Thursday, 30 August 2012

My idea of a good childcare center

I started to look for a childcare center two weeks back, I visited three centers so far, there are good and bad points and I have not made up my mind on which one yet. In fact I have called a few more to check on vacancies. It is indeed a difficult decision to make! In desperation I went online in search for other people’s feedbacks or advises, I ended in some popular local parenthood forums but I had so say the result was not a very satisfying one. Many people are just as unsure as me. Some are overly negative or criticizing, just because they had one negative experience, they talked bad about the center all the time. Hardly I can have consistently positive comments about any one center.

After I became tired from my online searching I decided to quiet down and reflect, what am I really looking for? What are the things that I hold dear to my heart? What’s the ideal environment I want my child to grow up in? After much thinking it became clearer to me. Prices and locations are actually at the top of the list, but before I start my search, I have already narrowed down the options base on my budget and my living location, hence with them excluded, below are the things that are really important to me, in order of priority.

(1)   Loving and caring principal and teachers

Before you visit a childcare center, you call the center to make an appointment, and you would have a chance to speak to either the principal or the supervisor on the phone, that encounter pretty much can give you a first impression of how the principal and teachers are like. If I call a center and the principal or whoever is in charge is too busy, too occupied and too impatient to answer my queries, I am already not very keen to visit the center.

I called one center two times and I spoke to the principal and supervisor on each occasion and both of them gave me extremely good impression over the phone. They spoke gently, they were very patient answering my questions, and they are genuinely excited at meeting me up. To tell you the truth, this center is now my top 3 options even though I am yet to visit them next week, and the internet has very little information about them.

This is how important a good teacher is to me. I want to see childcare center teachers loving and caring, they also must be patient and encouraging, and they also need to be firm when it comes to disciplining the children, and they should be happy and passionate about their work and the children.

(2)   Emphasize on good behaviors and values

Basically I want to see the teaching not just focus on intellectual development, but also emphasize on children’s character development, especially for the younger age group (Playgroup and Nursery). It is equally important as intellectual development and often it is difficult to correct and un-train later if they are not properly trained from start. Some of the things I would like to see are:

1.      Be polite to people (Saying “Please”, ‘Thank you” and “Sorry”)
2.      Be gentle, kind and caring to others (Helping others, sharing toys with others, show concern to a sick friend)
3.      Be obedient and with good self-control (Be quiet during class, do not play toys when told not to)
4.      Be patient (Taking turns for food/snack, taking turns to play a certain toy)

Two or three year olds are in the sense “social morons” because they are self-centered. Hence it is vital the childcare center preaches these values and ensures they are being emphasized in daily activities.

Of course these things are abstract and hence we can’t tell till we ask the teachers how they conduct their classes or we go for the trial lessons ourselves.

(3)   Environment

Most childcare centers, at least those I have been to, are bright, cheerful and clean. The rooms are organized and you can see display of pictures and artwork everywhere. That’s great. But I would also like to see the place being quiet and homely. There is one center I visited, it was located at the ground floor of a multi-story carpark, hence the area is really spacious, but they do not have separate rooms for different classes, instead dividers are used to separate each class. Although it looked very pleasant and orderly, I was not keen in the center because I can imagine how noisy the whole place is going to be when class starts, especially from the K1 and K2 group, the children will never be able to learn to be quiet and focus. I prefer each class is in a separate room.

Another important criteria for me is spacious outdoor play area. I can’t imagine my child being confined in an air-con room for 11-12 hours a day. I myself will be bored to death if I do, let alone the little children. The ideal childcare center should have an outdoor playground, with organized outdoor activities daily, for the children to get some sun, to run about and work out themselves. Unfortunately a lot of childcare centers at residential blocks (HDB flats in Singapore context) do not have outdoor facilities; hence I am looking at a few centers at the private estate though they are further and slightly more inconvenient to access.

(4)   Curriculum

When you have loving teachers and good environment, the curriculum becomes secondary. Most registered centers do have a well developed curriculum to cover every aspect of a child’s intellectual development, including language, mathematics, arts and craft, music and movement, speech and drama, some even have science and computer class at this young age. Different centers may have different approaches, like I shared before, being it multiple intelligence, or Montessori, or integrated learning approach, holistic approach, child-centered approach, etc.

They all look fine to me and I can hardly tell which is better than the other. Important thing is, I prefer childcare center to do more reading to children and to encourage a love for books. A love for reading will almost lead to excellence in study when the kids are in school. That’s what I believe. And I strongly believe in multi-linguistic, in this aspect, most childcare centers are doing very well. An equal amount of effort dedicated to both English and Chinese, is what I would love to see. Enrichment classes are good but I am most likely going to enroll her only from K1 onwards.

I am still looking and it seems so difficult to find one that meets all the criteria and expectation. Good luck to myself.

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