Feb 13 2016

On Couplehood

Published by under This Week

All You Need Is Love, photo courtesy Davide Ragusa, unsplash.com

My husband gave me an unexpected V-Day present yesterday, as we were trying to keep warm under a tiny blanket and doing what we rarely do these days–have a conversation late into the night.

I can’t remember if I asked whether he thought we’d married too soon, or if he was happy to be married to me, but this is what he said:

It wasn’t like how it was with the kids, where I was horrified at the news but eventually saw how beautiful it could be once they arrived. I always wanted to marry you. I’m still glad I did.

That, and he’s making rice pudding tomorrow. Life is good.

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    Feb 08 2016

    On Traditions, And Love

    Published by under This Week

    Happy New Year!

    We have Chinese New Year traditions but they’re a little strange: I get very generous red packets, my happily single brother refuses to accept money, and we usually have a reunion lunch way ahead of time.

    So yesterday was supposed to be a regular day, but my dad emerged from his room bearing red packets again.

    Dad, you gave us ang paos three weeks ago!

    Uh… that was for Christmas, I didn’t get you anything for Christmas.

    (He did, we all got presents.)

    I guess in some ways, we are a regular Chinese family after all. Few hugs, no kisses, no I love yous or I’m proud of you, but my folks are still trying to take care of me in the best way they know how.

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    Jan 30 2016

    Science Enrichment Classes In Singapore: thinkBIG (Jan Recap)

    Published by under Reviews + Sponsored Posts

    People talk about the letdown of primary school science, where kids look forward to this brand new subject and then discover that they’re doing mostly drills or other boring stuff all year long. Well school science wasn’t very exciting for Layla last year, and they didn’t exactly do drills towards year end either–I’d heard they were asked to copy answers from the whiteboard because the teacher ran out of time. Meaning we parents still had to buy guidebooks or print test papers and walk them through the question-answering process so they’d be sufficiently prepped for exams. It’s just the reality of being part of the system, and we’ve started to play the game too.

    Science at thinkBIG is still going well and the kids are now learning about matter, which some of them are also covering in school. The video above shows an experiment that they did last week (and I’m glad experiments are part of the deal here), where they created a makeshift balance scale with two balloons, and burst one of them to prove that air has weight. The science teacher Jenny told me that last week’s lesson focused on introducing essential concepts about the three states of matter, and the kids made notes as usual.

    This week, she showed the kids a video that she’d found on YouTube, and then moved on to discussing multiple choice and structured questions with the kids. With the multiple choice questions, she picked tricky questions where a statement could be true yet irrelevant to the question being asked. With the structured questions, she went around the table asking each kid to provide her with an answer verbally before they wrote it in their answer sheet. Her focus was on getting everyone familiar with the keywords that needed to be used, as well as the sequence of events that needed to be described in order for an answer to be considered “complete.” Although there are keywords and expectations for a “full answer,” I think it’s less about rote learning than about truly understanding what’s happening and why it happens.

    I have to say that I feel much more relaxed this year because of the thinkBIG classes; I can concentrate on work, personal growth, and giving some attention to Z’s learning and development journey for a change, knowing that Layla is reviewing concepts regularly and enjoying herself while she’s at it. It’s a bonus for me that thinkBIG is nearby and affordable too. I also asked Alf, while writing this post, what he thought were good qualities in teachers. (For those new to the blog, my husband is a secondary school math teacher.) He said good teachers ask plenty of questions while teaching, which teacher Jenny certainly does. He also agreed with me that good teachers should be receptive to feedback and show that they’re willing learners themselves, especially since that’s what they expect from students. These are qualities I’ve noticed and liked about the teachers in thinkBIG, and I’m reassured to know that Alf is on the same page.

    thinkBIG is a newly opened enrichment centre in the Bishan-Thomson area catering for primary, secondary, and JC students. I’ve paid for Layla to attend their creative writing classes and she’s been invited to sit in for their science classes in exchange for blog coverage. To read my other posts about thinkBIG, click here.

