Tuesday, September 8, 2015

All About Preschool - 3 common questions!

Some of you may know that I work in the Early Childhood Education industry and I have been in the field for more than 4 years. My interest in this field started after I became a mum. From learning about baby signing to phonics (where I became certified in both), my journey in Early Childhood Education progressed organically where we later became a homeschooling family during my child's earlier years.

In the midst of all these, I was blessed enough to start off in this industry running my own phonics / reading classes with a friend who runs Happy Cottage. We later moved on to different areas; she became a mummy to her third child and I went on to work for a private preschool operator.

My role in this industry involves meeting and liaising with many parents. Personal friends have reached out to ask me about opinions of certain approaches and schools and so, I thought to share some of my thoughts in this new series - All About Preschool.

For this first post, I would like to share my thoughts / answers on some common questions that I get:

1) When is a good time to start preschool?
Frankly there is no one size that fits all and no one age that works for all too. In my work, I have seen a few (though rare) 18/19 month old children who did not shed a single tear. And at the same time, I have seen children who are 3+ who have really bad separation anxiety.

So it all boils down to a few factors:
  • Your child’s personality

Some children are naturally more curious and independent than others and these typically settle down faster
  • Your parenting style

This affects how we have guided, encouraged, aided him/her since young in venturing on his/her own in new environment
  • Your needs / situation

Is there a caregiver at home who can attend to your child or are you a FTWM where there is not much of a choice and you need to send the child to a preschool / childcare centre. 


2) Is half day or full day better? What about flexi-options such as 3 times a week?
This is also largely dependent on your preference and it also depends on the curriculum / activities in school. Some schools have after school activities run by third party vendors or some have specialists running programmes in the afternoon. Parents may want their children to attend these classes. 

At the same time some preschools may have periods in the afternoon (usually after naps) where they will reinforce the concepts / lessons taught earlier in the day. On the other hand, I have met parents who prefer for the child to only stay in school for half a day and some may also bring the child on their own for enrichment classes.

Flexi-care options are usually asked for my parents with younger kids as they wish for the child to settle in slowly. Some may also have other parent-accompanied classes outside and are trying to finish up the term before starting the child on full 5 days.

Based on my experience, some children actually take a longer time to settle down when in flexi-care. This is primarily because “time” is an abstract concept for children until they are in K level and so, they are unable to differentiate / understand what Monday, Wednesday and Fridays are and why they need to go to school on those days as opposed to attending parent-accompanied classes on Tuesday and Thursday.

3) I have been searching and reading online and there are so many choices in Singapore. How do I choose which is the best for my child?
The key words here are “for my child”. Different parents have different purchase considerations as each individual child and situation are different. 

But to share, these are the some factors you should consider:
  • Location
  • Teacher : child ratio
  • Philosophy and Pedagogy
  • Teachers' Qualifications
  • Facilities
  • Budget

Location
From a practicality standpoint, "Location" tops my list. The preschool may be really good or really matches what you like in terms of curriculum but if it is really far from your place, then it will be a concern. Are you able to drop the child off in the morning? What about 'pick-up'? Childcare centres in Singapore operates from 7am to 7pm so your child needs to be picked up by 7pm. Taking into consideration that this will be a mid term commitment of up to about 5+ years, this needs to be weighed carefully. 

Some schools provide bus transport. With a school bus, there are stops made along the way for other students before your child's stop. What is a comfortable "time span" for you and your child? Most bus journeys do not exceed 45 mins (one way). While it is ok for some, it is not ok for others. Also, Singapore's traffic can be quite congested during peak hours and this may affect the duration of the journey too so you will need to be flexible about this as there will be instances where the bus operator gets caught up in a traffic jam. 

Teacher : child ratio
Needless to say, the lower the ratio the better. In Singapore, there is a required ratio by ECDA (Early Childhood Development Authority). Private operators which charge higher fees tend to have a lower ratio to promote small group learning and better dedicated care. With the lower ratio, it also equates to a premium charged.

Philosophy and Pedagogy
Another area to look into is the philosophy and the pedagogy of the school. These typically shape the school's environment and the curriculum. There are many approaches in Singapore and these approaches may be marketed as Montessori, Reggio Emilio, Play-Based, Thematic, etc. It pays to read up on these philosophies so that you can decide which best suits your needs and importantly, your child's personality. I will also touch briefly on these approaches in my next post. :) 

Teachers' Qualifications
I get asked about this from time to time. While some parents look more at experience and ask to observe how the teachers interact with children, there are others who prefer teachers with a Degree in Early Childhood Education. 

Facilities
Some parents may prefer the basic while others may look for gym facilities, libraries, etc. Some parents that I have met also prefer a large outdoor area while some are concerned about the heat and mosquitoes. So it will be worthwhile to look into the daily schedules to understand how often the children are participating say in gym activities and how often they get to go outdoors. Of course, the fees vary according to the expanse of space and the facilities offered. 

Budget
With a lower teacher : child ratio and better facilities (e.g. interactive white boards / a gym with state of the art equipment) the fee varies from preschool to preschool. Even with the same preschool operator, there can be different preschools owned. With different brands / preschools, the focus and the offerings will differ. Some may target at the higher income earners offering larger campuses and teachers with high qualifications while others may target at the middle income households. So your family will have to discuss and work out what is a comfortable amount that you can set aside for the school fee. 

This is the first post of my "All about Preschool" series. Do share this post if you find it useful. 

 

Disclaimer: Though I work in the Early Childhood industry, this post is based on my personal opinions and do not reflect that of my employers / the organization that I work for. The opinions expressed here are 100% my own. 

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1 comment:

  1. peoples think too much in pre school because may be they don't know about the child well and also the first time people think too much.

    ReplyDelete

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