为什么我选择让我的孩子去中文学校当我是另类教育的倡导者时

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我可能是你所期望看到的把孩子送到中国大陆的正规学校的最后一个人。 以其刚性和高度加压的环境而闻名,这与我想要的孩子们的理想教育完全相反。 我很乐意把他们送到一个进步的民主甚至一个华尔道夫学校,但我们住的地方都不存在这些选择。 我喜欢家庭教学,但条件是,当有一个家庭教育学校,非学历或世界各地的学生的社区,他们可以与他们定期互动和活动。 我喜欢家庭教学,只要我可以聘请导师教导学术部分,并有一些非学术科目选择。 在马尼拉,家庭教育学生可以与其他家庭教育同学一起学习戏剧,嘻哈舞,烹饪,演讲,足球等课程。

我坚信,教育应该在社区内发生。 不仅仅是父母应该是主要的老师,也不应该只是学校老师。 儿童应尽可能多地接触到积极的人 – 导师,教练,鼓舞人心的领导者。

我们住在一个只有中国公立学校这种唯一选择的城镇。 我在这里的一所大学里教英语,我的学生告诉我有关学校的恐怖故事,以及越来越糟糕的高中情况然后一直到高考。 我绝对不希望我的孩子在中国上高中,我不希望他们参加高考,但我仍然认为,公立学校的前两三年级是有用和可以接受的,以获得学习汉字的基础。 不过,二年级或三年级以后,我想让我的孩子转到马尼拉的一所进修学校。

这是我的意见。可悲的是,这个方法遭到了另一方父母的反对意见。 所以这就是为什么有一个尴尬的僵局,也许只能通过时间来修补,也许不能。 无论如何,学校今天开始了。 我们会看看它是怎么回事。

有一些家庭教育学生自己学习阅读的情况,但这是英文。 我不知道中文可不可能,因为它是一个更复杂的语言。 你必须知道数以千计的汉字才能阅读,所以必须有一个方法,而不是随随便便的,这可能发生在学习英语。 有报道过有些儿童在没有任何指导的情况下学会如何阅读英文。 彼得·格雷博士在这篇文章中发表的: 孩子自学阅读 。 如果在中文学习有类似的情况倒是挺有趣的,很难以想象因为没有中文字母表。

我去拜访过一些中国家庭教学的家庭,他们的书架上堆满了材料,似乎他们必须回应学校的教学,但在更短的时间内,因为学生与教师的比例要少得多。 但是,中国的家庭教育仍然需要在父母方面承担过多的努力。 只能通过很多的承诺和纪律来做到这一点。

我的朋友苏珊和我想在这个城镇开一个图书馆。 我们一年前离开大港油田之前就谈过了。 我以为她能够在家里开始一些事情,但事实证明,她的丈夫想要利用额外的空间,而不能分配给图书馆的梦想。 苏珊最近组织了一个户外活动,让孩子们在水库里收集昆虫,这就是我们再次开始谈论梦想。

中国的学校或小镇没有图书馆。 只有大城市有公共图书馆。 这就是为什么我不想在中国上学的另一个原因。 像图书馆这样的资源是至关重要的。 此外,事实上,有这么少的家庭教师,孩子们不会有任何人在白天与所有其他孩子在学校互动。 在菲律宾,美国和其他国家,现有广泛的家庭教育网络可以深入人心。 中国也没有在我们即将在的小城镇。 (这里的 中国家庭学校网站 。)

哦,我忘了,我选择把我的孩子送到中国学校的最重要的原因:约书亚和吉米真的很喜欢和别的孩子在一起。 他们茁壮成长,他们喜欢,我认为他们会在与其他孩子在一起的环境中学习更多。 我不知道老师是否会在稍后再来一次,可能是阻止他们的因素,但正如我所说,我们需要等待着看。

过去一年,我丈夫两个儿子从天津到大理到马尼拉到西双版纳去巴厘到西双版纳到马尼拉到旧金山,到加拿大去中转,然后回到马尼拉和天津。 在美国的头几个星期之后,我已经想到,除非有工作或学习有关,否则我不认为我可以长途旅行。 在我们的背包和袋子上生活之后,我也感觉到我的孩子们已经准备好安顿下来,我一直在向他们保证,我们会得到一个房子,把他们放在学校里,并得到一只狗。 我们准备好一些更加稳定的旅程,而旅行时总是可以在假期期间完成。

