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I would like to hear how this first school year has been from Yu Ming parents of very active boys in K or 1st grade. I'm considering Yu Ming for the 2013 school year for my son who be 6 by then and entering K. He is bright, likes music and is very social. He is also very physically active and needs variation throughout the day regarding movement. Obviously recess is a favorite time for him but I would like to know how much sitting these young kids are required to do during a typical day and if teachers have found effective ways to meet the needs of boys at this age in particular. I toured the school this past fall and indeed it seems like a very intentional community of parents and teachers who care deeply about creating something really special. How has your boy done this year? What were the high points, the low points? Many thanks. t.
Re: Mandarin-immersion elementary schools
I have a 1st grade boy at Yu Ming and I am thrilled with every aspect of the school. While I speak Mandarin, I do not read or write it and my husband is not Chinese and does not even speak it. As a family, we decided not to speak Mandarin at home initially because I worked outside the home and wanted to be able to speak to everybody at one time. Basically, I got lazy. That said, we still saw the value in having our children learn Mandarin so tried some after school programs and Saturday programs but after a while, none of it seemed to be working. My kids were still just counting and recognizing a few colors.
Since starting Yu Ming in August, my son can now converse with me in Mandarin. I've started speaking to him in Mandarin at home and initially, he understood none of it. Now not only does he understand what I'm saying and asking of him, he responds and asks his own questions all in Mandarin. He has a strong interest in trying to read Chinese books and newspapers and is more curious than ever about the culture. He can recognize, read and write more characters than I can and continues to come home with new words and now phrases to add to his vocabulary. This has absolutely amazed me.
What has amazed me almost as much, if not more, is the dedication his teacher has to differentiated learning in the math curriculum. The classroom is divided up into small groups for math time and each group is working on a similar theme, be it addition, subtraction or measurements, but each group is doing work at their level and working on advancing at their own pace. I've seen kids progress from adding on their fingers to now adding single digits in their head and starting double digit addition on paper. My child is now working on multiplication tables as he has already mastered addition with carrying numbers and subtraction with borrowing. The teacher has never stopped him from learning as much as he wants and at his pace so now, in the second half of 1st grade, he is doing exactly what his older brother is doing in math at a great Berkeley public school. Again, absolutely amazing.
Best of luck with your choice. I know it's hard but I feel like we found the perfect fit for our son and couldn't be happier about how things are going at Yu Ming. Kelly
To me, the differentiated small group teaching at Yu Ming allows for my child's natural curiosity to bloom as well as provides room for each subject to be thoroughly taught at each child's level. In addition, I have truly enjoyed getting to know everyone at both schools. However, I am most happy to have my child attend a school that I help build, that allows me a lot of input in what is taught, lets me help shape the school culture, and where the administrators are truly friendly people that listen and respond to parent concerns in a timely and graceful manner. Both schools will require your help in the classrooms and beyond. So, think about what you want for your child's education and how the school you choose can help you achieve that goal. I hope this helps you find the right fit for both you and your child. Parent to a happy Yu Ming Student
Our daughter was already somewhat conversant before starting Yu Ming, but not because we are native Mandarin speakers at home. She had attended a Mandarin-speaking daycare, and had gained fluency (for a 3-y old), which she then understandably seemed to lose while attending English-speaking preschool. During her Yu Ming language interview almost a year ago, my daughter had a shyness-attack and may have been confused by hearing the language spoken outside of daycare and by strangers, so she said disappointingly very little; the interviewers did note that she seemed to understand some of what they had said to her. So at the start of the school year, she was only quasi-conversant.
Now we are half way through our first year at Yu Ming, and just today, I was encouraging our now 5 y.o. daughter to show off her Mandarin to a bilingual Chinese friend. I asked a series of questions in English: how would you say this in Chinese to your teacher (who only speaks Mandarin to the kids). My daughter was able to instantly give the Mandarin equivalent. (In each case, our friend nodded and smiled at me to say, yes, she interpreted and spoke correctly.)
My daughter seems to have gained a lot of confidence in using her spoken Chinese in different settings since starting Yu Ming -- the wide exposure to other families who value learning Mandarin for whatever reason helps enormously, as well as having opportunities to mingle with other families who speak to her only in Mandarin, even in social settings away from school. Yu Ming has expanded the context for her in which it's okay to use Mandarin.
