Reflections on education and what it means to prepare kids for their world

Parents’ Guide: Year 10 Overview

In our latest blog series – ‘Year Overview’ – we help you get familiar with all the key topics your child will learn and the key skills they’ll improve in primary and …

Source: Parents’ Guide: Year 10 Overview

Traveling on an Aeroplane

​Our flight path – a shot of the screen on the back of the seat in front of mine

My first long distance flight was atrip to Europe.  I was 7.  The experience remains vivid my mind – the sights,  sounds and smells. My own kids first experience of long distance travel was when they were less than year old. Both are seasoned travellers as we live in Asia but travel back to the UK regularly  to see family and friends.

I am writing this as we travel at  34 000 feet, over Afghanistan.   Travelling on a plane is an amazing experience for a child. For me, it has been a journey of discoverying how to survive 14 hours of being stuck in an airplane. 

1 to 6 years

Kids at this age are naturally curious. It can be challenging keeping them entertained as well as safe, but not impossible. Planning ahead will make things a pleasant journey for all as well as fellow travellers.

♡ Safety awareness

Fundamentally, this is paramount. One of the best advice I had was from a fellow expat with older children. A doctor had told her “Once your child is seated on the plane, put the seat belt on and do not let him /her sit without the seat belt on.” She went on to tell me that it is best to not let the kids walk along the aisle, providing additional inflight entertainment unattended.

I have heeded this advice. We told our kids when they were toddlers they needed to remain seated with a seatbelt unless they needed to use the toilet. In which case either one of us would walk with them, holding their hand. They have travelled often enough to have encountered turbulence. We have also travelled often enough to see children hurt or i  potentially dangerous positions.


Being in a plane is restritive and boring for a child. To help them pass the time I have packed small toys like plastic animals or a mini notebook when they were little.  I wrapped them up once. It  added a dimension of surprise. I would not recommend toys with wheels or toys with small parts as they easily get lost in between the seats.

7 to 10

♡Inflight entertainment
This is dependent on the airline. We have seen the evolution of inflight entertainment over the years.  Depending on family preferences regarding screen time and movies you are happy for your child to watch especially on a long haul flight.

♡Card / Travel games / Sticker Books

Having some card games and travel games with magnetic boards and pieces helps pass the time away. Sticker books can be fun too. We have used a few by Usbourne in  the past.

♡ A Doodle or sketch book

Pack some markers and sharpened pencils along with a notebook or even a colouring book. Mine loves this series by Usbourne.

♡Importance of drinking

Travelling on planes makes ones throats dry. Children need to be reminded to keep up the fluids. With security checks  at airports fluids are not allowed.  Pack an empty water bottle which can be refilled during the flight. 

10 and above

♡Ipods and TabletS

Include podcasts, TED Talks and audio books on your packing list. Just remember to charge the gadgets adequately too.

♡Geography on the go

If you are taking a day flight, even for a short distance, do some research on your flight path and look out of the window to note the different places seen. It makes all the topics  covered in physical geography come alive as  you fly through clouds and view rivers from above.

While travelling is exciting, there can also be an element of uncertainty in this day an age with more countries stepping up their security checks. This takes extra time as belts with metal at certain airports have to be taken off. Laptops, tablets have to put on a tray etc. It may help to explain to young children that it is just part of the regulations and to give yourselves extra time. If anything it gives time to check out the Duty Free Shops

The Challenge of the Digital Age

Our family’s travel packing list has evolved over the years. Nappies and toys,for the journey has been replaced with chargers for everybody’s various electronic devices.

Just when we were getting immune to the question of “Are we there yet?”; we now are asked by the kids “Does this place have wifi?”

With growing children who seem to be more digitally aware than I am; I decided some time ago that as a parent I was going to take on the responsibility of providing proactive guidance – not just ensure that we have all the necessary chargers when travelling! I was aware of various protection measures available for computers but soon realised that while I could child proof our gadgets I could not child proof their friends’ gadgets. 

As we did spent more time online together doing research during lessons,it was annoying to find pornographic pictures come up when one least expect it. Some pictures promote the objectification of women and do not wish my children to grow up thinking it is  acceptable. Having grown up in a smaller town in South East Asia, the kids have not been exposed to less modest pictures of women in larger cities. They may live in a small town but they certainly are digital citizens.

The children of today are growing up in what has been labelled as the Fourth Industrial Revolution.  Technology is reshaping many aspects of our lives and it is doing so at a rapid pace. It has great potential to improve the way we live. Consider reading this insightful article.

We love technology at the Learning Lab. My oldest is enrolled with a online Homeschool while we live in a different time zone.  Both watch Brain Pop and Khan Academy videos. One is learning German and French via the Duolingo app while the other revises Multiplication on Monkey Multiplication App.

On the other hand, there are issues like screen time to consider. What do Silicon Valley parents do? In an earlier blog I posted an article about this. It is fascinating to read about the steps which tech savvy parents take.

