The wisdom of the ages
The seeds for founding a kindergarten were sown as early as 1995 when Betty Ho had her first child, Christopher. 'When I found out I was pregnant, I decided to quit my job, and became a 'full-time' mother. I started taking courses on early education, including right-brain training and prenatal education,' Ho recalls.
Two years later, Ho's second son, Kevin, was born, and this served as another nudge towards her current work. 'I was pondering what kind of job would allow me to observe and experience the development of my children,' she says. 'And coincidentally, an aunt of mine - who was about to retire - was selling her kindergarten.'
In 2005, Ho renamed Jimmy's Kindergarten the Rightmind Kindergarten, which served to mark eight years of honing her philosophy and the curriculum.
Ho also currently owns Rightmind International Nursery (Shum Wan) and was a co-founder of the KinderU Suzuki Music Academy.
Fundamental to her projects is an overarching belief in the importance of right-brain education in teaching, which allows children to learn 'in a pressure-free environment by means of music, games and flashcards.'
This is unsurprising given that Ho was the recipient of a largely Western education. What is more surprising, perhaps, is that the curriculum at her projects includes the Chinese classics, and the teaching method much vaunted by the Chinese - recitation.
'Chinese culture and wisdom has been around for thousands of years and I do believe that parents and educators will find solutions within classical thought and literature,' Ho says.
In fact, Dizigui (Guidelines for Being a Good Person), a book of maxims by the Qing Dynasty Li Yuxiu, and based on Confucian teachings, is a primary text of Ho's students, which they recite. She adds that recitation is also a good method of right-brain training.
Ho's parents, now retired in Australia, influenced her a great deal. 'We often say that parents are the best role models. Mine spent their entire lives in the education sector. My mother is a teacher of impaired children,' says Ho.
Meanwhile, Ho's father was a principal of government schools in Hong Kong, and is a long-standing devotee of Chinese culture and calligraphy.
Clearly, Ho's father has influenced the way she is raising her sons (she gave birth to her third son, Edward, in 2004), who are all receiving traditional Chinese lessons on the mainland.
'They - particularly Christopher and Kevin - are relatively better at English than Chinese. As the two will be studying abroad soon, I think it's better for them to learn more about [Chinese] language and culture,' Ho says.
Despite having four schools to oversee, Ho maintains a balanced life. 'I start my day replying to e-mails, visiting my schools and giving teacher training, ' she says, adding that she also maintains a personal grooming routine, which offers relaxation.
The scales are also kept in check by Ho's lawyer husband, who is an equal enthusiast of children's education, and who exemplifies this by delivering Dizigui seminars to parents.
What's the essence of a harmonious family? 'To identify the correct direction, and to stay on course,' she says.
'Each member of the family should understand their responsibilities, to properly contribute. We must be grateful for what we have,' she says.