Thursday, June 7, 2018

Choosing the Right Schools For My Kids

The decision of sending my kids to which schools is not easy.

My kids, both Shern and Khye went to about 1/2 year of playschool before started Nursery. Then progressed to Kindy and Prep Class.
Vern is still in playschool now.

When it comes to formal education (Standard 1/Year 1) at 7yo, I had a difficult decision to make for both my kids.

As you know, Malaysian education does not have a good reputation. Previous Ministers have been treating our education as a political agenda. Our Science and Math subjects have been changing from BM to English and now back to BM. Syllabus and also language especially the Malay language has been forever changing.



Decision for Shern

During Shern's time I decided to send him to an International School, admittedly because he was clueless in Mandarin. No one in our family speaks Mandarin. Not us, not the grandparents.  It was our mistake for not starting him with Mandarin earlier on. And it also doesn't help that he is really weak in languages.

So when it came to enrolling him to Std 1, I didn't send him to a SJKC as initially planned because he could not understand a word in Mandarin. So he would have no idea what the teacher will be saying.
Some friends told me to just "dump" him in SJKC and he will somehow "learn to float/survive" there.
Yes, I agree he would but to me, this was not a good way to start his formal education.

And although I think Chinese/Mandarin is very important, it is not the most important subject of all. I would want my kids to learn how to converse in Mandarin and to read/write in Mandarin, and so I sent him for tuition classes.

Shern is still very bad in Mandarin (and obviously hates it), and I had been toying with the idea of increasing his Mandarin tuition classes. But now after much thinking, I decided that the Mandarin tuition he is having now is enough. I won't add to it.
Language may not be his thing. And I think it is no use trying to force it into him.

This doesn't mean that I don't think learning Mandarin is not important. It is just that I will let him learn it at his own pace, and to treat learning Mandarin as a lifelong, gradual process.

Now I hope to encourage him to learn and not "force" him to learn.
I hope that one day, Shern will be able to enjoy learning Mandarin.




Decision for Khye

And now comes Khye's time. He is 6yo now and doing Prep class in his Kindy. He will be entering formal education next year if I sign him in for SJKC.
Khye on the other hand has been attending Mandarin class since he was 4yo. He is quite good at it and enjoys going to class.

Now, the question is, should I send him to SJKC.
Khye is quite the studious kind who loves to study. However, feedback from teachers is that he loves asking questions in class and is very curious about everything and thus he always put up his hand to ask questions in class.
I see this as a good thing. Asking questions is good if the school environment/teacher encourages it.

Many parents feedback to me that in SJKC, asking too many questions is not encouraged. Reason being there will be 40+ students in the class and that the teacher won't have so much time to entertain this. And also if asking too many question, one would easily be the "target" of ridicule if your questions are silly, etc.
Of course this depends on schools/teachers, but largely this is the culture.

But then many parents and even relatives had asked me to try putting Khye into SJKC as he is the studious type and the teachers there would love him.
Seriously, I really did think about it as I would also love to push him further if he is capable of it.

But a few things in my mind are stopping me.
One, I do not want to kill his curiosity mind. I want him to be in an environment in which he can continue to ask lots of questions and to always have a curious mind.

Secondly, is that no one in my family can read in Mandarin. So this means that he will need to go to those After-School Care classes. And in those classes, you go there until 6pm. And from school to home, it will be a 12 hours day, even longer than a working person.
12 hours of non-stop academic input. It is tiring even for an adult, I think.

Many parents also told me that go for SJKC for primary, then only switch to International School for secondary. Then you get the best of both worlds.
But my husband said one thing that I agreed. He said we should focus more on their core years, when they are young.
If they are being "taught" not to question and not to speak their mind when they are in primary, this habit would form and they would stay with them even in secondary years.
This makes me look at the whole picture differently and I have to say I agree with him.
The formative and core years are really important.

Having said that, I would not say International Schools are better than National Schools.
Not all International Schools or National Schools are the same.
International Schools also have their own weaknesses. It depends on what is the priority in education for you and your child. You need to know what you are looking for.

There are no best schools.
You need to do the research and find one that fits your child. Every child is different.

I know that we are really blessed that we can afford (currently) to send our kids to International Schools if we choose to.
We may need to sacrifice some things, but then at least we can afford it.