Each day she sings Chinese songs as we walk into Yu Ming, -- it's a sort of transition ritual. Many of the songs were learned at home (off the internet, and from CDs), but she has also learned many new songs at Yu Ming, too.
Since the start of Yu Ming she has also learned to write many Chinese characters, which comes from daily practice in class as well as outside school hours. The amount of homework required was really a shock, but I can see the many benefits of establishing such a disciplined approach to homework so early on; IMO really worth the effort it took to get her into the groove.
Since the beginning of the year, her math skills have progressed from merely counting (English & Mandarin) to getting basic math concepts of adding and subtracting. We have reinforced all of this at home through helping with homework, and playing counting games. Of course it's a work in progress, and we have not felt the need to seek any additional support.
Yu Ming's curriculum has expanded recently and now includes music, and PE (in the form of Kung Fu). I know the children often do art projects in class, and I personally would also like to see more exploratory/expressive use of art to help develop creativity, rather than only prescribed art projects/crafts. Where my daughter once used observation and line drawing to spontaneously draw portraits (which she did at 3 y.o.) her attitude has now changed to: ''I only know how to draw certain things,'' and I often wonder if this is related to an attitude that there is a ''right way'' to write Chinese characters, and perhaps by extension, to create arts & crafts.
My daughter's social skills are developing, thanks to extra support she was given early on at Yu Ming (she's on the young side in her class). These days she often talks fondly about her schoolmates, relating the funny things they said or did, giving me the impression that she is enjoying it enormously, and is feeling pride in being a member of her class.
There is a great deal of parent volunteer involvement required (reminiscent of a co-op preschool experience). I wonder if that aspect will change as the school grows and evolves, but I also see that it has added to the richness of our experience there.
So, although I cannot make comparisons to other Mandarin-immersion programs, I do know that overall our daughter's needs are being met at Yu Ming, and that she is thriving there. I also experience the administration and teaching staff to be very caring and responsive to my concerns, and I appreciate this immensely. Eileen
1. Our son is learning to be bi-lingual and bi-literate in Mandarin! We by-pass our Albany Public Schools for this opportunity.
2. The quality of education is stellar. I am a public high school language teacher and I have been very impressed with the pedagogy of my son's Kindergarten teacher. She is creative, skillful at classroom management, and wonderful at differentiating learning. She is constantly building on prior knowledge making her classroom an excellent learning atmosphere for both Mandarin and Non-Mandarin speakers. Our son's English reading and writing skills are on par with other Kindergarteners in all-day English programs. It's amazing what the English teacher does in an hour per day. Both teachers use a variety of audio, visual, musical, and kinesthetic methods that are helpful for all learners. My son gets a homework packet and a DVD of a Chinese movie cartoon each week. Some of his homework is interactive. We have to read to our son each night and we have a weekly family activity (such as measuring things around the house, collecting and counting pennies, etc.)
3. This is a public school. Our son briefly attended a private Montessori Mandarin-immersion school for pre-school. His experience was terrible. Some of the students were downright mean to him, treating him as an outsider. I felt that they were culturally incompetent, prioritizing European and Asian culture, and unabashedly promoting this on their website. Unfortunately, you cannot access their views on ''multi-cultural education'' unless you have already enrolled your child. He was the only Black boy there and as we built a network of other African-American friends who had their children in private Mandarin-immersion schools, we found that they too, shared the complaint of cultural incompetence. Public schools are not allowed to have such insulated ignorance. Yu Ming teachers have been certified in the United States, which makes a tremendous difference in how they perceive their diverse student population. Our son has teachers who genuinely care about him and they have studied race, class, and gender issues in a U.S. context.
4. Parents are welcomed and embraced as resources. If I have a concern, I feel that I can talk to the principal and the teachers to help brainstorm solutions. I feel that my culture has been honored as I was asked to make presentations to classes for Kwanzaa and Black History Month. We have an amazing group of parents who are a strong presence at the school. At the Montessori school previously mentioned, I felt like my son was participating in a controlled experiment. They did not want parents to be there unannounced. We had to peer through blinds in order to watch the children from a window...very strange. At Yu Ming, there are plenty of volunteer opportunities to be involved with the school, whether you speak Mandarin or not. The parents have pulled off a highly successful fundraising gala, made submissions to the media, organized film-screenings, and put in countless hours to the school.