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    Jan 18 2016

    Life, And The Terminator

    Published by under This Week

    The Terminator (1984)

    When I wrote this romantic movie list for a friend a couple of years ago, I’d included The Terminator as an afterthought. It’d been many years since I’d seen the movie (numerous times, I might add) and my feelings for it had faded, although I’ll never forget how gutted I was by the love story that was central to the movie. Even as a 12 year old who’d stayed up after midnight to watch her first Arnold Schwarzenegger flick, and even with endless commercials and cuts for sex and foul language in the way, I was profoundly moved on my first viewing, and I hid under a black mood for days because Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) and Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn, pronounced “bean”) were robbed of their happily ever after.

    Last week, there were all these “think about death and dying” posts going around because of the double loss of David Bowie and Alan Rickman, and I felt the stirrings of a midlife crisis–questions without answers about what I want to achieve, along with how and where to live my life in a fulfilling way, coupled with the realisation that there are so many things about being young that I miss, like a neverending supply of hair (on my head), the 24/7 aura of invincibility, and the idea that with time on my side, life (love or otherwise) could go in any amazing direction. To distract myself, I hung out with Google, rode the wave of nostalgia, and found an article about Kyle Reese being the most interesting action hero ever, which made me watch The Terminator again.

    The Terminator is the perfect movie. How did I not know this before?

    First, the story is perfect. This must be one of the shorter movies director James Cameron has ever made! Every scene is essential, nothing more. The pacing is superb–no slow talky bits to weigh down the movie, and everything, even falling in love, is done on the run. I watched the scenes that hadn’t made it to the theatrical cut thinking I’d relish the additional interaction between my once-again favourite screen couple (sorry Kate and Leo!), but nah. Kyle came off as being a bit wimpy in the additional scenes; they would’ve messed with the steely-yet-vulnerable persona that’s still making me swoon 30 years later. Kyle also appears on a deleted dream sequence in Terminator 2, which I found corny. Their story was beautiful in part because it was short-lived; give them more time together to share a life and they’d probably turn into Kate and Leo in Revolutionary Road, so it’s for the best.

    Second, the hero is perfect. Movies like The Terminator are dangerous to watch, romantically speaking, because real life will always pale in comparison. I mean, show me a guy in real life who’ll travel across time to save a girl he’s never met from something that’s virtually indestructible? Please. I wonder if Michael Biehn’s tried living up to the myth of the hero that he created and felt defeated in the process. It’s interesting to me that he’s started directing movies recently which have characters named Kyle and Reese. I feel like I’d be miserable if I were an actor, and constantly stuck in limbo between worlds and characters because I can’t shake them off quickly enough.

    Third, I love how the female lead is the real hero by the end of the movie–she calls the shots, pulls her man up when he’s down, and makes the final kill. This was the 80s and they intentionally set out to make a movie where Sarah Connor grows into her “mother of the future” role, not one where she sits around screaming and waiting to be rescued. I like this about many of James Cameron’s movies (Aliens, Titanic), where the men fall by the wayside and the heroines discover and tap into their own source of strength eventually.

    Also, I’m so glad the Internet and Google are fairly recent inventions–I would’ve never gotten any studying done back in school if they’d been around! January’s a slow work month and I’ve been spending nights reviving my Kyle Reese/Michael Biehn obsession by digging up trivia and old videos, beginning with this lengthy recap of his career. I found it funny that right after The Terminator, which came out in 1984, Michael Biehn went on to make a TV movie called Deadly Intentions, about a girl and her “nice” doctor husband who secretly wants her dead. I’ve seen this movie with my mom! I can almost visualise us together in our old home watching this, with her explaining the plot to me–I’m not sure we made it through the whole movie because it’s a 4-hour two parter. How do you go from being the perfect man to this? I suppose that’s an actor’s life…

