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Our Story

The origin of Rain Tree Montessori Schoolhouse (RTM) actually stemmed from an exceptionally anxious mother -  myself. At that time, I was concerned that I wouldn’t find a preschool whose values and educational principles aligned with mine. Ranked high on my list of concerns were peer bullying (including covert bullying), the professionalism and integrity of the school staff, whether the teaching methods would contradict my parenting style, the school’s commitment to food safety and hygiene as well as the cleanliness and maintenance of its environment.


Some may ask, aren’t these common worries for many new mothers? Isn't childcare just a place to take care of children? Why do you expect so much from a school? Why set such high standards? Why do you go through the trouble of starting a school yourself?


Over the past three years, I have encountered many parents, applicants and teachers who are keen to hear about what drove me to set up RTM. Therefore, I wish to share this story with those who are interested or curious about us.


I hope that after reading this, our parents or others interested in RTM will better understand my motivations behind starting RTM, grasp our educational philosophy, and understand why I wanted to shape our school in this way. From the moment I decided to start a school for children, I hoped it would be a school with a soul.


I believe in the power of words, so I don't want our story to be a glossy advertisement peppered with fancy rhetoric or attention-grabbing vocabulary, nor do I want it to be the typical words of a school principal.


I sincerely hope that those who read our story, including our current and future parents, will feel like they have just had a casual ‘chat’ with me. Perhaps this ‘chat’ may spark some parental reflections, or provide food for thought and encouragement to expectant parents or young couples who might be facing challenges in their journey to parenthood.


To the latter group in particular – as an ordinary mom myself, I shall feel blessed if you stumble upon my sharing and find that our story is able to help you in one way or another.



Why start my own school?


I went through an exceptionally difficult journey to have my first child.


Before that, due to my love for children and my desire to become a mother, I even transitioned from a busy management consulting career to working at a university in order to prepare for pregnancy. However, this career change did not bring me luck. I experienced two failed IVF attempts, with my obstetricians unable to provide a clear answer as to why we were facing repeated failures. When I started suspecting issues with my immune system, my doctors could only confirm that my body functions were normal and suitable for pregnancy, advising me to rest and try IVF again after some time.


Despite facing immense frustration and pain, I chose not to follow the doctors' advice to continue with IVF. Instead, I conducted extensive research by reading articles and seeking insights from other mothers with similar experiences on various social media platforms. After consulting with a specialist in treating immune-related infertility, I discovered that I had Antiphospholipid Syndrome, an autoimmune imbalance causing strong antibodies to attack embryos, leading to failed pregnancies. Finally having the answer to years of questioning, I embarked on another anxious yet courageous journey. Initially, I needed to introduce certain medications to regulate my immune system, weakening the antibodies in my body before attempting conception again. Fortunately, after a period of treatment, I successfully conceived naturally.


However, my pregnancy joy was overshadowed by constant anxiety. For the initial four months, I required intravenous infusions every 2-3 weeks and had to take certain steroids to suppress my immune system (antibodies), ensuring that the developing embryo was not rejected. Throughout the 200-plus days of pregnancy, starting from confirmation of pregnancy, I administered daily injections into my own belly without interruption. I vividly recall the first pregnancy when I was inexperienced with self-injections, resulting in numerous bruises on my abdomen. By the second pregnancy, I had become proficient and could pinpoint the injection site accurately. Besides regular check-ups, I underwent additional blood tests every two weeks to monitor immune system indicators and minimize the risk of miscarriage or premature birth. Despite extensive medication and continuous monitoring by three doctors from different countries, I still went into premature labor. Due to certain medications I was on, I was not allowed to receive epidural anesthesia, leading to 15 hours of excruciating labor pain before I ultimately had to be rushed into the delivery room in tears. I distinctly remember the overwhelming disbelief I felt when I woke up and held my baby for the first time, that finally I have realized my dream of becoming a mother.


Following these traumatic experiences, I found solace only in holding my child and was consumed by anxiety. At night, I would wake up multiple times to ensure my child was safely asleep and had not been covered by something accidentally. Perhaps because of my own experiences, whenever I come across some less common questions from parents, I completely understand where they are coming from.  


If I were in their shoes, I too would not be able to entrust my precious child to the care of strangers whom I could not fully trust. All the more when children at that stage cannot articulate their experiences, feelings and observations truthfully and accurately. I might have thought that I could rest easy once I had solved my most difficult problem of childbirth. But motherhood made me realize there is another more challenging and uncertain journey awaiting me.


