc.

Give yourself the confidence to know that your child can do it as long as he knows what to expect.

4. Train them to buy food and eat faster

This is obviously one of my concerns too as Edison takes half an hour to eat his meals at home. Recess time at school is only half an hour, but it also includes queuing time to buy food, finding a seat, going to the toilet, etc. At the end, he probably has just 15 minutes to eat.

I’ve repeatedly informed him that he cannot take his own sweet time to eat at school because when the bell rings, he has to go back to class.

Our children need to know how to check for food prices, count and use money to buy food, carry their own food to the table, and properly dispose their used plates and cutleries after eating.

So, we can create the opportunities for our children when we’re having meals outside. Give them a chance to decide on what they want to eat, check the prices to see whether they are within budget, count and use money independently.

If you’re still worried, you can always pack some food for your child to eat at school.

5. Build confidence & familiarize themselves with school

Between now till the start of P1, I would advise parents to start sharing their positive experiences in school with their children. Give them assurance that they will make new friends at school and have fun.

Talk to our children on what they can expect in Primary 1 – longer school hours, big school, more children, school rules, class size, what to do during recess, etc. Also, take the opportunity to familiarize themselves with school. The best time to do it is after the parent-orientation, so please spend some time to tour the school with your child.

Some of the important places include their classroom, hall, canteen, toilet, general office, bus pick-up point, dismissal point, public phone, etc. It will be good if you can take some pictures so that your child can view them regularly.

If possible, you can also introduce him to the people that he will be meeting at school, i.e. Principal, Vice Principals, Form / Co-form Teachers, Subject Teachers, etc.

6. Coping with new routines

One of the must-haves in Primary 1 is TIMETABLE. All primary school students need to adhere strictly to a timetable when they are in school. We can impart that understanding to our children before the school starts.

Time is easy to teach because children naturally love to learn it. So, start teaching them how to tell time so that they can manage their time according to the timetable.

I would advise you to create an ‘after-school’ timetable for your child too. Allocate time for him to complete his school homework every day. Also make sure he has sufficient play time and rest time too. Construct the timetable with him so that he will learn how to organize his time in a better way.

7. Teach them how to relay information between the school and parent

School will distribute notices, progress reports, and other important information to parents via the child. So, teach your child on how to do this effectively to prevent any miscommunication in the future.

8. Encourage as a family

Assure them that starting Primary School is a new and exciting experience, and it will also be fun and enjoyable. Show lots of encouragement to cope with challenges in new school. Always be positive and encouraging!

To me, I always believe that it’s more important to make learning and going to school an enjoyable process, rather than chasing for academic excellence.

8 Important Skills to Practice

1. Ask for permission
2. Buy things on their own
3. Counting and using money
4. Going to the toilet independently
5. Write their names in Chinese and English
6. Organize school bag
7. Take care of own belongings
8. Relay information between the school and parents

Entering primary school is the start of a new phase of life for all children (and parents too!). From a relaxed kindergarten to a formal education in primary school, many children will find it challenging, especially on their first day in a big school surrounded by many unfamiliar faces.

By planning ahead and having a longer perspective, we can ease our children into the primary school education system seamlessly.

Last but not least, if you have a child starting Primary One next year, I hope you and your child will have a smooth and happy start to the new school year.

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Click HERE to read all my posts on Starting Primary One series

No Exam in Primary One: Yay or Nay?

When we found out that there is no final examination for Primary 1 during the Parent Orientation Day, we were jumping with joy.

“There will be no exam stress for us and our boy this year. Even if he doesn’t study, he will still be promoted to Primary 2 without any streaming. Yay!” I told the Hubby jokingly.

And that’s how we eased through the first term of his Primary 1. Not that he doesn’t study at all, but we didn’t attempt to test him or give him too many assessments at home. My plan for Term 1 remains the same – to get him to settle into the new school routine, one step at a time without overwhelming him.

Coming to Term 2 now, I start to feel a tinge of stress when various assessments start at school. For English, they have Show and Tell, Read Aloud Test and Listening & Phonics Test. For Maths, they have two Mini Tests, and for Chinese, they have Oral Test and so on.

All these mini tests and assessments carry 5 – 15% each from their final score. So the ‘kiasu-ness’ in me keeps reminding me to prepare him adequately for all these tests. After all, we don’t want him to end up padding the bottom ranks.

The first one was Maths Mini Test on shapes and patterns. Just when V thought that it is easy peasy, I mapped out a series of worksheets on shapes and patterns for him. For days, I went through the shapes with him, and make sure that he knows how to spell all the words (square, circle, triangle, rectangle), and identify patterns.

It may sound easy, but some of the questions are really quite tricky. These are three questions that I picked from his one of his assessment books:

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Challenging P1 Maths Questions

I was stuck at the first question and had a hard time explaining to him how to identify the 20th shape without drawing the pattern all the way to 20.

For the 2nd question, it is a little tricky but still doable after he spent some time to analyze it.

For the 3rd question, it’s challenging to get him to read all the sentences, understand them and draw the diagrams correctly.

Fortunately, the actual mini test didn’t turn up to be that difficult. But it wasn’t very straight-forward either. For instance, he got a mistake in this question where he obviously didn’t count the diamonds as squares. That’s why he got it wrong.

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And I explained to him that diamonds are squares because they have four equal length sides and four corners. So, in mathematical term, a diamond is the same as a square.

On the other hand, I find that this question is quite difficult and I was amazed that he can get it correct. I questioned him on how he gets the answer – just to make sure it wasn’t his wild guess. He told me that he didn’t understand the first sentence, but he got the clue from the second sentence where he counted the number of circles.

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Obviously, this question about pattern is quite tricky too.

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Interestingly, he scored 18/20 for his first Maths mini test and we were all so happy for him.

The Chinese Oral Test on HanYuPinYin came on the following week. Every night, we read his Chinese textbook to make sure that he knows how to pronounce the HanYuPinYin correctly. His reading is okay, except that he occasionally mixed up the “iu” and “ui”, and “ie” and “ei”.

As soon as the Chinese Oral Test was over, he had his English Read Aloud Test this week. Again, we spent a few days reading his vocabulary lists to prepare him for the test.

In a week or two, he’s going to have Show and Tell for English. I have no idea how and what to go through with him.

“Aiyah, he is going to have these assessments almost every week. Just relax lah! Stop stressing him and me!” the frustrated Hubby said.

I blamed the Singapore’s pressure-cooker education system for all these stress. I know I can’t be overly concerned with performance and grades, but if our boy didn’t do well, I would blame myself for not preparing him well enough for the tests.

Truth be told, when we first became parents, the Hubby and I agreed that we were not going to send our son for tuition every day for every subject. As long as he enjoyed the learning process and absorbed information from the world around him, that would be sufficient for us.

But seven years on, I find it hard to balance between leaving him to learn at his own pace, and stepping in to make sure that he’s on track and not lacking behind in school works. Sigh, it’s harder than I thought.

Sometimes, I think that it may be easier to have just one or two end-of-semester examinations, rather than having assessments or mini tests almost every week. At least we can still enjoy from the beginning to mid-term, and then start to go full speed as we’re approaching the final term.

Now, it dawns on me that having no final exam doesn’t mean no stress at all. Whenever I read a Whatsapp message that goes “we’re going to have mini test next week”, I’ll go scrambling through his textbooks and folders again to map out a revision schedule for him.

I should learn to be more relaxed.

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