How to Choose a Taiwanese Preschool

The other day, a reader brought to my attention that perhaps my post on How to Plan a Trip to Taiwan was not as helpful in the choosing a Taiwanese preschool department. So, in the spirit of being helpful, I wrote another post about specifically, finding a preschool for the 6 years and under set.

Here’s the thing: it’s really obvious.

I mean, so obvious, I feel dumb writing an entire post on the topic. Thus, be forewarned, this is a super short post and may seem bare bones.

I’m not trying to be difficult. It really is as you likely would have approached the task on your own.

You are not missing out. You are totally doing it correctly.

So. With that caveat out of the way, here’s how you choose a preschool in Taiwan:

1) Decide what you would like in a Taiwanese preschool. 

If your kids are already in preschool (or you have gone through this with previous children), you already have an idea of what you want in a preschool.

Do you want it to be more play based? More structured? More formally “educational” (like with learning characters, alphabet, zhuyin, etc.)? A particular educational philosophy?

However, be aware that just like in your home country, the more specific you are (and inflexible), the less likely you will find a preschool fitting your criteria.

Sometimes, beggars can’t be choosers.

So, in my case, I wanted a play-based Montessori-like environment. I didn’t really care if my kids learned any characters, etc. because we do enough of that at home, during the school year. (We homeschool as well as attend Chinese preschools.)

Unfortunately, because Glow Worm has many food allergies (ranging from severe to mild), most Taiwanese preschools refused to accommodate him. They cited a Taiwanese law that states only authorized medical personnel (ie: a DOCTOR) could administer shots. Even if it kills my kid in the process.

So, with all the schools refusing to accept Glow Worm out of fear in applying the Epipen, (always in their super polite, vague, passive aggressive manner), I had to go with any school that would accept him.

Thus, I had to really refine what I wanted, and that was (and is): to have my kids be taught by adults whose Chinese obviously surpassed my “kitchen Chinese” and be surrounded by kids who spoke (mostly) Chinese.

Hence, I settled on an international school because they were used to dealing with all sorts of food allergies, were willing to administer the Epipen if needed, and allowed me to provide all Glow Worm’s food and snacks.

So, although I preferred something less academic, I was satisfied with the school we attended because being alive at an academic place is better than not being alive at a play-based place.

2) Settle on a location and then Google (or ask friends/family) for preschools around the area.

I know. Thanks, Captain Obvious!

But seriously. Google is a thing. Use it.

Also? Local preschools will likely have websites and Facebook pages in Chinese only. For obvious reasons.

If you are like me and when you see a wall of Chinese text, respond with an internal, “GAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHH!!!!”, this will be the most difficult part of the process.

Thus, I prevailed upon friends and family and Facebook groups for their recommendations and experiences.

Sorry, internet readers. I will not be that friend.

For many reasons, but chiefly: I am not qualified to make recommendations to you, a stranger.

I’m sure you’re a very nice person and not at all creepy. This is nothing personal. Please do not ask me for specific preschool recommendations

I will ignore you if I’m feeling generous.

I will screenshot and publicly shame you if I’m feeling ornery (which is the norm because I have four children and though I love them to distraction, they also eat up all my minute reservoirs of patience).

3) Email/call the preschool directors and ask if they a) have a summer program, and b) the details of this summer program.

If they are local preschools, you will most likely have to communicate in Chinese. To expect them to accommodate you in English isn’t realistic or fair. After all, you don’t expect a preschool in America to communicate in Chinese (or any language other than possibly Spanish). Why would it be different in Taiwan?

Also, you will either have to pay in cash on the first day or have someone wire tuition via a Taiwanese bank account. This is NOT handy. (I always feel like a drug dealer when I carry around a fat packet of cash in my purse or on my person. Particularly since Taiwanese money has 1000NT bills!)

4) Choose. 

After which, I have not tried to reinvent the wheel every summer and just stick to what I know.

You cannot know the depths of my consternation when I realized Glow Worm could not attend the school I sent Cookie Monster and Gamera to back in 2014. There was much teeth gnashing and fist shaking and creative cursing.

