A CLASS OF THEIR OWN

Learn how you can cre­ate a sen­sory-rich learn­ing en­vi­ron­ment at home from these mums and teach­ers from Kin­der­land in­fant-care cen­tres.

Young Parents (Singapore) - - Contents -

Preschool isn’t enough for some par­ents. They be­lieve that learn­ing should con­tinue at home, too.

Par­ents here who are pro­po­nents of home learn­ing say the prac­tice has been grow­ing in re­cent years, as more peo­ple doc­u­ment their ac­tiv­i­ties on so­cial me­dia plat­forms.

thile home-learn­ing par­ents have their de­trac­tors, who view what they do as be­ing “ki­asu”, they say their ob­jec­tive is not to make their chil­dren smarter, but to ex­pose them to a sen­sory-rich learn­ing en­vi­ron­ment where they learn through play, and make learn­ing is fun.

To fa­cil­i­tate such an en­vi­ron­ment, these par­ents con­sider their chil­dren’s in­ter­ests, which could range from na­ture to con­struc­tion, and spend time and ef­fort com­ing up with in­ter­est­ing, hands-on ac­tiv­i­ties based on a cho­sen theme.

At times, they choose top­ics and cre­ate ac­tiv­i­ties that help to build con­fi­dence in their chil­dren. This could be in ar­eas that the young ones are ob­served to be weak in, or mat­ters that their chil­dren are fear­ful of, such as den­tistry (ahead of the child’s first trip to the den­tist).

Home-learn­ing par­ents also say they en­joy the process of plan­ning the ac­tiv­i­ties, as

well as do­ing the ac­tiv­i­ties with their kids. Four moth­ers share their ex­pe­ri­ences. MY KIDS ARE MY STU­DENTS

Stay-at-home mum gacinth Liew’s home-learn­ing ac­tiv­i­ties with her two young chil­dren are fun and colour­ful, and even adults are in­volved be­cause of how in­ter­est­ing they are.

The best part? They do not cost much, says the 31-year-old (pic­tured right).

Her learn­ing tools are ev­ery­day items such as paints, beans, trays and scoops, many of which are bought ei­ther on­line from sites such as Taobao and Ama­zon, or from shops such as aaiso and Ikea.

The items gen­er­ally cost less than $10 each and some of them have lasted for years, she says.

gacinth started home­learn­ing ac­tiv­i­ties shortly af­ter her first child was born in 2014. But what she did then was “very ran­dom”, she con­fesses.

“At that time, there was no learn­ing ob­jec­tive, theme or or­gan­i­sa­tion to what we did. ”

tith the growth of so­cial me­dia plat­forms in re­cent years, how­ever, she got to know other like-minded par­ents, who were ei­ther based here or over­seas. Through their posts and her own re­search, she started to learn how to struc­ture ac­tiv­i­ties for preschool­ers.

These days, her ac­tiv­i­ties are grouped by themes, each of which cov­ers ar­eas in­clud­ing lit­er­acy, craft, sen­sory play and Stem (sci­ence, tech­nol­ogy, en­gi­neer­ing and math­e­mat­ics) learn­ing.

rn­der Stem, she en­joys con­duct­ing vis­ually en­gag­ing ex­per­i­ments with her chil­dren – aaryl, four, and Char­lotte, 18 months. Her hus­band, 32, is a bank em­ployee.

lne ex­am­ple of such a sim­ple ex­per­i­ment is the “Skit­tles bx­per­i­ment”, which in­volves pour­ing warm wa­ter over the hard sweets af­ter they have been ar­ranged in a cir­cle.

tithin min­utes, the colour runs from the can­dies and the re­sult is a beau­ti­ful pin­wheel of colours, thanks to dif­fu­sion.

Another ex­am­ple is the “Magic Milk bx­per­i­ment”, where drops of food colour­ing are added into a tray filled with milk. Then, she asks her chil­dren to use cot­ton buds – which have been dipped in dish­wash­ing liq­uid – to gen­tly touch the sur­face of the milk.

