Blogs must have some kind of built-in super power. Immediately after writing an entry about wanting to attend a homeschooling workshop in Beijing, the doors rushed open for its fruition through an inadvertent mistake. Due to my clumsy reading of Chinese characters, I incorrectly pegged the date in July but it was actually June. As soon as I pressed the blog publish button, I realized the mistake and made a split-second decision to take the train to Beijing. In my excitement, I also misread the address in Chinese. I thought the venue was near the Beijing South Station when it referred to another south station all the way at the opposite end of the city.
Anyway, I made it to the workshop and finally met the people whom I’ve been wanting to meet for the longest time – Chinese parents who homeschool their children. I arrived a little after five o’clock when participants were sharing their own homeschooling stories. Everything was in Chinese so most of it flew over my head; I could only catch some words and concepts. Even if I couldn’t understand most of it, the parents’ spirit of enthusiasm didn’t need any translation. They were so eager to share that even if they were given only ten minutes to speak, most people expounded beyond that. I expected more moms to be in the audience of around forty people, but the fathers turned out in full force, while children played in the background creating not as much ruckus as anticipated.
The most surprising participant was Mrs. Wu who had five children whose ages ranged between seven and one. She and her husband take care of their children during the day and during the night, they tutor other people’s children. I also met Mrs. Wang who has a son and daughter. Her very own supportive mother came to the workshop to help take care of the kids. Mrs. Wang teaches computer in middle school and does not let her children watch TV or use gadgets so that they appreciate studying more.
Majority of the people were Christians and the guest speaker from Huizhou, Guangdong was a pastor who had three children. Following are points I gathered while talking to various parents in Chinese:
- If you have points of disagreement with your husband then listen to your husband. This is a very Christian and biblical perspective of marriage.
- One mom plans to homeschool for the first nine years of her children’s life but she will eventually enroll them in middle school. She explained that before, this couldn’t be done but there is a new law that allows parents to combine homeschooling and regular schooling. As long as you register your child in a school, you can homeschool and then later, if you choose, they can join the formal school.
- Make studying a reward, not a punishment. Make it something they want and look forward to. But what if it’s already the opposite? What if it’s already a chore? Maybe it’s because they use the tablet or watch TV too much so when compared to those, studying is not fun. Studying competes with gadgets and TV so studying can lose by default.
- There are a number of homeschoolers in Dali, Yunnan where we plan to move. One mom pointed out to me the forum for Dali homeschoolers in the China homeschooling website.
- A mom with four children shared that the most important thing in the first year is to build the relationship between parent and child and to train them to obey the parent. This is more important than teaching them knowledge. In the second year, you can then teach knowledge and train them to study on their own.
- Another mom started homeschooling only when her son turned sixteen. Her son does not have to take the gaokao because he is planning to major in Bible Studies and attend a Christian University in Beijing where the gaokao is not a requirement.
- Is it possible to attend top Chinese universities like Beida and Tsinghua without going through the gaokao? It’s possible for people to attend classes without enrolling. You don’t get a certificate but there are people who sit in the classes for the sake of learning what they’re interested in. Makes me want to try that out myself.
- Relax. Don’t stress about things. Don’t put pressure on yourself or on the child especially when it comes to reading. It’s easy to feel pressured about reading but you should remove the pressure so learning how to read becomes pleasant.
While I was attending this talk, Jimmy spent time with his Gugu (Aunt) while Jason and Joshua trekked up Wu Tai Shan. We were each in our own homeschooling world, learning the way we felt best.
After the talk, I need to assess, change and improve some of my techniques.