Do not succumb to FOMO. Unless you had a mediocre or horrible experience, make life easier for yourself. Stick with what works.

Of course, this will fall on deaf ears for people who truly have FOMO. But for those of us who are lazier than we are fearful, this is my official Mandarin Mama seal of approval/permission to just do what you did last time already.

You’re welcome!

Ok. That’s it.

I told you the information was obvious.

There is no need to overthink the situation. You were going to do this anyway. Here is now the official article giving you confirmation bias.

You’re welcome, again!

I am just a font of benefits today. Happy Hunting!

Taiwanese Camp Update, Week 4

I sincerely meant to post this update sooner than I have – however, I wanted to get back to a regular schedule and that meant that I really only post Chinese related stuff on Fridays. And I had two posts lined up for Fridays already so I figured, hey! We can wait for the Taiwan camp and Chinese update posts.

Now that we’ve been home for a month, it’s been interesting to hear my kids’ responses when people ask them how they liked their Taiwan school/camp experience.

Of course, it will be no surprise to any of you following along from home.

Cookie Monster had a lot of fun and liked his activities. Gamera hated it all (despite still remembering some songs and dances and chants). Glow Worm couldn’t tell you because he still doesn’t really talk that much (albeit, more than before) and can’t really express that complex a thought (although he may think it!).

So, without further delay, here then is the update on the last week of camp and school for my kids.

Author’s Note: As I have mentioned before, please do not ask me (whether in comments or private message) where my kids are attending school and camps. I am a big believer in internet safety and having been stalked before (an unpleasant and stressful experience to be sure), I am not keen on sharing where my kids go to school. If that is a problem for you, I don’t really care. If you ask, I will ignore you and if you repeatedly ask, I will block you.

Incidentally, I have already had to block at least one person because despite them reading all these notes and posts, they still presumed that they could ask me since “Camp is over.”

Dear readers. I have three (going on four) children. Please stop and consider that if I actually like a camp, that quite possibly, I would sign up for it again. With one or more of my current children. So, NO. I WILL NOT TELL YOU WHERE MY KIDS GO TO CAMP.

I'll admit. I was really annoyed that Cookie Monster came home with two small shrimp as pets. I mean, great - if I lived in Taiwan. Booooo because I hate taking care of animals and I had to break it to Cookie Monster that these shrimp were NOT coming home with us.

I’ll admit. I was really annoyed that Cookie Monster came home with two small shrimp as pets. I mean, great – if I lived in Taiwan. Booooo because I hate taking care of animals and I had to break it to Cookie Monster that these shrimp were NOT coming home with us.

Local Camp Experience, Week 4

This week, Cookie Monster (6.5) went back to the outdoor day camp where they take a shuttle to a bunch of different cities and places for quick day trips. I was much happier this week since this time, instead of half the camp being US kids, there was only Cookie Monster as the lone overseas kid.

In fact, looks like Cookie Monster passed as a local kid until Hapa Papa showed up and outed him. One of the kids asked a teacher if Cookie Monster was a foreigner and the teacher responded, “Yes” but had no idea from what country. Whooo!

Anyhow, just like the previous camp, they visited several counties/cities (Yi Lan, Tao Yuan, New Taipei City, and Miao Li), to again, check out a bunch of museums, factories, and farms.

The crafts and souvenirs Cookie Monster collected and made this week.

The crafts and souvenirs Cookie Monster collected and made this week.

This time, they went to a shrimp/clam farm and they tried to catch shrimp and clams and were in rafts; a sunflower farm where they painted ceramic sunflowers and picked sunflowers; saw waterfalls and panoramic views; visited aboriginal homes and sites; and went to a fruit farm to pick fruit and cook.

From the pictures on their site, (which again, I would include but they all have watermarks and I really don’t want to reveal where my kid went to camp – nor do I want to strip the camp of their watermarks) it looks like Cookie Monster had a fantastic time.

Sticky rice in bamboo. I can't believe Cookie Monster cooked and made this!

Sticky rice in bamboo. I can’t believe Cookie Monster cooked and made this!

