Archives for January 2014

Managing Money


This is the first Chinese New Year that K will be able keep the money in the red packets that are given to him. For previous years, hb and I have been rather sneaky to pocket the money to make up for the ‘losses’ on our end, besides, the little boy didn’t quite understand the value of money then.

This year, we are doing things a little differently.

For a start, we don’t have plans to visit relatives, all except my dad and his family and my MIL. So it wouldn’t be exactly a big bountiful harvest of red packets for him, however, he will get to keep all the money from his red packets this time round.

After getting almost 4 weeks worth of pocket money, he seems to be getting into the groove of spending and saving money, and I have found him pouring out all the money he has in his ‘can-coin bank’ and counting them, at least twice in these 4 weeks. And he has never taken a single coin from it to spend, not once.

He has glee-fully announced that he has has $31.00 worth of new coins in his can.


Earning his money

I don’t reward him for picking up his dirty clothing and putting it in the laundry basket, clearing his toys after play or helping with any form of chores at home. I wouldn’t give him extra money for doing things that are part of his responsibility. And he would likely find that he has to do them for the rest of his life, so I do not want to give him the wrong message that he will be doing these things at home, just because he will get something out of it.

I don’t believe in rewarding him for good results in school either. He need to know how to intrinsically motivate himself to learn, and not be pushed to learn or do well academically through extrinsic rewards.

He is however, allowed to look through my coin purse for new coins, if there is a positive review of his overall behavior at the end of the week.

Just last week, he has been penalized for lack of self-control and did not get any extra new coins from my coin purse, and had game-time deducted from playing on the iPad/PS3 to only 30 mins during the weekend.

I don’t pressure him to save more daily. He is given the freedom to decide what he wants to eat. He has only once, since school started, bought a ‘sweet’ drink, while all other days he has been contented with drinking water from his water bottle and has bought 1 eraser from the school bookstore.

At the end of each week at school, he will have a dollar or more saved from his pocket money, so he will change the coins for a shiny new coins to add to his can-coin bank.


His coins in this Fruit Tree can is about 3/4 filled and he hasn’t taken any out to spend since he started saving since 5 months ago.


‘For the love of money is the root of all evil…’

You must have heard this saying before, that is from the bible by the way.

I can probably write a whole thesis about how the love of money is the root of all evil. From how families are being destroyed by divorces as the result of financial issues. Or how men through the ages have laid their lives to serve money. Some cheat and deceive many, while others are driven to commit crime for the sake of money. Or how the world tags a social status to how much money or material things one own.

Money in itself isn’t evil, it is only when one loves money (greed) then it becomes the root of all evil.

As a parent, I see the importance of teaching my child about money at age 6. So to prepare him to make good financial choices ahead, ensure that his money habits leans towards being more of a thrifty person, rather than a spendthrift. And how to help him NOT to be be a ‘money-face’, materialistic adult.


What to do with Savings? 

I have asked him what will he plan to do with the money once the can is full to the brim.

He has said that he wants to give the money to the poor and then keep aside enough for buy just 1 toy for himself. I was rather surprised with his response, as he has always been rather stingy with the money he has saved. Looks like watching videos of poor and less fortunate people and discussing about how we can help them, has helped educate him that it is a blessing to give to others.

So, we will be setting aside a percentage of his savings to give to the poor. Some savings will go into his POSB Savings bank and he can still buy the toy that he wants.


Apart from occasions like Christmas or his birthday, he does not get toys all other times. I think buying for him whatever he wants will not help him at all, instead he will learn to earn and help pay for the things himself from his allowance. Also with the ‘new’ economy that we are living in these days, he needs to learn how to delay gratification, stretch the ‘dollar’ and live beneath his means.

So likely all money got from the red packets from CNY this year will go into his savings. And in the next few months, I will start giving him a weekly allowance, to see how he will learn to budget his pocket money weekly.

How do you teach your child to manage money?  Do share. 

