Every kid I know in Singapore that’s Hunter’s age (2 yrs old) is either in full-time school, or in some form of schooling. Here, everyone starts super early because either both parents are at work, or they want their kid to have a head start in education (though, if everyone is doing it, it’s not really a head start any more, but rather to prevent your child from being left behind!).

Hunter, however, had not been enrolled in any form of playschool because I felt that as a SAHM, it would be better for him to have interaction with me rather than be alone in school. After all, there’s looaaads of time for that once he’s older and starts proper school!

Still, I feel really nervous and.. well, left behind, when I hear about all the kids his age being pumped with information day-in day-out. And it shows. When I see kids his age and compare to him, I do think they are ahead in terms of academics.

And our kids are only 2 years old!!!!

I DON’T want him in full-time playschool though. Not yet. And so I’ve decided on a program that’s 2-hours long, twice a week. It’s more of play time for him, and my main goal is for him to learn social interaction and positive social behaviour… not for him to be pumped with his ABCs and vocab etc etc.

So Hunter’s recently started at Chengzhu Mandarin Centre. And you know what?


My girl friends think I’m a bit mad to do this, but I maintain it is a good decision.

First and foremost, Chris and I can’t speak/read/write Mandarin. Yes we got by in Shanghai, but on bare minimum.. nowhere near half-fluent. Because of this, guaranteed our kids won’t feel familiar or comfortable with Mandarin.

Secondly, China is a giant that is going to take over the economic world. It will be beneficial for our children to be fluent.

Thirdly, the Mandarin that the average Singaporean speak is pretty poor. Wrong accent, badly butchered, and lots of random non-Mandarin words thrown in. I can actually understand (some) Mandarin when spoken in China, but can’t quite understand when spoken in Singapore. I want our kids to learn and speak it properly. The teachers at Chengzhu are from China.

Chengzhu is owned by Julia Gabriel, a renowned school in Singapore. They are really well run, and the programs are excellent. I was so impressed when we went for a trial class.

Their teachers are from China and soooooooooooo wonderful. Hunter is not a kid that takes to people easily, but he loves them… dishing out big hugs and kisses – very rare by Hunter’s standards!! The teachers are captivating, engaging, and super good with children.

It’s not proper school, but more rather parent-accompanied playtime with lots of singing and dancing. But it’s full immersion in Mandarin and I’m actually really shocked that Hunter understands Mandarin now, and will speak it too. Plus, I get to learn it alongside him, so it’s like a 2-for-1 deal that I’ve paid for 😉

He doesn’t learn his alphabets or spelling or numbers or anything like that… but what he gains instead is social skills, a love for learning language, and a chance to be in a 100% mandarin-speaking environment.

And that, to me, is excellent for him.

Will he attend proper full-time English school? For sure. But not yet.


In the playground, his favourite part of class 😉


Strutting around like he owns the place


Fascinated during story telling (I truly wonder how much he understands!)


There’s also craft time. His fave part is if it incorporates glitter (likes to shake the bottle) or stapling (he’ll spend ages inspecting the stapler to figure out how it works)


Looking like he completely understands the Mandarin books, haha!


Snack time! Bizarrely, he’s not v into this. More often than not he’ll just sit there and watch the other kids eat. Cannot understand this.


Since it’s Chinese New Year this week, the kids and parents were asked to dress up. I wore my wedding cheongsam, and Hunter a Joules super soft tee with a snake on it (Year of the Snake, geddit?) plus a pair of Emperor-looking pants. I rather liked his outfit as it was CNY-ish, yet not a traditional one.

With his beloved teacher


I love his tee in this pic!


Let’s Chat!

Let's Chat!

Hey Beverly,

I just took my girl out of Cheng zhu this year. She’s slightly younger than Hunter and was in Cheng zhu the whole of last year. In fact she was in Li Na (teacher) class as well. What a coincidence! She is very good.

Oh wow what a coincidence! Did you like Cheng zhu? May I ask why you took her out of it?

Hunter ADORES Li Na laoshi. She is soooo good with him and kids in general!

I took her out as I gave birth in January and wouldn’t be able to attend classes with her. So she’s now at a drop off programme at a Montessori school.