I felt anxiety, not from worrying about my child's future academic performances, but from whether I can nurture my child to be confident, optimistic, adept at expressing feelings and skilled at communicating needs. Can my child also be nurtured to encompass a sense of morality and responsibility, and have the ability to adapt flexibly to their surroundings, society, and any unforeseen changes?


I believe you've also heard the saying "It takes a village to raise a child." In today's society where more and more parents have their own careers or professions, the involvement of more caregivers in taking care of one’s children becomes inevitable. The responsibility of taking care of your child may fall on grandparents, nannies, or other caregivers at home, and teachers as well as other relevant personnel at school. So, it's very likely that your child would spend more time with non-parental caregivers.


According to the Montessori's four planes of development, during the first six years after birth, a child is at a very special stage of learning as they have the ‘Absorbent Mind’. The children are like sponges, able to absorb knowledge and learn through perception and experience from their environment. Montessori likened this process to the "unconscious" stage of the mind, where children naturally learn language, culture, morality, and other knowledge and skills through sensory and motor experiences, without the need for specific instruction. Children of this age group are particularly good at imitating and absorbing the characteristics of the adults and the environment around them.


After the first plane, Montessori believed that children enter ‘the rational mind’, roughly between the ages of 6 and 12. During this stage, children begin to develop more conscious and purposeful learning abilities. Their mental activities are no longer just automatically absorbing information but also involve consciously examining the meaning of this information.


For most of our children in Singapore, they start childcare at around 18 months (some even earlier, starting from 2 months). They spend more time at school each day than with their parents and other family members. Hence the environment, the teachers and supporting staff are critical to their learning and growth. That's why I pay more attention to the qualifications of the educators that our children encounter during the 0 to 6 years stage.


Why choose to run a Montessori school?


Someone once asked me if I chose to run a Montessori school because I disagree with mainstream educational methods. In fact, I do not reject any mainstream education. I watched a documentary called "Childhood Elsewhere," where the director Ms Yijun Zhou traveled to Finland, India, Japan, Britain and Israel to meet educators, parents and children. She also experienced classrooms in different countries from a parent's perspective, reflecting on education from different societal, cultural, and historical angles. Ms Zhou said, "A country's education is a projection of everything in society."


"How to educate, how to design education, cannot be isolated from the design of a school but must be combined with the entire society, history, culture, and the country's future plans." A country's education system from primary school onwards is significantly influenced by all aspects of society—it is not merely a place for knowledge transmission but also a reflection of societal ideology, cultural identity, and national political objectives. When you understand authentic Montessori education more deeply, you won't worry about whether children can transition well into local schools. Good education should cultivate individuals who are autonomous, creative, and emotionally intelligent, and not be a ‘factory model education’ where children are trained to learn methodically through rote learning with no emphasis placed on the individual.


Early childhood is in fact, a crucial, if not the most important stage, in a young child’s learning and development. Fostering the right mindset towards learning lays the foundation for not just the children’s academic but life success. From the get go, children need to acquire the correct and effective ways of learning (that is, to learn how to learn) and this should take precedence over academic content. In other words, what matters most is who guides our children's learning and how the learning takes place, rather than what is taught to them. This is because the learning methods they are exposed to in the earliest stages of life will influence their future thinking patterns and problem-solving approaches.


Traditional education models such as the lecture-style teacher-directed approach, while suited to older children, are ineffective in young children. Young children learn differently from us. Pushing traditional methods on the young is not ideal and can instead be detrimental to their development.


There are many teaching methods available to parents in Singapore: Inquiry based approach, play based approach, thematic approach, or academic-content-focused teaching, among others. Personally, I believe that all teaching methods have their merits as long as those implementing them truly understand the philosophy behind them and adhere to it in their daily teaching practices.


Comparing educational systems is challenging because much of it depends on the teacher's understanding, experiences and skills. Even within the Montessori education system, schools or classes may vary in quality, as it primarily depends on the teachers' abilities, skills, and passion towards their chosen profession. Therefore, it is important for parents, or primary caregivers, to visit schools and directly communicate with teachers rather than sales staff because the best educational approach is the one that suits your child's needs. Or, the educational approach that aligns with your parenting philosophy and future expectations is the one that suits your family best.


One of the core principles of Montessori education is to nurture well-rounded individuals, by supporting the holistic development and individual growth of children. Montessori education enables children’s learning and growth in a free, orderly, and inspiring environment. It focuses on children's mental development, by providing appropriate environments and materials during critical developmental stages to stimulate their curiosity, nurture a desire for knowledge, and maintain their interest in learning.


