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Saturday, February 22, 2014

Made Me Tear... A Little

I received a card today that made me tear... a little bit. 

Friday, February 21, 2014

Made My Day!

This REALLY brightened my day!!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Marvellous Mommies!

Parents call me Dr. Pet.

It seemed the height of rudeness to call them by their first names when they respectfully added an honorific to my name. I didn't want to call them Mr This or Mrs That, because I need to develop a close collaboration with them. At times, I might intrude into the privacy of their family circle with my observations. At other times, I might intrude with my questions. I had to find a way to honour parents without seeming distant and formal. I would call them Mommy So and So, or Daddy Such and Such.

I am quite pleased at having found my own honorific for parents. 
- "Mommy Alicia, how are you today!"
- "Daddy Boon Keng, did the method work?"

It is a very warm sort of honorific, that emphasises the importance of parenthood and elevates the work Mothers and Fathers do to bring up their children. It's like saying President Obama, except that I would call him Daddy Obama, instead.

As I teach and learn about children, I must admit that some of the parents I meet WOW! me.

Mommy A
Mommy A is a single mother, in a regional job that requires a lot of travelling. Her mother helps to babysit her only son when she is out of town. This amazing woman turned down a promotion in order to be able to spend enough time with her son. I seriously don't know how she manages it because she travels so much and still manages to supervise her son as he does Dr Pet's HW. Of course, these days we have the advantage of Google Drive and all sorts of mobile computing options. Still, it takes a lot of discipline and energy to hold down a high powered job AND also high-power her son's academic performance.

Her child topped his YEAR last year in something... or was it overall. I've forgotten.

The most impressive thing about Mommy A is that I never have to tell her anything twice. There are parents that get calls from me once every month. Each time, I spend an hour detailing the method to use to supervise the child. Over a period of 10 months, I must have spent at least 8 hours with the parent... and I soon realised that I sounded like a broken recorder. Sometimes I wonder if these parents chat with me politely on the phone to humour me. They obviously don't think much of my motivation advice because they don't implement the steps at all.

Mommy A is not like that. I had two pieces of targeted advice for her. I only had to tell her once, and it was done. In all, coaching her took 2 hours - maximum... and her child's motivation levels improved within a month. 

Mommy B
Mommy B has 2 sickly children. Those of us with healthy children don't know the intense stress that comes with having children who FREQUENTLY wake up in the night blue in the face, unable to breathe. Her child is one of the most intelligent I have but whenever stress levels inch up, she cannot perform. This child's stress response is life-threatening. She goes blue and gasps for breath like a fish out of water.

When God gives a Mommy a special child, he anoints a saint. This mommy has TWO asthmatic children. So, she is doubly a saint. I can really vouch for how lovely this Mommy is. Instead of always drawing on my help and energy, this Mommy actually gives me back some! She has such a generous and giving heart. Despite the challenges that she is facing, she has time to listen to MY woes, give ME advice... and even pray for me.

Again, this Mommy is amazing in the way she is able to implement motivation advice. I only need to explain once, and it will be done. Not surprisingly, her child often tops the class in English composition (despite being extremely sickly).

Mommy C
Mommy C is an entrepreneur. In order to spend more time with her child, she suspended her company's plans to expand into Myanmar, even though the time was ripe and the opportunity was golden. Again, I am dealing with an immensely intelligent woman. One session of coaching was all it took. Her child was both naughty and disengaged when she joined us. Today, she is one of the most docile and charming little girls we have. Mommy, though busy, poured all the discipline and willpower that she had into following my motivation advice.

Following HALF the motivation advice is not enough. You won't get half the results. You get nothing. Worse, you get an even more unmotivated child.

Mommy D
Mommy D is another entrepreneur with a chain of shops across Singapore. I used to shop in her shops too! Entrepreneurs have a lot of initiative. This Mommy was impressive in the way she not ONLY followed my motivation advice closely (after a mere 20 minute session of coaching), she brought to her practice of motivation intelligently conceived innovative touches. She uses Whatsapp to do reading comprehension with her daughters! At a certain point, we worked at cross purposes. Her take charge attitude un-did some of the teaching I was trying to do. After we sorted it all out, the ship is upright again and making good progress.

Mommy E
Mommy E's son didn't even look normal when he joined us. He could not sit still. At the slightest provocation, he melted into tears. Once, he sat in a corner and chanted something over and over again. Mommy E was previously the high-powered executive sort with a Masters degree. She quit her job to sort out her son.

Mommy E needed a lot of follow-up at first. She didn't really get what I was telling her. However, she worked hard and tried even harder, sometimes only half understanding what I was trying to explain. As she changed, her son began to change. When that happened, Mommy E redoubled her efforts at following my advice. Then, we reached a Tipping Point. We had developed a sort of shared understanding and trust. She gets me. I get her.