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Primary 1 in an Inclusive Programme

If you a mom planning to put your child into a primary school in the next 2 years, I can share with you that there is nothing to worry about, if the school that you have selected for your child has an Inclusive Programme.

What do I mean by an Inclusive Programme?

Screen Shot 2014 01 20 at 4 46 08 PMPicture from here

An inclusive programme helps each child makes the best of his or her abilities and do not require him/her to have advanced abilities or knowledge ahead of their expected development, so as to be able to on par with the school standards.

A selective programme in turn means that the school will push each child to have a level of competence that is above the standards of schools across the board.

Since 2012, MOE have stopped releasing statistics for the general public to benchmark the academic performance of one primary school to another. Schools rankings were changed to be based on a set of criteria known as ‘The Masterplan of Awards’ (MOA) in 2012, which will be changed again in 2014.

But this doesn’t stop kiasu parents from ranking schools themselves.

This mom refuses to be stressed by the unrealistic demands society has placed on parents and children, so the ranking of schools have little bearing on my choice of primary school for K. Besides, I have no fear about my child ‘losing out’, despite reading articles like this which will bring out the latent traits of kiasu-ism in any parent.

On the contrary, I am glad that I did not make the choice to go with hb’s alumni which has a selective programme that includes the qualifying criteria of having children of a certain race, as there is no other 2nd language options in that school apart from Chinese. Also, as the child progresses in the school year, not being to afford tuition for most subjects could likely become a disadvantage for a child in the school.

I heaved a sigh of relief when I chanced upon this hearsay from a relative whose friend works as a teacher in Hb’s alumni; The teacher don’t spend alot of time teaching the students, as the majority of them are way ahead of the required curriculum for the subjects, so she dishes out plenty of worksheets instead.

In this school that K attends, he is a minority race in his class, as there are officially 7 chinese students in his class of 30. He has to join another class for his chinese lessons, and I see the advantage of the teacher and child ratio of a small class of 16 children.

He will have little chance of becoming a xenophobic being in this school.

Just this weekend, hb and I visited K’s school for a parent’s briefing on the Holistic Assessment (HA) plans for the year. We were shared details about the Stellar Programme (btw I have yet to see a fairy tale in the range of Big Books) and the Programme for Active Learning which is incorporated into the curriculum.

With these Holistic Assessment plans shared for the academic year, we were given very clear roadmaps on the topics covered and weightage of skills evaluated for the year.

HA 2Holistic Assessments for English

Having to understand this big picture of what K will be taught for the year, tells me that :

1) I am not going to be a smarty pants and teach him what he does not know 2-3 terms ahead. As I only have myself to blame if he gets bored in class and then cause behavioral problems in class.

2) Too many moms are worried about kids not being able to read fluently before they reach Primary 1. I think this worry is unfounded especially if your child is in a preschool, especially a childcare programme or a Montessori. Most preschools have a proper phonics programme in place to provide your child with some foundational skills in learning how to read.

Inclusive primary school programmes will further support in providing explicit instruction in teaching reading in school. K’s school has a reading programme that utilizes the Leap Frog Tag Reading System, where students can being a book home to read with their parents over the weekends. This programme can help the children to revise phonics and improve their reading fluency.

K may be slightly ahead in his English language reading ability, however, he has weaknesses in other subjects, namely, Chinese.

HA 4

3. Having this knowledge of the HA plans for Chinese language, I am able to help him with acquiring the specific skills that he needs.

4. I realized that there isn’t a necessity to ensure that you get the contact numbers of the fellow moms of your child’s classmates as;

– Most school issue the Student Handbook to the students at the start of the school year, where children are expected to write down details of their homework requirements daily, things to do or bring the next day or week.

– There are fixed days for English and Chinese Spelling, and the teachers will inform parents of the spelling schedules at the start of the school year.

– If there are upcoming assessments / tests. A child who is paying attention in class, he should be able to tell you as well.

