Saturday, 22 September 2012

Garden Classroom - 15 Sept 2012

Posting by Xian Jin

During the weekend, we went to Universiti Malaya, the alma mater of my parents. When I first saw this place, I felt a sense of excitement. It was a huge place with many different faculties, fields, stadiums, courts and other things. But we're there for the Taman Rimba Ilmu, a rainforest garden rather than a flower garden.

My brother and I posing in front of the Universiti Malaya's logo.

We were early as the traffic was extraordinarily clear and were the first participants to arrive. There was a stadium at the opposite of Rimba Ilmu so we had some fun there. 

 An ice-breaking session and a simple exercise to warm ourselves up. This garden walk was organized by the Malaysian Nature Society. Soon, we were ready to move. Before that, we were given bags and tweezers to collect the dried leaves, fruits and twigs on the ground.

Our guide showed us a short tree named dinosaur palm. It has sharp leaves as a form of protection. It was believed that the dinosaurs liked to eat the seed in the middle of the palm. The guide then showed us a weird plant with fur. It was called the golden chicken fern. It's an endangered plant. Next, it was the thorny palm tree, which has many sharp thorns all around its trunk to prevent animals from eating its fruit.

This was a special plant called the umbrella palm. It has huge leaves and only found in Malaysia. If we forget to bring our umbrella, these will do!

Half way through the walk, we stumbled upon something unexpectedly. We found a monkey's skull and its backbone skeleton, almost covered in the ground. It was an exciting discovery. It was my first time seeing such a thing!

After the walk, we went to the exhibition room where all the information and specimens of insects and seeds of Malaysia were kept. We did a nature journal about the sounds we heard in the garden, our favourite thing that happened, the plants and insects we saw and so on. At the end we did a collage of all the leaves, twigs and fruits we collected. A word of caution for those who want to visit Rimba Ilmu - must bring a powerful mossie repellant!

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

I am a Zoo Keeper - 12 Sept 2012

Brandon joined the homeschooling group to the National Zoo for the "I am a Zoo Keeper" programme. Becoming a zoo keeper is certainly a labour of love. Zoo keepers are fully responsible for the animals in their sections - they clean, feed, provide enrichment for the animals in their care. Edwina, who is a zoo keeper and our guide for the day took us by trams to the Mammal Kingdom. She educates zoo visitors about the animals in the zoo. 

The children were supposed to do food puzzle for 3 groups of animals, ie porcupine, binturong and the striped hyena. The zoo keepers were supposed to keep these wild animals fit and sensitive to their instincts. Hence, the children would help the zoo keepers to prepare some food for them but the animals would not be spoon fed, rather, they have to do some exercises and use their senses to get to the food.

Brandon's group was assigned to do the meat cage with branches and rope. Mummy helped him to tie the knots. We've to make it as difficult as possible for the animals to get to the meat in the middle. To camouflage the meat, we put pieces of bread everywhere on the cage so they would not go straight for the meat. Now we're ready!

One group was poking holes into the banana trunks to stuff tiny pieces of bread and raisins inside. That was really cool. The young ones coloured and decorated the piniata to make them as attractive as possible. We couldn't wait to see the reaction of the animals when they saw the food puzzle!

The porcupines were fast to ravage the banana trunks. 'Yummy!' The binturongs were a bit hesitant and took longer time to reach to the meat cage. 'Delicious!' Hyena was led by the smell and tore the cages in no time. 'Gotcha!!' The children watched in delight and awe.

After the programme, we took a stroll to the lake. We were caught by surprise when we saw hundreds of storks and pelicans coming in all direction toward us. We heard whistling and were puzzled until we saw the zoo keepers. It's feeding time! and the birds immediately recognised it by the whistling. What a sight - it happened so fast, they were on the ground and flying toward us like a marching band. The zoo keepers told us there're 10 species of these birds in the zoo - painted storks, black naked storks, marabou storks, white pelican, pink-backed pelican, night heron, little egrets etc. On average, the lifespan of a stork is about 50 years old.

