Developing A Growth Mindset in Kids or, Astronaut Training Camp – A foundational skills workshop by The Little Executive (A Review)

Back in 1995 when I was in Smartypants Class in secondary school, I did a school research project on highly intelligent “gifted and talented” children – partly because I could and partly because it pleased me to think that I was experimenting on my classmates.

My project was an independent study on children who were identified via the use of standardised testing to have IQs within the top 0.5 percentile of their peers. I wanted to compare the emotional and social development of “gifted and talented” children to that of their peers to find out if there was any real or perceived difference.

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Case in point: Debs G going to Smartypants Class (Picture Credit: The Far Side of Gary Larson)

One of the things that I discovered whilst working on this project is that there are a great number of “gifted and talented” children who are also seen to be underachievers by their teachers and that this in fact a rather common phenomenon. I also realised that in my particular cohort of students, these underachievers were from the group of girls who entered the Smartypants Class at 10 years old during Primary School, and were known to be the “Black Sheep” of the class. These black sheep did comparatively poorly on standardised tests as compared to their peers. It was a mystery as to why this should happen, when they had so much potential so as to be identified as “gifted” at a younger age!

Through surveys of my classmates and their parents, I found out that many of my friends believed (as I also did) that success is based on personal aptitude. Amongst ourselves, we would go through great lengths to prove our God-given cleverness to each other, claiming not to have studied for tests or exams as well as making sport of classmates who did work hard in order to score well, calling them “muggertoads”. In fact, so much of our personal identity was wrapped up in being in the Smartypants Class that one of the biggest fears that we had was that of failure – especially if we had bothered to put in effort – because it would prove that we weren’t special at all.

Sad, right?

As part of my project research, I found a book called “Learning and Motivation in Children” at the Smartypants Centre library, and there was an article about how children’s perceptions of their own intelligence affected their ability to learn. In a nutshell, it showed me exactly what I already knew from observation – that kids who were told early that they were smart and talented also became perfectionists who stopped trying when they couldn’t be perfect straightaway. This was called having a ‘fixed mindset’. This article affected me profoundly, as I realised that putting too much stock in my own innate intelligence and abilities instead of valuing persistence and hard work could hold me back from achieving my personal goals.

I didn’t know this at the time, but one of the authors of that article, Carol Dweck, went on to publish many more articles and books about an individual’s implicit theory of intelligence and the importance of children developing and thinking with a growth mindset. She is currently one of the world’s leading psychologists in the field of development and motivation. In her research on learning and motivation, she found that having a growth mindset is a key feature of people who are internally motivated and who are also more likely to succeed when faced with challenges both in school, in work and in life.

Now, as a parent, I have been trying to teach J and Little E  to work hard and persevere, to be self-aware and learn from criticism or setbacks. These are important foundational skills that I feel are important for them to develop at a young age.  Now, I realise that determination, persistence and perceptiveness are considered to be traits which most people will develop on their own through personal life experience, however, it is becoming quite clear that not everybody has the opportunity to figure these things out before they enter the workforce. This is why even our National University of Singapore has set aside a special department, The Centre of Future Ready Graduates, in order to equip all their tertiary level students with these skills!

However, I’m not an expert in education and pedagogy, and all I am doing is trying to muddle through and guide my kids in the best way that I can. When Michelle, co-founder of The Little Executive, contacted me to ask if I would be interested in sending J and Little E to an Astronaut Training Camp during the December holls last year, I was more than happy to oblige!

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J and Little E having fun at Astronaut Training Camp with The Little Executive

The Little Executive actually came into being when one of the founders of Leapfrogs Children’s Therapy Centre, which supports children with learning disabilities, realised that there were more and more parents attempting to enrol their mainstream schoolchildren into her occupational or educational therapy classes.

She realised that all these children, even though they had no learning disabilities at all, seemed to struggle in school on a daily basis as they not only lacked resilience but also had certain learning gaps and a fixed mindset about their innate capabilities. The Little Executive aims to help children develop those essential executive functioning skills needed in order to develop a healthy growth mindset towards lifelong learning.

In my opinion, courses aimed teaching study skills tend to be quite dry and boring as they are often quite abstract in nature – and yes, I have attended my share of such courses as a kid attending the Smartypants Class. However I was pleasantly surprised to find that The Little Executive has found ways to help kids develop these skills in a really fun, hands-on way! I don’t think that the kids even realise that they are learning how to learn – but I have seen the results on my kids and I can tell you that it works. I wish I’d attended these classes myself as a kid, because it really would have saved me a lot of angst.

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J with Jim, one of the educators at The Little Executive

The Astronaut Training Camp, which was held over 4 mornings, was a real treat for J and Little E. Through games, sensory experiments and brainstorming sessions, the kids used their problem solving, communication and observational skills to learn about various aspects of preparing for space travel – even preparing their own dehydrated snacks from bananas, troubleshooting potential issues that might happen during space missions and working together to construct their own shuttle!