5. The location is almost perfect. Parking is terrible but on the flipside, Yu Ming is in the heart of Oakland's Chinatown. When I bring my son to school he recognizes characters on signs all the time. It is very exciting for me as a parent who does not speak Mandarin to witness him seeing the relevance of his language-learning. If you asked my son what he likes about his school, he would tell you one of the things he loves is the field trips. Because the school is so close to the museums, authentic Chinese restaurants, the library, the BART, etc. the students benefit from very rich cultural experiences literally in their backyard. DWF
I do not see any reviews on Yu Ming toward the end of 2011, a more current review would be really helpful. Our son will be entering Kindergarten August/September 2012. How has Yu Ming been doing its first year thus far? Is the plan to add a grade a year? Will there be a high school down the road? Are the academics on par or above with some of the better school districts? What about the lack of a yard/play area on site is it safe for the kids to cross the street to go play? How is the after-school program? Your input would be most appreciated. Thank you. Anon
The teachers are wonderful and dedicated. Homework assignment is well thought out and caters to different student's level by adding Challenging work. The parent community is very involved. Any event called for volunteers will be timely implemented.
As a Chinese speaker, I don't need to worry about his Chinese Cultural awareness. For sure, there is no need to supplement his Chinese on the weekend
The school made an efforts to for kids to have fun while learning in a Chinese environment. Every month there is some kind of activity for the kids to enjoy such as September Moon Cak festival, October Pumpkin patch field trip, November Thanksgiving day celebration, December Christmas celebration, January Chinese New Year Celebration, February Black History month dancing show...
Compared with the situation that he stays in the neighborhood school, the difference would be noticeable in another few years. Being in an immersion program will undoubtedly give him some competitve advantage. I will be so happy to see him in the future - the beautiful final product of Yu Ming. LX
As of now there are no plans for a high school but with the level of engagment of the parents I would not be surprized if this happens further down the line. For this first year there is K and 1st and one grade will be added each year so for Fall 2012 there will be K, 1st and 2nd. This will continue through 8th grade.
Not having outside playspace is not ideal but we have plenty of volunteers to escort the children to the park and they are not taken there until they have been thoroughly taught road safety. There is also a large gymnasium for inside play and PE. The school is currently looking for a new site (somewhere as close to current site as possible) and expects to move in 2013.
The school grounds are not perfect. We are looking for a permanent home. This school is for people willing to take a bit of a leap of faith and to join in a strong parent community building from the ground up to help ensure success. We do walk over from Yu Ming to the Lincoln School play area and while this is not ideal you would be amazed at how well the kids have been able to learn to walk safely in straight lines. It takes multiple parent volunteers on a daily basis to make sure everyone is safe and there was a training for volunteers prior to taking on the task.
Currently the school does not have a plan for a high school but with this group of parents I imagine that as a possibility 8-9 years down the road. The school is k-8, currently only K-1 and we are adding another higher grade each year.
If you are interested in language immersion and the positive effect research shows it has on children AND if you are interested in joining a strong community of parents with a desire to create an incredible school, please consider Yu Ming. Perhaps the best endorsement I can offer is that my daughter is excited to go to school every day. She has made many friends and enjoys the after school program (the program was $1500 for the entire year and extends to 6:00 everyday). My daughter often complains when I pick her up too early. Happy Yu Ming Parent
The plan is to add a new group of kindergarteners each year. Our current 1st graders will be our first graduating class down the road. The school is slated to go through 8th grade. I have an older child in a fantastic public school and I can say that the academics at Yu Ming are extremeley strong. The differentiated learning approach is not just talk but a reality and I think all kids benefit from it greatly. The teachers are dedicated to focusing on each child's needs and allow them to really blossom in their areas of strength and nurture them and encourage them in areas where they might struggle.
If you ask the kids whether they notice that their school lacks a playground, their answer will definitely be no. This is one area where you have to take a step back and really look at the day through a child's eye. The playground across the street is a great space for them to run around and the walk there is very safe. Many parent volunteers on top of teachers escort the children to the park each day and watch them as they play. There are more adults supervising the outside time at the park than on a typical schoolyard for certain. The kids also get to take advantage of a large gym where they can run obstacle courses and jump rope and participate in activities, again supervised by many adults.
