Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Lumiere Montessori House

Yesterday I brought Owain to Lumiere for a look-around.

Lumiere is one street away from Riang and about 5min walk from home. It is a single storey bungalow with its own garden and small playground.

The director of the school, Eileen Pillai, welcomed us warmly and showed us around. The school was not big, with only about five classrooms and one small pantry, which led to a shaded outdoor area. I thought the school seemed to have all the Montessori equipment but I can't be sure since I am not familiar with the whole range. It was airconditioned, neat and clean.

For me, its not so much how new or how complete the equipment is, but the mindset and attitudes of the teachers. I spoke with the lao shi for a while as she showed me how she taught Chinese. While there are some worksheets, the mindset is different - it is not worksheets given for worksheets sake, but just to reinforce actions learnt in class. More often than not, there are activities like piecing together Chinese strokes to make a word, or doing matching of Chinese words on laminated cards, or playing games. One way in which she demonstrated stroke practice is to have the kids practise the stroke using finger paints, then using brush strokes, then using coloured pencils, which I thought looked fun! The other was to use coloured markers to practise writing the strokes by tracing it over the character on a plastic-laminated sheet, wiping it off and starting again. They also had sandpaper strokes on individual cards.

Every child had his/her own file and with a checklist of skillsets they need to obtain by a certain date. So what a child learns is tailored to fit his/her needs. This is so in Chinese class and in the main Montessori class. The approach is very different from the usual one-size-fits-all mainstream kindy's. Even class structure is quite loose in that K1 and K2 are kept together and learn together and so on. There is no strict rule to say that K1 is ONLY for 5 year olds.

In fact in Owain's case, Eileen felt that if he came in, it would be better to keep him in the Nursery group for a while until he copes better, possibly considering a shift to the K1/K2 grouping by end of the year. I'm okay with that - in no hurry.

She gave him some tasks just to have a quick check to see what he is capable of, and to observe him while he's engaged on task. She agreed that his hand strength could be better, said that he seems more of a visual learner, that he was carefully watching her and paying attention when she spoke and gave instructions to him. There was no doubt about his strong cognitive ability and she felt that he was more of a hands-on sort of boy and would learn best like this. I agreed with her observations.

We chatted about some other things as well, and generally, as I told KH later, I had very good vibes about her, about the school. I liked her very much. She was, I tried to describe, like a mix of Melissa our therapist friend and Helen, a colleague of mine whom I absolutely respect and get along with. She came across as someone who is very straight, honest with me, clear in her thinking, respectful of children, gentle, compassionate, creative in her approach. And I like that she's still breastfeeding her 3yo who was there, and her 18mo, that she's very pro-attachment with kids and yes - she's Catholic too! So I feel that we have a lot in common and we're on the same page on many issues.

I came away with a good feeling. What's left is to check with Owain about what he really wants. And to grapple with my feelings for changing school. I do regret that we have to change schools. I still like Magdalene's Kindergarten very much and it was very good for Caitlin. I suppose it's just about getting a different fit for every child. It's just that my gut feel tells me that MK is not the right fit for him.

I feel sad that Owain will lose his friends - those names that he spouts so often eg Meg-Gayle, Phoebe, Jason, Matthew etc. I feel sad that he will no longer learn the songs he likes, come home and sing/perform those for me anymore. (We especially get such a kick out of watching him recite the Lord's Prayer in garbled Chinese!) I am not looking forward to writing that letter of withdrawal. I do feel a pang at having to withdraw him.

It can be quite unsettling and stressful to pull out of a school and start a new one! I'm also worried about him making the adjustment. Eileen has been kind enough to offer to let Owain come in for half an hour during Outdoor Play sessions and Circle Time to familiarise himself with the teachers, the other children etc before starting school proper.

KH has more or less given the go-ahead but I think I would want to check with Owain again to be very sure.


tree hugger said...

i found this blog so helpful! we just moved to singapore 3 months ago, and recently to a condo near jalan riang. i'm now looking for a pre-school/montessori for my 2-year-old son and saw lumiere while driving around. now i'll defninitely check it out. how's your son doing now? are you happy with lumiere? hope you can find time to reply. thanks again!

Coco said...


It was benefiting reading your blog : )

I am thinking of placing my son in Lumiere, will like to know more about the school, teacher Eileen and Chen Lao Shi.