Tag Archives: homeschooling

Book review: How Are You Feeling Today?

Emotions are tricky things to handle, even more so when you are a young child. For someone like C, who tends to internalize her emotions, it takes a fair bit of coaxing in order to get her to discuss how she feels and identify ways to cope. The phrase “I’m upset” could mean anything, ranging from jealousy, anger to just plain old grumpiness.  

We’ve read stories about dealing with emotions, and discussed how the character should react in the different scenarios, but somehow, I found this method somewhat lacking. I needed a quick go-to book about emotions, something that C could use as an aid to help her deal with all the feelings that were going on inside her.  

A few weeks ago, I was browsing through an online book sale when I came across How Are You Feeling Today? by Molly Potter.

I was drawn by the description of the contents:

Providing children aged 6 and above with straightforward, entertaining and (most importantly) appropriate ideas to help them deal with a selection of significant emotions that might not be so easy for them to decide what to do with, the book lets children choose a feeling that relates to them and offers child-friendly strategies for dealing with that emotion. 

This book sounded like just what I needed!  

There were no look-inside pages available online but I knew C would definitely be enticed by the illustrations (yes, the cover is so very important!) So I went ahead to buy the book!


How are you feeling today?

When the book arrived, I knew that I had made the right decision. Done in picture book format, the first few pages quickly summarized the range of feelings covered by the book. The first two pages worked like a quick index – the reader could simply refer to the correct page based on what they were feeling that day.
IMG_7581 IMG_7582 Age-appropriate strategies for dealing with each emotion were suggested. For example, if C was feeling worried, she could choose from the serious (confiding in a trusted person) to the not-so-serious (imagining a giant machine sucking worries away!) IMG_7583 IMG_7584     IMG_7585 C’s review 

Almost-8-year-old C really liked the illustrations, as expected. She started flipping through the book as soon as she saw it. I know that she appreciated some of the suggestions given because she was chuckling to herself and mumbling “a giant bubble, really?!” When I asked what she thought of the book, the immediate answer was “It’s really easy to read!” Well, I’m pretty sure she wouldn’t be in the mood to read a chunk of words when she was in a bad mood. ūüėČ 

My review 

Most of the children’s books I’ve read dealt with emotion handling using a storyline. I appreciated that this book was presented as a self-help book, and went straight to the point to identify different emotions. By giving suggestions to the child to deal with each emotion, it empowers them to handle their emotions in a constructive manner. Using illustrations, the author also helped to provide pictorial clues to identifying more complex emotions, such as jealousy. At the end of the book, there were also tips for parents on how to improve emotional literacy. 

This book helped me deal with some difficult times when C was frustrated. I would point to the book, “Please read the book and try some of the suggestions!” – even if the suggestions didn’t work, it still bought me time and gave C a cooling off period! I would definitely recommend getting this book for 6 to 9 year olds. 

Do you have any recommendations for self-help books for kids? 

You can buy the book here: 



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Growing with the Tans

A pleasant surprise

Today C presented us with this card:


With a message for me inside:

Message to mummy

Message to mummy

And daddy wasn’t neglected too:

For daddy

For daddy

Apparently she wrote it when we brought G for his Heguru class. When asked why she made this card, she simply said that she wanted to show her appreciation.

She made my day ūüôā

Product review: Smart Lab Squishy Human Body

C is learning about the human body this term. She came back from school one day and asked me: “Mummy, did you know that there are 300 bones in an infant’s skeleton, but only 200 in an adult’s body?” ” I heard my heart beating using a stethoscope! How does the heart work? How many times does it beat in a minute?” Thank goodness I had google to help with the answers!

While looking for material to supplement the learning on this topic, I came across the Squishy Human Body by Smart Lab. Here’s the description on the website:

With this hands-on kit and tour guide, kids enter the twisted world of the human body! Complete with removable squishy organs as well as representative skeletal, vascular, and muscular systems, kids explore the complex inner workings of the human body and literally see how it all works!

It sounded like a perfect addition to the books and material I had prepared on this topic. I ordered it from Amazon, and it arrived today!