We jumped at the opportunity to attend Yu Ming because of the idea of Mandarin immersion but what we fould was a great school overall where my son is happy to go to school each day, he comes home excited to show me what he has learned and we in turn are proud of his accomplishments. It amazes me to see how much Yu Ming has accomplished this year and I know it's just going to keep getting better.
Feel free to contact me any time if you have any further questions. Kelly
* As I'm sure you already know, this current year (2011-2012) is the first year of the school, and we started out with just kindergarten (2 classes) and 1st grade (2 classes). Each year we will add a grade, so this coming fall (2012) we will have kindergarten, 1st grade, and 2nd grade. The goal is become a K-8 school (no plans for a high school, as far as I know, but who knows what might happen down the road?!).
* You asked about the level of education that the students receive, and I think the bar is set quite high. According to our charter, the goal is that our students cover 1.5 years of CA curriculum per academic year -- so our children are absorbing a modestly accelerated curriculum relative to their peers in the regular public school system. I can say that relative to my daughter's Berkeley public school last year (where she attended kindergarten), Yu Ming is more academically challenging.
* You also asked about safety as it relates to walking to the public park for recess: The school has taken great pains to ensure the children's daily safety in this regard. Every single day, a gaggle of parent volunteers (usually between 4-7) escort the students and their teachers from the school to Lincoln Park. (I happen to volunteer for this duty every week , so I'm intimately familiar with how it works!) The parents wear day-glow yellow vests, and we also carry large stop signs to assist in crossing the 2 streets between the school and the park. When we get to the park itself, we set up brightly colored cones to mark a perimeter around the children's play area. All very safe and organized.
Two things I love about Yu Ming:
1. Principal Laura is FABULOUS! Warm, loving, funny . . . and whip-smart. Excellent leader for our school.
2. The parent community is amazing. The level of parent involvement is stratospheric, and everyone is just relentlessly dedicated to making Yu Ming a successful school. Honestly, I feel lucky to be part of this very special community.... Happy Yu Ming Parent
We have two children attending Yu Ming and we are very happy with their progress in each and every subject. Our children comes to Yu Ming from Cornell school ( a very good public school in the area) and Shu Ren international school ( a private Chinese - English immersion school), Yu Ming's academics is beyond both Cornell and Shu Ren in my opinion after witnessing my kids' experience and progress at these schools.
A lack of a yard/play area on site is one limitation about the current location, it is not ideal but the school and parents work together to utilize the park across the street works fine. Students have opportunities to play out doors and indoors in a very nice gym.
The after school program offers homework assistance, Chinese calligraphy, art, singing, poem recitation, games, and free play. And you can't beat the price. Iris
1. Impressive curriculum. For being a new school I really feel like they did their research and are teaching the kids what they need to learn in school.
2. Learning mandarin. I think this is a very useful language that will help them far into the future.
3. Very involved parent group. Really amazing group of people.
4. Location (see also cons): being in the middle of chinatown gives a very interesting perspective, with stores, restaurants, etc. nearby that most kids would not experience.
5. Good field trips. I feel like the kids have been on some very interesting school field trips this year (Velveteen Rabbit, Peking Acrobats, pumpkin patch, dim sum) and that the school works hard to plan fun trips.
6. The school is working very hard to provide a wide variety of experiences to the children. But being new (see also cons) they don't have a lot of funding. The recent fundraiser generated enough money to hire a p/t PE and music teacher, but I didn't even realize these things were missing until they were added.
7. INCREDIBLE staff. Really, really wonderful teachers, principal and office staff at this school. I do feel the best work of the founding families went into hiring the staff at this school.
8. School year. It is a much longer school year than public schools but I like the extra vacations that most public schools don't have (a week in October, a week in February and Chinese New Year!)
1. No playground. While they do go every day to the playground across the street, weather permitting, they are restricted on the use of the large play structures. The school has overseen many safety rules to make sure the kids get back and forth safely every day. At some point the plan is for them to move to an abandoned school site.
2. Homework. I think the homework load at this school is ridiculous, but there are parents who think it's not enough.
3. Current location. The pick up and drop off in the middle of chinatown can be nightmarish.
4. Budget issues. Being a new school there is only PE, music, etc. when we raise funding for it.
5. Actual building site: while the classrooms are great, there is not much beyond that other than a gym which serves multi-purposes. There is no library, computer lab, etc. at this time. I would expect all that to be added when a permanent site is chosen.
