Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Closing a Chapter...

Today, Brian wore his Singapore primary school uniform for the last time ever. He wore it to his new secondary school where registration for Secondary 1 feeder boys was taking place. He now has his new secondary school uniform, which doesn't look all that much different from the primary one, except that the shorts are longer, more bermuda-like.

He will be attending the one-week orientation and then another week of school at ACS Independent. According to some of the older boys there, there won't be much studying during the first couple of weeks, just lots of fun and bonding for the kids. Brian is likely to know many of his classmates anyway, as a majority of his ACS Primary GEP classmates are also moving on to ACSI and doing the Integrated Programme (which leads to the IB - International Baccalaureate) as well.

His Moscow school is also an IB school and he went through the IB Primary programme called the PYP (Primary Years Programme) during elementary school (which Sean is going through now). In that sense, he will be familiar with how the IB system works when he eventually joins ACSI for good. Of course we are aware that it won't be easy jumping back as ACSI is a top IB world school. In fact, it will be pretty darn hard! I mean, in his Language Arts reading list is a Salman Rushdie book for heaven's sake! But won't worry about that now. I just want to enjoy the fruits of Brian's labour...PSLE is over, time to relax for as long as possible.

Anyway, I'm sure today (and for most of Singapore tomorrow) is a very poignant day for the parents who went with their Pri6 kids to the new school. Our little ones are growing up...sob...which also means we are getting old lor...

When I walked around Brian's spanking, swanky secondary school, I can actually feel the buzz of the school...maybe this is what they call school spirit, you can really feel it. I'm not the one attending the school, but I actually felt excitement welling up inside me...and I know Brian is excited too. I feel somewhat 'sayang' (wasted) that he will not be going to ACSI right from the start. On the other hand, I'm also glad he's getting a different kind of education and experience overseas. So it's all good.

Oh, one excellent news we found out at school today was that 4 Jan 2010 will not be first day of school at ACSI. ACSI was recently awarded the SQA (Singapore Quality Award), it's the first educational institution to receive the award...so 4 Jan has been declared a holiday. School will only start on 5 Jan! Why am I so happy? Well, it means I have the option of returning to Singapore from Malaysia on 4 Jan, when in all likelihood there won't be any jam at the causeway...yippee...

By the way, the messy mop gets snipped off tomorrow. The ACSI Year Director saw Brian at the school office and after saying Well Done when she found out he was in the Integrated Programme, said with a smile, "You do know your hair will have to be a lot shorter when school starts right?" Yikes :)

Mop dos are fine for a Beatle, but not for "A Scholar, An Officer and a Gentleman", geddit son? Wait kena caning then you know.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Freezing in Moscow

This is our third winter in Russia. Yet, this is our first time experiencing really freezing weather. I mean, the past two years, winter was relatively mild, by Moscow standards, at the coldest, it was around -10, and when it did go much below that, we were vacationing back home near the Equator. So we never got to experience what minus 20deg C actually felt like.

Well, this year, I felt that winter has been pretty warm, but as it turned out, temperatures dipped significantly this week. Today, when I went out to the mall, it was minus 17C, and that was at noon. Tomorrow, the weather forecast says maximum temperature will be minus 22C. A Singaporean friend who used to work in Moscow had said walking out of a building in to minus 20C temperature felt like he was being punched in the face. Yikes!

Our predecessors did tell us that when temperatures dip below minus 10C, the weather is actually really gorgeous. It'll be sunny and bright, just extremely cold. It's when the temperature hovers between minus 10C and plus 10C that everything looks dull, dreary and depressing. They were right.

This picture of Sean outside school was taken last week when temperature was around minus 6C. The sky is dull, not a tinge of blue in sight.

Pictures below were taken outside the mall today. It was such a nice, bright day and the air felt crisp and fresh, the sky a brilliant blue.

Don't the buildings behind the mall's sprawling carpark look like HDB flats?

It was so cold even the condensation inside the car turned immediately into ice!

Winter is officially and truly here!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Solving the Bermuda Triangle Mystery

The Bermuda Triangle of stationeries, that is. As recently as early this week, Brian came to me asking for a ruler and as usual, we couldn't find one. When he needed colour pencils for homework, again, we could only find a limited number of colours. It was frustrating cos I am always replenishing supplies but they seem to go missing as quickly as I could buy them.

