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.

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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.

Taiwanese Camp Update, Week 2

img_9082

Welp, I’m a little late on last week’s update but I have a good excuse. We went to visit family in Kaohsiung this past weekend and I had no intention of lugging around my laptop (no matter how light).

If you missed last week’s update, you can find it here.

But anyhow, let’s get into last week, shall we?

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.

Local Camp Experience #2

A cup Cookie Monster decorated at camp. He said they were stickers and that they put something special on it. I think it's cute and practical!

A cup Cookie Monster decorated at camp. He said they were stickers and that they put something special on it. I think it’s cute and practical!

A bamboo water gun Cookie Monster made. it broke really quickly because there's a thick sponge in connected to the stick and it gets stuck and icky.

A bamboo water gun Cookie Monster made. it broke really quickly because there’s a thick sponge in connected to the stick and it gets stuck and icky.

This week, Cookie Monster (6.5) attended an outdoor day camp where they take a shuttle to a bunch of different cities and places for quick day trips. At first, I was incredibly dismayed because when I arrived, half of the 12 or so kids were busy chatting away in English. Turns out, half the class was from the US.

Blergh.

I swear I didn’t tell anyone else about the camp (as my friend who originally told me about the camp had asked me not to) but I guess word was out anyway.

Ah well. It happens.

Anyhow, I had already paid and we were already there so what was I going to do?

The leaders were very nice and again, took the time to learn about Cookie Monster’s food allergy to peanuts and learned how to use the Epipen. They made sure they understood not to give him snacks and for him to only eat the prepared food he brought.

A little sock doll Cookie Monster made.

A little sock doll Cookie Monster made.

They asked about other snacks and candy and I stressed that if they were absolutely sure there was no peanut content, he could try it. But otherwise, to just have him stick with his prepared food.

I left Cookie Monster with a strong admonishment to speak only in Chinese and he said he would. After I left, I realized that the majority of the US kids were older girls and I comforted myself with the thought that if Cookie Monster had the same “game” as Hapa Papa, we would be fine. Cookie Monster would likely never speak to them.

Turns out, I need not have worried. The teachers told me that Cookie Monster didn’t speak any English (although he did confess to me he spoke a little bit English) and that he had even made a friend. He’s the youngest in the class and was sitting by himself on the bus and an older boy sat next to him and befriended him.

A little cardboard car Cookie Monster made. It's obviously super easy, but still cute.

A little cardboard car Cookie Monster made. It’s obviously super easy, but still cute.

So thankful for that kinder, older boy.

By the end of the week, the teachers told me that Cookie Monster was a favorite and that the older students would look out for him, offer him their snacks (which he refused), and were in general, inclusive and kind to him. The pictures they took seem to show him having a great time.

(I would post their pics, but they have a watermark and I’m not inclined for folks to know where he attended camp – especially since he is going back next week.)

Cookie Monster showing off his chocolate creations with Gamera staring greedily in the background.

Cookie Monster showing off his chocolate creations with Gamera staring greedily in the background.

So, what did they do?

In my crude attempt at reading the Chinese itinerary, turns out I was totally wrong and misinterpreted things. SOB. Chinese is HARD, for realz! So, I am making use of The Google Translate and I’m sure there will be things lost in translation.

Sorry, folks. My Chinese literacy just isn’t up to par. However, in a few years, Cookie Monster can just read it to me. (Living the dream!)

They went to several different cities/counties (Tao Yuan, Yi Lan, New Taipei City, and Miao Li) to check out all sorts of different museums, farms, factories, etc.

Close up of the chocolates.

Close up of the chocolates.

They went to a Tomato/Fruit farms, an instrument museum, a vehicle museum, a ceramics factory, a tea plantation, and a chocolate factory (where they made their own chocolates out of plastic molds).

Each day, they would make at least one craft or take home some souvenir from the places they went. Cookie Monster made the aforementioned chocolates (which Gamera and Glow Worm enthusiastically consumed), sock dolls, had tattoos, and earned prizes for answering questions correctly.

Cookie Monster showed up after school one day with dragon tattoos and other stuff. Clearly I am an observant mother.

Cookie Monster showed up after school one day with dragon tattoos and other stuff. Clearly I am an observant mother.

Cookie Monster also said that they would play games on the long bus rides. His favorite was “Grenade” which is like the American game, “Hot Potato.” Whoever the “grenade” landed on would have to answer a personal question such as their favorite food or color.

When my mom saw the itinerary, she mentioned even she wanted to go. (That was basically the consensus of all the adults.) And yet, even with all this awesomeness, Cookie Monster preferred last week’s camp.