我的一个亲密的朋友说,我不应该太担心把我的孩子放在中国的正规学校,因为两个非常非常规的,开箱即用的父母,他们将能够平衡所有出来的严格的中国制度相对毫发无损。 他们仍然会以世界的广阔视野结束。

另一位朋友告诉我,我不应该担心中国教育带来的压力,因为如果父母不给孩子增加压力,那么对孩子来说就更轻松了。 我的朋友经历了同样的中国学校制度,父母没有压力,所以她长大了,从小学到大学都很开心,放松。

一切都在进行中。 我们不应该害怕尝试不同的方法来实现为我们的孩子提供最好的目标。

 

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Why I Choose to Let My Children Go to Chinese School When I am an Advocate of Alternative Education

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I would probably be the last person you’d expect to send her children to regular school in mainland China.  Known for its rigidity and highly-pressurized environment, it is the exact opposite of the ideal education I want for my kids. I would love to send them to a progressive or democratic or even a Waldorf school, but none of those options exist where we live.  I would love to homeschool but I am ONLY for homeschooling when there is a community of homeschoolers, unschoolers or worldschoolers with whom they could have regular interaction and activities.  I would love to homeschool but ONLY if I can hire tutors for the academic portions and there are a number of non-academic options to pick.  In Manila, homeschoolers can study theater, hip hop dance, cooking, speech, football and other courses with fellow homeschoolers.

I believe strongly that education should happen within a community.  It is not ONLY the parents who should be the main teachers and it should not even be just the school teachers.  Children should be exposed to as many positive people — mentors, coaches, inspiring leaders — as possible.

We live in a town where the only option is the Chinese public school.   I taught English in a university here and my students told me horror stories about school and how it got worse and worse leading up to the gaokao in high school.  I definitely do not want my children to attend high school in China and I do not want them to take the gaokao, but I still believe that the first two or three grades in public school is useful and tolerable to get the basics of learning Chinese characters.  However, after the second or third grade, I would like my kids to switch to a progressive school in Manila.

That is my opinion.  Sadly, it goes against the opinion of the other parent in this equation.  So that is why there is an awkward stalemate that can only be mended perhaps through time or not.  In any case, school starts today.  We shall see how it goes.

There are cases of homeschoolers learning to read on their own, but that’s in English.  I wonder if that’s possible in Chinese because it is a more complicated language.  You have to know hundreds and thousands of characters to be able to read so there has to be a methodical way, not random or casual which can happen in studying English.  There are reported cases of children who learn how to read in English without any instruction.  Dr. Peter Gray wrote about it in this article: Children Teach Themselves to Read.  It would be interesting to see if there are any cases of this in the Chinese language which is quite hard to imagine since there is no Chinese alphabet.

I went to visit some Chinese homeschoolers’ houses and they had bookshelves bursting with materials that it seemed that they must be echoing what the schools teach but in less time because the student-teacher ratio is much less.  Still, homeschooling in China must take an inordinate amount of effort on the part of the parents.  It can only be done through a lot of commitment and discipline.

My friend, Susan and I want to start a library in this town.  We talked about it before we left Dagang Youtian one year ago.  I thought she would be able to start something in her house but it turned out her husband wanted to make use of the extra room and it couldn’t be allocated to the library dream.  Susan recently organized an outdoor activity for kids collecting insects in the reservoir and that’s how we started talking again about the dream.

There is no library in schools or small towns here in China.  Only the big cities have public libraries. That’s another reason why I wouldn’t want to homeschool in China. Resources like libraries are paramount.  Plus, the fact that there are so few homeschoolers, the kids won’t have anyone to interact with during the daytime when all the other kids are in school.   In the Philippines, America and other countries, there are existing wide networks of homeschoolers that one can tap into.  China also has but not in the small towns where we happen to be.  (Here’s the China Homeschooling website.)

Oh, and I forgot, the most important reason why I choose to send my kids to Chinese school:  Joshua and Jimmy both really, really love to be with other kids.  They thrive, they enjoy and I think they would learn more in an environment where they are with other children.  I don’t know if the teacher would be a clincher later on and could be a factor to discourage them eventually but as I said, we need to wait and see.

