Friday, October 24, 2014

Homeschool: A busy week

The week that has passed was a busy one, since Baby J was sick for a couple of days and there was lots to do for Lil J's party. Here's a glimpse at the play and learning the kids did this week:

Exploring flower parts.

Playing with natural materials in the nature corner.

Playdates: Junior J hosting a magic show with Tigger.

More playdates: The boys had lots of fun with the balloons leftover after the party.

We set up a light table (more on that soon), and the boys looked at 3D shapes. 

Phew! I know next week's going to be busy since the hubs is having a crazy time at work, but am just glad this week is almost done! How was your week?

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Lil J turns 3

Oh you. My ham in the sandwich. You turned three this week, and this mama is still in disbelief that her baby is a big boy! You know that, because I still call you "baby", and you retort back, and remind me that you are a big boy. 

You used to be the one that could never sit still. These days, you are still fidgety, especially during meals, but you've grown to love books and now can sit down quietly for stories. You love the Berenstain Bears, and all manner of books on trucks and construction vehicles, and are obsessed with excavators.

Mess is still your middle name. You tend to disappear into the toilet and spend lots of time playing with water at the sink, and you cannot resist investigating any body of water, from drains to fountains to puddles. You love cake (unfortunately you can't eat most cakes because of your egg allergy), and have been caught trying to nibble at your birthday cake while everyone is still singing you a birthday song! You are quite the beverage boy, and would always be investigating everyone's drinks and asking for sips.

We marvel at how you always speak complete sentences, and love your kiddy voice and how you tend to mispronounce things and drop your "r"s. You are starting to be fascinated with numbers, but absolutely refuse to learn your alphabet. 

You love green and yellow things, and you are a carb king: you scarf down pasta and noodles and you love rice. You also love fruit, but meat is on your not-too-fond list. 

You are quite the imp, but you also have such a generous giving little heart. We love you so so much... and here's a big Happy Birthday to our little ham!

Mama, Papa, Koko and baby.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Home: More on the nature table

We've not done much to the nature corner this week. However, the boys' collection of natural materials seem to be increasing: they bring home all manner of things, from twigs to leaves to pebbles. So the other day, I did a clean up of the corner which was resembling a leaf litter habitat. I've learnt that giving them containers, like bowls and cups, seems to help keep the collections sorted and make it look prettier somewhat. Lil J loves the corner, and likes to retreat there at various times of the day, to just fiddle with fruit and play with twigs. 

Another things we've tried is to dissect flowers. We took apart some flowers that were starting to wilt, and looked at the various parts of the flower. There after, we put the petals and other parts in a bowl and the boys got to mess around with it in the nature corner. 

I'm hoping to work on the corner soon, once we're done with Lil J's birthday celebrations. Until then, you can view glimpses and updates for our nature table here.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Thankful Tuesday: Ups and downs

This week has been full of ups and downs, but I guess that's the norm isn't it? So here's what we've been thankful for the past week:

:: Oct 14, Tuesday: I was thankful for home and all its comforts. And how doing a little each day does help to make a difference. We cleared the dining table, and it made such a difference when it came to doing Mama school!

:: Oct 15, Wednesday: The hubs was really busy and had a couple of work dinners this week, so it was a long day. However, I was thankful for a relatively fruitful day with the kids. Junior J was really helpful, finishing his work quickly and helping with the chores without being asked (he started folding his clothes on his own accord!). Lil J got to do some painting, and it was a pretty good day. 

:: Oct 16, Thursday: It was one of those cranky days, where baby refused to nap, and my back was acting up. I was just so thankful for my parents who helped out: my dad who popped by to babysit for some time, and my mum who helped to cook dinner. And looking at these 2 boys at the end of the day, I was reminded of how while we cannot manage in our own strength, God provides strength for each day, and I was grateful for that.

:: Oct 17, Friday: We had a playdate with friends, and I was so thankful for friends. Who buy lunch, drag their kids over to your place even when they don't drive, and even clean up after. I realized I was really blessed to have good friends, and was glad that our kids could be great pals too. If you're wondering about the pic, Junior J was having a magic show. He got volunteers (Oh how I laughed when I heard him asking for volunteers!) to slot in items into the baby's sorting box, so that they "disappeared". 