    Back to The Terminator: Time travel stories make my brain spin, but in a fun way. If you don’t know the story of The Terminator and don’t mind spoilers, it works like this–Kyle Reese gets sent back in time to save Sarah Connor from a killer cyborg (also sent back in time), so that she can go ahead to give birth to her son, John Connor, who will one day become the leader of a resistance movement against self-aware machines, which are hell-bent on wiping out humanity. Kyle and Sarah spend a night together; he dies and she lives, and she’s pregnant at the end of the movie. So there’s all kinds of weirdness here, chiefly that Kyle will be born again, but he’ll be younger than his son. Here’s the puzzler: Kyle Reese couldn’t have been the original father of John Connor, so he belongs in an alternate timeline where future events have been altered because of tampering with the past? Terminator fans have been thinking about this for the last 30 years, and I enjoyed reading some of their theories here.

    Photo via The Terminator’s official FB page.

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    Jan 10 2016

    Creative Writing Classes In Singapore: thinkBIG Week #1

    Published by under Learn

    thinkBIG creative writing enrichment in Singapore

    Layla did very well for her English final exam last year; it was a near-perfect paper! Her grades for the mid-term as well as for oral and composition weren’t as stellar and they brought down her overall score. The oral exam has always been challenging for Layla; she’s often taciturn when communicating with unfamiliar adults–part of it is personality, some kids are just chattier than others so we don’t hassle her about it.

    Composition in Primary 3 was a huge jump from the writing work they did in Primary 2, and I wasn’t happy with the way that writing lessons were conducted in school, especially in the first half of the year where kids churned out one story after another without getting personalised and specific feedback about how they could improve their essays. I tried to help Layla but we’re at the tween stage of our mother-daughter relationship, where we take turns to be impatient and cutting, and because of this, she occasionally perceives innocent comments as a personal attack. My best bet for building a better relationship with my daughter is for us to do more fun stuff together, and helping her with schoolwork doesn’t fall in that category. At year end, I mulled over the possibility of sending her to a regular writing class in a convenient location, which is when I saw the newly opened enrichment centre in my neighbourhood and walked in for a chat.

    The trial English classes at thinkBIG seemed interesting and activity packed. They held debates, played charades, and discussed issues like discrimination, where the English teacher Diana explained to kids that people could face discrimination for many reasons, including religion. Teacher Diana also told me that she’d used pencils to dramatise the story of Romeo and Juliet for the kids because she’d wanted to introduce the concept of a tragedy to them, which I thought was pretty cool.

    Now that lessons have started proper, Layla’s the only student in her creative writing slot and as much as I appreciate the personal attention, I hope for the teachers’ sake that more students sign up soon! In the first lesson of the year, Teacher Diana focused on writing using the five senses. As an opening exercise, she had Layla imagine she was in a candy store and Layla had to describe everything she saw, smelled, tasted, etc. After which, she gave Layla a sample piece of descriptive writing, and Layla’s job was to modify it slightly to form her own story. The objective of the exercise was to help Layla use words and phrases that she ordinarily wouldn’t have, and it worked.

    thinkBIG creative writing enrichment in Singapore

    The first two paragraphs are similar to the sample story she was given, but she managed to veer off and write her own story towards the end (the ending paragraphs aren’t included in this photo). There are continuity and word usage issues but I appreciate that Layla wasn’t over-corrected. She made the effort to use words like “jostle,” which she hasn’t in her school compositions, and I’m pleased about that. However, I did point out one thing to Teacher Diana–like her, I would’ve advised a change in “glanced at and beamed at” too (see paragraph 2), except I would have suggested:

    “…glanced at his dishevelled face and ___________.”

    The edited “glanced and beamed at” sounds awkward to me, unless one is talking about doing both these things at the same time. As for “beamed,” it’s not the most appropriate word in this context and I would’ve preferred Layla to use a word to indicate amusement. Unless the girl in the story is beaming because of the hug and thanks from Dad–perhaps too many things are going on in these sentences, sometimes less is more.

    Anyway, being able to use a variety of words as well as understanding the subtle differences between them would be the next level I’d like Layla to work up to, and I said as much to Teacher Diana.

