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Wednesday, October 30, 2013

iPad-ifying the Classes


I read an article entitled The iPad Goes To School (from Bloomberg Businessweek, 24th October 2013)... and I was amazed at the usefulness of an iPad in teaching and guiding students, whilst allowing them to take an active part in their learning. Dr Pet's classes aren't about tables and chairs + chalk and talk, anyway. Ummm... we don't even HAVE tables and chairs in the classrooms. Our facilitators don't teach, so they talk very little (and don't need chalk). Instead, they facilitate the children's journey of discovery through the adventures of the given material.

So, after I read the article, I experienced INSTANT lust!

Those Silly Netbooks!
In the past year, I've given the children little Netbooks to work on their compositions. It's a productivity tool really, because we teach writing skill by skill. Each skill is layered upon the next in successive drafts. The composition begins to look halfway decent only by the 4th draft. It needs up to 8th drafts to complete a single composition to my satisfaction. Imagine all the time lost if the children had to copy out the same composition by hand 8 times, each time working on one skill. They would REFUSE to copy, and I would not have the heart to force them to do dumb copying ad nauseum.

The Netbooks were REALLY slow however. They needed forever to boot up. Very often, halfway through typing, those silly things would hang.

These Lovely iPads
The children can now type their stories into the iPads and upload them into a shared Google Drive. I can pop into that drive and get these compositions out for marking. I can then customise the individual children's Writing Lesson Instructions for the following Writing Session, and upload those into Google Drive too. The children come into class, download their document and they each know exactly what to do for the next 3 hours.

The iPad also allows the children to create Story Maps easily. They swipe and they tap and they type... and if they don't like what they've created, they can delete with another tap. There is no rubbing out and copying again. You can move the boxes hither and thither to make space for other boxes (i.e., ideas) in between, as your brain generates ideas from connection to connection. Best of all, it DOCUMENTS their thinking in real time so that as the Facilitator or I pass among the children, we can ask to delete a box (i.e., an idea)... or add another... or change one other slightly. 

In 1.5 hours, we can get the children to generate 5 different story lines... and then we pick the one we like best for the children to write into a composition. This gives the kids much confidence. They won't feel stressed by the thought of receiving back a marked composition only to find that after putting in 3 hours into WRITING OUT a story, they've failed on story content.

In essence, it separates out story development from language use. We can thus critique, guide and approve story development BEFORE the children start writing. This means that the children can focus on doing ONE THING at a time well. First, they get the story right. Then, they focus on wordsmithing it.

That's only the START! I can see so many OTHER possibilities that would thrill the kids. Let's not forget too that some research has shown that when people are shown an iPad, the area of the brain that is associated with Love and Affection actually lights up. The kids are gonna be thrilled to get these iPads....

.... until... errrrrr... they realise that there is No Internet Connection (unless I decide to enable it), and there are no Games Apps. Oh dear! I do hope I don't rewire their brains to hate the iPad.

The iPads have silly names too! Sleepy, Dopey, Happy, Grumpy, Bashful, Sneezy... etc...

Story Map

Another Blogger Review

Yay! One more blogger review for Dr Pet's book.

Click HERE.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

To Do Higher Chinese? Or Not?

Little Boy did badly in Chinese in Primary 4 but he did so very well in the other 3 subjects that his school gave us the option of Higher Chinese in Primary 5 with the caveat that he would have to work hard or get kicked out of Higher Chinese in P6. That was such a difficult decision indeed. The Husband and I tussled over this for a few weeks. I indicated normal Chinese on the form at first. When The Husband found out, he was most displeased. I thought it wise to call Teacher and change the option to Higher Chinese.

The Husband's Reasons for Insisting
Children who take Higher Chinese in primary school are allowed to continue with Higher Chinese in secondary school. Once one has cleared Higher Chinese by Secondary 4, one does not need to do Chinese in Junior College. This frees up 2 hours (at least) of curriculum time for CCAs and other subjects.

My Reasons for Objecting
It will be a whole bl**** lot of hard work! It's easy for YOU to talk because YOU don't have to work with Little Boy, and YOU'RE not illiterate in Chinese. Little Boy already can barely cope with normal Chinese. Having to bridge the gap through to Higher Chinese was a revolting thought. Think bathing in freezing cold water in the deep of the Alaskan winter. It appears that there are benefits but... man... I REALLY don't feel like jumping in there!