We didn't feel much when there're a few birds or we're watching them from far, but to have all of them next to you were a bit intimidating. Some of them were as tall as Brandon. He was too excited to bother, but I feared for him. He started work rightaway, throwing the fishes to the hungry storks. Once, a huge white pelican came from nowhere and caught the fish, he was so delighted and roared with laughter. Towards the end, Brandon was tired thus he was slow to throw the fish and a stork snatched it from his hand. That was the only minor accident.

It's a surprise to me because the birds were generally so well-behaved and orderly. When it's the turn of the zoo keepers from the other end of the lake to whistle, the birds flew away immediately. It happened a few rounds, the birds flying to and fro the lake following the sound of the whistle. Indeed it's a labour of love for the zoo keepers, and understandably to me at this point, why it's so rewarding to care for the animals and birds.

Monday, 17 September 2012

Purple School - 31 Aug 2012

The Silver Jubilee Reunion of Class 1987 of Pudu English Secondary School (PESS), also well-known as the Purple School because in those days, our school uniform was in purple.

There were more than 90 of us who attended this Reunion after 25 LONG years - first time for our year of 1987. It was an emotionally-charged experience, bringing back much memories of the 'glory days'. 


My Class 5P1.... many of them I've known since Primary One.

It's a lot easier to organise such reunion today with social networking sites like Facebook. Even managed to contact some of our teachers and they still looked great!

Our 5P1 class teacher, Pn Hasnah was as lively and humorous as before......

We gathered around our teachers, sang our PESS school song, reminding us of our school assembly.....

Many of us looked back on our secondary school days with mixed feelings of pride and embarrassment. We couldn't believe we wore those clothes, got those haircuts, did those 'dumb' things as teenagers.... Connections with long-lost friends were re-established, and notes on careers and families were exchanged. 

After 25 years, school still has an important place in our hearts, even though now it's all memories. We've long forgotten about the facts of our studies and exams, but the secondary school years were much more reaffirming - a feeling of 'we're all in this together' - building memories and learning together, shaping our characters, making mistakes as part of life and inspiring teachers (there're still a few then) who left a mark in our lives. This was all part of the journey of life that I want to share with my children.

Merdeka Festival: Goodbye KL - 31 Aug 2012

A host of meaningful events was held in the old Chinatown on the Independence Day to bid farewell to some of the well-loved, heritage sites around the Petaling Street area.

See old Kuala Lumpur before the heritage sites disappear to make way for the MRT development. 

Victor Chin and artist Long Thien Shih organised the Urban Sketch along Jalan Sultan on Merdeka day. My boys joined in the fun of this meaningful event.

Hive of activities in Petaling Street with people from all walks of life who came for the heritage walks, cycling tour, films, open houses, etc.

Boys warming up with the other artists, photographers and enthusiasts in the Urban Sketch.

Quite shy to sketch in the open and attracted many passers-by to stare at their work.....

What's this? A TV crew!!! Errr, what to say ah???

Tips from the real artist!!

Young and old sketchers... including Liyin, our talented artist friend, who's so kind to invite us to join in the fun.

Finally caught up with Liyin at the old photo studio, Kedai Foto Pak Tai....

This photo studio is simply a favourite for sketchers and photographers...

Bye Bye to the wonderful memories from these places......

Buildings that bear witness to our heritage, traditions, culture and creativity....

Maybe the illustrations and sketches will be the only things remaining to remember these places!

My boys were captured in the Chinese paper. Hopefully this will create an awareness for our next generation.

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Expect the Unexpected - 21 Aug 2012

When things didn't turn out like we expected......

We've a week school-term break that overlapped with Hari Raya celebration. We thought of going to Malacca for an overnight camp - quite last minute, without any booking. We got stuck in a horrible jam, instead of wasting time on the road, we turned back home. We thought of catching a movie - but we couldn't find any that's worth watching. Then, we decided to go ahead with our plan to camp, but at home instead. 

