Preschool with Mommy

Kana, the girl who can't sit still.

Kana, the girl who can’t sit still.

Our eldest turned three this year. Following the school age guideline in Singapore, she would have been a Nursery One student had she attended a preschool. Instead, we have a unschooled preschooler wandering around the neighborhood daily. It’s of little wonder that I get “Is she not going to school yet?” question from well-meaning neighbors every now and then.

As a single income family, we need to be careful in allocating our budget. Things of necessity take precedence over things of desire, and if we can afford to do things ourselves without hiring vendors, we allocate the saved money to other important things.

Playtime with the neighborhood kids.

Playtime with the neighborhood kids.

Early childhood education (preschool) happens to fit in our DIY-able item list. Reasons being first, I am staying at home with the kids; we have child-care issue taken care (preschools cum child-care institutions are among the main supports necessary for families with both parents working). Second, the basic curriculum for 3-6 year old preschoolers is one that most parents can teach. And finally, the financial cost of attending a preschool is significant, with some preschools charging fantastic fee.*

Spared from the expense of the early childhood education, we channeled the money into the girls’ tertiary education savings bond. Another good thing about doing our own Preschool is we get to customize the curriculum and decide on how many holidays in the school year, yay! 😉


Clockwise: Spotted a “Cauliflower Mushroom”. Close encounter with bird pets of the neighborhood’s birds lover uncles. Picking some ‘blueberry-like’ fruits. Feeling the texture of a snail.

Our curriculum for the N1 level is light and easy. Although there are intentions and rationale for doing what we do, we are basically living the normal every day. We put focus on character building, outdoor play, nature exploration, language development, and peers and cross-age interaction.

A typical day of ours looks like this:

Three year old Kana wakes up at 8 AM. She is tasked with helping to make the bed and getting changed herself. We have breakfast together, she helps herself during meals.

We have a habit of turning on music on the CD player when we are at home (I prefer classical music and she loves her Chinese children songs and Bible songs). While I am preparing for cooking in the kitchen, Kana entertains herself and her baby sister, Mila. Sometimes she browses through her books and (pretends to) read out to Mila, or makes up some play with whatever we have in the house. Most of the time, she is busy drawing.

When I am done with the preparation we go for our outdoor time. Some days, it’s a walk around the neighborhood, getting to know the community and experiencing the hustle and bustle of the market and coffeeshops. Other days, it’s playing at the garden behind our block, picking some berry-like fruits, spotting lizards and basking themselves in the sunshine for their daily dose of Vitamin D.


Clockwise: The garden and playground behind our block. A happy girl with her harvest. Picking the fallen Batoko plums found along our morning walk trail.

At 10 AM some neighborhood kids who have just finished their preschool session join us to play. While the children interact with each other, the mothers get to sit and chat, intervening in intervals when childish conflict arises. There are also mothers who practice non-immediate intervention, allowing the children to work out their own disputes. One of Kana’s regular playmates is from the latter group, and we enjoy the opportunity she gets to hone her social skill in the face of conflicts.

We are back at home at 11 AM for shower and lunch, followed by nap time at 1:30 – 3:30 PM. Kana gets to pick a story before nap, her favorites are from “The Book of Virtues” by William J. Bennett, “The Jesus Storybook Bible” by Sally Lloyd-Jones, and “Maths with Mummy” by V. Zhitomirsky and L. Shevrin.

Snacks are served at 4 PM. On DVD days (usually Mondays and Thursdays) the girls get to watch a short episode from Qiao Hu. Non DVD days will be filled with free play. Occasionally, we do alphabet, numbers, Bible memory verse and Chinese character recognition. She then helps to babysit Mila while I take a shower.

At 5:30 PM we are out again for play time at the playground with the neighborhood kids. At 6:45 PM Hubby fetches us home.

Clockwise: Three year old Kana is drawing. "The Lady in Her New Shoes". Reading to baby sister.

Clockwise: Drawing. “The Lady in Her New Shoes”. Reading to Mila.

Our conversation is carried out in Chinese on Sunday, Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and in English on Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday. She speaks in Indonesian with her Daddy.

Some extras to add will be her once a week Chinese lesson at a nearby Chinese enrichment center (where she also gets to do art and crafts, singing, dancing and gets a feel of a classroom), our monthly trip to the Singapore Zoo (thanks to the free facility from Hubby’s working place) and our visits to various parks throughout the island.

