Three Important Life Lessons

What we learn when we are young can follow us for the rest of our lives.

In my last post on Managing Confinement, I wrote about balancing homeschooling kids with other responsibilities. I alluded to the fact that I would like to teach my kids life lessons to help them in the future. The time in confinement has allowed me to really reflect on this and I feel these 3 areas are particularly important:

  1. Family Values: I think it is important to teach kids what values we feel are important as a family and to demonstrate this to them as much as possible through our actions. And when we fall short of those values, apologizing to our kids is equally important in demonstrating humility.
  2. Work Ethic: There are days when it would be so much easier to simply let the kids do whatever they want. But ultimately, they do need guidance and the ability to develop a strong work ethic that will allow them to develop into responsible and dependable adults. For us at this stage, this simply involves the kids taking responsibility for their school work as much as possible, helping out around the house and keeping their rooms in order.
  3. IMG_0958Financial Responsibility: It’s never too early to start teaching kids about how to manage finances responsibly. This is an area I did not really know how to impart to my kids however after reading various sources, we came up with a plan that we feel is right for our family and which the kids are on board with. There are of course many schools of thought on this with a multitude of approaches. For us, the kids will obtain an allowance once a month in return for helping out with chores around the house. We suggested that for now, they divide the money up equally in 3 jars: Savings, Spending and Giving. If there is something they would like to have outside of their usual needs, birthday and Christmas gifts, they will have to save up for it. I’m hoping that this will teach them about the concept of saving, delayed gratification as well as generosity.

Further reading: I just finished reading this book which I feel is useful in guiding parents about what life skills to teach kids and would be a good read for adolescents (currently free on Amazon Kindle so grab it while you can!)

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Managing Confinement

How are you managing confinement so far?

As an introvert, I have generally been fine with spending so much time at home although I do certainly miss my extended family and friends as well as our usual social activities. Regardless of personality type, being confined to one’s home certainly has its pros and cons. As a mother of two young ones aged 8 and 6 years old, I have been trying to balance homeschooling while attempting to study for my first medical licensing exam. Now that it’s been a little over a month since schools and universities closed, I have found a basic approach that seems to be working well and so I wanted to share this with you (particularly parents with young kids):

Let this be a unique and positive learning experience for your kids

While attempting to home-school my children, I have been reminded that kids learn in different ways and that they can learn from many things, not just structured worksheets at the table. I made the decision that I would like my kids to learn in a natural and non-stressful way so that they can develop a positive attitude towards learning in general.

For my kids, we have settled on a very simple routine of daily reading, writing and Math (about 1-2 hours per week day). Beyond this, the kids are free to learn what they would like and we parents facilitate the learning process. This means our days are quite varied and somewhat unpredictable but I find that this has been a much less painful process than trying to schedule out the whole day with very structured activities. Mum and kids have been much less frustrated and in fact it has been fun! (And can I just say that I have a whole new appreciation for school teachers. They are unsung heroes who deserve so much more recognition for the hard work they put into teaching our kids!)

If you are looking for some ideas for your kids, here are just some of the activities my kids enjoy:

  1. Board games: kids can learn plenty of concepts from board games from strategy to math (my daughter’s mental math has grown exponentially since repeatedly being the banker while playing Game of Life!)
  2. Bike rides or walks:  kids get physical exercise while enjoying nature and learning important concepts such as road signs, the rules of the road and how to be spatially aware of vehicles. It’s also invigorating as a family to see other people in the neighborhood, even if from a distance.
  3. Cosmic Kids Yoga: another way to keep physically active and includes a creative backdrop of kids’ favorite themes such as Frozen, Pokemon, Minecraft and many more!
  4. Online lessons: kids can learn many things via FaceTime, Skype, Zoom such as art, programming and musical instruments. Is there a friend or family member who has time on their hands and would be willing to teach your kids while you study or work? Depending on your financial situation, paid lessons could be an option too.
  5. Group homeschooling: kids can join other families who are homeschooling via FaceTime, Zoom etc. so that they can socialize and do their work together. My kids have enjoyed doing this with their friends who were routinely home-schooled before the pandemic and whose mum does an AWESOME job teaching all our kids! This has been especially helpful when I had my own online classes to do for medical school.
  6. Educational apps: the kids love SplashLearn and Education.com which has fun games in Math, reading, typing and more. Boukili is an excellent app for learning to read in French.
  7. Science Experiments: the kids have enjoyed Colour Chemistry from Crayola. (I still remember my very first Chemistry set as a kid!)

In all of this, I know I will never be the perfect parent. All I can do is my best and focus on making sure that my husband and kids know they are loved and appreciated! I have also been trying to teach my kids life skills that are hopefully going to help them later in life. More on that in my next post!

