Review: Chinatown Trail, Singapore

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This is a backdated post of our Chinatown Trail in August – how we spent National Day 2017 before returning home to watch the evening’s National Day Parade.

Before embarking the heritage trail, you might find it useful to download the Chinatown Trail Booklet or Map from National Heritage Board. There’s a mobile application to download as well.

The Chinatown Trail Booklet includes the map and nuggets of information about each historical site. The estimated trail distance is 2.5km. Doable when bringing young children. Letting the kids scoot certainly help!

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We took a train to Outram Park. Starting from Bukit Pasoh Road, we walked through Kreta Ayer, settled lunch at Maxwell Food Centre before finishing our trail at Tanjong Pagar.

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The children got to see the different architectural style of Chinatown’s shophouses; how these styles vary because of changing economy and socio-political circumstances.  A wonderful chance to sing 童谣 (“Tong Yao”) while walking along the five-foot way!

The history of these pre-war buildings come alive as we learn how they were used during World War II. For instance, the Chin Kang Huay Kuan was used by the Overseas Chinese General Mobilisation Council to help the British in supplying labourers and volunteers for the defence of Singapore during the war.

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We discovered how early immigrants contributed to early Singapore. Like Tong Ah Eating House (above) which occupied this triangular plot for over 70 years. Started in 1939, the great-grandfather of Mr Tang Chew Fue who originated from Fuzhou, China started his coffee shop here.

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The Sri Layan Sithi Vinayagar Temple was built in 1925 by Nattukkottai Chettiars, a noted money lending community from Tamil Nadu. The temple was given the name Layan Sithi as it was originally located at the old Sepoy Lines where Indian soldiers , known as Sepoys, used to be housed.

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Keen to start walking? We found these things came in handy:

  • Umbrellas/raincoats (not much shelter to hide from occasional showers)
  • Sunblock and hats
  • Water
  • Snacks (all the walking can get the kids really hungry!)
  • Heritage Trail Booklet

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Lastly, we ended the Chinatown Heritage Trail at URA Centre. It was a treat for the children as they found pianos to play! As part of the Play It Forward movement,  pianos are placed in open spaces in various parts of Singapore for anyone to tickle the ivories. Sweet!

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Guest Post: Homemade Beads in 3 Ways

This week, we learn how to make beads. Hannah loves dressing up. The girly girl in her enjoys wearing necklaces and bracelets. So when Jessica from Education.com shared this idea with me, I just had to try them with my girl! 

Education.com provides parents,homeschoolers and teachers with fun learning resources e.g. worksheets, lesson plans, digital games, an online guided learning platform, and more. Over to Jessica:

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Stringing beads is a fun way to give boredom the boot. And most preschoolers, both girls and boys, enjoy taking a crack at it.

Beyond fueling creativity, beading also has another trick up its sleeve: it helps young kids practice patterning, or sequencing, which lays the groundwork for math, reading, and science. You can buy a sack of beads at any craft store. But here are 3 inexpensive ways for kids to make their own beads, from scratch.

Continue reading Guest Post: Homemade Beads in 3 Ways

DIY Activities in Minutes!

The weather has been so unpredictable these days. One minute, it pours. The next, it’s bright and cheery. So while you wait for the weather to clear, here are seven DIY activities you can dish out to your kids in minutes!

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Continue reading DIY Activities in Minutes!

What We Do on a Rainy Day

It’s wet, wet, WET throughout this week (and more to come). Here are some things that keep us occupied while staying dry. 😉

Create a story box

Story boxes are a great tool to allow children be their own storyteller. They encourage creativity, imaginative play and literacy development. It can be a scene from your child’s favourite story book, a show, or anything they imagine!

Things needed: any empty boxes, paint, crepe paper, paint and any craft materials you find at home.

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Continue reading What We Do on a Rainy Day

Indoor Art Activity: Crayon Etchings

Crayon etchings: indoor art activity for children

The heat is on!  On Wednesday (13 Apr 2016), Singapore recorded its highest temperature in a decade this month: 36.7 deg C.

