Monday, May 6, 2019

The Small Triumph on Good Friday

It's been a longgg time since I had gone for a Good Friday's service (because it's not a day of obligation and it's really quite a longgggg service... don't judge) Especially when the kids came along, the thought of going for the service was even more unattractive.

Us at church to give thanks for
Baby Philip's first month
But ever since attending the Conversion Experience Retreat (CER) last year, both D and I thought that we really should spend some time and effort on the kids' spirituality. Since then, we would go mass during birthdays and public holidays, bring the kids to adoration room for quiet time and even go for confessions with them regularly. This year, we went one step further and brought all five kids with us for the Good Friday's service.

I was personally apprehensive because even for a normal mass they can get distracted and restless, what more a 2.5 hr service. D and I agreed that if it gets too disruptive, we would leave halfway through. We left home at 8.45am for the 9am service and even though the church was just 3 minutes car ride away, we were still late. We ended up standing at the back of the church for the whole service. Julian and Kyra did test us once a while during the service, but by and large, they were still manageable and we actually survived the whole service! *Hurrah*

Now, before you think our kids are angels and we have no problem with them during mass, they are not. Our kids still think mass is boring (we need to work harder for their salvation now), struggle to sit still through mass (to be fair it isn't all of them... I mean Philip is just sleeping) and even argue and fight with each other DURING mass (so much for world peace).
We have been given the death stares by fellow parishioners (because the kids were not quiet... I mean... why would they when they are not sleeping?), miss parts if not a huge chunk of mass before (because during that one hour, someone either "needs" to go to the toilet or someone would be crying) and even been seen dragging our kids out of mass to talk about their behavior (so much for being a cool mum).

Yes, we had good days in church, unfortunately from our track record, we have far more bad days.
As much as it would be great if the fellow parishioners were kind to us, we learn that we need to be kind to ourselves too and accept the fact that while God would be pleased if our kids were good, it would also please Him as much when we are trying to help them to behave.

One of my Sunday reflections

Through the years, D and I prepared for mass by looking through the readings before it starts as it helps us to focus and tune in to what the priest would share. In fact, we both will try to find something that speaks to us through the readings or homilies and share with each other during lunch. (Something which I find help us to grow as a couple)

But looking back, I realised that going to mass is not the same as taking a plane. Don't be too preoccupied and worried if your child will be bored or restless in church. (They will be regardless with the toys or not)
Our responsibility isn't to entertain them in mass (they won't be even if you did) neither is it to make sure they understood what the priest is saying (they don't because chances are you won't too). In fact, despite going to mass regularly, our kids would rather stay home and rot than go to church.
Going mass as a family is really more for D and I than for them, for us to sustain through the week (and really not to kill our kids with every test they put us through) and be reminded time and again that God loves us.

Truth be told, we can't be sure if our kids love God. We aren't even sure if they know who is God. So with each mass we attend as a family, we really are like match making them with a Being based on our experience we have with Him. But the greatest comfort of this blind dating is that because our kids love us, they are always willing to give this Being a chance every time we go to Church.

Some of my friends have commented before that they can imagine how tough it would be going to mass with 5 kids, because they are dying with their 2 kids. But they don't realise that it is equally tough for that family bringing an elderly in wheelchair for mass, or that parent dealing with his only child who has ADHD, or even that lost soul who is trying to soften his heart to come back to church.
They don't realize that it is because we see these faces in church, we are in turn encouraged and
inspired to not give up trying. And while it seems that our fellow parishioners may be frowning on our kids' behavior, we forget that we also may be a source of encouragement and inspiration for someone else.

The evil one is always hard at work especially when we try to please God. So if it's not easy for you to do the right thing, be consoled that you are doing things right.
Just take one mass at a time. If this mass was trying, the next one will be better. :)

Image from stpeterslist.com

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Yikes! Change is about to happen!

Just one more sleep and what I am used to for the past 3 years will all be changed. Like many, I'd always thought that since I've been through it so many times, everything would be under control and honestly this would be child's play for me. After all, the whole process remains the same - wake up early, go for breakfast, relax a little, check into hospital, prep for surgery and get heavily sedated and when I wake up in 1hrs time, I get myself a new baby. (Like honestly, how complicated can life be? *tsk*)

But strangely, I'm not sure if I can say I was most confident this time. It could be the fear for the post surgery recovery, because I know how painful it can be. Or maybe I was from 2 helpers to down with no helper at all until yesterday when the replacement helper came and hopefully the other one comes back later today (yes on the day when I deliver). It could be also because just a few days ago I was down with flu and am probably still struggling with a little stomach flu. Or it could be maybe from the anxiety that my youngest girl will no more be the baby of the family already and I'm pushing her to grow up to be a sister (yes I still get the guilty feeling even after so many kids!). Or that maybe the mister is down with flu STILL (and that's how I fall sick) and on the night before I deliver I'm spending some time alone doing my reflection, rather than a movie night and quiet time with the mister.

