Book + Excursion = Stacey Goes to the National Museum by Lianne Ong (and a giveaway!)

One of the things that I like to do when I’m reading books together with my kids is find ways to put the subject matter of the book into a real world context by taking the children on an excursion. This works the other way round too – sometimes if I’m planning to take the kids on an excursion, I like to read them books with topics related to the places where I’ll be bringing them.

For example, if I’m taking the kids to the zoo, I might read them books about visiting the zoo, or books about certain animals at the zoo. This is a sure-fire way to get them excited about a trip to the zoo, especially when they recognise the creatures from the books they are reading! Reading around an excursion helps to reinforce their learning and gives them a chance to apply their knowledge.

This is why I was really excited about Lianne Ong’s new book, Stacey Goes to the National Museum.

I love taking J and Little E to our local museums. There’s plenty for them to see and do, and best of all, there’s no admission charge for Singapore residents!

In Lianne’s book, little Stacey visits the National Museum of Singapore and gets a special insider’s tour of the place (from a very unusual guide). The story is straightforward and simple to read, and shows off museum exhibits that may capture a child’s imagination and spark their interest in local history.

What makes this book really stand out for me are the beautiful illustrations by James Tan, which showcases the museum’s collection with just a little bit of distorted perspective that comes with looking at them through the eyes of a child.

J and Little E loved the book so much that they insisted on taking it with them to a recent visit to the National Museum and looking for all the various items described in the book. It was like a treasure hunt!

To complete our visit to the library, we decided to work together to make a book trailer for Stacey Goes to the National Museum! Little E was really excited about making a book trailer, especially after she watched the books trailers from our Summer Reading List 2014 post.

I think this book would make a great souvenir from a trip to the National Museum, and a great localised gift for your foreign friends who are still interested in Singapore after meeting you (heh heh heh).

If you haven’t visited the National Museum recently, why not pop down tomorrow on 9th August or next week on the 16th August 2014 – Lianne Ong will be conducting storytelling sessions at 2pm and 3:30pm, and this will be followed by a fun activity based on the book! (Click here for more information)

A Special Something for Owls Well Readers: Armour Publishing Pte Ltd is kindly sponsoring a giveaway of Stacey Goes to the National Museum by Lianne Ong for TWO lucky Owls Well Readers!  

To take part in this fantabulous giveaway just complete the following:

1. Be a fan of the Owls Well Facebook Page

2. Be a fan of the Stacey Goes to the National Museum Facebook Page 

3. Leave a comment below and tell me about an exhibit at the National Museum that you find or have found particularly interesting! Don’t forget to leave your Facebook name and your email address so that I can contact you if you win – or if you’re really shy, you can email your details to me separately at 4owlswell@gmail.com

4. (Optional) To double your chances of winning, share or reblog this giveaway on any form of social media that you fancy and leave a comment below with the link!

(This giveaway is open to anyone who is able to redeem the book from the Armour Publishing HQ at Bukit Merah and ends on 15 August 2014. Winners will be picked via Random.org – just make sure you complete the 3 required steps!)

P.S. Check out my review of Lianne’s first book, Maxilla, here!

P.P.S. Check out another review and giveaway of Stacey Goes to the Museum here at Life is in the Small Things.

Update: This giveaway is now closed and the winners have been emailed! Thanks for playing!

Homeschooling in Singapore

Ok Meimei, so the short answer to your question from last Friday is:

NO. Homeschooling is not very popular in Singapore.

This is for the following reasons:

  1. In most families, both parents will return to the workforce a few months after their children are born. This is a decision that is supported by our local government, which offers childcare and domestic helper subsidies, extra paid leave days as well as tax breaks for working mothers as well as additional paid leave and tax rebates for working fathers.
  2. The Singapore mainstream education system may be both rigorous and rigid, but it is affordable and effective. Children who attend school in Singapore will receive a reasonable level of literacy regardless of which school they do attend, in a safe and secure environment. I have yet to meet a Singaporean from the mainstream school who is unable to read, write and have a basic knowledge of math, science and local history.
  3. Most parents lack the skills to teach children and have no clue where to start. This is important especially considering that parents who intend to homeschool in Singapore must have approval from the Ministry of Education to do so, and this includes submitting a curriculum that meets the national standards. Children who are homeschooled must still reach the PSLE benchmarks.

That said, there are still plenty of homeschooling families in Singapore, and I think homeschooling is gaining popularity at a steady pace for these reasons:

  1. Homeschool creates a more sheltered and controlled learning environment for children to learn at their own pace. This is especially relevant for kids who have special learning requirements or interests.
  2. The teacher-student ratio in a homeschool is practically 1:1. It’s essentially full-time private tuition.
  3. Parents can be in charge of imparting values important to their family, without the taint of outside influences. This also means being able to choose like-minded homeschooling families to socialise with.

I have noticed that most parents who choose to homeschool have some form of teacher training or experience, but there are quite a few parents who are quite happy to learn on the job. Unlike myself, these parents all tend to be very patient, highly creative and extremely well-organised individuals.