With the scorching weather refusing to let up,  we hide ourselves indoors from the blazing afternoon sun.  Keeping the children entertained isn’t an easy feat especially when I have to prepare dinner and do laundry.

Recently, I’ve found crayon etchings to be a useful activity to keep their little hands busy and burn those energy.

You will need:

  1. Bright coloured crayons
  2. Black crayon
  3. Toothpick or end of paintbrush
  4. Small sheet of paper
  5. Newspaper

Start by colouring the bright coloured crayons all over your paper.  You have to press firmly to create a thick layer of colouring. (That’s how you expand their energy!)

Place a pad of newspaper under the sheet of paper.  Cover the layer of crayon with black crayon.  The newspaper will allows the black crayon to coat evenly.  Again, you need to press firmly to coat a thick layer.

Now, lay newspapers all over the table before you etch.  This makes clean-up easier.  Remove the pad of newspaper before etching.

Design your picture by scraping the black layer with a toothpick or end of paintbrush.

I’m sure your children will feel hungry after all that colouring!  Just in time for dinner. 😉

ABC Jesus Loves Me (ABCJLM) Curriculum Review

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I’m terribly late with this curriculum review. But time has only heightened my appreciation for Heidi Franz’s “ABC Jesus Loves Me” (ABCJLM) curricula.

We’ve used all four of ABCJLM’s curricula: 2-year to 5-year. Here’s how we began:

During our first year of homeschooling (read here), I wasn’t sure if things would work out.  Hannah was then barely two.  All I knew was, I wanted a Bible-centered curriculum. And it has to be affordable.

So clueless me googled “homeschool curriculum for preschool”, and read many blogs and homeschool forums.  Then I cried.

Some curricula were terribly expensive (shipping fee not factored in)! Others were too overwhelming. How was I to do my laundry, cook, mop the floor…. I just wasn’t sure if I could complete all the things in the checklist within a week.

I prayed and prayed. There’s a tug in my heart to embark this journey.  But how Lord?

Finally, I landed on “ABC Jesus Loves Me” website.  It’s bible-centered. Check! The lessons seem doable. Check! It’s comprehensive. Check! It’s FREE!! Hallelujah!

Some friends whom I spoke to were skeptical about the quality of a free curriculum.  So I did more research. Having read many good reviews about the curriculum, I held my breath and took the plunge.

Four years on, I’m glad I took the first step.

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“ABC Jesus Loves Me” curriculum offers more than just academic development.  It teaches about gross and fine motor skills.

I especially like that it incorporates tips on basic manners, self-care and information a child ought to know. Being a first-time mom, I wasn’t sure what to teach and when without overwhelming my child. So having weekly objectives were definitely welcomed!

Following a weekly objective helped pace our learning.  I didn’t have to follow a daily lesson plan or checklist rigidly. The activities and crafts were adequate.

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Of course, I’m very, absolutely grateful that Heidi offers ALL lesson plans to homeschool families for free.

While you could have the lesson plans and workbooks printed for you,  I had several concerns.  Firstly, I wasn’t sure if homeschooling works out for us.  Secondly, the international shipping fee was is a BIG concern for me.  The currency exchange rate is another major factor.  USD$60 = nearly SGD$90 (excluding shipping fee).

Without a doubt, having everything printed allows me to have more sleep. 🙂  I might consider this option when teaching Elijah.

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Early this year, Heidi introduced the 1-year curriculum. We’re several weeks into the curriculum for Elijah.  So far so good!  Elijah has picked up basic sign-language.  His learning pace is vastly different from Hannah’s.  This new curriculum certainly provides me with much needed tips and ideas.

I find it difficult to teach Hannah and occupy Elijah at the same time.  I’ve tried setting up independent activities for Elijah but he doesn’t play on his own for long.  He’s more interested in his sister’s work!

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Having started on the 1-year curriculum, I find that I’m able to teach both children.  Hannah enjoys helping her brother in his work.  And she gets what she enjoys: more “school” time with me.