Yup... as you can see things haven't been going as planned. And the irony? This pregnancy is the one which I had prayed the hardest, go church more often and had a lot more people praying for me than the other pregnancies. Should I not have prayed? Could it be an easier and smoother journey? Shouldn't prayer help in easing one's fear? What went wrong?

Unfortunately, truth of the matter is, just because I prayed harder it didn't mean that I had the trump card of being God and get to do things according to my plan or my choice. The Evil one would use every opportunity to tell and tempt me to be angry with God and to stop praying cuz obviously it hasn't been providing much consolation or so it seems. The Holy Spirit on the other hand continues to ask me to be patient and tells me it's not about me but to be faithful and just say Yes to being loved and carried by God.

Back at Home...
Feeling so overwhelmed, I actually went to the adoration room after dinner yesterday and just sat in front of the Holy Eucharist to pour out all my anxieties and somehow started to cry. (hormones maybe) I didn't realize one can be so close to God and yet so fearful at the same time. But the best thing about crying is that God knows too that I've reached my limit and He will take over from here since there is no more resistance from me to try to be in control and stay in charge. The Evil one also knows that there's no point in trying to be around because the harder he tries to be funny, the harder I will pray and that's really not what he wants too.

God's peace comes after every storm and it strangely doesn't need to make any grand entrance. Truth be told, God was present throughout the whole pregnancy. Like how my helper situation could be a mess but at least He sent me a great replacement which seems to be able to hold the fort for the time being, plus my mum was around to help me here and there with the kids so I could rest and nurse my flu. I may not have gotten many things my way, but because of this, many have used this as a reason to pray and found inspiration to be close to Him. To help with post surgery recovery, He's blessed me with a masseur who is able to come right after my surgery to help me feel better faster. And because He knows I've been anxious, He's been getting many guardian angels to send me personal love messages and prayers along the way to cheer me up and encourage me.

And even though I pray that He could give me a miraculously painless birth, I forget that the more I look at myself, the more I forget that He is the same God that managed to feed thousands with just 5 loaves and 2 fishes, heal the blind and sick and even raise the dead... He IS so mighty and all I could do was just to limit Him to my fears and plans. If God had really been given the control of my life, how much greater can it be? The opposite of fear is not exactly courage, it's just stop saying No to God.

Trust me, it's not a bad feeling. And so I say to you.... Peace be with You. :)

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Disciplining with Faith

In my social media posts, I tend to pick the happier pictures of the family... because
1. it's social media (and it's 90% fake news or at least it only shows a glimpse of what happens 10% of the day) and
2. who even has the mood to pose and take photos when things are bad *tsk*

One of our favorite activities together
Yet amidst the laughter, we have our struggles with our kids. The toughest part of parenting for me, isn't the pregnancy, recovery and breastfeeding (I speak from experience), sitting down and studying with them (it's still painful though), dealing with their tantrums in public (thank God for thick skin) or even dealing with the different styles of raising your kids with your spouse or in laws (no explanation needed). The worse for me is really when one needs to exert discernment in discipling.

You see, disciplining can result in many things... you can have really great outcomes where they listen to you (and we all live happily ever after), when they don't agree with you and defy you (and you don't know what goes on inside their minds) or when you are not even confident if you did the right thing even. So as you can see the majority of disciplining (for me) ends with something... negative, which means chances are after a disciplining session, I might
(a) lose my temper
(b) end up with at least 1 angry kid
(c) end up in tears at night wondering if I could have done things differently

Yesterday was one of the days when I was tested again. We had pledged $12 to a friend's kid's school fundraising campaign the day before which the mister had passed to Julian to place in the donation envelope, but the parents went home that night and told us that they only had the $2 and according to their daughter, Julz had taken $10 and kept it. Knowing how much he's fascinated by money, it is possible that it happened.

Last night, D was out for class and I was home alone with the kids. I asked Julz about the $10 and he told me that he had given to the girl that day and wasn't sure what happened to it subsequently.  After checking with my other kids, they all said the same version and he didn't play with it later. Since the $10 was missing in my house, it's obvious it had to be somewhere at home. Got everyone to look for it, but it was in vain.

