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Schools around the world: The Garden House, Singapore

Carlotta Cerri

As you probably already know from my Instragram stories, where I share our world adventures daily, in Singapore I took Oliver and Emily to a lovely nursery. It’s called The Garden House and I’m so grateful to have found it, it made our stay in SG feel even more homy.

Not only Ana welcomed Oliver and Emily into the school like they were her own children, she also allowed me to stay at school with them until they were ready for me to leave (one morning she even made me a coffee!). She was also extremely flexible when I asked for the possibility to have Oliver and Emily (4 and 2,5) stay together in the same group, if they wished so.

One morning Emily wasn’t ready for me to go, so I stayed almost an hour until she felt comfortable. The more I sat there, observing, the more I knew I picked right: The Garden House is exactly the kind of nursery I like!

The teachers are kind and respectful, they’re in control, but they’re not pushy, they understand when a child wants to be left alone and they don’t force him to join an activity if he doesn’t want to.

The school is small and intimate, but very international; they have a beautiful garden with a climbing frame, a mud kitchen and a sand pit; every indoor environment is beautifully prepared for the children to be able to explore independently.

It sounds a lot like Montessori, doesn’t it? But it’s not!

It’s Reggio Emilia, which I loved learning more about by observing the school and the teachers at work. As I know that you’re as curious as me, I’ll share with you what I learnt.

Reggio Emilia VS Montessori (in a nutshell)

Reggio Emilia is actually very similar to Montessori, but the main difference I noticed is that the education style in Reggio Emilia focuses more on creative play: the classroom is designed for hands-on, sensorial-based exploration, rather than a prepared environment learning style with specific materials like in Montessori.

In Montessori there are mixed age groups, children from three to six will be all together in one classroom and might have the same teachers for three years; in Reggio Emilia children are traditionally grouped based on age, which also means that they’ll change teacher every year.

Both Reggio Emilia and Montessori are student-centred and environment-driven, but while in Montessori Casa dei Bambini (3-6yo) children work more individually (which reflects in the environment having only one material of each kind), in Reggio Emilia children work more in groups: there’s a collaborative approach to learning—which we see less in Montessori before primary school—and teachers seem to direct children more, but still based on their interest.

Last but not least, Reggio Emilia doesn’t have a specific curriculum: lessons evolve based on teacher’s guidance and student’s questioning and response. In Montessori, while children are free to learn at their pace and based on their interest, there is a general curriculum that includes math, language, practical life, geography, history, science and music.

How did I find this little gem in Singapore?

Many of you asked this question in reply to my IG stories, and the truth is, it found me! I asked for recommendations in a Singapore Moms Facebook group, and out of aaaalll the links people sent, I clicked on this one. I liked what I saw and I tried my luck: I sent an email explaining our situation, and Ana welcomed us with open arms.

And the best part? I didn’t only find a nursery at The Garden House. I found like-minded parents, multilingual and international families from all around the world (Oliver made friends with a boy from… Madrid!), and a strong sense of community.

Since I left for this world travel, sometimes I feel like all the stars in the universe simply align to make it easier for us: this was one of those times.

The Garden HousePreschool in Singapore



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