Sunday, April 14, 2013

Preschool

One of my FAVORITE parts of living here in the Bay Area is having more Chinese resources than we know what to do with. For example, a few months ago when we started the hunt for a Perfect Preschool we ended up finding several that were Chinese and it has been tough narrowing it down to where we want to send our precious Mr. Lo. The first preschool we toured shall be termed "Classic Chinese." It was a bit heavy-handed in their academic expectations for 3 yr olds IMHO. The next preschool we toured was Christian-Chinese and I adore the head teacher/director because she is skillful, experienced, and radiates love for everybody. A great combo. Her preschool had no openings, but we managed to squeeze ourselves into two sessions of their summer camp after being on a wait-list. Yes did I mention preschool is competitive here. And expensive. Relatively. Anyway, the preschool we ended up going with after touring a total of 4 and looking into countless others is *drumroll* a Mandarin Chinese immersion play-based.  
Walking out the door on his first day of school!  As his mother, I can completely see the nervous/excited mixture of emotions in his face and body language.  Oh my precious little guy, looking at this photo I just want to give him a big hug!

Since we moved here after the semester had started, we didn't get into this preschool right away. But an opening came up and we were offered a spot. The tricky part is, Lo's classmates had been in the Chinese environment since last September, so we wondered how well he could keep up in class. We've spoken very little Mandarin to him at home, and the class is 90% Mandarin immersion. A few days ago I asked Ma Laoshi how our son is adjusting. She laughed as she told me, "Even if he does not know what is going on, he still is always opening his mouth!" Which these teachers see as a positive trait. :) "The kids we have trouble with are the quiet ones," she explained. "We need them to be participating, talking, and actively involved so we know what they are understanding and how to guide their language learning." Lo has always been a loud and enthusiastic learner so his learning style fits how this classroom is set up. Also, the teacher praised, "he has a good personality. If he is feeling bad about something, it is gone quickly and his big smile comes right back." 
Ma Laoshi is the head teacher.  She is fantastic, full of energy (note the athletic shoes) and so cute how she interacts with the kids.  Last night as Mr. Lo was talking himself to sleep, I overheard on the monitor him saying "Ma Laoshi..."
Resilience is Mr. Lo's hallmark trait. I am so proud of my sweet little boy! He is eager to interact with others and generally a delight to be around. When he came home from school after his first day, we were having lunch and talking about his school papers. "Let me show you how, Mom," he admonished. "You don't know how, but I know how." He showed me how he had learned to count in Chinese.  He is so pleased with himself for speaking a language his mother does not know. I'm thrilled to see the positive effect preschool has had on him. I know from personal experience how painful it can be trying to learn Chinese as an adult.  There's a reason the missionary training center gives twice as much time to Chinese learners as compared to Spanish-learners.  So our family has made it a big priority to raise our kids multilingual.  It is also worth mentioning that this school is strictly drop-off style to encourage teacher/student interaction. I feared this aspect of preschool a bit because Mr. Lo never went to church nursery alone (cried if we tried to leave), and I still attend the current church class Sunbeams with him, we rarely leave him with any type of babysitter and if we do it is usually a close friend or family member he knows well, etc. However, on that first day of school, though I could tell he was nervous, he had no trouble saying goodbye to me. Oh the power of a well-prepped environment and skillful teacher. Also, I think it helped that we read a handful of books from the library on the subject of starting school. I censored the books even, knowing from my hypnosis training how much better it is to give 100% positive material to kids than even a little bit of negative that gets resolved (the brain tends to hang onto the negative and give it more weight). One more idea I had that probably helped was that I emailed all the other parents of students in this preschool and let them know Lo was starting the following week.  I requested a playdate to help Lo make friends before his first day of class, and got many friendly responses.  We ended up having four other classmates of Lo meet us at a park a few days before he started school.  It really helped him get to know the other students and feel more comfortable on his first day.

It feels momentous for our son to start this chapter of his life.  I see it as the beginning of him accepting significant influence from people outside our close inner social circle.   We have taken the leap, embarked on the path, and look forward to all the joys, challenges and progression of the future.  Education is a wonderful gift.

Note: living next-door to a homeless encampment has changed my prayers.  I now sincerely thank God every day that I have a roof over my head, a bed to sleep in, food to eat and family to love.  I also recently discovered I live next door in our apartment complex to a mother who cannot read or write in any language because she never had an opportunity for education in the country where she grew up.  And so my prayers have grown more tender still, thanking God that I can raise my children in this land of opportunity.  I am so glad to send my son to preschool!  Chinese preschool!  It is wonderful. 

2 comments:

Anna said...

We just signed Rachel up for preschool starting in August. Maybe I'll write a post about it. One of the schools I was considering was a Spanish immersion school.

Your "First Day of School" Lo is so cute!

Morgan Somers said...

This is SO COOL!!!! I don't know what more to say! I just love it! What an opportunity!