Saturday, January 03, 2009

Comments, Links

Two Sisters: An Edumacation

(I just sent a humongous e-mail to an online friend about choosing schools here in Shanghai. It's a shame to let it go to waste, so I'm going to put it on the weblog in chunks. First, the final section on how Jodi and I are going about "planning", as best we can, Charlotte and Maryann's education.)

Here's the decision process that Jodi and I are going through, maybe it will help. We have a baby (Maryann) and a toddler (Charlotte), no plans for more. We plan to be in Shanghai at least through middle school for Charlotte. We're not rich, we save a little, and our current savings are going towards an MEd program for me and another BA for Jodi, so we need something we can work into our month-to-month budget, at least in the short term. I would like our girls to have the option of going to college in the US when they graduate. Jodi and I are both teachers by profession, so we know the importance of a good teacher, but also plan to emphasize education over schooling (I anticipate friction with school administrators over that one, but oh well) so the quality of the school at the lower grades is not the highest priority for us. We live in Zhangjiang High-Tech Park in Pudong, but would like to move to Puxi ASAP (see "education over schooling"), budget-permitting. For both of us, it's a very high priority that our girls be not just bilingual but bi-literate/bi-social in Chinese and English, that they grow up to respect themselves and respect others, and that they be comfortable with their own identities. The last one is super-important, though I've found that mixed kids are usually pretty cool about it.

So... the current plan is to send them to the best local preschool within our budget, maybe even Jodi's own preschool when she starts working again in 2010 (Charlotte=3, Maryann=2); then send them to a good local elementary school, which means visiting Zhangjiang Experimental and a couple others, if we still live in Zhangjiang at that point. When Charlotte nears middle school, the current plan is to switch to whatever int'l school I'm working at, though that depends on what Charlotte and Maryann want, where we live, how their Chinese is, what schools are available, etc. By high school, we do plan to send them to an international school. I am also keeping in mind public/private Chinese schools that have a track record of sending graduate overseas though, because if money is still an issue at that point we may be able to get a better value for our buck at, say, the Fudan High School or Xiwai Foreign Language School, or Yali School in Changsha. (This process somewhat mirrors my own education; my parents were missionaries in Spain when I was young, sent me to public school through middle school, switched to an int'l school in 8th grade, then came back to the US for 10th grade.)


At Jan 4, 2009, 11:39:00 AM, Blogger catshanghai said:

Happy new year Micah. Your children are very cute.

Raising kids between two cultures raises some interesting dilemnas and choices. We're planning to send our child to school with me so he or she will get international education from the start, but this is not perfect. Bicultural children at my school tend to develop strong spoken rather than written Chinese.

At Jan 4, 2009, 2:09:00 PM, Blogger Micah Sittig said:

No single answer is perfect, just better than others, eh? I expect there will be some downsides to our chosen path as well: lost friendships when they make the switch to int'l school (though, int'l school is very unstable in terms of long-term friends!), lots of homework trying to keep up both languages, a "creativity gap" when they start at international school, having to run the "you're special because you're a mixed kid" gauntlet in Chinese school, etc etc. But that's raising kids, challenge after new challenge.

(Don't tell him I said this, but if Charlotte and Maryann grow up to have the language skills of Peijin C, I would be absolutely charmed.)

At Jan 4, 2009, 7:07:00 PM, Blogger Lisa Movius said:

Thanks for these thoughts, Micah. I'm still several years "pre-procreative", but worry about when I do have kids, how to give them the best of both worlds - China and the US. As you say, fluency in culture as well as language.

Price aside, the international schools seem to produce insufferable little neocolonists. But Chinese schools can be pretty harsh, and I fear my (probably) mixed kids would get "laowai!"ed at a lot. This essay: had me thinking a lot about how much I am willing to subject my hypothetical kids to.

So far I think elementary at Chinese schools, then middle and high school at US public schools somehow, even if that means living with family friends. Some sort of group home schooling also seems possible. I'm definitely getting ahead of myself, but good to think about htese things early on.

At Jan 8, 2009, 10:56:00 PM, Blogger Micah Sittig said:

Hi Lisa! Thanks for your thoughts too, especially that link. I spent a while reading old Racialious posts the othr day and they made me think, which is great. Like I said, that Charlotte and Maryann are confident in their identities is very, very important to me (no matter what they choose!). Cliche as it is, I think in this case the best defense is a good offense. If you know what you stand for, you can be the one setting the agenda for interactions/discussions/brawls premised on race/color.

There's always boarding schools too. Boarding schools can be better than relatives at giving kids the structure they need at that age. My friends who went to boarding schools for high school tend to have eccentric personalities that I like, but I'm not sure if I'm willing to let my kids go for that long — I'm just not that style of a parent.


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