Choi's First Taste of 'School'

This morning I brought my 2 1/2 year-old Choichoi to a nearby pre-school to try the school-readiness program offered there. My plan was to ease him into schooling little by little and if that works, we enrol him into the toddler program by June.

Choichoi entered the compound and later, the classroom, confidently and without hesitation as he has been to the school many times as a guest before. He gladly followed the teacher when led to his seat. But instead of getting seated, he remained standing and looked around, observing his surroundings and watched the other kids in the classroom.  And that's when he started getting anxious.

All around him, kids older and bigger than he is, were bawling their eyes out, crying for their moms/sitters who were asked to leave the room. Choichoi didn't want to get seated or to let go of my hand, sensing there was something very wrong in a classroom of crying kids.

To distract him from the ruckus I gave him a toy to get busy with, played with him a while, then slipped out of the room after one of the teachers asked me to, saying, "Para masanay po sila."

As soon as Choichoi realized what had happened, he started crying for me. "Mommy....! Mommy....," he pleaded, asking me to sit with him.  When he had the chance, he ran out of the room and to me, and no amount of coaxing, distracting nor pleading could make him head back.  When we went to the car and later, out to do some grocery, he didn't want to let go of my hand, choosing to hold on to me, when he usually would choose his yaya, given the choice.  He seemed afraid that I'd slip out again if he let go of my hand.

Separation Anxiety

The greatest fear of most children is being left alone, being around strangers in a strange place. I've seen and experienced this many times with my own children and saw it in many others, most of them school-age. (Heck, even people my age get anxious in new situations, around strange people and strange surroundings!) To put young children like Choichoi among strangers or a strange environment without the comforting presence of their parents or caregivers, and the continual threat that their parents will suddenly 'disappear' when they're not looking, is nothing short of traumatizing. I am actually worried that this morning's experience has left Choichoi a bad idea of 'school.'  I wonder about the other children, asking myself if the prolonged anxiety and absence of security taught them learned helplessness instead of independence that the school hoped for.

Working With It

This is not to say though that I am for giving in to, or encouraging clingy behavior.  What I'm saying is that we need to understand child psychology, and rather than fighting a child's weakness, we ought to work with it. Rather than dispersing the parents and having us wait out our children's bawling and pleading to be let out, I think the better alternative was to let us in and use our presence to comfort and calm the children, and then use what we know about our child's behavior, disposition, learning styles, etc to engage them and slowly win them over to trust the teachers and their new surroundings.

A Party, not a Class; Party Facilitators, not Teachers

I believe it would have been better had this morning's class been run like a children's party, had the teachers or the school administrators behaved like party facilitators.  Rarely do I see children crying for their mommies and wanting to leave in children's parties, even if they are among strangers in new surroundings. Party facilitators get children (and on some occasions, parents) to play, sing, dance and participate, get them to sit still to watch magic or puppet shows and listen intently to storytelling or demos.  I've even seen children forget their parents were ever with them because they were busy having fun or were just too engrossed!

By preventing separation anxiety or insecurity by having parents or caregivers nearby or just a glance away, the party facilitators allowed the children to move on to the more productive areas of wonderment, exploration, having fun and learning. By providing the right environment -- one that is supportive and nurturing, rather than oppressive and threatening -- the party facilitators win hands down in schooling children.

Where to, now?

So, I'm back to square one, still looking for the best place to ease the idea of schooling slowly in to Choichoi. I am not after rigid, academic learning yet, and I am more interested in providing Choichoi chances to socialize and learn from playing with children his age. Most importantly, I am looking for where going to school won't feel like a chore, or something to feel anxious or scared about.  Any recommendations?

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Why AnneThology?

Anthology means a collection of poems, short stories, plays, songs, or excerpts. My name is Anne, and this blog contains a collection of my thoughts, musings and writings (poems, short stories), some songs I like, plus a sprinkling of excerpts I find worth sharing --hence, AnneThology.

Did you know?

Anthology derives from the Greek word ἀνθολογία (anthologia; literally “flower-gathering”) for garland — or bouquet of flowers — which was the title of the earliest surviving anthology, assembled by Meleager of Gadara.

Look, what I have -- these are all for you.