Fuel/Advice Efficiency
Some cars are fuel efficient. A little fuel goes a long way. Some parents are advice-efficient. A little advice goes a long way. Some cars guzzle petrol. Some mommies guzzle my time and attention. They need weekly and monthly reminders. I repeat the same advice in emails and on the phone for months on end to no avail. I am not sure what is wrong. Do they listen but not hear? Do they take me for granted, not realising the costs to me in time and energy? It's like a fuel tank with a leak. Anything I pour into it flows right out again, and the advice is not used to power the child's performance and attitude, until I force the issue in one way or another.

It really isn't a question of Working Mom VS Non-Working Mom. Three of the mommies showcased above work long hours as executives or as entrepreneurs. Two of the mommies showcased above are Stay at Home Moms. I've come to the conclusion that a Mommy must really want to follow up on advice. Working or not working, if she wants to, nothing stands in her way.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Don't Quit

This poem is for those of Dr Pet's children, who have accomplished an IMPOSSIBLE GOAL when writing their first composition. I am so proud of you all. Mommies and Daddies, you know whom you are. If your child has completed the very first composition of the year to my satisfaction, please show them this poem, and teach them a life lesson. I may not have named every child below, but you should know your children, yes?

Little CJ went through months and months of failure, but he didn't give up, and finally was able to bring home a loaf of Dr Pet's home made bread. Little Princess A didn't complain when I refused to mark her composition because it was not properly done. She went and improved it. Little T and Little E, a pair of twins, I am proud of you. So proud! Your mother went on Facebook to boast that you COMPLETED the work, even though it needed 9 hours of effort. Little B, who has decided NOT to play anymore computer games (and asked his Mommy to buy fish oil) so that he can do better compositions for Dr Pet, I am proud of you too. However, you must speak KINDLY to your friends, or I will get angry again. Also, my little B, please learn NOT TO SNATCH. Little Z (who broke my iPad) has done work that amazed his Mother. Little V and Little I, whose work I rejected THREE times, persisted and delivered. Then, there is Little A, who came this close to being asked to go and find another Teacher because Dr Pet despaired of being able to teach him anything.

I have not mentioned the other children for whom the IMPOSSIBLE GOAL was merely only difficult. I have mentioned my poorest little ones - those who started from the lowest base. To achieve what the other stronger writers achieved, these poorest little ones put in superhuman effort.

It is THIS EFFORT I honour and celebrate.

Children, in having achieved an IMPOSSIBLE GOAL, may you now understand that nothing is impossible if you are determined enough to complete it. If you don't give up, there is a chance you will succeed. If you decide to give up, there is zero chance of success.

Don't Quit 

When things go wrong, as they sometimes will, 
When the road you're trudging seems all uphill, 
When funds are low and the debts are high, 
And you want to smile but you have to sigh, 
When care is pressing you down a bit, 
Rest if you must, but don't you quit. 

Life is queer with its twists and turns, 
As every one of us sometimes learns, 
And many a failure turns about, 
When he might have won if he'd stuck it out. 
Don't give up, though the pace seems slow - 
You may succeed with another blow.

Often the goal is nearer than 
It seems to a faint and faltering man; 
Often the struggler has given up 
When he might have captured the victor's cup, 
And he learned too late, when the night slipped down, 
How close he was to the golden crown.

Success is failure turned inside out - 
The silver tint of the clouds of doubt, 
And you never can tell how close you are - 
It may be near when it seems afar; 
So stick to the fight when you're hardest hit - 
It's when things seem worst that you mustn't quit.

- Anonymous -

Friday, February 7, 2014

Falling in Love With Little Boy's School

The Daughter gave me an earful after reading this post. She said "It's SO sexist! Girls should learn to generate wealth too!" Hmmmm...  to my credit, I did try to teach her the same lessons on financial management that I had taught Little Boy... and I did lament that her school didn't teach such lessons...

Thanks to his school, Little Boy learnt 2 very important lessons lately...

(1) He learnt how to make money
(2) He learnt how to give it all away

To my mind, these are lessons every boy should learn. Every boy should learn how to make a living. Every boy should know how to give away wealth.

In the very tradition of Little Boy's school, the notion of giving back permeates the school ethos in the way a room is filled with the fragrance of rose. Everywhere you go, you smell it. In every part of the room, you breathe it in. No one overtly SPEAKS of it, nor names it. It is part of the air you breathe. The alumni, now men, think nothing of donating paintings and pictures etc... for auctions. The other alumni think nothing of bidding generously for a painting by an ex-classmate. The tradition of giving back is breathed in... and absorbed into the bloodstream. From there, it makes its way into the very marrow of their bones. I am so proud of these men who make money and give it away. I am so proud they are my friends.

