A Twenty-Five Year Experiment-1

A Mother’s Heart

At breakfast Chia told me excitedly that he had received an email from Standford University the night before about admission to study at its graduate school. This was the third graduate school in two weeks after MIT and Berkeley accepted his application. Looking at Chia’s brilliant smile, I felt the sun was extremely bright today. There were no words that could express my feelings. What a great honor for Chia to have this privilege to study at a world top school with a full scholarship. Most importantly, I can finally claim that my twenty-five year experiment is well completed and my hypothesis has been proven correct. The earlier, the better in learning English.

Twenty five years ago, Shyi-Dong decided to return to Taiwan to serve his country after he completed his doctoral studies. I was very upset with his decision because I was just half way through my graduate studies in MBA and Kang was happily enjoying his kindergarten. In addition, Shyi-Dong already got an excellent job offer from Cornell University which would guarantee our family a good life in the States. However, I had no choice but follow him.

Kang was five years old and spoke like an American boy with a New York accent. I felt sad that I couldn’t find any school in Taiwan to continue and keep up his English skills. In addition, all the kindergartens in Taichung still ran in a very conservative way focusing on repetitive drills and the memorization of facts. Every morning Kang made up all kinds of excuses to avoid going to school because it was painful for him. To make things worse, the hot humid weather caused Kang severe skin infections. Seeing him suffer in this new life and worried about him losing his English ability, I was very frustrated and angry with the situation I was in. Deep in my heart I swore that I would bring Kang back to the States one day.

After hearing all my complaints, my best American friend, Mrs. Yve Zinaman, suggested that I should establish a school which could meet my own needs. In a few months, I set up my own program in our living room to help Kang along with two other friends’ children to learn English. It was such a modest start because there was no equipment and resources. I was the only teacher, only administrator and only janitor in this tiny home school. At times I had to teach the kids while Chia was fidgeting in my arms because there was no one to look after him. I had no idea where to head for and what to do. The only thing I had was the burning desire that I SHALL RETURN.

With my own imagination, I collected materials, designed the curriculum, learned the children’s songs and drew pictures for the lessons. I tried everything I could to arouse the kids’ interests. Slowly but steadily, Kang and Chia absorbed everything I taught and we had fun learning the language together. In order to let them get the exposure to English as much as possible, I used English only with them all the time. It was certainly a challenge and at times Shyi-Dong complained that he was sick and tired of hearing English at home after a long day’s work; but fortunately, he was too busy with his research work to complain. It seemed that my stubbornness in keeping up Kang’s English did work. I felt I had a magic wand in my hand and I could easily help Kang and Chia pick up the language.

Bih-Hua Chen
March 17, 2009