So this weekend, I went around the house hunting for lost items from the Bermuda Triangle of stationeries. Recovered were about 50+ rulers (including about 7 protractors), 20+ erasers, 10+ sharpeners, 100+ pens (about 50+ blue, 40+ black, 10+ red and an assortment of other colours), 10 correction tapes/liquid, 100+ pencils (about 20 of these brand new in box) and hundreds of colour pencils. And this is after discarding a half wastepaper basket full of unusable pens/pencils/highlighter/empty correction tapes etc.

I organised the items and stored them in clear plastic cases such as this one for Blue Pens.

Hopefully, this system works and things stop finding their way into the Triangle.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Standstill in snowy Moscow

This year, the first snow came on November 1 and since then it's been pretty much a snow-less affair. A bit of snow once a fortnight but generally pretty warm compared to previous years. When I say warm, I mean in early single digit celsius.

Today, the cold returned with a vengeance. It was just this past weekend that they started installing Christmas trees and decorations all around the development we live in. This is the Christmas tree that stands in the middle of the now snow-covered football field.

Picture below was taken at 10pm and right before this I saw a few Russian children making snow angels! Brrr...

I just found this on the internet. I was right about this winter being unusually warm, the caption on this WSJ's Picture of the Day read: SNOW IN MOSCOW: An honor guard soldier stood at the Eternal Flame outside the Kremlin in Moscow, Monday. Heavy snow hit the Russian capital for the first time this season as after record-breaking warm weather in December. (Ivan Sekretarev/Associated Press)

Apparently, today's snow caught Moscow authorities by surprise and traffic came to a standstill in the city. In fact, not just the city, we were unlucky to be stuck in school too. The workers are usually very efficient in clearing snow on the roads, but because the weather changed quite suddenly, they were caught off-guard.

All morning, I had been huddled warmly at home enjoying the Finale of Amazing Race, last night's X Factor results and then the Fall Finale of Desperate Housewives (season 6 is really good) so I didn't even realise it was snowing till Eddie told me. He called to warn me to keep warm when heading for school pick-up as the temperature was -7 and it was "snowing very heavily". I didn't take him that seriously, just said, "Got meh?"

The drive to school was pretty smooth. I had to pick Sean up after his Cooking Club activity at 430pm as Brian's activity ended only at 5pm today. I had warned Brian to hurry as Eddie needed the car for a function at the Indonesian Embassy at 6pm. But when we were ready to leave and I called Alexey, our driver, he said BIG PROBLEM, BIG JAM. So in my chicken-and-duck talk with him over the phone, I told him to call me once all was clear. Called Eddie to tell him Alexey would probably not be able to make it to him in time, and he said he'll take a cab to his function and Alexey could pick him up after the function.

Took the boys to the cafeteria, ordered loads of french fries and a bottle of coke. And then Eddie had to call Alexey and rushed him, cos he was worried traffic to the city would be really bad, so he wanted us to start heading back. Quickly finished our fries, went into the car at 5.24pm, and the car moved maybe 10 metres, still well within the school compound, and we were stuck there for almost 1.5 hours! During that time, the car moved maybe 5 feet more. Unbelievable.

I later found out that the SQ station manager's daughter, who goes to the British school, was stuck in her school bus for 3 hours today. So in comparison, the boys had it good. Still, I had to endure Sean's fatalistic, "We're never going to get home!" "We'll be here forever" "The car is never going to move!" whining and crying in the car on and off for an hour or so, I can't imagine having to do that for 3 hours in a bus. I think if he had been in a school bus, the bus driver would have kicked him out of the bus.

So we got home, happy to be warm, and Alexey heads for the Embassy. Then at 10pm, the door opens and Eddie's back, freezing cold. He and his colleagues had taken a cab from the office to the Embassy and abandoned the cab midway cos the cab wasn't moving. They took the metro and from the station walked to the Embassy. And then Alexey got stuck in city traffic and never made it to the Embassy. Eddie ended up taking the Metro and walking in -7 deg temperatures and terribly thick snow home! When he reached home, he could hardly speak and said he couldn't feel his nose haha.

Meanwhile, Alexey is still stuck in traffic somewhere in the city. Poor guy.

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow?...

