Caleb started school last Tuesday going 5 days a week from
8:30AM-4PM. When we were emailing with the director of the school before we
arrived in China, I told him we wanted to do a half-day program 5 days a week,
but he said there was no such program for kids above 4 years old. The Chinese
circle time/instruction is in the afternoon, so we told him that we would try it
out and see how Caleb did since we really want Caleb to be exposed to Chinese.
Caleb said he loved school, especially playing outside (which they do for an hour in the mornings), but he didn’t like the naptime. Naptime?
I’m not a fan of naps at school.
If Caleb needs a nap, which he rarely does, he can sleep in his own bed
at home. And, I don’t want to pay for him to sleep somewhere else. Don and I
decided we needed to see what was going on.
Don has Mondays off instead
of Saturdays, so I went this morning to observe Caleb’s class. They had free
time, snack, outdoor playtime, circle time, and then lunch. Caleb really
enjoyed himself. As we suspected there wasn’t much formal instruction, which is
fine. Don and I view preschool as social time for Caleb since we work with him
at home on academics. As I looked around the classroom, I saw their daily
schedule, which to my surprise, includes a 2-hour nap from 12-2. I had no idea
it was 2 hours long! I would rather have Caleb at home with us since Don gets
off of work in the early afternoon. We could go do things as a family instead of him taking a nap.
So, Don and I met with the director of the school.
Thankfully, the director was very understanding and said that Caleb could do a
half-day morning program. By this time, it was 12:15, and I went to get Caleb
so we could go on our weekly Monday Family Adventure.
The classroom was
dark, and as I poked my head in I saw cots laid out with heavy blankets covering
the kids. As I spotted Caleb, who was wide awake, I noticed his bare arms were
on top of the blanket. He looked at me like he was in trouble. He whispered to
me, "I like everything about school, mommy, just not this part." I reassured
him that he wasn’t in trouble and that we were going out on an adventure. He
threw the covers off exposing his bare body with merely his underwear on. I was
quite shocked! The shock continued as I looked over to see a Chinese boy
adjusting his covers and revealing his private parts. He was wearing
pajama-like pants with the front part cut out. I guess the kids don’t wear
underwear here. Instead they wear long underpants with holes cut out at the
appropriate place for ease in going potty.
I told Don about the
experience, and he said that naps are a cultural thing here. It’s totally normal for adults to take a daily
siesta in China. Even at Microsoft in China, if you take a lap around the
cubicles at lunchtime, you’ll find most of the employees zonked out with their
heads on their desks or laid back in their chairs with their feet up. They,
however, still have their clothes on.
Needless to say, I had my culture
shock for the day. I’m just glad that Caleb won’t be sleeping in his underwear
at school anymore.