I think it’s because even though they’re seeing all sorts of stuff, the leaders must also talk a lot about what they’re seeing. And truthfully, Cookie Monster has a low tolerance for listening to information whether it’s in English or Chinese. (This definitely comes into play our third week of camp.)

Cookie Monster is spacey and likely just zoned out during all the talking. He’s totally Charlie Brown hearing adults talk.

The camp gave out prizes if you answered a question right and everyone laughed that Cookie Monster chose a fork. When asked why, he just awkwardly smiled and shrugged.

The camp gave out prizes if you answered a question right and everyone laughed that Cookie Monster chose a fork. When asked why, he just awkwardly smiled and shrugged.

Postcard of the chocolate factory. Thinking of possibly taking the kids there when Hapa Papa arrives. Maybe Cookie Monster can give us a tour.

Postcard of the chocolate factory. Thinking of possibly taking the kids there when Hapa Papa arrives. Maybe Cookie Monster can give us a tour.

International School Week 2

Gamera having The Sadz at lunch on her sick day.

Gamera having The Sadz at lunch on her sick day.

I’m beginning to think that Gamera just really doesn’t like conventional schooling. She constantly complains that the school is just too long and boring and that she wants Glow Worm’s teacher because she likes his teacher more and she doesn’t like her own teacher and why is the day so long? She wants her preschool teacher from home.

The thing is, every day, when I pick her up, she seems as if she’s had a happy and good day. So, really, I don’t know what’s going on. She even says that she misses me all day. (She said this last year, too. Sigh. I would believe her but she is extremely clever and manipulative.)

Glow Worm hugging Gamera on the MRT when we went to pick up Cookie Monster.

Glow Worm hugging Gamera on the MRT when we went to pick up Cookie Monster.

This week, I found out from Gamera’s teachers that they have a score board where they can earn points to redeem into gifts as they learn and remember Chinese characters as well as do other things. She leads the score board.

I told the teacher that it wasn’t fair. After all, Gamera already knows 800 characters. Having her “learn” really easy characters is not exactly a challenge.

However, the teachers say she is very helpful and earnest and encourages the other kids to get the right answers so she is fun to have in class. I also don’t know how much to believe this because Gamera used to give one of her Chinese preschool teachers shit whenever they taught her something she already knew. She would say, “I learned this already!”

Hives all over Gamera's face. This was before it got really bad.

Hives all over Gamera’s face. This was before it got really bad.

Sigh.

Well, one can only hope our children are better than they seem and that the teachers are being truthful. After all, one of my cousins mentioned that their son’s teacher (in Taipei) called their son a demon child. Now, that kid is a bit naughty, but I would never call him a demon child. I can’t believe a teacher would say that! So mean!

Also, Gamera started throwing up all over herself, the bed, and the sink on Thursday night. Like, nonstop throwing up. It was so sad. She was scared to lay down on the bed. In the morning, she also threw up some more. So, I had no choice but to keep her home from school on their field trip day.

Hives all over Gamera's arms. They got so bad and huge they turned into plaques.

Hives all over Gamera’s arms. They got so bad and huge they turned into plaques.

She didn’t seem too upset about it.

In fact, she seemed fine ALL DAY because she was iPadding it up. She rarely gets to play on it just herself because she has to share with Cookie Monster and he conveniently forgets to let her choose what to watch or play and she just ends up passively watching whatever he does.

I took her out to eat and when we got to the restaurant, my only child with ZERO allergies, burst out into hives all over her face and arms. There were so many that they turned into plaques.

Thankfully, I am always well-stocked in Benadryl melty tabs, but she refused to eat them. So much so that we made a huge scene at the restaurant with her crying, me telling her she has to eat this medicine, and we spilled water all over the table.

An older woman walked by and started telling her not to cry. (Seriously, WTF is with people being nosy and unhelpful and total assholes to me and my kids? My only non-comforting thought is that like attracts like and I must REALLY be an asshole to be attracting so many to me.)

Gamera finally got knocked out from Benadryl when we went to pick up Cookie Monster.

Gamera finally got knocked out from Benadryl when we went to pick up Cookie Monster.

I told her to mind her own business and leave us alone. I am most appreciative of my utter lack of Chinese vocabulary to say things nicely. Because I am never nice. If I could figure out how to say, “Mind your own fucking business” in Chinese, I think my life would be complete.

Anyhow, Gamera finally calmed down enough to take the medicine when I told her the only other option was for me to give her a shot or she could eat her medicine. She ate the medicine. Then she told me she hated all the food and refused to eat it.

