The World Is Their Classroom

Amber Yong, the globetrotting supermum of Instagram stars @leialauren, is far from kiasu when it comes to her kids’ preschool education. She shares why.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

“When the girls first started school, they didn’t cry. There was no resistance and they didn’t even look back when we dropped them off at school.”

“Just chill out.” That has always been 36-year-old Amber Yong and her husband Peter Lok’s parenting philosophy.

Back when their kids first made their debut on social media in 2016, the multi-tasking parents of the Insta-famous Momo twins Leia and Lauren (@leialauren) were known for their relaxed and unconventional – some say a little mad – parenting approach.

For instance, they raised the twins, who were born premature, on their own without additional help while juggling their careers. The gung-ho couple also brought their babies to Iceland for a holiday when they were only five months old.

Like their adventurous parents, Leia and Lauren are now seasoned travellers who have been to over 15 countries, and counting. Did we mention that they are only four years old?

Amber and Peter’s take on their children’s learning are just as “chill”. Leia and Lauren are now attending a Montessori preschool, but that hasn’t stopped them from travelling around the world every other month.

With Luke, Baby number three, in the picture now, the family of five is looking forward to even grander travel adventures.

Here, Amber, who runs Leia Lauren Studio with Peter, shares why accessibility, rather than the school curriculum and programme, was the key factor when choosing a preschool for the twins.

She also lets on why she isn’t overly anxious about the girls missing weeks of school whenever they go on their adventures.

How kiasu were you and Peter when choosing a preschool for the girls?

“The girls were only three years old when we decided to enrol them in childcare. As they were still quite young then, we did not think much about the type of curriculum or programmes the school offered.

“At the time, we just wanted reliable caregivers for our children and a childcare centre that offers a good mix of outdoor play and learning. Their school has an outdoor playground, so that is a plus point.

“One of the things we considered was class size. Their school has a teacher to student ratio of one to six, which we liked.

“From young, the girls have been very attached to us. When they first started school, there was some insecurity on whether they would be well taken care of. If there were too many students to each teacher, we were concerned that the learning and focus might not be there.”

Why did you and Peter eventually settle on a Montessori preschool?

“We did not consciously choose to let Leia and Lauren go to a Montessori preschool.

“I know that for some parents, the school’s curriculum is the key factor and they don’t mind making the effort to send their kids to a school that is further away. But for us, the school’s accessibility supersedes the type of curriculum it offers.

“The twins’ school is just down the road from our home, less than five minutes away. We are working parents juggling our own business. Imagine being stuck in a traffic jam every day if we were to send them to a school that is located further away. We figured that if that was something we had to do every day, the process should not be a drag for us.

“That said, we still went for the school tour prior to enrolling them to get a sense of its programme and facilities. However, although convenience is important for now, our focus might change later when they are in kindergarten to prepare them to ease into Primary 1.”

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How will the focus change when they are in kindergarten?

“Right now, I feel that Leia and Lauren are not so good in Mandarin and don’t really want to speak the language. Although they do get some exposure in school, we don’t really speak Mandarin at home. We will have to see how they progress next year. If they don’t, we may have to consider a Chinese enrichment class for them.”

Was there any separation anxiety when the twins first started Nursery 1?

“When the girls first started school, they didn’t cry. There was no resistance and they didn’t even look back when we dropped them off at school. I think that is because they went to school together and both of them have each other.

“Peter and I were the ones with separation anxiety, while they were okay with it! They love going to school. It might have been a different story if they were a single child.”
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Are you also as chill when it comes to signing them up for enrichment classes?

“Currently, the twins attend a few extra classes outside school including piano, ballet and swimming. Swimming is a life skill that we want them to have, while the other two lessons are for exposure. We want to find out what they are interested in before getting them to focus on something.

“Right now, they love going for all the classes. That’s very important for us because we feel there is no point in forcing them to do something they are not interested in. For example, they previously attended violin classes, which didn’t go too well.

“We could feel they weren’t keen on learning to play the violin, particularly Leia. She wasn’t paying attention during lessons and didn’t want go for the classes. But with the piano, we can tell they are genuinely into it and want to learn.

“I feel that getting exposure is important for them at this age. That is also why we like bringing them outdoors and travelling with them!

Speaking of travel, how often do the twins miss school because of that?

“When we travel, we bring our kids 100 per cent of the time because we don’t have much family support in Singapore. We also prefer to bring them along. We are out of town for short or long trips almost every other month. The longest time they have been away is for three weeks, when we took a trip to Alaska and America earlier this year.”

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“I feel that getting exposure is important for them at this age. That is also why we like bringing them outdoors and travelling with them!” 

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How do you catch up on their missed lessons in school if they are out of town so frequently?

“We don’t! This is because their learning doesn’t only take place in school. The twins do a bit of learning at home, too, before bedtime. We will go through their ABCs, numbers, phonics, in a fun way. They love reading, so they also get us to read to them, or we do some activity cards together.

“One of the things we love about bringing them out of the country is that the twins learn a lot from their overseas experiences. Most of our travel activities are centred around the kids.

“For example, they get to see the wildlife in different countries and learn about the seasons. More importantly, I think the exposure they get on their travels helps them embrace change and differences, and become more open to different types of food and cultures.

“It has been shown that my kids are very open to new things. They are not picky with their food and they love trying new things. I attribute all of that to travel.”
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With your littlest one now in the picture (Congrats!), how will your family’s travel lifestyle change?

“Even with the newest addition to our family, we’ll still do the things we love to do and bring them on our travels. Prior to having kids, Peter and I enjoyed travelling so much. Now that we have kids, we can do it as a family.

“We hope to visit France and Croatia. It’s still in the planning stage, but we definitely have been thinking about it. That said, we probably have to be more conscious about pulling the girls out of school too much and for long periods of time when they enter kindergarten in 2020.”