I still struggle to carve out time to prepare activities, borrow books and print activity sheets for both children.  Nowadays, I’m so drained by evening that I end up in bed with the kids. If you have any tips or suggestion on how to better manage time, please drop me a line.  Suggestions very welcomed!

Ok, I’ve digressed…

All in all, if you’re looking for a flexible, Bible-centered, quality preschool curricula, then check out ABC Jesus Loves Me.

Happy homeschooling!

Easy Easter Kids’ Crafts

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I’ve always been apprehensive about making our own Easter eggs, especially the mess I’ve to clean up if Hannah breaks an egg. That’s until I realised we could use hard-boiled eggs!

I know you must be thinking, “What have you been thinking all this time?!”

This egg crafting business is really new to me.  Here are several ideas for newbies like me:

Food Colour Dye Eggs

Mix 1/2 cup boiling water, 1 teaspoon vinegar and drops of food colour to achieve your desired colour.  Dip your hard-boiled eggs in the dye for 5 minutes. Remove and allow the eggs to dry.

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Painting on Empty Egg Shells

Daddy contributed this idea!  He made a small opening on the eggs, removed and cooked scrambled eggs for breakfast, then washed the egg shells.

With chopsticks and a cup to prop the egg shells, we left them to dry before painting them.     The chopsticks and cup helped keep Hannah’s hands and clothes clean.  Minimal clean-up effort!

Crayon Decorated Eggs

Now, this method requires some practice.  We had used crayons to draw designs on hard-boiled eggs.

I meant to dye the eggs after that to create crayon-resist effect. However, the eggs were crushed after Hannah drew on them.  So we skipped the dye.

As you can tell, we had a lot of eggs to finish for the week!

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Yarn Eggs

A friend taught us this.  Blow up a ballon to the size of your fist.  Secure balloon with a knot. Dip yarns in PVA glue (diluted with some water). Wrap glue-covered yarn around balloon.  The balloon should be fairly well covered with yarn.

Allow balloon and yarn to dry completely.  Pop balloon and remove it.

Oh, you could also use this egg to share about Jesus’s resurrection.  The egg is hollow because Jesus has resurrected!. The tomb is empty!

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Sticker Decorated Eggs

We did this on Thursday at MOPs (Mothers of Preschoolers).  Simply stick stickers on a hard-boiled egg.  You could even tell the Easter story with the stickers.  Hannah chose to illustrate Jesus’s crucifixion by pasting 3 crosses.  Two for the criminals and Jesus in the middle.

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Easter Kids’ Activities

In the run-up to Easter, we recount Jesus’s crucifixion and resurrection with Easter Activity Workbook.  It’s a 7-day countdown that covers Palm Sunday through Christ’s resurrection. You could get your free copy by subscribing to ABC Jesus Loves Me Blog.

We also learned about the story of the resurrection eggs through the book, “Lily’s Easter Party“.  It’s an interesting concept to recount the Easter story using symbols.

Intrigued by the concept, I shared this at our Mandarin co-op. Retelling the Easter story in Mandarin proved to be a feat!  It surely was a relief to know that the children enjoyed the Easter egg hunt and discovering the symbols.

Life Your Way and Teaching Heart provide free materials to go along with story.

Even if you didn’t get to do any craft or activity, don’t be dismayed. Take this Sunday to quiet your heart and let God speak to you. He’s the reason for Easter.

14022783319_ee3e72485b_bPhoto by Andrea Howey on Flickr

Happy Easter!

Power of Belief: Books That Make A Difference

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Hello 2016!  Happy New Year to you!

A new year brings fresh beginnings.  At home, I’m revisiting my goals and vision for the family.  One of which is to raise my children as history makers. And I often look to books as a source of inspiration.

Let’s kickstart 2016 with six fantastic books that teaches children to believe in themselves and their actions make a difference.