There are also some local homeschooling moms whom I really admire and whose blogs I read on a regular basis:

1. Jus from Mum in the Making. I love the way she organises her lessons. For example, she is currently teaching her kids about the solar system, so she has drawn it all out on her chalkboard wall in the kitchen, and also had them working on crafts related to stars. Her personal weak point is in the Chinese language, so for that she’s clubbed together with some other homeschooling parents to form a chinese immersion study group!

2. Ka-ren from Mum’s Calling. She has a very holistic approach to learning, often taking her kids on field trips and creating teaching aids from everyday materials. My favourite posts are where she teaches math concepts by using a song and a couple of pot lids, and then brings the kids to the beach to count sand.

Personally, I do not feel that I can handle the pressure of being the sole educator for my children nor am I adequately equipped with the skills necessary to teach or formulate a cohesive curriculum. This is why I’m happy to outsource the teaching to the well-trained educators at J and Little E’s school.

However, I do like to supplement their formal school education with some home-based learning which doesn’t have to follow any fixed curriculum. I truly believe that this encourages autodidacticism, which should be the true goal of pedagogy. For my afterschool learning, I use a combination of excursions, books, online resources, and crafts – and over the next couple of weeks, I’ll give you some examples of how I use these learning methods to supplement J and Little E’s education.

Find out about the Singapore Ministry of Education Guidelines on Homeschooling here.

Find out more about the Homeschooling in Singapore here.

Post-Learning Celebration – MORE LEARNING

Hey Debs!

I TOTALLY PASSED BOTH MY CLASSES!

80% on both classes.  Distinctions for everyone!  HOORAY!

Now that I’m finished with my exams, I can spend some time relaxing, working on my own personal projects and engaging in the delicious frivolity of the Internet!

And guess what?  Crash Course has just released the first of the new episodes that constitute Season 2 of Crash Course World History and it totally mentions Singapore!  EEEEEEEEeeeeeeEEE!

Given the high quality of the teaching in the first season of the series, I am really looking forward to seeing John Green cover the history of non-European civilisations.  After all, what better way is there to celebrate the not needing to learn than with more learning?

Incidentally, I am highly intrigued with the recent trend of available online learning.  Homeschooling is not uncommon in Australia, particularly in the far away areas of the woopwoop[1], so I think that it’s good that materials are being made available for parents to teach their kids with.

Is homeschooling popular in Singapore?


[1] A highly technical term denoting a far away place in the middle of nowhere.

31 of the best (FREE) online learning resources for preschoolers

Over here in Singapore, there is tremendous pressure on children to excel academically, and many of Little E and J’s preschool classmates are enrolled in various expensive enrichment classes.

Although I am trying my best to avoid hot-housing my children, both J and Little E have a innate love of learning and I like to find ways to nurture and encourage them in their educational journey. Now with the June school holidays on the horizon, I find myself actively looking for meaningful home activities to keep them gainfully occupied during the day!

Here is a list of 30 of my favourite (free!) online learning resources that I find myself returning to again and again!

Phonics and Early Reading

With most schools returning to phonics to help children to learn how to read, these are some brilliant websites which will help you to reinforce what your preschooler is learning!

  1. Reading Bear – there are some very lovely videos to help capture your kid’s interest
  2. Progressive Phonics – this has some great e-books and worksheets too
  3. Starfall Phonics – the animations may be rather crude, but the songs are pretty catchy!
  4. Phonics4free – this is a series of videos and guides for empowering parents to teach phonics
  5. ABC Fast Phonics – A very simple no-frills guide to the basics which is good for parents who want to help their kids at home

Mandarin

Bilingualism is very important in Singapore with Mandarin chinese offered as a second language in most preschools. We speak very little Mandarin at home, so I have to find creative ways to expose my children to the nuances in both the spoken and written word. These websites have really helped me to keep my kids interested and engaged!

  1. Chineasy – This is a beautiful website which focusses on the pictorial nature of the chinese written script and helps kids (and adults) to remember chinese characters using gorgeous illustrations and beautifully animated teaching videos.
  2. CCTV Learn Chinese – This is an extensive library of videos aimed at teaching conversational chinese and touches on aspects of chinese culture and daily living as well.
  3. Fun Fun Elmo – Sesame Street has most recently developed a preschool mandarin programme featuring the ever-popular Elmo in a series of 10 minute vignettes! This first season is available on Youtube – and hopefully Sesame Street will release their subsequent episodes online too.
  4. Semanda  – These are some free printable flashcards which cover some basic concepts (such as colours, fruits, animals, vehicles etc) as well as some multiple choice style quizzes
  5. Hanlexon Chinese – This is a useful website for printing out writing practice worksheets. You can alter the worksheet to show the stroke order or allow tracing of the characters

Math

  1. Khan Academy – This site is brilliant for kids who already know how to count. J loves this because he can unlock achievement badges and trophies when he has achieved mastery of a new concept!
  2. Math Worksheet Wizard – Here is a simple worksheet generator to help reinforce simple counting, addition as well as subtraction.
  3. ScootPad – This has a basic free system for individuals as well as a subscription service for classrooms. The basic free system has both Math as well as Reading practice pages (but the Math pages are prettier), as well as some really fun math games!
  4. Math Game Time – this is self explanatory, but helps kids to reinforce their rote counting and number recognition skills
  5. Soft Schools – Here you can find some great free printable worksheets and online games to help grow little mathletes.