We believe in equipping our kids with life skills. Social skills, probing and problem solving skills all are equally, if not more important than being just good at studying.
We hope our kids can grow up being more adaptable in real life.

Some parents  recently told me that with the New Malaysia now with the New Government, National schools will be better. Yes, I do agree and our new Education Minister looks promising.
But these kind of changes is not an immediate change. You cannot just change the whole school culture in a short period of time.
First you need to train the teachers and this also need a lot of Government budget. These changes takes years. It will be many years until the real change takes place.

I know many of you will disagree with me. It is ok.
As I said, this is just what I think and feel is best for my kids. And this does not mean is the best decision for your kids.

I think overall, I just feel that we should not be sucked into this crazy Rat Race world. We should not be losing ourselves just to chase what people expect us to live.
I always tell my kids this.

Be kind. Be nice. Try the best in whatever you do. And be happy.
These are what matter in life.



Thursday, May 31, 2018

USA 2018: Cockpit Visits


Shern wearing the Captain's Cap - Flight from OMA to ATL - 8 May 2018

Shern trying to steer the plane. ;) Flight from ICN to LAX - 28 April 2018

This is the first part of our recent visit to the United States of America - Cockpit Visits.
This is one of the highlights of the visit for Shern. 

I got him a logbook to log down his flight journey, and he was pretty excited to get on the plane and to get the captain to write on his logbook. 

And all of the captains and crew are really very friendly and nice. Most of them invited Shern to the cockpit for a visit after the flight. 
Needless to say, Shern was ecstatic.

This is the flight from Incheon to Los Angeles (ICN-LAX) with Singapore Airlines.
 

The captain and the co-pilot from Singapore Airlines.



This one's from the flight from Chicago to Omaha. (ORD - OMA) with United Airlines.
He even received his first ever gold wings pin from the Captain.
 


Then we flew from Omaha to Orlando (via Atlanta) with Delta Airlines.
So it was a 2 legs flight.

This was from the very smiley, friendly pilot from Omaha to Atlanta (OMA-ATL).
He put on his captain cap on Shern while he answered Shern's questions while filling up the logbook.
 
 

And from Atlanta to Orlando (ATL - MCO) with a very experienced captain. 


We loved flying with Jet Blue because comparingly, seats are more spacious and also the service was more friendly. 
This one we flew from Orlando to Niagara (MCO-BUF) via Jet Blue. 
 



We sat in the smallest plane ever in our flight from Buffalo to New York (BUF-EWR). It was even smaller than Firefly airplane. Only 3 seats per row and as for the height of the plane, some of the ang mohs even bumped their head while walking to their seats so they had to bow their head low.

It doesn't look that small and narrow here in my pics but in reality such a small plane. 
The pilot was also small sized haha and he was really friendly. He was originally from Africa. 
 
 


This was from our flight home from New York to Hong Kong (EWR - HKG) with Cathay Pacific.
 
 


On our final last leg of our flight Hong Kong to Penang (HKG-PEN), Shern slept all the way without meals as he was having jetlag as the time difference was 12 hours. 
So his sleepy groggy face in the cockpit.



Overall, it was such a experience to get the pilot to fill in his logbook and all the visits to the cockpit. 
He also received some wing pins and name cards and flight cards from the various captains.
It's something we will all treasure for a very long time.
 


Some of the logbook entries. 
 
 


And so this was Shern's cockpit visits on our most recent USA trip.
Happy flying folks!


For those who are interested, I got the logbooks from Simple for Flying.
You can visit their website to purchase. Bronwyn is a really nice person to deal with. She helped me a lot when I nearly missed the parcel before we flew to US. 



p/s - I wouldn't say that having a Flight Logbook guaranteed invitations to the cockpit. But I would say that the pilots/crew are more happy to invite a little boy/girl for a short visit as it shows that someone is interested enough to have their flight miles jotted in their logbook.



***Please take note that this post is NOT sponsored. I bought the logbooks with my own money. All text and opinions are of my own and represents my honest opinion of the product(s)/service(s).