6. Less creativity due to mandarin program? I'm unsure how I feel about this one. I only recently learned from a friend what her child is doing in school and it seemed so much more fun and creative and less academic than my child's experience. At her school the child visits a new country every year, they fly on a plane and the teacher gives them popcorn and they spend a month studying a new country and culture. To me that sounds like fun! However, I think the teachers do a great job of trying to teach the kids about new experiences, such as different holidays in December, Black history month, etc. which they can do because they are a charter school. And they had a near solid week of events for the Chinese new year.
7. Future location of the school. There is a big geographical issue among the families that attend the school, with kids attending from El Cerrito, Berkeley, Albany, Orinda all the way south to Oakland, Hayward, Alameda and San Leandro. The school needs to make a wise choice in future selection or it is going to lose prospective and possibly current students. The future location of the school is pending, with many current parents in a bit of angst over the decision, which should come out by the end of this month.
8. Long school day. And short recesses. It took my child a very long time to adjust to the full-day program. And I do have concerns that the recess/snack time and lunch time are a tad too short for eating when all kids want to do is play!
I hope this helps. Like I said, despite what seems like a long list of cons, overall we have been extremely happy with our decision to attend Yu Ming and hope you will take a parent tour and meet other current families. Good luck in your decision! anon
It's difficult to compare the academics with an English-language school because of the difference in trajectory, but if the accepted research on language immersion stands true, and the stated school principles and current level of parent involvement continue, I'm confident that we'll outpace the performance that we would have achieved at any of our options. It's a major leap, committing to a school for 8-9 years, but we're going to do everything we can to make a success of it.
The family volunteering committment is 30 hours per year, which is not difficult once you get in the swing and some of the projects are take home projects.
We're also pleased that, as a small start-up, they've been able to offer enrichment activities.The teachers integrate arts into the curriculum, the kids do kung fu every week and the school has a dedicated music and PE teacher. Randolph
Re: Mandarin Immersion Elementary Schools?
You might also consider a new Mandarin Immersion charter school which will be opening Fall 2011, Yu Ming Charter School. I can't speak to facilities, principal, or teachers since the school has not opened yet, but what I like best about the school is the extremely committed and motivated community of parents who are volunteering to launch the school. I also like the fact that the school will be a public charter school and therefore tuition free. More information about the school here: http://www.yumingschool.org J C
Additionally, the thing that is drawing us to Yu Ming Charter School is that it is a public charter school, so there is no tuition. We think that this will help bring in a more diverse group of students and families compared to the private options out there. I admit that it'll be tough being a pioneer with a brand new school, but it seems like a great opportunity to take advantage of something special. Berkeley parent hoping to get into Yu Ming
I'm particularly excited about a brand new public (= free) charter Mandarin immersion school, Yu Ming, that is going to open for K and 1st grade in August 2011 and that is planned to be a K-8 school. (http://www.yumingschool.org) Yu Ming is presently accepting applications with a deadline of Feb 10. Applications are welcome from all interested families, including students with and without Mandarin Chinese language skills. The school is actively recruiting in non-Asian, non-Caucasian communities. Yu Ming aims for bilingual and cultural fluency in both Chinese and English, and also intends to make their school a year-round academic learning environment, with longer days and a longer school year. Year-round learning has been noted as advantageous for a number of reasons (see, http://childparenting.about.com/od/schoollearning/a/year-round-school-pros-cons.htm). I've heard that the school location is going to be somewhere in or near Oakland Chinatown or on Alameda Island, but a location has not yet been made public. Good luck! a Berkeley parent
Yu Ming will be a K-8 school and open in August 2011 with two Kindergarten and two 1st grade classes. We are now accepting applications and the deadline for submitting is February 10th.
The school will be located in Alameda County and is open to all California residents. Yu Ming helps to fill a huge unmet need and interest for public Chinese language instruction in the East Bay. The school aims to provide a rigorous, comprehensive education for students of all backgrounds and teach students from kindergarten to 8th grade to be fully bilingual in Mandarin Chinese and English. Because it is a public charter school, there are no tuition fees. The Alameda County Board of Education unanimously approved Yu Ming's charter in November 2010, a show of unprecedented support for our school concept. We are excited to be a part of the growing community of schools and parents interested in Mandarin immersion.
Please visit our website at http://www.yumingschool.org for more information or to download an enrollment application. Chrissy Schwinn, Yu Ming Founding Family Member
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