The perfect preschool

I can’t find my perfect preschool. I found good ones, but none that had everything I wanted. Here’s a wishlist:

  1. All rounded curriculum – exposure to a wide variety of areas on top of the core skills of literacy, maths and self help such as drama, art, music, sports and dance through a combination of properly trained full time teachers and well chosen enrichment class.
  2. Balanced and organic meals – A sample menu would be breakfast at home, berries with yoghurt for mid morning snack, grilled fish served with quinoa, carrots and brocolli for lunch, wholemeal biscuits and milk for afternoon snack, mixture of brown and white rice cooked with purple cabbage and served with chicken and spinach. Everything should be (i) organic (or wild caught and low mercury varieties for fish), (ii) in good proportion ie roughly 1:1:1 for meat:fiber:carbs (opinions differ for what is good proportion but I’m not THAT fussed as long as its not 90% carbs and 10% other things as is the case in most preschools) and (iii) a bit of each colour – notice there’s green, red, purple and orange in one day’s sample menu.
  3. Fun – school should be centered on all things fun – singing, dancing, art, freeplay, stories, sports and the like. In the process learning points in the areas of literacy, knowledge of numbers, general knowledge, independence morals etc can and should be weaved in. In the older years though (years 5 and 6) there should be a gradual transition towards a more traditional classroom setting so the children can be eased into primary school.
  4. Confidence building – opportunity for failure and performance. The teachers should set up activities that the children can complete independently, failing in the process but laughing about it and going on. There should also be plenty of opportunity for show and tell, performances and the like for the children to learn to present themselves confidently to the public.
  5. Social skills – conducive environment for bonding. Too much individual assignments or worksheet is a bad thing for preschools. The children should spend plenty of time outdoors at the playground where they have the opportunity to play hopscotch with friends or help each other over obstacles, or in indoor play where they can pretend cook for each other etc.
  6. Linguistic skills – For all teachers linguistic accuracy is key. They must speak the language which they instruct in well. This includes teachers who are teaching art or music or seemingly non-linguistic subjects. This is the age where children soak up everything like a sponge so it is key that the teachers speak well, with the correct grammer and pronunciation. The option of taking up more languages such as french, japanese, korean, bahasa indonesia spanish etc is also good.
  7. Facilities – there should be ample outdoor space for children to run about and enjoy themselves, with equipment that will allow them to safely climb, crawl and tumble around according to their abilities. Each classroom should also be carefully thought out and designed – the music room fitted with full length mirrors and proper flooring for dance and music making, the art room well stocked with art materials such as recycled bottles, sticks, pebbles, all sorts of paints, colours, chalks and just lots of odds and ends that can inspire creativity.
  8. Culture – In my case it would be Chinese culture that I hope my children will be rooted in. That includes celebration of Chinese festivals and knowledge of the meanings behind them, knowledge of Chinese classics such as 弟子规, 论语 and 三字经 and some simple poetry. Its probably too much to expect preschoolers to know anything more than that, or to even really know these in depth. But exposure from young is definitely good. Too many Singaporean’s only knowledge of their cultural roots are the foods associated with festivals. I’ve heard many either accidentally or ignorantly say 月饼节 and 粽子节 rather than 中秋节 and 端午节. It will probably be a matter of time before I hear Chinese New Year being referred to as 肉干节 if we do not make efforts to preserve our roots.

I’m asking for too much, I hear you say. Of course I am, partly because the above is my ideal and everyone’s idea of perfect is different.

I’m curious what do other parents look for in a preschool. Does a preschool along the lines of what I described here appeal to mums reading this blog? Will you send your children to a school like this? Is there any important attribute that I’ve missed?

16 thoughts on “The perfect preschool

  1. Sounds like a really wonderful school, even if there isn’t one like it yet 😉 did you read about Emmanuel Stroobant’s chefs cooking meals for his daughter’s school?? So lucky!