Little Boy benefited from the largesse of his seniors who raised money last year to fund Little Boy's school trip this year. In turn, Little Boy generated wealth that he gave away to fund next year's school trip for his juniors. Now, notice that the boys were not asked to raise money for their OWN school trip. The school could well have positioned it that way. It's merely psychological positioning. It is the same difference. The boys are raising money for a school trip. It's up to the school to decide whether it is for the boys' own trip or for someone else's trip.

It was genius of the school to require that the money be used for someone else's trip. This meant that the boys had to give all the wealth they had generated to someone else. Freely, freely, you have received. Freely, freely, give.

Little Boy was thrilled to be part of this. He was the leader of his fund-raising group, and together with very enterprising team members, they turned $35 of seed money into $120. That is almost quadrupling their initial investment outlay. Not bad for newbies at retailing. They exploited a marvellous business opportunity selling cup noodles to other boys DURING their own trip. Imagine 120 hungry boys staying up past midnight (even though they weren't supposed to). Invariably many of them would get hungry closer to midnight. Little Boy's fund-raising group made $20 of profit, which they promptly ploughed back into buying more inventory to sell at a Charity Bazaar back in Singapore.

Thanks to their cup noodles headstart, they came back to Singapore with almost double the inventory that the other groups had. All the new inventory sold like hot cakes because somehow, someone in Little Boy's group had pinpointed a product reeking with nostalgia. So, instead of appealing to boys their age, their inventory appealed to the richer adults (teachers and parents).

It is hard to teach a child how to make money. Little Boy has a natural bent towards buying and selling for profit. He started with selling caterpillars... and then he helped his friend to sell sweets. So, this fund-raising thing was right up his alley. He was so thrilled to take part that he was practically giggling the whole time he was telling me about it.

He hasn't giggled in a looooooooong time. He considers it beneath his teenage dignity now.

I had wanted to help my son. I proposed to him that I would donate some inventory of my own. He was very offended indeed. "No way, Mom! That's cheating!" I want it to be known as our effort. It must not be contaminated by your involvement.

Hmmmph... he called me a "contamination"!

It is a life skill you know, the ability to generate wealth. The Daughter's school never taught it. She spent her time in academic and CCA pursuits. She won prizes for writing and research. Not once was she asked to raise funds nor give money away. She entered university still very proud of having attended events such as Mock United Nations, where kids play at being "important" UN representatives pretending to argue the fate of the world. She was proud of having published her own book, and presented her research at an overseas conference. These are achievements no doubt, but now she tells me, "Mommy, employers don't care about all those things. I need to constitute another type of skills portfolio to appeal to employers."

I am very happy that Little Boy's school gave him a chance to learn 2 important life skills. It is a good school indeed. What I need to do now is to get The Daughter married to one of this school's alumni. Kekekekekeke!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Tear Hair Out Worthy

Some days, I wanna tear my hair out... and I think I do tear quite a bit out... BUT it's all worth it when a Mommy sends a Whatsapp like the one below. It was worth it to lose that much hair.

It was also a good day because I have had enough peace and quiet to write and print the curriculum for the next 3 months. Yay!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

It IS a Drug! It is!

Some people have a way with words. When I read Ian Tan's Facebook post above my heart skipped a beat...

"... drugs can destroy whatever opportunities their talents will unlock..."

This post is not about Philip Seymour Hoffman. What he is and what he has done is of no interest to me here, except for the fact that he was clearly talented, and drugs destroyed whatever opportunities his talent had unlocked for him. Since June 2013, I have rescued SIX boys... yes... all SIX are boys, from gaming addiction

The solution to their lack of focus and attention deficit disorder was easy enough. All six were asked to go Cold Turkey on electronic games of EVERY sort (handphones, computers and tablets). In 4 months or less, all of them improved in 
(1)  ability to focus and 
(2)  became emotionally more stable
(3) changed from coiled-up spring monsters who threw tantrums, could not sit still and were unreasonable, to calm little ones possessed of an active curiosity about knowledge, learning and social relationships.

Learning and friends began to give them joy.

Case Study A
Little C-1 was identified as GEP. I taught him in June 2013, and thrilled to the speed and responsiveness of his brain. In 9 hours he mastered what took others weeks and months to grasp. Teaching him was like driving a Ferrari ... or a Lamborghini... an engine that hummed and purred, responding to my slightest touch.

In December 2013, I taught him again. By that time, he had become an addict. He sometimes spent 3 to 4 hours a day on computer games. The emotional tone at home was poor. Tantrums, melt downs, and shouting matches were common. To begin with, the computer games kept him in a state of high adrenalin. It didn't take much to make him melt down. Next, his brain was so desensitised to stimulus that normal and healthful intellectual pursuits were bland and un-interesting. He wanted to finish everything quickly in order to get back to gaming. He was impatient, edgy and mean to his sister. His academic results had suffered too. He was a naughty and unhappy child wearing the gifted label.