Monday, December 07, 2009

Why homeschooling is out for me

One weekend about a month ago, I told Sean he had to choose to either do some Math work or write a story. He refused. I said he had to choose one. He cried. I threatened. He cried some more. I threatened some more. In the end, he said, Fine, I choose writing. This is what he came up with.

There was a boy who needed to write a story on his older brother's not-used-anymore examination pad. He cried gigantic tears, like these. (see dollops of tears in box)

Then he had an idea. He wrote a story about himself, and this is the story that he wrote. Then he showed the story to his mother. The mother said the boy had to do math, and the boy cried gigantic tears again.


And that is why homeschooling is out for me. But for those who think they can, here's a homeschooling site that one of the mummies here recommends.

Scooby Dooby Dooby Doo ooo ooo...

Sean absolutely detests the cartoon Scooby Doo. Every time it comes on, he'll shout for the tv to be turned off or if Brian continues watching, he'll run off to his room.

This evening, the show came on. He started his nonsense again, "Turn it off, it's boring!"

I teased him, "But I like it."

He said, "Well, I don't. It's boring and it's always so obvious what happens in the end."

I laughed, "Really? What always happens?"

"First, they'll get chased by monsters, and it's not funny, and then in the middle when they get chased by monsters, they'll meet some people, and then they trap the monsters, and then they take off the monsters' heads and then the people they met are the monsters. It's always, always, always the same thing, it's boring."


Friday, December 04, 2009

Hexy's Wonderful Winter

Sean has been writing stories in school again. This one was done over about 3 days in school. He had told me he was writing a story about a snowflake. After a couple of days, I asked him if he was ending the story, he said no, he was still writing it. This was hurriedly ended yesterday after the teacher told him to finish up his story. Perhaps his teacher wanted everyone's work done before today's Parent-teacher meeting. I understand he has an unfinished Tortoise and Ants story...a work in progress.

Anyway, here it is, a story about Hexy the Snowflake. There are no paragraphs in his story but there are breaks here to incorporate the photos. I've also added in italic little notes of my own, stuff I had asked him to clarify.


Full Title: Hexy's Wonderful Winter (but in the second part he didn't like it.)

Wheeeee! Hexy loved falling, especially with all of his friends. The sights were amazing. He saw a mini castle which had kids on it, chains attached to tyres, a gigantic spiderweb...Hey! This place looked familiar. Aha! I knew it! I'm in AAS, the best school that anyone had ever been to. THUMP! He landed on an interesting paper held by a certain person wearing glasses and had a green and black jacket. Hmmm...said an intrigued Hexy. Bose-Einstein Condensate? What is it? The fifth state of matter? (Note: Hexy was reading the paper held by the person wearing glasses...no prizes for guessing who it is.)

How are its atoms arranged? Oooooh! The atoms clump toge-FFFFFFT! A strong wind blew Hexy away and broke one of his bones. ARRRGH! screamed Hexy. RUMBLE went hungry Hexy's stomach. Faster and faster Hexy went until...BOOM! he broke the sound barrier! He was in space now, far above the heliopause (Note: Sean explains, Heliopause is the outer-most area of the Oort Cloud...and the Oort cloud is the part of the solar system that didn't form planets, that's where all comets come from; from my googling, Oort Cloud is a large sphere surrounding our solar system, considered to be the maximum range of our sun's gravitational influence.). But Hexy was still going fast. He was heading for a black patch which seemed to be sucking stars inside it. He was going to a BLACK HOLE!

Help! cried Hexy. VVVVVVVV...Hexy was reaching the event horizon (Note: Sean explains, event horizon is the point of the Black Hole where nothing, not even light, can escape) of the black hole. VVVVVVVVV...Nearer and nearer Hexy came. VVVVVVVVV...Hexy was very scared. VVVVV...PSSEEOUW! Oh no! Hexy got sucked into the black hole! Luckily Hexy's atoms reassembled themselves to make Hexy again.

