School Begins…

It’s good to be back in Taipei. Our biggest adjustment this year is that we have the twins in first grade at the local elementary school, Ren’ai. I wrote about the application process for a newsletter. In short, this is the neighborhood school, and we had several thoughts: (1) it might be good to front load Chinese, (2) if we could have them that close it would give them more time at home and more time to rest, (3) maybe it really is easier for us to teach them English than to help them with Chinese.

So far things are going well. They adjusted well to school and mix Chinese in with their English. They seem to love their teachers and have friends both from their old school and the neighborhood.  The paperwork to get them in was enormous. Ever since the twins were born (2x hospital medical forms) I’ve been in awe of how many forms it takes to keep them alive and registered in all of their institutions and activities.

They like the school itself. They do 課後輔導 at the school. In Taiwanese public schools, children attend five mornings but only one afternoon at first and then build up up to all day. Of course, many children actually attend a class to fill in this time, and many kids go much later (until 6pm or 9pm). We’ve signed them up for the fill-in class, which keeps them in school until 4pm, instead of noon. There’s an interesting article here on how much Taiwanese parents save in order to buttress their children’s education. Basically the entire area around our house is after-school programs. The good news is that now the twins are done at 4 with their homework basically complete. We’re going to get a tutor to help them some working on their reading and writing English, but it will just be a few hours a week.

Sam is in fourth grade at a bilingual school. He really likes Lih-Jen and seems to have a good coterie of classmates. He is into the Percy Jackson series now and has read the five books in the last couple of weeks. His English reading/writing is good and he loves science and the humanities. His Chinese, however, seems a little worse since the summer, and during third grade we began to realize he was struggling in math. We’re going to try to add some tutoring for Chinese and for math I’m going to work more with him more. We really like his English teacher this year, Gloria Wang. She has her class working through the whole math textbook (rather than skipping components), and we’re hopeful the English curriculum might stretch to include some more math. (Right now they basically have an hour a week plus several pages of homework, which isn’t enough.)

All three kids are doing scouts, some music, and swimming lessons. A perennial challenge is how much to force them to do and how much to go with the flow or follow their interests. At this age, they change their opinions a lot, so they loved the first swim lesson but complained about the second. The twins seem to be opposing music on the grounds that Sam opposes it, but then Eva really seems to like it and Eli actually isn’t bad. With scouts, they all like it but that may change.

Having the kids settled makes the rest of work and life a lot easier. I’m hopeful that this could be a really good semester and excited about this new chapter where all three are in elementary school.

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