I was hungry so I ate the food instead. After awhile, she got over herself and ate a bunch and she declared it was all delicious.

Unfortunately, after we walked home, she promptly threw it all back up. Sob. I had hoped she was getting better. But I guess it reinforced the decision to stay home.

All three of the kiddos on the way home from school.

All three of the kiddos on the way home from school.

Sigh.

As for Glow Worm, he got a little bit better about school, but was still whimpering and all teary eyed and sad when we got to school. He often put on a brave little face but for the most part, drop off was still so heartbreaking.

He is so small.

Glow Worm’s teachers told me that he’s really good at character recognition and is a sweet and cute little boy in class.

However, I think their main complaint is that he refuses to poop at school. Or, at least, refuses to poop in the toilet.

An accurate portrayal of how we all feel at the end of the day.

An accurate portrayal of how we all feel at the end of the day.

The teacher will tell me that she can tell he needs to poop and as she is asking him if he needs to poop and he says, “No” that he makes eye contact and then poops in his pants.

He’s totally Revenge Pooping.

I swear he’s potty trained. He hasn’t pooped his pants since starting potty training! Sigh.

I think he doesn’t like the group bathrooms at the school. It doesn’t seem dirty, but how can a school bathroom really be “clean”?

Every time I mention to him that he needs to tell his teachers he has to pee or poop, he just looks me in the eye and says, “不要(No)!”

Ass.

He went to their school field trip and they had a lot of fun playing on the playgrounds and was totally wiped out. This school does NOT joke around when it comes to transportation.

Glow Worm's tour bus rolling up to school. Baller!

Glow Worm’s tour bus rolling up to school. Baller!

Alright, that’s really it to report on this week. Hope it was helpful and continues to give you more insight into the types of school and camps in Taiwan.

Taiwanese Camp Update, Week 1

Taiwanese CampAs many of you know, one of the primary reasons I homeschool my children is for them to retain their Chinese language when they hit Kindergarten age. It is common knowledge that most kids, though fluent in Chinese before starting preschool or any type of full time schooling, will immediately start to lose their fluency and prefer English almost to the exclusion of Chinese.

Thus, I homeschool to prevent as much of that language loss as possible. Though not the ONLY reason I homeschool, it is one of my top reasons. Language loss is inevitable, I understand. We do, after all, live in America. But in general, I try to stem the tide as much as I can.

Anyhow, the main reason I come back to Taiwan during the summer rather than the cooler (and more palatable) months in the winter is because of the plethora of summer programming for kids. Whether I want local camps or camps geared towards overseas kids, I have a multitude of choices. If I come back at any other time, there really aren’t as many options. And I am a firm believer in options.

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.

Local Camp Experience #1

Cookie Monster and his fellow campers having their bug robots fight. (Photo courtesy of the camp.)

So, as many of you know, Cookie Monster is enrolled in several different local camps so that he can learn Chinese while doing fun things (instead of a formal schooling environment). He can only do this because he is fluent in both Chinese comprehension as well as speaking.

Otherwise, I would likely enroll him in classes geared towards overseas kids because I find it cruel to throw him in an environment that is so utterly foreign. (But again, I recognize that is my personal opinion and if you choose to do something differently, more power to you!)

Anyhow, this week, he’s enrolled in a 玩具總動員 (wan2, zhu4 zong3 dong4 yuan2) Toy Assembly Camp through a local group. The kids meet at a local college/university (along with many other camp groups – who knew there were so many? My Google Fu is clearing lacking. Also, my Chinese reading skills suck.) and he is having a fantastic time.

Kids eating the lunch provided by the camp. If you squint and zoom really hard, you’ll find Cookie Monster in the top left quadrant. (Photo courtesy of the camp.)

My only gripe was that they sent a “packing list” a little late for me to have brought the supplies from home so I had to scramble and go buy them last minute. They ask students to bring a bowl and utensils for the provided lunch, but since Cookie Monster brings all his own snacks and food due to food allergies, it is not an extra burden. But the last minute list is a small thing to be annoyed about (and it was also expected).

Also, I was very pleased that the leaders/teachers seemed fine with Cookie Monster’s epipen, my instructions, and concerns. They gamely listened and learned how to use the epipen so I was happy. I’m not concerned because Cookie Monster is very good about not eating things that I haven’t pre-approved.

Cookie Monster showing off his plane and propeller. (Photo courtesy of the camp.)