Be­cause of the chem­i­cal re­ac­tion be­tween the soap and milk fat, the colours be­gin to sep­a­rate and swirl out­wards.

gacinth says: “Both ex­per­i­ments will not fail to amaze chil­dren. It’s all about sci­ence, but to them, it’s magic.”

In 2016, she set up In­sta­gram and Face­book ac­counts ,@ our lit­tle play nest, to doc­u­ment her ideas and ac­tiv­i­ties. lver time, the ac­count has de­vel­oped from a per­sonal log to one that is now fo­cused on shar­ing with par­ents how they can con­nect with their chil­dren through play.

“I want to let par­ents know that what I do is not rocket sci­ence. It’s what ev­ery par­ent can do,” she says.

“The ac­tiv­i­ties don’t cost a lot and don’t re­quire a lot of prepa­ra­tion time.”

thile she spends about an hour or so daily read­ing up on what to do and cre­at­ing her les­son plans, the ac­tual ac­tiv­i­ties can each be ex­e­cuted in just five to 10 min­utes.

The for­mer sec­ondary school teacher says she misses her teach­ing days.

“My chil­dren are my stu­dents now,” she says. “I don’t need them to be smart, but I do these ac­tiv­i­ties in the hope that they will love learn­ing and al­ways ask ques­tions about ev­ery­thing.”

IT’S LIKE GIV­ING THEM NEW TOYS

To any par­ent who thinks pre­par­ing home-learn­ing ac­tiv­i­ties is tire­some and dif­fi­cult, Lim Sing Yun, 37, has this to say: It isn’t.

The mother of two sons aged four and two would know, hav­ing done it for close to a year.

By trawl­ing through the In­ter­net and so­cial me­dia plat­forms, she has found free print­a­bles on myr­iad top­ics from the so­lar sys­tem to di­nosaurs, which ap­peal to her chil­dren.

“There are a lot of peo­ple cre­at­ing these ma­te­ri­als who are happy to of­fer them on­line for free,” says Sing Yun, who works as an in-house le­gal coun­sel.

She sim­ply prints what she wants to use, which saves her the ef­fort of cre­at­ing her own ma­te­ri­als.

She usu­ally comes up with a learn­ing theme for her chil­dren, so that it gives her a fo­cal point when search­ing for ma­te­ri­als. She also sup­ple­ments the planned ac­tiv­i­ties with li­brary books on her de­sired theme.

The fam­ily usu­ally does these ac­tiv­i­ties af­ter din­ner. “It’s part of fam­ily bond­ing,” says Sing Yun, whose 38-yearold hus­band works in a der­man chem­i­cals com­pany.

She puts to­gether her ideas af­ter her chil­dren go to bed. The prepa­ra­tion process is fun for her and it gives her some­thing mean­ing­ful to do “rather than surfing so­cial me­dia aim­lessly” af­ter the kids are asleep.

In April last year, she started an In­sta­gram ac­count, @play­full.sg, to doc­u­ment her home-learn­ing ac­tiv­i­ties with her chil­dren. “It’s a form of mem­ory keep­ing. It’s nice to look back on what we’ve done to­gether and to com­mu­ni­cate with a com­mu­nity of like-minded par­ents,” she says.

“ain­osaur bgg” is an ac­tiv­ity she says is a hit with her chil­dren. She learnt about it from another home-learn­ing par­ent’s In­sta­gram ac­count.

The ac­tiv­ity en­tails stuffing a plas­tic di­nosaur fig­urine into a de­flated bal­loon and then fill­ing up the bal­loon with wa­ter. Af­ter this is done, the bal­loon is tied up and put in a freezer.

then the wa­ter turns to ice, the par­ent can cut away the bal­loon skin and what is left is a di­nosaur “trapped” in an “ice egg”.

The child is pre­sented with the frozen egg and his ob­jec­tive is to melt the ice and “res­cue” the di­nosaur.