Our Compromise
Actually, it was hardly a compromise. It was Petunia's silent rebellion against The Husband's unreasonable demand. As a child, I was actually quite good at finding ways of NOT doing what I was supposed to do. I recognise myself in many of the children I now teach. They're too small to openly disobey but I look deep in their eyes and I see an intent to passively disobey. So children... if any of you are reading this, Dr Pet has been there and done that. All the naughty things you're cooking up in those little heads... well I know them, 'cos I've done them. To catch a criminal, ya gotta think like one. To get along with children, ya gotta think like them too. So, I know what y'all are thinking... ngiahahahaha!

Unfortunately, The Husband doesn't... which conveniently gave me some leeway for non-action.

So, I promised Little Boy that we would not work on Higher Chinese at all, and if he failed, he failed. Too bad. Time and energy resources were scarce. Little Boy had no tuition. We focused all our efforts on normal Chinese, to the point of skipping Higher Chinese classes (because I realised that the Teacher used that time to cover the textbook only... and we all know how lousy the textbooks are).

After a while, I began to see the obvious thing and I began to marvel at The Husband's wisdom. Higher Chinese and normal Chinese are both the same language. Our efforts in improving Little Boy's true competence in Chinese through reading, listening and writing a lot of Chinese, also paid off vis-a-vis Higher Chinese. That actually encouraged us to work even harder and to do CRAZY things like write out from memory 5 X 2000 words compositions, solely to improve his normal Chinese.

Eventually, even though we didn't do any Higher Chinese practice papers, Little Boy still passed Higher Chinese at his PSLE. I would definitely advise parents to sign their children up for Higher Chinese if the school proposes it. If you're looking at just a PASS, there are advantages without any extra work. And if you fail, so what? The score is not included in the PSLE T-Score.

So, it's a good deal. You pay the price (in workload) for normal Chinese and you get Higher Chinese free.

Monday, October 28, 2013

My Little Old Head

In one year Little Boy has changed beyond recognition. He took his PSLE last year and ended the year with a roundish face (with a somewhat bulbous nose) and a propensity to chortle at most of my silly jokes. He had something of a paunch, and he trotted hither and thither full of childlike energy and enthusiasm.

In one year the roundish face has become oblong and his nose has taken on a rather nice lean shape. He no longer chortles at any joke. His cute paunch has become a washboard. Instead of trotting hither and thither, he lopes lazily on long boned legs from room to room. His childlike enthusiasm  for digging up mud in the garden, building strange contraptions with odds and ends, seeing play potential in a simple wooden plank... has disappeared. In its place is a young lad observing the world quietly through lazy half-opened eye lids - judging, evaluating, concluding ...

I miss my chatty little one who would reach out with one little hand to turn my chin towards him demanding my attention, "Mommy, Mommy... talk to me! Talk to me, Mommy!" Now, I have to hug him gently from behind his chair, and say, "Son, talk to me."

All year, he had no time to talk to me much.

He's had a tough year, my little big one. He had taken on 3 CCAs at the start of the year and found it hard to cope. He dropped one CCA but his days were still pretty intense since he was training for competitions in the other 2 CCAs. He trained so hard that there really wasn't any time to study after school. He took to doing his HW in the empty time between classes, or when Teachers were scolding someone else. He would study ahead during the long festive weekends so as not to fall behind. Thanks to his study schedule, our family didn't go anywhere interesting during any of the long festive weekends this year.

Now, it's after exams, and my boy has time to talk to me again.

We talked about the unrest in the Middle East. We talked about the US government shutdown. We talked about the NSA spying on Chancellor Merkel. Then, I remarked, "The USA has become very naughty. The world is becoming more and more unsafe."

Little Boy raised one eyebrow at me, "Mom, the USA has always been naughty. It's just that things are now falling apart over there and all these naughty things are coming out. Did you expect that the USA didn't do any spying before Merkel?"

Then, Little Boy raised the other eyebrow at me, "Mom, we live in an era that is actually very very safe. Think about it. Before this, there was the Cold War. Before that, there was World War II and the horrendous holocaust. Before World War II, there was the Great Depression in USA. Before that, there was World War I... and there was that French Revolution thing... and how the Tsar of Russia was murdered in a country torn apart by famine... and then before that there were wars and wars and wars with Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan, Tamerlane... there were the Scots against the English... the English against the French. Mom, there has been war and violence in every age of human history. Our world at present is actually very safe."