I swear. I chose these camps for myself.

Again, they played games on the bus and Cookie Monster made some friends (especially a boy who used to live in the US and thus spoke to Cookie Monster nonstop in English – SIGH) and he seemed to like what they made and did.

International School, Week 4

You’ll think this is a result of me being a terrible parent, but truly, until the very last day of school, I had no real idea what my kids had been doing at their school.

Display tables with everything Gamera and Glow Worm made during their four weeks of school.

Display tables with everything Gamera and Glow Worm made during their four weeks of school.

I mean, I knew what the teachers posted in the kids’ communication books. But let’s be real. It’s in Chinese (and though I could read it), it was pretty repetitive. I never saw any pics or evidence of what they did at school since they didn’t bring anything home.

Well, it turns out they saved everything for the last day of school to hand out in one HUGE display table and they give you a bag to put everything in.

It’s quite impressive.

So, for this week’s summary, I will just mostly explain what happened on the last day of school and show off pics of what they sent us home with.

After showing up for the school end performance, the first thing we see are the rows and rows of their creations. I didn’t know they did so many fun things! And then, we went to sit down for the performance.

The kids lined up on the side of the room (which was handy because that’s where Hapa Papa and I were sitting so we got to hug and kiss Gamera and Glow Worm when they were lining up).

They performed. It is about what you’d expect from preschoolers. Gamera was surprisingly into it. Glow Worm was not. He just stood there. He was the smallest in his class! Ah, my baby boy. So sweet.

Then after they performed, we took lots of pictures and the kids went back to class and had a party in the afternoon. We were forced to stick around and listen to the teachers and fellow parents talk about their experiences with the school. Glow Worm’s teacher asked me to talk so I spoke really briefly. I didn’t want to, but she was SO GOOD to Glow Worm all summer that I felt rude refusing.

After that, we went to Gamera’s classroom where they had a mini-awards ceremony. Every kid got an award and Gamera’s was something along the lines of being helpful or something. I wasn’t really paying attention because I’m an awful parent. Oh, and it was ALL IN CHINESE so some of the vocabulary went over my head.

Hey. I took pics, ok? That should be enough.

Also, it looks like the kids did a decent amount of character learning and recognition as the workbooks suggest. Gamera already knew everything they taught her, but I think she still enjoyed being smart, so I guess there’s that.

I was surprised at how much Glow Worm seemed to accomplish – but I guess it’s because I still consider him a baby. He’s three now, so I guess he’s a big boy. sob

Anyhow, below is a slideshow of their pics for this last week and a few videos. The videos basically go through each of the kids’ portfolios so you can get an idea of what they taught over the summer.

I hope that helps! I will definitely sign up Cookie Monster for his camps again, and as for Gamera? I’ll be putting her in Cookie Monster’s camps. (I asked and they all said it should be fine as long as she’s in first grade.) And too bad, Glow Worm, you’re going back next year, too.

Alright, this concludes our updates for camps and schools until next summer. Whew!

 

 

Taiwanese Camp Update, Week 3

Taiwanese Camp 3

Sorry I have been slow with the updates. Between dealing with multiple barfy kids, tantrumming Glow Worm, and eating and napping, I have been sorely remiss.

Anyhow, better late than never, right?

Even though we are all finished with camp this summer, I hope I can still remember what happened last week. (This might not be the case but I suppose memory is a fuzzy thing and who exactly is going to contradict me?)

Author’s Note: As I have mentioned before, please do not ask me (whether in comments or private message) where my kids are attending school and camps. I am a big believer in internet safety and having been stalked before (an unpleasant and stressful experience to be sure), I am not keen on sharing where my kids go to school. If that is a problem for you, I don’t really care. If you ask, I will ignore you and if you repeatedly ask, I will block you.

Alright. Here we go! (Oh, and FYI, this is a very photo heavy post.)

Local Camp Experience #3

Photo courtesy of Camp.

Photo courtesy of Camp.

This week, Cookie Monster (6.5) returned to the camp he attended the first week and took a 創意魔術(chuang4 yi4 mo2 shu4/Magic Trick) class.