I checked with my friend if his daughter could remember where she might last saw it, but no one could (sign that $10 nowadays isn't a big thing). My dear friends, would you trust your child or would you trust otherwise given the lack of evidence?

I made the painful decision of forfeiting $10 from Julz piggy bank. (Remember, this child of mine loves money). Julian cried, not because I asked him to bring down his piggy bank, but because I scolded him. I know this boy of mine isn't the best behaved kid amongst the 4 but when he is wrongly accused, that's his normal reaction. And my mother's instinct told me that (thankfully) he didn't take the money. But I wanted him to know that he needed to pay the price of not doing his job properly. Julian saves $2 each day because he doesn't believe in spending too much in school and he enjoys seeing his money grow, so $10 was probably a big thing for him. When he took the money out and passed me, my heart ached. I was holding back my tears and tried to look away so he won't see any trace of my eyes being wet.

The apology note he wrote
I explained to him that while it may not have been his fault entirely, it was because of his irresponsibility and oversight that got him into this. I think he understood it and a part of me was glad he could be detached enough to let go of his $10 for this.

We sat down that night and I got him to write a note too to the couple friends, because he was rude to them and since he was receptive, why not?
We ended with a hug and a kiss and said the night prayers with the rest of the other kids.

When the mister got home, he told me he would have waived the $10 but I disagreed. My argument is that, unlike God, we cannot be around all the time to get him out of situations like these. But we did agree to reimburse him on a later date on a separate occasion.

Everything seemed fine, but I went to bed with a heavy heart. If it was the right thing to do, why would my heart feel the ache? Parenting is never for the weak hearted and our views and decisions made can never be perfect, but as a catholic, the only consolation is I can always turn to the Perfect one who probably has tonnes of experience coping with disciplining... from afar.

A priest friend once told me that God has by far the greatest experience of dealing with children who defy and walk away from Him. He has also felt the greatest pain of sending His innocent child to die on the cross for the greatest sinner amongst us... (Think Hitler and whoever). But I suppose I'm luckier than Him since I can physically hug and kiss my child and remind him I still love him and not leave it to "faith".

You may not agree with how I handled it, and I don't claim to be an expert on disciplining kids even though I have 4 (and soon 5).

I shared before in my social media post that one of the blessings of having kids is the fact I'm seen more on bended knees before the cross, became more humble and more human. The best thing I could do last night was to go to bed, and pray that even if I didn't get the gift of wisdom, I hoped that my kids got the gift of understanding...

I hope God answered that. :)

Thursday, February 22, 2018

When good kids do bad things...

Taken from instagrammer
@Maybemicha
No matter how hard we try, we can never shield and protect our kids enough. And even if we did succeed at home, that doesn't mean our kids will be in that bubble in school. We just pray and hope that what we have enforced at home is enough to guide them through their choices in school. From deciding on what they eat during breaks, what they spend their school money on and more importantly who they hang out with. (And chances are, as a parent, you might disagree with most of their choices they make... it's normal. :P)

We managed to transfer A to a "better" Catholic school at the beginning of Primary 3. On hindsight, I didn't realise that cliques have been formed since P1, especially in a girls school, and unless my child is a Ms. Popular, breaking into these groups, would be tough. 
She did make friends though, just that the closer ones are probably not the ideal ones, but we thought that as long as she has friends, we really should just close an eye on it. Unfortunately, halfway through the year, we got a call from her teacher saying that A was called into the principal's office because of her friend's mischief... and A had become an accomplice.

We never believed in using the cane in our household, but of course that day, the mister was very tempted to use it. I was shocked and besides getting upset with A for this, was even more disappointed that I was really nothing but a lousy mummy.
What had gone wrong? D and I have a great marriage, so it can't be the kids are insecure that their family will break up. We are not rich but we are not depriving them of any opportunities, so they won't be left out. We have our family time, and I do spend every afternoon preparing their meals and revising their work. But when something had happened, no matter what the parents had done, it is just... not enough. (and yes.... even good kids can do bad things too)
We did talk to her about her choices and our thoughts on it. She seemed to get it and we left it as that.

