Celebrating 10 Wonderful Years: An Interview with Ms. Jing and Ms. Marilyn

Founder Ms. Wu Jing and Founding Principal Ms. Marilyn Ow

We’re celebrating the tenth-year anniversary of House on the Hill this year! Founded in 2012 by Wu Jing and Oliver Bettin, they sought to impart high-quality early childhood education and care, with an emphasis on staying true to the values and educational excellence of the Montessori Method.

Together with founding Principal Marilyn Ow, Jing now leads a team of dedicated staff across four campuses in Singapore: Mount Sophia, Balmoral, Pasir Panjang and the newly opened Hollandse Club branch.

Here they look back at the first ten years of House on the Hill.

Our first campus at Tower House, 12 Mount Sophia

1. Why did you start House on the Hill?

J: I was looking for opportunities in early childhood care and had decided on a Montessori school after learning about the pedagogy.  I felt that there was room for a school that was committed to the pure principles of Montessori. When we met Marilyn, I felt an instant connection to her. I loved how professional she was, and I felt strongly that this was how a Montessori educator should be. For me, that was the turning point. This whole naïve plan to have a school, it lit up from there!

Team Photo (Mount Sophia, 2015)

2. What are some of your favourite moments from these 10 years of HotH?

Graduation (Mount Sophia, 2020)

M: There are so many. I think my greatest satisfaction comes from seeing the children grow when they start with us to when they graduate. They are so tiny when they start, and to see how they go from being apprehensive to be in a new environment, perhaps having some separation anxiety, to the day that they are all grown up and graduating from their Kindergarten years. These are very joyous moments for us. Knowing that we have played a part in helping children grow, it gives me great satisfaction and joy.

J: There are many sweet memories, but there is one that really stands out for me. One year, a truck accidentally hit our old school building at 12 Mount Sophia. It came out of the blue on a Sunday. We had to close for renovation and repairs, and so many of the parents immediately came together to support us.I remember that within two hours they had set up a parent volunteer committee!

M: It was on a Sunday as well!

J: I rented the meeting room in my condo, and they all came, lawyers and other professionals, and everyone was sitting there sharing their ideas on how we should handle the situation. It was really touching.

M: At that time, the teachers also played their part. We needed to look after the children during the days that school was closed. The teachers had to quickly change their lesson plans.

J: Yes, we did ten days of excursions! Each morning they would meet at the bus stop and off they would go.

The aunties also came to my house and cooked for our staff as we tried to get the school back on its feet. Looking back, it was such a tough time, but it is also a very fond memory.

3. Do you think early years pedagogy has changed in the past 10 years? In what ways?

Parents Workshop and Curriculum Briefing (Balmoral, 2019)

M: I don’t think pedagogy has changed much, but what has changed are the parents. They want to be a lot more involved in the whole teaching process, and that’s where the difference lies. It is so much more meaningful when parents play a part in the teaching. So, we help by supporting them with workshops, Montessori at Home materials, and we ask parents to extend learning through lesson plans and our thematic topics. You’ll be amazed at the difference when parents have set their homes up to encourage independence in the children. It makes learning so much easier for the children.

4. What should parents look out for with their young children?

Jing with her sons, Kai and Hans (Balmoral, 2019)

J: After so many years of working with young children and their parents, and as the mother to two young boys, I would say that parents must learn to be patient about their children’s learning path. They should give the children plenty of space to explore.

Children need time to learn in their own way. I have had to learn to step back with my own sons. Instead, I observe them, and I try enable them to think for themselves. We are big fans of independence at House on the Hill, and letting children do things on their own. It gives them such confidence.

I understand the anxiety, but it is important to respect the learning process and let it take its course.

5. How do you see the future of House on the Hill? What’s in store for the next 10 years?

Focused on developing happy, confident children

J: We don’t have big plans to expand, we want to just keep doing what we are doing and doing it well. We are focused on making sure that the children are prepared for life as caring, global citizens and will continue to develop our employees.

Looking back, it has been such a joy to do this for the last 10 years. It has been hard work, but I treasure everything that we have been doing here. I’m proud of what we have achieved. If we value and believe in what we are doing, we will go far. 

A version of this interview was published in the August 2022 Expat Living Magazine. Please click here to view the article.