“Mama, my sandals!”
“Shall we rest at home today?”
“I don’t want to rest at home.”
Wow! I was surprised when Travis expressed his desire to go to school despite having the option to stay home. He had been absent from school for the past couple of days due to a runny nose and cough. In the morning, we spent time colouring, cutting, pasting, and playing with magnetic tiles. However, now I knew that these activities didn’t compare to the excitement Travis felt about going to school.
Putting my surprise aside, I couldn’t help but notice that just three months ago, Travis used to wake up every morning declaring energetically, “No school today!” only to burst into tears when I reminded him that it was a school day. We struggled through the routine of getting him ready, finishing breakfast, and eventually dropping him off at school, often accompanied by more tears.
Now, I was grateful that we had found a supportive community where Travis genuinely enjoyed being and felt safe to learn and explore the world without us.
The process of scouting for a preschool had been an interesting new experience for me. Being part of a parents’ chat group with my former co-working community, I discovered that there were numerous factors to consider when choosing the right school for our little ones. From educational approaches to teachers and daily procedures, there was a long list of criteria to evaluate.
For me, the most important factor was actually distance. Sending Travis to preschool meant giving myself more time in the mornings, and with a half-day schedule, I wanted to minimise the time spent on commuting.
After conducting Google searches and receiving recommendations from friends, we visited five schools, all within a 15-minute drive from our home. The closest one was just a three-minute walk away.
During these visits, we met with either the operation manager, administrative staff, principal, or teacher from different schools. They were all friendly and provided us with guided tours of the schools, answering all the questions I had. However, none of them felt like the right fit.
What was right for Travis? It was hard to explain; it was more of a gut feeling. At the beginning of 2023, I believed there was no rush.
Just before Chinese New Year, I learned from the chat group that a friend’s friend had recently started a new preschool. It was only a 10-minute drive from our home, so I thought, why not pay a visit?
Travis and I arrived at the school one late afternoon, on the last school day before the Chinese New Year break. We were warmly received by the husband and wife who founded the school. The wife, C, explained how she started the school to solve her own problem of finding the right preschool for her child, who was around Travis’ age. C had adopted the Montessori approach and developed a curriculum that bridged the gap between Montessori principles and our local academically-oriented primary school system. She shared her educational philosophy, details about the school’s operations, and talked fondly about the children already enrolled. Meanwhile, her husband, J, took the time to engage Travis in play with his favourite vehicle toys.
I couldn’t recall all the information we learned during the hour-long visit, but by the end of it, I knew that it was the perfect school for Travis. The hour seemed to pass by in an instant, and it felt more like a friendly conversation than a mechanical school tour. The school was located in an old residential building with a simple and bright setting. I appreciated how it felt like a cozy home and was run by passionate educators.
Upon returning home, as expected, I faced doubts from Ivan and my in-laws. They questioned why I chose a brand-new school with only seven children instead of an established institution just three minutes away in the neighbourhood.
I explained all the aspects I loved about the school, but deep down, there was only one reason that truly mattered — it felt right. I was grateful that my family supported my decision.
The day before Travis started school, I was hit by an unexpected tornado of emotions, realising that things were about to change drastically. Travis and I had spent almost two and a half years together, every single day, and the thought of him navigating the world without me felt daunting. Even though I had always looked forward to having more time for myself when he started school, as the day approached, doubts crept in. I began questioning my decision: Should I have waited a little longer? I just didn’t feel ready!
On the first day of school, it was heart-wrenching to see Travis crying and calling for me as I drove away. He ran towards the fence, desperately wanting me to stay. However, once I returned home and put Noah down for a nap, I experienced a moment of peace and stillness that struck me as a massive revelation — this was how a “normal” life felt! It had been so long since I had this kind of space and time for myself, and I realised I could definitely get used to it.
Letting go of the daily routine we had wasn’t easy, but it also wasn’t as painful as I had imagined. In fact, good things emerged from this change. After one semester, I saw a child who loved going to school, adored his teachers, and knew all his friends’ names. I felt immense gratitude for Travis’ first teachers who made learning enjoyable for him. Most importantly, I was grateful that I made space in my life to welcome new possibilities and experiences.
One day, while bathing eight-month-old Noah, I pondered on the fact that we give babies ample space to grow at their own pace, but why do we suddenly limit that freedom as they grow older? Why do we start measuring our children based on institutional standards when they turn seven? Who set these standards in the first place? Should I allow them to define my children’s growth? Do I even agree with these standards?
Education is ultimately about discovering and exploring the world, which should be fun, filled with wonder, and inspire a sense of awe when mastering new skills or creating new things.
The journey of educating my children would be a long one in the years to come. With the emergence of AI, I couldn’t fathom what the future of education held, but I knew that the conventional way was outdated.
My hope for Travis and Noah is for them to stay true to themselves, remain curious, and trust in their abilities to find answers.
How do we navigate the path of education? I didn’t have all the answers yet, but for now, this is the school of parenting for me — there is no playbook, just trust your instincts.