This photo was taken while K was undergoing his eye training session doing what he likes best; sketching. His right eye was covered with the eye patch, while he struggled through blurred vision from his left eye adjusting to the prescription from the glasses.
I feel mixed emotions as I see this photo, as my baby has grown up overnight to an ‘Ah Pek’ wearing those glasses . But at the same time, I will embrace these changes, as he is still my precious little boy, despite these imperfections.
It has been a challenging 2 weeks, with the doubt flooding hb’s and my mind when we first got the diagnosis, but after seeking a second opinion, it’s official that K has Accomodative Esotropia and Amblyopia.
The first few eye training sessions have been difficult, as K was crying out of frustration of not being able to see clearly with the eye patch and he struggled with adapting to glasses. Each time he cried bitterly, I hugged him tight and and assured him, “Mommy will do this with you ok? Be brave and we will do this together, your eyes will get better.”
Then we read picture books from the library with stories of kids with the same eye condition, which he could totally relate to.
And another book that showed that it wasn’t too bad to be wearing glasses.
After a week of eye training sessions, I found this drawing of a little guy nestled in his superhero sketches…
I asked him, “Who is this?” And he said, “It is me, Mommy.”
So what did I see in this drawing?
I know he has fully accepted his self-image when he can translate his new bespectacled self in his drawings. And at the end of the day, that imperfection is just a little part of him. K has Esotropia and Amblyopia. He is still my adorable and handsomest son, a cheeky piggy, my little artist and a super sports boy. And I know he is going to be ok.
Actually I think there is, just that I chose not to tell Kyle that his art or any art that he sees is lousy.
Why delude the child?
Simply because a child needs to know that the goal of creating art is the process of discovery, experimentation and fun.
I still believe in this, especially for my photography or the little handmade creations that I make sometimes.
It doesn’t matter that we draw or paint, or take photographs which are not very nice, what matters is the process.
I tell my son K that he can be an artist, every creation that he draws or paint is interesting /special /unique /different /colourful /dark /strange sometimes, but it is still art.
Art involves being curious, observing things, invention, passion and most of all it take courage. Courage to create. I tend to think that creativity is not something that few are born with, rather, it is an aspect of life that some nourish and others ignore.
K’s experience in his new art school HeART Studio, has been such an encouragement that I am going to continue to help him nourish his creativity by continuing his art enrichment lessons.
The process started out with this,
Went on to this, all in one lesson…
Proceeded to this in the second lesson,
Indeed, Art is not about the product but the process, despite believing in this, I am still surprised and very pleased with what K created.
While for this, he spent 1 hour drawing and coloring in the patterns and told me that he want to continue this artwork in a separate session.
Previously with his limited exposure to only open-ended approaches that I often do with him at home, I hear this too often, “I don’t know how to draw this, please show me…” I am not trained in art, so I find it a challenge to model the right techniques that he can learn.
Exposure to the right art techniques has given him the confidence to draw more often, challenged him to explore draw varied pictures, improved his observation skills and attention span tremendously. He is able to sit by himself, draw and color his own creations for more than one and a half hours at a time.
Structured art learning does have its place for a balanced approach in art education for a child, do read this article on my take on Open ended and Structured Art.
With the right techniques taught in art, if Mr. ‘I draw only stickmen’ can do this, there is definitely hope for this mom too!
Out of curiosity, I walked into an art school with K on Saturday.
I never really had the intention of signing K up for an art lesson, it was just an attempt to see if the art classes offered from this school was worth sending a child to. The trial was after all free, so the cheap mom in me grabbed the opportunity for K to experience a short session and to evaluate the programme.
The boy was very enthusiastic and gamed to attend the trial, since he tend to enjoy doing those paint art craft activities in those malls, and thought that this was something similar.
Before K entered the class, I asked the lady at the counter area a whole host of questions;
Me : Can I know how are the lessons conducted?
Lady : We will show you the final product after the class so that you can decide if the programme is suitable for your child.
Me : Arhh.. isn’t art more about the process and not the product?
(After reading those early childhood art development books from Susan Striker and attempting many art activities with K from some of Mary Ann Kohl books. Hearing this words from her sounded the alarm bells in my head, especially when I am so influenced by these authors that art is ‘the process and not the product that matters’, when it comes to teaching art to young children).
Lady : (she looked quizzically at my comment)
Me : Oh ok, what I meant was, what is the structure of the lesson like? What are the children taught and how does the teacher teach them?
Lady : Oh 30 minutes, we will let the children do free hand drawing. Then the next 30 minutes of the class the child will do this activity.
The lady behind the counter showed me a A4 printer paper that was divided into half, the top part of the paper showed a black-line drawing of an apple, and the bottom half was blank.
