Saturday, April 24, 2010

Excerpts from a blog on a good international school

In my search for a better school for my son, I came across a blog written by a mother whose kids attend an international school. There are so many things I love about that school. I'm not referring to their facilities but the way they approach education. Sounds like it'd be good place for my son. I'm really glad to read about it cos there actually IS such a school here which is in line with my ideas! It actually exists!

Here are some excerpts:

End of the Year Progress Report
7 pages of detailed and elaborated information about what the students are expected to be able to do in each subject and whether they are working towards expected year group level, working at expected year group level or working above expected year group level.

Each subject is given a number from 1 to 4 (1 = excellent, 2= good, 3= satisfactory and 4 = needs improvement) which indicates how the children approach the subject in terms of how diligent they are, and therefore doesn’t reflect how the children do academically, which I like as the focus is on learning and the progress the child is making and not on how good or bad they are.

At the end of the progress report on page 8, the student’s teacher gives a description of the children’s performance and the activities they have been involved in as well as some personal comments about the child’s unique qualities and characteristics and how well they have done, which shows that the teacher really makes an effort to look for the children’s positive traits and highlight these in the report. And in the case of my daughter the description is spot on

A better way to maintain discipline
He has a colour system consisting of a green, yellow and red colour, like a traffic light. The system works in such a way that there are tags with each student’s name on it and simply put, the intention is to measure the ‘temperature’ of the students’ behaviour in the class. If a child is not behaving according to the expectation, makes too much noise, are too chatty, not concentrating on the work given, his or her name will move from green to yellow, which serves as a warning. If a child continues to ignore the warning, he or she may be moved to a different place in the class or something else but if it still doesn’t work, his or her name will be moved to the red zone, which results in a serious talk with the child and/or a letter sent back home to the parents. No yelling, name calling, scolding or otherwise to make the children behave or keep quiet, just a powerful quiet message, which the students themselves must keep an eye on and be responsible for.
Tuition discouraged
the school discouraged parents from sending their children to extra tuition classes after and outside school
Make learning fun
On the very first day of school, she was informed that the IPC topic for the term was people migration, so to capture the children’s interest, she and her classmates got an interesting assignment to do at home in the evening or the next day before going to school. They had to imagine that there had been an earthquake and they had to leave their home in 5 minutes and the parents had to time them. They were given only 5 minutes to find and pack the most necessary things to bring with them to give them the sense of urgency. My daughter rushed around the house to find the things she thought she needed on her journey and had lots of fun doing it. She packed it all in a bag and brought it to school. At school during the IPC lesson, the children were asked to pair up and set up a camp in the classroom and use the things they had brought along. For example they had a cloth, so they could built a shelter. My daughter came home and said she and the other children had so much fun doing it that none of them wanted to finish the lesson, but wanted to carry on.
Thinking skills etc - project work
I am so happy that [name of school is intentionally removed] has implemented IPC fully as it really makes a huge difference in how the children learn and the excitement they feel from doing work that is taken from the real world around them. It makes it much more interesting for them to keep up the excitement about the project, as they are obtaining information that is relevant and they are learning skills that they can use again and again, skills my daughter will never forget and which will come in handy in near future when she is doing her next project. But it has also given her the ability to organise her own holidays in future, as she now knows how and where to find the right information, how to calculate the costs involved in traveling, tours and accommodation, look for places she is interested in visiting and plan her holiday down to every detail taking into consideration how to get there, accommodation, weather etc.

This is what education is about, teaching children thinking skills, how and where to find information and how to select, compile, sort and organise it in such a way that it can be used constructively and creatively in real life scenarios. And then making it fun and exciting at the same time, while offering the right guidance for the students to achieve the best outcome and learning objectives.

Imagine the many areas the students are covering from this project, from group work, to searching for information on the internet, compiling, selecting and organising, communicating their ideas and findings, thinking creatively how to present their holiday packages and market them, learning about other countries, calculating costs and so much more. It’s pretty amazing what can be done when the will is there

Understanding teachers
The teachers of my son’s old school was perceiving my son in a very unsupportive way and had branded him as playful, disturbing, too talkative etc. which was the reason we moved him to [name of school intentionally removed], where the approach is different, as the teachers try their best to understand and help the children, and my son doesn’t have this problem anymore, and is much happier now.
Interactive whiteboards

During the lessons the teacher would show them videos and pictures from the internet and visit websites with educational games and tools and as the whiteboard is a touch screen as well, the children can interact with it by dragging and dropping the answers from one place to another over the whiteboard, as they would be able to with a mouse or a mousepad on a computer, while playing a game.

Visit to dentist

We went for our 6mthly dentist check up yesterday. My son was very good at the dentist and that made me very happy. He looked a bit nervous but wasn’t scared. That’s despite having seen my helper being terrified when she had her tooth extracted a month ago.

