Precious kindergarten, Line up before Birth.

The indoor playground is huge and fully equipped, this is what the West Vancouver branch lacks.

Some say “Three years old fixes eighty” (三歲定八十)”, which means “As the twig is bent, so is the tree inclined”, the sooner we discover a child’s potential, the better.

But what if a 1-year-old is adorned with school uniform, attending classes and learning about socializing skills, drama, science experiments, art cultivation?
Core Education Fine Arts Kindergarten, where enrollment starts from the age of 1, has dedicated chefs, cinema, yoga, French, Spanish, and drama lessons, stresses on curriculum which allows early children’s absorption on a good variety of knowledge. A typical pre-school childcare fee costs around $600 or $700, for this kindergarten however, a five-day tuition fee costs $1245, twice higher than the rest.

Do not think that parents aren’t willing to spend thousands on children’s preschool learning, the kindergarten president, who has been in the Burnaby branch for two years, said the waiting list had wait times longer than two years. To enroll in the 1-year-old baby class, the parents should register the children before birth, or strictly speaking, even before the pregnancy!

As for whether the tuition fee is considered costly, it is generally a matter of opinion. Many parents often ready to spend ‘unlimited’ money and time on their children and as far as possible, the parents always provide the best.
Core Education Fine Arts is a ‘Junior Kindergarten’ located in Greater Vancouver with its curriculum focuses on early education absorbency and early exposure to children’s preferences. As a result, they schedule various classes from 7:45 a.m. all the way till 5:30 p.m. Besides basic writing, reading and singing classes, more amazingly, the school also provides cinema, yoga classes, indoor playgrounds, as well as Spanish and French lessons. And the students’ enrollment wait time is over two years now!

Initial Enrollment Predominated by Chinese

According to the founder, Natacha Veronika Beim, the notion of Core Education Fine Arts began with her teaching experiences in Europe, together with further early childhood education references in France, Britain, Italy, Asia and South America. She developed the current teaching method, which is through fun play rather than compulsion, and subsequently founded the only Junior Kindergarten in Canada 10 years ago.

Natacha said, “I know this will succeed because many countries around the world are implementing education similar to Junior Kindergarten. In the beginning, most of the applicants were immigrants, mostly Chinese, as they probably understood the benefits earlier.” But to Canadians, that was a whole new concept, we need to explain and make them understand gradually. Our reading, writing and mathematics levels comply with the international standards.”

At the moment, apart from the first branch campus at Park Royal South in West Vancouver and the second branch campus in Burnaby- Canada Way, the third branch campus had just completed in Langley. In 2007, they will establish branch campuses in Richmond, Vancouver, and North Vancouver.

1-Year-Old Baby Class Encountered Enthusiastic Responses

Karen Chan (Chen Ji En), the Burnaby campus president, who was originally a teacher at Core Education Fine Arts (CEFA), had spent five years working at CEFA in West Vancouver, where she witnessed a teaching method well-integrated with both fun and professional elements. She consequently franchised the complete CEFA model from her then “Boss” come good friend, Natacha in October 2004 and established a 10,000 square feet branch campus in Burnaby.

One of the special coaching methods is train the children to slice the ingredients with a plastic knife and then line up to place them into an electric oven, making tacos while learning the French Language at the same time.

The “Afternoon-Nap” room, doubled as a “Yoga Room” and the “Cinema”

Karen Chan, once a substitute teacher at Core Education Fine Arts in West Vancouver, materialized her dream to own a school after she bought the franchise rights from the founder five years later.

“I can’t’ tell the exact number of those waiting in line, because the number changes almost every single day,” Karen said. “If a child wishes to enroll, and his or her siblings are students in the school or was referred by a friend or relative, the queuing time will be shorter. ”

That means the first in the waiting list today may suddenly become fifth the next day, due to some random, prioritized insertions. Moreover, the wait time is at least two years by now, chances are when slots are available, at last, the children may be ready to enter the primary school by then.

“Therefore, I suggest the parents sign up their kids as soon as possible and they should do so before their birth. In the meantime, we can also check out other branches for any available slots. We also started baby classes for 1-year-old and 2-year-old this year, which is essentially the preparatory classes for Junior Kindergarten. It is best for the parents to process the registration for their babies during the pregnancy stage.” Karen said.

Academic Focus Subjects

It is really hard to imagine what a 1-year-old baby, who can barely stand up, could possibly pick up after attending classes. In the schedule of baby classes, surprisingly there are subjects such as “Socializing”, “Drama”, “Art Exploration”, “Science Experiments”, etc., all of which sound poles apart from any standard pre-school subjects for those under 5 years old.

