Posted by: angiefm | September 30, 2011

Books for Boys (and Girls Also)

A Quick Update

I can’t believe it’s been two months since I blogged!  *faint*  A big thank you to all of you who emailed to ask if everything was okay with us.  Yes, everything has been okay.  More than okay.

We’ve been busy busy busy here!  🙂  Took two short holidays because Tee Chiou’s schedule is lighter in the summer.  One was to Gananoque, gateway to the Thousand Islands (yes, home of the salad dressing!), which was just under three hours away.  The other was to Toronto and the Niagara Falls, which was about 7 hours away.  We took the trip in two days.  Daniel isn’t great in the car unfortunately, so we can only do about three hours at a stretch and even then during his nap time.  We also spent a beautiful Saturday at a friend’s cottage up north in the Laurentians and were awed by God’s creation!  And we celebrated two birthdays in September (Tim’s on the 15th and Thea’s on the 19th).

And then we’ve been busy in the home.  It has taken us a ridiculously long time to get settled into a routine, and now I think we have finally gotten it.  I seem to be doing laundry all the time, what with clothes for six and bedsheets and too many floor mats and dish cloths, etc.  The kids help, which is great!  But I still have to mastermind it. And all that cooking too!

Books for Boys

So here I am back again.  Finally.  With a post about reading lists for boys.  It started with a question on the Singapore Homeschool Group forum.  A mom asked for recommendations for her 9 year old son, and I posted with a list off the top of my head.  No, actually it was off the top of Tim’s head.  Other moms responded also, with some books I had forgotten, then today I went up to our bookshelves to look up more so I could come up with a more comprehensive list.

Now, this is also a list for girls.  I should know because Alethea has read almost all of them.  🙂

My suggestions of appropriate ages are very tentative, because interests and abilities vary so greatly in boys aged 6 to 9.  I read somewhere that whether early readers or late, children are almost on par when they are 10.  In the meantime, though, I strongly suggest that you continue reading to your child, whether or not they are reading competently on their own.  This way you will not miss out on some of these wonderful books.  If a child only becomes a competent reader at 9 or 10, they may not want to read Wind in the Willows or Winnie the Pooh.  And that would be such a pity.

But First …

Here are some general points about reading in the Ng household:

1.  We try to read only complete and unabridged books.  We figure if a child is not old enough to tackle the real thing, he’s not old enough for the book.  Why water it down
to something the author never intended? There are many books for each age and ability.  So we feel there is little reason to read an abridged book.

2.  We rely on reading lists from homeschool curriculum providers/advisors like www.sonlight.com (my kids find the readers for their age a little light, but have been doing well with the read-alouds for the same age), www.veritaspress.com, and our personal favourite www.amblesideonline.org. I do this because then I know that
someone else has been through that book and decided it was “okay”.  Or I go to the
bookshop, take down book titles (I just take a photo of it with my smart phone), come back and read reviews (1-star first) on Amazon.

3.  We try not to let my kids get stuck in any one genre. And they can’t say they don’t want to read a book after just reading the blurb at the back or looking at the cover.
They need to give them all a chance. So my son read Little House on the Prairie (wasn’t crazy about it), Caddie Woodlawn (loved it), The Little Princess, What Katy Did (listened to both on audio and enjoyed them thoroughly). So I try not to allow them to do too many books in a particular series unless they are read alternately with other books at the same time.  I find books in a series, especially a LONG series, becomes formulaic after a while.  It helps that I have an older daughter who is
always actively recommending books to her brother to read.

4.  We believe that you should continue reading aloud to your children.  I’m still reading to our oldest who is reading Shakespeare on her own. *shudder*  If you cannot find the time to read, invest in good audio CDs (choose the unabridged ones where possible) or borrow them from the library or buy from www.audible.com.  You can also get an excellent selection for free from www.librivox.org.  We really got into audio books when I was faced with having to read the Narnia series and balked at the prospect of almost 40 hours of reading aloud.  Now we have over 90 audio books in our collection and are currently listening to the How to Train Your Dragon series (we’re on book 4 or 5 and it is HYSTERICAL!) and it’s great entertainment for the whole family!  You mustn’t mind language like “you winkle-hearted seaweed brain limpet-eating pig” though.

5.  It is really easy to tell a good book from a not so good one.  If you find it engaging yourself, it’s good.  Each family has different standards, but if you look at a book and have your doubts (like I do when I see the likes of Captain Underpants, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Robert Munsch, sorry to all the Munsch fans out there, Harry Potter from the 4th book onwards), then don’t let your child read it.

6.  We read “old” books because getting used to that kind of language prepares
them for reading the classics and Shakespeare etc when they are older.  If they cannot handle it, read it aloud to them.  It is important for our children
to be exposed to good literature.  I do allow them to borrow the lighter reads or books in a HUGE series (like Geronimo Stilton) from friends or the library, but I try not to have too many of them lying around for them to pick up too easily.

THE LIST

For 6 to 7 year olds

  • Winnie the Pooh series (unabridged please) by A.A. Milne.  Not at all trivial.  We still listen to them today and hubby and I are still delighted by the stories.
  • Peter Rabbit and other stories by Beatrix Potter (like A.A. Milne’s books, these are beautifully written)
  • Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
  • Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
  • James Herriot’s Treasury for Children
  • Babe: The Gallant Pig by Dick King-Smith
  • Little Pear and Little Pear and His Friends by Eleanor Frances Lattimore
  • The Owl Who Was Afraid of the Dark and other books by Jill Tomlinson
  • The Littles series by John Peterson
  • Mr Popper’s Penguins by Richard and Florence Atwater

For 7 to 8 year olds

  • Nicholas series by René Goscinny (we still re-read these because they are so funny!  Author is of Asterix fame)
  • Paddington Bear by Michael Bond
  • Anything by Bill Peet.  Bill Peet was a Disney animator and his books are wonderfully illustrated.  A fantastic bridge between picture books and chapter books.  Great for the reluctant reader.
  • Frindle and other books by Andrew Clements
  • Follow My Leader by James Garfield
  • The Moffats, Ginger Pye and other books by Eleanor Estes
  • The Saturdays and the other books in the series by Elizabeth Enright
  • Charlotte’s Web and Trumpet of the Swan by E.B. White (I did not like Stuart Little by the same author)
  • Books by Thornton Burgess (fabulous books personifying animals written by a naturalist)
  • Viking Adventure by Clyde Robert Bulla
  • The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
  • Moomin series by Tove Jansson
  • Toothpaste Millionaire by Jean Merrill
  • Lost on a Mountain in Maine by Donn Fendler
  • Doctor Doolittle by Hugh Lofting
  • The Door in the Wall by Marguerite De Angeli
  • Henry Huggins and other books by Beverly clearly
  • Gooney Bird Greene by Lois Lowry (don’t be deterred by the cover.  This book is FUNNEE!)
  • Random House has a beginning chapter book series titled “Stepping Stones”.  The historical fiction titles are very good.  Look them up here.

