Thursday, January 27, 2011

Parental Engagement Week 2011

This past week, all GEMS schools around Dubai had their Parental Engagement Week.
'GEMS' is a corporate body that runs and owns several private and international schools in Dubai. 'Parental Engagement' is their effort in encouraging parents to be more involved and engaged in their children's development.
It was a hectic week, but boy, was it all worth it.

I had the opportunity to sit in Izani's class to see how he's learning to read and write using the Phonics method. Watching how attentive Izani was in class raised my confidence that he is going to do okay in school :) Watching how creative his teacher was in engaging her young students was really inspiring. It was also a little intimidating, because when it came to when it was my turn to sit with Izani and engage in some learning games, he totally ignored me! I tried using the sing-song voice, the freddy fingers, the exaggerated expressions, but no go. I finally threatened to leave, and that worked in making Izani sit down and play with me. *shame*. I definitely am not teacher material :( I don't know how I got through all the readaloud sessions I had been doing before, without pulling out my hair. Perhaps I was more patient before?
Anyway, back to Izani's learning, I really love the learning environment. They truly truly believe in learning through play over here. (Now here it comes ... ) I hope that Malaysia has something similar to this, in Alor Star.

Then I got the chance to sit in Anis's class and see how she's learning to write better. They call the session 'Big Write' and the children were taught how to expand their writing using the principles of V - vocabulary (using different, descriptive and 'exciting' words), O - openers (using great and appropriate openers to start a sentence and engage the reader), C - connectors (using relevant and appropriate connecting words to relate to sentences or ideas together), and P - punctuation (using the correct punctuation and speech marks to control the flow of ideas). Masya-Allah, I really don't remember when I learnt how to write like that, but I don't think it was when I was only 8 years old. I remember learning words, I remember learning writing sentences and paragraphs, but I don't think anyone ever taught me writing this explicitly. I really hope Anis remembers all of this when we leave this school.

I also got to sit in Ihsan's Math class where he showed to me the different methods he was taught on how to do addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. He showed me which were his favourite methods and why he liked them and I shared with him mine. We then had a race in solving a few SATs questions. No guessing to who won. (me. tee hee) I really liked it that the teacher said there are no wrong or right method, just use one that you are most comfortable with, because our brain works differently. As long as you show you understand the problem, show that you know how to solve it, you get points, even if you get the final answer wrong. The final answer costs only one point. What an epiphany.

Aside from classroom sessions, they also organized talks with renowned speakers and authors.
Dr. Ron Clavier, a neuropsychologist, talked to parents how a child's brain develop from being childish to adolescence to adulthood. He explained the limits of a child's ability to process information, and how to handle it. He revealed what to expect in the future years of our children turning into teenagers, how their 'changing' mind would affect their perspective of the world and their behaviour towards it, and how we could reason with them. He also explained how to tell when your teen is ready to be an adult, and ready to accept adult privileges and responsibilities.
Another speaker was Mr. Bill Lucas, an expert educator, who tackled the topic "How to help your child to succeed in school and in life". He said that though schools may teach a child the curriculum of the 3 Rs (Reading, wRiting and aRithmetic), both schools and parents need to also teach them a curriculum of these 6 new Rs - Resourcefulness, Remembering, Reciprocity, Resilience, Responsiveness and Reflectiveness. In short, we should teach our children not just WHAT to learn, but more importantly, HOW to learn, so that they continue learning throughout their lives. It's really just like the old adage, "Give a man a fish, then he'll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, then he'll eat for a lifetime".
Masya-Allah, so enlightening and enriching.

It wasn't all academic and boring, they also had fun sessions like the Art Carousel, where school staff offered parents and students a chance to try 3 different 20 minute sessions of activities ranging from Indian Paper Folding, ballroom dancing and beginner guitar. We did Mask Designing (which is basically gluing sequins, plastic jewels, glitter and feathers on paper masks), Bookmaking (where we learn how to make an 8-page and 16-page book just by folding and cutting paper - no glue involved at all!) and we joined Rock Challenge (dancing in groups! Izani had a blast!).
The highlight of the week had to be the drumming session with Dubai Drums. They brought in 200 african drums and had 3 half an hour sessions of teaching parents and children how to play them! This was the only time I had thought to bring the camera, so this was the only activity I had pictures of:

We enjoyed the drumming session very much! I am seriously thinking of getting an african drum the next time I go to Global Village! :D

Overall, it has been a tiring and enlightening week for me. I am so inspired and motivated at the moment. I have learnt so much about my children and how to handle them. I just hope I remember it all and can put it into practice.
This also makes me wonder if schools in Malaysia have something similar to this. The week had really made me feel like the teachers and I are a team, and we have one goal, that is to groom our children to become not just information guzzlers and spewers, but to become learners, do-ers, investigators, creators ... adults who can survive in any situation and have healthy and fulfilled lives.
Please God, give me the strength to keep at it!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


Izani got this Ben10 Colouring book in a party goodie bag one day.
He opened the first page of the book and went, "Eyeewwww... love hearts!!"
His siblings started crowding around him to see and I heard them all expressing disgust one after another.
"What??? Ben&Gwen???"
"Why are they hugging??"
"and what's up with her tummy??"
"eyeeewwwww... are they married??"
Ilham finally took a look at it, and being the eldest, tried to tone it all down by offering an explanation, "I think Ben just gave Gwen a piece of cake and she's so full that's why her tummy is like that. And she's happy and is hugging Ben to say thanx"
They were quiet for a bit until someone said
"You know if Ben married Gwen, it's like abang marrying aliya"
"eyeeeewwwww!!!!" they all went.

