almost 3 years ago

It's been three months since I last wrote a baby blogpost. It's not because there's been nothing to write about, but more because I have shifted my in, if there's a block of time to write something (it takes me about 30 min - 1 hour to write a single blogpost), I'd rather be doing any of the following: napping, taking a bath, watch TV (aka AmazonPrime), shopping on Zulily (because one can never buy enough toddler shoes), or do a quick yoga session through YogaGlo.

So just some quick updates on Josie's life.

Yup...that "Screen Time"

Before Josie started using YouTube Kids, I had no idea just how many version of "Wheels on the Bus" there is on the Internet. I mean, it's insane how many versions there are. And there are even German versions, Hindu versions, Russian versions, that she sometimes accidentally invoke. If you are curious, you can type "Wheels on the bus" or "LBB nursery playlist" on YouTube. That's one way to completely saturate your YouTube feed with things like Johny Johny Yes Papa.

Interestingly, I have used iPad with Josie since she was around a year old. I cleaned up the iPad, removing it of all apps, and loaded it with kids apps (Dr. Seuss books, etc), thinking I could use it to distract her while we flew on planes. But she didn't care for it at all in the beginning. I would try to show her the apps and she would immediately want to put the iPad away after 10 sec.

Then, suddently, when we went to San Diego in Jan, she started holding the iPad by herself (I have it in a iGuy that completely protects it from the destructive powers of a toddler) and got really interested in those Wheels on the Bus videos. So interested, that she can re-watch the same Wheels on the Bus (a 4-5 min video) for like 10 times straight up.

I went through a month (or two, maybe) where she gradually got more adept at using YouTube. Since she can't type in search phrases, I added in color learning and fruits and vegetable names to broaden the playlist. While I do like that I now have the option of prepping dinner in solitude (instead of having her holding on to my leg screaming and crying for me to pick her up and as soon as I pick her up demand boobies), for a while I couldn't quite figure out how to keep it in moderation, resulting in a few weeks where Josie was on the iPad more than I would like. Eventually we came up with a rule: iPad time is only in the evening, at home only, either before or after dinner and never after bath (when she's about to sleep). For the most part we do OK.

Then at some point, as Josie started grabbing words from both talking with Ian and watching YouTube, I really wanted her to start watching YouTube videos in Chinese. But I quickly discovered there's just much fewer high-quality good Mandarin YouTube videos. There's the equivalent of Daniel Tiger in Chinese, but it's almost too advanced for Josie and she's not interested. What I really want is the same kind of simple videos like the color learning and fruits and vegetable names, where they show the item and repeat it in Mandarin. I tried finding a few, but most of them are from mainland China with slightly strange accents. Recently, I found Peggy Pig in Mandarin and have had moderate success in getting Josie to at least watch them for like, a minute, a day.

Oh Say Can You Say?

In just the last few weeks, Josie also get extremely interested in reading books. While she has always had enjoyed us reading to her, now she will literally chase us with books and be extremely upset if we don't read Go Dog Go or Are You My Mother for 5 times straight.

Last Christmas, when my mom visited, I asked her to bring some Mandarin books from Taiwan. At that time I thought I was been too eager to get her books since she had showed little interest in reading. Now I'm so happy at least I have some Chinese books to choose from.

Most of these books are actually translated from Japanese. Taiwan itself sadly doesn't produce a lot Children's books. Instead it relies on translating popular Japanese and American books. I don't see that as an issue, though, except I find it amusing when many of the illustrations are actually in Japanese (for example, the book where the little chicks go to supermarket, all the produce are written in Japanese).

I have also firmed up my resolution to speak to her in Mandarin. I slip up sometimes, but now I can consistently read "Go Dog Go" in Mandarin, using my own translations. It helps that I worked for years as an amateur translator. Translating Berstain's "A book" on the fly? No problem! I am still stuck on what to do with Oh Say Can You Say. Is it better to try to actually rhyme in Mandarin too, or should I just describe what is going on? Seriously, Dr. Seuss, you make translation a bitch. No wonder I had no idea who you were since no one could translate your work to understandable Chinese.

Preschool University

I remember watching Nursery University at some point (I may have been already pregnant, but not sure) and thinking how ridiculous New York was. Until I came to realize, after Josie was born, that San Francisco is not much better.

Let me just show you how extreme it can get. So, in case you don't know, preschools start usually just a little before 3 years old, around 2.5 years. Some preschools can cater to as young as 2 year olds.

Now, one of the most popular preschool in SF says this on their website:

...parents are urged to file an application within the first three months after birth.

Excuse my French, but you have got to be shitting me.

Now let me see, what does this wonderful preschool program consists of?

...students [will] have been exposed...:Art, Music, Science, History, Sociology, \
Geography, Psychology, World Religions, etc

Uhhhhhh....OK????? this sounded more intense than my college freshman curriculum, dude.

