Friday, November 21, 2008

We found our dream school for Tristan!

I've heard and seen the word Montessori several times but never really knew what it was all about. I thought its just a way of teaching kids to read with phonics and things.

But there's so much more to it.

I've been looking around for a school for Tristan, living in Johor Bahru there are so many pre-schools/nursery popping out of no where. After visiting a few, I was dishearted and was convinced I probably have to teach him myself at home. I was not satisfied with most of the schools I've been to. Here are just some thoughts about some of the schools I went:
(just my personal thoughts, if you want more information please contact the schools directly)
The first school I visited was HillTop- an established pre-school which was mainly catering to expatriates who lived in here. I liked the environment and my own brother attended the school about 20 years ago. The principal is an Australian lady who advocate the Australian style of teaching of teaching. In a happy and joyful environment, kids play and learn. Not much pressure and homework...etc

But downside is that for the class of 2+ I realised that Tristan probably wont be learning much. The schedule from 9-1pm include- eating twice a day, colouring, playing at the play ground, music room where they sing and dance to Hi-5 songs, probably a bit of story telling and art and craft and watching video: Barney! They dont start 'ABC' till 4+ which is 2 years later... hhhmmm

The teacher say that she wont be doing much in the first few months as she will let them adjust to the environment first. I was thinking to myself, he probably wont learn much from this, and he can pretty much watch Barney at home. I dont want to pay that money for him to watch it at school. They are charging about RM950.00 per term (about 3 months) It's slightly more expensive than a normal school which charges about RM250.

I walked passed another class 3+, the teacher was losing the children's interest and she 'threathen' them to sit down and listen if not no Lollipops! hhmm... And everyweek they get a 'goody' bag to bring home, containing sweets, lollies, chocolates, twisties... etc..

I dont mind these junk food once in a blue mooon when it's someones birthday or for a special occasion but not every week though. Cultivating a bad habit.

Although I like the culture, but it has not change for the past 20 yrs. Kids are smarter now, and they need new technologies or new methods to engage them and I believe that even at a young age like 3 years, they can learn a lot. I'm not saying to pressure them to learn, but to learn and develop at their pace and capacity. really take the opportunity and expose them to different things when their brain is still developing.
The rest of the schools, I am just going to run through them
CEC - It's run in a semi detached house/bangalow. They offer programs such as gym class, swimming lessons, Karate...etc
Cons: I didnt like the air in the place, was pretty stuffy and not well ventilated. When we met the teacher in charge, the first thing they talked to us about was the fees, very direct. And how we can get a month of tuition fee at RM250 waived if we introduce another child. "So if you introduce 12 children you dont need to pay any school fees for a year!" Hmmm...

HolyLight Kindergarten
It's a multistorey building... very much like a primary school setting. looks like they have a lot of students. I visited them in the holidays, so didn't really see how their classroom setting was like. The curriculum looks pretty good, they teach recognition of 'ABC' at 3 yrs and they have books and stuff for the kids to read and bring home. (looks more substantial)
cons: I wasnt' ready to send Tristan to a 'School' school. Looks like there are going to be too many kids, and Tristan is only 3 next yr. So... hhmm.. I looked on

Out of these schools Hilltop seem more suitable but I was not convinced that I should that Tristan there. Dishearted, I told myself this next one is going to be my last stop. If I am still not satisfied, I wont send Tristan till he is 4 or 5 yrs old.

Clover Learning Centre
This school is situated just walking distance from my home/my mom's home.
It says on the banner outside that its a Montessori school. I drove past it many times, but never called or walked in before. But since Chris is not working till 1pm, after breakfast, we brought Tristan along and dropped by the place.

Its' run in a terrace house in Taman Tasek, only a year old. Every time I drive passed I never seen any kids there. But my mom knew a lady who enrolled her child here and they live pretty far away. There must be something about this place that people are willing to travel to come. Well, I just wanted to clear my curiosity and tot to myself... no harm just paying a visit since it's so near.