894110The Firekeeper’s Son
by Linda Sue Park

Set in Korea in the early 1800s, Sang-hee, the son of a village firekeeper has to make a tough decision: should he lit the fire as instructed or satisfy his desire to see soldiers in action?

Hannah relates to this story because very often, she too, is caught between wanting to do what is right and what she wants.  This story highlights why doing the right thing doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve lost everything else.

15818591Red Kite, Blue Kite
by Ji-li Jiang

A historical fiction set in the time of the Cultural Revolution in China. Tai Shan’s father was sent away. Their only mean of communication was by flying their kites.

I love the bond between father and son, and how Tai Shan waits in anticipation for his father to return.

This tale of hope will resonate with young readers who have to deal with separation from a loved one.

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Malala, a Brave Girl from Pakistan/Iqbal, a Brave Boy from Pakistan: Two Stories of Bravery
by Jeanette Winter

This inspirational picture book shares the story of two brave children who weren’t afraid to speak out against unfair practices in their society.

It’s definitely a conversation starter with our young ones, and their courage and tenacity serves an inspiration for all us to learn from!

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Just Behave, Pablo Picasso!
by Jonah Winter

Great artists don’t usually paint things that people agree with.  In fact, everyone hated Picasso’s paintings at that time!

Do your kids feel rejected when others label their work as “ugly”?  Have them read this book!

Read our past review here.

13538696The Forgiveness Garden
by Lauren Thompson

Inspired by the original Garden of Forgiveness in Beirut, Lebanon, this story shares with readers how hate “eats” a person inside out and violence isn’t the way to resolve a conflict.

I’m certain this story has left a deep impression on Hannah because she still mentions the story from time to time.

15938465Fish for Jimmy
by Katie Yamasaki

Another historical fiction, this story takes place during the wake of the 1941 Pearl Harbour bombing.

Taro, Jimmy and his mother were sent to a Japanese internment camp. Jimmy soon becomes homesick and refuses to eat.

Having promised his father to take care of his younger brother, Taro slips out of camp, risking getting caught. His concern over the family becomes far greater than himself.

P/s: All books can be borrowed from public libraries in Singapore.

There are many books of characters who learn to believe in themselves and what they do have ripple effects that touches those surrounding them.

Did we miss your favourite?  Let me know which book you think should be added.

Pixar’s “Lava” Inspired Unit Study: Volcanoes and Structure of the Earth

Source: Pixar Wiki

Lava” is Pixar’s latest short film; accompanying the release of “Inside Out”.  My Facebook page was flooded with positive comments about both films when “Inside Out” was released in Singapore on 27 August. It was certainly very different from the other mainstream animation. No villains, no good vs. evil fight scenes, no charming prince rescuing damsel in distress.

Hmmm…it piqued my curiosity and so I decided to check this movie out together with Hannah. Our inaugural movie date!

All in all, we definitely enjoyed both films.  The movie left us teary-eyed as we left the cinema. My 4-year old related more so to the two singing volcanoes than Riley and her adorable emotion characters.

More than just an emotional roller-coaster, we found a great topic to study on – Volcanoes!

Layers of the Earth

To start off, we needed to understand what lies beneath the Earth. These free printable were a great resource for us, particularly the one by Free Montessori.

Layers of the Earth – Montessori Mom
Layers of the Earth Nomenclature Cards – Helpful Garden
Layers of the Earth Cards – Free Montessori 

You could also explain the layers of the earth by slicing a cherry or peach in half.

  • Skin as Earth’s crust – outer-most layer that surround the Earth like a shell.  It is the thinest among the three main layers.
  • Meat as Earth’s mantle – second layer; Earth’s thickest layer.
  • Pit as Earth’s core – innermost layer; a ball of hot solid metal.
Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/52298892@N00/2321321969 via PhotoPin

Marcia’s Science Teaching Ideas has great ideas on teaching plate tectonics.  We made a foldable with “Earth’s Layers Foldable”.

