Of late, most of readers' emails to me and comments on the blog have been mainly about pre-school. Many of you have asked for my thoughts on pre-school selection and many of you are curious about which pre-school Ryan attends. Some of you read the series of posts on this blog where I gave my thoughts on the pre-schools which we visited when we were deciding on one for Ryan.  

Well today I thought I'd write about how we decided on the pre-school for Ryan. I'm not saying that you should use this guide, because every family has different circumstances and priorities, but I do hope it will be helpful, if only just to offer another perspective. 


1. Proximity. The first factor is proximity. Ryan's pre-school is a very short drive from home and on the way to work/his nanny's place. We chauffeur him to and fro everyday. I have to say that this is one of the most important factors. I do not see the point of commuting halfway across the island twice a day just for preschool. Plus, God forbid if there is an emergency, I want to be able to be at the pre-school immediately.

2. Environment. I'm not going to talk about safety and hygiene and stuff like that. That's a given. What I'm referring to here is the surroundings, both in the classroom and outdoors. We were looking for a place where the children can appreciate the beauty of the world around them, a place which draws the children in, a place which makes learning attractive, a place that offers the children dreams and fantasy, a place that stimulates imagination and creativity, and a place which is calm and peaceful. The photos in this post were taken around Ryan's pre-school and I think they show what I mean.


3.  Lots of outdoor play. One of the biggest reasons we decided that it was time to finally let go and put Ryan in pre-school was that he was starting to need more of the outdoors and we could not provide that for him at home. So the pre-school's outdoor portion was important to us - there is a lot of opportunity for physical activity, and there is also a lot of opportunity to explore and learn about nature.

4. Good opportunities to build friendships and build social skills. No surprises here. Another of the reasons for sending Ryan to pre-school was to provide him with the company of other children.


5. No stress. I initially wanted to write "less emphasis on academics". Then I realised that this wasn't really accurate because I do want Ryan to have whatever "academics" he is supposed to have for his age, although I'll admit that whether something falls under the term "academics" or not is up for debate. In any event, what we were looking for was an environment where the learning was not stressful. If he is learning hard-core academics, then if it is done in a positive way, without sacrificing other worthy pursuits, without stress, then I see no issue.

Ok, I'll admit that we didn't have to worry about academics because, at the age that Ryan started pre-school, he already knew how to read, he already knew his numbers and quantities, he could think creatively and solve problems. That was way ahead of the standard expected of his age. I'm not saying he is ahead of his peers - I know some of his peers who can do amazing things. I'm saying that we didn't worry about academics, not because it wasn't important, but because that part had already been taken care of.


6. A good and established pedagogy. For us, the philosophical foundation and theoretical underpinnings of the methods used by the pre-school were very important. We wanted to see a conscious application of sound principles and we were interested to see how the teachers create a learning environment for the students. In particular, we were looking for a child-led approach which was based on respect for the child. I wanted to see a lot of hands-on activities and I was not interested in worksheets at all.

7. The curriculum. We definitely needed a programme that incorporated Mandarin and English. We also wanted a good mix of art, music, literature, ... the list goes on and on. Most pre-schools do provide a mix and a balance of worthy pursuits.

Again, whether the curriculum incorporates "academics" is, to me, not really the issue because "academics" is always going to be part of pre-school. More important is how the curriculum is delivered. For example, Ryan's pre-school does not have a single alphabet chart pasted on the classroom walls, yet the children know their ABCs.


8. Students and staff. In terms of students, we hoped to give Ryan the opportunity to make friends with people from different backgrounds. As for teaching staff, we had the usual criteria every parent has - professional, caring, speaks well, etc. We noted that the pre-school looked after its teachers in terms of their professional development, so that their teachers were happy and their skills were updated. The pre-school itself has plans for advancement and improvement, which we take as a sign of how seriously and professionally they view their work.

9. Individual attention. It was important to us that Ryan's progress and development would be monitored closely, and that he would get as much attention as he needed. It was not enough for us to be satisfied that the ratio of teachers to students was acceptable. We wanted a classroom methodology which was centred on personal contact with the child, respect for each child's unique personalities, and bonding with the child to bring out the best in them.

I would add that there is a lot of parent and teacher/school communication - I think we get an email every week on something or other from the teachers/school. This is absolutely wonderful as it keeps us in the loop about Ryan's learning experiences, and it builds our confidence and trust in the teachers.


10. The X-factor. This is the intangible part of the decision-making process. To be honest, I had two schools in mind when I was making the final decision. Both had strong points. The difference was that Ryan's pre-school had the X-factor. Walking around the school, I knew that he would be very happy there. I knew that I could trust the pre-school to do what they were supposed to do. I knew that I would never need to doubt the pre-school on what they were doing or how they were doing it. I knew that I would never have to re-visit my decision on enrolling Ryan. Basically, I knew in my heart that this was the one.


Well, that's the list of ten things. There are many other things about Ryan's pre-school that we are very happy with, but those things are icing on the cake, which we discovered after we enrolled in the programme.  Hope you find the perfect pre-school for your child!

4 comments:

Shynmum said...

Hi again

From the brave (actually more careless than brave) mum of 3.
When I saw your photos, I chuckled. Aren't those the same shots I have of the hanging milk bottles, the mirror and the vegetable garden? Looks like my hunt for a preschool ended at the same place!
Agree with your points. Proximity was my first screen. Environment was awesome, well laid out with varied opportunities to explore the great outdoors. Loved the use of natural materials rather than cheap, colourful plastics. It is not always easy to check if the teachers have the right qualities, but I had positive feedback from a parent.(Your post reinforce that, thanks!)
The x-factor was the pedagogy. The focus on exploration and discovery, respecting the child as an individual. Kids are natural at these, but a program focused on content delivery just snuffs it. I feel it's my role to preserve/enhance this as much as I can. We will deal with primary school later.
Oops, this has become a very long comment. But I couldn't resist, it was such a coincidence!

Pinkie Pirate said...

Shynmum - hi-five! Hope to bump into you at the school sometime!

Sandra Theng said...

hi Ryan's Mummy,
i understand that Ryan's preschool is in east. Would like to ask which school is he going to?

Saleha said...

Hi,
Your children are lovely! May I know which preschool is Ryan attending? I love the "authentic" feel of his school, and the strong emphasis on conserving the environment.
Good day to you and your precious ones!
Saleha

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