For 8 to 9 year olds

  • Encyclopedia Brown series by Donald J. Sobol
  • The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall
  • Zorgamazoo (an entire book written in rhyme) by Robert Paul Weston and Victor Rivas
  • Shadow of a Bull by Maia Wojciechowska
  • Mrs Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O’Brien (I couldn’t put this down myself!)
  • Twenty-One Balloons by William Pene Dubois
  • From the MixedUp Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg
  • Old Yeller by Fred Gipson
  • Stone Fox by John Reynolds Gardiner

For 9 to 10 year olds

  • How to Train Your Dragon series by Cressida Cowell.  We don’t have the books but are listening to the audio versions of this now.  Not be confused with the movie tie-ins.  Read the real thing!  🙂
  • The Mysterious Benedict’s Society series by Trenton Lee Stewart.  An EXCELLENT series
  • Silverwing and Airborn and other books by Kenneth Oppel (Tim’s current rave)
  • Lost in the Barrens by Farley Mowat
  • The Dangerous Book for boys (latest acquisition)
  • 100 Cupboards series by N.D. Wilson
  • Detectives in Togas by Henry Winterfeld
  • Shiloh by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
  • Rascal by Sterling North

Happy reading!

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Posted by: angiefm | July 25, 2011

Poet-Tea

Here’s a post about one of our favourite pastimes these days.  About 2 months ago, we started having weekly “poet-tea” sessions.  The intention was simply to have time to read and appreciate poetry together, something we have increasing forgotten to do in the rush to complete our work assignments everyday.  And it has become a time the children really look forward to every week.

Our children LOVE poetry.  They read it, they memorise it, they recite it unbidden, they do copywork from it, and they love it.  We have been reading poetry to them since they were young.  Not just the nursery rhyme sort, though that too.  I myself have always enjoyed poetry, though I have to say that having to “study” it in literature robbed me of some of that joy.  So we don’t do any “teaching” from poetry.  I want our children to simply enjoy it.

Poet-tea essentials – A good book of poetry, and a fine cup of tea!

WHY POETRY?

There are many things about poetry which you don’t always get in prose.  Rhyme, rhythm, appreciation of the “melody” of the English language, and extensive vocabularly.  You see, with the limitations imposed in a poem – needing to complete a thought in a definite number of syllables, having to find something which rhymes with something else – the poet uses the language in a way the prose writer does not.  So poetry is a necessary complement to reading prose.

I remember years ago, when Alethea was but 6, I was reading to her and we came across the word “belfry”.  I paused to offer an explanation, but none was needed.  “I know Mom.  It’s a bell tower.”  How did she know?  She had read the phrase “bats in the belfry” in a poem and understood the meaning in context.  To this day neither of us can remember which poem though.  🙂

Also for the young child, poems which rhyme are easy to commit to memory, and that helps in language acquisition and retention.  And memorising poetry is a joy and beneficial at any age.

When asked to pick something to perform at our homeschool group’s school year-end concert in June, all our children asked to recite poetry, and Alethea and Timothy did one together from Joyful Noise: Poetry for Two Voices (which btw is a really delightful collection).

Our poetry books.  I thought this was all, but after I took the photo, I discovered more!

HOW TO READ POETRY

I get asked this a lot.  I think it is because many of us have been “scarred” by our literature teachers who made reading poetry a bit of a chore.  The reality is much simpler. Pick up a book of poetry, find a poem (or just read them in sequence), and just read!

You don’t have to expound on it.  You don’t have to look up definitions (unless you really want to).  You don’t even have to pretend to LIKE all of them.  Or understand them all for that matter.  There are many times when I will look up after reading a poem, and find all the children staring blankly at me.  I’ll shrug, say I didn’t understand it either, then we’ll pick another poem to read.  Just move on.

You don’t have to read many poems.  We used to read a poem a day from a predetermined selection.  One selection for each child.  If the kids liked it, we would read it again.  And again if they asked.  It took us no more than 5 to 10 mins to get through the various readings for all three children.

WHAT POETRY TO READ

We have an extensive collection of poetry books.  But looking at the lot, here are the ones I would recommend if you are just starting out and want to make a few key investments:

Favorite Poems Old and New selected by Helen Farris – if you only own one poetry book, this has to be it!  No coloured pictures though.

A Child’s Book of Poems illustrated by Gyo Fujikawa – this is a fabulous value-for-money volume.  Under 10 US dollars and in hardcover, this is a collection of wonderful and famous classic poems.

A Family of Poems selected by Caroline Kennedy (yes THAT Kennedy) – another collection of classic poems, but this one is beautifully illustrated by Jon J. Muth.

If you feel you need some guidance with definitions of key words and some biographic background on the poets, you will certainly want to check out the Poetry for Young People collections by Sterling Publishing.  We have a few of their collections by poet – featuring 30 poems (I assume more famous) poems by each poet.  They have a 200+ page collection featuring a number of poets which seems like a good buy, but which I don’t (yet) own: A Treasury of Poetry for Young People selected by Frances Schoonmaker, et al.

For the very young, I highly recommend Eloise Wilkin’s Poems to Read to the Very Young.  It comes in board book format, which is perfect for the littles.  I’m reading this now with Daniel, and the three older ones have memorised quite a few of the poems from this selection in their day.  🙂

Another way to read poetry is by poet.  This is the method favoured by Charlotte Mason practitioners, so that the child has a deeper appreciation for poems by particular poets.  If this appeals to you, good poets to start with are Robert Louis Stevenson (A Child’s Garden of Verses), Emily Dickenson, A.A. Milne (of Winnie-the-Pooh fame), etc.  If you go to www.amblesideonline.org, you will find recommendations of poets and poems for the various years of study.  All for free!  This way too you will not have to try to figure out yourself when it will be appropriate to introduce what.

OUR POET-TEA SESSIONS

Back to our Poet-Tea sessions.  Here’s what we do.  We wait till Daniel has gone for his nap 🙂 … then we bring out our good Narumi china teacups which we reserve for just this tea session.  We put sugar cubes in a bowl and milk in a jug.  We make REAL tea.  Yes, with all that caffine!  We bring out chips and dip, or maple cookies, or something fancier than the usual afternoon snack.

One evening, after our tea session was over, I left the kids to come back into the house to prepare dinner.  But to my delight, the kids stayed outside and continued reading to each other!

We each bring a poetry book to the table (the kids pick their own.  I am reading through Favorite Poems Old and New for now) and we take turns reading poems to each other.  Some times we all fall silent while we read ahead in search of another poem to read.  And some times we all find a poem at the same time and we fight for a chance to read ours first.

But all in all, we have a great time reading, sharing, laughing.  Is it any wonder everyone looks forward to Poet-Tea?

Join us in a cuppa?  🙂

Posted by: angiefm | July 17, 2011

Six Months On

Yes, I know.  I’ve been awfully quiet on this blog.  My apologies.  I have had a couple of posts in draft for a very long time, but for some reason, I have not been able to find time to sit and blog.  No, I can’t say I’ve been terribly busy either.  After my parents left Montreal end May, I did have to spend more time each day doing what my Mom had been doing all those months she was here!  🙂  I had to clean, and think about meals and actually cook them.  I continued homeschooling but no longer had Mom’s help with Daniel, so there was a lot of training (re-training) to do there as well.

But then we settled into a new and very good routine.  The kids help out so much more now.  No more Grandma to pick up the slack!  *heh heh heh*  Meal prep, laundry, packing up, putting away, cleaning floors and toilets … they do it all now.  Ah … I live the good life!  😀

Wednesday is Toilet-Cleaning Day.  Alethea takes care of the children’s bathroom and Timothy does the guest toilet.

We just took a little 5-day break to drive down to the 1000 Islands region.  We stayed at a lovely little town called Gananoque (pronounced “way” at the end).  We were originally heading for Toronto, but I couldn’t imagine doing the 6+ hour drive with Daniel in the car.  *shudder*  So we picked a place about 3 hours away and used that as a base to drive a little around that region.  We came back all “chao-tah” (sunburnt) and looking healthier for it!  Ah … summer!