Smart Lab Squishy Human Body

Smart Lab Squishy Human Body

With this hands-on kit and tour guide, kids enter the twisted world of the human body! Complete with removable squishy organs as well as representative skeletal, vascular, and muscular systems, kids explore the complex inner workings of the human body and literally see how it all works!

Inside the kit

I loved that it came with plastic tweezers and forceps, to make the experience more realistic. C was really excited, and told me that she had learnt about the human body in school – “both inside and outside”.

There was a guide book included with the kit, which explained how the organs worked.

Guide book

Guide book

Of course, C did not stop to read the book but skipped directly to examine the human body. Instead of skin, the body was of transparent hard plastic. Once it was opened, we were allowed access to the skeleton and the internal organs. C was fascinated, and double checked “this is not a real human, right?”

The human body!

The human body!

Guess which part of the body she wanted to examine first? The head! She wanted to open up the skull to see the brain – to check if it was really fragile like what her teacher told her. ūüėČ This was followed by a rapid removal of the internal organs.

Internal organs


The kit came with a organ-ization chart, which allowed C to sort out each body part neatly. The speed at which she removed and placed each piece in the corresponding space was amazing. She knew exactly where each piece was supposed to go.

Sorting the body parts on the organ-izer

Sorting the body parts on the organ-izer

We had fun taking it apart. The hardest part was fitting all the parts back into the body neatly again (I’m an engineer, not a surgeon!). Luckily there were instructions at the back of the book!

C’s review
She loved it! It was fun to take the human body apart, with “real” tools like the tweezers and forceps “so that I don’t break the fragile organs”. She was also able to name the parts of the body associated with the digestive system (I’m surprised what they learn in school now!)

My review
Although Squishy Human Body was not a medical human model, it was detailed enough as a homeschooling supplement. It was interesting to note that they used very soft, slimy-feeling plastic for the internal organs and the brain, which gave a certain realistic feel (have you touched raw liver? It feels just the same!) Care must be taken when opening the transparent case, as the plastic is not very thick, but otherwise I’m extremely happy with the purchase. This can definitely be used till she is much older. I foresee lots of interesting conversations with C! ūüôā

Definitely a good buy for homeschoolers or as an interesting toy for aspiring little surgeons-to-be!

Do you have a model of the human body at home?

Lapbook – Birds of Prey

At the beginning of this year, I was¬†first introduced to the¬†term “lapbook” by a homeschooling friend,¬†who uploaded¬†a sample of a lapbook done¬†together with her daughter. I loved the finished product! Intrigued by the name, I did some googling on the topic, and was struck by the simplicity and versatility of the concept. It was placed on my to-do list ( a looooong list, haha!) and I finally got down to doing one with C over the long weekend.

Since she was learning about birds in school, I decided to start with a ready-made template from the internet on the topic of birds of prey.

Starting lapbooking
Downloading the template was easy enough, but there was quite a bit of cutting and pasting to be done. The graphics were pretty, and C really liked the card pocket (she wanted to bring it to school for show and tell!) Unfortunately, none of the books recommended were available from the library, but we managed to find other books on the topic; the internet was also a valuable source of information!

We worked on the lapbook the whole afternoon, reading the books and articles to fill in the templates. I was really proud of her for being able to concentrate on the task for such a long time.

Here’s the completed lapbook!

Completed lapbook “Birds of Prey”

Lessons learnt
Besides learning more about birds of prey, it was also a good exercise on reading comprehension and writing practice! C really enjoyed doing the lapbook, and was really proud of the result. I enjoyed the process too, and am now working on a second lapbook, made from scratch this time. Stay tuned for my next lapbook project!

Book review: Cave Baby by Julia Donaldson & Emily Gravett

The latest book in C’s weekly reading list is Cave Baby by children’s laureate, Julia Donaldson. Illustrations are done by Emily Gravett, twice winner of the Kate Greenaway medal.

From the reviews online, I’ve noted that this is Emily’s first picture book collaboration. Two big names – nothing could go wrong! I must say that I love the result of the pairing – lovely text written in Julia’s rhythmic style, with beautiful and witty illustrations done by Emily.