Parents were invited to attend a short presentation on the last day of the camp, and I got to tinker with all their craft projects and find out more about what went on during the camp. I was most impressed with the incredible rapport that the educators were able to build with the kids in such a short space of time. Additionally, they were able to engage not only the youngest preschooler (Little E), but also the oldest primary school kid (J) and cater to their different learning abilities.

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After exploring the space shuttle, Thumper is waiting for his turn!

The educators also gave me great verbal feedback on the strengths and shortcomings of both J and Little E, which showed me how experienced they were in assessing children and working on supporting their weaknesses. I would also have appreciated some written feedback on the kids that I could peruse and mull over at my own leisure!

Thumper was really excited to see all the things that his brother and sister made during the camp (especially the really cool jetpacks), and I can tell that he is waiting for his turn to attend Astronaut Training Camp with The Little Executive one day.

I think the greatest reward for me was to see how the course affected J and Little E. I’ve been observing the two of them since school reopened and I have noticed two things:

  1. J’s handwriting has improved dramatically as he has become more conscientious in class, taking more pride in his work.
  2. Little E has started revising her Chinese language readers on a daily basis, asking her brother for help with words that she doesn’t know.

Needless to say, I am more than pleased!

For more information about The Little Executive click here.

Trial classes for The Little Executive’s regular programme are held every Saturday (SGD$48 for a 1.5 hour parent-accompanied class). For more information on trial classes click here.

The Little Executive has got two very exciting camps lined up for the 2017 March school holidays:

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A Special for Owls Well Readers: Congratulations for getting to the end of the post! The Little Executive has kindly offered a very generous discount code just for Owls Well Readers! If you would like to sign your kids up for any of classes at The Little Executive, just quote  OWLSWELLBLOG15 for 15% off the total fee! 

Last Minute Chinese New Year Crafts: Floral Hanging Ball Decoration

Chinese New Year is SUPER EARLY this year and if you’re scrambling for quick and easy decorations for the house, here’s a really pretty floral ball hanging decoration that you can try!

Materials:

  • 60 square angpows or 30 rectangular angpows (use last years angpows if you have them)
  • Scissors
  • Sticky tape or staples (we used red washi tape and clear scotch tape
  • String or ribbon (we used leftover yarn)

Instructions:

  1. If you have rectangular angpows cut them in half to make them square.
  2. Fold the angpows in half diagonally so that two edges of the square meet together. You should end up with a cone-like shape. Secure the edge with tape or staples.
  3. Join 5 of these folded angpows together to form one flower.flower-ball-lantern-angpow-chinese-new-year
  4. Start assembling the floral ball by joining 3 flowers together and securing the petals together with tape or staples.
  5. Add 3 more flowers to form one half of the floral ball as shown below. I found it easier to form one half of the floral ball at a time. paper-flower-ball
  6. Fix the two halves of the floral ball together with tape, then double check all the petals to make sure that they are well secured. A good rule of thumb is that each petal should be secured to two other petals!
  7. Finally, attach a loop of string or ribbon to complete the decoration!flower-paper-ball-decoration-chinese-new-year

Are you ready for The Good Life? (A Challenge!)

Hey Meimei,

Congratulations on completing the 2016 Knitting Challenge! *confetti*

Now, I was thinking…now that you have kinda gotten your garden figured out and it is not full of boulders and tree stumps, I think you are ready for a new challenge!

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Poor Becky clearing all the boulders and weeds (Image credit: Romulation.net)

There used to be a very popular BBC TV series in the mid-1970s called ‘The Good Life’ (which, by the way, you should totally watch).

During the series, Tom Goode, a successful but harassed draftsman, decides to eschew his corporate life in favour of becoming self-sufficient. He was supported in this harebrained mid-life crisis by his wife, Barbara Goode, the most gung-ho lady you might ever hope to meet. Together, they began growing food in the garden to the chagrin of his neighbourhood, making their own clothes and even generating electricity!

This series grew to be so popular that the Queen requested a Royal Command Performance which turned out to be a private viewing of the filming of the final episode, performed live in one take.

No, I am not suggesting that you quit your job in order to go and build your own nuclear reactor or meet the Queen! Put down that letter of resignation now!

I am going to give you a ‘The Good Life’ challenge!

Here are the three elements of the challenge:

  1. You have to give us a ‘The Good Life’ post on Owls Well once a fortnight. With pictures. This update can be a general update on how your garden is doing, or a something that you have learned or observed whilst in your garden. (And yes, your rabbits are in your garden so that is counted. Even though you have no plans to eat your rabbits.)
  2. You have to sell some of the produce from your garden for real cash money. Barter trade is also acceptable.
  3. You have to cook a meal for the Aged Ps that includes produce from your garden. (Bonus points if it’s a multi course meal!)