This past year, my husband, two sons and I have traveled from Tianjin to Dali to Manila to Xishuangbanna to Bali to Xishuangbanna to Manila to San Francisco driving to New York with stopovers in Canada and then back to Manila and Tianjin.  After the first few weeks in America, I already thought, I don’t think I can do long-term traveling unless it’s something work or study related.  After living off our backpacks and bags, I also sensed my children were ready to settle down and I kept promising them that we would get a house, put them in school and get a dog.  We were ready for something more stable while traveling can always be done during the holidays.

One of my close friends said that I shouldn’t worry too much about putting my kids in regular school in China because with two very unconventional, out-of-the-box parents, they would be able to balance it all out and come out of the strict Chinese system relatively unscathed.  They would still end up with an expansive view of the world.

Another friend told me I shouldn’t worry about the pressure that comes with Chinese education because if the parents don’t put added pressure on the children, then it’s more relaxed for the child.  My friend went through the same Chinese school system and her parents didn’t pressure her so she grew up very happy and relaxed from elementary all the way up to university.

Everything is a work in progress.   We should not be afraid to try different ways to achieve the goal of providing the best that we can for our children.

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This is the activity my friend, Susan organized for kids to explore and enjoy the outdoors:

 

 

 

Thing 1 and Thing 2

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Wrath

So this is the wrath that I feared all along.  This rage that made me cower, made me hide, made me silent, made me dumb.  This is the anger that I wanted to avoid by making excuses and a dozen rationalizations that kept me from growing out of an under-sized shell.  And when I peeked out, stood with wobbly legs, raised my arms in defiance and faced indignation in all its glorious but undignified, irrational fury, it was nothing but a fart, a farce, a remnant of Neanderthal thinking.  I laugh at its face neither feeling pity or apology.  I let it wash over me like devil’s vomit but my body is protected ten times over with grace.

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Lost Cause

I can see both sides.  I can see his pain.  I can see her pain.  I can see nobody wants to give in because both think they have given enough to share the burden.  I can see his dreams drop and shatter into a million pieces.  I can see her dreams have never mattered because he thought they had the same ones.  But their dreams couldn’t be more different than day is from night.  Two dreams intersected in points they both can’t see now because of blindness masked by too weak and too strong wills.  He can’t understand why her mind shifts like tectonic plates destabilizing everything they had built together.  She can’t understand why he can’t adjust to circumstance or review a range of options.  He is sick of her immaturity.  She is sick of his inflexibility.  He is tired of her flakiness.  She is tired of pretending.  They have lost faith in each other.  They have both lost patience.  They have both lost.

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Clearing a Misconception

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It seems there is a misconception about the research work I am doing about education. My research is not just about homeschooling; it is about alternative education which includes homeschooling, unschooling, worldschooling, progressive schooling, democratic education, Waldorf, Charlotte Mason and many other streams of non-traditional education.  My personal preference for my own children is a progressive or a democratic school but there is no option of that kind in China.  There are progressive schools in the Philippines and in other countries like America.  There are Waldorf schools in China and the Philippines which I have also considered.

For me, the important thing is that education takes place within a community, not in a vacuum, not in isolation.  Having a community of like-minded families whether in a formal, informal, institutionalized or non-institutionalized setting is okay and ideal for me.

What is not okay is homeschooling that is narrow, that is closed-minded, that does not allow the children to enjoy learning and instead have to suffer through being called “stupid,” being hit on the head, making them afraid of making mistakes, criticizing them all the time during study and meal times.  It’s the same as putting them through the horrors of the worst case of traditional schools, having nightmare teachers who instill a phobia of learning.  Now, if the parents are responsible, patient, by no means perfect — because no parent is perfect — but with a kind and patient heart, then I am all for homeschooling.  If the parents are fighting all the time in front of the kids, that is also not good for homeschooling.  If the relationship of the mother and father is not good, that is not also a healthy environment for homeschooling.

What is also not okay in homeschooling is if one parent believes a tutor would be more helpful but the other parent does not agree.  What if the tutor has a better method that is more effective and not abusive?  Homeschooling is a decision that both parents should be united in making.  If they are not united, the conflict affects the whole family.   It is better to send the kids to a progressive or alternative school.  What if the country does not have those kinds of school?  What then?

Gridlock.

The children suffer.  The parents suffer.  Nobody wants to compromise.