I certainly didn't expect a lesson in world history as I held his hand companionably across the road. I felt like cracking one of my silly and childish jokes but it seemed out of place with this boy who is almost a man.

He's my little old head.

Sunday, October 27, 2013


It appears that these are somebody's 臭臭. A 臭臭 is defined as a soft toy that one has grown up with since babyhood. To qualify as a 臭臭, the thing has to have been puked on... peed on... chewed upon... and cuddled every night in bed till sleep gathers up one into its soft embrace.

I didn't know these were 臭臭, till The Daughter told me. I was happily playing with the two 臭臭, thinking them to be 2 soft toys like any other soft toy. After I was told that they were somebody's 臭臭, I couldn't bear to touch them anymore... even though I do doubt that these two elephants are bona fide 臭臭. They really look too clean to be 臭臭... and when I played with them earlier, they didn't smell bad at all.

Still... someone else's 臭臭 aren't for wanton touching so I can't bring myself to play with them anymore. I'm even surprised that The Daughter's friend agreed to LEND her 臭臭 to The Daughter. This must be a really really nice friend because you know...  臭臭 aren't really lendable and one certainly doesn't go around borrowing other people's 臭臭. I certainly don't lend my friends my three 臭臭, pictured below. The Daughter isn't there because since babyhood, she has always been very 香香. 香香 are also not for borrowing nor lending though they may be given away in marriage to the right man.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Line of Action

Here is a post on how to get children to obey you without having to...
(1) nag
(2) yell
(3) cane


Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Power & Influence in the MOE

We've noted for some time that Principals of schools run little fiefdoms within each school. Their authority within the school is not much circumscribed. Within the school, the Principal is all powerful. In order to get all the schools rowing in the same direction either of the following is required...

(1) Extensive and thorough values socialization... OR

(2) Simplistic KPIs (both academic and extra-curricular)

Charting a Unified MOE Direction Using KPIs
In the past decade, a Principal's job performance has been evaluated by a basket of quantitative KPIs. By distilling the essence of education into a series of numbers, these KPIS also throw away much richness and nuances important to the role of educators at every level (kindness to children, seeing qualities in children that are not KPI-related, enjoying children, caring about their health and their emotional wellbeing). 

These other aspects of education not defined by KPIs are present if the school Principal believes they're important. They're absent if not. Not all Principals think the same.

Through the mechanism of KPI management, we were very successful in getting all the schools to row in the same direction. All educators (and even parents) learnt to focus their attention on a few numbers,  and over time, our education system (and parenting styles) became all about chasing that last mark, and getting that gold medal. We forgot that these were living and breathing children. We worked them like the last employee in a corporation, driving them towards higher and higher results.... better and better KPIs.

Charting a Unified MOE Direction Through Character & Values Socialization
Let's examine now, the notion of extensive and thorough values socialization. The best way to illustrate this to to look at the training of a Jesuit priest. See HERE. The formation of a Jesuit priest is LONG (between 8 to 14 years... and final vows are only taken several years AFTER formation ends). 

Compare this with the one year training course for school Principals. 

In the days before globalization, a Jesuit priest was expected to uphold the the exact same values and embody the character of Jesus, all by himself, in far flung countries where he would be alone and completely empowered to do as he deemed fit. Wherever he was and no matter that he had complete freedom, a Jesuit priest could be trusted to row his flock in the same strategic direction as every other priest anywhere else in the world. The 14 years of formation (plus some) programmed his intrinsic values, worldview and character so thoroughly that he could be trusted thus. 

In contrast, Principals can each think very differently from each other. They possess a diversity of opinion and values that almost ensures that school after school will be run very differently. What is a good education? Each Principal has his/her own idea... and depends on his/her own personality, career desires and past experience, to interpret this question. 

My friend Ian Tan calls the schools Cowboy Towns where the Sheriff calls all the shots. We've noticed that since MOE relies on KPIs to govern the schools, the schools will get you the KPIs but some may do so in less than desirable ways. 

What is the Impact of Such a Lack of Social/Moral/Strategic Unity for MOE?
The MOE now faces an uphill task to build consensus amongst Principals, HODs and Teachers on how to move the whole MOE ship into uncharted waters. The MOE knows that the bell curve is not ideal but there is a lack of clarity and consensus on what should take its place and how to move ahead. To his credit, Mr Heng Swee Keat has sketched a very clear direction AWAY from over differentiating students and schools... towards more equal opportunities for students and greater parity in quality between schools.

