School daze- What makes a good preschool for my daughter?
The trials and trepidation of finding a preschool- A loving father puts his best foot forward for his daughter's first step into school.
A nice swing set, lots of learning toys, a big yard, a couple of slides, no schoolbooks, monkey bars…
Okay scratch that, no monkey bars!
What else could I add or scratch to make her space the best for her? It was time to send my little one into the big bad world and away from home. You might imagine, I am talking of college or marriage, but I think that might be easier than that first day of school.
Could a school, especially a preschool be more than just books and alphabets, yet provide structure and discipline? The basic requirements of a good preschool are caring teachers, and a safe and secure place. As a father, I needed these boxes checked at my daughter’s first school. But I also wanted so much more. I wanted her to enjoy her time there from the very first day. I wanted her to have a uniform, but not burdened by an over-stuffed backpack. I wanted her to look forward to every single minute she spent there, either interacting with her guides or even just by herself, exploring a world outside our home and discovering herself.
Add to this the list of requirements from the other parent involved- my wife, and it seemed a herculean task. A free environment was a common prerequisite, but she also wanted it to be small, where our daughter would get the attention she needed and deserved and not just be one in the crowd. She wanted it to be away from the maddening traffic and main roads and in a quiet place where you could hear the birds sing instead of the rush of trucks and buses. Having observed our child over a period, we knew that she enjoyed being among the flowers, birds and butterflies. She also likes to read books like the dragon toothache.
Phew! A long list of requirements for a preschool, you think? But the list didn’t end there either! We wanted a school that was independent and not affiliated to any of the bigger schools in the city. We felt that when the time comes to move on to a bigger school, we would want to keep our options open. At one point, when we couldn’t find any such school, it looked like we had to either homeschool little N, or perhaps start a school of our own!
I was anxious just as any parent would be, because I wanted my daughter to enjoy her first steps to learning, her interactions with the outside world and doing things on her own. What we desired for our daughter was a place or a medium that would help her just be, and blossom at a pace that is natural to her, for education should never be an effort but a journey that a child is willing to take up.
We considered alternative schooling methods such as Montessori and Waldorf. After observing her on the first day of visiting, we knew that she was eager to settle into Montessori and explore all the material there. Montessori emphasises the need for material that is soft on the senses- such as wooden toys, straw mats and an earthen room. Indeed, on the first day of school, we even had to drag her home after all the other kids had left!
Thankfully, our search ended at Nebula Montessori in the quiet by lanes of central Bangalore. To say that we found all our collective requirements fulfilled here would be an understatement.
But the best part? When little N asks us every single day when the school holidays will end so she can go back to painting and pottery, we know that on some level, she has guided us towards making the right decision too.