BBQ fun at home with our roasted potatoes and burgers. Everyone chipped in to help and soon we had a fire going.

Our own makeshift rubbish dump!

A first class air-conditioned camp at home and the children slept soundly until the next morning! We thought of setting the tent outside but it rained heavily after dinner and the children backed out.

The next day, we tried again to go to Malacca, at least for a day trip. Traffic was better, but still a lot of cars.  We arrived quite late and set to find the submarine site which was opened to public end of 2011. It was located at Dataran 1Malaysia, Pantai Klebang. We came to this sandy reclaimed area, road was bumpy and there’s nothing much in this place except the submarine on display. This was the decommissioned Augusta 70 class submarine named SMD Quessant. It's an electric-diesel warship made in France.

The submarine was really very very long - about 220 feet! Too bad we could not go inside the submarine.

Going from one place to another in Malacca took like forever. Finally, we came to Pantai Kemunting, a more laid-back beach which is next to the famous Pantai Tg Bidara. There's supposed to be a turtle sanctuary nearby but it was closed! We found a nice sandy beach that's not so crowded and spent the rest of the afternoon there. What we've learnt was that it's different camping on a beach, because the sand kept coming into the tent, the food, and everywhere. And the wind was strong too.

Boys were excited to see this man's attempt to set up his paramotor. It's supposed to be the simplest way of motorized ultralight flying. With a paramotor, he could take-off from a flat area and fly for hours. Well, things didn't always turn out the way you expected..... After many attempts, he still couldn't fly! 

On the way back, we planned to go to Seremban for dinner to avoid the crowd in Malacca.... and it turned out quite differently - again. After our exit from Malacca, the traffic was at a standstill. Boys were starving and we're snapping at one another. We saw the one and only petrol stopover to relieve ourselves. Couldn't believe it - they ran out of food in the kiosk, and no bread or buns! We have to settle with Hot Cup instant noodle - the boys were thrilled. Then we turned an almost unpleasant evening into something special. We took our own food from the car and made our own tuna sandwich with chips and jelly for dessert, and own paper plates and cutlery! We've such an enjoyable time trying to find a solution for dinner that we forgot about our situation.

Picnic in the petrol station! Indeed all things work together for good, even in the unexpected.

Homepreschool and Beyond

I've started to homeschool my 6-year-old boy since June. It's a short term arrangement until he goes to Primary 1 next year. Homeschooling is not a new idea in our family. But I only got the courage to do it recently. One of the great books that encouraged me deeply was - "Homepreschool and Beyond" by Susan Lemons. Susan is very real, else we think she is a supermom. She has her fair share of successes and struggles - to be full-time as a homeschool mom and part time as a writer and blogger. Whilst social media was a great tool for marketing her book, it also took too much of her time. Just when Susan was making her presence felt in the social media, she put her brakes on, because she had wanted to make the main thing the main thing. There's no supermom, when we say "yes" to one thing, we are always saying "no" to something else. 

Most people believe that the basic building blocks of education for all children are reading, writing and arithmetic. Susan believes that the real building blocks of education are the "4R's" : Relationship, Routine, Readiness and Reading aloud. By using the foundation of the 4R's, we can keep our priorities in order (make the main thing the main thing - relationships) and we can lay a firm foundation for our children's later years. 

Life itself is the very best curriculum for preschoolers. I'm still amazed that my 6-year old is learning vocabulary through real life experiences and conversation. I did not use any curriculum in particular to homeschool him. Like what Susan said, the thing to do is to watch your children for signs of readiness, interest or natural learning. When you see those signs, you'll know it's time to begin the 'lessons'. No expensive curriculum required, just have fun together and your children will learn! 

I've learnt much in these few short months too, applying the same principle to managing this blog as well, that I do not feel pressure to keep it up-to-date and always updated. Indeed there is no supermom, only "make the main thing the main thing"....

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