We’re a month into Zhong Ban (four-year-old preschool). We had an interesting start, but I’d say we’ve finally found a good rhythm.
In September, Schäfer started school without any hesitation. Though he was sad that summer was over (swimming!), he easily walked back into the classroom and greeted all of his familiar classmates and teachers.
During the 2nd week of school, one of the students had a birthday cake delivered for the afternoon snack. Birthday cake is one of Schäfer’s favorite things so he begged me to let him attend the afternoon classes.
Chinese children go to preschool from 7:30am – 5pm. This schedule is more conducive to their parents working schedule rather than the idea that four-year-olds actually need to be in school for 8.5 hours each day.
Schäfer attends Chinese school from 8am – 12noon. He eats 2nd breakfast and 1st lunch at school. (The boy loves food.) We agreed to let him eat 1st lunch at school because there is a play period after lunch and we know how much Schäfer loves to play with the other kids.
Our purpose in sending Schäfer to school is to improve his Chinese and make friends. Our purpose is fulfilled in the morning. We’ve never done the afternoon classes because I know Schäfer can’t sit at a desk all day. As soon as he gets home from preschool, he goes straight to his trains or blocks and immediately starts playing. Sometimes he builds train tracks or lego cities for 2 hours straight.
In the afternoon, I also teach him. These days, we have a reading lesson. Then, I read to him. All of this is dependent on the girls both taking a nap.
Back to the birthday cake.
I agreed to take Schäfer back to school for the birthday cake. Of course, being the extrovert that he is, he wanted to stay. The afternoon classes include art, music, and playtime on the outside playground.
Schäfer started asking to attend afternoon class everyday. In fact, he begged to go.
I shot of a few e-mails to a my Varsity Moms. The members of the Varsity are excellent Moms who are ahead of me in this adventure called parenthood. They didn’t ask to be put on the Varsity. I e-mail. They reply. I’m thankful.
All of them have at some point done local Chinese school. Each of them said the same thing, in their own way: if Schäfer’s initiating it give it a try. Stay flexible. Keep watching for signs of too much too soon, etc.
So, I took him back. It was a lot of work on my part. I had to go to the school and get him at noon. Then from 12 – 3pm he was home. This sounds like a long time, but it wasn’t!
Between eating lunch and getting the little girls down for their naps, I didn’t have much time to read and play with Schäfer. Then, I had to wake the little girls up and carry them to the school to return Schäfer to class. There was one little girl who was very, very grouchy about the entire situation.
The truth is that Schäfer didn’t always enjoy his time at home from 12-3 because I was so consumed with getting the girls to nap that I didn’t always have time to read to him. Sometimes his play would get above a whisper and the girls would wake up. It was very frustrating for all involved.
I think part of Schäfer wanted to go to school because he’s extroverted and liked being there (birthday cake!). I think another part of Schäfer wanted to go back to school because he didn’t have to be as quiet as a mouse there.
We gave it a go for 2 solid weeks. Then, Hubs and I both saw that something had to give. Schäfer just couldn’t maintain his joy while in school from 8-5. In other words, by 5pm on Thursday, he was kaput.
When I second guess myself, I try to remember these things:
1. Classroom Aide Li is giving Schäfer Chinese class when the other students have English class. Schäfer was already on poem #6 while the afternoon class is only on poem #3. The one on one instruction he receives in the morning is great. He is learning and growing in his Chinese language abilities.
2. The school bus loads at 4:15. So from 4:15 – 5pm the kids are just playing… or more than likely watching Pleasant Goat cartoons.
3. I missed him terribly! Being gone from 3-5 was too much!
As for the afternoon rest time, the girls will grow up and hopefully someday sleep deeper. Until then, our latest solution is to download free audio books from the public domain so that Schäfer can listen to them on the iPod while the girls sleep. He loves this!
So far he’s listened to the Great Big Treasury of Beatrix Potter and he’s currently halfway through Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie.
Right now, Schäfer attends local preschool from 8 – 12. Then, he comes home for 2nd lunch and time with his trains. Around 1pm, we hand him the iPod and he lays in his bunk and listens to a book for a hour or so. (Today, he listened to Peter Pan for 2 hours!)
Once the girls are awake, the possibilities are endless. We might paint, go outside, work on puzzles or read books together – that is if Selah will stop eating them!
We’ve found a really good rhythm for October.