What is also not okay in homeschooling is that if BOTH parents do not work.  I think this is fine if both parents choose to retire early after having worked and earned what they both agree is enough.  But what if one parent wants to work and another doesn’t and again there is stalemate.

Stalemate.

The children suffer.  The parents suffer.  Nobody wants to compromise.

There are progressive schools in my country as well as a huge homeschooling community with many activities to choose from and the children have a lot of opportunities to learn with other kids.  I myself am involved with the Gopala Learning Haven, a center for homeschoolers in a farm setting which is like one of the centers we visited in America called Macomber.

We all want what’s best for our children but it is difficult when there is a conflict in the manner by which this goal is achieved.  There is no ONE right way.  There are MANY ways.   There is the mind that is open and the mind that is closed to accept other ways different from the one seemingly set in stone.

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This is a picture from the Gopala Learning Haven taken when Laksmi and her family recently visited a beach in Calatagan.  Read about Laksmi’s beautiful description of the beach which she says is a piece of paradise.

Read my articles about researching education, homeschooling, worldschooling and self-directed education.  I will continue to promote the ideals of alternative education even if I agree for my children to experience a traditional way of schooling, only because I am in China and the options are limited.  Homeschooling is not an ideal option here because as I mentioned, if it is not done within a community, it will be more disadvantageous.  Read this article written by Dr. Peter Gray on why children need community.

From an evolutionary perspective, it makes perfect sense that children would want to form close relationships with many different people, not just their parents . . . . . the goal of childhood, in our culture as well as in hunter-gatherer cultures, is to become an independent being who can form relationships with lots of different people—relationships that are essential for survival and reproduction.  You don’t learn to do that by paying attention just to your mother and father. You learn it by paying attention to lots of different people, who have different personalities and needs and different things to offer.  Another goal of childhood is to educate yourself, that is, to acquire the ideas, lore, knowledge, skills, and values of the culture in which you are growing.  If you were to try to do this by attending just to your parents, you would learn only a narrow slice of all that is out there and you would not prepare yourself well for the world.

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She Finally Gets It

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What an empowering realization that she has given power away to a gaslighting, stonewalling asshole.  What an empowering thought to finally view the source of fear revealed for what it is nothing more than a trickle that’s run its course because she knows better than to give power away, the fear of anger defined and seen from above as an insect buzz buzz buzzing around her ear having convinced her she’s in prison but she has always been and will always be free and somebody’s anger is but a miniscule mosquito to be swat and let bleed.  If it comes back to life, put it in its place, get a jar, close the lid tight, watch it hit itself against glass, scream in her face while the ugly, screeching sound is muffled through glass.  She sees the mouth move, meaningless words coming out cannot pierce anymore her freed soul, a soul that sings louder, braver and with respect, allows others to sing just as loud, dance just as crazy, each in glass jars held in her hand, put on the shelf, collection on proud display.  This is the jerk who cut her off.  That is the scumbug she had given the weapon to doubt herself.  This is the numbskull who destroyed her for a time.  That is the dope who made her feel inferior. This is the idiot who could absolutely do no wrong while everyone else is an infinite wellspring of incorrect ideas and actions.  That is the one who launched the trap (which she allowed) and gave her morsels she gulped down like it was buffet.  This is the one she permitted to steal her rights but for a limited time till she woke to fire alarm bells that have been ringing, rending her deaf.  When the modus operandi was unveiled, the mobsters’ heyday was over.  They can have machine gun bullets tear through her body and she survives the torrent.

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Three Cheers for Chinese Camp!

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Chinese summer camp is over.  On the seventh day, parents picked up their kids in Jixian and were treated to a performance we were so proud and happy to witness.

Every day this past week, seventeen children studied Chinese calligraphy, two types of Chinese flute called taodi (for the boys) and xun (for the girls), two types of Chinese checkers called weiqi and wuzeqi and a type of martial arts called taichi.  They also had sessions on robotics, training in first-aid as well as a life coach.  They wrote a diary everyday and discussed about their dreams and what they want in the future.  They had five full-time and three part-time teachers.

The camp is surrounded by mountains so they trekked up and did their taichi against breathtaking backdrops.  They fixed their beds, did their laundry and ate meals prepared by a really good cook.  The parents had lunch on the day we brought them and picked them up so we know and trust they had good food plus a lot of watermelon.  The parents were updated daily with loads of pictures coming in through our WeChat Group so we felt “fangxin” knowing the kids were relishing the experience.

