Monday, September 17, 2012

Off to pre-school!

How was your weekend? Ours was quite the usual fare. We went for Ryan's classes and tried to make the most of the time in-between. The whole of the week before (save for one evening), Ryan skipped his afternoon nap and went to bed at 8 pm. We were feeling quite starved of time with him and used the weekend to make up for it.

And yes, the reason for Ryan's early nights is that he is attending pre-school now! Since mid-August, he has been attending a half-day morning programme, Mondays to Fridays. I am not going to reveal which pre-school he is attending. I procrastinated announcing this on the blog because I have an (irrational?) fear that someone will turn up at his pre-school and abduct him. I will nevertheless say that it is playbased and there are no worksheets and no homework. Ryan absolutely loves it.

So, perhaps this is the perfect follow-up post to my previous post titled "It's ok for your baby to be anti-social" where I explained my view that pre-school is a step which should only be taken when your child has achieved certain milestones and is developmentally ready. As starting pre-school is a huge step, I believe that it is very important to apply a child-led philosophy here.

As readers of this blog know, despite almost all of his peers having started pre-school, we did not sign Ryan up because we believed that his early years should be spent in a home environment, where he could form loving and strong attachments. These strong attachments would give him a secure emotional base from where he could confidently venture and form healthy friendships with others. His paediatrician also advised that it would be best to keep him out of the pre-school environment in order to avoid frequent exposure to viruses and other illnesses until he was around 4 years old and that he did not need to socialise before then. All this led Richard and I to put the issue on the back burner.

I'm happy to report that we were on the right track. His paediatrician's advice was spot-on, as was the research that we read up on. Ryan will be four soon and we can see the signs that Ryan is ready for the world of pre-school.

Recently, Ryan had been getting a few more modelling assignments and, in July, we had the commercial shoot for Nestle. The way Ryan handled himself at these assignments signaled that he was ready (see this post). That, coupled with a few more observations, led Richard and I to start talking about pre-school again. This was our thought process:
1. As hoped, Ryan has achieved a secure parent-attachment and a strong sense of identity.
2. Ryan is becoming a lot more interactive and interested when with children his age. He is ready to (learn to) work and play cooperatively with others, especially his peers.
3. Ryan is also starting to communicate more and it would be good to give him more opportunities to do so.
4. Ryan is getting a lot more active physically and he will soon need more opportunity for physical and outdoor play, beyond what he currently has in his home environment.
5. Ryan is extremely healthy and up-to-date with all his vaccinations.

We checked with our selected pre-school, thinking that Ryan would start next year, but they said that Ryan could start in mid-August. We would be four months shy of our target of January 2013, but there was no denying that Ryan was ready now. We could still wait and enrol him next year but since I was still on maternity leave, we decided that mid-August 2012 was as good a time to start as January 2013.

Ryan is in one of the Nursery 2 classes. Next school year, he will go up to Kindergarten 1. He is therefore the youngest in his class (two of his classmates celebrated their 4th birthday last week). He is also, I think, the smallest in terms of size (even compared to the girls)! Yes, I know most 3 year olds are supposed to be a class below, in Nursery 1. We did bring Ryan for an interview with the class teachers, where we talked about where Ryan was at, in terms of his development and interests, and it was agreed that he would fit nicely in Nursery 2, so that's where he is. The pre-school assesses the children developmentally (not academically) so it's good to know that Ryan is still developmentally on track even though he is starting pre-school later than his peers.

Ryan is also the only new student in his class, the others having been at the pre-school since previous terms/years. Being new to pre-school (and the youngest in his class) translates to Ryan receiving lots of extra attention from the teachers. He is usually the one who is holding hands with the teacher, while the other children pair up and hold hands with each other. He is usually the one who gets to sit on the teacher's lap or beside her when they are having circle time. He is always seated next to a teacher when the class sits down to eat in the canteen.

The pre-school monitors his progress very closely. In the first four weeks of the term, Richard and I were already summoned twice to meet the principal and his core class teacher for an on-going dialogue on his development. Although he was assessed to be good for Nursery 2, Ryan is still a little "behind" his classmates in terms of social interaction and communication skills. As these areas impact upon his capacity to learn in a pre-school/group setting, the teachers want to monitor these areas carefully and they keep us very up-to-date with every little development. From all accounts, it appears that he is progressing well and Richard and I are confident that he will have no problems. Last week, he told his Mandarin teacher, "Ming tian jian" (which is Mandarin for "See you tomorrow"). If you know Ryan, you'll understand that this is pretty remarkable.

I would add that Ryan had absolutely no problems starting pre-school. There were zero tears and zero tantrums, which reinforced our conclusion that he was ready. He has never been in any sort of drop-off programme and we also did not have time to prepare him in any way - we made the decision in late July, went back to Malaysia in the first week of August and started him off in pre-school the following week. We didn't discuss it with him beforehand because we did not want him to feel stressed or form negative impressions even before he started. For the first week, we would accompany him for about 15 minutes in class until all the students had arrived which was when we would take our leave. Ryan was reluctant to see us go, but did not kick up a fuss and instead busied himself with the materials in class.

Therefore - all that research about bonding with your child first before you send him off to bond with his peers? Based on our experience - absolutely true.

The first week passed smoothly. However, Ryan was still on his old sleep routine - sleeping at midnight - and we had to drag him out of bed in the morning. Soon, the lack of sleep took its toll and the subsequent weeks were a little rough. We let things settle naturally and, somewhere around his fourth/fifth week, he was sleeping early enough and waking up with a smile, and it was all good. This week is his sixth and, if his routine stays the same throughout this week, then it will probably hold for good.

So, Ryan has started a whole new adventure! He loves it - the teachers, his classmates, the activities, the whole routine - and we are so happy that we waited until he was ready.


Rachel said...

He is a 2009 baby? He should be in N1 this year, instead of N2. Sorry I'm just curious.

Pinkie Pirate said...

Hi Rachel, yes he is a 2009 baby and yes, most 2009 babies would be in N1. He is, however, in N2. :)

appleofHiseye said...

hi so he went to nafa in the end? looks good =)

Pinkie Pirate said...

Hi, appleofHiseye. No, we turned down the offer from NAFA. NAFA offered us a slot in their afternoon session starting in March 2013.

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