Oh, and they do have a nap time/rest period after lunch which I find puzzling. I can’t believe kids 6+ are napping, but since Cookie Monster doesn’t nap, I suppose it’s good for him to learn to be quiet and just rest and be still. Lord knows that is something that he could learn to do more often.

We usually show up early and sign in at their little temporary info desk and then a teacher/leader will take a group of kids up at a time. There are about 10-12 kids in each class at this location and they sit in little lecture halls with big tables.

Close ups of the robot bug Cookie Monster made.

From my understanding (and from pictures), they combine all the little classes together for group times of eating, activities, and random songs and fun bonding things. Then, at the end of the day, the teacher/leader will take each class downstairs to the main lobby where us parents pick up and then take them home to repeat it all again.

It’s quite handy and of all my kids, Cookie Monster is having the most fun. Partly because he is older (6.5yo) and used to going to all sorts of classes by himself (I know, I homeschool. But I outsource. A lot.) And partly because his “class” is building toys.

It also helps that his friend from home is also in the class with him. From the pictures the camp is posting on Facebook, they seem to be having a great time.

Cookie Monster and fellow campers throwing sticky balls at soda bottles. (Photo courtesy of the camp.)

According to Cookie Monster, his favorite part is snack time. sigh But he also enjoys all the activities – especially when they take balls and throw it at stuff. Whether some improvised version of skeeball and they have to throw into small pots from a distance, or if it’s taking balls to knock over bottles of soda. (Actually, not sure if that’s what is actually happening. I might have to check with Cookie Monster’s friend for an accurate assessment.)

Cookie Monster showing off his boat. It even floats! (Photo courtesy of the camp.)

And even though we are not officially in a language learning class, Cookie Monster’s Chinese is already improving. From the pics, he doesn’t really do much group participation in terms of answering questions or singing songs, but just from getting along with the rest of his classmates, his goofy little self (and I assure you, as you will see from the pics, goofy is the correct term) is picking up and getting used to speaking in Chinese predominantly.

Clockwise from Top Left: sailboat with propeller; front view of a wind propelled walking contraption; side view of contraption

This is happening even despite him still watching English YouTube at the start and end of his day. So, I am pleased. (And disinclined to take away English media and force them to watch Chinese cartoons that even I find annoying.)

So, Camp 1 is a success! Unfortunately, we missed out on the last day of this camp due to Typhoon Nepartak coming into town (although as of this writing, a sum total of NOTHING has happened).

We will be back at this same group for a different camp in two weeks. Next week, we will be at some fancy outdoor camp. From my poor Chinese deciphering, they are going to a tea farm for one of the days. Sounds awesome to me.

Here are some videos of what he made this week:

International School Week 1

First day of school.

If you’re following along my Taiwan Trip 2016 adventures, you know that I’m trying really hard not to yell or nag Gamera to hurry up already in the morning because she her super power is sloth-like behavior and her villains are defeated from dying of old age.

My resolve not to yell at Gamera lasted about 45 minutes this morning. She really does push all my buttons. I was fine until she refused to wear the school issued pink/green polo because it is ugly (and she’s right!). However, ugly or not, the school asked us to put the kids in them every Tuesday and Thursday and Field Trip day.

The school issued pink/green polos Gamera hates.

The school issued pink/green polos Gamera hates.

Sucks for me because I have to do laundry a lot.

Good for me because finding them something to wear on Tuesday and Thursday is one less thing for me to think about. (Not that there is much to think about since I only brought 7 outfits for the kids and Gamera selected which clothes so she is happy with whatever I choose – except, the ugly pink/green school polo, of course.)

Anyhow, today was the first day the kids had to wear the polo since they gave it to us. She refused to wear it. I had to bribe her with chocolate.

Then, she refused to go to the bathroom because she didn’t want to see herself in the mirror. sigh

This is the shit I have to deal with from her, people. I mean, WHAT THE HELL? I told her to either close her eyes or close the door so she can’t see the mirror. She threw a mini-tantrum.

Finally, I told her I don’t care if she goes to the bathroom or not, but since she usually poops in the morning before school, she can poop and pee on the sidewalk on the way TO school, or she can poop and pee AT school. Her choice. I didn’t care. It wasn’t my body.

That did the trick.

We finally got out the door but then she was being pissy and throwing attitude and walking SOOOOOOO SLOOOOOOOOOWLY. To be fair, she is normally this slow. As I have mentioned before, her name really should be Hurry Up, Gamera!

All in all though, it was still better than before because I wasn’t nagging the kids to hurry and making them walk fast (except when crossing the street). Glow Worm even peed in the gutter of a sidewalk. (Hey, when you gotta go, you gotta go. Boys and penises, FTW!)

