Millar Goes to School

First Day


School Fees
When we were planning this stint in Chennai, I knew Millar would be missing the first six months of kindergarten. I looked at international schools in Chennai and baulked at the price. I figured that I would just make sure his education was kept up and learning was encouraged from home. After all, it’s only kindergarten, not second year law, right?
It only took a week for me to go mad. Millar needs more stimulation than I can provide at home, so we enrolled him in an overpriced “play school”. 

I paid for the school fees with a huge wad of cash in an envelope; It felt very dodgy. This is only for three months. We’ll decide if he’s going back for the next three months closer to the time.

They call it school. Not kindy or preschool. Just school. Sometimes it is referred to as baby school. It seems everyone is called a baby until about the age of five. 
He goes for three hours a day, five days a week. For the most part, he enjoys it, but he is always talking about the length of time. He says “I don’t know why it has to be such a long time”. 
It is the exact same length of time as his previous kinder programme in Australia. But I think because the way they teach is different, he feels the length of time longer. Or something. 
There is a lot of sitting at desks and writing and no running around playing dress ups or play-doh. 
Waiting for the kids to be returned.

As a parent, you can go into the principal’s office and watch your child on the monitor. They have CCTV in all the classrooms. It’s good to be able to see how he’s doing without him knowing you are there. The parents are not allowed upstairs in the class; the class is not to be disrupted or upset. 
Each morning I hand Millar over to a teacher and she leads him up the stairs to his class. Each afternoon, I wait in line with all the other parents while the children are brought out one by one and returned to us. Maybe this is the bit that takes a “long time” that Millar is referring to. 
Millar thinks it’s amusing that the teachers say “happy morning” instead of “good morning”. I like it. It’s much more cheerful, I think.
The school building is nice. Very colourful and there is a tree inside with soft toys climbing up it. The tree goes up through both floors and out through the roof. There is a small fenced indoor pond with some fish in it. Xanthe loves looking at them. 
Outside
Outside the boundary of the school gate is a completely different world. A small slab of concrete makes a temporary step down onto what used to be a footpath. Either side of the step is a large deep wet muddy trench. This is a common site around Chennai. The trench has been dug up to install utility lines. Some of the trenches that are dug out for this purpose are never filled in again. I wonder if that will be the case with this one. There is a security guard at the gate. He also acts as the door man and pick-up and drop-off traffic co-ordinator. 
But it’s what’s inside the gate that really matters. The teachers seem lovely and the environment is clean, cheerful and modern. The classes are taught in English but the students are from all corners of the globe. It’s a happy place and I’m happy with it. 
I have already noticed the benefits of sending Millar to school. This week his vocabulary has increased, and talking to him can be quite interesting. 
He has been working on his handwriting with letters and numbers.
Homework Book
They even gave him homework (!), which we did this afternoon. We also covered his homework book together. We weren’t able to find any contact or cover-seal so we had to improvise. I’m pretty impressed with our efforts. Thanks to Grandma for the stencils for Christmas, they came in handy here.
While Millar is at school, we are trying to get out and do stuff. Stuff that Millar doesn’t like to do, like look at stuff and walk down stinky streets. We take Xanthe. She’s not old enough to complain yet.
Something that is very similar to Kinder in Australia, something  that was a bit of a pet peeve and I wrote about it here is that last week Millar had cake twice because it was someone’s birthday. 

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