She liked it the first year (playgroup, the year they turn 3) and then this year (the year they turn 4) … not so much. We have to teach her every weekend so that she doesn’t go to her Berries class clueless and the additional DVDs we buy helped to.

I sent #1 to GUG and they had 15 mins of Mandarin per class and I was totally loss ahahaha and I took Mandarin in school! Now #1 is in Nursery and I also send her to Berries and she’s loves chinese nursery rhymes. #2 (Hunter’s age) watches it with her but doesn’t seem very interested, sigh. She’ll start Berries next year at 3 as well.

Ooo may I ask how she finds Berries? I am thinking of putting Hunter in that later (after he starts proper english school). Would you recommend it and you reckon it’s helpful?

Its a nice place and program. I did playnest and playclub with my older girl when i was a sahm (at jg evans) Now she’s at cz taking the chinese class once a week, same for meimei. I’m not big on enrichment classes but sad to say my girls’ chinese are not great so this is the only class they do.

Oooo they do once a week? Is this a more forma/intensive class? I’m thinking Hunter may do that once he’s in proper english school

you’re right that the average Singaporean speaks poor Chinese. i wonder how hunter would react if i spoke to him in Chinese? :p

ahh, that would be so nice if they’re fluent in french too! actually i would love that for my children (future children) too.

I think he wouldn’t be too fazed! He can differentiate between the languages. But all you’ll get from him is lots of “ni hao” and “gong xi fa cai”, spoken repeatedly, lol!!

Oo and you’re fluent in French so you can teach your kids too 🙂

haha! well, very apt for the CNY period. would be pretty cool to hear him say “gong xi fa cai” albeit repeatedly 😀 and! actually i would be taking up your suggestion about thursday for next week! will twitter message you again, just a heads up first.

i’m far from being fluent in french man! but definitely working towards it now.

Sigh. I feel the stress too honestly, altho my preference is to have the kids interact with me and being taught by me as much as I can. If not for the fact that I have to work, I wouldn’t send the kids to any formal classes till they are 3 at least.

That aside we also can’t afford anything more than the childcare service the kids attend at this juncture. So I’ve decided to be a bit more disciplined and speak to them in mandarin, read to them in both english and mandarin and teach tabby to read myself.

And yes.. I do feel its no longer a head start anymore, but if you don’t, it’s like you’ll be left behind. Sad.

I do like the 3 yrs old mark too.. I just feel that kids ‘lose’ a lot of their childhood once they get sucked into the education system of STUDYSTUDYSTUDY, so I want mine to enjoy themselves whilst they can.

And yeah, school is EXPENSIVE! We wanted to send our kids to international schools, but flipped out at the cost 🙁

You’re lucky that Tabby is really bright, even my parents have noticed it!

Agree that they wld lose so much childhood once they start! I feel like such a wet blanket when I try to teach Tabby to read.. Like I am so kiasu! -_- but it’s really hard in Singapore. Sometimes I wish we have the option to raise them somewhere else.

I am thankful tabby is pretty quick socially and rather teachable. Not sure abt Isy he seems tougher! And oh.. I can see a bright little boy in Hunter too really. That twinkle in the eye… 😉

Awesome idea..and you know..he’s got loads of time to catch up…though I’m sure there won’t be much that he would need to catch up on…if you really think about it!
He needs to practice his Mandarin though!! or else it’ll be such a waste!

Great decision you made there! I fully agree that China will be the future economy powerhouse! It is always cute to see non-Chinese speaks Mandarin, especially kids! 🙂

Siena stayed home with Nancy until she was 4 (junior kindergarten starts when kids turn 4). There’s lots of time for structured academics later.. I don’t think kids will fall behind, as once they all start school together they will have many opportunities to learn in the school environment

Plus being at home for 4 years, Siena learned and developed fine. We never had any worries she would fall behind by staying at home.

Mandarin school is a great idea… Learning languages is a great idea and good for them. 🙂

I like that. I do think that kids don’t need to start school so early. Problem is, because it’s the norm in SG to enter school at a ridiculously early age… if you don’t do the same, your child does appear to be ‘behind’. Argh!!!

I say let kids be kids… lots of time to study later. I didn’t start school until I was 5 years old, and I think I turned out okay?

I think there is less pressure here in Canada. In Singapore people can be so kiasu! 😛