I have not done any research on childcare curriculums before I start to search for a childcare center for Kah Yen. It seems there are many different methodologies out there. Multiple Intelligence – heard about it from my own community involvement last time; Montessori – kind of know what it is about yet can’t fully comprehend it; others like integrated learning approach, thematic approach, holistic teaching, child-centered teaching etc all sound like the same thing with a different name to me.
Anyway, the fact is, every childcare center seems to adopt a different way of teaching, and since I am not an early childhood education expert, I decide to choose childcare center base more on location and environment and price, and as for the curriculum, I let my first impression guide me.
I went to visit this childcare center yesterday. The distance is a bit far from where we are going to stay but the environment is lovely. It is a three-storey bungalow located in a quiet private estate, with big outdoor play area, which is definitely a draw for me. Every classroom is bright and full of display of children’s artwork. I met a principal who is young and passionate and extremely friendly. I went there after a long day’s work and more than an hour of traveling but meeting her kind of made my day. Back in my mind I have already decided this childcare center is going to be in my top 3 list.
Everything seems to be perfect. Now it is time to find out more about the curriculum. I was told their approach is integral. They don’t have separate classes for Language or Math or Science, all these will be integrated into one single lesson. That sounds perfectly all right to me. Then she went on to explain that their teaching materials is also theme-based, which means each term there is a theme and all the teaching will resolve around the theme. For example, the theme for this term is Flower & Plant, and the next may be Transport.
I don’t know if other childcare centers also adopt the theme-based approach. From a layman’s point of view, I just feel that it might be too restrictive and the children’s exposure will be limited - spending a term of three months studying about one subject. Okay I am not a flower expert but how many things you have to teach them about flowers which can last you 3 months? Different species of flowers, different colors of flowers, flowers grow in different continents and seasons, how does a flower grow? How to grow a garden? … The list may go on a bit longer but you see, I have no intention of my child becoming a flower expert at two years old.
I am not an early childhood education expert but I did read books like “Magic Trees of the Mind: How to Nurture Your Child's Intelligence, Creativity, and Healthy Emotions from Birth Through Adolescence” (Okay, I did not read, I flipped through, ‘coz the book is too thick and too full of research and data for an ordinary parent like me to read it in detail.) I knew how powerful a child’s mind is. They can understand and absorb information much faster than they learn to talk. At two years old, they are learning 10-20 new words each day. And I can’t imagine they spend three months hearing only words like flower, garden, roses, violet etc everyday.
And talking about transport, Kah Yen at the age of one-and-a-half, already knew scooter, bicycle, motorbike, car, bus, train, truck and airplane (though she may not pronounce all of them accurately yet), in fact her interest in transport has grown further to lorry and forklift and even excavator, thanks to the new building project right behind our block. Just last week I borrowed from the library this book “Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site” – a delightful read-aloud picture book for the truck-loving toddlers and preschoolers, and she won’t get her eyes off the pictures.
I personally believe that our children should be exposed to more variety of reading materials at a young age. My idea of a childcare center should have different themes for different day of the week, and then repeat the same for every week. For example, Monday we can have flower or garden theme, from there we can also teach colors and weather. Tuesday we can have animal theme, from there we can teach numbers and also virtues such as kindness to animals. Wednesday we can have transport, from there we can also teach about sizes, for example scooter is small and motorbike is big, train is long and bus is short. Thursday we can focus on manners and behaviors by reading books on them. Friday we can be slightly flexible, we can even expose them to feelings and emotions. How does that sound?
So that I don’t have a toddler coming back from school asking me what a “Bouvardia” is. I knew nothing about flowers you see, I just googled that up.