Well, we are now back to the same place for “Georgia”, where “Charlotte” was two years earlier. Georgia, now age 9, is three years younger but is now in fifth grade, the same grade when Charlotte found herself having difficulty interacting with fellow female classmates in her new new school after a year and half of homeschooling. This new private school is about 90% Caucasian.
Back two years ago, my girls just finished about 20 months of “Chinese bubble” homeschooling with immersive CLE (Chinese language ecosystem), though they had extensive daily interaction with non-Asian adults, mostly Caucasian ladies who helped out with homeschooling and English reading. As I later learned, a big part of the problem was classic bullying behavior amongst tween girls and the rest was unfamiliarity with ELE (English language ecosystem). So, I helped Charlotte understand bullying pattern through books and a movie (“Odd Girl Out” – book & TV movie) and got her watching American sitcoms and listen to American pop music. A year later in sixth grade, students move from classroom to classroom with different classmates each period and students are not longer stuck to the same group for the whole day. So, Charlotte found her own group of friends and have been thriving since. Her two best friends with whom she has sleep-overs are Caucasian. In fact, she does not have Chinese speaking or Chinese heritage friends in our small relatively rural town. Though she no longer has time for sitcoms, she gets her dose of American “culture” through extensive reading, movies, pop music, friends, and extracurricular activities such as tennis team. Now that Charlotte is 12 and in seventh grade, I am glad to say that she feels proud of her bicultural identities. I venture to say that she is equally at ease with non-heritage peers, heritage but English-speaking peers, and oversea Chinese speaking peers in Taiwan. She does not expect her non-heritage peers to understand her CLE and has no interest in explaining it to them, as her experience of CLE is probably “too extensive” to explain. Though many heritage children mingles just fine with other heritage and non-heritage children with English, extremely few achieve decent Chinese speaking and reading proficiency (ILR level 3 and above) under such circumstance.
Now back to Georgia. Though Georgia has a couple of good friends in her fifth grade class, she feels so different from others and seems to be having a bit of a tough time. It looks that it is time to put on my counseling / parenting hat again. With a little bit of luck, all these will be water under the bridge in a year or two and my Georgia will thrive like her sister does.
So, is there a potential price to pay for building and maintaining a CLE? You bet! Can we overcome it? Yes we can!
Article on bilingual identity issues from Japan