Lady : The child will be asked to draw this apple, and use oil pastels to color the picture. Afterwards, the teacher will guide the child to teach some techniques of blending, just like these pictures you see on the wall. (She pointed to the colored creations pasted on the studio’s wall that were done by the other students)
Me : So what exactly does a child learn in foundation class, and then after that, what do they learn when they progress to the higher levels?
Lady : Foundation course is for kids between 4-6, where they will do tracing, follow the dotted lines in the picture, and then color in the picture with the blending methods that the teacher will teach. Then after that, when the teacher thinks that the child is ready, we will move the child to Level 1. They will learn composition, layering, and the gradation of colors. See this picture (she pointed to another set of pictures, with a consistent Orange in the middle of the picture, and the rest of the pictures was filled with the children’s own drawings). These pictures are from Level 1 and 2, the child will be given a picture with a line drawing of a orange, while the rest of the picture is blank. The child can fill in the picture with their own drawings and then blend the colors on the picture.
Right after 45 minutes, Kyle emerged from the class, and the lady behind the counter showed me his ‘product’ from the class. I was not able to show the picture on this blog (they are probably afraid of people like me, who will do this…heh). And what I saw was a nicely blended picture (right to left – dark red to lighter red, in 3 gradated shades) of the apple on top, and Kyle’s self-drawn and colored purple apple at the bottom of the paper.
Well, I squirmed myself out of not signing up for the classes, by telling the lady behind the counter that I am still evaluating which art school to send Kyle to.
I think if a child attends the class, they might eventually reach this stage of being able to blend an apple, or any other thing very nicely.
Just a random picture of an oil pastel blended apple from google
I told hb that the experience was quite a disappointment, and his remarks were, “It is only $35.00 per class, what do you expect? Blending is after all still an art technique to teach the young ones. This is a supervised activity of sorts for the young children, you can’t expect the teacher to be passing down the technical details of art in that 30 minutes per lesson to the child. I hope you are not expecting that the teachers are art graduates or NAFA trained? Art is like how it has been in ancient times, children go under the tutelage of famous artists, who all then hand down their expertise. Teaching art needs a lot more time and effort on the part of the teacher.
I did not quite agree with the part about being an artist to teach a child art. I am not an artist, but I think using the right techniques + with the help of books, guiding K over time to build his creativity and interest for art is possible. I have after all taught myself to sew and to craft, and I think that can be considered another kind of art form.
So, I walked straight to the bookshop right after K’s trial session, to buy a box of 50 oil pastels for K.
Next up, art lessons home-learning style!
See this youtube video for quick tips on blending with oil pastels
Time is passing unbelievably fast. We are into the last 3 weeks of the school holidays and last weeks of 2011. I can hardly believe that we are going into 2012 in less than 3 weeks, and Kyle will be going into K1.
If I had a choice, I wish that my child don't grow up so fast. He is slowly losing his cherubic babyish looks, he lost his baby-smells many months back and is too quickly growing into an often sweaty and not so nice-smelling mischievous boy
He still has his endearing personality, when I told him that I hope that he will not grow up so quickly, he said;
"Mommy, I tell you something"
"I tell you what. I grow taller but I don't grow older ok, I will still be 4 years old for my next birthday…"
Aww…actually I would prefer that he doesn't grow taller or older, and will always remain my little baby boy.
I think he still can't wait to grow up quickly. He is always asking when he will be able to sit all the rides at Universal Studios, grow taller and stronger so he can hit golf balls much further.
We brought him to the driving range for the first time recently, and he is really enjoying the game and turning out to be quite a natural at the sport. I think his interest for golf plays a huge role in his quick progress in learning how to play golf.
After all of 90 balls and a little blister on his finger (after hitting too many balls and gripping the club a little too hard), he is looking all sweaty, rosy-cheeked and happy from his first experience at the range.
Was contemplating whether to share this on my blog. But after thinking it through and after a chat with Pauline, she was right to say that we keep our blogs like our online diary to record our memories of parenting, kid's milestones, our challenges and interests at specific points in our life.
Ok then, it's my space and I can share whatever I like, really doesn't matter even if I get labelled.
So the latest milestone is that Kyle can read.
I discovered it about 4 months ago and it pleasantly surprised me. When he turned 2 and a half years old, I started teaching him letter sounds phonetically and we spent about 18 months learning all the letter sounds at his own pace. Thereafter, I introduced word families end of last year to get him started on blending, but he was not responsive to that method, so I thought that it will be best to take a break from all reading activities for a while.
We took a break for about 4-5 months and did not do any reading activities, except for bedtime stories that I would usually read aloud to him. I spent that time evaluating if his slow progress was due to a lack of interest or just simply non-readiness. Then in April this year, I decided to give it another shot, pulled out the phonic readers from my bookshelves, and started reading it aloud to him by sounding out the sounds and blending the letters together. I did this consistently for about 2-3 times in 2 weeks and he was able to pick up the blending method through the modelling method. During the last parent-teacher meeting prior to the June holidays, his teacher remarked in a surprised tone, "he can read!"