To keep her chil­dren oc­cu­pied with the same ac­tiv­ity for a longer du­ra­tion, Sing Yun usu­ally freezes sev­eral such eggs at one go.

“I’m happy to see that such sim­ple ac­tiv­i­ties can keep my chil­dren pur­pose­fully en­gaged,” she says.

“I feel that I’m giv­ing them new toys each time, with­out ac­tu­ally hav­ing to buy some­thing new.”

IT’S NOT ABOUT BE­ING

The home-learn­ing les­son plans for their chil­dren may sound in­tim­i­dat­ing, with learn­ing ob­jec­tives that en­com­pass ev­ery­thing from lit­er­a­ture and math­e­mat­ics to per­sonal and phys­i­cal devel­op­ment, as well as ex­pres­sive arts, de­sign and un­der­stand­ing the world.

But moth­ers Tif­fany Lim (pic­tured above, right), 29, and Sylvia Lye (pic­tured above, left), 31, say it is all about en­gag­ing the senses and hav­ing fun in the process.

Tif­fany, a sec­ondary school teacher, says some par­ents have asked her: “thy do you try to teach your chil­dren so much?”

To which she replies: “It’s not about be­ing ki­asu (the fear of los­ing out), but about learn­ing through play and hav­ing fun.”

Sylvia agrees. “I wish I (could have done) all these ac­tiv­i­ties when I was grow­ing up.”

She adds that plan­ning the home-learn­ing ac­tiv­i­ties helps make her time as a stay-home mother “fruit­ful and mean­ing­ful”.

“My daugh­ter is learn­ing things in school, but it’s easy to just let the days go by. In this way, I am spend­ing mean­ing­ful time with her, help­ing to scaf­fold her learn­ing.”

Be­neath the moth­ers’ aca­demic-sound­ing, broad­based learn­ing ob­jec­tives is also a be­lief that what­ever they do should en­gage their chil­dren’s five senses.

For in­stance, they worked on a Chi­nese New Year theme ear­lier this year. Some ideas they toyed with in­clude read­ing books to their chil­dren on the fes­ti­val, teach­ing them about wodiac signs, let­ting them smell and peel or­anges, craft­ing their own Chi­nese drum, as well as bak­ing cook­ies.

Tif­fany adds that to en­cour­age sen­sory play, she runs sen­sory baths for her chil­dren.

Apart from toys, slices of fruit, flower petals and pan­dan leaves are some­times thrown into the mix, de­pend­ing on the learn­ing theme.

She en­cour­ages her chil­dren to smell, touch and play with the items as they bathe.

The two friends, who met when they were stu­dents at Nanyang Acad­emy of Fine Arts, have three chil­dren aged from two to four be­tween them and are be­hind the home-learn­ing In­sta­gram ac­count @2ma­mas4kids, which they set up in March 2016 and where they share their ac­tiv­i­ties.

They try to be au­then­tic in their posts by show­cas­ing not only ac­tiv­i­ties they did suc­cess­fully, but also those that did not work.

Tif­fany says: “te don’t want par­ents to have a ‘try once and must suc­ceed’ kind of men­tal­ity.

“Some­times, the child is not in­ter­ested or not ready to do a cer­tain ac­tiv­ity and that’s fine. tait and try again some time later.”

In the process of ex­e­cut­ing their ac­tiv­i­ties, they are able to see what their chil­dren are good at and what they en­joy – or do not en­joy – do­ing. They change or tweak ac­tiv­i­ties to en­cour­age their lit­tle ones to tackle ac­tiv­i­ties that may not play to their strengths.

The moth­ers are com­mit­ted to home learn­ing for now, not­ing that chil­dren’s in­ter­ests will change and de­velop as they grow.

Sylvia says: “This pe­riod is but for a sea­son. I want to make the best use of my time to learn along­side her in her early years, while I have the en­ergy to do so.”

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