In a recent survey in the UK,  the issue of how exposure to pornography online is affecting the young digital citizens of today. Check out this BBC News article

Naturally the best way to protect our children is to create safe places to talk with them; taking into account their age and maturity. I came across this helpful site recently which has various podcasts on this topic. My  earlier post might also be useful.

My feelings towards my young children coming across inappropriate pictures online has gone from shock, to anger to anxiety to determination. I have resolved to coach my kids as they navigate through the the digital world with love and wisdom. Loving enough to forgive mistakes, and to limit screen times but wise enough to put measures in place so as to protect them. It’s after all part of preparing them for their world which is certainly different from the world which I grew up in.

Appreciating Maths

Maths is essential for daily living;  yet I grew up thinking of it as a challenging subject in my early years at primary school. 

Homeschooling has given us the liberty to choose which curriculum to use. While we use a UK curriculum for English and Humanities in the primary years; we chose to do Singapore Maths. It took time and effort to understand the methodology but am satisfied with the good foundations it had given the children.  The oldest is in his first year of secondary school with a UK online Wolsey Hall Oxford and is enjoying Maths.

Maths can be challenging for some. There is a lot of encouraging research on this. Check out this site about allowing older kids to use their fingers to work out Maths problem.  Think you do not have a brain for Maths? Read this article.

Homeschooling has also meant we have deviated from prescribed curriculum depending on the needs of the learner.  Games are always much appreciated.  So playing matching pairs for Number Bonds made learning Maths less labourous.


Credit: I printed these from a website which I cannot remember and pasted them on cardboard.

We are currently enjoying a Math game set by Thinkfun called Math Dice. The application of all the basic Mathematical functions are applied in this game.  The functions applied could be limited of course for younger children.


There are many Multiplication Apps available. We love
10monkey Multiplication at the Learning Lab.

We have done Maths with ‘Sal‘ years ago. We revisited the site recently and we are exploring about the Maths Doodling and Computer Science.

Having learnt about Leonardo da Vinci through Museum visits, books the movie Mr Peabody and Sherman, they are aware of the role of Mathematics in Art. We have applied principles of symmetry in our Art lessons. For further ideas on this check out this beautiful site for inspiring activities by a creative Maths teacher.


We have had great fun solving a challenging riddle which required application of our mathematical skills. It’s amazing to have a myriad of resources available at one’s disposal. I am thankful for the flexibility Homeschooling as it allows us to employ different strategies to make learning a more exciting experience.   

Appreciating History

What were History lessons like for you?

Growing up in a developing and driven nation state as a student; meant that history as a subject was not a priority as other subjects compared to Literacy and Numeracy.  By the time I was at Secondary school, History was a compulsory subject for the first two years.  Textbooks were wordy full of black and white pictures. I memorised the dates of the various Ancient Empires of Asia to be able to get a pass in exams but quiz me now and I would be stumped. 

I do, however,remember stories told by my parents, of their near escapes as a child during the Japanese Occupation; my mother’s recollection of learning about about the bombing of Pearl Harbour and Hiroshima.  Those were valuable History lessons which I have come to only appreciate as an adult and a Homeschooling Mum.

The resources available these days for helping children appreciate History  stand in stark contrast to my schooling years. 

Museums these days are interactive with the clever use of multimedia that the line,  “Are we done yet?”  are hardly heard. 

Living in South East Asia and visiting the UK regularly, has meant we have made trips to some of the state of the art Museums. Singapore has an excellent National Museum which has activities and exhibits which are designed with the young visitors in mind.  We were fortunate to be in London during the 100th Anniversary celebration of the end of World War 1. Visiting the Imperial War Musuem was an amazing experience for all of us.  There were displays and activities which sustained the children’s attention as well as mine. I did not find myself continually disturbed about the doom and gloom of the era but touched by the courage and strength of the many – men, women and children who lived through the period. 

Our family have also had the privilege of visiting a number of smaller musuems and historical landmarks in other parts of the UK and South East Asia. History became alive for all of us as a family.

Malacca, Malaysia

Small towns often have interesting quaint museums, shops, buildings and even factories! Stepping into them makes you feel as if you’re going back in time.

A working 80 year old Matchstick Factory in a small town in Malaysia

One of the earliest History books we read at the Learning Lab were graphic novels.  The Geronimo Stilton series by Scholastic has an excellent range of stories told in pictures with speech bubbles of adventures the articulate Mouse in different historical settings.


The famous mouse and his relatives have a time travel series too which accounts their adventures through different eras.


These books are dearly loved and they have been re-read several times. 

We have done some ‘time travel’ on our own too via Google Earth using a fun activity book to guide us.

Engaging activities to use with Google Earth

The activities in the book plus learning to use Google Earth whet their appetites for appreciating History. 

The Horrible Histories books and Videos are a firm all time favourite for sure.


