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Today I finished most of my summer English classes for the 4 and 5 year old grandchildren of the Cultural Revolution. I'll resume this September. I gave assessments to the parents, which I was a little dubious about. There are a couple of boys who sit like perfect little students for the 25 minute lesson block and participate beautifully. The rest act in various degrees of little kidness. Some are on task for 10 minutes or longer on some days, other days they fidget, fuss, day dream, pigtail pulling, eye poking, jumping up, and any variation of naughtiness that little kids can do when forced to sit for too long. When we began these classes they were 45 minutes long, but the parents insisted we stretch them to 90 minutes, three 25 minutes lessons with a 5 minute break. The reality is that on a good day, there is about 30 to 40 minutes of successful language indoctrination, and the rest is songs, cartoons, and other activities.
We do lots of creative things to get the English into their little brains, which are very absorbent when the timing is right.
A couple of the kids are spoiled and have no sense of boundaries. Young, modern Chinese parents can be overly permissive.
In spite of everything, they have learned a lot. They know more now than most of the kids I taught in the primary schools last year. Overall, it's been very successful. These kids do spend 10 months out of the year in kindergarten, from 8 am to 5 pm with a 3 hour break at midday. I'm sure a lot of it is organized play, and video watching, too.
They are almost all very bright, information which I shared with the parent. Then came the fun part.
Here is what I wanted to say:
"Your kid is just a little kid, for Chrissake!!! It's not natural for him/her to sit still for 90 minutes like some miniature college student and become fluent in a completely foreign tongue. He/she needs to be outside running around getting dirty and catching bugs! Let him/her have some time to play with some other kids so he/she knows how to share, interact, and solve conflicts. Stop burdening him/her with all your expectations and unfulfilled dreams. Not yet, at least."
What I actually said varied from kid to kid, of course. The good kids were easy, and the parents lit up like only a proud parent can. Since they all learned the lessons, they all got good reviews. I told the parents to take them to the park and let them run around more, a lot more! Especially the boy who stares into space with his hands down his pants, and then runs around shrieking like a maniac at break time. He needs lots of play time.
I told them to not expect so much from them, and that little kids develop at different speed. Lighten up, folks! They're all perfect just like they are.