Ever since Reina started “kindergarten” at the tender age of three, we’ve debated what would come next. Three years gave us ample time to get a feel for Beijing’s educational landscape and solicit feedback from friends. I’ve heard praise and complaints from parents, teachers, administrators, and even students at the dozen of schools I’ve visited.
I have come to one, overarching conclusion: There’s no such thing as the perfect school. There are great schools, but each one has its own issues. Still, I figured that deciding where to send our darling daughter would be a simple process. Boy, was I wrong. Since last fall, even our Chinese neighbors have been asking us where we’re sending Reina. More than one has pushed her to go with this friend or that one to one school or the other. Most of her classmates will attend a Chinese elementary school.
I thought about how easy this process must have been for my parents. Father: “Where will the boy go to school?” Mother: “The elementary school, of course. Did you think he was ready for college?” I didn’t ponder where to go to school until university, and I gave that decision way less thought than Reina’s elementary choices.
We narrowed down our choices to the local Chinese school, a homeschooling hybrid, or Daystar Academy. I was pulling for the local school. It would’ve been the simplest and cheapest solution; Reina could continue to walk to school and be with children she had already known for years.
However, that plan got derailed this year. Girl-child has voiced a desire to go to school in English after realizing how different she was from the other kids in her class. So much for simple. The local school also wanted a one-time fee of RMB 70,000. So much for cheap.
After writing off homeschooling for kindergarten, I once again delved into this community in search of a viable solution. I discovered two possible curricula: K12 and Calvert. Both were being championed by supermoms looking to round up four to five children so that we wouldn’t have to individually school our kids. We seriously contemplated the idea; it was more affordable than any “international” option and provided a huge amount of flexibility. However, I could foresee many potential problems and decided that I wouldn’t be the best teacher for my child.
In the end, we agreed that a bilingual international school was the best option for our family. Although we focused on Daystar, we continued to debate the idea past the application deadline. However, a space opened up for Reina and she was admitted as the last student entering first grade this fall.
Thinking back on the whole thing, it would’ve been simpler if we’d just followed our gut feeling and gone with Daystar in the first place. However, I don’t have time to think about it now; Reina will be entering middle school in just six years’ time and I have to start researching. Wish me luck.
Illustration by Sun Zheng
This article originally appeared on p54 of the beijingkids August 2013 issue.
Check out the PDF version online at Issuu.com