Unfortunately, A came home using vulgarities one day. It started with "What the..."(of which we would always tell her to mind her language) but very soon that became "F^&K". (Great... how did my baby grow into a teenager within nine months)
Truth be told, in many of my crossroads in parenting, I usually turn to google first for answers. "How to discipline my child for vulgarities" or "My ten-year old is swearing... help". I did find comfort that I'm not the only parent having this issue (yay????) but the unfortunate thing is most do not have an 'answer' or solution for you. (Some even tell you that since you can't help it, why not swear in front of them too? Like... seriously?)

Both D and I were stumped. We tried taking turns to talk to her, we tried taking away "privileges" and I even had to explain to her what the word was about. Still, not long after, she progressed to showing her middle finger. (Kill me now...) All these time, praying to God to help me through this amongst the other hurdles of motherhood.

The message advert I got!
Finally, I think God pitied me and I received an sms from a mummy whose boy was in the same kindergarten as A. It was about a programme for girls who are aged 9-12 to meet once a week for an activity either like craft, culinary, sport or even community projects to the old folks home. It was initiated some time ago by a group of mothers who thought that they had wanted to come together with activities that could focus on virtues and values rather than societal norms. (God bless these mothers) They have one for older girls and another programme for boys only. If you are a catholic, you would be happy to know that every two weeks, a priest will be there to hear confession. 
IF you know me, I am one who plans the kids activities due to convenience and this was really out of my comfort zone since it's near Pasir Panjang, where NUS is. But because I really thought this may be good for A, I decided to go for this. 

I dropped her a few weeks back for the first session and stayed outside with some parents for some impromptu fellowship. When the session was over,  I was curious to find out how she found it. She actually loved it and didn't mind to go more! (In case you are wondering it's $10/session or $150/half a year just to cover cost). I personally felt that was my best find of the year, and I was really grateful that after praying for so long, I managed to find some sort of relief and answer.
The upcoming activity they will be doing! 
Don't get me wrong, I don't mean to say that this programme is the solution. A's behaviour is an ongoing test on my patience and possibly my reason to why I may go to heaven, but in the midst of my struggles and helplessness, God never left me, He just waited for me to be less anxious and humbler in my invitation to ask Him what to do.

So now, if you asked me, as a parent, what do we do when our kids keep doing something bad. Again, my answer isn't perfect but if there's one thing I have learnt is that during those months of us trying to discipline her for her "shortfalls", I only highlighted the negatives. Truth be told, any kid with some form of intellect, would know what is right and what is wrong. So me emphasising that is really pointless, though we do maintain that one of the rules in the house is no vulgarities.
However, on hindsight, I realised that instead of breathing down her neck on how she should behave, what values she was lacking on, 'punishing and disciplining' her on her misbehaviour, a better way was to highlight OTHER possibilities of how girls can behave well, how other people interact, what girls her age can do, how girls can carry themselves and possibly what kind of friends she could find.

This entry may also not be the solution you as a parent are looking for, but I hope you realise.. the secret ingredient in whatever solution you have is love... :) 

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

10 years down.... Eternity to go..

Recently D and I had celebrated our 10th anniversary. I'm happy to say that this time we didn't have any Cold War or missed the chance to be with each other. (So yes this time, we actually celebrated.)

These three remains, Faith, Hope and Love.
But the greatest of these is Love. 
D and I had a vow renewal ceremony at church and just like 10 years ago, the mass was still the best part of the day. D and I made it as meaningful as we could. We involved our kids in the walk-in, we used the same readings as we did 10 years back, we got the kids involved in the readings and even wrote and renewed our own vows and promises to each other. (D choked on his vows, I think it's because he was touched, he thinks it's because the church was dusty... *tsk*)

Looking back on this 10 years, D and I are eternally grateful and indebted to a few people who have helped us through our roughest times in our marriage. It's not always with love and tenderness that we look at each other. But God has sent enough angels to make sure we survive. Most of the time, interestingly enough, it would be priests (yes those who have never been married) who are wise enough to remind us how to love each other.

1) Loving the other the way he needs to be loved, and not how we want to love.
Even before our marriage, we have had our fair share of disagreement and arguments. Like how after a long day at work, I would look forward to seeing him, yet whenever we met, D would seem tired and grouchy. It didn't help that when he was with his friends, he would be laughing and actually looked like he is enjoying himself. I saw that as an insult and a form of failure on my part. I used to not understand how is it that his friends could bring out so much life in him and when he was with me, he was so tired and dragging it. I mean, I am his wife after all, shouldn't he be happy to see me? 
He had me at "In":P
But because I love him, I realised that's what he needs. Not necessarily time away from me since  it's not because he didn't enjoy my company but he just appreciated the brainless moments of guys talk (yes... we all know they don't actually talk *rolls eyes*) and because of that he actually is happier. 
D on the other hand is not one who is expressive and talks much about his feelings. But he also knows that I am one who enjoys to be reminded how much he loves me. So whenever he can, he drops me messages of how much he still loves me even when he is busy. He is also a very private person, and for him to come up with his own vows and renew it in front of our friends tells me that he was willing to be vulnerable for me. And for that, I know, I am loved.