Hexy saw wonderful shapes. He saw a cube, a tetrahedron, an S shape, a spiral, two pentagon-based pyramids stuck together tightly, a vase, a few megastars and a humongous atom. (Note: At the top left corner is Hexy, the top half of Hexy, that is, and the dots below that is Hexy's atoms reassembling; at first I thought it was the school swing or something).Suddenly, Hexy saw AAS...in the black hole! Oh no! said Hexy. I have to save them! With super speed, Hexy grabbed some indigo yarn, tied it around the school and, holding the yarn, shot out of the black hole like a bullet. ZOOM! went Hexy. The Earth looked bigger...and bigger...and then it looked HUMONGOUS.

With a KER-WHUMP and a BOOM the school landed back to its original position. Phew! Hexy wiped his sweat off. That sure was pretty fast. Little did he realize that in his later life he would encounter speed way faster than that. Hexy had just recovered from his broken bone when a laser gun fell to the ground with a WUMP and bounced into Hexy's hand.

It was quite heavy at first but for the next 5 weeks or so, it got easier and easier and easier to hold until it seemed as light as a feather (Note: He meanders a lot here, obviously losing the plot d). After Hexy's delicious lunch he got whisked away by a colourful gust of wind (Note: I asked him, why is the snowflake having lunch? Were you having lunch when you wrote this? He said, well, snowflakes have lunch, it's just that we're never outside during lunch to see them having their lunch.) Luckily Hexy was somehow hovering over the beautiful wind because Hexy soon realized the gust of wind was a lot of different plasmas cleverly mixed together.

He touched the plasma (Note: Big blob in picture is plasma) and POOF! He had a hard plast (typo: plastic) container around him! Soon it was spring. Hexy enjoyed watching his friends fall as raindrops and evaporating slowly into the air. Then it was autumn. The wind blew Hexy's container. Hexy rolled and rolled and rolled. Soon after it was winter and Hexy came out of his container. Holding his container, Hexy was blown away. "I wonder what things I will see today," said Hexy in that cold, winter morning.

The End (this is only Part 1, Sean says)


Having seen his story, Ms Jayne says she will be teaching him about planning story plots, not meandering, paragraphing, and possibly moving towards cursive writing (which he already has handwriting worksheets on). Lots to work on for the little fella.

Parent-teacher meeting 2009

In all the years that I've attended parent-teacher meetings, for both Brian and Sean, I've gone alone. Today, Eddie actually attended one with me! Unfreakingbelieavable. And I didn't even ask him to...he just decided he wanted to join me...which kind of felt a little strange at first. But it's all good. It is a momentous day indeed. :)


Anyway, the meeting was with Sean's teacher. As I had said earlier, I was really pleased when I found out who Sean got as his teacher this year. I hadn't had the chance to speak to her much since Sean joined her class so today was the first time we actually managed to talk about Sean and how he was doing.

The meeting started with her asking if I had any comments about the report she had sent home a week ago. Not really, I said, my main concern is the social aspect of his schooling. How is he doing in this area?

She said when she first saw that she was getting Sean in her class, she expected him to come in and strut around saying, "I know this, and I know that"...but that he's not at all like that. He is very sweet, friendly and always cheerful when he steps into class every day. Eddie was concerned that he might be snooty or rude to the other children, the way he sometimes acts around us at home, making nasty faces at us, glaring at us, saying we are silly etc. She says she never sees that, he doesn't show off, nor does she feel he is spiny (as in easily annoyed or upset by others). Generally an easy-going and happy kid.

I told her he says he doesn't have friends (he wasn't complaining or unhappy about this, he was just stating this as mere fact). She says he is friendly and children around him like him BUT they just do not have the same interests. What interest other children don't interest him at all and vice versa. And he's happy to be absorbed in his own thing.

He zones out completely when he reads. She loves watching when he reads cos he'll be so focused and then he'd suddenly burst out heartily in laughter. When it's time to line up, she tries to make sure there is no book around him, because if there is one, no matter what level, it could be a simple picture book, he would immediately be drawn to it and will open it up to read and that's it, zone out.

She said she's told the other teachers she's always worried when she sees his little hand come up, it's like, "Uh-oh, what's he going to ask now?" and that he keeps her on her toes. But recently, she was so pleased with herself cos for the current unit of inquiry, they were learning about matter, and she was telling the class about the 3 states of matter, when his little hand went up, and he said, "Actually, there are 4 states of matter." and she immediately pounced and said, "Aha!, actually there are 5!" She related this to us with much glee :)

I remember Brian talking about the 5th state of matter here when Sean and him were arguing about the 4th state of matter but obviously Sean remembered none of that. So when Ms Jayne started talking about the 5th state of matter, she said Sean got very excited and kept asking about Bose-Einstein Condensate. She soon noticed the glazed look on the other kids' faces so she told him she'd print out an article for him, he could read it and discuss with her later.