On the grass outside Upper Canada Village about two hours from home.

So here’s a little about various things happening in our lives six months on …

FOOD

Typical Singaporean.  First thing on my mind.  🙂  I keep telling myself I have to menu plan for my own sanity, but I can’t seem to get down to doing it.  Sigh … Like today.  I took a nap *luxury* and only came down at 4.30 in the afternoon with no plans for dinner.  Fortunately I had taken out a piece of pork from the freezer yesterday, so I sliced that up, marinated it and had Tee Chiou throw it on the barbecue while I cooked rice, fried a chai poh (pickled raddish) omelette and stir fried a frozen oriental vegetable mix.

We took out our precious stash of Mom’s satay when a family of four (good friends from our church in Singapore), came to visit in June.

We are still eating largely Asian meals (because Tee Chiou prefers it) though with the kids at lunch I tend to do easier Western-style dishes like pasta, sandwiches, baked rice, soups, etc.  My Thermomix has been working very well for us in this way.  I am so very thankful we have it!

Baking bread is child’s play (almost) when you have a Thermomix.  Bread dough in 3 mins.  Clean hands, clean kitchen counters.  This is the first loaf I baked here.

We have cut down on eating out.  Do it maybe once or twice a month now.  We were doing it more often when my parents were here.  Even if we are going to be out for the day, I try to pack sandwiches to take for a picnic lunch.  You can always find a park bench to sit on in Montreal.  😀  Eating out is not just expensive.  It is largely unsatisfying unless you are prepared to spend a lot in a good restaurant.  Also Daniel isn’t exactly fun to have at the dinner table in a fancy restaurant.

Picnicing on Mont Royal, from where Montreal gets it’s name.

WEATHER

We have gone from freezing winter to hot hot summer!  Some nights have been so warm we were wishing for Singapore-style airconditioning!  We have central airconditioning here, but the basement gets really cold (even though we close the vents there), the first floor is great, but the cold air doesn’t seem to get up to our bedrooms.  We hear it will be like this, some days humid too, for the rest of July.  It should get cooler in August, then, we’ve been warned, we will regret not celebrating the warm weather!  No wonder people here get crazy happy when it’s HOT outdoors!  I guess it will take us a while to appreciate it, after being in hot and humid Singapore for 40+ years!

Cartwheeling in the sprinkler playground.  That water is COLD!

The wonderful thing about summer has been seeing flowers bloom!  I did a spot of gardening myself and surprised Tee Chiou with a new flower plot outside our house where there once were brambly bushes.  It had cost me 34 dollars plus too many hours in the sun.  But it was worth it.

The flowers I planted.  On the day they were planted.  They look way better now because there are more flowers.  But it is 10 pm and I can’t get an updated photo.  🙂

Our attempts with fruits and vegetables have been exciting but not long lasting.  I think I actually need to fertilise the plants, maybe?  🙂  We have strawberry, salad leaves and tomatos in pots (harvested much!) and I have planted cucumbers, eggplant (flowering but not fruiting yet), and basil (the birds keep shitting on the plant so I cannot bear to use the leaves to make pesto!) in the backyard.

Sadly, all the flowers, fruits and vegetables will die in winter.  We have some perennials (Mom planted them before she left) in a flower bed, but they are not as colourful as the others.  Another thing I learnt recently.  🙂

HOMESCHOOLING

Homeschooling has been going well.  We have found our rythym again.  Sure took us a long time!  We are desperately trying to finish our math workbooks before end August so that the children will be in sync with the school year when it starts end August.  It is hard to believe but Alethea will be in Grade 6.  Where has the time gone?

Group photo at the end of the homeschool group closing ceremony in May.  Our kids recited poetry.  So typical.  LOL!

The kids are now having French lessons twice a week for two hours each time.  A lovely lady comes over to our place for that and rattles off in French.  We have also been listening to French audio books, reading simple French story books, singing children’s songs, and we are using two resources for learning French which I will post about separately.

New Old BOOKS!  We bought these from two used bookshops we found on our recent holiday to the 1000 Islands.  Couldn’t tear ourselves away from the shops!

Chinese lessons are still continuing with Daddy.  We are still homeschoolers under the MOE and still responsible for teaching Chinese.  But not having an environment to speak or otherwise use it, has made it increasingly difficult to keep the kids motivated to learn.  Some successes to report though … Alethea is now reading Chinese story books on her own!  Albeit slowly.  But she is able, and willing, and that’s all we ever wanted.

The kids of the families we hang out with.

We are still hanging out with two other homeschool families now that the homeschool group is in recess for the summer.  Alethea hasn’t quite found that ONE good friend yet, and we are praying for that to happen soon.  We still miss our friends and family back home DESPERATELY.  The one downside of being here.

LIFE IN GENERAL

… has been great!  Tee Chiou’s working hours are so much more reasonable here.  We have dinner earlier, and have a couple of hours to just chill, read, watch some TV (Tin Tin in French, anyone?) before bedtime, which is still between 10 to 11.  Everyone is horrified when they hear how late our kids sleep.  8 to 9 pm is the norm here.  But the other day, a homeschooler from Singapore who recently relocated to Toronto, called me at 9.15 pm.  I told her I couldn’t talk long because I was reading to the kids in preparation for bed.  And she said, “Huh?  So early?”  I had a good chuckle over it because it was the first time in 6 months I had heard anything like that!

This must be one of life’s greatest pleasures.  To see your children run to you when you call.

There are many wonderful things to do in Summer.  Picnics, the Jazz Festival, puppet shows, parades.  There are also the international fireworks displays but these start at 10 pm and so we have decided maybe we’ll catch them next year.  Montreal is buzzing with activity.  People eat outdoors at home and at cafes.  It is a far cry from how it looked, felt and sounded when we first arrived in the middle of winter.  Watching the seasons change has been one of the most glorious experiences for me.  I watch in wonder, and say with Job:

But ask the animals, and they will teach you,
or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you;
or speak to the earth, and it will teach you,
or let the fish in the sea inform you.
Which of all these does not know
that the hand of the LORD has done this?
In his hand is the life of every creature
and the breath of all mankind.

Job 12:7-10, NIV Bible

Posted by: angiefm | May 21, 2011

Deferring to the Experts

Experts.  They’ve been on my mind a lot recently.

It seems that gone are the days when parents knew what they were doing and were confident that they were doing right by their kids.  Or perhaps they didn’t know but were not letting on.  😛

These days it seems we are all deferring to some authority or other.  We read parenting books – both secular and religious.  We ask others for advice and take their word as Gospel truth. We attend talks and workshops.  We send our children to classes and camps to learn thinking skills and how to be creative.  We send them out to workshops to learn to make pizzas and to build junk art sculptures.

It seems we have lost faith in ourselves to parent and teach and impart life skills.  And it seems we have lost faith in our children’s ability to learn on their own, in their own time.

Please don’t get me wrong.  I am not saying sending children to classes is wrong.  I am not saying we should not reach out to whatever/whoever for help with our shortcomings or questions.  I am not saying we shouldn’t read parenting books (you should see how many I own!)  I’m just saying that we seem to be reaching out more than we are reaching in.

This became a very real issue to me recently.

Homeschooling or Nothing

Those of you who know me know that I am nothing short of totally committed to homeschooling.  How long for is anyone’s guess.  As I like to say to people who ask … the Good Lord only knows.  🙂  But the Good Lord has also given me a husband who tempers my all-or-nothing character with his blend of sanity, level-headedness and critical thinking.  Characteristics which I am woefully short on.