I do fear however, that his clear strategic direction will remain a mere SUGGESTION if he has no organizational mechanism to help him move every single individual in the direction he wants the MOE to go. As such, I thought it meet to perform an analysis of Power and Influence within the MOE using conceptual instruments long known to researchers in Organizational Behavior (i.e., OB Researchers).

School Principals Hold Reward and Coercive Power
Please refer to the text-grab herein below to understand the accepted definitions (1) Reward Power and (2) Coercive Power within the domain of Organizational Science.

 Text-Grab of Definitions of Reward Power and Coercive Power

Principals appraise HODs and Teachers. Principals are the ones that determine the career progression for HODs and Teachers. Principals have power over size of bonuses, promotional opportunities and developmental opportunities. Principals are generalists who administrate. They are not the anchors of teaching expertise. Principals have breadth, and not depth.

Teachers Hold Expert Power
The Principals therefore rely on the subject teachers to know how to teach. Principals often would not interfere with Teachers' teaching techniques. They leave the HOD to ensure quality of teaching. The situation is not unlike that of a hospital administrator (previously trained as an oncologist) feeling unable to tell his subordinate, an ophthalmologist, how to perform Lasik. 

This means that the quality of teaching is anchored at the level of the HOD. The HOD can expect little guidance from the Principal vis-a-vis the exact techniques on how to teach such and such a subject.

Further, since the Principal's centre of expertise is School Administration AND he/she is the one to determine an HOD's bonuses and career progression, it is then no surprise that the HODs' time is channeled more towards administrative tasks than to deepening teaching expertise in his/her department.

Next, now that HODs are more concerned with administrative tasks than teaching quality and THEY determine the bonuses and career progression of the Teachers, is it at all surprising that Teachers (who wish to be promoted) are also more concerned with administration than with teaching well and caring for students?

Is it therefore surprising that our HODs and Teachers focus more on admin than on teaching? 

What About Master Teachers?
Of course, there are Master Teachers (who prefer to teach and care for students)... but these Master Teachers hold little power. They lead by through Expert Power. They influence through persuasion. Master Teachers don't appraise Teachers in the same way that Principals do. Master Teachers, possessed of depth and skill in teaching, have very little power to spread good teaching practices. There is only so much you can influence behaviors through words and expertise alone. 

Introducing the Notion of Subject Practice
Sharing platforms and teacher conferences can provide ideas, but schools remain cowboy towns in that they can refuse to improve their current teaching techniques in such and such Subject Practice (e.g., English Subject Practice, Math Subject Practice, Science Subject Practice etc....). 

It also doesn't help Subject Practice unity ... nor speed of spread in innovation within each Subject Practice when Teachers all report to and are appraised by a generalist head (the school Principal more interested in using Teachers to administrate) instead of reporting to and being appraised by a Specialist Head residing within MOE HQ (a Subject Practice Head more interested in leveraging up teaching quality within his/her Subject Practice). 

At present, there is no way for MOE HQ to ENSURE the spread of teaching expertise and innovation. If it spreads, great! If it doesn't, there really is nothing MOE HQ can do. There are flashes of brilliant innovation in this or that school but the spread of innovation is slow and patchy indeed. These individual innovators don't take too long to figure out that they can leave the system and command top dollar for their innovative teaching methods.

If this continues, Mr Heng Swee Keat's vision of achieving Every School a Good School is very much in jeopardy. His organizational structure gives him too little power over teaching quality.

MOE HQ Wasn't Being Irresponsible... It Was Merely Powerless
It took me a looooooong time to figure out WHY MOE HQ kept passing the buck of crazy exams to the schools. It took me a while to understand WHY MOE HQ kept pushing responsibility to the schools. I had thought it was because MOE HQ wanted to shirk its responsibilities. Now I understand that MOE HQ has too little power and influence to make things happen within schools. 

MOE HQ had no power to stop schools from setting crazy exams. MOE's organizational structure had basically taken power away from MOE HQ and vested much of it in the hands of individual Principals, who each conceived of education in their own way (since they had not received the same sort of thorough values and character socialization à la Jesuit priest). 

MOE is a Ministry with many little boats all trying to go in different directions. The success of the present MOE Workplan needs to wait upon the goodwill of its Principals. 

Given that there are hundreds of Principals thinking all different things, it'll take very long (I fear NEVER) to unify mindsets. Our nation does not have the luxury of time. For every week that the schools persist in providing inadequate subject teaching, parents bleed finances... children bleed effort and energy... parents and children bleed from the wounds of family conflict over school performance). There is no cost to MOE but the cost to the nation is great indeed.

