School Time

School time with J is slowly getting more organized and built into our routine. I try to do school with J every day after work, and a little more on Saturday if I can.

As J's attention span and concentration skill improves, we have also weaned away from "Montessori on a Potty" when he was a toddler (to keep him focused and staying in one spot) to "Montessori on a Mat".

Typically, this is how our curriculum looks like currently, although it is still undergoing change as our School Time matures to take its own characteristics. 

4 Concept Components

It consists of 4 concept components, namely:

1. Montessori Time
2. Blanket Time
3. Desk Time
4. Quiet Time

Here is my philosophy behind School Time:

1. Montessori Time

Montessori activity teaches learning in a concrete and tangible way. Montessori activity uses materials other than books and offers sensory experiences, mainly touch, through the child working with the materials. I am currently looking into implementing Montessori Maths Programme to be ready when J is at elementary school age. Montessori as I have found teaches Maths in a very concrete way - brilliant!

We also include jigsaw puzzles in Montessori Time, although we hardly do jigsaw puzzles, as J is not a big fan of it. I have to follow J and at the same time, gently encourage him to play with jigsaw puzzles.

We started Montessori on a Potty Activity when J was two years old, to prevent him from running around, but seated on a potty.

Now that he is older and could sit still for a longer period of time, we have now moved on to Montessori on a Mat Japanese style with 2 cushions. This helps to brings an orientation to where the child should sit and brings a greater sense of order to the Montessori activity. He is not confined to just the cushions, and is allowed to move around, but the cushion will bring him back to where he should be every once in a while. Here is the presentation:

2. Blanket Time

After hands-on Montessori-style activity, this is followed by Blanket Time, which we have started since J was a baby. Currently, we will read 3 books together on the blanket or carpet, if J has taken his nap in the kindergarten. If he has not taken his nap, we would only read 1 book. This is not to punish him, but to take into account his degree of tiredness.

During Blanket Time, we also do rhymes and songs, and board games, if we have the time (so far, we do not have the time for board game).

3. Desk Time

It is a well-known advice from many child development books that in order to encourage a life-long love for books, we have to read to our babies from the day they are born. I believe firmly in that too for school.

In order to encourage a life-long love for school, I think that it is important to start doing school early with our children, as soon as they are developmentally ready. School for us is represented in a tangible way by Desk Time - i.e. the child sits on a kid's size chair with a kid's size table and do homework.

It should be pleasant and fun, so that the child will recall with fond memories about school. Hopefully this will counter the negative experience children often get, when they enter real public school at real school age. Desk Time will be their first encounter with school, and this first encounter will set the attitude they get about the pleasure of doing homework and learning, and carry them through through hard times in real school. So be sure that you are the one to shape their attitude with your concept of school and not the school that they enter at school age.

During Desk Time, J will work on learning that requires patience, concentration and determination such as colouring, writing, doing worksheets or workbooks. Actually many of the workbooks are very fun and colourful and in themselves mini "Montessori-style" activities in print.

The advantage is that it does not require material preparation as compared to Montessori activity. As such the child gets exposed to many many different scenarios, which is not possible with Montessori, as it is limited by the need to prepare materials, and to have the materials available for preparation. However, the disadvantage is that the sensory and 3-dimensional experience is missing in Desk Time. But this is off-set and complemented by Montessori Time as part of School Time. In fact, as iron sharpens iron, I very often find myself getting creative ideas on how to implement Montessori-styled activities from the ideas from the Chinese and Singaporean workbooks. The Desk Time and Montessori Time, as I find, is thus a 2-way exchange. The Desk Time and Montessori Time, as I find, is thus a 2-way exchange. Here, I believe that I am learning to integrate the best from two cultural approaches to learning - the Chinese (Eastern) way and the Italian (Western) way. Both are important and have value.

I believe that cultivating Desk Time from young is important in the long-run for a child to develop the ability to concentrate in school.

4. Quiet Time (QT)

We end School Time with memorizing a Bible verse, learning a biblical lesson and singing a Christian song. I am actually not too pleased that this is the last item in School Time, since God is the most important in our lives, we should give Him first place also in School Time. But our School Time is still taking shape and I have started to introduce QT only recently. I will slowly work on it with prayer.

