19 July 2017, by Joel Chng

How Soon Is Too Soon?

Is 21 months too soon for a toddler to start school?

“Ezra is going to school already? So early!” and “But he’s not even two!” were the common responses from family and friends, whenever we shared that Ezra would be going to school at the end of June.

Truth be told, my wife and I did not plan for Ezra to start school this year. However, back in February when we registered Ezra for the Nursery programme (beginning January 2018) we were informed that the school was starting a Playgroup programme for toddlers 18 months and up.

We were in two minds about it.

Pros:

1) Despite being called a Playgroup, it is a structured programme for toddlers to develop self-help skills and learn how to be independent. We also like that there will be plenty of interesting activities to stimulate Ezra’s senses, and for him to develop socially and physically.

2) Ezra will be familiar with the venue, as he has been attending Sunday morning playgroup sessions in the same building since January.

3) We already intended for Ezra to attend Nursery in this school, so why not start half a year early? We can get separation anxiety out of the way (if any), sort out teething issues and settle into a routine.

4) The Playgroup terms follow the school terms set by the Ministry of Education. Each academic year begins in January and ends in November. There are four terms per year and each term consists of 10 weeks.

5) The school has unscheduled holidays during the year for special functions that fall during weekdays. These include outings and parent-teacher meetings for the older levels, sports day, graduation camp and graduation concert. So we will still be able to take Ezra out on weekdays, and to go for short holidays.

6) As this school is an approved educational institution under the Baby Bonus Scheme, the government’s dollar-for-dollar matching in Ezra’s CDA (Child Development Account) will help to offset his school fees.

Cons:

1) The main drawback was the timing. There is only an afternoon session for this first Playgroup intake (11:45 a.m. to 2:45 p.m. from Mondays to Fridays), compared to morning and afternoon sessions for the Nursery and Kindergarten classes.

Ezra wakes up early every morning but there will be insufficient time for a nap before school. If he were to attend Playgroup, he will have to stay awake for about eight hours before he can nap.

2) Then there was the issue about meals. The school provides “a light snack” – just a small portion of food at lunch time, where the toddlers will learn how to self-feed. The menu changes fortnightly, and includes food like macaroni soup, fried rice, porridge, chicken rice, chicken stew and noodles.

As Ezra does not usually self-feed, we foresee that he will not eat much in school during the initial weeks, due to the short time allocated for the meal, coupled with the fact that it will take time for Ezra to master self-feeding.

My wife will thus have to ensure that Ezra gets to eat something substantial before and after school, so that Ezra does not go hungry without the full meal at lunch that he is used to being fed.

Decisions, decisions.

Long story short, after deliberating for a few weeks we decided that the pros outweigh the cons, and we registered Ezra for Playgroup. When reality sank in, it occurred to us that this would be the start of Ezra’s education for the next twenty years or so!

Wow. My baby is a baby no more.

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