Restructure the MOE to Bring Some Power Back to MOE HQ
I do believe there is scope to explore ways in which MOE can restructure itself such that Reward and Coercive Power are brought back to MOE HQ. 

One way to do this is to create a competing hierarchy wherein Subject Practice Heads residing within MOE HQ are given powers of Performance Appraisal and Career Progression over all the Subject Practice's HODs and Teachers. This would bring a lot of power back to MOE HQ, under the direct command of Mr Heng Swee Keat. It would also break down walls between same Subject Teachers from different schools.

What about the Principals then? Surely they need some Power and Influence too? 

Principals are onsite. They face their Teachers everyday. They can use other types of Power (e.g., their Expert Power in school administration) to influence, lead and coordinate their administration of the school. They can also use Referent Power to influence, lead and coordinate their administration. See below text-grab for Organizational Behaviorists' definitions of (1) Expert Power and (2) Referent power.

At present, Principals hold in their hands FOUR types of power... (1) Reward, (2) Coercive, (3) Expert and (4) Referent Power. Take 2 types of power away from the Principals and vest them in the alternate hierarchy comprised of Subject Practices which report directly to MOE HQ. This will give Mr Heng Swee Keat more direct power with which to ensure that teaching quality between schools reach some sort of parity. 

Right now, between the layer that needs to develop teaching expertise evenly across schools (i.e., the Teachers) and the layer that wants Every School to Be a Good School (i.e., Mr Heng Swee Keat), there is a layer of people who exist to administrate. These administrators hold ALL FOUR types of organizational power in their hands. 

That is too much for anyone who isn't a Jesuit priest.

If power is not brought back to MOE HQ, I really doubt Every School a Good School will ever come to pass. When will ALL the school Principals buy in to Mr Heng's vision. How long will it take? 3 years? 5 years? 10 years? Never?

Knowledge Management
In essence, the deepening of teaching expertise evenly across all schools is all about Knowledge Management. How do you create and spread knowledge. I happen to know of a very reputable Knowledge Management consultancy in Israel. I am given to understand that it is the largest. I would suggest that the MOE explore its services. It's website is HERE. The boss/founder is Dr Moria Levy. The list of her clientele includes Israel's Ministry of Education.

This post is written on the basis of little information. The proposed idea needs to be put through a robust contest of ideas and it may then be found wanting. However, whether this specific suggestion is appropriate or not, one thing is clear. Power needs to be brought back to MOE HQ. It is impractical to wait for every single one of MOE's few hundred Principals to all agree to row in the same direction.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Are Stupid Children Really Dumb?

First page of article in 7th October's Bloomberg Businessweek.

The PSLE is leaving too many students behind even though everyone is trying to catch up.

Please read the above text. A man with low IQ scores in primary school went on to serve as the President of the American Psychological Association.

Guess what I found in Bloomberg Businessweek (7th October 2013). You can read the article HERE. Did you know that our PSLE, in its approach to sorting students (bell curve and all), is very similar to the SAT? Anyway, this post is not to talk about the PSLE. The reason I am showcasing the article above is because of the 2 balls and 2 noodles below, that we used for the game of Whacko! yesterday.


We need 2 teams to play Whacko!. Each team has a ball to dribble over to their own goal posts. Each team also has a noodle. You use the noodle to whack the daylights out of the fella in the opposing team who is holding the ball. Once you get noodle-whacked you have to drop your ball.

Yesterday's team had 2 teams of 4. In Team A, there was a GEP child. In Team B, there was no GEP child. GEP = Gifted Education Program.

Team A (without a GEP child) won with a score of 4-0, largely thanks to Little XXX who gathered his friends together and assigned them roles which allowed them to work together seamlessly. Little XXX divided the Whacko! field into thirds. He assigned to each of his friends one third of the field. Child A - 1st third. Child B - 2nd third. Child C - last third. All that each team member needed to do was to make it across his/her own third of the field without getting whacked, and then pass the ball to the next team member who stood ready to receive it.

Team B (with a GEP child) lost 4-0 because at every round, one or another of the children took the ball and ran for his life trying to cross the whole expanse of the largish field all by himself. There was absolutely no organization... and no learning loop. Team B just didn't get the strategy Team A was using even though it played out 4 times right in front of them.

