As 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!