My poor kids can finally breath easy today. They are done with their Chinese final exams! And preparing for these exams was quite a nightmare for the kids, and even took its toll on me. Personally, I think the test is too hard! And preparing for it just for a passing grade is taking all the little fun there is out of Chinese school. The kids call the Chinese exam week-Crazy Memorization Week.

For my 9-year-old’s 4th grade class the verbal test requires reading from a random section of any of the 8 lessons selected by the teacher at the time of the test. Plus a random selection of Chinese words from a list of over 200 words. The written test is much worse. There is a “spelling test” of a full list of 84 characters, and they are expected to write a whole paragraph from a random selection of 4 paragraphs.
Chinese School's Test Prep sheet
The school generously allows 2 weeks for the students to prepare for the test. So, for two weeks, the kids can’t have fun at all. They spent all their extra free time by their little table and chairs, practicing writing the Chinese characters over and over again. I help them by giving them a practice test, and they get most of the characters wrong, so they have to go back and write the incorrect characters a whole bunch more times. Then we will retake the practice test, and they write the incorrect ones even more times… In this two week process, disappointments, temper flares, whining, crying, and crying with real tears can be expected at all times. It triggers bad memories for me when I was a young school child. I feel bad for the kids, yet I still expect them to do their best. So the torture does not let up.

The truth is, I don’t even care if they can write in Chinese, I just want them to be able to speak, and perhaps to read a little. I wish the school would redirect all of their focus from writing to speaking. Kudos to the school, for in only 2 hours a week, my children are actually learning to read entire lessons in Chinese, and the lessons are often a short story or some type of Chinese essay for a 9 year old. Yet, I noticed that they can’t squeeze out a natural Chinese sentence to save their lives.

The kids are happy once again. They already recycled all their year’s worth of zip-lock bags of cut up flashcards for their weekly lessons, their test guides, homework booklets, and everything else in their Chinese school bag. This is how they celebrate the end of Crazy Memorization Week. Next year, maybe I will let them have a bonfire.

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Category: Kids Learn Chinese
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