The whole game of Whacko! is over in 15 minutes. That's all the time the children have to play. Necessarily therefore, everything happens in a blur of action and movement unfurling amidst blast after blast of robust yelling. All that the uninitiated bystander sees are children whacking the daylights out of their friends and other kids running wildly with a ball in their arms. The children love this game because they have my permission to whack the daylights out of their friends. Tsk! Tsk! Tsk! Such odious little things children are!

To create a score of 4-0 in their favor, Team A had to obviously create a pattern in that chaos. If THAT is not creativity and intelligence, I don't know what is. Yet, IQ tests in P3 showed Little XXX to be not very bright. His teachers and his parents didn't expect much of him.

Little XXX's Mother believes from the very bottom of her heart that her son is dumb. Again and again, she told me not to expect too much of her son (because she knows that children who don't perform with their best EFFORT) are asked to leave and find another enrichment centre more tolerant of lazy children (who don't put in effort) and lazy parents (who won't or can't motivate their children to better effort even after being given very clear instructions on HOW TO MOTIVATE). Every time she sees me, Little XXX's Mommy says, "Dr Pet, there is no way he can write like that! He will never write like that!"

"Never" is a strong word.

Now, I can hear the reader thinking that being smart in THAT way may not mean being smart in THIS way. I can hear the reader thinking that Little XXX may be able to win a ball game but he may not be able to write. It's not the same TYPE of intelligence, you might say. Well... I went right ahead and bull-dozed all these silly pre-conceptions of Dumb Little XXX. I went right ahead to believe in this child who hitherto had expended all his effort on outwitting his parents. Judging from the emotional state of his mother, he was very good at this outwitting business too. I learnt in the first 30 minutes of meeting this boy to NOT negotiate with him. It's long. It's tiring and he's too mentally nimble for me. I don't like to lose. If I don't play his negotiations, I can't lose.

I went right ahead to expect a lot more from Little XXX. In the mid-year exams, Little XXX scored the top mark in his class for English composition. So really? He can win a ball game, but he can't write?

Like University of Wyoming's President, Peter Sternberg, in the article above, Little XXX simply lived down to the low expectations of those around him. Let's not expect our children to be dumb just because the IQ tests... the PSLE (which really is an IQ test in disguise)... the SATs (which also are IQ tests in disguise) say they are stupid. Know your child. Believe in him/her. Don't blindly trust one silly test.

Singapore shouldn't depend on the PSLE (IQ test wannabe) to rake geniuses from the rubbish.

By all means, if the test says your child is clever, believe that and feel proud. You have a bona fide GEP child. Believe it and believe in him with all your might. However, if the IQ test puts down your child then please... please... continue to believe in your child anyway.

Watch your thoughts (about your child) for they become words. Watch your words (with your child) for they propel him to actions (or lack thereof). Watch the actions (of your child) for they cultivate his habits. Watch the habits (of your child) for they become his character. Watch his character for it becomes his destiny. What we think... our children become.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Leisure Farm Bungalow for Rental

Bayou Creek Village Bungalow for Rent (Minimal Rental Period - 2 Years)

If you are interested in renting the bungalow below, please leave your contact HERE

Details and photographs are herein below. The photographs below show the ACTUAL HOUSE and furnishings. It is rented out FULLY FURNISHED.

Note also that Leisure Farm has double gated security. This means it has 2 rings of security. The first ring surrounds the entire Leisure Farm development. The 2nd ring surrounds the little "village" of Bayou Creek.

To get a better idea of Leisure Farm go HERE to view a video on Leisure Farm's award winning Bayou Water Village. The properties in Bayou Water Village (averaging 1500 sq ft of built-in) are much smaller than those in Bayou Creek Village (averaging 5000 sq ft of built-in). However, the amenities and surroundings are the same.

Built-Up Area = 5845 square feet
Land Area =7218 square feet
5 bedrooms + 5 bathrooms
1 family room
1 living room
Wet kitchen
Dry Kitchen
Swimming Pool
Maid's Room

Dining Room Cum Dry Kitchen

Dining Room Opens Onto Private Swimming Pool

Living Room

View of Swimming Pool from Living Room

Bedroom For 2 Super Singles

Master Bedroom

Master Bedroom (viewed from the opposite end of the room)

View of the dock behind the master bedroom.