No offence to Aliya, coz she's a gorgeous girl, but marrying your cousin is. just. eyew.

Who came up with this picture anyway?? sicko.
I can never watch Ben10 the same way again.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Long Way Home

If you've been reading me before (or if you just browse through my archives), you'll notice that I have been talking about going back home for good for a long time. When I mentioned our intention 2 years ago, our time in Saudi was extended by PokCik Smith. Then we were told we were moving to Oman. While preparing to move to Oman, PokCik Smith then told us we were moving to Dubai instead. Here we still are, one year later.
Suffice to say that I've been telling people I am going home so many times, but never get around to it, that it's getting kinda embarrassing. I have almost come to the point of not telling people about my 'schedule' anymore. So you are forgiven if you think, "Yeah , right... she's never going home" when I tell you this time that I will be going home this July.
This time we are sure, because this time, we are in control. Come July, Taufik will quit PokCik Smith (Insya-Allah), and we will be able to go wherever we want to go, and it will definitely back home to Malaysia (again, Insya-Allah).

The prospect of retiring at the age of 40 can be quite scary, especially with 4 school-going children, but we've been planning this for almost 20 years, I think we'll be okay, Insya-Allah. We have been saving up ever since we started working, and Alhamdulillah, we now think we have enough for the children's education, for emergencies (Na'udzubillah) and for living out a simple lifestyle for the rest of our lives.
The life that we are looking to live for the rest of our lives is not the life of luxury. I am not eyeing fancy cars, designer clothes and to be draped in jewelery. We plan to live in Kedah, where the low cost of living there would probably stretch out our savings further compared to if we were to live in a big city place like KL or PJ.
To sustain ourselves financially, we have a small fruit orchard and Taufik had also acquired some palm oil land. We will do our best to maintain these two small pieces of land and pray to Allah to bless our land so that we can reap what we sow ourself into the earth.
I'm gonna be a farmer, y'all.
Perhaps you would see me at my stall by the PLUS highway one day, selling my durians and rambutans and manggis :) (While facebook-ing, of course).

Am I looking forward to this change in lifestyle? I have been asking myself the same question, and you know what, I actually am.
I wasn't really looking forward going back to KL, because compared to Al-Khobar and Dubai, our capital is actually quite a scary place to live and raise a family in. I get stressed out just thinking about the traffic, the potential of being road-bullied, or the possibility of my house getting broken into. I am sure it's not really *that* bad, since I've lived most of my life in PJ and Alhamdulillah nothing untoward has ever happened to me, but I still find it kinda tiring to always be on-guard, after 6 years of not worrying about it.
So moving to the less metropolitan and more laidback state of Kedah is definitely more appealing to me.
I long for those days when an afternoon walk does not involve dodging traffic or dogs and you'd encounter a huge patch of nature in five minute's time. Taufik longs to be able to just go fishing whenever he wishes. He also longs to teach the children how to live a simple life, be self-sufficient, not be too dependent or distracted by technology. We long to teach our children to appreciate whatever they have, no matter how little and we found that to be very difficult in the current environment where so much is available.
I know we would probably get a few (a lot) of protests from the kids at first, but I am sure after a while they'd get used to it. Well, they better get use to it, coz they would have no choice.

The one thing that worries me the most is the children's education.
After being exposed to such an independent style of learning, would they be able to cope with the regimented Malaysian school environment? Will they lose out in the future because of the drastic school change?
My worries, however, are alleviated by looking at the children of other friends who have moved back to Malaysia. Alhamdulillah, they seem to be doing well. I think it all boils down to parent's attitude. We have to know when to push our children and how much. We are the ones who have to make sure that they turn out to be a well-rounded person who are comfortable and confident with their own selves, and not always comparing them with other children.
Insya-Allah I will try to do that. I will try to stay calm and not freak out too much when it comes to exams. ;)

Well, that is our plan. Only Allah is the disposer, so we will pray that our plan comes to fruition, and be accepting of whatever He decides is best for us.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Makcik Blogger Gathering, Dubai 2011

Well, the inspiration to re-start blogging came from the makcik blogger gathering we had on New Year's Day.
Lollies was on her way back from Iran (she had driven from Qatar, left her car at my house while she flew to Iran from Dubai) and had arrived that morning, so we decided to gather up all the makcik bloggers that we know are in Dubai for a New Year's Day picnic in Safa Park.
As you can see from the picture above, there were only Lollies, Makcik Melopong, MakNenek and me. Unfortunately Theta and Blabarella couldn't make it :P
We had Nasi Kerabu, assorted baklavas and sweets from Iran, sambal belacan kow-kow, roti beowan (spelling?), puding buih and drinks, all pot luck. The agenda was just to eat, chit chat and have fun :)
Towards the end of the gathering, we makcik-makcik turned into model-model lah pulak, thanks to the coaxing of my husband. *LOL*

I think it was a great and happy start for the New Year :) and hopefully is a reflection of things to come :)

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Welcome 2011

I don't usually make new year resolutions, but I think this year I'll try to make and keep at least one.
Guess what it is.