Joyful 阅

Book Review — Fish in a Tree

Title: Fish in a Tree

Author: Lynda Mullaly Hunt

This is a New York Times Bestseller and I recommend it to people who work in education and parents. The famous quote of “If you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its life believing it is stupid” is highly related to Ally, the main character in the story.

Ally, who always gets into trouble at school, believes that she is dumb and dumb cannot be cured. She is also not popular. Things change when she meets Mr. Daniels, who finds out she has dyslexia, a type of specific learning difficulty identifiable as a developmental difficulty of language learning and cognition.

Ally has a sketchbook, which she calls it Sketchbook of Impossible Things. Below is one of the sketches in which a fish is trying to climb a tree, but failed.

“I can’t climb a tree!!”

Other characters in the story includes Ally’s big brother, Travis, classmates Keisha and Albert, and the headmistress, Mrs. Silver. Travis is good with cars but has problem reading the car repair manual. Travis and Ally have supporting parents, who are proud of both children.

I like the ending of the story, Ally realizes that another person needs help too, can you guess who is he/she?

Hope you enjoy this fiction!

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Semi Digital Detox

You might have read about digital detox. You might wonder if you can do it. Can we really live without our smart phones? I have never thought that I can do it, because I rely a lot on my phone, whether it is work, leisure or family, my phone is a great assistant.

But, one night, my phone decided to quit. I could not even take a picture of my phone because it became like the picture below.


Broken LCD screen (Photo credit:

Nothing can be done, except sending the phone for repair. Another bad news is the memory of the phone will be erased when they replace a new LCD screen.

Customer service personnel: “Everything will be erased.”

Me: “Everything?”

Customer service personnel: “Yes, pictures, videos, contacts…”

While the customer service personnel was giving the list, I thought, pictures and videos were ok; I could always take new pictures. Contacts? Oh no! How could I live without my contacts? I have two new students whom addresses I have not memorized. The kind customer service personnel let me had my phone back for backup. I could not backup much as I could only view 30% of the LCD screen. What I managed to save were some of the contact numbers.

I was totally lost on the first day: no Google Maps to give me directions where to go, no shopping list to tell me what to buy, no e-Books or games to entertain me, no Calendar to tell me what to do for the day and no Duolingo to learn Japanese language.

On the second day, things were getting better; I knew I need to rely on myself and my little grey cells.

When the phone is repaired, I actually delay one day to pick it up. I welcome the semi digital detox. I have more time to watch what is outside the bus windows, more time to spend with my child and more reading on physical books. Also, I find out that my sense of directions has indeed improved!

I am grateful for

  1. An old phone that lets me communicate via sms and phone calls, instead of WeChat and WhatsApp.
  2. A chance to start anew with zero memory on the repaired phone. Previously, I had too much information in my phone waiting to be read and sorted. Now, I start from zero 🙂
  3. The understanding Samsung customer service personnel who let me copy my contacts before erasing all the memory.

Can we really live without our smart phones? Yes, we can. You will find a more beautiful world waiting for you when your view is not limited to a small LCD screen.



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A Healthy Journey

Diastasis recti

Jumping jacks




When I first heard about diastasis recti, I had to google it to find out what it is. Then, I was introduced to all the other four and more unfamiliar terms. Diastasis recti is the separation of the two parallel bands of muscles at the middle of the abdomen after giving birth.

I thought it is important for every woman to be fit after giving birth, so I signed up for a fitness programme with Kareen. Kareen is a movement specialist. The first lesson was to learn about the importance of breathing. Yes, breathing, as simple as we can do it unconsciously, is as important as the air we breathe. Subsequent sessions with Kareen has introduced me to various moves that I have not heard of or done before. Lunging, anything to do with the lungs?

The results? My body is healthier, my muscles are stronger and I feel better generally.

During a conversation with Kareen, I find out that I have a wrong concept about exercise. I thought thin people do not need exercise. I did not exercise. Walking, running, swimming and cycling are actions that I do to move my body but I have never considered them as “exercise”. The reason why I did not exercise is obvious; I am underweight even after I have given birth to a child. I had a bad experience of losing 2 kg just after a cross-country run at school years ago.