So … back to homeschooling.  When we were planning to move to Montreal, many people said, OH GOOD!  Now you can send your kids to school!  Like … HUH?  Why would moving from Singapore to Montreal make any difference to our decision to homeschool?

Apparently the thinking was that since the schools here are supposedly less pressurising, more well-rounded, and all things which the Singapore system is supposedly not, it would be a good time to put our kids in school for a “real” education. 

But over the years, homeschooling has become less about an education but more about a lifestyle.  Our decisions to homeschool include building parent-child and sibling-sibling bonds, allowing our children freedom and time to pursue their own interests, learning what God puts upon our hearts to teach, etc. 

Besides, I honestly feel I’m the best person to teach our kids. No one else cares as much as Tee Chiou and I do about equipping them for life. These things do not change when you move.  So the kids are still home.  Status quo.  🙂

A Word from the MOE

BUT … recently, while seeking clarification from the Ministry of Education about our new “status”, being overseas, we received a bit of a stunner.

You see, we had consulted them verbally previously and were led to believe that once overseas, we no longer were under the MOE’s jurisdiction.  We were told then that we would just be classified as “overseas” and would not have to submit progress reports to the MOE.  But when we emailed them for confirmation after arriving here, we were told that we would continue to be subject to the Compulsory Education Act, would have to submit annual reports, and our children would have to sit for the PSLE if they return to Singapore before they turn 15 and if they have not completed their “primary education or its equivalent”.

So if our children were in a school in Singapore then we went overseas, the MOE wouldn’t care what kind of an education they received and from whom.

And if our children were homeschooled in Singapore but went overseas and were enrolled in a school, the MOE wouldn’t care either.

But since we homeschooled then and we homeschool now, the MOE does care.  We feel so loved.  🙂

Questions

Which brings up a many questions, ranging from the practical “What is definied as a primary education or its equivalent?” to the more philosophical “What is an education? and “If we were completely free to educate our children in ways we as parents see fit, what would the end(s) of that education look like?”

On Who’s Authority?

Let’s leave the philosophical for another day.  For now, the question for us is, “What is a primary education or its equivalent?”  We need to figure that out because if we return after Tee Chiou’s 3-year term, Alethea will be 14 and still subject to the Compulsory Education Act and would have to do her PSLE at that age.  Unless we can show that she has completed her primary education or its equivalent.  After much deliberation (sounds good when I put it that way, huh?), here are what seem to be our options:

  1. Send Alethea to school in her Grade 6 year (starts end Aug 2011).
  2. Enrol Alethea in an accredited homeschool programme for Grade 6.
  3. Have Alethea take a standardised test here in Canada for Grade 6.
  4. Maintain status quo and have Alethea sit for the PSLE when she returns to Singapore at age 14.

Option 1, Send to school – Why should the MOE be satisfied that a Singaporean family is sending their Singaporean children to be educated by Canadian teachers, surrounded by Canadian children in a Canadian school, being taught a Canadian curriculum while imbibing the values of a Canadian society?  Why is this preferrable to having them stay home with their Singaporean parents, being educated using a Singapore curriculum, complete with a Singapore national education programme while imbibing Singaporean/Asian values?

Option 2, Accredited Homeschooling – Now, I understand the attraction of having our children use a packaged and levelled homeschool curriculum like Abeka, Bob Jones University, Accelerated Christian Education, etc.  I know many homeschool families who do and it keeps them very sane.  🙂  But why would I need to pay a 3rd party a whole lot of money (US$590 per year) to certify that my children have completed what I know they have completed.  Isn’t my own word on the matter trustworthy?

Option 3, Standardised Testing – There is a standardised test in Canada called the Canadian Achievement Test.  We don’t know if the MOE will accept this as an equivalent.  Though I don’t see why not.  🙂  Question is, what do we do for Chinese?  They don’t have a standardised test for it in Canada.  But she only has 1 year and can’t possibly learn French to the level required to take a Grade 6 standardised test.  Or can she?  😀

Status Quo

So for now, it looks like we’ll be maintaining the status quo.  And waiting to see what God has in store for us in the coming years.

Stay tuned!  🙂

Posted by: angiefm | April 2, 2011

Two Months On …

Amazing isn’t it?  We’ve been in Montreal for almost three months already!  And what a whirlwind time it has been.  Here are some random updates …

Posing in Vermont

Thankfulness

First up, I have to tell you that I am SO VERY THANKFUL to be here.  I am thankful every day and feel so very very blessed to be living the life I live.  The Good Lord has planned this move for us at just the perfect time of our lives!  I look back and wonder at all His planning.  You know what they say … hindsight is 20/20!  When you look back at your lives, you realise that everything happens for a reason, even though at the time you thought you were getting a rotten deal!  LOL!  I quit my job, we started homeschooling for financial reasons (couldn’t afford Pat’s Schoolhouse on a single income), I started the Home Library, we continued homeschooling, I closed the Home Library, we moved, we moved again, we downsized, decluttered, went maid-free.  All, unbeknownst to us, in preparation for this move.  I am so excited to see what the Lord has planned for us in the coming years!  Because I know that looking back it will all make perfect sense, I am determined to live it forward perfectly also!

Family Life

Mom reading to the littles

Having my parents here with us has been a great blessing.  I have not lived with my parents since we got married 11 years ago.  Honestly I was apprehensive initially.  But it has turned out so very well!  My Mom has been AMAZING around the house – she cooks and cleans, unpacks and packs, looks after the kids, and generally keeps us on our toes.  LOL!  She is one get-up-and-go-and-go-and-go-and-go Energizer Bunny!  And being 24 years younger has done nothing for me in trying to keep up with her.  My Dad is Mr. Handyman around the house.  He has been working on our IKEA shelves and drawers and even successfully fixed the covers of our bedroom ceiling lights, a project which had been abandoned by the electricians who had tried and failed and left the covers on the floor.  He is also our resident entertainer, juggling oranges and lemons and the ocassional kiwi fruit *shudder* after dinner!  And they both help with homeschooling!  🙂  When we entertain (twice already), Mom cooks up a STORM!  And Dad gets the tables ready and washes bowls in between so we can reuse them for dessert!  What a blessing they both are!

Entertaining – Dad with our church Pastor and his dear wife.  See Mom’s famous spread of yummy food!

For 3 weeks from end Feb, my best friend came to visit!  We had a WONDERFUL time with her and she inspired us to do many things and go many places. 🙂  But all good things must come to an end and 2 weeks ago she left for home.  We all spent the next few days moping about the house, not knowing what to do with our time!

Patience

We have had to exercise PATIENCE on many ocassions, something I have little of.  Sigh … we have tried and met with roadblocks when attempting to apply for internet access and a home phone line, to buy mobile phones, we managed to get a Quebec driver’s license only after 6 weeks and since we needed that to buy car insurance before leasing a car, we have had to rent a car (at great cost) in the meantime!  But we have now got our spanking new Toyota Sienna!  We couldn’t even get a COSTCO membership at first!  LOL!  And my Mom was unable to get her prescription filled at the local pharmacy even though it had been issued by the Singapore General Hospital, no less!  There have been frustrating moments when one of us has tried to do something, failed, then attempted to explain to the rest of the disbelieving family why it could not be done.

