Every few weeks, I’m asked about what new skills L1 has learned recently. She’s already four this year and has been in pre-school for almost a year and a half.
Compared to her counterparts elsewhere, she might seem to be lagging behind. Some of her peers in the Philippines can already count, spell—some can even read. Same aged friends in Korea who are also in pre-school are more or less in the same boat, and some of them are enrolled in extracurricular classes (and so they’re probably Lego geniuses as well).
And how about L1?
I’m going to be honest: she can’t read yet. She can’t spell yet (she can write her name though). There are a lot of things she can’t do yet, but that’s okay. Wait, erase that. I can’t emphasize enough how proud I am of my little big girl.
I can still remember the first time I enrolled her in a local preschool. Six weeks after arriving in Beijing, the decision was made during another fight with L1. Taking care of two very young children on my own was so stressful at the time and there didn’t seem to be any other way. Daddy Park didn’t like the idea either, but I had insisted. Just for half day, I urged.
It almost seems like a lifetime ago now, when I gently explained that she had to start attending school now while she screamed and begged and promised a million things. I can still remember her arms tightly wrapped around my neck, her legs around my waist. I remember the teacher lifting her away from me, firmly but gently, her coos barely heard underneath the screams.
It took her a month to get used to the school; another month before she started speaking Mandarin. But she was still unhappy with her world; she would gnarl at smiling passers-by and cry when asked to greet. She didn’t like making mistakes and would get angry when people pointed out these errors.
A few months later we moved L1 to a bigger school, and like all mothers, I worried about our decision. Was this a good idea? Were we doing the right thing? What if I end up making her the most socially awkward being in Beijing? (I’m slightly exaggerating, of course.)
Now a year into the school, and my daughter loves learning. She’s been proactively teaching her little sister Mandarin, and always wants to do a project. She listens attentively and even gives additional suggestions occasionally. Every new season seems to be my favorite time to be with her, and this season is no different.
I wasn’t a good student growing up, and am not sure how to encourage my child to be a better one. I do know what she loves to do, and it seems that she has an idea what she wants to learn as well. A few weeks ago, my husband’s friend and his family came to Beijing and stayed with us for a week. They are on a year-long adventure to explore the world. They are what is now popularly known as “world-schooling”. And suddenly something clicked: we obviously can’t World School, but we could try homeschooling, even for just a semester. My daughter seems to have a few ideas how she wants to learn. I want to try to let her lead me, just for now, anyway.
L1 and I have been talking about what she wants to do next semester. It’s a strange feeling when your child is telling you what she wants to learn and how she wants to learn it. I had no idea toddlers could do that. Just for a semester, I keep telling myself. She’s still a pre-schooler, after all. The plan isn’t complete yet, but funny how my big little girl is helping me plan for the next semester.
Oh well, let’s see how it goes.