Karen said that the subjects were more academically inclined to serve as a good foundation for young children. The specific course content, however, was secret according to Karen and she could not reveal much. She said, for example: ‘In terms of writing lessons, it doesn’t mean one just sits in the classroom and begins writing with a pen, rather, it starts with basic skills. How to hold a pen properly? How to train the hand’s muscles? You want your toddlers to develop habits. It doesn’t mean that once completed, they will all become elites, excel at yoga, as well as Spanish etc., but one thing for sure is these provide the students with exposure and acquaintance to subjects such as dancing, visual arts, sports, etc., allow them to appreciate and enjoy those, while at the same time, figure out their disinclination, subsequently need not to waste extra money and time to cultivate those interests in the future.”

While it is unclear if it is too early for a 1-year-old to learn about writing, many parents believe in this teaching method. Karen said that the baby class received very passionate responses and the quota was full, the school would hence continue this class the following year.

“The fact is that if you don’t’ enroll from the baby class, the opportunities to move on to the advanced classes are rather elusive.”

Take-home Homework

Classes for 4 to 5 years old are furnished with computers and cooking courses. In CEFA, students as young as 2-year-old are assigned with take-home homework.

“It’s not mandatory,” Karen said. “It is best if they are willing, but if they don’t wish to do it, they’re not compelled to. However, if the parents feel opposition about homework for a 2-year-old kid, then they better send their children to other schools. Based on personal experience, actually the children love to do homework, and you will be surprised at how good they are.”
According to Karen, about half of the students who graduated this year progressed to the private primary schools, many of whom moved on to The Vancouver Waldorf School.

Karen mentioned that over 100 families had enrolled their children, they were from Richmond, Tri-Cities and even Tsawwassen. Prior to the enrollment, there will be interview sessions with the parents to understand their situation. Although they do not conduct any students’ ability tests, there is an “observation period” to see if the children can adapt to the teaching method. If the circumstances are truly undesirable, they may request the children to quit. This, however, rarely happens, Karen noted.

The students’ ethnic groups are fairly balanced with Chinese, Caucasians and other ethnic groups together. In terms of number, minimum 16 students per class for the 3 to 5-year-old classes and taught by 2 teachers. For 1 to 3-year-old classes, there are 12 students per class and taught by 3 teachers.
“We won’t allow over 16 students in a class anymore, and we will have a stricter number of students next year.” Generally, the parents prefer small classes, and one teacher catering to four children is perfect.”

Wide Variety of School uniforms

The CEFA adopts a flexible learning system, which allows the students to study from one to five days a week, up to 8 hours between 7:45 a.m. and 5:30 pm, depending on the parents’ request, and the suggested schedule is between 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. The one-day or two half-day fees is $395 a month, $945/month for a three to five half-day classes, and $1245/month for five full-day classes. Karen, however, mentioned that the one-day and half-day per week schedule had just been changed to a minimum of two-full-day class at a monthly fee of $720.

This is Jolanta Prokopowiez, the teacher who is conducting the “Cultural Immersion” class, teaching the students about tacos, the Mexican delicacy while learning “Cheese”, “Onion” & “Beef” in the French Language

The school uniform offers 21 amazing styles, including waterproof jackets, waterproof pants, summer shorts for boys and girls, skirts, neck scarves, hats, vests and so on. A complete set costs around $500.

Little Evan C. was cutting quick, mimicking perfectly, while the teacher reminding everyone not to rub their eyes with hands to avoid tearing.

“Changes in price are in line with high demands. We do not increase the price every year, and as far as I know, it had changed only twice in the last seven years. Tuition fees do not include school uniforms and other extras such as the graduation ceremony, Christmas parties or outdoor events.” Do note that on top of tuition fees, CEFA also charges a non-refundable $250 application fee.
The school uniform comes with astounding variety, 21 uniforms available for different needs, including waterproof jackets, waterproof pants, boy’s summer shorts, girl’s summer dresses, hats, socks, neck scarves, vests, cotton trousers, etc., altogether costs approximately $500.

Learning French While Making tacos

At 11:30 a.m., Thursday, Junior Kindergarten Class 3 (ages 4 to 5 years old) is attending the course of “Culture Immersion”. The children are learning taco making today, while the teacher explains the location of Mexico, and introduces various ingredients of taco in English and French.

“Remember how we pronounce cheese in French? “Fromage”, and the onion is “oignon”, “what about the beef?”. The children laughed as they spoke French to the teacher. The children then used their rubber knives to cut the red peppers and onions into small pieces, lined up to place the ingredients in an electric oven. While waiting for the ingredients to cook, they gathered around for another story session with the teacher.

Karen said that there were about 10 teachers in the school and they had all completed the most basic Early Childhood Education course. Most of them were qualified with the Infant, Toddler, Special Needs training for the young children too. The school also provides in-house training and encourage all teachers to take part.

During the interview, we realized that all the children were wearing cotton shoes like slippers instead of leather or sports shoes. Karen explained: “That’s because we have indoor carpets, and the kids should feel more comfortable walking around in indoor shoes.”

