Saturday, January 15, 2011

Chinese school, here we come

Mark agreed that we can send River to Chinese preschool starting next fall. He’ll only attend two mornings per week, the cheapest option, which isn’t enough to become fluent the first year. But I hope it’s enough to take advantage of that early brain sponginess that will allow him to pick up difficult things like a tonal language without much effort. It’s a financial stretch and a transportation hassle, but I also think it will stretch River’s horizons at a time when it matters and I’m very excited about that.

When we visited and he participated in the class, I saw the same “what the fuck” look cross his face that I experienced so often overseas. The look that comes when you realize you really have no clue what is going on. This is followed by rapid processing, rapid decision making and then an adjustment to the situation. For me, it comes with a rush of excitement and confidence as I figure out something that stretches my boundaries and my comfort zone. Since River seemed to enjoy the class, I think it may have had the same effect on him. It’s very rewarding to be able to share that experience with him.

Mark says I’m projecting my own experiences on to him. And I may well be. But it is necessarily wrong to want your child to experience the things you’ve found most rewarding? If, like Mark, he found such situations stressful, then perhaps it wouldn’t be right for me to subject him to them. But he cried when it was time to go and begged to go back. It’s quite possible, even probable, that he shares my penchant for adapting, for figuring things out, and for jumping into new situations.

Languages and international interactions have formed an important part of my life, but I think my first exposure came too late. I didn’t have the opportunity to start studying a second language until middle school. I want to share that part of my experience with him and I’d like him to have the advantage of an earlier exposure – where he can receive the benefits with less work. My early education was lacking in quality math, science and intellectual exploration and I think it would have been helpful to have these things. I also want to give him what I missed out on.

I wish I could attend preschool with him. I think I could learn a lot – not only Chinese, but also science. But I can still derive a lot of pleasure from sending him, watching him go through the experience, and perhaps picking up some things along the way.

In the meantime, this piece by Thomas Friedman, made me laugh. Perhaps River will become a source of low-wage labor for a Chinese firm someday, but at least it’s a job prospect.

Do you have any life experiences you want to make sure your children are exposed to?

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