P.S. If you build this generator, you can consider your challenge completed!

Challenge Completed? The Knitting Challenge!

So, about my challenge

I made a pretty yellow lacy shawl that the Aged P wore on a cruise…

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And I made this fancy strawberry shortcake beret hat that wasn’t a beanie hat[1], which you are wearing!

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Green and pink strawberry beret (which you are wearing incorrectly, I might add).  Haywire pattern from Nellas April on Ravelry.

And then I got…distracted…

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I made this wedding sampler for our wedding anniversary.

…very…distracted.

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I found this Christmas thread in the local haberdashery store and absolutely HAD to make something with it.

…so I kinda stopped knitting for the rest of the year.

At first, I thought that I hadn’t actually completed the challenge, but then I realised that the beanie hat did use a technique that I very rarely used because of its difficulty.

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Check out that braided basketweave!  This is cable knitted, which requires three knitting needles at any given time.

So, YES.  I have decided that I passed the challenge!  Woo!


[1] The difference between a beret hat and a beanie hat is the stretching technique after finishing.

The Happy Family Plan

As you may know, I recently hosted Christmas Dinner for the Owls Well family at my house as a response to the baking challenge that A Becky C set me in the beginning of the year.

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Challenge completed!

The most difficult thing about hosting the Christmas ‘Everything Baked’ Dinner at the my place, was not actually the cooking, but that I had to get myself to a place where I felt like I could invite people (specifically family) round to my house without feeling too upset and stressed about it.

I actually started planning for the Christmas Dinner at my place WAY back in October. I called this my “Happy Family Plan“. The goal of my plan was to be able to have the Outlaws stay at my house and invite the Aged Ps round for dinner at the same time. This was a 4 stage plan, as follows:

 Stage 1:  Reorganise/declutter children’s toys and schedules. 

This was so that we could spend more time at home and that we would also enjoy spending more time at home as the living room area would be more presentable. I felt quite stressed about being at home sometimes as I found myself getting upset with the kids and very unhappy when their toys seemed to be everywhere, even after putting the toys away.

Result: I donated many bags of toys to families who would appreciate them more than we would. Spending more time at home was relaxing too.

Stage 2: Reorganise the cupboards 

Our dining table and counter tops were overflowing with things, as was my desk area. The cupboards had been stuffed willy-nilly to keep everything away from prying eyes but it was reaching the stage where I felt bad about how ugly the cupboards were on the inside and couldn’t even bear to open them to put more things away.

Result: I reorganised the children’s clothing cupboards, our craft cupboard and two of our miscellaneous cupboards, and gave away some of the clothes that I knew I would never wear again (i.e. all my maternity and nursing gear, and my pre-pregnancy work wear). I wasn’t able to go through all the cupboards as I didn’t have enough time, this being an emergency plan, but I did manage to find space to make sure the dining table was clear and that the countertops were not overly cluttered.

Stage 3: Reclaim my bedroom space and the spare room space.

The spare room was being used as a temporary holding area (i.e. storage room) and that needed to change if I was going to put the Outlaws up in there. My bedroom space was only being used as a place to sleep and not a place to relax and that needed to change.

Result: This involved getting rid of large furniture items in my bedroom which were being used as glorified clothes horses. I also moved Thumper out of our bedroom and into the children’s room. This led to both myself and the Barn Owl experiencing better sleep and less guilt for not using furniture as intended. I also felt less upset about the state of the spare bedroom (although still a little embarrassed about the cupboards in there!)

Stage 4: Host guests in the house

Obviously, I wanted to feel proud about where we lived, proud enough to show it off to other people. I didn’t want to worry about whether the Aged Ps would leave my house feeling sad at the state of it.

If you look to the top right of the picture above, you can see that I still had laundry hanging up in my dining room – it was raining so it couldn’t go outside – and whilst I was quite embarrassed that I didn’t have anywhere else to put it, at least I felt okay enough to have people come and visit the house.

And look how happy everyone is!

Happy Family Plan Completed!

Notes on the Happy Family Plan:

I set aside Thumper’s 2 hour morning nap time to devote to the decluttering and tidying portion Happy Family Plan, which was the most time-consuming part of this whole event. I would spend only one hour diligently working, then decompress for half an hour with crisps, a cold drink and Youtube. If I felt good enough, I’d do a little bit more during the afternoon, but not more than half an hour as I didn’t want to burn myself out.

I toyed with the idea of selling all my preloved things, even to the point of opening a Carousell account, but in the end I realised that it was more important for me to get the clutter out of sight quickly. Additionally, I decided that my family is fortunate enough to be in a position where we can afford to be charitable. So, I listed everything on various Freecycle sites as I decluttered, so that these things would go to people who wanted or needed them enough to come and collect them from me. Reducing World Suck whilst accomplishing the Happy Family Plan was a huge bonus, and some days I felt a little bit like Santa Claus!