Practicing yoga in a Cinema

The school has a cinema, which is a room with a big TV set. Projector TVs are not typical electrical appliances which any ordinary households will readily purchase. Children can lie on the mattresses, watching a movie or take a nap, with the shining star-studded ceiling above them. That is such an enjoyment.
“Most of the time we play the educational videos like Dora The Explorer, Bob the Builder and so on, and sometimes the kids brought some Disney movies, such as Monster Inc., etc.,” Karen said.

According to Karen, she would meet with the parents before enrollment, and the parents commented that they liked the well-balanced gaming while learning approach.

The students will also practice a once-a-week yoga class in the cinema. In terms of drama classes, they usually do role-playing for characters such as firefighters, postmen and all other roles the children are familiar and fond with.
The school was designed and completed with expedition by Karen’s dad, and he knows every corner of the school so well that he often wanders around in the school, checking out the surrounding area to ensure the school stay well-maintained.

Daily New Menu

The school’s chef is a shy lady who does not wish to appear in the media. Karen said, “We have six menus, which we change from time to time. While serving nutritious foods, we also ensure that the children don’t get bored. We don’t offer pork and peanut-related foods because we worry about children’s sensitivity issue. We also request the parents not to bring food to the school.”
The one-week menu pasted on the wall confirms the daily variety. Breakfast includes pancakes, apple muffins, quiche, toast with hash browns, turkey sausage and lemon scones. For lunch, there is creamy broccoli soup, hot dogs, Shepherd’s Pie, honey-garlic chicken rice, Tuna and French fries. Snacks include fried chicken nuggets, cheese sticks, baked apples with vegetables and milk, baked radish, grilled cucumber sticks, etc.

In another classroom, several babies are taking art course in uniforms splashed with color paintings. Karen said, “That’s the beauty of wearing a school uniform, easy to clean and change, and most importantly, for security reason, to easily take care of students.”

A large group of children are playing in an indoor playground, which is fully equipped with all kinds of toys, small bikes and basketball hoops. According to Karen, several multi-seat baby strollers park in the hallway were used by the teachers to bring the younger students for trips to Deer Lake Park.

The $500,000 Franchise investment

Karen, who has been working in early childhood education for years, dreams of setting up her own school since youth.

“Since I was a child, I wanted to work in some child-related fields. When I joined CEFA at West Vancouver as a teacher five years ago, my founder, Natacha, asked me during the interview, “What is the development you foresee in the next five years?”, of which I said, I wished to own a school. Five years later, Natacha came up and said to me, “What is your plan? Now that five years passed?” And we talked about the CEFA franchise because I’ve been working there for a long time, I know this is workable, so I just proceed to work on it. Of course, I wouldn’t say it was because of me that the franchise system was up, but it seemed like someone wanted to franchise the CEFA for overseas markets before, yet Natacha did not pursue. Two years after that, we were talking about it, probably because I have known her for a long time and we have become good friends, and she was confident that I would further strengthen the school’s notion hence she just let me proceed. I chose the venue myself, while consulting with Natacha at the same time. Undoubtedly, I am using the original teaching method.”

According to Natacha: “I didn’t think of doing any franchise before I talked to Karen about it. Even though many of our students’ parents had suggested opening new schools together with me before, I was not really keen at the time. Until a good friend who often provides good business advice to me suggested that I should grow the school further, then I became determined to do it.”
To be a franchise partner, the operators should fulfil the basic conditions of having certain experiences in market development, real estate etc., and Natacha will introduce a prospective school president, who will handle the teaching tasks to work together with the franchise partner. In Karen’s case, she is the franchise partner and the school president herself.

“The franchise fee is $50,000, and the applicant gets ready with an additional $200,000,” said Natacha, “because to build up a school, the investment cost is at least $400,000.”

Childhood Dream Comes True

Karen said she delayed her wedding in July this year because of the school construction. She added that she could realize her childhood dream of building her own school chiefly thanks to her father.

“I really wish to thank my dad, who has been working on the construction projects all the while. I decided to build the school in October 2004. My father also called up his fellow contractors to expedite work for me. He also provided a lot of advice, for example, on the sunroof design, and the small handrails installed along the stairway, all these are the thoughtful considerations my father built for the kids. We completed the school within a mere 3 months period all because of him. ”

This is the “study corner”, meticulously decorated for the kids to immerse themselves in the art atmosphere.

Brief Information on Tuition Fees

– Non-refundable application fee $250

Platinum Schedule

– 5 days’ class a week, $1245 per month.
For a 10 months’ fees one-time payment, $1145 per month after discount.

Gold Schedule
– 3 day’s class a week, $945 per month.
For a 10 months’ fees one-time payment, $745 per month after discount.

Silver Schedule
– 2 day’s class a week, $720 per month.
For a one-time payment of 10 months’ fees, $520 per month after discount.

Over 20 types of uniforms, a complete set is at around $500