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Literacy update on the illiterates in our household – 2

Quin has been quite sparing of words. She appears to only speak when necessary. For the most part she uses body language (nod, push away…etc). Folks in Taiwan have constantly referred to her as “Cool sister 酷妹” because she is usually quite poker-faced.

However, within the past month she has suddenly turned into a very smiling child. Laughing out suddenly when something she sees amuses her; laughingly looking to us when she herself does something amusing (sitting into the laundry tub, hugging a bunny, showing us her work). I get the feeling that, though in the beginning her teachers may have found her uneasy (incredibly stubborn, and what a squeal the girl can make when she doesn’t get her way!) , she is likely a very satisfying child to work with.


For one thing, she has not had as much opportunity for work tailored and presented to her level at home as much as Knox had. I believe this has allowed most of the classroom work to be quite fresh for her. And there is little more gratifying for a Montessori teacher to see a child take to materials.

As of this week, the teacher tells us she can go diaper free even for naps, so it looks like we can do more underwear time at home! She hums the tunes of songs, sings some words : “大象大象……媽媽……縹亮~” and moves to music. She has also been saying simple sentences.

Quin also shows greater interest in table work, scribbling and stickers than Knox did at the same age. Her eating has become much more tidy. According to the teachers, she had to learn to take much smaller bites of food as she would often be unable to effectively chew when her mouth was too full and had to spit it all out – something we had failed to notice.




I had expected Knox (3yrs 4 months now) to adjust fairly quickly to the Montessori Preschool here, as he has been longing for children companions. He still speaks of his friends in Doha, even yesterday! “Hudson has a cricket.” (he switched to English to speak of Hudson). Knox has adjusted fairly quickly. Though not in ways I had expected. The first month he would drag his feet. I get the feeling that life at school is much less exciting than life with us on the road. Another related issue was that, according to the teacher and to my surprise, Knox’s fine motor skills were not very well developed. Consequently, he would often give up on activities because he couldn’t really handle it. The teacher had to start him slow wih practical life, when I had expected him to whizz into sensorial. I am pleased that I am getting the benefit of the teacher’s greater experience. For though I felt Knox’s fine motor was very well developed among his peers in Doha, I see now that he could have gone further! (btw, he now can use a kiddie chopstick! In fact, he insists on using it!)


Knox's sewing work

Three months into school, and he now speaks with familiar happiness of his various classmates. Who is his friend this week (because he/she plays with him) and who isn’t. It appears that his work companions in the classroom are more likely to be girls, whilst his rough and tumble friends (for example, walking the tires) would be boys. He also speaks of him being in the ‘small class’ (3 yr olds) and longingly states that one day he will be in the ‘big class’ (5/6 yr olds).

In general now Knox will use Mandarin, so I am glad he does not have the option of dropping his English in our household since Mike can only speak English. Sometimes, I have to make an effort to translate his exuberances into English in Mike’s presence, so that Knox will repeat-express it in English, and Mike won’t be left out. I am less concerned with his English however, since Knox is still quite fond of books. And we like to think that we use a good amount of vocabulary in our marital conversations. Besides, stories in English still, especially later on, offer more diversity of content for children and are more attractive, in general, than children’s hooks in mandarin (sorry). It seems that many mandarin stories cannot escape attempting to moralize on a level that fails to appreciate children’s capcity for drawing their own conclusions. Chinese also involves more characters to assimilate into motor memory, and parables that unique to our cultural norms. The hard work for me will lie in maintaining a articulate level of written Chinese, and in tapping the rich resources of Chinese literature – if we should leave the Chinese speaking environment.



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