For Stage 3 of the Happy Family Plan, I had to take into account the fact that there might possibly be a difficult transition period whilst J, Little E and Thumper adjust to the new sleeping arrangements, and I didn’t want this to affect J as he was preparing for his year end exams. So I waited until J had completed his last paper before moving Thumper out of our bedroom.

It was surprisingly easy – the 3 kids did take longer to get to sleep at first as they would play with Thumper after lights out, but there was a lot less fuss from Thumper than I’d envisioned. This was because Little E instantly took over the job of comforting Thumper if he woke her up at night and she managed it a lot better than I normally do! Her secret? “I just tell him to lie down and go to sleep”, says she. I must say I was very proud of all of them, especially Little E, who really had a chance to flex her big sister muscles!

Concluding thoughts:

I’m pleased to say that I am really proud of myself for managing to complete the Happy Family Plan within a short time frame and despite the fact that I only had an hour a day to spend on it! Yay for me!

Whilst completing the Happy Family Plan, I went on my personal social media site and asked for advice for how to declutter and organise my cupboards.

This eventually led to one of my family giving me a set of Marie Kondo‘s books for Christmas! I’ll let you know how I feel about it once I finish reading them.

Sisterly Challenge 2016 results – Baking Challenge: PASS

Okay for those of you who have been following the Owls Well sisterly challenges may remember that I gave A Becky C a knitting challenge, whilst she gave me a baking challenge that I was very nervous about.

Well, I would like to say that I completed 4 out of 5 of the baking challenges that A Becky C gave me, which I think warrants a PASS.

I made a traditional baked dessert that was also a pie. I also made something savoury that wasn’t a pie.

And this year, I hosted Christmas ‘Everything Baked’ Dinner for the Owls Well family at my house – and everything that was served (except drinks) had been oven-baked!

Evidence:

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Happy Christmas Dinner!

I made Baked Potato Mash, Roasted Broccoli, Roast Lamb with root vegetables! Yay!

So. How did your knitting challenge go?

12 Ideas for Last Minute Crafty Christmas Joy 2016

The Christmas weekend is upon us and if you are anything like myself, you might be looking for some brilliant ideas for Christmas decor, Christmas party food or Christmas Crafty activities to keep little hands busy whilst the grownups catch up over a glass of eggnog!

Don’t Panic!

Owls Well is here with a round up of a dozen last minute Christmas crafts and general activity for Funtimes And Merriment from around the web!

Christmas Decorations

  1. I really like these super cute and simple paper angels from Growing With The Tans which I think would look very cute on the tree or as seating cards on the table!

  2. This super creative upcycled Nativity scene by Growing Hearts 123 also doubles up as musical instruments which would be fun for carolling (and there’s also a very clever Christmas Angel tutorial)!

  3. Here is a simple but very pretty stocking stuffer by A Pancake Princess using plain wood blocks – and it comes with a free printable!

  4. This is a very straightforward tutorial for shrink art decorations over at Mamawearpapashirt, which the kids can easily get involved in.

  5. These Marbled Christmas Cards from Fun-A-Day are very unique and a great deal of fun for the kids to make. I mean, who doesn’t love messing about with shaving cream?

    Christmas Gifts

  6. It’s beginning to smell a lot like Christmas – especially with this Homemade Peppermint Sugar Scrub by AdeSays which would make a lovely and useful gift!

  7. Our Owls Well yarn coasters keep little hands occupied and would make some pretty shiny christmas ornaments too! A perfect take-home craft for a Christmas party.

  8. What could be better than a tray of chocolate cookies fresh from the oven? This frozen cookie dough gift idea from iheartnaptime is brilliant and comes with a free printable – and you can use the Barn Owl’s FoolProof Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe too!

  9. I think these Rudolph candy bars from i heart arts n crafts would make very nice door gifts for a Christmas party! You can even set these up on a craft table at the party for any visiting kids

     

    Christmas Food 

  10. I think these Rudolph Baked Potatoes based on an Annabel Karmel recipe are super cute and would be a real crowd pleaser!

  11. Our Owls Well no-bake cake is a great idea if your oven is full of turkey and has no room for dessert – and the kids can help with it too!

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    Delicious and chocolatey

  12. I really like these Santa Fruit Pops from Clean and Scentsible’s Welcome Elf on a Shelf Breakfast! You might have to do the face yourself, but imagine how much fun the kids would have assembling these.

P.S. For more great ideas, check out our 12 ideas for Last Minute Crafty Christmas Joy from last year as well as 35 Simple and Foolproof Christmas Crafts and Free Printables

P.P.S. And don’t forget to use the Owls Well Christmas Party 2016 playlist for your own party!