    Teacher Diana and I also had a quick chat about word meanings. I love that she’s introducing materials that are not only food for thought, but also platforms for acquiring vocabulary. Click here and here to view my vocabulary flashcards for the words that Layla’s picked up from her sessions.

    We’re often only vaguely aware of what a word means, although that awareness is enough for us to comprehend most of what we read or hear. But since we’re in the information-overload age, checking out a word’s exact meaning takes about five seconds, and we should all do it. In Layla’s notes, I’d noticed she’d written that “on the fly” means “without rules”–it sort of does, but that’s not its precise meaning, which can be found here.

    I brought this up with Teacher Diana, along with some observations regarding the odd typo that I’d spotted in the material, to which she responded, “I’m so sorry! There’s no excuse for that.” I was impressed; it’s rare to meet someone who’s humble and willing to accept constructive feedback, and with good cheer too–these are such important qualities for everyone, especially teachers.

    Speaking of qualities, in my early parenting days I had this image of the perfect teacher, and my list of requirements (including never lapsing into Singlish, ever) went on forever. But over the years, and having experienced different teachers and seen their influence on Layla–or lack thereof–I’ve come to see that some qualities are more important than others, like the ability to build rapport and help kids gain confidence and find their own source of joy and satisfaction in the work that they’re doing. Superficial qualities like qualifications matter less to me now; I have an MA in literature and I’ve been in the editorial business for almost two decades, but I haven’t been able to help Layla in a way that’s fulfilling for us both. The teachers at thinkBIG are not NIE-trained, but they’re experienced tutors who’re familiar with the local syllabus and they have genuine affection for their students–if they keep up their positive work attitude, they’ll definitely be able to build a fruitful learning space for kids.

    thinkBIG creative writing enrichment in Singapore

    A final observation before I wrap up this post: I thought this comment was very sweet. Layla would definitely be receptive to such feedback!

    thinkBIG is a newly opened enrichment centre in the Bishan-Thomson area catering for primary, secondary, and JC students. I’ve paid for Layla to attend their creative writing classes, and she’s been invited to sit in for their science classes in exchange for blog coverage. To support them, I’ll also blog about their creative writing classes from time to time. I have a soft spot for young entrepreneurs and we’ve had a positive experience with both teachers from the start. Do check out thinkBIG if Bishan-Thomson is a convenient location for you. To read all my posts about thinkBIG, click here.

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    Jan 09 2016

    Science Enrichment Classes In Singapore: thinkBIG Week #1

    Published by under Learn


    Layla’s holiday trial at a nearby enrichment centre called thinkBIG went well, and by the end of the month a cozy community had formed. Kids would be popping in just to say hi, and we did the same too. The science teacher Jenny told me recently that what she likes best about the student community here is how they all seem connected in some way, like they’re not only neighbours but also former kindy classmates, or playground playmates, or soccer buddies–you get the picture!

    Despite our positive experience during the trials, I only had the budget (and intention) to enrol Layla in one class at thinkBIG and she picked creative writing. I wanted Layla to have a strong sense of independence and accountability when it came to her schoolwork, instead of gradually increasing her reliance on tutors because it’ll be hard to turn back.

    Layla’s overall science grade for last year was 86%, which to us is OK. She’s not particularly curious by nature; I was that way as a kid too, and even as a grown-up I still tend to accept certain things at face value unless I have a vested interest in the subject. But, the thinkBIG teachers kindly offered to let Layla sit in for their science classes in exchange for regular blog coverage. I felt she could use the additional support to gain confidence in tackling science, and was happy to accept.

    As mentioned earlier, Teacher Jenny runs the science classes at thinkBIG, and during the December holidays, she gave the kids a refresher course on Primary 3 material. I was pleasantly surprised when Layla came home with handwritten notes that were much more comprehensive and organised than her school notes, which were minimal and random, to be honest. I decided to store the notes with the interactive notebook method in mind; there are lots of resources and videos about such notebooks online, and you can start with this video.

    thinkBIG Science Enrichment in Singapore

    thinkBIG Science Enrichment in Singapore

    It’s great to have notes on hand again; I had copies of the much-recommended Ultimate Science guides but they really sucked the joy out of science and learning. Layla didn’t seem to retain much of the information from the guides after repeated readings, so I decided to leave them at our library’s book exchange corner.