I hope this post has been helpful. This has been a tough year for many and my hope is to bring some encouragement and remind you that you are not alone in this.

Sunday Morning Music and Fellowship

Sundays are usually a whirlwind of madness in our house as we try to get the kids out of the house in time for church. My husband and I teach classes before the service starts and on mornings like today when music practice is thrown into the mix, it is one busy morning. I love it!

Ready for some praise and worship

Ready for some praise and worship

The morning started off early with worship practice. Depending on the Sunday, I play piano with different musicians which offers a nice variety of styles and songs. Today, I found the songs particularly reverent and despite a challenging practice on Thursday night as we tried to mesh together as a team, it worked out beautifully this morning.

After practice was done, it was off to my class to prepare my sheets and props for the 4 to 5 year old kids. Despite the challenges of uncooperative or rowdy kids, teaching them is so refreshing. There is something about being around young children that just reminds me to have fun and appreciate the simple things.

After the class, I ran down to the sanctuary to play piano for the service as I tried to untangle my own two kids from around my knees. I found it very inspiring that the pastor’s message today was on worship and how we are not there to gain something for ourselves but simply to glorify God and thank him for his goodness. As the service came to an end and the voices of the congregation rose up in volume and blended for the last song, it was just so beautiful. I didn’t want it to end!

So despite the usual Sunday madness and the fact that we normally want to pass out on the couch after the service, it is always so worth it to be in the company of great people, lifting up our voices, hearing the laughter of kids and being surrounded by such a warm community!

The Beauty of Mentorship…A Brother’s Love

When I was growing up, I had the privilege of attending the Johnny Academy. This was not your typical school or institution. This was a valuable one-on-one learning experience with none another than my big brother Jonathan (hence the “Johnny” Academy). He was 13 years old and I was 7 when we first started. It was during the school holidays and he was developing an interest in teaching so here I was, his guinea pig student.

Nintendo Donkey Kong. Image courtesy of wikipedia.

The Nintendo Donkey Kong I used to play during “class breaks”. Image courtesy of wikipedia.

It started off with English lessons where we went through grammar and vocabulary. Then we dived into French conjugation and Math multiplication tables. The next thing I knew, he was announcing that there would be a final exam complete with report card! During the breaks between ‘classes’, he allowed me to indulge in 3 or 4 games of Donkey Kong as a reward for being focused in class. He also promised me a big bar of Cadbury’s chocolate if I finished the entire Famous Five series of books by Enid Blyton.

During other classes, we had “laboratory” sessions where we dived into chemistry experiments using the best chemistry set I had ever seen that had been given to us as a Christmas present. My eyes opened wide at all the unique powders in the set. I’m not sure they make them like that anymore. It had the potential to blow things up! The most fascinating experiment my brother ever showed me was the principal of a burning flame using up oxygen. It was a simple apparatus. A lit candle placed under a glass dome inside a basin of water. As the candle used up oxygen, the volume of air inside the dome decreased and the water from the basin rose up inside the glass dome to replace the space previously occupied by the oxygen. It seemed so magical to me, as if the water had a life of its own!

Chemistry set. Image courtesy of Brighton Toy and Model Museum

Chemistry set. Image courtesy of Brighton Toy and Model Museum

There was no end to the variety of lessons and experiments my brother showed me. I remember deciphering secret messages that had been written in lemon juice by gently heating under the paper, making the letters darken and become visible to the naked eye. So simple, yet so fascinating! We had a very basic microscope that we used to view random samples from the backyard. Our house was filled with all kinds of books, my favorite series being “Tell me why”.

My brother also entertained me by performing magic tricks and card tricks. He encouraged me to be active by taking me out to play tennis, soccer and badminton. He sometimes pretended to let me win!

My brother has been my mentor from a young age. His passion for teaching and his concern for me developed my fascination for science, reading and learning. I love to find out how things work and to this day we still have nerdy conversations. As a former Theater professor who has just finished his fourth year of medical school in the States, he continues to encourage me and mentor me as I embark on my journey to medical school. His drive to succeed motivates me and shows me that if he can do it, I can do it too.

Mentorship is a beautiful thing. It draws on one’s experiences to help another person learn and overcome similar hurdles. It says to another “Here I am to help you get through this, to figure it out and to help you succeed!”.

Jonathan sneaking into my crib

Jonathan sneaking into my crib when we were children

Jonathan and I opening up Christmas presents when we were children

Jonathan and I opening up Christmas presents when we were children

Jonathan and I visiting Kenya where we grew up

Jonathan and I visiting Kenya where we grew up