At night, teachers came in to check that the kids were asleep but one of the monitors recounted the time when a group of kids woke up at 4 in the morning to play weiqi.  The TV remote controls were collected at night to make sure they don’t watch but Joshua told me one of the kids had a cellphone that could control the TV so they were able to sneak in time to do the forbidden which is classic summer camp fare.

Aside from the growth and maturity I notice in Joshua, the other wonderful take-aways from this camp are these beautiful souvenirs that he can enjoy for always.

This is the calligraphy work Joshua produced during the camp:

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Jimmy wasn’t able to join the camp because he’s still too young, but when he’s 8 years old, we’d let him attend.  The day before we picked up Joshua, Jimmy drew this:

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Read more about the camp in Chinese: Shan Shui You Dao

You can watch the video here: Shan Shui You Dao Video

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Still Quoting Mark Because

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Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be like a child, “yield to the current of life,” “go with the flow,” “unencumbered by baggage?”  To travel light as lightest you possibly could?  But life, through time, bogs us down or we bog ourselves down with unnecessary things that look necessary to us. We fight, we struggle, we insist on what we want.  We kill each other over who’s right and who’s wrong.  We don’t have the answers and we ask the wrong questions.

It’s tiring to carry all that.  Let me stop and unload, read as much as I can to get garbage out and please stop the garbage in.  We wait, we surrender and find the karaoke song that keeps us calm and sane.  We look for signs not realizing it’s been inside us all along because we keep looking outward, distracted by the stormy dramas regurgitated by our minds, spat out as catastrophes when they are infinitesimal, except for those that do justify our attention.  How do you choose the battles to win the war?

Because the situation is quite unbloggable, let me quote liberally from Mark Harrison’s articles, again.

From a A New Way of Thinking about Your Relationships:

Developing excellent relationships is often about understanding why people behave the way they do, not from our perspective, but from theirs, and helping them to find a more productive behavior by giving them new resources. Everyone is doing the best they can, given what they have.

If a relationship is going badly, the best approach is always to think about your own behavior and how to change it. At a position of ‘cause,’ you have the ability to improve things – by seeking to understand the other person’s perspective, by listening to them, using their terms of reference and communicating on their level.

Never label people based on their behavior. This is not helpful in developing good relationships. Behavior changes all the time as we learn and grow. Bad, unproductive and ‘stuck’ relationships can be turned around when we take responsibility and learn to be proactive.

From How to Change the World:

I had a problem with noisy neighbors. They live in the apartment above me; they bang about, drag furniture and sing loudly. I don’t understand why they behave this way: I have explained to them several times that I am disturbed by their behavior, and yet, a year after they moved in, there was no change. I don’t see why they can’t try to be a bit quieter but, despite my best efforts, the situation did not improve.

The only thing I have any power to change is my own approach. So I decided to try to become more accepting and to simply observe the situation without comment, as far as possible.

They are still noisy. But since observing the situation, I actually notice the noise less. This seems odd, but I think it is because I am noticing several features of the noise that were not apparent when I was focused on being bothered by it. First, it is clear that the noise is located within a surround of silence, as if the noises are islands in a sea of silence. Secondly, the noise ebbs and flows – it goes on for a while, but then it fades away. Like everything, it changes – its intensity, its quality, its volume – they all change continually.

Through a simple process of awareness, I have changed the way I am seeing the situation. It has taken on a different quality since I stopped labeling the noise as ‘bad’ and started to focus simply on observing it. And so, in a sense, the situation has itself changed. My outer reality has come to reflect my inner perspective.

When we submit to the natural flow of things, observing and allowing life to carry us, rather than trying to use force to change things around us, the world seems to become a more peaceful and supportive place. Indeed, submission is the only sensible option. Of course, we tend to think of submission as a weakness -‘giving up’ is synonymous with failure. But, when we ‘give up’ our tendency to label, to explain, to control, things start to work.

When we stop trying to force change, we become free.

From Awareness by Anthony de Mello:

Don’t change: Desire to change is the enemy of love.
Don’t change yourselves: Love yourselves as you are.
Don’t change others: Love all others as they are.
Don’t change the world: It is in God’s hands and he knows.
And if you do that change will occur
Marvelously in its own way and in its own time
Yield to the current of life unencumbered by baggage.

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