    Of course, the next thing to do with notes is to ensure you understand and remember the information, and I’m using mnemonics and additional explanatory material to help her along.

    thinkBIG Science Enrichment in Singapore

    thinkBIG Science Enrichment in Singapore

    Yesterday was thinkBIG’s first official science lesson of the new year and the topic of the day was materials, which is something Layla’s school has already covered. But according to Teacher Jenny, the four kids in the class still needed a lot of exposure to the topic, so she spent some time with the kids to examine the various objects around them, such as an electric kettle, a power plug, and so on, to discuss what materials they were made of, and why those materials had been chosen. I liked this list that she gave the kids–she wanted them to think of all these properties whenever they had to answer a materials-related question:

    Next week, it’s quiz time; quizzes are going to be a regular thing in Teacher Jenny’s class!

    From what I can see, for now, the factors for learning success are in place. Although it’s only week #1 of the school term, Layla’s already bored with science lessons in school, but without exception, she has always been eager to attend a lesson at thinkBIG. Teacher Jenny’s getting along swimmingly with the other kids too–it’s a small group and everyone’s comfortable enough to volunteer answers and ask questions, and since she’s not teaching ahead or beyond the syllabus, she’ll be helping kids build good study habits as they clarify and review concepts in a consistent manner.

    thinkBIG is a newly opened enrichment centre in the Bishan-Thomson area catering for primary, secondary, and JC students. I’ve paid for Layla to attend their creative writing classes, and she’s been invited to sit in for their science classes in exchange for blog coverage. I like to support young entrepreneurs and we’ve had a positive experience with them from the start, so do check them out if this is a convenient location for you! Note: I mentioned in an earlier post that sessions would be run in two-hour blocks, with the first hour reserved for help with the student’s schoolwork. The thinkBIG teachers have decided to scrap this idea–kids are welcome to drop in at the centre earlier on lesson days if they need help with homework, but lessons will now be conducted for two hours, once a week, at $140 per month. To read my other posts about thinkBIG, click here.

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    Jan 05 2016

    Fresh Start

    Published by under This Week

    Xmas 2015

    Xmas 2015

    Xmas 2015

    Happy 2016! I came across an article yesterday with some simple advice for good health: Sleep well, eat well, stay on the move, and be around people. I went to bed at 10.30PM last night, which is something I haven’t done since I was in primary school! I’m experimenting with a new routine where I work early in the morning, since I have to get up at 5.30 anyway to help Layla get ready for school. The mornings are peaceful but with Z up at 7-ish, I’ll have to be more organised and efficient than when I’m working nights.

    I spent the December holidays with friends and family; we tried to squeeze in as much quality time as possible with my sis-in-law Jac and her kids, who were visiting from NZ. We finally stocked our home with mattresses to host them, and it was surprising (to me) how everyone seemed to fill in the spaces in our tiny home, yet it didn’t feel crowded at all. Her boys survived without a TV in our home, thanks to back-to-basics games like Gobblet Gobblers (tic-tac-toe with a twist), Monopoly Junior, and Uno. We also had the most wonderful family Christmas where we gathered at an uncle’s home and talked and played till midnight, when kids were finally allowed to rip into their presents.

    In contrast, we entered 2016 in our usual fashion, at home without fanfare. I don’t think any of us were ready for the new year, but Alf and Layla (who’re both returning to school as teacher and student) felt the dread most. Alf has a challenging year ahead of him as he’s agreed to take on a full teaching load again, something he hasn’t done in five years even though he’s been back in school for some time. Layla pulled up her grades during last year’s final exam and did well enough to land in a class where they’ll be “enriching” the English programme–we’ll find out what that means soon enough. Z’s gotten started on reading, and I’ll spend this year getting him school-ready for his K2 year in 2017. A “dream kindy” I was eyeing for Layla will move into our neighbourhood in the later part of this year–don’t you love it when things fall into place on their own? 2015 was good for me; I worked steadily and met my earnings target, thanks to recommendations from friends and babysitting help from my mum-in-law. I’ll have to find a new challenge for myself too! Until work rolls in again, I’m forcing myself to cook instead of steam and assemble, and I’m learning from the best.