:: Oct 18, Saturday: We had one of those crazy errand running days, where we had to get groceries, balloons, and visit the bookstore and DIY shop, plus have lunch. We made it through, even with 5 trips to the toilet! I was so thankful for this little shopping assistant of mine, who helped me to carry things and was generally helpful. He declared the basket was his disguise, so he wore it over his head!

:: Oct 19, Sunday: Baby J was running a fever, and stuck to me the past few nights. While I was a little antsy as there was so many things to do, I am still so thankful for this little boy. For how he goes wawa, for how he loves and bounces to music, for his toothy grins and peekaboos.

:: Oct 20, Monday: It was a pretty messed up day, but I was glad we managed to settle some party prep. I was so thankful again for Junior J, who helped to pack the goodie bags and helped me with the banner. He tells me "ssssh we cannot let Lil J know! It's a surprise!".

There have been bad days and good days, and ups and downs. But I really give thanks for a week with my boys, for new mercies each morning, for a God that loves me.  What are you thankful for this week? 

Mum in the Making

Monday, October 20, 2014

Homeschool: Learning with Math U See (Review and giveaway!)

Math has been one of my weakest subjects (aside from Chinese that is), and I never enjoyed learning Math. My parents had to get me a tutor, and I more or less struggled through the subject, until I learnt probability and statistics. That was when suddenly Math made sense: it was useful, and it applied to real life! 

Anyway, I approached teaching Math to Junior J with a fair bit of apprehension. Yes, teaching pre-school Math is easy, since it is simple, and you can approach it in so many ways and integrate it with real life. However, my chief concern was whether I would be able to introduce Math concepts systematically, and give him a good foundation with regards to the subject. So I started asking other homeschoolers to see what Math curriculum they were using, and I found that a fair number of them were using Math U See. So I decided to try the curriculum out, and we've been using the materials for almost three months. 

The main draw of Math U See for most parents seem to be the fact that it is a complete, stand-alone curriculum, that focuses on teaching concepts and building mastery. The curriculum claims to teach the whys and does not focus on just memorization. It has materials catered up to the Secondary Math level. 

I especially liked the manipulatives, and they were one of the main reasons why we decided to use this curriculum. I find manipulatives are essential when teaching kids Math, simply because they help to make more abstract concepts concrete. We started off with using Montessori beads for counting, and while they were useful, they were also fiddly little things, and I could not use these to explain certain Math concepts. We also tried Cuisenaire rods, but they too were smaller, and not as versatile. However, instead of writing about what didn't work, let's focus on what the Math U See manipulatives can do:

:: The manipulatives are base 10 blocks, and work like Lego bricks, so you can build layers to see how numbers relate to each other. (By the way, I love the pastel colours!) This isn't the case for the Montessori beads. These are also larger than the Cuisenaire rods and that makes it easier for little hands to manipulate.  Sometimes though, Junior J gets distracted and ends up building with them. But there are times where he learns through building, like the time he found out that ten pieces of 10s was equal to 100!

:: They allow kids to "see" addition, subtraction and number bonds clearly: Kids can stack the number combinations to see if they are equal, or count the "missing" blocks for subtraction.

:: They also allow kids to visualize multiplication and division easily. For example in the picture below, you can see that 3 x 2 is also the same as 2 x 3.

:: All in all, the manipulatives are used to teach concepts up to the Secondary Math level, which helps in terms of integrating learning. Even key algebra and decimal concepts are taught using these manipulatives, along with additional inserts. Having the different numbered blocks in different colours made it easier for Junior J to see what numbers he was adding or working with, unlike the usual base 10 blocks which come in a single colour.

These are the blocks provided in one set of manipulatives.
We store them in our own hobby case, but you can also purchase
the Math U See wooden block box to house them too. 

Lessons for Math U See are taught using the manuals, where the student learns a new concept each chapter, and works through a series of problems in the Student Manual. They also use the manipulatives in solving the problems, and I like how the size of the squares in the manual correspond to the size of the manipulatives, so that you can actually match them up. 

One of the pages in the Primer level. 