He said it was boring.

I’m a little disappointed but I think we encountered the same problem as last week’s tours. There is just a lot of talking and presenting by the teachers.

From what I gathered from their posted pictures, the teacher stands at the front of the class and teaches the trick, writes a lot on the board, and shows them the trick twice. Then they practice and try to show each other.

Let’s just say that Cookie Monster is NOT very good. But he tries! Here’s a video of one of the card tricks he learned.

So, I don’t know if he was actually bored or just is going through a phase where Taiwan is super boring because he can’t play Halo or Minecraft. Meh. I get it.

img_9650

Photo courtesy of Camp.

Despite his complaints, I think he had a reasonably good time, although the first class was his favorite. It seemed much more up his alley in terms of talking/listening/doing stuff ratio, as well as seemed more aligned with his interests.

Funny fact: when I first told Cookie Monster I signed him up for a magic class, my super logical little boy (I swear I have killed all the magic in him by telling him Santa and the Tooth Fairy, etc. are not real) sighed, looked at me sadly and said, “It’s not real, Mama. Magic isn’t real.”

Also, even though it’s his second week there and the teachers remember him, I guess the first class didn’t require as much reading and writing as this class. The teachers thought Cookie Monster didn’t understand what they were saying or couldn’t read or write Chinese/zhuyin because whenever they asked him, he just shrugged and smiled awkwardly.

What a faker.

Cookie Monster's Communication Book. He had to write out what they did that day and the important notes I am supposed to read and know for the next day.

Cookie Monster’s Communication Book. He had to write out what they did that day and the important notes I am supposed to read and know for the next day.

That kid will get away with murder with his awkward smile and shrug.

Anyhow, the teachers laughed when they realized he could so after that, they made him copy down what he learned from the board and write in his little communication book about what I needed to know for the next day.

Too bad they didn’t ask ME if I could read/write Chinese. Sigh.

Seriously, though. They didn’t. And if I had a hard time reading the teacher’s written Chinese, let me just say that it’s almost impossible for me to decipher Cookie Monster’s Chinese writing. I mean, he tried. And it IS legible. But he’s also 6.5 years old.

Nope. I figured if it was super important, the teachers would tell me in person.

Also, at the end of the week, the teachers were super sweet. They kept begging to take pictures with Cookie Monster and chatting with him. Asking him if he would remember them.

He just awkwardly smiled and shrugged.

They LOVED it.

I tried to explain that he can never remember their names. Ever. He has name/face blindness. (At least, that’s what I say to console myself. He will spend a year with a kid in class and never remember their name. But he will know all their likes, habits, and dislikes. Go figure.)

Anyhow, below is a slideshow of some pics from his camp as well as a few videos of his magic tricks. Cookie Monster has the tendency to tell how the trick works while he’s doing the trick (I think he also forgot some of the scripts), but it’s cute to see him try.

 

International School, Week 3

img_9635You would think after crying at drop off for two weeks straight, Gamera (4.75) would get tired of doing so. But, nope! She continued to cry – although there were two days where she didn’t and seemed happy to go to class.

The first day she didn’t cry was because Gamera has a friend at school now so she wants to copy her. The friend goes in without crying by herself and the teachers complimented her and gave a prize. So Gamera asked to go in by herself. I was like, OK!

The next day, she also happily went to class. Gamera says it’s because I packed her three snacks she liked instead of having her eat school snacks and her one friend in class can’t comment that she always brings pretzels.

I will take it as a win.

But of course, those days of happiness were short-lived and Gamera was back to crying and clinging to me at drop off.

She really doesn’t like one of her teachers which I find weird – and she says she likes Glow Worm’s teacher the most. I think it’s because although this teacher is kind and a good teacher, she doesn’t coddle Gamera and I guess she loves to be coddled and catered to.

Gamera's communication book. They list all the things and characters they learned as well as any notes we should know about.

Gamera’s communication book. They list all the things and characters they learned as well as any notes we should know about.

