Thursday, February 23, 2012

School -Round Two

After almost one month off, the boys finally started school again on Tuesday. 
Don’t get me wrong - it was a great experience to visit so many places, but I think we're all pretty relieved to be back in a routine again.

While there is not as much of a crunch for space in the international schools here in Shanghai, the schools here are WAY more expensive than in Hong Kong. So, despite the fact that our budget from the Fulbright program increased from $5,000 per semester per child to $7,500 per child per semester, that wasn’t even going to come close to covering the cost of most international schools here. We tried to do some wheeling and dealing (because really – adding one more child to an existing class doesn’t increase the cost of the school much at all; they have the building, they have the teacher, so all they would need would be supplies) with not much luck. However, we were able to find two schools that were close to our price range (since the boys started school late, they were pro-rating the spring semester fees for us). Now that we’re here, we can see why the schools cost so much; ads in the local expat family magazine showcase the new theaters, rock walls, cafeterias, etc. at these schools, and let me tell you – they are top rate.

Despite the fact that the boys’ school doesn’t have a rock wall or new theater, we’re really pleased with Rainbow Bridge so far. It’s a lovely little school with a beautiful library, good sized gym and lots of open space for the kids to run around during recess. The school has been working on IB certification and hopes to receive that this spring. The IB curriculum is an inquiry-based curriculum that is interdisciplinary and international in focus; really, if we could pick any sort of curriculum for the boys here or at home, IB would be it. The boys will also be getting Putonghua lessons daily – this time in English! And the school is located on the grounds of the Shanghai Zoo, which the school apparently takes advantage of by integrating regular trips to the zoo (when the weather’s nicer) into the curriculum.

In addition to the excellent curriculum, the staff seems great too. The student-run publication had an article noting that there were at least 10 vegetarian teachers at the school, so it seems to be a bit of a liberal, hippie-ish enclave – perfect for us. We’re happy with the boys’ teachers, too, as they both seem to be well-suited for the boys. Quin has Mr. Franco; Doug and I remarked that if he wasn’t Quin’s teacher, we’d love to hang out with him. Berkley’s teacher is Ms. Michelle; I love her nose piercing and the fact that she’s managed Berkley’s transition issues quite deftly.  Both boys are happy to be back to a system more like they have in America, with one teacher for most of their subjects.
Socially, the boys seem to be fitting in well (despite Berkley’s aforementioned issues which I think stemmed from nervousness about hitting it off with his peers). Unlike Gigamind, their school in Hong Kong, Rainbow Bridge is an international school, populated mainly by the children of expats. Last night at literacy night, we overheard families speaking all sorts of languages. In Berkley’s class alone, there are children from Hong Kong, China, Japan, South Korea, England, and the United States (there may be more, but that’s what I remember). There are kids from the U.S. in all of the grades, including some boys Quin’s age with long hair! So while the boys won’t be exposed to as many local kids, they’ll be meeting kids from all around the world, and the school seems to be used to kids coming in and out at any point in time, thus helping ease their transition.

All in all then, we’re very happy with our choice. I think the only drawback is that it’s about a 20 minute walk to catch the bus. Not a big deal in the afternoon on the way home, when we can walk through the park and let the boys run off some steam, but it can be tough to get them going in the morning. Hopefully, as the semester wears on, we’ll have the same happy feelings, but after a month of just the four of us, I think it would be difficult for us not to appreciate what we have.


  1. Hi Shannon - it sounds like a great school situation for the boys. Even to others with long hair. I think the boys are beginning to roll with the flow and accepting what is. It sounds like they are happy which make everyone else happy. Love to all - Mom and Dad

  2. Nice to hear the boys are coping with their new environment. The SWU campus, carved into a terraced hillside, has many rock walls to climb!