Little C-1 has been off computer games for about 2 months now. Yesterday, I received a message from his Mother.

C-1's emotional balance has returned. His Mother sent me a picture of him engrossed in Dr Pet's compo HW - happily engrossed too. To be honest, C-1, even at the worst depths of addiction, didn't LOOK like an addict. Though his brain had slowed down tremendously, he was still performing at the speed of a child with average intellect. The only reason I could pinpoint his problem was that I had previously taught him, and could contrast the pre-addiction performance with his post-addiction performance.

4 of the 6 cases I encountered were children with normal intellect. Now THESE... these children behaved like cocaine addicts. I looked into their eyes and saw the ever present look of a stressed rabbit... their hands and feet could not stop moving... their attention span was short, very short. C-1 had a gifted brain. It was a strong brain to begin with... rather like how some men have strong livers or hold their liquor well. They're drunk but you cannot tell. 

These good brains recover fast too. It has been barely 2 months since C-1 stopped, and we are seeing results. From my experience, normal children require 4 to 6 months of cold turkey.

Case Study B
Little C-2 developed an addiction over the December 2013 holidays. He was given a choice. Stop gaming or stop Dr Pet's classes. He chose to game. We respected his choice, and terminated his weekly classes with me.

He has since decided to give up computer games in order to be allowed back in Dr Pet's classes.

However, since his vacated place had been given to another child, he could not return immediately. So, he said, "I will stop playing when Dr Pet allows me back into her class."

Hmmmm... interesting bargain eh?

Would any Christian dare tell God, "Dear Father, I will stop sinning only when you answer my prayer."? Needless to say, I would not tolerate that this child tell me - "Dear Dr Pet, I will stop playing computer games only when you accept me back into your class." The reason God does not want me (Dr Pet) to sin is because He loves me. He knows that the wages of sin are death. The reason why Dr Pet doesn't want children to play computer games of ANY sort is because I love them. I know the wages of computer games is failure and brain damage. God does not negotiate the terms and conditions of sinning. I don't negotiate the terms and conditions of computer games.

I don't sin (at least I try not to sin) because I love myself (自爱) too much to accept death as my wages. Children should be taught to love themselves (自爱) enough that they don't accept brain damage and failure as their wages. I am certainly NOT going to bribe children to do what is good for them!

So my response was - "No... you stop gaming FIRST... and when a place appears I will prioritise your re-entry." This way, even if I have no place for the child to re-integrate my classes, I will at least know that his focus and performance will improve anyway.... JUST by getting rid of his gaming addiction.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Black and White Houses

This year is different than any other year that went before. This year, Petunia decided to look inwards and focus on taking care of herself - physically and emotionally. I really didn't think it would be that difficult to take time to smell the roses... and sleep a lot so that my body can heal. With a bit of practice (and some discipline... and following the endocrinologist's advice to achieve psychological detachment... and consciously planning at least 2 hours a day out in the sunshine, amongst the green), I think I am getting better at it.

In the beginning, it felt funny to NOT go about my day like a coiled spring, eager to get things done... and done perfectly. I couldn't shake off the feeling that I was a lazy bum... too lazy to even blog (which I love to do). After a bit, with a bit of nagging from The Daughter and The Husband (who hated to see me collapse from exhaustion) I decided to embrace my lazy bum-ness.

It has helped a good deal. My energy levels are slowly coming back. 

As part of my daily routine, I take the bike out for a spin, exploring my neighbourhood. There is so much beauty in Sembawang. This morning, I went to explore the Black and White houses near Sembawang Beach. It did me a great deal of good just to wander about the peaceful and serene surroundings. The birds REALLY sang this morning. It was almost a cacophony. A squirrel scampered up and looked expectantly at me. I think it expected to be fed something.

Tomorrow I will bring some nuts over to feed it.

Black and white houses copied a feature of traditional Malay kampong houses, built on stilts. Instead of stilts, the houses sit on an elevation of brick pillars. In the days when Singapore flooded regularly, such a feature prevented water damage. Apparently, the design was also a safeguard against wild animals who hunted at night. People slept with the windows open (since there was no air-conditioning) and they didn't want predators climbing in through the window.

The houses hide behind fences of green. These days, there aren't any large predators roaming our jungles. These tenants have furnished the area below the house with outdoor furniture, plants and a barbecue pit. It's really la dolce vita!

The houses come in many sizes. Here is a largish one with an outhouse, which I am guessing used to be the kitchen. The larger houses have spacious lawns that undulate gently over the terrain.

Tucked at the back of many houses, there are swimming pools. Gee... for once I wish I were filthy rich and could afford to stay in such houses.