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.
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! 😉
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.
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.
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! 🙂
*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)