Oh, and I haven’t even told you about the many times we got lost on the roads because either the GPS was uncooperative and sent us in circles, or the roads and highways were closed (yes, they CLOSE sections of highways here!) and won’t be open till they are repaired after winter!

Ah … but we are all settled now and all is well.  🙂

COLD!

Snowing over our backyard

Speaking of winter … it is COLD here!  Of course the house is well and centrally heated at 21.5 degrees so being indoors isn’t a problem, but once you step outside, or just open the door, the cold is incredible!  The lowest it has gone is -30 degrees C and this week we are finally experiencing temperatures above zero.  Only recently have the kids been going outdoors to play.  And they have been roller-blading with a vengeance! 

View of the snow removal trucks from our living room window. 
It was AMAZING!  Some mobilisation!

The rest of the time we enjoy each other’s company indoors.  Now I know why they say winter in Montreal lasts five months!  The upside of the cold is that we managed to go skiing three times on a slope just half an hour from our house!  Unfortunately the ski season is now over on the lower slopes.  We’ll wait patiently till next winter for it to start again!

Setting Up Home

Boxes of books (right) and kitchen stuff (left)

I just realised recently that we have moved house 3 times in less than 3 years!  In March 2008, we moved from our home in Nim Park (after an en bloc sale), to Sandy Palm in Pasir Ris.  We had rented the apartment because the one we had bought had not yet been built.  Then in May 2010, we moved into our own apartment at Coastal View in Pasir Ris.  And only 8 and a half months later, we packed up and moved to Montreal!  And actually, we spent our first 3 weeks in a rental apartment while waiting for our stuff to arrive and to collect the keys to our rental house, so technically that’s 4 moves in 3 years.  No wonder I feel so tired!  LOL!  We moved into our rented house on Nun’s Island on 1 Feb.  I had hoped to have everything unpacked and done in a week but that proved to be too ambitious.  Because a week later, we realised that we were still short of book and toy shelves and had to head out to IKEA again to buy more.  Well, at the end of Day 12, I proudly announced to Tee Chiou that we were done!  With much credit to WHIRLWIND MOM and HANDYMAN DAD.

Dad and little helper putting together ANOTHER Ikea cupboard

Homeschooling

We very ambitiously started homeschooling 6 days after we moved into the house.  That same afternoon we went out to buy 12 new pieces of IKEA furniture so that derailled our efforts.  But we have now gotten into the swing of things.  The children are back on track reading and narrating from the Bible, doing Math, Chinese reading, French lessons online on www.powerspeak.com.  And we have added Canadian social studies, science, art and journaling to our homeschooling as well.  I will post about our curriculum choices for this year soon.

Schooling at the dining table.  Some things never change.

But if you are keen, check out the language programmes on Power Speak.  It costs 85 USD for a year’s worth of online lessons.  It says 100 bucks, but if you sign up for a demo, they will give you a code for the reduced price.  Because we have been doing so little else, no playdates, no CCAs, no drop-ins from friends and relatives (oh, how I miss those!) the children had lots of free time and have been reading like they have never read before!  So all is good.  🙂

We have inserted ourselves into a little homeschool group which meets in a church about 15 mins away.  We have gone for two sessions now and the kids are enjoying being back in a group!  They meet for 2 hours and do 4 half-hour activities including reading, theater, art/craft and science.  Just this week, we met a lovely homeschooling mom with her two daughters and have had one playdate and an ice skating outing!  So things are looking up.  *grin*

Outings

Mom out with four kids on wheels.  Nathalie’s first time blading!

Because of the oppressive cold, we didn’t do very much in the first few weeks we were here.  But in the last few, we have gone to the Montreal Science Centre, the Pointe-a-Calliere Museum of Archeology & History, the Montreal Biodome, skiing on Mount St. Bruno (three times!), ice skating, tubbing on Mount Royal, shopping at the public markets Marche Atwater and Marche Jean Talon. 

Entering the Flavour Graveyard in the Ben & Jerry’s Factory in Vermont

We have also gone sugaring-off at a Maple Farm, driven down to Vermont for Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and taken the train up to Quebec City for a weekend.  Now with a car, we are able to do so much more.  And we are taking it all in!  Montreal is an exciting and activity-filled place to be!

Shopping

After a shopping day at both Costco and Kim Phat the Asian supermarket
(yes, that’s 20kg of rice and 12 litres of milk!)

We do most of our grocery shopping at COSTCO now.  It’s great since we have 8 mouths to feed (some larger than others).  Everything is packaged in bulk (three jumbo loaves of bread, four 1.89 litre cartons of orange juice, 2.2 kg packages of minced beef, 36 rolls of toilet paper, etc) but so much cheaper than shopping at the regular grocery shops.  The rest of our groceries we buy at an Asian supermarket near our home.  Er … 12 km away is considered near I guess. 

Pork at Kim Phat

There meats are SO CHEAP!  Cheaper than in Singapore.  My Mom is always oo-ing and ah-ing at the prices and the freshness of the cuts of meats there.  The first time we bought chicken carcasses to make soup, we got six whole carcasses for under a dollar!  And there was still lots of meat on it.  We had the soup and the meat over two lunches!  I remember those costing 2 Singapore dollars a piece back home.  You can get practically everything at the Asian supermarket.  Including durian!  LOL!  Only one kind though.  Cannot find D26 or Mao Shan Wang here lah.  🙂

Cooking & Eating Out

When you have Prima and Mom, you can have Char Kway Teow in Montreal!!

Mom has been doing practically ALL the cooking!  She has an amazing repertoire and has been spoiling us with fantastic food everyday!  Even as I type, she is cooking lobster tail laksa for dinner!   YUMS!  We are still having largely Asian meals, with the ocassional stew thrown in for good measure.  We try not to eat out because it is SO EXPENSIVE!  An order of fried rice at a takeaway costs 10 Canadian.  And like we say in Singapore … not nice some more!  But we have caved in several times to the wonderful steaks at our favourite steakhouses in Old Montreal.

French

I will be starting French lessons with Tee Chiou next week.  These are provided free of charge by the Government of Quebec (or Gouvernement Du Quebec) and the invitation to participate was in French!  LOL!  Like if I could understand the invite, I wouldn’t need the lessons right!  🙂  In the meantime, I am happily taking in what I can from everyday situations.  I know that “rabais” means DISCOUNT, “économiser” means I SAVE, and “maintenant” means that’s the price I pay NOW!  I also know that “solde” written across something means that it is on sale, not that it has been SOLD!  I know how to return the greeting in French when I step into a store, but I don’t, because if I did, the sales person would rattle off a string of French words which I don’t understand.  So I say “hi” or “good morning” when I step into a shop, just so they know I don’t speak French, but will say “bonne journée” on the way out to wish them a good day.  Just so I don’t come across like some snooty person who won’t learn the language of the land!

I have been looking for a class to enroll the kids into, but most people I ask look at me strange because all their kids go to school and learn there.  Unless you have special exemptions, all children here attend French-medium schools.  Most of the classes I have found are run during the school holidays only.  So we may have to get a private tutor for them.  See how.  🙂

For Now …

Okay.  I had better publish this post now.  I have been writing it in bits and pieces for over a month now.  *faint*  Will try to do something more profound next time.  Been thinking A LOT about homeschooling recently.  But this will have to suffice for now.  🙂  Till next time!