I would update on what they learn, but truthfully, I didn’t really find out what they did until the last day of school when they handed out their portfolios and art projects. All I knew was what I could decipher from their communication books.

Mostly, I just understood that they learned and repeated some songs, practiced a dance, and learned characters. They did these things for points, and Gamera earned a bunch of prizes which seemed to make her happy. (But not as happy as NOT going to school would have made her.)

Gamera showing me her locker where she puts her outdoor shoes and her back pack.

Gamera showing me her locker where she puts her outdoor shoes and her back pack.

Let’s see, some other random notes from the week: I knew something weird was going on with one of Gamera’s braids when we were heading home one night. Then, when I washed her hair that night, a huge clump came out. It was HUGE.

For some reason, the teacher always redoes her hair every day. I’m sure it’s because her braids got messy or whatever, but I asked them to stop. I don’t want her to lose any more clumps of hair and lice is a legit concern

Also, this week, there are two kids of Indian/Pakistani origin in Gamera’s class now. I think from Singapore? But maybe they are in a different grade. Is it wrong to hope so because they only speak English?

Gamera showing me the sweet potatoes she picked during her field trip.

Gamera showing me the sweet potatoes she picked during her field trip.

Additionally, just found out that Gamera is an idiot and hasn’t been eating the school lunch because she didn’t want to try new things. So she’s been STARVING LIKE AN IDIOT and crying about how the teacher doesn’t let her eat her snacks. She ate 6 rice crackers for the whole fucking day.

I told her I was also so sad she was hungry. And she needs to eat the food and take it even if she doesn’t like it because it makes me sad to hear she is hungry all day. So when I spoke to the teacher, it turns out that they try to encourage her to eat their food, but she doesn’t tell them she wants more snacks or that she doesn’t want to eat it and then ends up hungry.

The shuttle bus Gamera and Glow Worm were on. Well, different ones, but they looked the same.

The shuttle bus Gamera and Glow Worm were on. Well, different ones, but they looked the same.

A lot of the problems arise because Gamera doesn’t tell her teachers things (like when a boy was making fun of her and she told him to stop several times but he didn’t) but then blames the teachers for not knowing. I mean, I know teachers are supposed to be observant, but COME ON. That is completely unreasonable on Gamera’s part.

So, likely, her misunderstanding of what teachers are supposed to know and do and then the whole food fiasco contributes to her hating school.

The 地瓜 (di4 gua/sweet potatoes) Gamera and Glow Worm picked.

The 地瓜 (di4 gua/sweet potatoes) Gamera and Glow Worm picked.

Ah well. Girl’s gotta learn.

Anyhow, they also went on a field trip to pick 地瓜 (di4 gua/sweet potatoes) and she was so excited to show me her bag (as well as Glow Worm’s) and was very excited about the bus ride and told me all about sweet potato soup and demanded I make her some from her sweet potatoes.

Don’t know how to break it to her that the sweet potato soup is NOT happening in our kitchenette.

An excerpt from Glow Worm's communication booklet. He also has been learning songs, circling and recognizing characters, and listening to stories.

An excerpt from Glow Worm’s communication booklet. He also has been learning songs, circling and recognizing characters, learning a dance, and listening to stories.

As for Glow Worm (2.9), since last week Gamera was sick, it only seems right that Glow Worm caught it, too. I had hoped she had food poisoning – if only because then she shouldn’t be contagious.

Alas, I was so wrong.

Glow Worm barfed Saturday night all over our hotel bed. He may have barfed Sunday night in our apartment. And he ran a low-grade fever all weekend and throughout the week.

Of course, I still sent him to school on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday because besides being cranky, he seemed fine to me. I wasn’t going to let a little malingering kill my $56/day of school.

Unfortunately, it seemed as if Glow Worm had totally regressed. I think he thought if he acts like a baby, he doesn’t have to go to school.

Their schedule for a week. They don't have field trips every Friday, but they had a few.

Their schedule for a week. They don’t have field trips every Friday, but they had a few.

He refused to walk. Refused to feed himself (even at school) when he used to do everything just fine by himself.

