Posts Tagged 'education'

Be here tomorrow

Ah, the concept of planning.  It’s a fluid concept.  For much of life over here, planning means to ask in advance.. in as little as one hour in advance, it often seems.

We got a text message from Leo’s kindergarten Wednesday.  “Parents, please come to the field day practice session tomorrow afternoon at 4.”  That meant both parents.  And that meant leave work early.  And it also meant do something with your other child at home in the case of we foreigners exceeding the one child policy.

Luckily Liz was able to negotiate an hour off work at the last minute.  JM has the afternoon free most days, conveniently. And, in the absence of grandparents living nearby, we count on our faithful Chinese nanny as always to take care of Rosie when we’re busy.  So it worked out- just.

But it never ceases to amaze us that this is status quo in China.  People are expected to be accommodating, plain and simple. It just underscores to us how differently we operate from a cultural perspective.  We expect individual accommodation- not accommodation to the group.  That seems backwards!

We’re trying to learn, three years into this process.   I think the only way we’d ever feel comfortable with it would be to grow up here like Leo and Rosie are currently doing.  But they get healthy doses of individualism from their raging Western parents at home, so maybe there’s no hope for them either!

They start early

Our three year old goes to a Chinese kindergarten. What does he do there besides play, have snack time, sing songs, and take potty breaks? From the small smattering of materials he comes home with and short glimpses in the classroom, it seems he does considerably more. Botany lessons from growing seeds, counting exercises, socialization lessons from videos telling you not to bully other kids, and consistent partnering with ‘older brother’ from the higher class level (without siblings at home, you make do as best you can).

Doubtless there’s a lot more than even this. What’s great is Leo really enjoys it. We got him into a pretty selective kindergarten here in town. And let us tell you, if your three year old isn’t in a selective kindergarten, *tsk-tsk*, good luck with his entire future.

The funny thing today, though, is the flyer that came home from school with him. Chinese New Year affords a whole three weeks vacation for the students in January. A nice break, right? No! Wasted time! They’re offering a ‘winter school’ program for nine days of that vacation, for an additional fee.

This is classic Chinese educational culture. There’s very little in the way of free, unstructured time. If your kids aren’t busy with extra classes after school or on the weekends, you run the danger of falling behind. Good luck competing with all those other motivated students (i.e.- parents). China’s economy may be faring well, but the job market is just as fierce here as anywhere else in the world right now. Three years old is not too soon to start grooming for the realities of life ahead, in other words.

So will we send Leo to winter school? Umm.. probably not!