Posted by: angiefm | March 21, 2011

Home Educator’s Tutor

Wanted to quickly, as in QUICKLY share this great deal from www.homeeducatorstutor.com

This is an amazing series of books (I own only one and have gone back to it several times) which will enhance your homeschool efforts if you have a Charlotte Mason or Classical Education bent.  There is a 100 page sampler and lots of information about it on the website so I won’t repeat it here.  Suffice it to say that when I put together my volume A Month with Charlotte Mason, I borrowed the idea from this publication!

I only bought one back then because it was expensive and I had to pay ridiculous shipping costs.  Then they went out of business, were bought over, and someone else tried, and again failed to keep the books in print.  But now they are in E-book format, and these guys have thrown in a whole lot of freebies to boot!

And now they are selling the CD at an introductory price of USD 27 plus shipping, a 40 dollar discount off their intended selling price come 1 May. 

But there’s more!  (I could write cheap marketing material eh?)

If you have a US address to send this to (they won’t ship this freebie to international), they will throw in a copy of one of the original printed books WITH the original CD!  I just ordered one and had it sent to my cousin in Seattle (Hi Ling!  *wave*).  Am asking her to keep the book, but send me the CD.  Too good a deal to pass up on, that FREE book!  🙂

So wanted all of you to learn about it too.  Go check out the samples.  If nothing else, that will give you some material to use in your school right away!  I loved the Rules of Civility in the sample and am printing it out for Tim’s copywork.  🙂  Also loved the Articulation selections and did some myself!

Enjoy!

Posted by: angiefm | March 9, 2011

Copywork … Again

I know … I know … It’s been AGES since I posted!  And I hope I can be excused because there is just so much going on in our lives now.  I mean we just have to have time to go out and ski right?  *grin*  Which we have done.  Twice.  I have had a blog post in draft for the longest time, just waiting for me to find the right photos to put in.  But with my best friend visiting for three glorious weeks, searching for photos will have to wait.

In the meantime, here is something I have promised a variety of people over the past few months.  *shame*  The next installment of copywork for lower Primary School aged chidren.  I have used this selection for my kids when they were in P2.  But there is no reason you cannot use it for children a year older or younger.  You are the best judge for what your children can handle.  I will not repeat what I wrote earlier about copywork, but if you are new to it, you can read my previous posts here and here.

There are 80 copywork selections in this file, or 20 weeks’ worth if you do 4 per week which we used to do since we typically spent one day a week out on field trips.  Unlike the previous file, I did not put lines into this one because handwriting at this stage really varies from child to child.  So for one child I bought printed books from Popular bookshop.  They had light green covers and lines the perfect width for that child.  But the next child I had to print my own sheets because his handwriting was really HUGE!  Some children at this age can write neatly without lines to guide them.  They should just write in a simple lined notebook.  It really is up to you.

I hope this helps some of you out there.  I’m sorry I didn’t get it posted sooner.  I realise we are already in MARCH!

Posted by: angiefm | January 23, 2011

Montreal … HERE WE ARE!

HELLO FROM MONTREAL!

Actually we’ve been here for 11 days already and have enjoyed every single one!  🙂 I have been sending various updates to various people who have asked various questions, so I will try to consolidate it all for this blog update. 

The Big Farewell

Despite my telling everyone NOT to see us off at the airport, there was a huge turnout, mainly from our church.  Of course family was there too, and it was a tearful farewell for many of us.  Despite my bracing myself for the farewell, I shed so many tears trying to tear myself away from some people (you know who you are!).

A photo with the cousins, my brother’s kids.  See the family resemblence?  🙂

Weather – almost everyone asks about the weather.  And we talk about it incessantly here too!  Every day begins with an online check on the day’s temperature so we can decide what to wear … or more accurately, how many layers AND of what to wear.  We also decide what to do depending on the weather – to stay indoors, go out, to the mall, out in the snow?  All weather dependent.  The temperature has been dropping from the -5 degrees C when we arrived to a forecast of -20 to -29 today!  Good thing we have rented a car for the weekend to go furniture shopping and will not have to trek half an hour in the snow to church like we did last Sunday.  *shiver*  It has been snowing practically every day and the kids, especially Alethea and Tim, have been having a blast playing in the snow.

If you look carefully, you can see the snow flakes falling on the girls. 
Lake Beaver, a popular weekend hangout, just minutes from Downtown Montreal, is in the background.

Clothes – We are becoming better at getting out of the house and are accomplishing it in shorter times.  The first time we went out, it took us 45 mins to suit up!  Sweaters, coats, scarves, mittens/gloves, beanies.  On the days when the kids are going to hit the snow, there are snow pants/bibs and thermals to contend with as well.  It is bewildering to say the least!  Indoors we are typically in pants, long-sleeved t-shirts and sometimes a sweater when it gets chilly, socks or bedroom slippers.  The apartment is heated to 24 degrees, so very comfortable, but on the days when the temperature outside plunges to -20, it does affect indoor temperatures. 

All dressed up with somewhere to go

Activities – we have been pretty much home-bound because of the cold, but try to get out once a day or so to walk about and run errands.  We have gone grocery shopping 5 times in 10 days .  Because we have to walk about 1.5 km back carrying all the stuff, we haven’t been able to buy much each time.  Buying enough to feed 4 adults and 4 kids is no small order!  Earlier this week, when the forecast was a “warm” -2 to -6 degrees C, we decided it was a great day to go up to Lake Beaver on Mount Royal for a day of snow fun!  We went snow tubing (yes, ME TOO!) and skating (just Thea and Tim) while it snowed furiously!  23 dollars bought us 4 tubes for a full day on the slopes, but we only managed 5 descends!  Climbing up the slope was HARD WORK!  And on two of the climbs, I dragged Nathalie up in her tube because her poor little legs were too tired.  But she was ever the sport and made it up there the last time on her own.  Then while the rest of us enjoyed the warmth of the indoors, Alethea and Timothy went skating on the lake with rented skates.  (Note to self: buy skates for kids.  Too expensive to keep renting.)  It was so lovely for the children to be outdoors and enjoying the snow!

Looking happy and optimistic just before trudging up that hill in the background for the first time. 
The faces were a little different on subsequent climbs.  🙂 
But always wonderful at the end of the slide!

Food – being Singaporean, an update on food is certainly in order.  We have more or less given up on eating out.  It so expensive and not great (understatement).  Either that or we are not eating in the right places.  Feeding the family at a foodcourt (with some sharing of meals) costs upwards of 50 CAD!  We have decided that cooking at home is definitely better and cheaper, but since we are in a short-term rental apartment now till 1 Feb, we are trying not to buy too much in terms of marinates and sauces.  So we are surviving on bread, croissants, ham, cheese, pies, frozen pizzas, pasta with bottled sauces, bacon and eggs, pre-marinated fish and meats and lots of fruits!  Mom, with her low-sodium-no-protein diet is doing noodles with vegetables and mushrooms.  Eating out is so not the thing for her because of the high sodium content.  I miss my THERMOMIX!  With it we could be cooking rice (for mom) and porridge (for Daniel who won’t eat anything else) and soups (for Dad) without resorting to packaged foods!  We are waiting for a good day to go to Chinatown to check out the grocery stores there.  And maybe have a bowl of noodles at the home-made noodle place I’ve been eyeing!

Our best meal so far.  An Asian (Vietnamese) restaurant on Nun’s Island called Fusiali. 
Mom had a fabulous bowl of Tom Yam noodles.  She was a happy mummy after!  Must go back often!

