While Dan has been busy adjusting to Primary One, Ben has also been busy adjusting to a new school! We moved him out of Kay Poh Road Baptist Kindergarten, the church kindergarten we have come to love and adore, because we moved house, and the journey to KBK was too long.
I am grateful for Gracefields, which is a short 3-4 minute drive from our place.
When I first visited last year, I enjoyed talking to the principal, Mrs Joyce Teo, who came across as nurturing, experienced, not aery-faery or touchy-feely (which I abhor in an educator) and well-balanced. I later discovered she was the former principal of Barket Road Methodist Church Kindy, which was a nice surprise.
Behind Mrs Teo's desk, I read, for the first time, a poster listing out "The Parents' Beatitudes". Here they are--I found them on google and want to reproduce them here:
THE PARENTS’ BEATITUDES
Blessed are the parents who make their peace with spilled milk and mud, for of such is the kingdom of childhood.
Blessed are the parents who refuse to compare their children with others, for precious unto each is the rhythm of his own growth.
Blessed are the fathers and mothers who have learned to laugh, for it is the music of the child’s world.
Blessed are those parents who understand the goodness of time, for they make it not a sword that kills growth but a shield to protect and guide their children.
Blessed are the parents who can say no without anger, for comforting to the child is the security of a firm decision.
Blessed are the parents who treat their children consistently, for this makes children secure.
Blessed are those parents who accept the awkwardness of their growing children, letting each grow at his own speed.
Blessed are the parents who are teachable, for knowledge brings understanding and understanding brings love.
Blessed are the parents who love their children in the midst of a hostile world, for love is the greatest of all gifts.
Anyway, so far, we are quite happy with Gracefields. Facilities wise, they have nice open areas with playgrounds, and their classrooms, though looking a bit worn, are decent, colourful. The overall environment is not "built up", but "spread out", which is nice.
Of course, when looking for a pre-school, facilities are hardly as important as teachers and we were happy to hear that turnover is low at Gracefields, with most teachers being there for 10 years or more, as long as the principal. Indeed, the whole place had the feeling of having "an established culture" with everybody knowing their place and things running smoothly, very much like BRMCK.
Finally, we are really heppy that Gracefields is a Christian kindergarten--when I poked my head during one assembly, I overheard the principal giving the Bible story and saying in her loud voice, "Children, there is ONE WAY TO GOD!" They also sing praise songs & pray during assembly. Even though they are not church-affiliated, I am glad that Ben is able to sing songs and pray to God during school time.
And I am very thankful that Ben has adjusted well--he did not cry during the first day, and walks off happily to class when I drop him off every day.
As I write this, I just returned from Ben's Chinese New Year celebrations at Gracefields. I brought Esther along as well, and first impressions include: (a) it was truly quite a festive and happy time, (b) WOW! So many parents came along--the assembly room was half-parents, half-kids! This is something different from KBK and (c) the principal is quite a jolly lady, a very funny MC and she plays the piano too!
What I am gathering from the Gracefields culture is that what they lack in professional/high-tech/clean/polished environment, a la a $60,000 interior designed renovated flat with shiny marble flooring, false ceiling lights and modern open-air kitchen concept, the kind you find in "Home & Decor", they more than make up for in atmosphere, which is very joyful, stable and calm, and experience. You know what? I'm totally ok with that.
From the parents I talk to, many say the curriculum at Gracefields has helped their kids adjust well to primary school, and many of them have multiple kids in Gracefields.
(As an aside, most parents say the Chinese curriculum is good--which is definitely going to help my kids since we are all monolingual in this family!)
If there was one thing I would complain about, it would be that Gracefields is more expensive than a church kindergarten. Of course, some would say it is not comparable, because at Gracefields, Ben is in half day childcare, meaning more hours and lunch is provided, so of course it is more expensive. However, having to fork out more money, no matter what, does make one feel the pinch. It is true that Gracefields is no where near as expensive as Pat's Schoolhouse, Eton or even, Learning Vision. However, to me, it is a "jump up", and I am still adjusting to that.
I don't think I can expect that if a place is 1.5 times as expensive, than I should expect 1.5 times the academic and teaching standard. However, I am trying to see it that I am paying extra for the flexibility that (longer) childcare hours brings, and, I am paying for the closer proximity to my house, as well as for the more experienced teachers and lower turnover. And of course, it is a Christian school too.
I am also paying for the convenience of being able to put Esther in Gracefields when she turns 2--this would not be possible if Ben stayed in KBK as kindys only accept 3 yr olds and up. Hence, if Ben had stayed in KBK, I would be left to juggle 3 schedules in 3 different locations--ACJS, KBK and whatever-childcare-Esther-ends-up-in. Which would be horrible.
In conclusion, we thank God for bringing us to Gracefields. So far, we have not regretted our decision and it is good to see both Dan and Ben starting "new eras" in their lives. I hope that Ben will find good friends in Gracefields, the same way Dan found good friends in Andrew, Caelan, William and Alvadamar in KBK.
I continue to pray that Ben adjusts well to his new school. Praise God!