Different concepts are taught, including telling the time, which also involves the use of the manipulatives. You can view the topics covered for the Primer level here, which is the first level of the series, and browse the materials (and topics covered) for each level of General Math here.

Another page in the Primer manual

The Student Manual in each level is accompanied by a Teacher's Manual (purchased separately), which gives guidelines on how to teach each topic. These manuals come with a DVD with video demonstrations for each lesson, so that means you can actually watch the videos with your child to minimize the preparation needed on your part. You can view a sample lesson here.

A page in the Primer level Teacher's manual.

One thing I liked about the manuals was the way they presented the questions. The questions are phrased simply and concisely, so that the focus is on working out the math concepts and building mastery. There are no wordy, long winded paragraphs about someone eating apples and having to figure out how many apples are left. Those questions tend to require more skills from a child: the ability to read, to comprehend complex sentences and the ability to figure out what the question is asking. The books are printed in black and white print, so there are no distracting diagrams or pictures. However, that being said, this means that parents must also prepare children to solve more complex questions (in terms of language) to prepare them for the PSLE.

A sample from the Beta level Student Manual. 

Another sample from the Beta level student manual. 

Another thing I liked about the curriculum was that there was minimal preparation on my part. I did not have to prepare my own worksheets and I didn't have to spend alot of time reading up. This meant we could consistently cover a little math each day, because I would just need about 5 minutes to teach Junior J the new concept, after which I could leave him to try the problems himself.

However, because of the no-frills way of teaching these concepts, some might find the curriculum a little boring. And since it focuses on mastery, there is a certain amount of drill and repetition required, which sometimes frustrates Junior J. So I find that there is the necessity to adapt according to the child's ability. This may mean cutting down on the number of pages he/she has to do each time (or you might even consider skipping some repeated problems if your child gets bored, since each lesson is 6 pages long), as well as varying the lessons by including games or other math activities. 

Having this curriculum has been liberating: I can use this to ensure that Junior J attains mastery for Math concepts, and the time I've gained in not having to plan detailed lessons could be used to plan other Math activities for him to vary things somewhat. All in all, it is a really good curriculum to use, but of course, do make your choice based on your child's strengths and learning style!


I was actually so keen on this curriculum that I approached Jenny, my contact from Green Sheep Asia (which distributes Math U See in Singapore, along with other learning materials/curricula) for this review opportunity. For those interested, do drop them an email at, and quote "MakingMum" to receive a free copy of their Skip Count Songbook and CD, when you order a set of manipulatives along with one set of Teacher and Student manuals. Do note that only ten sets are available for this promotion!

Also, I'm happy to share that Green Sheep Asia has kindly agreed to give away a set of the Math U See manipulatives to one reader of this blog! To enter the giveaway, just follow the instructions below in the Rafflecopter widget, and don't forget to comment in this blog post and leave your name and email address!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclaimer: We received a set of manipulatives and Primer manuals for purpose of this review, and paid for all other materials. No monetary compensation was received, and all opinions are my own.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Homeschool: Our week, in pictures

It's been quite a mish-mash week, as we were trying to get our engines chugging again after our time away in Malaysia. I'm finding it hard to try new activities, since my bad back is bothering me, but I'm hoping next week will be better. So here's how the past week looked like:

Lots of play, as usual. Here are the boys fiddling with blocks.
Most days they get up to their own imaginary play with random things!

We're learning skip-counting for Math, and Junior J couldn't get it.
So we used dino counters, and lined them up in pairs. That helped.

The boys used plus-plus pieces to make a birthday cake (affiliate link).

After singing a birthday song and blowing out the "candles", Lil J cut up the cake for everyone to eat!

I left a sensory bin out in the nature corner with a desert theme.
Lil J spends most of his time ignoring all the figures, and concentrates on planting the cactus!
The bin is filled with lentils and beans.

A rare moment where all three are "reading".
These days Lil J likes flipping through books, while Baby J loves destroying them.

We read a little about the animals in Galapagos. My fav are the blue-footed boobies.
Lil J loves the lava crabs.