[The Pre-K class]....include music, dance, martial arts, drama, art, sports skills, 
pre-reading, pre-math and Tree Frog Treks.

What the hell is "pre-reading" and "pre-math"? And apprently Tree Frog Treks is "pre-science". Is this "pre-" thing added to justify that "well, your kid still won't be able to add 1+1, but he/she will be ready to count 1+1 when he/she goes to kindergarten". In that sense, aren't all kids "pre-adult", "pre-emotionally-stable", and "pre-tty cute"?

And if this isn't already making your unfertilzed ovaries hurt (if it does, it's called "pre-aching"), let me just throw more phrases at you. Just like the words "Big Data", "Machine Learning", "Cloud Computing" get thrown around a lot, so do the following philosophies: Montessori, Waldorf, Reggio Emilia, High Scope.

I confess I have heard of Montessori because I remember in Taiwan, lots of schools liked to put "Montessori" on their school sign, like it's supposed to be better than a regular school. Frankly, after researching preschools and having visited a few myself, I still only have a vague impression of what they are. Montessori is like the way you think of regular schools, teacher comes up with stuff and kids do it. Reggio Emilia is like, the teacher follows the kids and let them do what they want, within reason. Importantly, according to Wikipedia:

...Children are also viewed as social beings and a focus is made on the child 
in relation to other children, the family, the teachers, and the community 
rather than on each child in isolation.

Wait, does this imply there is a philosophy in which children aren't viewed as social beings?

After reading about two webpages of philosophies, I stopped. There's no point in reading all these fancy theories if you can't get into any of them, right?

So I started looking. No, not quite at birth. Around when Josie was 1.5 years old. I made note to only look for two kinds of schools: either Mandarin-immersion, or plain English but very close by. As ignorant as I was, I already knew that Presidio Knolls( and [CAIS] are the two most popular Mandarin-immersion schools in the area, but Josie won't be eligible to apply until this fall (to get in next year). I searched for a few other schools in the area using KidAdmit and old fashioned googling. I even had to write an essay for one of the schools.

The first preschool I toured at, which is about 30 seconds away from my house, the teacher described their curriculum as "HighScope". She used many fancy words to describe the philosphy, but after touring the classroom, looking at their daily schedules, I boiled the concept down to "Every week we come up with a theme, like this week it's sea and next week it's jungal, and the kids get to decide the theme. Then we glue stuff and draw and sing about that theme that week." In short, they play.

Curiously, we got into the preschool a month after we toured. We got a notice that said they considered us as "a fit" (I think we had to fit, we were living 30 seconds away in Noe white Valley). But we had 3 days to respond whether to accept or not. And the admission date was strict (as opposed to "rolling admission") --- either Josie starts this year in September, or she gets on the waitlist for next Sept.

It was a difficult few days. Eventually what got me to think straight was picking up the book "A Parent's Guide to Mandarin Immersion" my co-worker had lent me a few weeks ago. I carpooled with this co-worker for a few times and he happened to have a 2.5 year old and have found themselves on the "too-late" side of preschool application. His neighbor is a white female college professor who leanred Mandarin as an adult and had sent her kids to Mandarin-immersion schools in the bay area. At first I scoofed at the book, like, dude, I know Mandarin, it's not like I don't know what it meant to study it.

But after reading the book, I realized while I do know how to learn Mandarin in Taiwan, I had not given a truly deep thought about what it meant to learn Mandarin in the US. I had did the other way around --- I grew up learning Mandarin, came to US when I was 7 and 8 and learned English, went back to Taiwan and kept up my English until I finished college and came here for graduate school. My English is reasonably good and often people don't know I'm not a native speaker. So I thought: how hard could it be to do the other way around?

It is actually hard, and part of the reason is me. My life is very Americanized. When I was in Taiwan, I watched HBO, listened to English pop songs, and browsed webpages in English. The American culture and the English language permeates every corner of the Asian pop culture. But the reverse is not true. I have no immediate family members to speak Mandarin to and I don't watch Chinese television or listen to Chinese songs. I have Taiwanese mom friends but being a working mom means I don't get to hang out with them and their kids often enough.

Language is as much about the culture that uses it as it is a set of alien grammar and vocabs. That's why I want Josie to learn Mandarin. I want her to understand what it means to be Taiwanese. I don't want her to be able to listen, I want her to be able to speak, to read, to a relatively high level. And as I think back to how much learning I had to throughout my school years, I realize that is a lot of hours dedicated to learning the Chinese language.

Once I determined what I wanted for Josie in terms of her Mandarin education, the decision to decline the preschool that accepted her was easy. And now I'm in the process of searching for the right Mandarin preschool for her. I have toured 3 more preschools and have one more in May, then all will be settled...or so I hope.

Unil next time, then.

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