Being able to immerse ONLY in the Mandarin, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week in China with extraodinary teachers ( some with PhD's) in a very special traditional Chinese school with TCM and Waldorf influences with healthy, all organic food is a blessing and rare opportunity for our daughter.
Thanks to Winser Zhao for introducing us to this wonderful school and people. He had first met the very impressive TCM doctor and principal through volunteering together at a NGO interested in environmental issues. We are very honored to have them be our hosts in Beijing and love everything this school stands for.
This gives her ease and a fantastic base to begin a journey in China and we've been pleased to discover just how good her Mandarin is including knowing the 弟子规 Di Zi Gui, ( which is extremely rare for a foreigner). She understands everything and can easily join in conversations and read books here and the locals understand her Mandarin without any foreign accent. We are sooo happy we have done it this way, coming here prepared and able to get the most out of our time here.
The advantage of being in China now is few here speak any English, so she can immerse day and night without any English or Spanish for this month and get to know the culture even deeper by living it like a local. Most English-speaking people who visit China, miss what she is getting, exploring it for the first time as a fluent and literate person in Mandarin.
Mozart adores babies and kids, so this is a playful way to immerse. She just finished nine months of intensive Mandarin High School (skipped several years ahead), so it's good for her to have a lot of fun and play time on her school vacation while she does this immersion.
As an "only" child this also allows her to be a "big sister" to these Chinese kids and also converse with and help the teachers with real-life experience and internship in "playing school". It is a very loving, healthy environment where we feel safe in letting her spend the night and we can visit at any time and set up an office for us to work in this very large building. The teachers have tested her Mandarin speaking/reading/writing levels and work individually with her too to increase each as they have materials up to 6th grade level.
We'll be doing in depth visits to the Forbidden City and Temple of Heaven again through the school, to learn and absorb deeper understanding of traditional Chinese culture. Getting an insider perspective from knowledgable locals that few get.
It is common here for some young kids to stay over night in the school on weekdays and go home with the family on weekends, but Mozart has almost never been apart from us, (partly because of our travel lifestyle, and our deep belief in attachment parenting) so this is an adventure in independence for her too.
A group of older kids come after school between 3 P.M. and 8 P.M., including a twelve year old girl that has a brother who is a student here, so this gives her some older children to play with as well. With the twenty-something teachers, older help and parents, she has a wide range of local people and loving community to connect with and converse with at the school.
The school principal is a TCM doctor, so health is of utmost importance to the school and they serve only organic food which is super delicious and nutritious. This is a photo of the head cook and the photos in the background are basics about TCM food to help educate the children about eating well.
We parents often eat lunch there ( using chopsticks of course) and learn more about Chinese food and culture as we enjoy the scrumptious food. Mozart eats all her meals and snacks there just like the Chinese students, thus another important way to immerse deeply in the culture.
It's an extremely clean and well organized kitchen and dining rooms ( and the school is filled with extraordinary antiques and beautiful wooden furntiture and art). We were told the exceptional cooks could work elsewhere for more money, but they enjoy serving the children and being part of this school.
The space the school is in is huge and I will be doing a more detailed report and series on our experience here. There is a connected organic food coop on the floor below with large office with the school is primarily on the second floor. ...all in central Beijing in a family friendly middle class area.
The kids go outside to a nearby park every morning hand in hand which Mozart enjoys too and this gigantic play room is used every day as well. All of the equipment is child friendly materials to help increase the children's physical abilities as well as fun to do. Mozart adores sliding on the wheelie thing down the little roller coaster on her belly like in this photo as well as building block creations with the kids, jumping on the trampolines or swinging like above.
Mid day when the little kids are taking a nap, Mozart gets some private lessons and time to read and write in Mandarin. They have a fantastic selection of kids books in Mandarin, so perfect for her and sometimes she reads to the little ones.
We set up our little office with our laptops when there at this lovely wood table and can give her a hug or kiss as she walks by. We're also going to teach the kids a song and put on a little play before we leave with the kids and teachers with them learning a bit of English and Mozart will be the master of ceremony explaing it all in Mandarin. Can you guess the theme? Thanksgiving!
This is a photo of the kids having their afternoon snack ( they get three healthy meals and two snacks every day). You can see the other 12 year old who comes after school, but there are several other older neighborhood kids who also come every day.
Mozart has always been the youngest in school, so this is a nice change for her and different perspective.
Originally we were going to work with a language school that has an immersion program for kids where they stay with a local family and go to a local school. But our timing made that impossible because China is going through a once-every-10-years government change and sadly right before we came they put a limit on foreign students in the older grades.
This serendipity has been a great blessing as I can't imagine a better situation for us on our first visit to China to immerse in the language and culture. We are so impressed with this magnificent school and these outstanding people and share the same values.
They have a enormous and fantastic selection of quality kids books in Mandarin which all the kids love and keeps Mozart occupied in spare moments like this classic Tintin book ( that are so popular in Europe).
Mozart enjoyed showing us where she sleeps every night at the school and one can spot her bed by the little Panda she just got from the Four Seasons Beijing when we arrived. Just four kids, (including her favorite, a bright 6 year old girl), sleep over night with two teachers.
She has just finished her first week and loved it, but we are all looking forward to our weekend together with the sweet family we are staying with and more exploring of Beijing together.
What would you like to know about the school or our experiences with Mandarin immersion?