They were having a 'Kindermusik' holiday program when we were there, and told us to come back in an hour so that they can talk to us further about the school and the programs. One of the teachers ( they call themselves directress instead of teacher-later I came to realise why) asked if we knew anything about 'Montessori' Chris and me exchange glances...not too sure and bit embarassed to not know.. Maybe we should have knew. So that hour that I was home, we looked up the internet and found these...

Montessori History and Characteristic
Montessori Vs Normal School
Kindermusik Asia

That was a lot to absorb, and this 'Montessori' concept seem deeper than just using phonics. We went back and was pleasely surprise with what we found out and saw.

The main owner/directress was there to meet us. She welcome us warmly to the school and passionately, she explain the 'Montessori' concept to us while she show us all the tools they use to engage and teach the child. I asked if this was applicable to my boy since he is currently only 2.5 yrs? I was happy to know that 'Yes' it was, Tristan will be able to learn all these things! and Mandarin and Kindermusik and probably Art- proper art like blending colours, shades...more suitable for 3yrs and beyond when they can hold the pencil properly and can draw real pictures.

While we were there, Tristan happily (with the permission of the directress of course) tried the blocks and tools there. He was very engage and learning a lot on his own, figuring way out to put the blocks back.

I was very happy and knew that Tristan will afterall learn things that he dont learn at home.

It's held in a small setting. A lot of attention from teacher. They call themself directress because they are there to direct the child to learn themselves, and just guide them along the way instead of just telling them wat to do and what is right and wrong.. ( they dont use the word WRONG there... they try and use encouraging words like: why dont you try it this way... or that's in-correct- a more positive choice of words)

And... no junk food! They prepare healthy breakfast for the kids first thing in the morning and parents are not allowed to put sweet packet drinks, twisties... sweets in their bag. And even on birthdays, parents are discourage to bring goody bags to school as it pressures other kids/parents to do the same. Which is great too.

Everything I looked for is all in one school!Hooray! Finally!
1)Things to learn at 3 yrs
2)Things that Tristan cant/ dont do at home
3)He will be guided to develop at his own pace with 1 to 1 attention from teachers
4)Will be taught independence when they are taught to correct themselves when they are incorrect.
5)Mandarin! Although he wont be writing yet, he will be taught with flash cards and expose to speaking and listening to Mandarin
6)Kindermusik: Proper music appreciation, learning notes, beats, rhythm, Classical Music, creating in the child an interest and joy in music instead of pressured to pass the music exams (that was me) or to perform.
7) Encourage healthy food-No Junk Food!
8) Building strong foundations of Maths, Science, Language, Geology...etc..
9) No homework-letting the child learn happily at his own pace and not killing the interest to go to school.

And I found a website that state all the benefits/characteristic of Montessori too.

25 Characteristics of Montessori
1. respect for the child
2. respect for one another
3. cultural diversity
4. universal adaptability
5. cosmic education
6. individuality
7. independence
8. freedom of choice
9. hands-on learning
10. love of work
11. care of oneself
12. spontaneous concentration
13. self-discipline
14. lessons of grace and courtesy
15. intrinsic motivation
16. initiative
17. prepared environment
18. didactic materials
19. integrated curriculum
20. sense of order
21. heterogeneous grouping
22. refinement of the senses
23. movement
24. auto education
25. teacher as facilitator

It's a wow! really.. I never knew this place existed or this type of child education concept existed. It's just what I have been looking for.

Ok ok.. coming back from Cloud9, this all sounds so good. Chris asked me all these aside, are we really sure these promises weren't just sales talk? hhmm.. I thought. Well, one of the reason why I trust this place is because of Chaz Yee. I am influenced and inspired by her passion for this Montessori School. She has very strong and good principles that she carries for this school. And I am inline with what she does for the school too.

So we are going to enrol Tristan for Jan 2009 tomorrow morning. Excitement aside, we will see how Tristan feels and adapt to the school.

Last thing is the fees! It's actually more pricy than the other schools we've seen. It's RM1500.00 per term. But this include breakfast everyday, and Kindermusik and Mandarin, and since it's so near.. dont need transport fees too. So this is it!



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