Prior to this, I’ve introduced C to both authors, but unfortunately she didn’t really take to the previous books – the Gruffalo was too ugly, and Wolves was not her cup of tea either. With Cave Baby, however, it was a totally different story. She loved it!

The story starts by introducing an adorable prehistoric baby (in a diaper made of leaves, no less!), and his busy parents. The bored baby soon finds a pot of paint and a paint brush, and adds creative touches to the murals in his cave (hmm… sounds familiar!) Understandably upset, his dad threatens him with prospect of being carried off by a mammoth to a big brown bear. That very night, his words come true, and the baby is swiped off on an adventure!

C found the text easy to read, and I enjoyed the clever  illustrations. Subtle hints of the bear that the baby  was supposed to meet are found on every page. We had fun looking for the hidden bears!

Can you find the bear?

Whether the baby really meets the bear in the end, I leave it for you to find out =)

Teaching young children effectively

One of the key responsibilities as a parent is that of an educator. When my daughter was born 5 years ago, I was at a loss on where and how to start. What was the best way to teach her?

Over the past few years, I’ve come to learn from experience (both good, and plenty of bad) that there is no¬†such thing as THE best method to teach young children (if you’ve found one, please let me know!). There are, however, some ways to make the task easier. Here are some useful tips I’ve picked up in my learning journey so far:

1. Know your child’s learning style
Spend time observing your child when she learns. Experiment with different methods to appeal to her different senses. Does she remember better when she sees it? Or responds when she hears the words or concept in a song? Or when she traces the word in the sand? Remember that children learn differently – what works for one does not mean that it will be effective for the other.

2. Incorporate play
Learning does not mean sitting down at a desk and¬†listening to you talk.¬†Make learning fun!¬†Teach the concept of primary and secondary colours by allowing her to mix paints, dyes. Bring her out for a walk in the rain and explain the water cycle. Teach units of measurement when baking cookies. Be creative – if you aren’t, don’t worry, there are always plenty of ideas and resources online!

3. Check that activities are age appropriate
Expecting a 1 year old to hold a pencil properly and start writing her ABCs would only frustrate the both of you. Conversely, telling a 5-year old to put a 4piece puzzle together not only insults her intelligence, it would be a waste of time. Vary the difficulty level so that the child can manage it with a little help – challenge them a little to keep the interest level up!

4. Timing is the essence
Catch the child at a timing when she is most responsive. No one will be interested to learn when they are tired or hungry. For quiet activities such as reading, try to schedule it at a fixed time each day so that it becomes a habit.

5. Go with the flow, let the child lead
Be spontaneous. Sometimes, well-laid lesson plans go south, but you don’t need to stick to the schedule. If your child decides that throwing blocks is more fun than stacking them up, get out a few boxes, label them and get them to throw into the correct categories instead.

6. Encourage questions
This is a challenge for most parents. Answering a list of “whys?” for 10minutes is no joke. Don’t be afraid of admitting that you don’t know. My favourite responses when I don’t have the answer: “What do you think?” and “Mummy doesn’t know, why don’t we find out together?”

7. Patience, patience, patience.
Enough said =)

8. Enjoy yourself
Children will enjoy themselves if they see their parents having a good time learning with them too. Relax, have fun, and your child will too!

Project butterfly

I try to do activities that relate to what my daughter is learning in school. Here is one that both of us really enjoyed:

Last year C was learning about life cycles¬†in school. I¬†played with the idea of raising a chick, but thought better of it¬†because¬†(1) I really didn’t have space for the chick (2) the life cycle would take too long and (3) the kids would probably squash it. Then, I chanced upon a¬†local¬†farm selling butterfly kits – perfect!

Getting the kit

I went down to Oh’s farm the next weekend. When I heard about the butterfly kit, I imagined a fancy box with a built-in ecosystem. The actual item was much simpler, and cheaper.¬†¬†It¬†was essentially a plastic container¬†(those that you get¬†when you do takeaway)¬†modified with netting at the top, a satay stick, a piece of paper at the bottom. Each kit came with two caterpillars. The species of the caterpillar depended on the price you chose – $4 got you normal caterpillars, $7.50 for prettier ones. We got the cheaper one for a start. The kit also came with a bunch of leaves for caterpillar food.