Ms Jayne thinks it must be very frustrating for him to know what he knows and yet not be able to share that with the kids around him. For example, the other day, he asked her if he could bring in his Mystery of the Periodic Table book. When she said yes, he came home looking for the book. Inside the book, I had written, "Dearest Sean, With Love, from the Tooth Fairy, 19th September 2009." She said he shared the book with his classmates, and again she saw the glazed look on the kids' eyes, and when it was question time, instead of asking about the book, they started asking when the tooth fairy came! LOL!

So she later engaged him by asking him if he knew all the different elements (or gases, I don't remember). He said he only remembers some. She replied, that's all right, I've forgotten many myself. Do you know the Noble Gases? He said he did, and started telling her what they were. I thought what she did was pretty impressive cos even though I had bought him the book, I had never heard of Noble Gases and wouldn't have bothered to find out. For sure, I never read even a page of that book.

Last year, I had asked Sean why he doesn't talk about all the stuff he loves so much in school, his reply was, "Cos no one would understand." Well, Ms Jayne seems to understand or at least make an effort to. Even when they were talking about Thinking Hats, she would introduce words like Metacognition to Sean, after which he'd come home and tell us about the new word he had learnt, Thinking about thinking.

She added that he derives his happiness from activities that are more insular, from reading, from absorbing information...For example, in Free Choice, kids can choose to do anything they want, and Sean immediately wants to draw, read, write or work on Math. But he's perfectly happy to be in his own little world. Which makes her wonder if we really need to make kids who are 'unbalanced' more balanced, or should we just accept them for who they are. Do we need to make them 'normal', what exactly is 'normal'?

I told her I've wondered the same myself, and I have no answer for that either. Everyone with asynchronously-developed children will always hear that their kids need to be more balanced. I only said that I wanted her to know that Sean is very happy to be in school, and that I'm happy with what she's doing, keeping him engaged and as much as she possibly can, challenged. Really, what more can a parent ask for of a teacher? I'm content.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

The tortoise and the human

Once upon a time there were two good friends. One was a tortoise and the other was a human.

One day, when they were walking down the pavement, the tortoise farted in the human's face and the human fainted.

Then the fart came into the tortoise's nose and the tortoise fainted.

The end.

The tortoise who ate everything

From 1H2009


Once upon a time a tortoise ate the universe. She was still hungry.

She ate zero-space. She was still hungry!

She finally ate herself, and she was probably still hungry!

The hungry tortoise

1H2009. The title is about a tortoise but the story is about a turtle.

Once upon a time, a turtle was dreaming about eating a Lettuce.

The turtle ate a lifetime supply of lettuces.

The turtle became very fat.

The strong old tortoise

From 1H2009. This story doesn't seem to have any ending :)

Once upon a time there was a old tortoise. The old tortoise squashed a tortoise. The tortoise died.

(Tortoise is holding a cane. The yellow stuff sticking out from its bottom is not its tail, but the tortoise that was squashed)

The old tortoise got locked up in a cage made out of the strongest material on earth.

The old tortoise broke the cage.


From 1H 2009

Here is my ocean habitat. I hatched on a beach in Sentosa, an island near Singapore. What am I?

Here is my school. The tortoise with this: (drawing of a badge that the big tortoise has around its neck) is my dad. (note: At the boys' school, parents and other outsiders need to wear their special passes when in school)

On February 2007, my mom almost swallowed a plastic bag. But before she could eat it, she saw that it didn't have tentacles.

I want to be a scientist next time. I don't care if I look silly.

The end.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The tortoise who got squished

From 1H2009

Once upon a time, a tortoise was chasing an ant.

Suddenly, there was a shadow.

(Note: Above the tortoise is the Big Toe of a human being :))

The tortoise got squished by a person.

The Giant Galapagos Tortoise

From 1H 2009

This is a giant galapagos tortoise.

If you count the paws you'll get 5, which means this is not a regular tortoise.

And this is his great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandson. He weighs 92 tons.