Junior J is fascinated by vampire bats. He learnt about them while watching The Magic School Bus.
So he drew this vampire bat, and went around wearing his "mask", declaring "I WANT TO SUCK YOUR BLOOD!".
He tries to be scary, so I stifle my laughter and try to look appropriately scared.

Yup, all in a week's work. Here's to a blessed weekend!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Home: The nature corner

I've been wanting to tackle many home improvement projects. But just thinking of the things that need to be done, plus my perfectionist streak, and more often than not I end up feeling overwhelmed and not doing anything. 

Then I read this. Which made alot of sense. Start really small. Gain a small victory, and move on upwards from there. So I'm trying to break up my projects into tiny steps, and making myself take it one step at a time. 

One of the projects I've been wanting to work on is the entryway. This is the space that greets us when we open our main door, which is currently filled with random outdoor things: bicycles, scooters, umbrellas and shoes. It is a mess, but it also holds the answer to the boys' need for messy play and nature exploration, while keeping those things away from a crawling, active baby. 

Believe me, this is actually the neater part of the entry, the other side is a chaos of stuff!

I have no pretty pictures to show for the space yet, since it is still a work in progress, but at least I've gotten down to doing something about it!  Thus far, I've cleared off an old shoe rack, relocated the shoes, cleared out the shoe cabinet of many pairs of shoes, and generally started making this space more conducive to play. 

I wanted a table which we could place natural materials for the boys to explore, but we have no space for a table, so we're making do with the top of the bench for now. I've just left baskets filled with random natural materials on the bench, and the boys, especially Lil J have been wandering out at times to fiddle and play with them. 

We also added a small picture shelf above the bench to fit displays. I'm not done with that bit yet, but the boys have already started adding their own little findings to the the shelf on their own accord:

Will update when we see more progress!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Thankful Tuesday: Just another week

So another week has passed, and here's how we've been doing on our challenge for the past week:

:: Oct 7, Tuesday: We headed for home, and broke our journey in Shah Alam and stayed with the hubby's relatives. We encountered jams, most of us (save for Lil J) were down with food poisoning, and Lil J's food allergies started flaring up again (we had one scare earlier on when his eyes swelled up and he started rashing and his nose started leaking). We ended the day just thankful for journey mercies, our relatives' kind hospitality, and the green balloon from our friend's kid, which kept a very fidgety Baby J occupied for part of the car ride. 

:: Oct 8, Wednesday: We made it home through relatively smooth traffic, and we were so thankful that Junior J seemed to have recovered. After more than a week away from home, I think everyone was just glad to be home. 

:: Oct 9, Thursday: It was one of those rush around and get stuff done kind of day. I ended the day thankful for those fleeting moments with these three little boys, that reminded me that I must stop and slow down. 

:: Oct 10, Friday: We slowly got back into our homeschool routines, and went for our usual co-op. I was just so glad and thankful for home and all that home entailed: dinners together, playtime, comfortable beds. We "baked" a cake for Lil J and he pretended to light candles on them, and then systematically cut up the entire cake and fed it to all of us. It is these moments that make our home, home.

:: Oct 11, Saturday: I was thankful for the opportunity to work with lovely people when it came to blog reviews and sponsorships, and glad that such opportunities allowed me to get to know people behind small businesses better. It has been such an eye-opening experience! Also, I was thankful for this lovely bouquet, that was sent by one lovely lady whom I've been collaborating with. 

:: Oct 12, Sunday: The hubby was feeding Baby J, while Lil J was helping him by feeding the baby snacks, which we use as bribes while we try to spoon in regular food. This conversation ensued:

Hubby: So are you my feeding assistant today?
Lil J (after some thought): No! I am your crunchy-taker. I take the crunchy biscuits.

Oh how we laughed! Lil J has been all sorts of challenging in terms of the discipline department, but I am so thankful for this little imp that never fails to make us smile.

:: Oct 13, Monday: We went back into our usual scheme of things. I was just thankful to have survived a regular day even with my painful back, and that we managed to get some learning done and resume our usual homeschooling routines. We read a little about the Galapagos, and we played with the figures while Baby J chomped on the poor frigate bird. 

All in all, it has been quite a week. I'm glad we're back into the swing of things, and here's to another week of thankfulness!

Mum in the Making


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