So at 4, is it still considered early to reach this milestone? In my perspective, the exact age or timing is of little consequence. What matters is that I picked up on the indicators that showed that he had a propensity to learn to read at a specific time. And I am quite certain that I would not have the same ability to be so sensitive to his unique time table if I were a full time working mom.
I hear alot about moms posting on the local parenting forum, enquiring how they can help their child to read at 2. Seriously, why would you need your child to read at 2? Unless, the mom can say with a resounding "Yes!", when asked if she thinks that the child is ready to learn to read at that age, then by all means go ahead. But please do the research on the various methods that will be best suited to your child. The problem with most who participate actively in forums is that they will go what seems popular amongst other parents and follow the advice shared, which may not be a suitable method for their child's learning style.
What worked for Kyle was that since he is a kinesthetic and auditory learner, he learned letter sounds through games and songs, and could grasp the concept of decoding when I use the modelling method. Coupled with lots of good quality phonics books which he enjoys and plenty of read alouds on a daily basis, which I think encouraged his reading development. Half the battle is won when the parent encourages their child's interest for books. When the child enjoys being read aloud to, they will eventually be motivated enough to want to read books by themselves.
He is undoubtedly a lazy reader. He will initiate picking up the phonics readers these days, but he will ask me to sound out all the letters individually for him, while he blends it together. So this may not the most ideal kind of reading development, but I am thrilled nonetheless. I can now take my time and let his reading development 'take-off' naturally the next two years. And he can start to use his new found skill to entertain his grand-parents to bits by reading environment print out loud in their presence.
As for chinese language development, that's a different story altogether. It's an uphill task and we are progressing at super snail's pace.
Some toys to keep Seth and Joyce busy while waiting for their other friends
Wayne and Kyle waiting to get their Dino 'tattoos' on their arms
Alex and Kyle listening to the game instructions for the Dinosaur Hunting Game
Alex : Yeah! I found my first dinosaur counter…
Wait..is that a dinosaur hiding under the plant?
Tim : Oh that's not my team's dinosaur, it must be yours
Dinosaur's cupcakes time!
Blowing out the candles on the cupcakes
Game 2 : Pin the tail on the dinosaur
Natalie : I almost got it right!
Game 3 : Linda, the sleeping dinosaur and her colourful eggs
Hb doubled up as the Balloon Man
Joy on Alex's face as she tries to grab hold of a balloon
Thanks to family and friends who were at Kyle's birthday party, we had a wonderful time…despite the craziness of having all 13 children in a room After this experience of planning the party and having an overload of printing and cutting dinosaurs' stuff, it will be a while before I think of having a party for Kyle in the subsequent years.
1 ) A ride on a bus to town, while standing all 30 minutes of the whole journey. K was surprisingly patient and did not complain about being tired at all.
2) Travelled on the MRT with mum, his first ride on the train was with dh. He concluded that he liked the MRT better than the LRT, as it is much cooler in the airconditioned cabin of the train. (The last ride we had on the LRT was not too pleasant as the aircondition system broke down).
3) Visit to Bugis Junction. K has a very good memory when it comes to places that he has visited before, when we got to Bugis, his first remark was, "I have never been here before…"
4) It's been raining so often these few weeks, that it has been hard to find a good evening to fly a kite. We finally got around doing it this evening at West Coast Park.
5) Caught a glimpse of the sunset at West Coast
and got a little distracted by a stick he picked up from the ground. He decided that the stick was more fun than the kite…
I was beginning to wonder if this milestone will ever happen…K finally drew his first discernible face with a pair of eyes, nose, mouth and sometimes hair and usually complete with a pair of stick-like legs.
For what felt like the longest of time, K was only scribbling, drawing lots of circles and he could never tell me what his drawing was about. The breakthrough finally happened yesterday when he asked for some drawing paper, took his markers, told me, "I am an artist," and then went on to draw more than 10 pages of faces.
He likes drawing monsters, and the difference is visibly in the large eyes and multiple number of legs.
I had the impression that he had very little interest for art, as he don't seem to enjoy doing colouring and rarely asks for his paints and brushes. However, I think that having an easel in the hall, drawing paper and markers and chalk within reach seemed to have worked quite well in encouraging him to explore some art pursuits. This milestone also happened right after I introduced new chinese activity books filled with dot-to-dot, tracing, and maze activities which helps to train his fine motor skills for writing and drawing. I suppose gaining that slight proficiency in using the pencil/pen really boosted his confidence to start drawing
I am so thrilled that he has reached this milestone. Nevermind that his drawing of me looked unusually vicious and hairy, and had some similarities with his monster drawings