GUEST WRITER: Kimberly Lee
“In our pursuit to provide our kids with things that we did not have when we were young, let us not forget to give our kids what we once had when we were kids”, was part of the message from our last Sunday Service.
These words spoke volumes about the kind of things that I wish to impart to my kids. We have two pre-school kids – Allyn is 5 and Aidan is 3.5. I, for one had fond memories of my childhood. My daddy is a good artist; he draws and paints very well. We had 4 siblings in the family. When I was growing up we hardly had toys or new clothes. But we were never short of paint – oil, pastel, water-colour, charcoal, etc. My daddy taught us something that he knew best – how to draw and paint.
I remember how I used to draw a rat and painted it red. This would annoy my teacher. She would try to persuade and reason with me why my rat should be black. I would simply reply that, ” My daddy says I can use any colour that I like. It’s just an expression.” And I still hold true to what my dear father said, this time with my very own kids. One day, I found my daughter colouring her monkey green!!!
A lot of things that I do with my kids revolve around the environment & nature. I do teach them a certain amount of academics, but I try to keep these within the context of the themes that we are pursuing. Among the activities that keep us busy at home include:
1. Nature themes – insects, birds
We would catch the different insects that come into our home and study them – ‘lab within the home’. The kids will get to feed the insects with different kinds of food and determine what kind of food suits the insects best. Once we had a cricket and it made so much noise at night that daddy had to leave it outside the house. We then read up more on crickets and found that the noise produced by a cricket corresponds with its surrounding temperature. That night the kids took the cricket into their air-conditioned room and it was a restful night for everybody.
One of the most recent projects is growing vegetables. We have already managed to get some seeds and styrofoam boxes. And we are looking forward to putting the soil in.
2. Nature walks
We love learning about the names of flowers and trees. We make occasional mini-trips (usually 1 – 1.5 hrs) to the Botanical Gardens covering a different section of the garden at a time – rainforest trail, palm gardens, cactus garden, flower gardens, etc.
The highlight of our trips is the information stall at the Gardens. The kids would get an ice- cream each as we talk to members of the `Friends of the Botanical Society’ raising questions about things we have seen. We would often pick up an item (dry leave, flower or ticket stub) for the kids’ journals.
Aidan isn’t really writing yet; but a small memento such as these usually stays in his memory for a good long time.
3. Field trips
I was away for a 4-day seminar recently so my husband took the opportunity to bring our kids back to his ‘kampung’ in Seremban. He wanted to show them his own ‘childhood experiences.’ The kids went to a waterfall/brook where their daddy used to visit when he was a child. They also had a chance to visit an ostrich farm and a museum.
Back at home in Penang, the kids love to ride with daddy in his truck for short drives. Recently they went to a durian orchard. Since the beach is also fairly near our home, we often go for a stroll together as a family, or sometimes fly a kite.
The Children’s Library is a stone’s throw away from our home. Tuesday is our library day. We read in the library as well as borrow books to bring home. Sometimes we go to a bookshop that has an inviting and child-friendly kids’ section.
By and large we do a lot of reading together. This is probably one of the most inexpensive yet fun activities for the kids. Although I am quite flexible with our reading schedule, we have stipulated times set aside just for this purpose: 3.00- 4.30 pm (that’s mommy’s wind-down time!!). After reading to the kids (usually a book each), I will read my own stuff and take a snooze!!
Bedtime stories & prayer is another ritual which is religiously observed in our home. One night Allyn fell asleep without her regular story & prayer. She got up at 2 am, stormed into our room and demanded her story and prayer!
Friday afternoons are swimming days. Our kids usually meet up with 1 or 2 other homeschooling families to swim in the pool at one of the homes. Other times we just cycle in the park, or to each other’s home.
The kids’ art & craft materials are organised in a plastic 4-tier mini chest of drawers. We also custom-made a Montessori table (with laminated top for easy cleaning) which seats 4 kids (or adults) comfortably. The kids usually access these art materials themselves and work independently at the table. This activity is definitely one of their favourites.
Very often I have to make use of this ‘activity’ to lead them into academics. E.g.: Yesterday, we did a craft on snails. As part of the vocabulary building exercise, the kids were introduced to all the different words related to snails – glide, shell, tentacles, slimy, etc. I also taught Allyn to decode these words phonetically as she heard them. She also made up a story based on the different snails she made. I wrote out the story for her leaving out words which were part of the decoding exercise that we worked on earlier. She filled in these missing words and sketched some pictures to illustrate the story. So there we have a story “Happy Snail & Sad Snail” composed & illustrated by Allyn (albeit, dictated to and written by Mom!), which makes her simply eager to read the story to her brother.
My husband and I are neither musicians nor singers. Fortunately there are these glorified appliances with sing-along tunes called CDs and videos. Our kids simply learn by just listening and singing along. Allyn sometimes amazes us by doing simple dance steps from the videos. Their favourite video is “Hi-5″ an Australian music production.
Our kids do not speak a lot of Chinese at home but they are able to sing a few Chinese scripture choruses after listening a few times to a tape. Another tape series that’s good for memory verses is Steve Green’s “Hide Them in Your Heart.”
I also pin up a 7-verses-a-week chart for the kids. Everyday they (Aidan, least of all) would read out a verse from the chart. Usually the chart will be up for at least a month. But I am more interested that our children understand the verses fully before we move on.
In short, we are busy all the time.
About the writer: Kimberly and her family lived in Penang at the time of writing.