Gamera and Glow Worm waiting for Cookie Monster to get out of camp.

So, even though at the end of the day when I pick up Glow Worm and Gamera, they seemed to have had a happy day from both their countenances and their teachers’ reports. Gamera usually blathers on to me about her day and Glow Worm is just so excited to see me and be in a YELLOW CAR (what he calls taxis) that it’s adorable and sweet and Glow Worm just can’t stop touching me or hugging me or snuggling me because he missed me and then says the yellow car is FUN.

However, dropping them off in the morning is another story altogether.

When we round the corner to the street his school is on, Glow Worm approaches the gate to his school like a criminal on the Green Mile. Brave, but totally not liking it.

Then, today, he started crying out, “Yellow car! Yellow car!”

It was both so sad and hilarious.

At least when we came to the main gate, he didn’t pull a frozen dog refuses to get into the car move on me like he did yesterday. Still, I had to pick him up and instead of weeping the ENTIRE way like yesterday, he just held onto me until I handed him to his teacher.

Incidentally, apparently baby boy eats a lot. I guess all this heat, walking, and school makes Glow Worm a VERY hungry boy. His teacher mentioned that the first few days, he would finish his lunch and look at his teacher with big sad eyes asking for more food. They would usually give him more fruit. But yesterday, I happened to pack enough.

God bless my favorite eater.

Anyhow, I have to pack him more food like I did yesterday. It occurred to me that both he and Cookie Monster are endlessly hungry at dinner so maybe something about school is good for their appetites. All that “learning.”

As for Gamera, she started crying as soon as we turned the corner onto the school’s street until hand off. Her teacher says she stops crying and is happy as a clam as soon as she finishes off her pretzel snacks that I pack for her in the morning. (I thought that was just an extra snack for her if she didn’t like her school snack!)

Apparently, she is MORE than fine, and is super happy and delightful after eating her pretzels on the couch. So much so that I wonder if this crying bit is an elaborate ploy to get pretzels early. I wouldn’t put it past her. She is very sneaky.

This is all just to say that though my kids seem to be enjoying school and learning stuff (Gamera tells me of the stories or songs they’re learning), it is not nearly as fun as what Cookie Monster is doing. (Which also reinforces my decision to NOT enroll him in the same International school even though that would have been much cheaper in terms of transportation as well as easier in terms of logistics.)

This school doesn’t seem to post a bjillion (actual number) pictures so I really don’t have any of the kids during their school time. But in general, though Gamera and Glow Worm are in different classes, the stories and general flow is very similar.

Like most preschools in the US, they sing songs, tell stories, learn some sight words (Chinese characters) that pertain to the stories, and they play a lot. Seems fun to me!

Again, the school packing list was sent out a little late for my personal taste, but I also didn’t open it in a timely manner. Because this is a preschool, they are supposed to pack extra clothes (which Glow Worm has already made use of since he has decided to start napping for 1.5-2 hours a day – much to my annoyance at bed time, but whatever, he’s still sleeping relatively earlier than he used to).

They also need to provide a bowl and utensils (again, not a problem for Glow Worm since I am packing all his food due to food allergies); blankets/pillows/sleeping bags for nap time – this I did NOT provide because I’m not buying bedding in Taiwan that I am only using for 4 weeks; and a communication book.

That communication book threw me for a loop because we do not have anything like that in the US. Turns out the school provides the book and they write in what the kids learned that day as well as any concerns or reminders they want to give to the individual parent or kid. You can also write in the book with any of your non-emergency concerns.

Who knew that I would ALSO have to improve my Chinese reading in order to hang with my kids? I thought this was an international school! Why is every communication in Chinese? LOLSOB. Oh, because we are in Taiwan. Sigh.

Anyhow, Glow Worm is just bursting with talking – both in English and Chinese and he is super excited about everything. And gracious, he is a super extrovert. Not sure if his Chinese is improving because (2.85) again, he only recently started talking, but I can only imagine that his Chinese comprehension is upping because that is all he hears every day at school.

As for Gamera, her Chinese was always very good and while I haven’t seen any marked improvement, I’m pleased that she is keeping up and still speaks a lot of Chinese to me (more so than before).

Ok. That was quite a blathery update with both germane and non-germane information. But hopefully, it gives you a glimpse of what school is like here in Taiwan – at least for the summer.

If you’re also here in Taiwan for the summer, I’m curious as to your experiences, too. Let me know in the comments.

Until next time!