Sonny boy had his first farewell yesterday. It was the last working day of his first school.
And it set me walking down memory lane, for Sonny boy is too young to do that.
We started looking at a playschool for Sonny boy when I was planning to start work again. We looked at around 4 or 5 schools that were in the vicinity, but Sonny boy wasn't majorly interested. As we stepped out of each school, we'd ask him:
Sonny boy, is this school nice? Shall we go to this school?
And he would reply with a sometimes mulling, sometimes emphatic NO.
To be quite honest, we were quite disappointed too.
School A had a mallu lady, which we thought might be helpful, as she would be able to understand the Mallu-English jumble that he spoke. But that she lived on the second floor and had her playschool on the third totally put me off. I didn't want to spend my time in office having nightmares of him falling down the stairs like Jack, and breaking his crown.
School B was Montessori, these were the persons who actually got me interested in Montessori, but the place was a little cramped. Besides, I didn't like the ayahs there.
School C was the playschool of a regular school, but they seemed a little too eager to get Sonny boy admitted immediately. They seemed to think that they didn't need to tell me anything about their school and their values, except that we had to pay X amount as admission fees. While I did want Sonny boy to value money, I didn't want him to think money was the beginning and end. so it was NO to that school too.
School D was nice actually, it was a biggish house, with a garden and trees and all that, as a playschool for a kid who lived in a flat, I thought it quite ideal. But- it was closed, and there wasn't any telephone number for us to call and check either. And Sonny boy was getting cranky by now.
The Acha and I had had enough. We decided to turn for home. It was then that we made an impulsive decision to take a look at M Montessori School. It was a two storey building, but here, the school as such was in the basement and on the ground floor. They had a garden, which was predominantly potted, but still quite pretty. A nice lawn, with a sliding board on it, and also a duck see-saw. We went inside and were met by the Director of the school. She told me rather distantly that she normally met parents only by appointment, and when we apologized for butting in just like that, she unbent and said it was ok and that she'd show us aound. She took us personally around.
I liked what I saw. The classrooms were basically large rectangular halls, with work benches lining the walls. It was airy, bright, spacious, uncluttered, CLEAN. No garish posters adorning the walls. No bright colours either, which was a marked difference from every other school we had seen. Instead of blue/ yellow/ red/ green, the walls were a muted cream, and everything seemed to kind of blend in. Later I was told that this was a montessori prionciple of not letting too many things distract the child from the work he/she had to do. The toilet was very clean too. But what had me hooked was the equipment they had. I was clean zapped with the beauty of the Montessori system of education.
Everything seemed to facilitate the child learning lucidly and with delight. Practical experiments rather than just bookish learning by rote. Basic concepts were made so simple with those materials and seemed to pave the way automatically for further enthusiastic learning...
Matters were helped not a little by the fact that the Director was passionate about the Montessori system. That passion was infectious. Even before we finished going over everything, I was quite decided that I would love my son to have his first taste of learning there. But the deciding authority had to be consulted. We looked for Sonny boy. He had been taken by one of the ayahs to play on the slide which had in the meantime been brought indoors and was delightedly occupied. On our way out, we asked him :
Sonny boy, shall we go to this school?
Pat came the reply. Yes.
There was no need for any further mulling by either us or him, we were both unanimous in that we liked the school.
The first days were not easy. Sonny boy cried heartbreakingly the first day, when he saw that I was going away leaving him behind. But Ms. R (the Director) told me sensibly that the more he saw us, the more he would cry, and so she asked us to be brave for him , and leave him. We left him crying in her arms. (not in an ayah's). I noticed that she did this with each new child. The end of that first week saw Sonny boy going to school happily.
There were regular observation days, where parents were called in to observe what work their child was up-to-date with. And these were the times when I was amazed with how organised and systematic Sonny boy was at school. A place for everthing and everything in its place was something that was ingrained from day 1. (sadly I have not been able to incorporate the same at home)
And this was also where I noticed and admired how much smarter the little girls were, compared to the little boys. They talked better, grasped better, worked more efficiently and were cuter than the boys. Before I could start feeling that my son was a dud, Ms. R told me laughingly that the girls were always ahead of the boys in the younger years.
There were sessions with the child's teachers too, where we were given an idea of how they behaved at school and what they liked doing and what they did not like- workwise. His first teacher told me that Sonny boy loved songs and loved the outdoors. The first was nice- she often got ideas from him as to how to enact a rhyme, but the latter was difficult- he would always be running off outside to play on the lawn...
Two very busy years were spent in that school. Sonny boy learnt his sounds and his numbers and his vowels and his alphabets. He learnt how to put his shoes on, and how to remove his buttons and how to put them on. He drove me mad with the way he would roll up the door mats at home like he would the work mats at school. He made friends and had his first crushes. (oh yeah! he's his father's son alright) Addition and subtraction and spellings are currently what he's on. And Hindi too.
But, he had to move anyway, since M Montessori School has classes only up to M3 level. Which meant that if he moved after M3, Sonny boy would have to join UKG when he moved to a regular school, where he could be till his 10th or 12th. Which was a dicey thing, definitely more difficult than getting in through LKG. So we looked at other schooling options for Sonny boy commencing for this academic year. The school Sonny boy will be going to come June is not a Montessori school. And I am utterly sad about it. But the only option we have that has Montessori up to the higher classes is in a totally different direction from both our offices as well as home. Not a workable option at all.
But I do have one thing to console me. While looking at schools this time round too, we had looked at a few. This time too, Sonny boy was very clear. The minute he saw X school, he said: "I go this school!" He has been very clear about this through all the other school interviews he's been through. (I was actually scared he'd blurt out - I don't like you. I only like X school! ) He went around telling everybody and their aunt that he was going to go to X school. This when we had only just bought the application forms. When it came to a last choice between schools, he started crying, saying he only wanted X school, he didn't want any other. Made the decision easier for us. Because this time, his Amma is not so confident. And a school is a big thing in your life.
God grant that you be as happy- happier if possible- in your new school as you were in your old one, dear Sonny boy.
4 days ago