Friday, 30 August 2013

Playing Enough? - 20 Aug 2013

Brandon was really looking forward to the recent school holiday so he could draw as much as he wanted to. He drew for hours every day. No interruption from class or school.  I bought him a set of Sharpie pens and he started to use colours, next watercolour and so on. He started drawing ships since early this year, but only have time in between school to do so. I also tried to distract him to draw other things, but he's too fascinated with different types of ships.

I used to be concerned whether my boys are spending their time productively during the school holidays. I kinda like to plan something so they will learn and not be idle or - we often hear this - 'bored'. But, over the years, I observe how some local homeschooled kids excel under self-directed learning rather than structured-based learning. So when Brandon shows an interest in ships, we let him lead the learning, whether he wanna do arts, music, history or science. We didn't send him to any class to hone his skills at this point but allow him to go through a journey of discovering things, not to find an answer. He can spend a short time or even longer, depending on his interest and curiosity.

My two older boys have been in school for many more years than Brandon. They started out with curiosity and imagination too, but I saw these qualities growing dim as they made progress in school. Also we, as parents, did not nurture their interests when they showed them in those early years. We put more emphasis on structured-based learning and less on free play. So, it's more pain to help them see there's learning outside the classroom!!

So when I finally took notice of XianWei's doodling, I was hopeful. It's too early to see where it will lead to but we're more conscious now to nurture and ignite his interests and help him to pursue them. He loved doodling since young, and we quickly signed him up to an arts class. It didn't go very far after that...

I stumbled upon stacks of doodling from XianWei as well as many others eg, origami, amateurish inventions... how could I be so blind before? I missed out many boats along the way, but that's how we learn I guess. We don't believe that our children are naturally born learners. When learning is interest-driven, the child can be self-taught and seek out the many 'teachers' out there. I read this somewhere...that the children will not become proxies for their parents, who think that what they want is what's best for their children.

Different expressions created from fountain ink (caution: this would not be clean).

This makes me more observant everyday to look for signs of their interests. I have to take a good look at the environment at home or in our lifestyle to see if it's conducive too. I believe that structured play has its place in learning too, there are times we initiate a certain activity based on their interests, and then, we wait. I think it will generate more discipline in both parents and children. Parents need to wait until something shows up, in order to do this, we have to accept our children and give them the freedom to learn. The waiting part is the hardest. And the child also needs a lot of discipline to be self-motivated to pursue their interests.

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Chess Team Experience - 18 Aug 2013

Posting by Xian Jin

That's me, the 3rd player on the left row! It was my first time participating in a chess team event, and I was very excited. My team and I represented our school in the 33rd Astro Merdeka Rapid Open Team Chess Championship on 17 and 18 August. Each team must have four players.  I was surprised at the number of participants, at least 400 people from different age groups.

Before the match, I was very nervous about making mistakes in the competition. I had to read the rules from time to time because I have trouble remembering them.

What's different in this competition was that we initiated the participation on our own. We formed our own team and handled all the procedures by ourselves. At first, there was some misunderstanding over the procedures but at last we agreed and were happy with our playing positions. 

There were nine rounds altogether. After the first match, we lost. But we didn't give up hope. The next round, our team leader won. We encouraged him and that gave us some confidence. The next round, we won. Everyone was so happy. During the breaks, we talked about school, the competition and discussed our mistakes. We had a lot of fun.

The next couple of matches, and the day after, went on smoothly. Winning or losing is not the most important thing but I was grateful to be able to compete.

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Raya Craze - 8 Aug 2013

We played tour guides during the recent Raya holidays. Normally we would rather stay put in KL as it's usually deserted during the holiday. In our group, there're 13 people and one toddler. Perhaps it coincided with a long school break, so people could travel on different days, that's why we're spared from long traffic jam. So far so good..... until we reached Ipoh. 

All hotels, big or small, were fully booked. Coffee shops were crazily crowded with people sitting as well as standing and waiting by the side of the tables. There's barely space to walk. A popular 2-storey dim sum restaurant was so packed until the customers have to wait on the roadside. The restaurants actually allowed people to stand around, crowding the places making them unbearably stuffy and hot. It's quite an experience for us and our visitors; we've never seen anything like this though we visit Ipoh so often. We heard that people started coming in at 6.30am as soon as the shops were opened.

It was chaos in Ipoh town!

These people have been queueing under the hot sun at noon, cos there's nowhere to stand in the shops. To eat one type of food ie the famous chicken rice with bean sprout! And there's more than a dozen of such restaurants selling similar food on the same street.

Unbelievably we could get two tables in one of the few 'air-con' restaurants there after waiting like forever. It's too much hassle to get out of the place cos everywhere was more or less the same. 