5. Bed Time

Not listed as a component is the fifth one called Bed Time, as this is carried over from J's bed time tradition. We would recite Tang dynasty poems in his bed. He would always ask for this. We also include the Singapore National Athem occasionally as part of his heritage education.


How long does a typical School Time take?

So far on average it takes 1.5 hour, which is less than 10% of my time a day. Preparation of materials takes approx. 30 mins - 1 hour a week. Reading up is the one that takes time, however, it is because I love to research and read up. Thus, it is like a leisure time activity for me. Reading time could be reduced to 30 min - 1 hour a week. If you does not like to do research, you are welcome to just copy what I am doing with J :-) Try it! It is all worth it!

I am waiting to see whether there will be any emerging trend. In general, it depends on the desire of J, and usually he could not have enough of School Time. I suspect that it is because he doesn't want to go to bed.

I find that J is most motivated to do school in the evening and he could do school for a long time until I have to say stop. It is a different story if it is in the morning or afternoon. 

As a result, it has caused delay to J's bed time to 8.30pm. Currently, J's School Time starts from 6.30pm - 8.30pm, but I hope to bring it forward to 6 - 7.30pm.

How do I start?

You do not have to implement all 4 components at once, if this is the first time you are doing school with your child, as it can be overwhelming. You can start with one component at a time until your child is ready for the next component.

Sample School Time

Here is a sample from our School Time today based on the 4 concept components:

1) Montessori Time: Number recognition with stickers
Component 1) Montessori Time: Number recognition with clock puzzle.
This was requested by J. I took the opportunity to teach him the concept of time, which he seemed to grasp well. For example, I say, "This is the number 3. Can you find the puzzle for number 3?" He would show it to me. I would ask, "Can you show me 3 o'clock?" And he would move the hand of the crown to the number 3.

J showing me 8 o'clock by moving the hand of the crown to the number 8
Component 2) Next was the Blanket Time - Daddy reading Danish books to J using Thomas the Reading Frog

Thomas the reading frog was a reading program introduced by J's kindergarten. His teachers told us the concept and encourage us to borrow the Reading Frog back home for a few days. We did that. J enjoyed it very much. I really appreciate Daddy's help with School Time. While he took over this component for today, I quickly went to take a shower.

Component 3) Desk Time: Doing English workbook
Desk Time: Tracing horizontal lines. J narrated on his own iniative after me saying "from left to right, from left to right".
Next, it is from right to left, from right to left
Moving on to Chinese workbook with some Montessori-style exercises, but on paper
Component 4) Quiet Time: Memorizing with mommy a verse.

We focused on Matthew 6:33 this evening
The Bible verse I tried to teach J to memorize today is "Seek ye first the kingdom of God." - Matthew 6:33. We sang this song together and J was moved. He then repeated after me the verse. It helped with the song.

We read a book about Jesus from the Rhyme Bible

Doing school time with J means that I would have less social life. To this, I am reminded of my own mum. My mum is popular among her friends due to her easy-going personality and perhaps also due to her charming great looks (unlike me who has a difficult personality to say the least), but yet she hardly went for social events. I once asked her why, and she said that life as a housewife was extremely busy with many chores to do, and children to attend to. In addition, socialization also cost money. It was something that my mother have counted the cost, and have never regretted. Although I am not a stay-at-home mom, but a working mom, I found my mother's words to be very true.

Many Danes hire nanny so that they can go out and socialize with their friends. When I was growing up, our family was poor then, and my mum would not be able to hire nanny so that she can go out with her friends. But as a result I have benefitted from my mum's presence in terms of quantity of time and quality time. It is sometimes a blessing not to be too afluent and well-off. Our economic situation has improved a lot since my mother's times, but I am following in my mother's footsteps. I am not considering to hire any nanny so that I can go out and socialize. Having worked 5 days a week, weekends are reserved for our child, where we can spend both quantity and quality time together.

Doing School Time with J also means that I have to tread with care and wisdom in order to retain balance in the family life. This requires loving support from my Superstar, to which I am very grateful.

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