One of the biggest challenges that we face after arriving in China is trying to figure out ways in which the children can learn Mandarin. The easy answer is to simply immerse your children in the culture, but what exactly does that mean? It is not as easy as it sounds. Attending a regular school that speaks Chinese is not really an option because for Sasha, Mika, Daniel, and Christoff, because they just cannot follow the curriculum when they can't speak the language. If they were very young it wouldn't be so much a problem but because they are older they wouldn't be able to read a text book, or understand the teacher, and wouldn't come even close to keeping up. Even participation in sports programs have not been very helpful for the older boys because when they participate they have able to do so quite successfully with very little actual language being exchanged with their coaches and training partners, and the little language that needs to be spoken for the sports is usually done with the English that the Chinese people know (most Chinese study some English). It is EXTREMELY DIFFICULT to have people NOT speak English and only Mandarin when it is just so much easier for people to use English words that they know our children will understand. I will certainly be sharing updates regarding the Mandarin journey of our older children in future entries to this blog, but today I am sharing an organizational success story for Jerin, Kaura, and Niko. Because the brains of these little ones are so much smarter for learning languages there is far less need to teach the little ones the language in an academic/classroom type setting. For them, they are able to learn the language by simply having lots of interaction with people who can't speak English. We needed to find the little ones a place where they could have interaction with children and adults that would overwhelm them in Mandarin. Well, just by chance (aka God's perfect plan) there was a kindergarten that just opened up right next to our apartment. And when I say right next to our apartment, I mean it takes 15-20 seconds to walk there. I am attaching a picture taken from our window that overlooks a bit of the courtyard of the Kindergarten...as you can see, it is close! The Kindergarten is brand new and its is beautiful and immaculately clean inside. Every aspect of the design had children in mind. Most importantly, the teachers at the Kindergarten are very kind. When our family arrived for the first time they completely doted upon the children. Every day when we walk through the courtyard the door opens and several teachers are there to great our children. There is some advantageous to living in a place where there is no white people, and where the culture often views white people as attractive (I will say more about what I have learned about that in another entry). In our case, it seems that our children get a lot of attention from the teachers and we are very grateful. In the kindergarten they learn reading and writing Chinese characters, arts and crafts, chinese poems, arithmetic, music, etc. This is wonderful blessing because now we can focus on trying to create a good schedule for the four oldest children that will have them learning Chinese as fast as possible. This will be our greatest challenge.