Dear all anxious mums new to CCCs, I feel a compelling need to share this with the mums who have caregivers that are maids, relatives, in-laws and have not yet exposed the kids to CCCs. This is a personal experience in which I hope others will not have to make the same mistake as I did.
My first born is taken care by close relatives who took care of my husband. We enjoyed the convenience of them staying next block and had total ease of mind. The good thing about family members as caregivers are that you need not worry at all as your baby will be super well taken care. I need not worry if he has enough to eat, I need not worry if the food is nutritious, or he has enough toys to play or if he gets enough sleep. All physcial needs are being addressed (sometimes overdone in my own opinion, but hey, they are the ones taking care so I should be glad).
The first signs of trouble started when my boy reached 18 months. Being a ‘little’ Kiasu. I wanted to put him in full day care to expose him to social skill, life skills, some academic stuff etc. Strong objections from caregivers were raised. So strong that my husband and I relented and put him in a 2 hour church kindergarten instead. So ‘win-win’ situation from both sides. I get the kid to study and mix with other kids, the caregivers get to spend time with him. So my boy spent his N1 days there. Through consistent interaction and conversation stimulation by the caregivers, my boy grew to be very conversant and even teachers commented that he spoke like a little adult.
Then the real trouble started. It was during the teacher-parent session in Nov last year (end of N1) that I found out by accident that the caregivers had requested for my child to be put in another class due to some misunderstanding the caregivers had with the teacher. (the caregivers are the ones who bring my boy to school and wait there everyday) The caregivers have engaged in an ugly brawl with the school and has been using the parents’ name to demand certain ‘rules’ and ‘requests’. I realised things were not working out. My boy was asked everyday by the caregivers (out of pure concern and love) if other kids bullied him, if the teacher gave him enough food or scolded him etc. Although I have absolute faith in the school, I realised that it is not working out as the home environment was not right and conducive for academic and character development. It was ok to play whole day, mess up the house and not keep the toys, complain about the teachers, not pay attention in school but concentrate on who is bullying who in school etc.
Then I started to pay more attention to the type of education my boy is receiving. Then I started to panic, especially after some research on how kids are expected to learn grammar, spelling, sentence construction etc. (Thank heavens that I found this forum!!!) And my N2 boy cannot even count properly from 1 to 10.
I sent him to a full day CCC, at the expense of the harmonious relationship with the caregivers. And they keep telling me how no one else can love the kids that are not their own like they do. And teachers in full day centres would not have the patience for kids for the whole day and the kids are better off at home. And that they could teach him the ABCs and count the 123s. I gave them 2 months to prove. And they failed miserly at the tasks for the reasons that my son is too tired to learn, he is not well, he was distracted by tv and after tv was bedtime etc etc. There was 101 reasons why it was ok not knowing ABCs and being able to count from 1 to 10.
The results I gains from the full day care was enormous. By the 3rd week, he could take off and wear his own pants, go to the toilet independently, wash his own hands, brush his own teeth, converse in Mandarin (I’ve been trying to get him to converse with me in Mandarin as we are from an English speaking family). All these were unheard off when he was at the caregivers. He was totally dependent. It took him only 3 weeks to learn such life skills! I realised that the kids learn things very fast and people are right to compare kids to a sponge that are consistently absorbing and learning from their environment.
Regardless of how much love the caregivers can provide, nothing beats the trained or experienced teachers in providing the envrionment where kids are taught to be independent and be able to meet their basic needs themselves, and also an environment of learning and sharing.
The kids of today are expected to know so much in primary school, so foundation starts in pre-school. I thought I still had time and nursery is just for playing. I just visited a PCF today to enquire about their curriculum. The N2 kids there have started to recognise simple words for english and mandarin. The teacher mentioned that the kids would be able to recognise 30 simple Mandarin words by now. My boy has difficulty recognising alphabets due to weak foundation in N1. He is only introduced to strokes in Mandarin characters after I put in full day care. So he is far off now as compared to the PCF kids. I started late. I thought I had time. How very wrong. Now playing catch up… but slowly cos I also do not want to stress him out.
Now, we have dinner at the caregiver’s house every evening cos the they miss him so much. We have to keep reminding them that it is for my boy’s good that he is spending time in the CCC. Showing to them the things that he has learnt and benefited.
So if your heart is aching to take your child away from loved ones to place in CCC, think of the long term benefits that the child will reap especially from a strong academic foundation which even some parents ourselves are unable to provide (like me). The foundation will go a long way (and the consequences of not having the foundation will too!) Balance can be achieved by letting the child spend evenings, weekends with loved ones, and choosing a good childcare centre.
Now I know I am not alone in terms of plight. Please seriously consider giving your child the opportunity to be immersed in CCC cultures and learning environment. It WILL be much more than grandparents, care givers can provide!