What, like your parents didn’t have curriculum evenings for your schooling when you were a 2 year old? Hippies. (No, we didn’t even used to have this during Rockstar’s pre-school days…)
After-school Miss with her Lunch For Champions
We all received a detailed email about how our child spends their day in school (which I guess differs a bit, whether they’re in the toddler/turbo toddler/Level 1-2 classes; the Miss is a Level 1), including the reason behind why they do things the way they do – for e.g., to “encourage awareness of themselves and others,” the toddlers do a role call that includes recognizing which of their friends are here, who is absent and why, and then cards with their own names (or at least the first letters of their names to help with alphabet recognition) are placed in different areas of the classroom where they are supposed to begin their play – they switch play areas every few days, I think it was. This is repeated for 20 minutes in Putonghua, during which they are not to communicate in English, and finishes with a Putonghua story time.
Earlier in the waiting area, I had mentioned to another curious (English-speaking) parent asking about our command of Chinese since we are Malaysian Chinese, both of us illiterate and often conversing in dialect (WE KNOW THIS – this is why the first classes the Miss ever did were in Putonghua before she did anything in English, and we continue to keep an eye on Rockstar’s Chinese).
Sure enough, shortly after, I note with amusement one friendly mum who identifies herself as a Putonghua speaker and says she has no questions for the Chinese teacher – Oh, But Could You Please Just Check My Child’s Pronunciation From Time To Time. I don’t really have a problem with it, I think it’s cute at this stage, but just if you notice a strange accent please do correct it.” (The teacher reassures her her child knows to speak correctly when required, just he sometimes “plays around when speaking with the Western kids.”)
Speaking of intake. In the initial general briefing, we are told that student intake has doubled fairly recently, resulting in new hirings and the opening of new classes. We hadn’t known that specifically, but at the Miss’ school Christmas party Kings had met a former colleague from a french investment bank (in the following weeks, we would meet another of his ex colleagues from a different investment bank. “The commute is quite inconvenient, we don’t live anywhere near here,” we were told at the Christmas party. “But we were introduced to this place by another friend who moved his child here – and we like it too, so now our (2 or 3, I forget) children of Safari Kid age attend here. AND it’s even cheaper than the old school we used to send them to.”
Now to the 20 minute “drills” – aside from the assorted free play stations designed to encourage creativity and social learning (the kids get to choose activities they are interested in, and on the play ground Level 1 and 2 all socialize at the same time under supervision, to encourage wider interactions and increase the pool of kids to learn from), the Miss’ main teacher walks us through various alphabet and number drills, as well as exposure to seasons, names of the months, counting exercises.
Whoa. My proverbial hand goes up. “We never placed any emphasis on our older one learning this stuff at this age (because back then someone else in early education had told super-busy-working us how social development was more important <sheepish>). By the-K1-transitioning-into-K2 period, it got a lot more intense, but going into the Kindy, I don’t even remember him knowing any of this stuff… Have there been changes in what the toddlers need to know by a certain age in the 4.5 years between our first and second child?”
“There are children who can do all this stuff already,” (this is where I go Wow Are We Hippies apparently some of the kids are already starting to trace alphabets and yes Safari Kid provides that exercise in class as well, with no absolutely pressure for them to be able to do it) “and there are also others who really don’t do this yet.”
“It’s not a requirement at this age, but even in the earlier classes they would have come across all this (alphabets, numbers, colors, shapes). We start exposing them as young as possible, even if they can’t yet respond, in the belief that some of it sticks in their minds. It doesn’t matter if they can repeat it yet at this stage. When they are required to learn it later on, the aim is that not everything is totally unfamiliar.” Sold. Later, I glance around and can’t help raising my eyebrows at the solar system chart on one of the walls. One of the few flap books we’ve still got is Rockstar’s crazy space facts book that even has average planet temperatures and what-not. He hasn’t touched it in ages, but the Miss had been searching it out and messing with all the flaps. I had wondered what she found interesting about what I figured must look like a boring bunch of rocks (everything looks like a “circle”, right?) to her…
After the messy play (Art, Science stuff) that follows, the alphabet and numbers from the drill are quickly reviewed for about 10 minutes, before the daily Goodbye rituals.
All the time, I remember one of the school’s mantras – how our kids require individualized support, tailored to their particular personal and social/ emotional developmental needs.