On the way to school, we would be ground to a halt because Glow Worm refused to walk and only wanted me to carry him – which was NOT happening.

When I finally convinced him to walk because he was too tired from crying, we rounded the corner for school and as soon as that happened, Glow Worm cried, “不要 (bu2 yao4/no want)!” and I had to carry him the rest of the way.

He was super clingy on the way to school before he broke down. I had thought he was finally listening to me and not running head first into an escalator. Nope.

At any rate, every day, he was coming home in changed clothes because he was super gassy and bloated and I suspected he was having acid reflux. So I tried to change up his diet, but he was miserable at school, and his poor teachers were stuck with multiple poop accidents and barf scares.

Glow Worm milking his day home with Mommy and using me as a couch. It was not comfy.

Glow Worm milking his day home with Mommy and using me as a couch. It was not comfy.

Finally, on Wednesday after lunch, they said he had a temperature and I had to go pick him up. Glow Worm was bloated and constipated all day and was off his feed. Poor little guy.

When I went to pick him up, Glow Worm was milking it. He was carried out by his teacher because he had fallen asleep.

I carried him to the taxi. Carried him upstairs to our apartment. As soon as we got in, he was too weak to take off his shoes by himself. Or wash his hands. Then, he saw the iPad. All of  a sudden, he was perfectly fine.

A Christmas miracle.

Glow Worm throwing one of his many daily tantrums. It's hard to have sympathy for a sick kid who miraculously heals for the iPad but then is an asshole the rest of the time.

Glow Worm throwing one of his many daily tantrums. It’s hard to have sympathy for a sick kid who miraculously heals for the iPad but then is an asshole the rest of the time.

Also, when I took him home after lunch, his teacher said Glow Worm wanted her to tell me he doesn’t want any more grapes. Apparently he used to love them, but not every day.

Now he opens it, sighs, and gets a sad disappointed look. Teacher said she would tell me and that he could also tell me. I laughed because Glow Worm can’t talk.

Incidentally, on our way back out to pick up Gamera and Cookie Monster, I accidentally discovered that Glow Worm could put on his own shoes.

I have been conned!

Glow Worm giving me a Pouty McPout face while we waited for Gamera at pick up.

Glow Worm giving me a Pouty McPout face while we waited for Gamera at pick up.

When I told his teacher about him knowing how to put on his shoes, she was like, duh. Every. Day.

She told him, “You have no more secrets!”

Glow Worm just pouted his Pouty McPout face.

This is all just to say that I still had to keep Glow Worm home on Thursday because he was so pissy and sick and feverish and babyish that I wanted to make sure he could attend the field trip on Friday.

Also, I suspected his low grade fever that kept appearing and disappearing was due to heat stroke since I’m personally very susceptible to heat stroke, so that night, I did 刮痧 (gua sha/Chinese scraping) with peppermint essential oil to help relieve the heat stroke.

Sure enough, the telltale red bruising and pinpricks showed up on baby boy. Next day, (his day home), no fever. I still had him stay home just in case. I wanted to make sure I didn’t have a repeat of having to pick him up after lunch!

Glow Worm enjoying a 豆漿 (dou4 jiang/soy milk) delivered by the awesome Irish Twins who loves me and brought me Taiwanese breakfast at home.

Glow Worm enjoying a 豆漿 (dou4 jiang/soy milk) delivered by the awesome Irish Twins who loves me and brought me Taiwanese breakfast at home.

This is all just to say that I’m sure he learned stuff, but quite honestly, this week was exhausting and a blur and I never ever ever ever want to re-do it ever again. It was horrible and hard and awful.

So, in conclusion, this week was mostly a wash for Glow Worm (I think), and hopefully, Gamera and Cookie Monster learned stuff because that’s an awful lot of money to waste if no learning whatsoever happened.

But now you know that Taiwanese schools measure kids’ temperatures at the beginning of the day, after lunch/nap, and any time they feel it is warranted. And that their teachers are amazing and kind and really helpful with informing me of the particulars of Glow Worm’s eating preferences as well as knowing him on a level I never suspected he possessed.