Kindergarten Musings

On Tueseday, Samantha stood in line to go to her last day of kindergarten. The scene was so different from nine months ago.

Nine months ago, we sat at cafeteria tables waiting to learn which teacher we would have. Samantha and twenty-three other children were placed in Chen Laoshi’s class. She would never speak English to them, even that first day. We walked side by side with our children and stood in the back of the room as Ms. Chen called their names, their Chinese names that many had never heard before. There was a parent who spoke Chinese there to translate. I breathed a sigh of relief when Samantha’s name was called, Sa-ma-ta, and she recognized that was her. All the children were given name tags with Chinese characters on them that I didn’t understand. Ms. Chen waved good-bye to us, signaling it was time to leave our five year olds in kindergarten, at a new school, with a new teacher, and a new language, for the first time. We were quiet when we left.

Nine months later there are less parents around. Many of the kids are dropped off and find their way to line up by themselves. They run and play and greet each other and us parents chat and ask about summer plans. Samantha and three of her girlfriends stand in line singing a song in Chinese and then switch to English to greet another friend.

Samantha is now speaking and listening at grade level in Mandarin. Nine months of school and she can communicate like a typical Mandarin speaking kindergartener. I’ve been just amazed by the program, by the dedication of the teachers to teach two classes in half the amount of time and still keep our kids on track for the standards set by the state. And these kids. Wow. Sponges is an understatement. They have embraced this program and a new language. They are an impressive group of kids.

Samantha has started to play in Chinese. I’ll hear her talking to her dolls or pretend playing, and she’s doing it in Chinese. She’s told me she dreams in Chinese sometimes. And now she’s a first grader. Definitely a big kid and well on her way to being bilingual.

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8 Responses to “Kindergarten Musings”

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  1. Aliu says:

    So cool that she is dreaming in Chinese :)

  2. Rachel says:

    I’m really glad you decided to put her in a bilingual immersion program. It wouldn’t have mattered what language you chose. It’s so important for kids to learn a second language at a young age, it sets them up for learning other languages in their future. I wish that I would’ve had that opportunity (Why didn’t Grandma and Grandpa speak to us in Norwegian?!) and even though I have now officially studied 6 foreign languages, I am still unable to communicate effectively in any of them. Really excited for Samantha and I hope you put Ella and Penny in this school too :)

    • Jessica Anne says:

      It really is important. The longer we’re in the program the more I realize it’s such a shame the U.S. doesn’t require a second language in school, like most of the rest of the industrialized world.

      I can communicate in Spanish, at least enough for L.A., but not nearly as well as I’d like. I wish we’d have learned Norwegian too.

      Penny and Ella are definitely going. It’s good we got Samantha in this year. There wasn’t a wait list because it was new. This year’s wait list is long. Ella and Penny will get priority because they’re siblings.

  3. Kristin
    Twitter: kristinglas

    Super duper awesome! I am a big fan of our immersion program too. Though the speaking French at home business is not so cool when you get to second grade.
    Kristin┬┤s last post ..The State Of My Hair

    • Jessica Anne says:

      I think any immersion program is awesome. It’s such a gift to give our children a second language. Maybe it’s just French that isn’t cool and Chinese will continue to be cool.

  4. Diana says:

    Hi Jessica Anne,
    My son just finished his kindergarten year in a Mandarin immersion program too! I came across your blog when I was looking for homework pages for him to do over the summer. His school provided math and English packets but not Mandarin :( And that’s great you found a summer camp. The few I found in my area were expensive and transportation is an issue since I work full time. Maybe I’ll copy some of the homework he did during the school year and have him use those. Anyway, great blog!

    • Jessica Anne says:

      Hi Diana,

      Thanks for stopping by! If you have an iPad, Better Chinese has an iBook called My First Chinese Reader that we’ll be using this summer. We didn’t get any homework for home either. :( Also, better chinese dot com has workbooks and storybooks that you might like. Our school uses the Better Chinese program, so it works great for us, don’t know which program your school uses. Good luck!