Since all the moves that are introduced by Kareen are new to me, I start to explore other options that will get me moving. I like stair-climbing. I cannot use excuses like it is raining, it is too hot, it is too far away, I have no time, etc for stair-climbing. The stair is just beside the lift that you use everyday; you just need to walk a few more steps to the stairs and start going up or down.

Now that I have started exercise, I have lost weight. No, it is not my goal to lose weight. Exercise alone might make you feel lighter but you need to eat nutrient-packed food to make sure your body has enough fuel for the exercise you do. Thus, my next step is to add nutrient-packed food to my meals.

Do you want to be healthier? Feel free to drop a message to Kareen and see how she can help you. By the way, if you are browsing her Facebook page and wondering if you are not a mum, can you still join her on the journey to a healthier you? Yes, you can. Exercise is for everyone, thin or plump, young or old, mum or non-mum.


Disclaimer: I am not financially compensated for this post. The programme with Kareen has ended last year. I continue my exercise journey and find out that exercise does make a difference. The opinions are completely my own based on my experience.


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Book Review — The Intuitive Parent

When I read the front flap, I immediately know that I must borrow this book, another book for parents.

“(Children) don’t need flashcards, educational videos, or the latest iPad app to help speed their development.”

Title: The Intuitive Parent — Why the Best Thing for Your Child is You

Author: Stephen Camarata, PhD

I do not want to be a tiger mum but I cannot be a laissez-faire mum either. In competitive Singapore, either style does not fit me. I have bought books and flashcards in sets, even the toys must serve a purpose for the child to learn.

Even when the playgroup teacher told me that my child is advanced for her age, I was sceptical. Did she just say it to make me feel happy?

Though I cannot define my parenting style, I know it is somewhere between tiger mum and laissez-faire mum. After reading this book, I know I am on the right track. I parent on as what my intuition tells me. If I am too tired for a bedtime story, I just tell her a two-sentence story. All flashcards can wait if she is more interested in toys.

Intuitive parenting emphasizes focusing on your child, enjoying the moment, and reacting naturally to whatever the baby is doing.


The book is very thick, including a chapter on brain science. If you are too busy to read the whole book, each chapter ends with a summary of the chapter.

Have you ever wondered how to be the best parent? What is the best for your child? Read this book and you might just realize that you are the best person for your child. Happy reading!



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New Year New Goal

Happy New Year!

I do not have New Year goals for the past few years as my life is “evolving” fast with an infant quickly turns toddler. Now that my toddler is going to school, I want to set a New Year goal for 2018.

The goal is…

(drum roll)

… to pass JLPT N4 examination.

Some readers might have known that I have been learning Japanese. But you might not know that I have failed JLPT examination few years back. I felt discouraged, though I had expected the results because I was doing insufficient self-studying. No classroom learning during that time because the job needed travelling and there was no teacher teaching my level (somewhere between beginner and intermediate).

To make the goal a success, I am making it SMART.

Specific — To pass JLPT N4 examination. I will be self-studying, thus the first step is to get some JLPT N4 books.

Measurable — Results slip will be received. I will know whether I achieve the goal or not.

Achievable — I had failed by a few marks for the previous test. Thus, aiming for a pass is achievable if I can allocate more time for learning.

Results-based — After passing JLPT N4, I will plan a trip to Japan. I find out that I have only been to countries where I know the language. It is because I have phobia of being in an environment where I do not understand a word any person speaks.

Time-bound — The examination is on December. I have sufficient time for preparation.

Steps for achieving the goal

  1. To get JLPT N4 books with CD
  2. Update what I have learnt on Duolingo onto my blog
  3. Target learning hours per day: one hour from Mondays to Fridays

Wish me luck!

What is your new year goal? I wish you all the best for whatever goals that you want to achieve in 2018.

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He Died at a Young Age — Poem

He died at a young age

Ever since

I have lost my pillar of support

I have lost my life advisor

I have lost direction

He was my postman

He was my driver

He is my father

He died at 63 years old

He died at a young age

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My father was a mediocre man living a mediocre life, I won’t be able to write his biography but I can write him a poem.

As quoted from Robert Woodruff  Anderson, “Death ends a life, but it does not end a relationship.” My father will always live in my heart, no matter where he is.

