My husband and I loved living just outside of Washington, D.C. for the culture — the public events at the embassies, the international schools and night classes, the monuments, the free and approachable museums, the diverse people and the interesting volunteer opportunities, to name a few.
We looked forward to someday raising our children on the outskirts of Washington, D.C. and exposing them to the world from this cultural vantage point. But, things didn’t happen as we’d planned…
After having our daughter south of the Mason-Dixon line, we moved back up north to the state of New Jersey to be closer to family. So, we packed up and left our cultural euphoria behind…
Family was important to both, my husband and I, and we realized that we wouldn’t find it easy to replace having at least one set of my daughter’s grandparents nearby and some of her cousins to grow up around. So, upon deciding to move, we made a commitment to ourselves that we’d find our own ways to introduce culture to our children from our new home base.
And, we found that exposing culture and learning to a young child can be as easy as just taking her out to a local Korean restaurant and helping her attempt to use chopsticks! But, we keep our eyes out for these type of opportunities, small and large.
We want her to have an understanding of the world and the diverse people who inhabit the globe, a topic interesting to us, too. So, when we heard that there was a Chinese school close to our home, we were intrigued. It sounded like a fun adventure!
One thing led to another and before we knew it, we had Sarah enrolled in the Chinese (Mandarin) school for the year. She attends for one weekend morning during the regular school year. Sarah is just one of a few children in her class that is not of Chinese descent. She enjoys the classes with the other children, is making friends and when I ask her if she wants to return to the school the next week, her answer is always “Yes!.”
The preschool teacher brings in many visuals to help the children learn the weekly vocabulary. This makes it easier for the teacher to keep the dialogue mostly in Chinese. They also learn Chinese songs, draw Chinese characters on the chalk board and, most importantly, play lots of games involving the language. The emphasis is on getting the children to not only absorb, but also to speak.
Sometimes students are given something (a song, numbers, etc.) to practice and recite for a future class. Weekly homework assignments are worksheets of Chinese characters to color and trace with a picture and the pronunciation. The first characters that the children are learning are from the Chinese phonetic alphabet.
In December the students were asked to paint a Chinese lantern, which will be judged and hung at an upcoming Chinese New Year celebration. And recently, the school served a special Chinese bean and rice ball soup during class to celebrate the Winter Solstice.
There are additional culture classes at the school, too — Chinese dancing, painting, etc. that can be taken along with the language part. But, we’ve opted not to take her to those at this point because they seem to be geared for the older students. Also, we don’t want to tire her out. As she gets older, she is welcome to take them.
As parents, our objective is to expose our daughter to new things that are worldly. We are not strict about her language progress or her homework and just want her to have fun with it. We have found a unique, affordable, new cultural experience that is nearby and kid-friendly for our daughter. And, as Sarah grows, we hope that these types of experiences will help her look at the world, life and people with much curiosity and an open mind.
Have you done something uniquely cultural, whether small or large, with your child? Tell us all about it!
Photo credit to http://www.flickr.com/photos/cleverclaire1983/373308002/. This photo has a creative commons attribution license.