Coming here, we weren’t exactly sure what we’d do to educate the children, but we thought it might have something to do with a combination of Chinese public school and home-school. (International school isn’t an option because the tuition for one child is 10 months of Brian’s salary.) It wasn’t really fully thought out, just a hope that we could socialize them with Chinese children and expose them to the language, but when taken to its logical conclusion, it just wouldn’t work out for a number of reasons. The reasons we already knew were that Chinese schools are very intense. The children are in school from 8-5 every day, work very hard while they are there, and then bring home hours of homework afterward. 3-4 hours of homework a night is worse when you consider the fact that they don’t get home until almost 6. I asked the girl I tutor how long it took her to do her homework at night when she was in school, and she said she would do homework until 11 each night. We also have some new Chinese friends who have a 7-year-old daughter and a 2-year-old son; the 7-year-old also has 3-4 hours of homework a night, and they have to push her so hard to get her to finish it all (more about them in a minute). So going part of the time would be difficult for our kids, because they wouldn’t be able to keep up with the Chinese kids, which they’d probably want to do if they were surrounded by them, and Chinese teachers probably wouldn’t appreciate having a kid in their class who was just there to have fun for a few hours. The thing is, I wouldn’t WANT my children to keep up with the Chinese kids, because I don’t think that what the Chinese kids have to do to succeed is necessary. I want my kids to be kids while they can. Also, Chinese teaching methods aren’t exactly big on creativity, imagination or any learning methods except rote memorization, reading and writing.
Since coming here, we have discovered more reasons not to send our children to public Chinese school. One thing that our new Chinese friends with the two children told us is that when their child does poorly on an assignment, the work is shown to the entire class and the child is publicly shamed. I had some idea that that was part of the Chinese “way” of education and classroom management, but it was quite interesting to hear it for ourselves. However, the thing that was the deciding factor, was talking to a new expat friend who has taught in several Chinese kindergartens and is married to a Chinese woman. This is what he said:
“Please don’t send your children to a local Kindergarten, I’ve worked for 4 local kindergartens (working for one now) and teachers do not respect kids at all. Not to say they are all bad teachers but there are always at least 3 or so teachers in every kindergarten I’ve worked for that constantly yelled at the children to shut up, etc… Not that all of them are bad but it just makes my stomach sick for all the kids that have to go through the local system.
I think your best option is home schooling if you feel like you would be up to that. I know it’s a daunting task but every expat I’ve read about or talked to that can’t afford the international schools opt for home schooling.
I don’t want to scare you or anything, I just have strong feelings towards local kindergartens. There must be some affordable, good kindergartens around here but probably not many.”
Later on in the conversation, I asked what he’d do with his kids, when he had them, and he said they would home-school and save their money for international school. It means a lot to me that both he and his wife (a native Chinese person) would not send their child to public school here. It was kind of the answer I was hoping for, to be honest. I was really kind of afraid of sending Piper to school here, unable to speak the language and with teachers who might be much less kind to her than teachers are in the US, and who punish children harshly, especially when her very inability to understand the language might cause her to make mistakes that would warrant discipline. And I’ve always wanted to home-school. It just helps to have a good reason, and know I am not depriving my children of the “experience” of a Chinese school.
I don’t know what we’ll do in the future, but for now, we read the “What Your Preschooler Needs to Know” book every day (it’s a book made to be read aloud to children, with classic poems, songs, stories, and even some science, history and art in story form), and I’ve ordered the activity books that accompany it.
Piper is loving her BrainQuest workbook, too (thanks to my friend Maggie for that tip). I just love watching her figure things out–at this age, she is learning so quickly, and effortlessly, as though I just happened to be there to witness it, but had nothing really to do with it at all. She can write a lot of her letters now, and is learning to write some numbers, and can count up to 6 or 7 objects before she gets confused and starts counting things twice J. I can’t believe how fast she is changing. Even two months ago, she had just begun to draw people (super adorable people, I might add), and now she draws spiders and fish and socks and anthills (I actually do have to credit the BrainQuest workbook with giving her the confidence to venture beyond people-drawing). I will look at the “Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons Book” and maybe we’ll start that later this year. I have heard really good things about it.
I am really excited about the future as far as home-schooling goes. Now I just have to figure out how to wake up raring to go in the morning and how to say no to the computer when it calls my name, and we’ll be all set. And also an answer to Chinese people who want to know why we’re not sending them to school like every other Chinese child.