Over the years, we have enjoyed the books which came with our Homeschool curriculum. We discovered about History through the readers, comprehension text and novels we read. We created clothes of the past through Art and Craft activities. Having a well planned curriculum saved me time and energy of doing searches online and trying to do cross curricular links.

These activities spurred my children to look for podcasts, search sites  with activities and explore museums in places we visit. 
My 12 year old is enjoying his first year of secondary school science which he is doing through an online homeschool course.   His text books are certainly more engaging than mine were and am confident he will remember all that he is learning in the years to come.

Learning about the past is more than just knowing dates and significant people.  Personally, I think it is gleaning over our shared humanity with the generations past; learning from mistakes, extending forgiveness if necessary and in doing so find strength to carry on.

What do you think?

Fun with Art

Art is a favourite lesson at the Learning Lab.


We used to have it in the middle of our week. It was a great way to break up our week.   We have moved it to the end of the week just before the kids attend squash training.

Art sessions have become less driven by me and less messier. My innovative 10 year old recently created a game for our Art lesson.  We had to take turns drawing an item – a line, a shape, etc.;on a piece of paper. No verbal communication about what it is although this rule gets broken often due to excitement by the younger participants.  Each player takes turns to add to the drawing until a scene is created!

Here are some of our materpieces….



We had loads of fun and laughter. Have a go today!

Learning to Strike the Balance


It was only at University that I started using a Personal Computer. The first Mac Computer is now a Museum piece! My kids regularly search for Minecraft and Lego ideas on YouTube, Skype with friends on different parts of the globe and use the computer for different assignments. Their gadgets are both a source of learning, entertainment and communication.   When I was their age, I was calling up my friend on the land line phone to ask about Maths.  The boundaries certainly have changed. The challenge, as parents and educators, is to consider how we can facilitate this change for this digital generation.

I have a written a few posts on the need to keep kids safe online.  Another area to consider is are  children and teens able to switch their minds off from whatever they are doing online; social media, games etc back to their work when they need to?  While doing a research online it can be tempting for a child to reply to a message alert. It is after all takes less than a minute.

Interestingly, research points out that the brain is not able to multi-task in this manner.   It is not a matter of time spent but the inefficiency of doing two tasks which makes one less productive.

I summarised the above article at the Learning Lab. It was well taken by my kids. We had a discussion on it. I admitted to them that I too had to cease trying to read tweets while while cooking dinner or thinking about a blog post during a lesson. It just overworks the brain!  Part of raising digital natives is being role models of good users of technology.  I am still figuring my way through this. What about you?

Appreciating Shakespeare

One of the challenges of homeschooling is to remember not to pass one’s biases regarding subjects onto the children. 
My first introduction to Shakespeare was listening to a teacher read to us A Midsummer Night’s Dream, in a monotone voice, while sitting in a hot classroom. I was 13 and I did no have a clue what the story was all about.  Thankfully, I had better teachers in subsequent years and went onto to study The Merchant of Venice for my ‘O’ levels.  While I enjoyed the book, my appreciation for Shakespeare never went beyond the exam.

Determined not to allow history to repeat itself, so to speak, I introduced the children to Shakespeare pretty much early on with these simplified version of some of Shakespeare’s plays.


They are retold by Andrew Matthews and illustrated by Tony Ross. Fans of the Horrid Henry series  will recogise the Ross’ artistic style. 

For more experienced readers,  the biography on William Shakespeare by Haydn Middleton makes an excellent read.


Apart from books, there are excellent Shakespeare related resources such as word search and quizes for children to enjoy.  To help appreciate Shakespeare as a writer check out this engaging Ted Ed clip.


To help children appreciate the structure of the globe theatre click here.   If you have a younger child it might help expanding the  printable in a larger size.

Teens’ Quest for Learning

“Within the tumult of pre-teens or teens is an opportunity to enhance their desire and interest to learn.”
Emmeline Zhao


We are in the season of pre-teen/teen at  the Learning Lab. Having done part-time and eventually full-time homeschooling, I have journeyed with them in their education.

I have enjoyed the journey so far. It has been filled with a mixture of emotion – anxiety, joy, frustration, delight….

I loved the early years of shared reading, messy art, curious question etc. and wondered what these pre-teen and teen years would be like. 

Looking back at the recent months, I have to say it has been fascinating to see the continued sense of curiosity and wonder. Of course, there are challenges – but none that can’t be overcome with time and love.

Interestingly, recent research is pointing out that the optimal period of learning extends to the later years. Check out this article by Emmeline Zhao by clicking here. There is a fascinating talk by Sarah-Jayne Blakemore, Cognitive Neoroscientist on TED.

I recently did a quiz to see how much I knew about teens. I failed miserably on this quiz on understanding introverted teens but learnt quite a bit from doing it.

From what I have read so far and gleaned from the wisdom of parents who have gone before me; I think I need to embrace this stage as a gift to relish.

What do you think?

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