I have felt for some time now that Moppet could do with a different, yet safe and stimulating environment in which to play and explore, other than just our home. Regular play dates with kids around her age would have been enough, but we don't have any friends with kids in her age group. So she gets to play with me and Nanny day in and day out and I thought playschool would be a welcome break from the monotony (for all three of us!).
Of course, the school itself was a big factor in the decision. It's not just the great infrastructure (although that's certainly important), but the overall philosophy of the place that I like. Even the name: Purple Elephant. With a name like that, you can be sure that these folks aren't going to tell kids that mangoes can't be blue!
There is no structured curriculum - it really is just a 'play' school, especially for the kids in Moppet's age group. The teachers let the kids do their own thing, watching for a chance to occasionally explain a concept or show them something new, just as we would do at home. But there are also some activities that the kids are encouraged to do together, like music and water play.
The teachers are well-trained and full of energy, and they obviously love their little charges. I like that they understand that each child is different, and are willing to try different approaches with each child.
The first couple of days, I stayed with Moppet for the whole 3 hours. For Moppet this meant that she felt secure enough to explore the whole school and find her bearings in the new environment. For me, I got to watch how the teachers interacted with the children and how they dealt with children whose parents could not stay and were having a hard time. But most importantly, I got to see what a blast Moppet was having and I realised how much I had underestimated her.
I was shell shocked that she was the first one to volunteer when a teacher brought out a big bouncy ball and asked who wanted to be bounced on it. I did a double take when she went up and asked for water, then drank from the little paper cup all by herself. And I watched with disbelief as she sat at the table with the other kids and polished off her snack like she hadn't eaten for months.
So on day 3, when her teacher suggested that I try leaving for an hour, I was ready to give it a shot. I knew she would cry. Going off to sleep in her own bed with trusted ol' Nanny by her side is one thing, but having me hand her over to a person she barely knew and wave goodbye was too much for her. Although I had told her repeatedly that I would come back to pick her up soon, she just couldn't bear to see me go.
It was heartbreaking, walking away from my baby, hearing her calling out for me. By the time I reached the end of the lane, I was a sniffling, snivelling mess. Moppet's teacher had promised that she would call me if she felt that Moppet was getting too stressed, so I decided to walk around near the school. There was no call, but despite my best efforts to stay away for an hour, I ended up back at the school in under 40 minutes. (Ok, it was more like 25 minutes)
I waited nervously on the verandah until she was brought out, looking terribly woebegone in her teacher's arms . She burst into tears when she saw me and literally jumped onto me.She pointed to the row of kids' shoes arranged on the verandah and said chooz, meaning let's get my shoes and get the hell outta here! But as soon as we found her shoes and put them on she was smiling again, and even stopped to wave bye to her teacher.
I was told that she had cried for pretty much the entire time that I had been gone, stopping for five minutes to look at a picture or listen to a song before starting off again. But they did find that she preferred to stay in the music room, and that if one of the teachers sang to her, she would quiet down and listen.
I had thought that she might not want to go back to playschool the next day (today) but she was raring to go, hefting her precious kaakpa (her backpack containing a change of clothes and a spare diaper), and singing rhymes with me in the cab on the way over. Today, for the hour that I left her, she cried hard for a while, but when the music started, her teacher said that she actually clapped along and smiled. Phew!
As I write this, she has just come looking for me in the study, dragging her kaakpa behind her and demanding her chooz. I tell her that school's over for today, that we'll go again tomorrow, but she wants to go now.
Oh no, tantrum alert! Gotta go!