 Master Bedroom Toilet With Sunken Bath Tub

2nd Floor Family Area

Bedroom for Queen Bed

Small Bedroom on Ground Floor

Airwell at Staircase with Play Area Under the Stairs

View Outside 1

Creek Outside

View Outside 2

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

A Miracle Happened on 30/9/2013

Those who are not religious will be made uncomfortable by this post. Those who are religious (but do not share my religion) feel free to interpret this post through the lenses of your own religion. Whatever religion we don't share, at least you and I share a belief in the existence of a God. So, let that draw us closer together.

In 2011, I was in my car, hands on steering wheel when an urge came upon me to pray. It was a prayer of such monumental proportions that I almost laughed out loud. I prayed "Dear God, please use me as an instrument of your will to influence the direction of Singapore's educational environment."

The sheer audacity of the prayer was such that I remember thinking "This is an impossible prayer. If anything comes out of it, it is testimony to God's power at work." Back in 2011, Petunia's daily routine comprised baking, roasting, cleaning, gardening, groceries, driving and Little Boy. Yes... I did do some enjoyable part-time work, but nothing of especial note. It was just some hours a week to keep me current and ready to join the workforce again in some way, when Little Boy was grown... as Little Boys are wont to do. There really was NOTHING in my housewife's life to give me even the slightest suspicion of any hope that such a prayer would one day come to be.

So, on Monday 30th September 2013, when I waited in the conference room (along with 6 other invited guests) for the arrival of the Minister of State for Education, Sim Ann, the whole situation seemed surreal. I felt like I had walked into the middle of Salvador Dali's hallucination. Of course, it didn't help that I was in the grip of one of those awful fatigues. My body temperature was half a degree lower than everyone else. The tips of my fingers and toes were freezing cold. When I left the house, I wasn't even sure if I wouldn't suddenly collapse on the floor.

How one thing lead to another that I found myself in that room, I think only God knows. How my foggy brain suddenly turned sharp as the discussion progressed, I think only God knows.

For the MOE staff present, it was probably all in a day's work. Nothing miraculous. For Ms Sim Ann, it was probably 2 hours of her very packed schedule. Also, nothing miraculous. For me though, it was something of a miracle that resulted from an impetuous impossible prayer said half laughing to God in March 2011.

I felt some sense of awe, until Ms Sim Ann walked in. You know, she has this presence that instantly warms you and makes you feel at home.

I'm not sure how much influence I've had on MOE policy. Perhaps nothing... perhaps a little... perhaps more. MOE didn't say. Besides, plenty of other people have commented on education via the Singapore Conversation and letters to the press. It has not just been me. It's been a groundswell of voices articulating our children's pain, and this country's loss. Besides, people like Heng Swee Keat and Sim Ann have brains (excellent ones) and strong personal convictions too. However, if God is involved, there would have been SOME influence.

Me, I only know that I agreed with much that Ms Sim Ann said as she balanced the needs of the MOE (need to encourage her Ministry and prevent it from sinking into depression... after all, it's not an entirely broken Ministry is it?)... cautioned against over hasty policy decisions... but at the same time taking a clear position on the need to temper our national enthousiasm for DIFFERENTIATING our children too MUCH and too EARLY. More about this in a later post.

Ms Sim Ann did not try to defend the indefensible and in view of the stark progress the MOE has made towards a more equitable and holistic educational system in the 2013 MOE Work Plan, one could understand that not everything parents wish for, can be achieved in so short a time. The way is long still but at least there is a definite and concerted effort in a direction I can wholeheartedly support... even if I am sceptical that the MOE can implement it well. You see, MOE HQ doesn't seem capable of exerting control over the Cowboy Towns (i.e., the schools where all sorts of excesses can happen without MOE control). This apparently weak leadership is worrisome because plans stay on paper unless there is a strong leadership to carry them through. Think Lee Kuan Yew and how he carried along with him the rich and the poor alike... and ensured that even the smallest light switch in every government chalet was operational ... and ensured that even the tiniest drain pipe in the deep of the kampongs stayed clean... and ensured that the different types of Indian, Chinese, Malay and British run schools followed a national syllabus.

We need that. God willing, we will have that.

In this post, I just want to give glory to a powerful God who can make miracles happen. I do hope that it is just the start of many more miracles he will wreak on behalf of Singaporean children and parents.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Smokey Up For Adoption

Smokey is a mongrel puppy. Right now, he is 2 months old. He is very smart. At 3 weeks old, he paper trained himself and is very affectionate with people and kids. If you want to adopt him, please leave a comment HERE.