Butterfly kit, complete with 2 caterpillars

Food for the caterpillar – we had to put it in water and feed the leaves to the caterpillar daily

Simple instructions for caterpillar care were stuck onto the container. In summary, we had to change the base paper, clear the droppings and put in fresh leaves every day and night. Simple enough. Apparently survival rate is only 50-60%. *Fingers crossed*

Day 1: Getting started
We got a closer look at the caterpillars once we got home. Spiky and colorful, they looked a little different from the usual garden variety. They also had a voracious appetite! The leaf that came in the container was almost gone so we decided to put in a new leaf- it was gone in 4hours! No wonder Eric Carle’s book is titled “The Hungry Caterpillar”. C was excited and kept bringing the container down to watch the caterpillars eat.

Day 2: Still eating
The caterpillars continued their non-stop eating…

Day 3: Start of a chrysalis
The caterpillars were decidedly fatter now. One of them had stopped eating and there were fine white strands of silk attaching it to the top of the netting. The transformation was beginning!

Fine white silk attaching the caterpillar to the netting

Day 4: Pupa stage
One of the caterpillars had formed a chrysalis, attached to the stick. The other continued roaming the container. There was a red liquid on the stick (I’m not sure what it was, probably a by-product). When clearing the base paper, we found an exoskeleton! C was rather freaked out as she thought that the caterpillar’s head had dropped off. I had to explain that it was simply changing its clothes and putting on its wings in the chrysalis.

See the spikes and feelers on the exoskeleton!

Day 5: Two chrysalises
Both caterpillars had reached the pupa stage now. We just had to be patient and wait. I had to remind C that she should not keep moving the container, lest the movements caused the chrysalises to drop off. They were literally hanging on by a thread! We moved the container to a higher shelf, just in case.

Day 6: Still waiting
Occasional wriggling told us that the chrysalises were still alive. When the chrysalises were brought up to the light, they glistened and shimmered slightly. Pretty!

¬†Day 7: Waiting…

Day 8: Still no sign of a butterfly…

Day 9: Still alive?
Ok, by now we were wondering if the caterpillars belonged to the 50% that didn’t make it. No wriggling. C’s interest had somehow waned. I was keeping my fingers crossed really tight that there were no casualties. Research on the internet told me that there was still a chance that they were alive and the butterflies would emerge anytime.

Day 10: Emergence!
Finally a beautiful butterfly emerged! Unfortunately both of us missed the emergence process. We did get to see it extending its wings to let it dry out though. It was really a wonder of nature to see the spiky caterpillar transformed into a beautiful butterfly. C named it Louie. We kept it for a day as the wings were still wet, and not strong enough for Louie to fly yet.

Louie the butterfly drying its wings after emergence

There was a red liquid on the paper after emergence. From what I gathered on the internet, it was probably from the by-products of the transformation

Day 11: Louie II
Hooray! Louie II emerged the next day. Both had survived Р100% success rate! Unfortunately I had missed the emergence process again as I was at work. C saw it though, and she was able to describe it wriggling out of the chrysalis.

Louie II emerges! See the remains of the chrysalises on the stick

Saying goodbye

It was time to release both of them in the garden. C needed much convincing as she wanted to keep them both as pets. We told her that they would be happier among flowers and their friends, so with much reluctance, she opened the cover. Good bye Louie I and Louie II!

Good bye!

Lessons learnt

It was a simple 2 week activity, but with lots of learning opportunities in different aspects. C got to see and experience part of the life cycle of a butterfly, and learnt the proper names for each stage of the transformation. The book “The hungry caterpillar” took on a new significance, and she was truly able to relate to the events in the book each time she read it to her baby brother. She also learnt the importance of respect for nature, to allow the butterflies to return to their natural habitat. This was also her first time taking care of another living being (cleaning and feeding the caterpillars), and this has left a deep impression on her.