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Taiwan With Kids: Cingjing / Qingjing 清境

4 of us @ Cingjing Farm - 26 Nov 2017


(Please click here to read the first part of our adventure in Taiwan - Taiwan With Kids: Taichung 臺中)



MISTY VILLA 雲濛仙境


Albert, our Taichung driver drove us to our accomodation at Cingjing quite late.
We booked 2 nights at Misty Villa 雲濛仙境 as we wanted to experience staying in a Minsu.

So what is a Minsu? A minsu is like a homestay/bead and breakfast/guesthouse kind of accommodation, where it is usually run by family and is a good chance for you to have a taste of local life. Minsu accommodation is also very popular in Taiwan.

Maggie was personally there to greet us although we arrived late at night.
The reception area was spacious and homey, with quirky deco everywhere.

She told us briefly the rough map of Cingjing, and also the breakfast time etc and took us up to our room.

We booked the Wonderland Double Room, with an extra bed. Breakfast was included as well.
This was the door to our room.


I was surprised to see that our room was quite big even with the extra bed added in it. There were still plenty of floor space to our luggages and to walk around.

There were the basic amenities like TV, hot water kettle, coffe & tea, tables and chairs.
The bathroom was huge as well, but then there were no separate shower area from the toilet, so when someone showers u cannot actually poo inside as it will be wet.
And also it could be quite damp even when we opened up the small little window.
And being wet and cold is no fun here in Cingjing as it was really cold up there!

Oh ya, there is no heating facility in the Misty Villa, as in most Minsu-s I supposed.


One thing that Maggie/Nita told us in advance before we booked our room was that there were ~75-80 stairs up to our room.
Since we were all still young, we were ok with it.
So now let me show you the stairs to our room. Haha/

This is the first two flights of stairs from the reception. Then you will reach the breakfast area and there will be a door.
 

Open the door and it will be the outdoor area.
Climb one more flight of stairs. 


Lastly, climb this stairs (sorry, this photo was taken from the top of the stairs instead of the bottom) and you will then reach our room. :)
 

To tell the truth, it was easy climbing up these stairs because there were breaks and it was not a continuous climb. I mean, unless you have leg problem or if you are an elderly. 
Even my 60+ yo mum had no problem at all climbing up those stairs twice a day. ;)

Oh ya, don't worry. They will have someone to help you bring up the luggages to your room!

Misty Villa was really very cosy and pretty.
Let me show you in some pics.

This is the road leading up to Misty Villa. Just a short walk up the slope and Misty Villa is on your right. 

Posing with our accomodation behind him.


The beautiful morning view while walking down.

The breakfast area (photo source: http://www.misting.com.tw/restaurant.php)

I forgot to take a photo of our daily breakfast here.
Breakfast was served from 8am-9am every morning. There was quite a wide spread. There were bread and porridge and usual stuff like eggs/sausages/ham.
My only concern was that the food was a little too oily. But then we were quite satisfied with the spread and taste. 

The misty view from our room's balcony.



Overall, it was a really good stay at Misty Villa.
Nita/Maggie were really friendly without being overbearing and it gave us a very homey feel to it.

There was an occurrence when Khye vomitted once at night. He wasn't really sick or anything, probably just ate too much or indigestion.
Anyway, we called up reception and Maggie personally came and helped us wiped the gunk and changed the bed sheets even though it was night time already.
She was really helpful.

The other best part in staying here is due to the location of the minsu.
It was strategically located very near to the eateries/bus stops and everything! So we didn't even need to hire a driver at Cingjing.

From the entrance of Cingjing Farm, you can actually walk all the way down to Misty Villa. So it was really convenient!


**Please take note that the Little Swiss Garden and Carton King were closed for renovation when we were there.



CINGJING FARM 清境農場

We walked down a little to whether the eateries are (Starbucks/7-11 etc) and there was a bus stop and there was already a long queue waiting for the bus to bring us up to Cingjing Farm.
Queued for the Nantou bus that would bring us all the way up to the entrance of Cingjing Farm. It costs us NTD$20 each. Khye was free if I remembered correctly. 


Weekend ticket to Cingjing Farm is NTD$200 for adults. Khye paid only NTD$20. 
Upon reaching there, we decked out our warmer jacket. We even wore our wooly hats because it was cold up there, especially 9+am in the morning!
 