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    Dec 19 2015

    November & December School Holidays: S.E.A. Aquarium’s Merry Fishmas Celebration

    Published by under Reviews + Sponsored Posts

    Merry Fishmas, S.E.A. Aquarium

    We were invited to S.E.A. Aquarium to check out their Christmas programme this year–my sis-in-law Jac is back from NZ with her three boys, and they tagged along with us since they haven’t been to the aquarium before. Layla and Z were glad for the extra company!

    Merry Fishmas, S.E.A. Aquarium

    The decorations were up–corals make great Christmas trees!

    Merry Fishmas, S.E.A. Aquarium

    Merry Fishmas, S.E.A. Aquarium

    One of the highlights of the Christmas celebration is the Merry Fishmas trail: Kids can pick up an activity card at the entrance. There are 12 questions and the answers are on Merry Fishmas panels scattered throughout the aquarium. I was afraid the panels would be hard to spot in the dark, but that wasn’t the case. In fact it was hard to miss them!

    Merry Fishmas, S.E.A. Aquarium

    Besides underwater trees, we spotted underwater presents.

    Merry Fishmas, S.E.A. Aquarium

    At the halfway mark, we stopped at the “sure-win” wheel-of-fortune station for each kid to take a spin. No big prizes here, just small items that the kids enjoyed, like caps and snacks.

    Merry Fishmas, S.E.A. Aquarium

    Merry Fishmas, S.E.A. Aquarium

    Getting sidetracked by bubbler jellies and a giant spider crab.

    Merry Fishmas, S.E.A. Aquarium

    Once you’ve located the final board and have all 12 answers, your next stop would be the gift redemption corner. I was happy to see that everyone with an activity card won a candy cane, and there was no checking of scores–the kids initially thought candy canes would only be given to perfect scorers!

    In my opinion, the Merry Fishmas trail was very well planned. I liked that you could scratch the answer off on the activity card–it’s more fuss-free than a pen-pencil-clipboard set-up. The information panels were fun and easy to read, and the trivia memorable; they gave our party of kids (especially the two 9-year-olds, Layla and her cousin Manny) something to focus on during the visit. My older nephews (11 and 13) attempted the questions right at the beginning; their guesses were all correct but they still paused to read the panels.

    I would love to see more kid trails set up in future, even during non-festive seasons, so kids can learn to slow down and get into the habit of reading information panels instead of zipping from one exhibit to another in a frenzy. There were some Christmas highlights that we missed, such as Santa and elf divers feeding the fish, and you can read full details here.

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    Dec 16 2015

    November & December School Holidays: Learning Activities

    Published by under This Week

    Dec School Holidays Learning Activities

    I can’t believe it’s almost Christmas week, where did all the time go? There’s plenty more I’d like to share, but I’ve hardly been online except to work, and I suppose that’s a good thing. For now, I’ll start with a recap of some of Layla’s learning activities during the holiday:

    “Draw Anything” workshop. Some friends of mine have been saying good things about an art school that’s not too far from where we live. (You can read a friend’s post here.) Layla has said on several occasions that she wished she could remember things or scenes by sketching them, so I decided to finally pop in and give the school a try. My first impression wasn’t great–the teacher who greeted us wasn’t particularly friendly, but perhaps I was also having an off day. I went ahead and signed Layla up anyway because I was specific about our learning objectives and there seemed to be a class that was a good fit. Layla enjoyed her three days there and she’s pleased with her finished products. I can’t comment on the teacher’s skill level, but one thing struck me: The teacher didn’t like white space. She told Layla to fill every inch of the paper with different sketches, which I found a little odd. But Layla liked her, and to me, rapport matters more. Unfortunately when I checked, the teacher also revealed she was leaving the school. Will this workshop result in Layla being able to sketch what she sees? Only time will tell.