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A Twist to the Gifted Education Programme

On 5 October night, Talking Point on Channel 5 was showcasing an interesting topic: I Want to Be in GEP!

What that episode of Talking Point wants to find out is whether you can train the gifted as parents are sending their children to enrichment classes to prepare the children for a series of test at Primary 3. There is a father who doesn’t believe in his son making his own choices, and thus spend more than S$7000 for GEP Preparation Course. As the episode proceeds, it is clear that the children do not want to be in GEP; rather the “I” in the title actually refers to the parents.

Another mother buys assessment books from Secondary 1 and Secondary 2 for her son who is in Primary 5.

Correspondingly, what is so special about the GEP?

The Gifted Education Programme (GEP) was set up by the Ministry of Education to cater to the intellectually gifted students. This programme aims to develop gifted children to their top potential and it places a special emphasis on higher-order thinking and creative thought.

Through the aforementioned series of tests, the top 1 per cent of the student population will be selected to enter the programme.

It is a good initiative by the MOE, but the problems come when parents misunderstand the purpose of GEP and start preparing their children for GEP, which as shown in Talking Point, it is not a good idea after all. The child may pass the tests and get into GEP but later suffer stress because he / she cannot keep up with the syllabus.

Students in GEP are also complaining about the high expectancy of teachers on their work and they feel stressful. Being in the GEP means less free time, more homework and demanding teacher for the students.

After reading on books on stress, competition and learning for children and a blog written by a student in GEP, I wish there is a twist in the GEP.


  1. Drop the name “Gifted”.
  2. As the mother of Primary 5 student finds out, the GEP is just learning two years in advance. Is it true? If yes, I would like to suggest giving Primary 5-equivalent tests to Primary 4 students. If they can score 95% or above for all subjects, promote the Primary 4 students to Primary 5.
  3. For students who have been promoted, assign them as young teachers to teach their peers. In this way, all parties involved are benefited. The teachers can prepare for activities that challenge the promoted students, the promoted students can be trained on leadership and the peers can learn better. Learning to work with students of different levels actually prepares students in real life.
  4. Other leadership roles, such as the class monitor, prefect, etc, can be assigned to the promoted students.
  5. Rather than giving more homework, the teachers can identify which areas interest the promoted students and allow them to explore in the same classroom or a separate classroom. Some activities to challenge the mind are Sudoku, Rubik’s cube, chess, debate, etc.
  6. The promoted students continue to take the national Primary School Leaving Examination like other mainstream students. When they are in secondary schools, provide them with the real life problems that we are facing, and let them experiment and come out with a solution. These are projects to challenge the mind and benefit the country.
  7. For secondary students, they can expand their knowledge in quantum physics, astronomy, plant science (to make a better Garden City), etc. Let their interests guide them; they will be more enthusiastic to learn what interest them.
  8. If the promoted student chooses not to be promoted, he / she can stay in the same level as his / her friends and do activities in suggestion 3 to suggestion 7.
  9. The promoted students are allowed to take “time-off” from school as long as they can keep up with the syllabus.

Why I do not start with Primary 3 students? — Primary 3 students are still young and a year difference means they have a year to develop their intellects.

Why I want the promoted students to teach their peers? — From GEP, we know that the students are labelled as “smart” and they compete with their friends who are not in the GEP. Their teachers also always compare them with those who are not in the GEP.

Competition ⇒ Stress ⇒ Not performing optimally

By teaching their peers, they learn how to explain better and able to identify which knowledge they lack. Also, if the promoted students only mix with like-minded students, will they be frustrated when they meet a mediocre colleague who can’t see things eye to eye as them?

By allowing the students to explore their areas of interests, we will create lifelong learners, instead of learning robots who can learn best but cannot apply knowledge to real life.

The above suggestions are my two cents. Any comments are welcome.




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Free Travel at Downtown Line Stations Today and Tomorrow

Downtown Line 3 officially opens today! There are sixteen new stations. I have been looking forward to Downtown Line 3 official opening because there is one station near my house.

For today and tomorrow, commuters who start and end their journey at any of the 34 Downtown Line stations will enjoy free travel.

The picture below shows the Downtown Line stations. What are you waiting for? Head to the nearest station near you and explore while it is free.

Downtown Line


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