Home Life and School – We are adjusting to a different schedule.  Sleeping at 8.30 pm and waking at 5 to 6 am.  It is very good!  And we hope to be able to keep it up.  Dinner is at 6, breakfast whenever people wake up, and lunch at about 11.  Mom has been invaluable in keeping the kids occupied, especially Daniel who is terribly needy.  As usual, he is happy when I’m not around, and clingy when I am.  Sigh … TC started work on Monday and walks there from our apartment.  It takes about 15 mins and he can choose to walk in the snow (slush really), or through the underground maze they call RESO which connects much of downtown Montreal.  School has taken a backseat for now, partly because we are trying to get used to a new schedule, getting over jet-lag, etc.  All fun and exciting.  LOL!  Also we keep having to go out for groceries, and run various errands (like going to take no-smile passport photos for the children), furniture shopping at IKEA (where else), etc.  Alethea has been doing a bit of math (she’s the only one with a math book, the rest are still on the slow boat from Singapore), Nathalie reads aloud to me and Tim does some narrating from some books on Canada we have.  Tim is also constantly conducting strange scientific experiments here, his most popular ones involving static.

Static is so much fun here!  Ballons stick indefinitely to walls if you do it right!

Other than that the kids have just been reading and *horrors* playing iPhone and iPad games.  We also count our various Skype session as school.  Call it CIP.  Community Involvement Programme.  We are trying to stay involved in our Singapore community!  LOL!

iPhoning furiously in Mummy’s absence.  I have been dubbed the iPolice!

Transport and Our New Home – We have been transporting ourselves on our two legs mostly.  We are in Old Montreal which is adjacent to the International Quarters (where TC’s office is) and Chinatown (where we had lunch once and which is near the closest grocery store).  Everything is within walking distance.  If you are into Google Maps, our address is 10 Rue Saint Jacques, near the Notre Dame Cathedral.  Come 1 Feb, we will be moving to Nun’s Island (Ile des Soeurs in French) and our address will be 29 Rue Serge-Garant, Montreal, Quebec H3E 0A5, Canada.  In describing it to people, I like to compare Nun’s Island with Sentosa.  🙂  It is an island off Downtown Montreal and accessible by a bridge off the highway.  Our new home is about 10 km from TC’s office.  There is a direct bus that will take him there if he can stand waiting in the numbing cold for the bus.

Our New Home.  Nice?  🙂

One for the Road – Here’s my favourite photo to end the post.  On day 2, it snowed enough to cover the neighbouring carpark lot with a blanket of white.  The kids were so excited they wanted to go down.  And as soon as they got there, they spontaneously flopped on the snow to make snow angels!  I took this photo from our 8th floor apartment.  If you look closely, you will see that while Alethea and Nat are face up (clever girls), Tim is lying face down in the snow.  So like him.  LOL!

That’s it for now!  Hope you are all doing well, and here’s to Teaching Our Own!

Snow Angels

Posted by: angiefm | January 11, 2011

And Away We GO!

One quick post to let all our wonderful blog readers and friends know that we are off to COLD Montreal in 10 hours!  Just shutting down my computer but couldn’t resist one last post.  😀 

We are flying to London (14 hours) then have a 10 hour stopover during which we will be staying for 5 hours at a Yotel (www.yotel.com), and resisting the temptation to take the Heathrow Express to Paddington Station (only 15 mins!).  We will shower, nap (hopefully) or at least rest, then we head to Montreal (7 hours 40 mins), arriving at 6 pm on the 12th.  We would have spent in excess of 35 hours on the road including checking in and getting out.  So if and when you remember us, please pray for a safe and uneventful journey!

Am always reachable at angiefm@gmail.com and Singtel assures me that I can receive sms-es on my Singapore phone number for free even in Montreal.  So you have no reason not to keep in touch!  😀  Take care all!

Posted by: angiefm | January 5, 2011

In Our New Home

This is a LONG post and will probably only interest those who like peeking into other people’s homes, or who want to know where we bought what for our home.  🙂

Many people who come to our apartment have questions about something we did to or bought for our new place.  So instead of always responding with, “Sure, I’ll email you that contact”, then forgetting to do so afterwards, I decided to just write one post about it so I can just point people to it!  So clever right?  *grin*

Also now that we are renting our home out, I thought it would be good to take some photographs of it to remember it by.  This is the first NEW home we have owned.  And we put a lot of thought and loads of effort and plenty of money into making it our own.  We have everything from dual switches in each room so you can switch off the room lights while lying in bed (lazy bums that we are), to amazing kitchen/dining appliances and layout (my uncle calls it my “command centre”), to double-volume bookshelves which can ALMOST hold all our books (we have more bookshelves in the bedrooms), to hide-away work stations.

So here’s a peek into our home … 

The Infamous Double-Volume Bookshelves

First up, the infamous double-volume bookshelves which take pride of place in our living/dining area.  If you look at the bottom of the photo, you will see my laptop open in one of the hideaway workstations we had built into the book cases.  TC’s workstation, towards the middle, is half opened.  TC earned himself the nickname “Power Point King” for having the electrician install sockets all over the place!  Behind each workstation is a pair of sockets for laptops/phone chargers/printer, etc.  Lots of the stuff on the front shelves are non-books because when we filled them up with books, they were a little heavy for the kids to push.  So we interspersed books with kits and other boxes there instead.  But the back shelves are all books.

Here is a close-up photo of Daniel sitting in the section between the front bookshelves:

The Hub

We had the contractors knock down the kitchen walls so we could have an open plan kitchen with the dining table incorporated.  We had Hoffen design and build our kitchen, preferring a specialist in  kitchens over a general interior designer/contractor.  No regrets.  They can be found at www.hoffen.com.  After I took the photo I realised that I hadn’t arranged our fancy Kartell chairs, so all you see in the photo are our kids’ IKEA chairs.  🙂  Ah well … If you’re keen to see what we bought, go to www.kartell.com and look for the “Frilly” chair.

Our fridge is from Blomberg.  I know.  No one has heard of it.  German brand.  Been around a LONG time, just not in Singapore for very long.  Agent is on the 5th floor of Centrepoint.  This side-by-side cost us 5k, which was cheaper than an Amana and the same price as the high end Hitachi!  There is a little door that opens to the drinks compartment so you don’t have to open the whole fridge for drinks.  But the thing I liked most was the layout and shelving in both the fridge and the freezer.  Very well planned.

We bought our kitchen appliances from Ariston because I was in love with their Open Space oven!  It is divided internally into two sections, which you can use separately (saves electricity) or together if you want to bake cookies (it can do 4 trays evenly and simultaneously!)  I use the smaller section of the oven all the time – baked pasta, toast, warming up left over pizza, etc.  And the larger section when I make two pizzas.  Under the oven is a concealed dishwasher, also from Ariston.  Yes, that’s an induction stove and yes, I love it!  Didn’t want to use gas because I didn’t want to dedicate a cupboard to the gas tank!  In the middle you can see my wonderful Thermomix.  🙂  I think I had something steaming on the top when I took this photo.  Oh yes … left over chicken rice.  🙂  On the wall behind the Thermomix is the Eubiq Power Outlet System from www.eubiq.com.  You can buy them from hardware stores like Home Fix, but the standard lengths didn’t work for us so we had them come down to customise it.  Very neat system!

We thought long and hard about what sink to get.  After all, I WAS going to be spending an inordinate amount of time at it every day!  The designers (both our interior designer and the kitchen designer) said we only had space for a very small sink – say 50 to 60 cm wide.  But I really wanted something bigger, so ignored their advice and went with one more than 80 cm wide, which reduced the counter space I had for prep work.  But the Blanco Plenta sink we bought (www.blanco.co.uk/products/sink/blancoplenta), had some cool accessories including an over-sink chopping board, so this wasn’t a problem.  Sink was from Hoe Kee Hardware (www.hoekee.com).

