American Kindergarten and Chinese School

The kids start Chinese School in Burlington this week. We’ll see how it goes. When we went to register them we were pleasantly surprised to be the only non-native-Chinese-speaking parents. I get the sense that Saturday classes are more likely frequented by those who speak Chinese at home as the classes and playgroups are all led in Mandarin. I think our kids are going to be plugged right in. Jie-jie and Mei-mei were so excited that, even though class would not start for two weeks, they packed their official Sun Yat-Sen kindergarten backpacks with their Chinese reading program as soon as they got home.

I hope that Chinese school goes well for them because I am beginning to worry about the financial viability of a two week return to campus (and our lovely campus apartment) in December. The housing is covered and I will get a small salary from teaching that will cover our expenses while in country but we are having a tough time figuring out how to cover airfare. I really do want to trip to start setting up my next research project… we’ll see if we can’t pull it together.

Jie-jie and Mei-mei are making the transition to American kindergarten and preschool pretty well. We have observed, sometimes with dismay and sometimes with amusement, the way that our children apply lessons, skills and mannerisms that they acquired in China to their new settings. For example, Jie-jie is clearly non-plussed by the line etiquette. Kids wander this way and that, leaving huge gaps in the line and, yet, when she gives them a little nudge to get them moving (which would be the expected and socially responsible behavior in China – to help your classmate behave correctly) or just skips the line entirely her teacher talks to her about how she needs to be her best self and she does that by taking care of herself and making sure she DEMONSTRATES the correct behavior. Its up to the others to follow her example or not. We have struggled a bit with the extent to which parents are locked out of the school. In China we walked our kids to their classroom and picked them up there at the end of the day. Here the kids are collected from us outside and returned to us there later. I am completely baffled by lunch. Quite frankly, I would take the bowl of hot gruel that the kids got in China over the offerings at the cafeteria. They claim to be local and healthy but, really, chocolate milk??!! And the kids get to pick. Sending a cold lunch in isn’t any better. First, its cold and, I guess after China it feels pretty unhealthy to eat so much raw food. Second, my kids just do not go for sandwiches. So, I have been sending cold rice or pasta, carrots and green beans, apples and plumes, and protein in the form of yogurt, beans or tofu. I think that a small thermos or two might be in order.

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