It’s November and we conclude our N1 year with a thankful heart to God. We seek His continuous blessings and guidance as we embark on a life long journey of learning, of which the ultimate end is the knowledge of God and His glorification. The whole things are not geared towards producing a leader of tomorrow or giving any kid a head start over anyone. But we are certain there’s plenty of learning going on for the children every day, even as they play, precisely because they play.

Now, there are many great preschools and passionate early childhood educators out there, if it’s within your budget and your child thrives in the environment, that’s wonderful! But if as parents you have concerns or limitations for sending your little ones to a preschool, know that you can still support their learning in many great ways. 🙂

P. S: Are you considering doing your own ‘Preschool with Mommy’ too? If you are doing something similar, how does a day in your ‘center’ look like? I would love to hear and learn from you! Ideas and inputs from parents of preschool attending children will be valuable too! 🙂

Clockwise: Feeding a giraffe. Conquering a 'Crocodile'. Our Nature Tray.

Clockwise: Feeding a giraffe. Conquering a ‘Crocodile’. Our Nature Tray.

*For Singapore Permanent Resident, the yearly school fee estimation for N1 level is as follows:
SGD 2,400 for PCF run preschools (2 hour session)
SGD 5,000 for church run preschools (3 hour session)
SGD 15,000 – SGD 28,000 for branded preschools cum child care centers (half day/full day)

Mommy, Can You Hug Me?


Our eldest daughter loves to pose this request multiple times a day. Sweet as the request should sound, I hate to say that often in the midst of a hectic day, I find it borderline a nuisance, a constant distraction to my flow of work.

But let’s admit it, little children is distraction. We cannot effectively hug them, or talk to them, or tell them we love them while at the same time carrying on with whatever busyness we are in.

Hugging a little child requires us to get down on our knees and use both our arms.

It’s this constant distraction that acts as a reminder to what our principal duty as parents is. Lest we get too carried away in the busyness of providing for our children yet fail to respond timely to their need for our presence.

After all..
The messy house will soon be free of scattered toys and crayon marks.
The overtime and endless office works aren’t likely to cease.
And the company we are building may not even be there to accompany our graying, lonely souls.

It’s just a matter of time, when their little bodies, little souls, are no longer so little, that we are needed to kneel down and hug them no longer.

“You know that the beginning is the most important part of any work, especially in the case of a young and tender thing; for that is the time at which the character is being formed and the desired impression is more readily taken.” – Plato’s Republic

Enfant Roi


At 12 months old, she has mastered the art of tantrum throwing.
I believe this milestone is generally achieved by babies this age; if yours has not, worry not, she will soon.

Her favorite moves are:
lying flat and/or rolling on the ground,
pouting and turning her back against you while trying to figure out how you react through the corner of her little eyes,
and of course the all time favorite high pitched wailing.

She enjoys high rate of success.

We figured out one of the things that contributes to us losing the power battle is our not knowing that she actually knows what we thought she doesn’t know. (It’s the moment you tell the older sibling “Quick, don’t let your baby sister see you eating French fries!” thinking that the not-yet-speaking baby understands no words. That’s right. The story ends with the baby getting some forbidden fries too, obviously.)
It seems that she knows Sun Tzu, “if you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles..”

It’s not that we have not been informed before. My late paternal grandmother aptly referred to these little creatures in Hokkian as “Bo Ceng Hu” – literally translated as rulerless/lawless (she was referring to me and my cousins). And to quote Rev. DR. Stephen Tong, “Babies are barbarians with angelic looks.” A perfect combination that draws out both the best and worst in each parent. (Bless God for their angelic looks! Surely, it makes coping with their nonsense a little bearable.)

Parenting is a humbling experience. For against such creatures, holders of Degrees to PhDs are often rendered helpless. How not? We are charged with moulding infants who are in born self-centered kings into responsible and contributing members of society, and if you are people of faith, God-glorifying individuals.

To cultivate in them self-control, without nipping the emotions in the bud.
To teach them honesty, but not at the expense of kindness.
To practice frugality as virtue, and yet grow a charitable heart.
And to demand from them obedience, without instilling fear that leads to bitterness.

Is this duty possible for man? Not without God’s hands.

“But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties. So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?” – King Solomon