I spoke with another parent on my way back from work. Here are highlights of some of the points that I had not discussed before.
1) Education is the most important thing (well, besides the usual talk of wanting your kids to be happy and that sort of things). Schooling is a mean to the end. Education is SO much more than schooling. When schooling interferes with education, go see about switching school.
2) When weekend Chinese school (or immersion school for that matter) interferes with your kids’ Chinese education, such as focusing way too much on writing and testing, and you have a viable alternative such as home instruction, drop weekend Chinese school. Neither its scope nor curriculum is sufficient for level 3 proficiency and up any ways. A lot more is required. And if you DO do the “a lot more” part at home, you may figure out that you can be better off with home instruction.
3) Testing. I had never given my daughters any Chinese test. When we homeschooled, it seems the au pair did give them tests, but there were pretty much no stress involved, according to my kids. I didn’t know that they even had tests till just now. Why bother with test on Chinese at this age, as a Chinese-speaking heritage family? The language skill is for long term practical use, amongst other things. Test results means nothing, if one can’t speak competently or read a book. We just keep focusing on learning more and more and do more reading and conversing. There is no required pre-defined and adhered-to schedule to keep. Every day and every moment is a teaching opportunity.
4) Learning together. Here in the US, besides independent reading and watching Chinese cartoons, my daughters pretty much did all their Chinese learning with the au pairs, tutors, or me next to them. If I can manage to get some patient chart work done while they study, I try to do so, but I am there to help and guide them every step of the way. Sometimes, I would tell them to copy the text or do some reading comprehension exercises while I take a nap or something like that, but that’s infrequent. We watch all these funny Chinese YouTube videos and movies together. This allows the three of us to be our own CLE (Chinese language ecosystem), that we can retell jokes and stories months later. WE ARE OUR OWN CLIQUE and we have fun together.
5) Too much time spent with other heritage English speakings children (almost all heritage children after 7-8 years of age) most likely adversely affects your kids’ Chinese proficiency. But parents have to balance that with the child’s identity issue, if any. If you are so fortunate to be able to get one or two Chinese speaking playmates for your child after 8 years of age, more power to you! Keep them!