Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Some light on the horizon

1) Owain's listlessness re school. I've called several Montessori schools that came highly recommended and the one thing they all have in common is - they're pricey! Per term, you're really looking at anything from $1000 and upwards. So far, I've ruled out P&J (too far and they don't have a bus service that goes as far as Braddell), Bridges (full house, too expensive and a bus service which charges about $200 a month!!), Genevieve's at Newton (too expensive) and Montessori Children House at Newton (definitely waaay too expensive).

For the umpteenth time, I wished we had the Baby Bonus. That would have helped a great deal in defraying costs. Sigh. I also wished that Montessori schools just didn't charge so much. I can understand why though - equipment costs and the need for highly trained staff. These are not so much teachers but facilitators and they must be sensitive to understand each child's learning styles, current rate/interest and direct him to appropriate activities, observe and facilitate. Because this is so, the ratio of facilitator to children must be kept appropriately low.

If only Montessori would be adopted as THE way to teach young preschoolers and then go 'mainstream' in that it would be commonly adopted as pedagogy, then more schools would go the full Monty (!) and govt funding given and costs go down... and oh yes, just another pipe dream.

So I was about to give up when I saw Lumiere Montessori House just a few streets from Riang. Aha! I was a bit wary that this would be another Monty scam job - one of those schools who claim to be Monte but then only offer Monte 'enrichment' or do partial Monte with worksheets, class teaching etc (how can?? It goes entirely against the spirit and philosophy of Montessori!)

But I called them anyway and was pleasantly surprised - they offer a full Monte curriculum! Yes, learning is not teacher-directed but child-directed, yes the children are carefully observed, activities introduced in line with interest/age etc, ratio is 1 teacher to 10 children etc, right down to a 'managed' mixed-age grouping (there is no hard and fast K1 strictly for 5yos, but instead, the K1s and K2s are grouped together). I probably need to find out more when I visit them with Mr Fishball in tow next week, but what I hear sounds promising. They charge $1050 a term. BUT I would not need to pay for bus service (which can be astronomical!) and this gives me room to negotiate with KH - maybe I can foot the Monte bill partially every month? Two sushi meals less a month ought to cover it.

So there is light ahead at the end of the tunnel!

2) Caitlin's crying re remedial class. Its been very very hard getting this girl to go to school without crying. She cries when its time to change into her school uniform, she cries when its time to board the bus, on days when I'm in the office, she cries over multiple phone calls to me in the morning! I've tried reasoning, comforting, being loving, exasperated etc. I just can't figure it out - why is she crying?? And then the weirdes thing is, when she comes home from school, she says "school was fun!" Its like she's a bit schizoid! When I ask why she cries, she gives a whole range of reasons:

"My friends bully me."
"The girls on the bus calls me names."
"They always tell Lao Shi I do something wrong but I don't! Its not my fault!"
"Lao Shi makes me sit in front but its not my fault!"
"I don't understand what Lao Shi says!"
"When I speak Chinese, my friends all laugh at me!"


Yesterday I had to grapple with sending her to school for remedial since dad and mum are now in KL. As usual, she dragged her feet, crying, dripping tears all over the uniform. I was frustrated - because I don't know why and I can't make head or tail out of the reasons she always gives. After a big scolding, she dolefully got her bag, put on her shoes and we walked out silently. Got into a cab and I started thinking: why is she so miserable?

And then instead of thinking: why on earth can't she get her act together and make things easy, I found myself thinking: how can I make this easier for her? So I decided to call the school and left a message for the teacher to call me. Then I called KH and briefly discussed the issue, concluding that if she was so unhappy, so stressed and depressed, we would take her out of remedial. No sense keeping her on because if this carries on, she will just feel even more disspirited and no longer have any interest in learning - which would be a pity since she's actually not too bad at it!

I've gone through her work with her and its not as bad as I thought - she's certainly loads better than Isaac! Chinese spelling usually sees her scoring about 8/10 if not full marks. She tries hard and she picks things up quickly (we can revise spelling just the night before, but she picks up on the words very quickly and retains them - same for English spelling). So it would be a real pity if she developed an aversion, then all would be lost.

I think I also felt better (no longer angry or frustrated) because I was no longer putzing around in the dark about this. I was in control of the situation and I'd made a decision.

So with that intention, I waited for the teacher to call. Lao Shi, in very rapid Beijing-accented Mandarin, told me that Caitlin cries in class, usually at the start of the lesson. But when asked to go and wash her face, she would be better. In class, Cait could even be a bit bossy and 'check on' her classmates, telling them to behave etc. But otherwise, she was okay in class. So we were both stumped as to why she cries and seems so miserable. But either way, before I could request for Cait to be taken off the programme, Lao Shi suggested it herself. She said Cait could do the worksheets reasonably well, speaks the language relatively well, just needed more confidence in her language ability, so she thought Cait did not need to attend remedial anymore. Hallelujah!!

Later that afternoon, I got a call from Cait: "Mummy, I don't feel well. I feel a bit sick."

Uh-oh. But I said matter-of-factly: "No wonder, the way you've been crying in the morning!"

Before she could say anything more, I went on: "Anyway, I have good news. Lao Shi says you don't need remedial anymore."


"You happy? Still feel sick?"

"No-ooo. Really I don't have remedial anymore?" Then she perks up. "Okay mummy, I feel better now! See you tonight!"

I'm glad for her. And I'm glad for me! Hopefully the good vibes with her last for good!

1 comment:

The Chengs said...

Yah, I don't see why she needs remedial.

Daniel was in remedial off & on in P3 & P4. Gee, if your child is stressed out about it, or doesn't have time for remedial, really need to find out WHAT they do in remedial. B/c I found out that all they do is either play computer chinese games or go thru' school homework. Duh, I might as well, not have Daniel's tuition skipped or re-arranged to another timing just for that, right? Then yah, just tell the teacher "unable to make it" for remedial.