Volcanoes

Source: Pixar Wiki

The following websites came in handy for our unit study:
3 Main Types of Volcano – ZME Science 
The Real Geology Behind Pixar’s Short Film Lava
Kīlauea – Wikipedia
Volcano Facts – DK Find Out

 

We read Scholastic’s Discover More Readers: Volcanoes which provides succinct information and vivid pictures of volcanoes.

Scholastic Discover More: Volcanoes

A fellow homeschool mom shared with us a wonderful Science curriculum, “Mystery Science”.  I used their videos and activities (e.g. mark out the Ring of Fire on the map) to discuss questions such as, “Could a volcano pop up in your background?” and “Why do some volcanoes explode?”.

They are offering a FREE year subscription for a limited time. Subscribe and try out their lessons!

Pixar's Lava Inspired Unit Study: Volcanoes

We tried our hands creating a volcano based on Half-a-Hundred Acre Wood’s Easy to Make a Volcano Erupt Experiment.

I LOVE the fact that we can create a volcano within minutes.  No need to wait for the papier-mâché to dry. Phew!

I was kind of upset with myself for forgetting to buy red food colouring but our Little Miss Sunshine, surprised me by showing me the purple food colouring we had in our kitchen.

“Don’t worry, Mama. We will use this!” she said cheerfully.  I’m glad she’s good at improvising. 🙂

It was great fun conducting the experiment repeatedly and seeing how the “magma” oozes out.

Finally, more printable to round up our lesson on volcanoes:

Volcano Activities – Enchanted Learning
Volcano Unit Study and Lap Book – Homeschool Share
Parts of Volcano – Teacher Vision
Volcano Mini Book – Crayola

We “lava” this unit study!

Have you done any film-inspired activities or unit study recently?

ABCJLM Week 1: Sun, Moon and Earth

Over the last two weeks, we studied the Sun, Moon and our “Blue Planet”. I admit I’m taking a week longer to finish what’s scheduled, but as long as we’re enjoying the process and continue to learn.  I’m good with the pace.

We learned that the gravity of the Sun holds its gases together; forming a consistent shape and size.  The Sun’s gravity also pulls on the planets so that they go around it.  It is also the perfect distance between the Sun and Earth that allows life to flourish.  How amazing is that?!

Earth orbits Sun activity

To demonstrate what “orbit” meant, I got Hannah to swirl a ball of blue play dough (Earth) around a piece of orange play dough (Sun) on a dish. It certainly takes practice to steady our hands and swirl the ball at a constant rate!

Rotation of Earth around Sun: Day and Night

We learned that the Earth rotates every day and takes a year to orbit around the Sun.  To understand how day and night occurs, we used a flashlight (Sun) to shine on a ball (Earth).  We mark a spot on the ball as Singapore, then rotate it slowly.

Next, Hannah became the Sun.  She had to hold still (which was difficult) with the flashlight while I go around her with the ball.  She couldn’t wait to be Earth!  As she walked around me, she sang the months of year in English and Mandarin.

Now the messy bit!

Form Moon Craters Activity

We read that the Moon’s craters are formed when meteorites hit its surface.  And because the Moon has no atmosphere, it has no weather or wind.  So once a crater is formed, there is no way to remove it.

Hannah had fun throwing peanuts (meteorites) onto a plate of flour (moon).  We had observed that the greater the force used to throw the peanut, the bigger/deeper the crater.  Eventually, she decided to put her hands on the “moon”!

Our finale…

Sun-Earth-Moon-Orbit Craft

I love this model because it summarises nicely what we’ve learned. You can download the Sun-Earth-Moon Orbiting Craft here.

Here’s the list books we’ve used:

  1. Sun: Energy for Our Solar System by Julie K. Lundgren
  2. The Sun: The Star of Our Solar System by Ellen Lawrence
  3. The Moon by Nuria Roca, Carol Isern, Rocio Bonilla (check out “The Sun” by the same authors too!)

One reason why I enjoy homeschooling? It’s because I’m always learning together with my child. And without fail, I walk away awe-struck by God’s greatness.

What have you been learning lately?