    I’m not all that impressed with my son’s school, but at least I’m at home with him so I try to use that time meaningfully. And it’s the most convenient option, which is important when there are so many monkeys to look after!

  2. It’s soooo hard to find a good school that has space! So as long as it fulfills some of my important criteria, such as price, curriculum, good teachers, I usually overlook the rest. If you want everything fulfilled, you must be willing to pay big bucks for it, money which I rather save to bring my girl overseas so that her learning will not be confined to just Singapore 🙂

    • I guess the problem I have is even with paying big bucks there is no school that fulfills all the criteria. I would like to have the option, whether I do shell out the big bucks is another matter haha..

  3. You know…..I’m like really laissez faire about the choice of preschools n it’s more centred around what is most convenient for me rather than what’s the best school for them. But good for you to have high standards.

    I think some activity is better than none, and if the teachers are well intentioned and seem to really enjoy their work,I’m satisfied. Oh of course that the boys enjoy it too is impt, but in think my kids are super adaptable and will enjoy anything! 🙂

    • Sophia is currently at The Children’s Place. I’ve also shortlisted places like Pat’s Schoolhouse, Between Two Trees, Odyssey and St James. Which are the places you’ve looked at?

      • Overall I like TCP but of course it is not perfect. I like that its curriculum seems quite flexible and they seem to have a strong focus on artwork and other fun stuff like “cooking” and waterplay. I don’t like some things about it like the food it provides – I only saw one day’s lunch but I’m not convinced its a balanced diet. If you’d like more details perhaps drop me a mail and I’ll be happy to share.

  4. Hi Elaine,

    Have been reading your blog and now that I’m searching for a preschool for my daughter, I re-read this post of yours. Was wondering if you could share more with me about The Children’s Place. It’s so nerve wrecking trying to find and decide on “the” school. Couldn’t locate your email so I thought I would leave my email instead.

    beverlywoo.bw@gmail.com

    Thanks for your help 🙂

    • Hi Beverly, I dropped you an email, hope you received it. The Children’s Place is great if you’re after a certain type of experience for your child. Its definitely not a worksheets, flashcards type of place.

  5. Hi there, it hs been few years on now, and I guess the school landscape in Singapore has changed just a little (but not too much!). I really agree with you on aspects of the “dream” school. I’ve spent waaaay too long trying to find one. For me, fun, linguistics and nutrition are some of the most important. I would lso add another one, which is “location”. I want it located close to home, and not too close to freeways!!!!!

    So, whilst the Children’s Place and Between Two Trees each look fabulous, but are very far from where I stay. Pats and Odyssey seems okay, but it is getting bigger and bigger by the day and I fear it may be growing too fast to sustain its appeal and becoming to corporate. Eton School House seems like a dream school, but their Thomson branch is right next to six lane freeway! I wondered if you see anything new on scene which you’re aware of? Interesting new techniques? I see a few bilingual and Mandarin immersion schools are popping up around the place. For me, the hunt just continues.

    • Hi Emily, the hunt continues indeed. I’ve completely pared down my expectation to just nurturing of creativity and linguistics and even then am disappointed with Sophia’s current school. Do share if you found anything good!

      • Oh what a shame …. not nice to ever be disappointed! But then again, on the positive, at least it is unlikely the children would feel any disappointment. Do you mind if I ask what the current school is? To me, Blue House seems good (as you would know!) but also is too far away. Bibinogs, Chiltern House and Yuquan all look great online, but none tick enough of my ‘wish list’ to view.

      • It’s Barker Road Methodist Church Kindergarten. It’s not that it’s worse than the average school but I expected more with its popularity and premium status but the teachers were not communicative and Sophia came back picking up Singlish and all sorts of Singaporean rhymes that I don’t like, like “copy cat, see the rat, go home let your mother slap…” Mandarin didn’t improve either. I heard Yuquan is good for Mandarin. So is Glory Presbyterian.

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