Thursday, December 12, 2013

Little nuggets

I love looking around Ryan's classroom at his pre-school. I'm so curious about this life that he leads, which I'm not a part of. I want to know what he's been up to, the sights and sounds that surround him, the experiences that he goes through. I imagine him at each of the areas, playing and exploring, chatting with his friends, coming up with ideas and suggestions for extended play, and just being happy.

Other than that, I also want to make a mental note of the experiences and the materials that he uses. For example, when he was much younger, I toyed with the idea of getting him a mirrored surface to play on, and a light-table to explore materials with at home. His classroom has both, so I don't feel the motivation to buy these for the home anymore. In his classroom also, there are plenty of natural materials, like tree/branch rounds, feathers, shells, glass pebbles, glass squares, wooden spheres, as well as beads, buttons, wooden blocks, ribbons, wire, playdough, clay... the list is endless.

He does painting, arts and crafts, and all the sort of stuff that I would be doing with him at home if he were not in pre-school. If you've followed the blog for some time, you would have noticed that we used to do all these activities at home. Now we don't. Instead, at home now, we dedicate our time to other meaningful experiences which he would not have in pre-school. We even do a lot less reading, as he has quiet reading time everyday in school.

I should also add that, to me, the important benefit of going to pre-school is not that Ryan is able to do all these activities. Rather, it is that he is able to do these activities in a social group. He is able to bounce ideas off his friends and develop these ideas further. In these interactions, he learns how to treat others with respect and courtesy and consideration. He learns to give and take. He learns also to assert himself - he builds self-confidence when volunteering his thoughts and comments in a big group and he learns to tell someone "No" if he doesn't like something.

Ryan is also exposed to a rich mixture of other students' experiences and ideas. Every child brings a different perspective to the group, as they come from different families, different cultures. They go to different places for holidays, they celebrate different festivals, they have different personalities. 

Those are experiences and lessons which we would not have been able to give Ryan at home. 

This term, the children focused on storytelling. Among the many different things they did, they set up a storyline where one child would contribute a part of the story, the next child would continue the story and so on. It was a wonderful collaborative effort, and the different thoughts and ideas were refreshing. In the process, I would imagine that Ryan also became more confident in expressing himself among his peers.

My favourite thing in Ryan's classroom, however, is not the little creative projects that the children get up to ...

... and it's not the irresistability of the materials and the natural beauty that the children see everyday ...

it's this little tray of pebbles. 

I don't know exactly how these pebbles were introduced to the children, but the tray is now displayed together with a board recording what the children thought each word meant ("If you trust someone, they can play with your Buzz Lightyear"). In addition, and what struck me most were these beautiful, beautiful photos of the students hugging each other and grinning widely as they posed for the camera in groups. Different races, different cultures, arms over shoulders, happiness and joy radiating from each photo. I wish I could show you the photos, they're amazing. They are the representation of a perfect community - without bias, without prejudice, where everyone is accepting of each other and where everyone is kind to each other. If my son grows up with those qualities intact, and if he spreads those vibes to the people he meets in his life, that would be more than enough for me. As for the pebbles, they are the perfect reminder that the most important things in life are the little, simple yet enduring things.


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