Living a bicoastal (for lack of a better term) lifestyle affords me a view of two disparate perspectives on virtually most things under the sun. Hong Kong life vs. Manila existence is fundamentally different and this includes prevailing parental opinions on schooling and education.
In Hong Kong most mothers have their unborn children’s schedules jam-packed from birth with their educational strategies mapped out, from pre-school to high school. Their fetus’s name is lodged on waitlists for at least 10 different schools. I exaggerate of course…but not by much.
In Manila I find that there is generally a more relaxed approach to schooling. It’s not the norm to have your children in pre-school by the age of 12 months.
I myself was firmly in the more laidback camp as I believe that children will be in school for many years, why start them off prematurely? However, being an HK resident I always received looks of disbelief whenever I would tell an inquiring mother for the umpteenth time that no Kieran was not on this or that waitlist and no he wasn’t in school yet. I felt well within my rights and comfort zone with this decision. I mean he was only 12 months old for goodness sake. Tiger Mom I sure am not!
After a while the pressure began to wear on us, particularly my husband and he finally told me in no uncertain terms that Kieran needed to start pre-school next year (meaning 2012). I had my hesitations but had heard wonderful endorsements from many HK mummies (who aren’t Tiger moms) about the benefits of schooling at this age. And so despite my reservations about him being too young (he still isn’t 2!) I began the pursuit for the perfect place for my child to start his learning career.
The very first school we toured is the one we ultimately decided on. An authentic Montessori school in the heart of HK. It is not convenient for me as we live out in the “burbs” in HK and it takes me a good 30-45 minutes to get to the school. But convenience wasn’t on my list of priorities when I was searching for Kieran’s entry into education.
Most people have predetermined (and misinformed) notions about Montessori and the method but I was highly impressed with the school and its approach to learning.
Montessori education is characterized by an emphasis on independence, freedom within limits, and respect for a child’s natural psychological development. (Montessori Education. Wikipedia)
My son is a free-spirited, independent, bold toddler who is rambunctious and wild at times. After sitting through orientation and researching the Montessori method we thought this might be the perfect fit for someone of his developing character.
Montessori education is fundamentally a model of human development, and an educational approach based on that model. The model has two basic elements. First, children and developing adults engage in psychological self-construction by means of interaction with their environments. Second, children, especially under the age of six, have an innate path of psychological development. Based on her observations, Montessori believed that children at liberty to choose and act freely within an environment prepared according to her model would act spontaneously for optimal development. (Montessori Education. Wikipedia)
We have been attending Casa Dei Bambini now for 3 weeks and already I notice the rapid progress of not just Kieran but myself. Currently in the PI class, Kieran must be accompanied by a caretaker (and it must be the same one throughout the term). That is me. I just couldn’t fathom a helper taking him as I’m too hands on for that. I believe (unless you are working full time) that it is a parent’s role, not the nanny’s.
As I expected my little one is the rowdiest out of the bunch and one of the most “willful”. The teachers and the directress of the school have been instrumental in my learning of how we have been contributing to Kieran’s misbehavior. While my son is one of the most cariño, loving children I know he also has a defiant, stubborn streak, which has been difficult for me to discipline. Imagine if you will an almost 40 lb little person throwing themselves on the floor or bucking in your arms when he doesn’t want to do something and shrilling at the top of his lungs when he wants something else. Sometimes, I cannot physically manage him when he is in a state as he is stronger than me at times. My husband and I have been at wits’ end many times at how to rectify this kind of behaviour.
Within the first 2 classes, the school directress had already assisted in helping me to guide a marked improvement in his behaviour. I watched Joanna in awe as she handled Kieran with authoritative discipline and followed up with warmth and affection and wanted to be able to emulate this at home. Of course it is never that easy. Joanna had told me that I had been too soft on him and he had developed bad habits to get attention. Thinking back, I realized she was absolutely right as it is usually easier to give in than to continually decree no to everything, physically restrain him and be the perceived bad guy all the time. But by allowing Kieran to “triumph” many times I had unwittingly reinforced his unruly behaviour.
We are a malleable work in progress as all parent/children relationships are, but every class I attend with my son I feel more prepared, more knowledgeable and less like a fish out of water. Sending Kieran to school has proven to be a great decision as he benefits so much from the structured yet free play in different environments(referred to as “work” in class), such as art, math, meal time,etc. It has also been very beneficial for me as a parent to be able to step back and observe and learn from the adult/child interactions and for all invaluable advice I have received so far.
Casa’s mission statement: We believe that a child’s emotional and social development is every bit as important as their intellectual progress. (Casa Dei Bambini, Hong Kong)
I couldn’t agree more and have seen this evidenced first hand in such a short time span. I am excited to see my Kieran’s progress by term’s end!
February 19, 2012 by Amanda Griffin-Jacob