Preschool progress 

My 3 year old has been in preschool for about 6 months now and it has been more difficult than I imagined. 

I don’t know if he likes it. He tells me that he doesn’t and he cries every single morning when I drop him off, yet the staff tell me he is happy and very social and he stops crying right after I leave. He excitedly tells me about things at his school, like he will see a bunny or book and tell me his school has that. Sometimes when his dad picks him up, he will ask to stay a little longer. When I ask him why he doesn’t like it, he says it’s because he doesn’t speak English and he gets sick all of time. 

I can’t begin to describe the last 6 months of illness. Someone has been sick every single week. I know that people say kids get sick when they start school, but this kid only ever got sick once in his 3 years before starting even though he’s been to rural China and licks random objects, then he is sick every other week after starting school. I was not prepared for that and can understand why he was miserable since I shared most of his colds. The doctor said that his immune system should adjust after about 6 months so at least there’s that. 

English is tricky. People say that kids pick languages up fast. Fast is relative. When you are watching your child struggle with not being able to communicate, it is painfully slow. After a couple weeks I could tell his English comprehension increased. He would repeat words while watching Sesame Street and start inserting English words in conversation. It seemed so fast, but then never went anywhere. 

My friends told me it takes 2 months. Drop off did get a little easier at the 2 month mark but he still cried. He keeps using more and more English words but he doesn’t actually speak in English sentences. He shuts off when people try to speak to him in English. I thought maybe he’s speaking it at school and just doesn’t want to at home, but that doesn’t seem the case. 

We got his progress report at 6 months and they said he’s doing well – social, exceeds physical milestones – but they have no idea about his language ability. The school doesn’t have much experience with kids learning esl but from the experiences they have, they said it takes about a year. If that’s true, then we have a ways to go. One small hope – he loves to “read” the Very Hungry Catepiller to me in English. I’m impressed that he knows most of the words. That one book is my only gage into his English ability. My guess is that there is a ton going on inside his head that he just isn’t ready to let out yet.

I don’t think it’s ever easy seeing your baby struggle, especially when you are doing something to supposedly make him happy. It makes me wonder if I did the right thing, even if I didn’t have much of a choice. All the ponies and bunnies in the world can’t seem to entice this kids to want to go to preschool. 



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6 responses to “Preschool progress 

  1. Albert

    Well, I was born 1982 and went through China’s typical education system till getting my master degree. I’d say there is pros and cons in China’s education system. Indeed, school in China teach kids knowledge completely useless from my perspective today. However I notice Chinese are more good at logical thinking, math and common sense compared with same age students in US. Education is huge topic and I am glad to discuss. 🙂

    • People also argue that what kids learn in American schools also lacks practical implications. Chinese preschools kind of scare me, it looks like a lot of work for such young people.

      • Albert

        I’d share my personal experience with you. When I was in junior school, I never spend too much time on completing all of my homework. And as long as I figured out how to solve the problems, I stopped. My classmates and I divided homework into different sections and each individual was in charge of one section. Times change, and I believe kids today will develop their own smart to solve it. :p
        I went to a private school claiming with montosorri teaching stuff few days ago in US, and surprisingly I found they assign large amount of homeworks and some of their pre-school students are able to do things like multiplication etc. I felt it was exactly education I took in China before with only difference of tuition fee you need to pay…

  2. Hi!
    We’re a mixed family and in China as expats. My children don’t speak Mandarin as a first language, so when we arrived here and I put my older daughter in preschool (she was only 2+ then) she was very unhappy. She couldn’t speak the local language. Like your son, she struggled at first. It got better after a month, and by the second month she was more confidently speaking Mandarin, in phrases, not really sentences yet. It took awhile.
    I only discovered your blog today so if you don’t mind me asking (or rather, confirming): is your son bilingual? Do you mean that he doesn’t like it when others speak to him in English because they’re not native speakers? I’m a bit confused by that…
    About the getting sick part, it’s quite common. My friend’s daughter also often got sick after attending the local public preschool. She once commented how she was paying for seat space, haha.
    I hope your son can adapt soon! 🙂

    • We are the other way around. Mixed family living in America. He’s not quite bilingual yet since he only ever spoke Chinese so he gets upset when people speak English because he doesn’t understand. He is actually getting much better with English though. I don’t know if it was just time or changing schools.

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