I didn’t have to hold his hand or distract him. I just sat him down in the dentist chair. Then the dentist told him that he would take a look in his mouth and clean his teeth. Dentist was happy with his teeth. The decay on one of his front teeth has stopped, and the surface has hardened. Just some plaque and no other cavities.

Tooth Attrition

Over the past 6 mths his top front teeth (incisors) were getting shorter and smaller. Well, the top front ones were the most obvious to me but I’m guessing the attrition was occurring to all his teeth. Initially I thought I was imagining it, but the rate of attrition was rather fast this year. So when my husband and previous helper commented on it too, I had to do something. I checked it out on the internet and consulted the dentist over the phone. He recommended I use a tooth mousse. It is a paste that I rub over his teeth. It contains liquid calcium. It’s pricey but I’m so relieved that it has arrested the attrition.

The dentist explained that the attrition was due to many factors.

1. His oral muscles are impaired. So he is unable to get rid of bits of food left behind in his mouth by moving his tongue. He doesn’t talk as much as a normal person, so that too meant there’s more bits of food left behind.

2. It was very easy for him to vomit in his earlier years. That then brings up the acid which corrodes his teeth.

3. He couldn’t spit (until about a month ago). So even though I was brushing his teeth, bits of food were not expelled from his mouth.

4. I was not using a fluoride toothpaste until about a year ago. Flouride helps protect the teeth. He said it was ok to use just a smudge of children’s fluoride toothpaste, given his many risk factors.

5. He drank lots of Pediasure milk, which is very much sweeter than other milk powders. We gradually cut down on his consumption of milk as he improved on eating solids. Pediasure has been clinically proven to help picky eaters etc catch up in their growth. He still needs to be on Pediasure because though he can eat solid, he eats a very tiny amount (50-75% less) compared to his peers.

6. I didn’t start brushing his teeth regularly until he was about two and a half years old. He had oral defensiveness so it was very difficult to get into his mouth. We hardly wiped his face

7. Bruxism - that’s the term for teeth grinding. He used to grind his teeth a lot in his earlier years. That has thankfully reduced though it does still happen. His CST therapist says he does it to relieve the tension in his oral muscles. His mouth tends to hang open which produces tension in some oral muscles. I noticed that it sometimes also happens when he’s stressed – e.g. when he started schooling; when there were changes to his routine before the old helper left; and even when he’s writing! I tell him to relax when I notice it. Lately, he is able to stop grinding when I prompt him to.

8. I read that saliva protects the teeth to some extent. Since his mouth tends to hang open, his top teeth aren’t coated with saliva the way it would when the mouth is closed. Perhaps that explains why his bottom teeth didn’t corrode as much.

I'm so glad that the tooth mousse did the trick cos I was worried my son's front teeth might have ended up like the photo below!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Physio in his Neurosuit

Woo hoo! I'm happy happy happy.

Started my son on physio sessions in the Neurosuit last week. I've increased it to twice weekly from this week going forward because he's doing so well!

Today I was surprised and so very happy to see him walking faster than usual, with a very near normal gait, and with a lovely arm swing to boot! It really made my day to see that!

Before engaging the therapist, I was naturally concerned given the therapists' young age, and being a recent graduate. Seeing how he works with my son, how he answers my questions, and of course seeing the results, I now know that he's a great therapist. I realise that it can only come from having a genuine inner desire to help kids like my son; from a solid education in how the body moves and works; from having years of experience with kids (in teaching them yoga etc); and being a trained Neurosuit therapist. I've tried other physiotherapists, but they pale in comparison. I simply couldn't ask for a better therapist than Adnan. Thank you dear God for bringing him to help my son.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Where have I been?

Sorry I've not posted anything for two weeks. It's been busy, but sadly, not on activities with my son.

Training and supervising my new helper is taking so much of my time and energy that I’ve spent very little time with my son to develop his skills.

Our new helper has been with us for under a month and so far, she gives me a “surprise” almost daily. Some of the highlights: sausages burnt while boiling them (not frying, but boiling!), flooded the washing machine area; took 8 hours to clean 4 sets of windows, grilles and mosquito nets; 2 hours to clean her room windows; required a tooth extraction (plenty more teeth decayed); stole something of minimal value; lied; and caused a small electrical fire because she decided to repair the electric plug herself.

So from that track record, I’m not comfortable in allowing her to care for my son. I think half my time is spent on managing the helper, cooking and managing the household, and the other half seeing to my son’s basic needs (feeding, brushing teeth, going to toilet, doing his homework, etc).

I’m trying to find suitable schools for my son too. It’s a slow process cos I don’t have much time to spend on it. I’ve done the research over the internet, but I now need to talk to parents, to make appointments with the schools, to visit the schools etc.

On a positive note, there have been bits of progress with my son, in various areas like self care, gross motor, learning BM. I still do wish I have as much time as I did, with my son, when my old helper was around.