I think the best way a child learn responsibility is through natural consequences.  I have told K that it is his responsibility to pay attention in class, listen to instructions and try his best in learning what is taught in school. If he doesn’t make an effort to listen to what is needed, he will just have to accept the punishment given by his teacher.

HA 5

After meeting K’s form teacher, my first impressions are that she is friendly and approachable person. And K likes her too, and says that she is caring while at the same time, strict and firm with the children.

This first parent-teacher session of the new school year has opened clear channels of communication between the teachers and parents, and have cleared any doubts I initially had about the academic requirements for Primary 1.

Ultimately I feel that the level of stress your child will be exposed to is related to the demands from the school.  If I were to chose a school with a selective or ‘advantaged’ programme, it would be contradictory if I were to complain that my kid is stressed with too much homework, or not being able to catch up (since 90% of his/her classmates) are at least 1 grade above in their academic competence. Why complain when this is expected?

However, if you are a parent like me, who sees the importance of not quenching a child’s love for learning at an early age, and are aware that childhood is the time where our children define and develop their character. You will likely go with the school with an inclusive system, and not let unrealistic demands snuff out the joy and wonder from his/her childhood.


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The Pocket Money Challenge

I expected that K’s first encounter with managing his pocket money, will likely be not having enough of it to buy food at recess. Or that consumerism will overtake good sense, and he might end up spending most of his pocket money on knick knacks from the bookshop. 

I was surprised that the first challenge that he encountered with his pocket money was quite different from what I expected. 

“My P.5 buddy asked me to help him buy a glue stick yesterday. He showed me his wallet, he only had 20 cents left.”

“So did u buy it for him?”

“He needed it for class after recess but he didn’t have enough money to buy. He was hungry and bought what he liked to eat, so little money left after that.”

“What did you do?”

“I bought the glue stick for him. He needed it, it was only 60 cents.”

“Why didn’t he ask his parents for the money to buy the glue the day before, since he needed it for class?”

“He forgot, and he was afraid that the teacher might scold him, so I helped him. Anyhow it’s cheap, it’s 60 cents only. He only gets $1.50 a day (while Kyle gets $2.00).”

“He was not the only one that asked his P.1 buddy, my classmates also helped the other boys in his class. I heard one of my classmates saying ‘No’ really loudly to his buddy who asked him. I think my classmate is really selfish.”

“So then, when happens if he starts asking you again another day to help him buy something else from the bookshop. Will u still help him?”

“Yes I will, if he needs help.”

“What if he starts asking everyday?”

“Of course not.”

“What do you think happens if he starts asking you to buy stuff for him all the time?”

“I will just say ‘No’, as it is not right. It will be almost like stealing, using my money.” 

Now hearing all of what K said, he believes that he is helping a friend, and it doesn’t sound like he plans to get the money back. 

I don’t intend to give him the answers directly, as I want him to think about it for himself. And this is a good opportunity to put his values to the test. 

Discernment can be learnt over time through experience but I don’t think it profits my child now to teach him that it is important to get his money back. Knowing how to manage his pocket money is important, but this time round I want to focus on the values that I will be imparting to my child. What values will I be emphasizing, if I tell him this instead, “It’s not the value of the money, but the principle, you need to ask him to return the money back to you.”

Like any parent, the thought of “What if this P.5 boy continue to do this, with the intention of taking advantage of him?” crossed my mind. But I brushed it away and decided that we will deal with that when it happens. We prefer to think of the good in his P.5 friend and believe that he truly needed help and I was glad that K readily helped him with the money and didn’t need to think twice about helping a friend in need.

I praised K for being a generous friend. 

The best way for a child to learn how to manage himself through life is through a real-life, practical experiences. I am heartened that there will be plenty of opportunities that will present themselves from school. Besides knowing how to say ‘No’ doesn’t seem to be an issue for him, so I am less concerned about new challenges that will come. I am glad that his first response was not of selfishness, and he did not cling on so tightly to his pocket money stash.  

What will you do if your child encounters this in school? 



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