After reading articles in the internet such as Homeschooling on the Rise in China, I was excited to meet one of the women who started a home school in Dali, Yunnan. Most homeschooling is done individually by families but there are some moms who get together with other mothers to form a small, informal learning community. Then there’s another type which is a little more formal and which charges a monthly tuition fee. A small school can be established at home, the more famous of which is ran by Caima, a former manager at a Fortune 500 company who quit her job in 2010 to devote her energy towards her daughter’s education.
I’m sorry I wasn’t able to talk to her as much as I’d like because I foolishly scheduled two visits that morning. However, it was enough for me to see how home schools such as hers were set up, usually in the relaxed atmosphere of a typical courtyard house. In Dali, there is a vibrant community of homeschoolers, formed individually, in groups or as a mini-private school.
Before we set off visiting Caima, this view of the waters running down from the mountains greeted us outside our second guest house.
We ended up spending more time in the second home school that we visited which was founded by Qiu Jin also for her daughter, Mila. Qiu Jin studied industrial design, Waldorf and outdoor education in Germany where she met her husband. She studied how Forest Kindergartens operate in Germany and brought the philosophy and methods back to China. The students in her home school often go camping and old town Dali, nestled at the foot of mountain ranges, is the perfect place for this. We were also very lucky that day to join them for an afternoon trip to the zoo.
Qiu Jin shared that her own parents think she is throwing away the future of her child by travelling too much with her daughter and not sending her to a regular school, but Qiu Jin believes in what she does. I admire the strength of women like Caima and Qiu Jin who have overcome a lot to provide what they believe is the best for their own and other people’s children even if it doesn’t sit well with everyone.
For my husband and me, there are certainly a lot more opportunities in Dali for the kind of alternative education we want for our children.