I said earlier our kitchen was designed and built by Hoffen (www.hoffen.com).  But I really should give myself more credit here.  It was designed by ME, and built by Hoffen.  🙂  They did a fabulous job getting all the things on my wish-list included in the kitchen, right down to under-skin drawers, inner-drawers, dining table with under-counter socket, and more kitchen appliances than I thought possible.  The kitchen, sans appliances, cost us over 9k.

The Children’s Bedroom

When TC first saw the children’s bedroom wall paint, he called me and described it very worriedly as “incredible hulk green”.  But we LOVE it now!  My best friend worked with the kids to put up the border and wall stickers which I bought, interestingly enough, from Sol Cafe at Turf City.  I am terrible at trying to execute on these things.  I tend to over-analyse to the point that I cannot start doing anything.  Analysis-paralysis.  My best friend on the other hand is a just-do-it person.  So I left it to her and tried not to cringe when I realised that the turtle was positioned a little lower than the other animals, and that one end of the border was not smoothed down properly.  *shudder*

We had a platform bed built in the room because otherwise there would not have been enough room to house all the kids.  It is now a 9 foot wide bed with plenty of room to spare!  I had the mattresses (there are two 4.5 feet wide ones) custom made at Courts Tampines.  Practically all the brands there will custom make a mattress for you and will typically charge you 20% more than the closest standard size to do so.  For various reasons we now cannot remember, we went with King Koil.  The bedsheets were also custom made at Robinson’s.  I bought Queen-sized flat sheets and paid $7.50 to have each sewn into 4.5 feet wide fitted sheets.  Actually I was pleasantly surprised at how reasonable the sewing charge was!

This the the view from the doorway.  Notice more bookshelves?  🙂  And no, my kids do not hit their heads on the bookshelves.  I get that question all the time. 

Another view from the doorway, this time you can see the whole bed, with the storage boxes underneath.  I had the carpenters build 5 roughly squarish boxes with castors underneath, which I assigned to each child (with one to spare).  Into these boxes, they were allowed to store just about anything.  As long as it was out of my sight, I was a happy mummy.  🙂  Oh, and no, beyond those boxes, I do not have more storage space further in under the bed.  I figured that if I had pull out all the boxes and crawl all the way under there to retrieve something, I probably wouldn’t need it.

The Common Bathroom

A surprisingly large bathroom for a small apartment.  We had two stainless-steel double towel rods from Song Cho (www.songcho.com.sg) installed so that there would be space for towels for all 4 kids.  That green frog is by Boon (www.booninc.com/products/FrogPod, cute huh?) and from Howard’s Storage World at Harbourfront.

The Finding Nemo wall stickers were from an aunt, and were put up by the kids together with some friends.  I figured it was a good way to keep them entertained, and let them just go crazy with it, knowing I could always remove them afterwards.  Ha ha.  I never did though. 

The Master Bathroom

Here’s the other bathroom, this one an en suite to the master bedroom.  I’m not sure if you can see it, but we had a bidet attachment put in.  We found this at Song Cho, that place we bought all our stainless steel fittings from.  The guy told us it would fit 99% of all toilet bowls, but as it turned out, ours was the 1%.  Not wanting to give up his dream of having a bidet (LOL!), TC offered the guy DOUBLE the installation fee if he could find a way around it.  They came back a week later with a modified solution and after spending a couple of HOURS on it, he honoured his word, paid them double, and threw in some extras for dinner!  🙂 

This is Daniel sqatting at the door to the sunken bathtub and shower.  Our kids have had many hours of fun here.  Let me say again … MANY HOURS!  LOL!

The Master Bedroom

Welcome to our home entertainment centre.  Aka the Master Bedroom.  Just under the TV is a stack of Daniel’s cloth diapers which I admit I had to straighten before taking the photo.  To the left of the TV are more bookshelves.  We really put in as much storage space as we could!

A different view of the room.  We have black0ut curtains in both the bedrooms.  Makes for wonderful sleep.  Sometimes too much because we can’t tell it’s day!  The curtains are in 3 layers – the day curtains and the night curtains which are sewn together with a blackout layer. 

This is the view from sitting at the bay window, with the bed reflected in the mirrored doors of the Hoffen wardrobe.  If you look carefully … very carefully, you will see a reading light sticking out from just under the tower speaker.  We had the electrician copy these reading lights we’ve seen in hotels.  He used an LED bulb which is more than bright enough to read by, but which keeps the rest of the room in relative darkness so that the other person can sleep undisturbed.  Sheets are from the Hotel Collection in Robinson’s.

The Yellow Room

We call this room the “Yellow Room”.  It is a play room and piano room, and though it looks really small, I am surprised again and again by the number of children happy to sit around on the floor to play together.  The wardrobe is by Hoffen.  Notice the single piece door from floor to ceiling?  Not many companies can do that.  It makes the cupboard look so much neater without the need for another upper door.  The wardrobe was originally supposed to be on a different wall, but we decided to build it on this long wall instead so that we would have more storage space for all our toys.  The boys’ clothes were also stored in this room.  The room was to become the boys’ room when the kids were older.

The view from the doorway.  Our John Brinsmead piano is now in the temporary but loving care of a relative.  🙂 

The Storeroom

Here is the storeroom looking a little messy with additional suitcases ready for packing.  We had the carpenters build shelves to maximise the space.  It is amazing how much a well-organised storeroom can store!

And we bought Blum drawer fittings directly from Blum Singapore (www.blum.com/sg) and had the carpenters put them in.  Each drawer can hold a maximum of 30kg. 

The Yard

The Amazing Invisible Grilles.  Can you see them in the window?  These aren’t really “grilles”.  More like wires.  But they provide sufficient safety (read: the children won’t fall out the window), yet they really are quite hard to see.  We got them from Legate and you can look them up at www.legate.com.sg.  We put them in 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms and our small yard/wash area and it cost us S$2588.  We had them installed horizontally because we didn’t want them to look like prison bars, but in our master bedroom, they had to go in vertically because the L-shaped bay window didn’t allow the contractors to do the horizontal installation.  As it turned out, this was a very good thing, because our bedroom day curtains had vertical lines which camouflaged the invisible grilles!  So in that bedroom, the grills really ARE invisible.  🙂  Some people ask if they really are safe since they can easily be cut using a wire cutter.  Well, it really depends on who’s trying to get in.  If it’s a fireman, you’ll be happy you installed it.  If it’s a burglar, the system also comes with an alarm system which will go off if the wires are cut.

I have both a washing machine and a dryer.  Can’t live without the dryer.  🙂   On the left wall you can see more Song Cho stainless steel shelves for all our cleaning products and hangers.

The Yard Toilet

Don’t mind the mess.  We don’t ever use this toilet to … well … toilet.  🙂  But I did change the sink in to this industrial-looking one which is SO MUCH MORE practical than the tiny corner sink they provided.  You couldn’t even wash your hands properly without splashing water all over the place!  With this sink, I can scrub shoes, bleach cloths, dump dirty water after mopping the floor, etc.  Highly functional.  🙂  Sink was from the same place we bought our kitchen sink.  Hoe Kee on Jalan Berseh.

And that brings us to the end of the virtual tour of our home!  I hope you enjoyed it!

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