Find out why these parents chose Singapore preschool Between Two Trees Early Learning School for their daughter
Choosing a preschool in Singapore is a big decision, mama. Do you want the resources of a big school, or the intimacy and personal attention of a small school? Is your priority outdoor play, or Mandarin immersion? We recently spoke with Singaporean parents Teri Teo and Gan Ying Quan, who’ve been sending their 2½ year-old daughter, Hannah, to Between Two Trees Early Learning School at Loewen Gardens for the past year.
While citing major factors like the school’s Reggio Emilia-inspired curriculum and its beautiful outdoor and indoor spaces, they also talked about how B2T has helped their daughter blossom as an individual – from gaining independence to speaking Mandarin – all within a supportive, play-based environment surrounded by lush natural greenery. Read on for their candid thoughts, and if you want to know more be sure to visit B2T Early Learning School’s upcoming open house on Saturday, 20 August, mama!
What made you decide on Between Two Trees Early Learning School when choosing a preschool?
We really like that they use the Reggio-Emilia style of learning, which incorporates play-based elements. We’ve always wanted a free environment for our child to grow up; we’re not overly concerned about academics at this stage.
Also, when we first went to an open house, our daughter – who is normally quite shy and clingy – was immediately drawn to a teacher. It was one of those times where we both looked at each other and were like, “Wow!” She just went up to the teacher, and allowed her to play with her, and to carry her. It kind of felt like a sign! Everybody loves the teachers; they’re really great.
The school environment is also really nice. They get to do little things like gardening outside, they make paper from scratch, they paint. It’s just very different – and much more open – from what we’ve seen at other preschools. Not to mention the school building is newly-renovated, so the facilities are really nice.
There’s also a really nice balance of local and foreign kids [there’s about a 50/50 split]. The teachers come from all different countries as well including the UK, Taiwan, and Singapore; so she’s hearing all different types of English.
What’s one aspect of B2T Early Learning School that you think sets it apart from other preschools?
We love that the school is very open, both physically and in their attitudes and teaching. It’s not closed off; there are big windows, there’s a big common area where all the kids from different classes can mingle and interact with each other.
At a lot of other schools in Singapore, you kind of drop your kid off at the entrance, and then they go inside, behind closed doors. We like that drop-off here happens very gradually during outside play, and parents are welcome to stay and interact.
We’ve visited other, bigger preschools and noticed that in all the classrooms, the doors were closed all the time. There’s no common area where the different ages can come together. I also found them to be extremely structured and more academics-focused. I don’t care about structure! This is her childhood, and I want her to be free and able to play. I want to protect that naturally inherent free spirit that a child has, you know?
How would you describe your daughter’s experience at B2T Early Learning School?
It’s funny, we know she’s very different in school! They tell us she’s independent, and talkative (she can be clingy when she’s around us). But here she’s happy, she’s having fun, she’s allowed to do whatever she wants to do, and that freedom has given her a sense of independence.
At B2T the kids don’t all have to do the same activity at once, so if one person wants to read, and another wants to paint, that’s okay! We think it’s worked out really well for her.
How would you describe your experience as parents at B2T Early Learning School?
Teri: Because the school is very small, I feel very comfortable sitting down with any of the teachers or staff to voice my opinions, whether it’s asking questions or letting them know something I’m concerned about. I don’t think in bigger schools that’s possible, because there are more administrative layers and other things to consider.
There’s no situation that’s perfect, but I really like the intimacy and comfort of a small school environment.
What are your thoughts on how project learning and play are integrated into the curriculum?
They really tailor the projects and curriculum to the children’s interests. Nothing is fixed. If they notice the children start to get interested in something, they let them run with it, and that’s a big reflection of the Reggio-Emilia style.
For instance, they were doing a project unit on transportation, and we had made a little cardboard “boat” out of a box we had at home. We asked the teacher, “Would you like to have it? It’s just sitting in our living room.” And we just brought it to school, and the kids painted it, and played in it. And because of it, they extended that week’s topic on transport another full week, because the kids demonstrated such an enthusiasm for it.
It’s kind of nice when the school is small and can be responsive like that, they don’t feel pressured to adhere to a strict curriculum on a certain timeline.
How has the school’s Mandarin immersion curriculum impacted your daughter? Do you speak Mandarin at home?
Teri: [Laughs] Her Mandarin is A LOT better at school than at home! We try to speak Mandarin to her at home, but our primary language is English. If I speak to her in Mandarin, she will listen to me and I can see she understands me, but she won’t talk back to me. However at school I see her talking with her teacher in Mandarin, playing games, singing songs.
She’s actually gotten a lot more Mandarin exposure than I can keep up with as a parent. You know sometimes you forget an exact word, or how you should teach them certain phrases – she’s gotten all of that at school. [Every class has two co-teachers, one who speaks English and one who speaks exclusively Mandarin].
How does B2T differ from your own experience attending preschool and kindergarten in Singapore?
Teri: It’s funny, my mom never believed in sending me to preschool, and she was apprehensive about me sending Hannah when she was 18 months. But now she’s seen the change – Hannah is so happy, she’s outspoken, she’s got so many words just spilling out! – and she’s come around.
Thank you Teri and Ying Quan! If you’d like to find out more about Between Two Trees Early Learning School, mama, be sure to visit their upcoming Open House, where you can tour the school and speak with teachers while children can experience the stimulating and nurturing classroom environment.
All the details!
When: Saturday, 20 August, 9am to 12pm
Where: Between Two Trees Early Learning School, 73 Loewen Road, #01-19/20, Singapore 248843
How much: Free!
RSVP: Click here to register, mama!