    Invent/Imagine science camp. I signed Layla up for a 3-day science workshop because I felt the educator who organised it has passion and heart, and is a good presenter too. But as it turned out, she invited industry experts to conduct the sessions. The title seemed misleading as I don’t think Layla got to invent anything or imagine very much during the three days–or at least, she didn’t tell me about it. She did however learn about how planes fly and how the brain works; I thought these were interesting topics but she pronounced the aviation segment “boring,” and only really enjoyed the crafting portion of the camp, where they made a model of the brain using coloured dough.

    thinkBIG P3 refresher classes. I know, tutoring sessions during the school holidays? What’s happened to me?! Well a new tuition centre opened its doors in my ‘hood in December, with an irresistible offer for trying out their lessons during the introductory month–for $50, you could send your kids to their 2-hour sessions daily (Mon-Fri), for three weeks! More than that, it was the bright interior, along with the open, happy faces of the two teachers Diana and Jenny, that made me curious enough to walk in and chat with them, and I’m glad I did. They had Layla take diagnostic tests for science and English (we opted out of their math classes). Their comments about Layla’s weaknesses were in line with my personal observations, and in the oral test that they gave Layla, she received a score similar to her school grade. Since then, the teachers have shown their dedication even though it’s a $50 trial–we missed some classes and they offered us make-up lessons. And they even called to check if we were turning up, on the one occasion that I forgot to let them know in advance. Layla likes the teachers; in fact when I’d asked her about her science camp (see above), she said the speakers weren’t fun or engaging like the thinkBIG teachers. I’ve already decided to sign Layla up for thinkBIG’s English classes next year, where the focus is on improving writing skills. We’re also planning a collaboration where Layla sits in on their science lessons in exchange for a regular blog feature. I like that it’s a modest place that feels casual and cozy. The rates are reasonable ($140 per subject per month, with a discount if you’re signing up for all three subjects), and from our last conversation, I found out they intend to run their classes in 2-hour blocks. The first hour is for schoolwork–kids can bring in their homework to complete, and the teachers will provide assistance where needed. Lessons begin proper in the second hour!

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    Dec 09 2015

    Christmas Gift Ideas From Philips

    Published by under Reviews + Sponsored Posts

    Philips in-ear ActionFit headphones

    Some time ago, my musician friend Pat asked if I was interested in testing a pair of Philips headphones. He works for Gibson Guitar, and last year Gibson bought over Philips’s audiovisual arm, which is why he now has cool consumer products for his blogging friends to test! I said yes because I’d been meaning to buy a pair of earphones with an attached mic, for work i.e. taking notes during phone interviews. I type faster than I write–and sometimes, think–so it’s my go-to note-taking method, but I need both hands free for that.

    The earphones turned out to be sports headphones, otherwise known as the “ActionFit SHQ2305WS.” (I’ll take it as another reminder to get active.)

    The first thing I noticed about the headphones was the unusual shape of the ear pieces—these are “in-ear” headphones, which means they can be inserted snugly into the ear, to form a seal outside the ear canal for blocking out external noises. It also comes with a cable clip, so you don’t have to deal with hanging wires as you work out. You can read the rest of the product features here.

    Once I figured out the right way to wear my headphones (there were faint L/R markings that I’d missed), I made a test phone call to Alf and that went well. Then I tried listening to music using Spotify on my phone: The sound was crystal clear but also fairly sharp, so I used Spotify’s equaliser function to increase the bass levels for a sound that was gentler on the ears, and closer to what I’m accustomed to.

    The headphones I tested are not for sale in Singapore, but you can view the local range of headphones on Philips’s web site. I think headphones are great as stocking stuffers; they’re also an option if you’re participating in Christmas gift exchanges—most people would be happy to receive them! Continue Reading »

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