Through independent learning and exploration, children build confidence and problem-solving skills in suitable environments. Montessori education also places special emphasis on cultivating children's character and social skills, encouraging respect for others, self-discipline, and independence. Through cooperative activities and daily life's lessons in grace and courtesy, children learn to share, collaborate, and resolve conflicts appropriately, fostering stable and healthy personality traits. These align well with my own parenting philosophy.


In "Hidden Potential: The Science of Achieving Greater Things," it's mentioned that "I now see character less as a matter of will, and more as a set of skills." Character is not personality; personality is your natural inclination, while character, as a capability beyond individual inclinations, is the ability to prioritize values over instincts. Economist Raj Chetty's research findings suggest that the most important predictors of future income are not traditional cognitive skills (such as math and reading abilities) but four character skills: proactivity, discipline, determination, and prosocial behavior.


This is why we should begin fostering good character traits in children during early education, as these are essential for future educational and career development. However, it's also important to view these aspects beyond mere utilitarian measures because success is more than achieving goals—it's living by our values. Success is not a singular definition; I do not subscribe to creating emotionally troubled children solely for the pursuit of narrow or singular standards of success. Throughout life, we face challenges that lack clear answers. The world is rapidly changing; the era and world our children face is vastly different from what we encountered. Therefore, as a parent, I am more concerned with how my children learn when they have ‘‘the Absorbent Mind’’— how we can instill lifelong learning methods and ways of thinking. Should we create an environment that allows them to slow down, focus, imagine, and construct themselves to adapt to a world of constant change?


Montessori education places a strong emphasis on intellectual development, such as language development, mathematical thinking, and problem-solving abilities, in a developmentally appropriate and naturally progressive manner. For example, as a child enters their second year of life, they begin to recognize that everything around them has a name, enabling them to confirm the identity of objects with words. In Montessori education, we capitalize on this "language-sensitive period," using appropriate materials and methods to help children absorb and master as much vocabulary as possible. During this stage, the best “teaching materials” are the adults around them. This is why, despite limitations in the broader environment, we strive to elevate our standards in our selection of teaching staff. Additionally, Montessori's mixed-age grouping model provides children with a rich, stimulating, and beneficial language learning environment. This setting promotes language acquisition and communication skills, helping children establish a solid linguistic foundation and communication abilities, laying a good groundwork for future learning and social interaction.


Besides language, mathematical development is also crucial during preschool education because early mathematical abilities are trainable. Montessori believes that the mathematical sensitivity period typically occurs in children aged 3 to 6. During this stage, children exhibit particular interest and sensitivity to concepts such as quantity, order, shape, and pattern. "Arithmetic is never a list of procedures to memorize; it is always something to discover and to perceive by the hand before being understood by the mind." Therefore, authentic Montessori mathematics education seizes on a child's mathematical sensitivity period, employing rich and engaging Montessori materials to provide progressive, sensory-invoking mathematical learning experiences, maximizing children's learning potential, nurturing their interest, confidence, and mathematical thinking.


Therefore, Montessori education is not what some parents misunderstand as simply three hours of free play; the design of educational materials has direct or indirect educational goals, promoting children's development and learning in various areas, such as sensory and motor skills, language and mathematical abilities, life skills, social skills, self-exploration, and problem-solving abilities. Children in this prepared environment are given ample quiet time and space to independently think or rehearse skills or knowledge they haven't fully grasped previously, or quietly engage in group work.


Some parents may question this quiet atmosphere and worry that children might feel repressed. Montessori education emphasizes developing children's self-discipline, enabling them to display appropriate behavior in different environments. In summary, children can freely engage in conversations, interactions, and laughter in outdoor playgrounds, but in a quiet classroom setting, they need to learn to respect the environment and others within it. In realizing this, we can grant children freedom while adhering to the principle of respecting others, oneself, and the environment. During the absorbent mind phase of development, children need teachers' guidance to develop adaptability to different environments and situations.


Only through discipline can true freedom be achieved.


In this age where AI can generate extensive text and even images, I choose to share our story solely through text because, as a Montessori mother, I hope this article serves as a springboard for further discussion. We welcome parents to discuss more related topics with us.


Last but not least, I want o express my heartfelt gratitude to all who have taken the time to read this article. Whether you are a current parent at RTM, considering us as an option, or simply interested in our story, your attention and support mean a great deal to us. Thank you for entrusting us with the privilege of accompanying, witnessing, and facilitating your child’s growth during their crucial first six years of life. We look forward to continuing this journey together. 

Founder of RTM

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