2) KEEP making excuses for each other when it hurts the most
This isn't isolated to marriage. It can be used for any relationship. D and I do get clumsy with each other's feelings too. And while most times we are okay, but there are days when I cannot comprehend why he couldn't see my point and insist on his way.
I confided in a priest who smiled hearing my side of the story and calmly told me to make excuses for him. That while the fact that I am hurt remains, making more excuses for him might lessen the hurt. And when you are willing to find those excuses, you will never run out of the love for that person. (Of course this shouldn't be the same if there's any form of abuse in the relationship)

3) To those who have caused harm to us and hurt us? Pray not just for us, but for them
Truth be told, every couple has their own cross(es) to bear in their relationship. For D and I, our greatest is the issue of in-laws. D and I have had many arguments as I felt at times he was not always on my side and he couldn't understand why the actions of his parents would be an issue to me. The same priest who told me to make excuses out of love reminded me to pray for those who have hurt us. Ironically, doing that helps us more than them. Psychologically, it's not possible to be angry and upset at a person while wishing him/her to be blessed.
So yes, while I'm still not in the running for the best daughter-in-law award, I think praying for them would be my saving grace.

4) Keep close to God (and couples who believe in marriage)
It's not by our strength but by God's grace we are still together. We have witnessed many of our friends who struggle and give up in their marriage and most times it is not because their marriage is exceptionally hard. Being in love is totally unnatural. It's not natural to not be jealous, to be patient and kind, to be slow to anger and to be forgiving. Because we are "imperfect" our love can never be perfect as well.
Truth be told, "godly" is a term which hardly anyone would use to describe us. (I mean some people are surprised we are catholics too.. that does say much about us right?) But God is kind to us, with whatever pockets of time we make to pray, He listens. And unknowingly, He would give us more than enough to move along. Sometimes He doesn't answer our prayers through gentle whispers and a "moment of enlightenment" but through couples He has blessed with more than enough to love. Seeing them at them makes us want to model them and love each other better. (okay... this isn't about me being competitive) But yes... three I assure you, is never a crowd.


Finally... to those of you who have been praying and blessing us with your friendship, prayers and love... Thank you. If not for you, there won't be us.
Us at our 10 year milestone 

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Are You Feeling Lonely, Mummy?

I don't regret having children. I feel immensely blessed that God would trust them with me, and if something were to happen to them, it will probably just kill me.
So yes, without a doubt, I love them. I may not act crazy over them all the time, but they are my everything. Yet, with this amount of love for them, it does not stop me from feeling that being a parent is a lonely, if not the loneliest, job ever. (Don't ask me how can this even be possible when I have four kids

Image taken from figuresandfabulous.com
Many people would warn you about how being parents would change your life, but no one really tells you how lonely you will be as one.

Even if your partner is present, even if you get to sleep till 9a.m. or have a nap in the afternoons, even if you have a whole village to help look after your kids, even if you get time off to meet your friends, even if you can go for a holiday without the kids, you will still be lonely. 

Whenever parents meet, somehow, the topic of the kids will come up. We will relate to each other how we are struggling with our kids, our frustrations we go through each day with the kids or even how we can cope better. And 99.99% we can see us in each other.
When we get so frustrated studying with our kids, the times when we cannot stand our kids because of their attitude, the times when we have power struggles with the in-laws, the times when we are lost and don't know what to do… we had either cried over it or just sleep on it because we are too tired. 
But even when we can relate with each other, come the very next day, nothing has changed.

Most of us will have and can have the same struggles. But just because everyone has it doesn't mean it will bring us any form of comfort..
Often when all is quiet and I feel I'm all alone and thinking about the whole (usually bad)  day can make me cry, I'm reminded of how loneliness is probably God's cry for time with me
And all I just need to say is… nothing. No need to justify, no need to even start saying what or how things go bad. When I don't need to try to be strong and be okay. 