And it was a really misty morning too. Look how misty and cold it was!
It was really difficult to navigate our way on the farm as visibility was low and we could see like less than 100m in front of us.


First/top part of Cingjing Farm is Green Green Grassland.
There was supposed to be a Horse Riding Show where highly skilled riders originally from Mongolia would be doing stunts. We could hear noises and sounds of horns and speakers but we couldn't see anything. We just followed the sound and the crowd.

In the end we found it, just next to us.
Look at the visibility......


The Horse Riders acrobatic show was finished when we reached.
But then there were pony and horse riding. Children can ride the pony for a little fee. They actually just walk a small round, perhaps just a 1 minute walk haha.
Khye wanted to ride one so we paid for him to go on a ride.
Khye and his pony.



 

Then yee-yee also wanted to get up a horse and so we paid for another 2-person ride on a horse.
Erm...where is the horse's head? lol



After that, we saw many sheep coming near us and Khye was so happy to see those sheep. 


And so we went to buy the sheep food from the machines and we started feeding them. 
Khye had so much fun feeding them. Look at the smile and joy from his face!



Boy, the sheep were hungry and fast and clever!!!!!
Look at the short video clip of Khye feeding the sheeps....

Khye who is an animal lover really loved the sheep.
But the sheep's fur is really really thick. You need to really squeeze it only you are able to feel its' body! haha. The super thick wool is really thick to give them the warmth needed up in this Cingjing mountain!


Look at how "fat" is this sheep when compared to Khye!

Look at this little fella hugging the sheep. 
 
 

I tried to take a photo of the 4 of us together with the sheep!

After about an hour or so, we reached the half way of Cingjing Farm.
By then it was not so cold anymore as it was already almost noon.

We walked along stalls selling food and fruits and vege.


We stopped to grab some lunch. We had some pizzas and some soup and Khye had some of his favourite Taiwanese sausages as well.
 

I think all of us enjoyed the vast land in Cingjing Farm with its cool, crisp air.
 
We just sat down and chilled. 


The scenery is actually really beautiful up here in the mountains. But due to it being so foggy, we couldn't see the view which was such a pity!


Mum, sis & Khye with one of the windmills there.

All 4 of us posed with some sheep behind us.
 
 

There were actually many people when we were at the Horse Show earlier but I don't know where were they coz after awhile I didn't see them anymore!

No complains though as we just happily posed for photos without anyone bombarding our photos!
 

See...no one but us! So nice! 
 
 

Used a timer on mum's camera to capture this photo of us. 
This place was also the last place as we then found the entrance of the 487 Steps Trail, just opposite here. 


487 STEPS TRAIL

This trail is one of our favourite in whole of Taiwan.
We were so lucky the mist lifted and the views as we walked down the steps was amazing!
This view greeted us as we walked down...

No filter. Just straight from my phone.

Beautiful, huh?
Both my mum and the view. "_"

 
 

The mountain range far away with shades of blues and greens. 

As we walked down, there were indication telling us how many steps we had taken.
Here we were at 150 and 300 steps down.
 

View of mum from the bottom up.
 


Khye as we reached the midway at a rest stop to the side.

At 350, 400 and 450 steps down.
 



Khye was such a trooper.
He walked the whole morning at Cingjing Farm and also walked down all 487 steps all by himself!!!
No regrets brought him to Taiwan with us at all!


This was the final 487 steps and we took a photo of us with 4 of our shoes to show that we conquered it down! haha
A really recommended walk down from Cingjing Farm!

Since we were already almost downhill and not too far away from our villa, we continued walking.
Saw many stalls selling fresh vege and fruits while walking.
 

Those vege and pears were huge! 
 

And thiese chives were sooo huge!

Biggest chives ever!

We were tired as we finally reached the eatery place.
We settled down for some food at the food court!
Bought the rice sets from 7-11 and surprisingly it tasted quite good.
 

As we were tired and didn't wanna come out later, we bought some instant noodles (Taiwan is famous for its instant noodles as well) and some fruits and just had that for dinner!

Our dinner!



Overall, it was a great day!
Lotsa walking but really worth it!



**Please take note that the Little Swiss Garden and Carton King were closed for renovation when we were there.


Please click here to read the rest of our adventure in Taiwan:-Taiwan With Kids: Taichung 臺中

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