Art

These art sites are more for parents who are looking for simple, foolproof art projects for preschoolers as well as lesson plans to introduce kids to art history!

  1. Mrs Brown’s Art Class
  2. Teach Kids Art
  3. Art Projects for Kids
  4. KinderArt
  5. Museum of Modern Art NY

Science

These are a collection of brilliant websites that include some very impressive science demonstration videos as well as projects and simple experiments that you can set up at home!

  1. Science For Preschoolers
  2. Ellen McHenry’s Basement Workshop
  3. The Kid Should See This
  4. BrainPOP
  5. SESL Writing Wizard

Other Useful Resources

There are plenty of awesome sites out there that will inspire your kids to learn more about the world around them! Here are our current favourites that include everything from World History to Astrophysics :

  1. Typing Club
  2. Learning with Fun
  3. Crash Course World History
  4. NASA Kids Club
  5. The Good Stuff
  6. Smarter Every Day

iNbox: Fun in a Box (Plus an AWESOME giveaway!)

Both J and Little E are naturally curious about the world and the things around them and one of my greatest joys is helping to guide them along their learning journey. I like to use a variety of different methods to inspire them – apart from reading to them from books and showing them interesting videos, I like to work together with them on craft projects and play games together that will reinforce learning concepts.

However, coming up with a constant flow of fun and engaging ideas can be challenging (and exhausting), so when Smart Alley approached me and offered an opportunity to review the iNbox, I was very excited!

You've got Mail!

I call this game ‘FUN IN A BOX’, said the Cat

The iNbox is a monthly subscription service which sends along a themed box packed full of fun educational activities aimed at 3-7 year olds. The activities in each box are centred around the adventures of Flinto the Octopus and his friends, as they explore the world together.

To keep the ideas fresh and unique as well as relevant, the team behind iNbox works closely with early childhood educators in developing their materials and has an ongoing partnership with the International Institute of Information Technology, Hyderabad to devise exclusive quality games that will address the developmental as well as entertainment requirements of our wiggly preschoolers!

Here’s a look at what’s inside the iNbox –

Chock-a-block full of FUN

Chock-a-block full of FUN

  1. A set of fingerpaints and an apron
  2. A construction kit – build your own Safari jeep
  3. A craft kit – make some animals
  4. An activity book
  5. A board game
  6. A illustrated storybook

As you can guess from the picture above, the theme for the first iNbox is Wildlife Safari! I really like the cute pictures and bright colours, and the animals are all very well drawn and easily identifiable.

Fun with Flinto

Fun with Flinto

The kids started by reading the book together with their Grandpa, who is visiting with us this month! The story was very simple and easy to read, which makes it a great bonus for emergent readers like J, who was able to read it aloud by himself. The illustrations were certainly appealed to Little E, who became very excited about identifying the animals on each page.

A few days later, we sat down and did the crafts together. Little E worked on painting a set of die-cut cardboard animals under Grandma’s watchful eye, whilst J constructed a cardboard jeep with Grandpa.

Make and do

Make and do

Each craft kit came with a set of clearly written and illustrated instructions, which were very easy to follow. I was quite impressed with the materials provided, which were cleanly cut and well-packaged.

J and Little E seemed very pleased with the end result!

Let's go on Safari!

Let’s go on Safari!

The kids also had fun playing the boardgame together. The board game itself is only suitable for 2 players and involved some simple counting and tile-matching. I personally would have preferred a game that included more players (perhaps up to 4), but the box caters to a single parent-child pair.

I can see how the iNbox would be a great for Grandparents as well as parents who are racking their brains for meaningful activities to do together with the little ones, especially on a rainy afternoon (or three)! Not bad for $22-25 a month!

Heads or tails?

Heads or tails?

If you would like your very own iNbox, Smart Alley is generously hosting a massive giveaway of 100 of the Wildlife Safari subscription boxes!

To snag an iNbox for your kiddie, simply follow these instructions:

  1. Simply log-in to www.myinbox.sg
  2. Click on “I Want My iNbox”  button and fill in your delivery information
  3. Wait for your iNbox to arrive! 
  4. HAVE A FUN!

EDIT: I’ve just been informed that the massive giveaway has already received an overwhelming response and they have already run out of Wildlife Safari subscription boxes. However, Smart Alley is giving away TWO April iNboxes exclusively to Owls Well readers!

For a chance to win, just leave your name and email address in the comment box below! Giveaway closes on 26th March 2014 and is open to Singapore residents only.

Good luck!

(Update: The winners have been emailed. Thanks for playing!)