So from a lonely mummy to another…. know this: one of the gifts of parenthood is loneliness, whether you like it or not. But loneliness isn't bad and it does get better, when you allow God in to fill you... at least his love will. :) 

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Modeling the Model Diagram

I remember when I was learning to be a teacher, the math professor gave the class of trainee teachers a Primary 4/5 question. She wanted us to solve the question with model drawing. There were about twenty of us, with different backgrounds and age groups. The time given was 15 min. None of us managed to solve it. NONE. Mind you, all of us were university graduates. 

It's been almost 10 years since then and since then, I always believed that it does help kids with their Math. Unfortunately, most people I speak to, don't agree with me. There was a mother whom I met at a school's event recently who actually dissuaded her girl from drawing the model as she thought it was a waste of time. 

Audrey is P3 this year, and it's also this year that her teacher is requiring the class to do their models in the Math sums. I naively thought P3 Math means simple math questions = simple intro to model diagrams = a piece of cake. 
I was wrong. I should have known that the hardest thing to teach are always the basics. Audrey came home with a math worksheet one day, which required her to do her model diagram and solve the questions. It was already painful to see her come up with a diagram because she was quite particular about being neat and later erase all away because she didn't get it. After 30 minutes, she was still at the first (unsolved) question. I tried to do it slow with her, but she was not getting it. After a while, I gave up and basically did her homework with her. (I 'taught' and she wrote) Because we again had an unpleasant learning experience together, I felt lousy and was up the whole night thinking of what I could do to change things. 

We went back to basics  of the model diagram after school one day. So far it has worked for me. And in case you are one of those who were born too early for the model diagram method, see if this works for you. 

1) I did away with the drawing of the diagram
I used strips of construction papers (4 colors would be safe since so far, I haven't used more than 3 colors) of standard varying lengths. I halved a strip for the pink and further halved the lengths for the orange and blue respectively. Whilst the green I divided the paper into threes.
I did this for many reasons. Firstly, it was less time consuming for Audrey to present her model and secondly I'm not sure if it was just her, but she couldn't see at times that certain parts need to be the same (because it represents the same amount) and certain parts need to be longer proportionately to represent a greater amount.

2) She only shows me the diagram
This doesn't mean she doesn't solve the question, but my focus was really the diagram and not her working. The diagram is essentially a working and while she doesn't need to do her working, I still ask her what her steps are.
I got her to do on her white board from school since I really didn't want to keep wasting paper and I thought it was easier to erase any mistakes with the duster than the eraser.

3) Step-by-step intro to model diagram
With all my materials prepared, I had a step-by-step demo. I showed her an example, guided her on the next and let her do the second. She fumbles sometimes, but with practice she does get it.
In short, this is how you show it:
a) Translate line by line of the question to the diagram. (It helps to break down the question. If sometimes the first line does not help much, you can use the second line to help) 
b) Labeling  (It helps to understand the premise of the question)
c) "Layering": When comparing the strips, all similarities must be found in the model (it helps the child to relate to the question)
The above shows an example of how "layering" works. Comparing the first and third strips with the second, the difference is shown by the green and orange strips respectively. However, since the green is longer than the orange strip, it would also mean that the green strip consist of the orange portion inside it. Visually, it helps the child to see which has the most and by how much. 
d) Finally, indicate the question with a question mark (It helps to understand what we are finding out)

Here's an example:
There were 15 more pupils in Class 3A than in Class 3B. 20 pupils from Class 3B moved to Class 3A. How many more pupils were there in Class 3A than Class 3B in the end?
Starting from top left to right.
I always tell Audrey to approach the question line by line since most of the questions are pretty straight-forward. (There are some questions which you do not work on the first line, but because it won't be 'basics' I won't be talking about it here. If you do want to know how to do it, let me know, and I can always share it)

As you can see, she used the green strip to represent 20 pupils from Class 3B in the second picture and immediately did the "layering" step of placing it in the first strip as well. She then "moves" the 20 students to the first strip by adding another green strip to it, while indicating using a dotted line that the students have moved to the first class. (I would tell her to cover the bottom green strip so that she would remember that the 20 students are no more in that class, allowing her to see the 'excess' students  in 3A as compared to 3B)

Obviously, it's not possible to use the strips in a pencil and paper exam mode. Only after she is comfortable moving the colored strips, I would let her attempt drawing it out. 
Yes I know, the question mark for the diagram is missing :P
And I am proud to say, she is slowly becoming a little expert in model drawing. :P

I know it's a little wordy today… Nonetheless, I hope it has helped you to help your child a little. :) Let me know if it did!!!