This day we saw a thin line between Asians' love for food and our "kiasu" syndrome. The food was reasonable but certainly didn't call for such chaos.

I think chilling out at Burps & Giggles for coffee and cakes was the best decision. Coffee, food, environment, the company - all great! Such a contradiction to the overcrowded coffee shops besides it. Hard to imagine a place like this smack in the midst of old shophouses. 

I've written about this place, located at the back of Sekeping Kong Heng. It was great just to walk around the premise. Much of the heritage exterior was still intact, and you would probably walk past this place without even noticing it.

We felt so relaxed here, free to walk around and explore the paintings, charming ornaments, the rustic furniture, the greens etc - it was a feast to our eyes. 

If you can't make it to Penang, don't worry. There's some street art here as well and the Ipoh famous Concubine Lane. Come and visit before it turns commercial.

Known as the Concubine Lane, a narrow alleyway in between two rows of shophouses. There're plans now to conserve and redevelop the place, else it will all crumble away.

This alley leads to the street food haven, be brave to maneuver amongst the crowds and traffic. "Dining outside" is allowed.

Taiping is another good, quiet place to escape the crowds and enjoy some reasonably good food. It's also hard to get hotel rooms at the last minute, but we somehow got three. We knew instantly why there're still rooms for us - it was such a dilapidated hotel.....

Oh, how we love the iconic rain trees at Taiping Lake Gardens. They create such a natural arch over the road that goes around the lakes.

What else to do with small kids in Taiping? A visit to Taiping Zoo was obvious. Entrance fee was very cheap; RM12 (adult) and RM8 (child). But there was nothing much to talk about, it was in a bad state. There were few things worth mentioning about the zoo - they've many huge crocodiles, and the 3 active Malayan sun bears. It's quite unusual for visitors to get such a close view of them, separated only by a simple fence gate. They're unique to South East Asia so I wonder why we do not highlight or value them like panda to China.

Also known as "Honey Bears" 

The kids have a blast, especially fun for our 2 cars to communicate thru walkie-talkies so we didn't feel we're travelling separately. As adults, we've so much pre-conceived ideas and high expectations. Sometimes, these can ruin our day and relationships. We need to return to the child-like state and it's not just about happiness and innocence. Consider, as children, they are naturally imaginative, curious, able to play without a worry in their minds. They live so much in the present, they play and lose themselves in play and are open to all possibilities. 

A serene, scenic view of the lake at night! 

Monday, 26 August 2013

Our Garden Birds

We're trying to instil the love of bird-watching in our kids. Daddy is discovering the joy of watching birds in the evenings, and identifying them with the kids. Many times, the kids started out with Daddy to watch the birds, but always managed detouring to the park to play football. We're not 'pro' yet, but we've some wonderful surprises in our bird-watching walkabout in our neighbourhood. So, it's really easy, and we do not have to even venture far, our country is blessed with so many species, right at our doorstep.

This is the easiest to spot - Oriental Magpie Robin and the most melodious bird in our neighbourhood. It sings in the early morning and in the evenings. That's why, they're also the target of unscrupulous people in the neighbourhood to catch and cage them.

Black-naped Oriole - they usually fly in pairs (can you spot the other half?)

We see a lot of the Yellow-vented Bulbul in our backyard these days, and the Robins as well.

Bulbul in the silhouette 

Pink-necked green pigeon - the most colourful pigeon in the world.

Asian Glossy Starling and they remind me of my 3 boys - very noisy!

 What a beauty - the "male" Olive-backed Sunbird. It's a tiny but active bird, often in pairs, with the males pursuing each other from treetop to treetop.

... unfortunately the female sunbird is usually duller and less attractive. I can't tell whether this is a brown-throated or olive-backed "female" sunbird cos the difference is very minute. There're a few flying together with the male olive-backed sunbird so I assume this is the same gang.

Pied Fantail - it's a sight especially when it displays its tail.

Do you notice anything uncommon in this Common Myna - look at the long, twisted and crooked claws!!

More Mynas...

Another common sight, the Pacific Swallow.

A blue-throated bee-eater

A tiny Common Tailorbird

Garden birds are very hard to identify unless you're a pro cos they are so fast and tiny in comparison to the water birds. Some of them camouflage very well with the surrounding too. That's why it's important to listen to the bird sounds too.

A tiny Scaly-breasted Munia

We're still trying (hard) to keep the boys with us when Daddy takes his evening walk to watch the birds. Most of the time they ended up in the park.... guess it's more fun to play than to watch quietly. 

We recommend this guide book for all beginners, ie the "Birds of Malaysia" By G.W.H. Davidson and Yeap Chin Aik. It's small and handy to bring along in our bird-watching walkabout!

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