Although J and Little E have a mixed heritage and are fairly fluent in English, I hope that they will still be able to learn mandarin chinese as a second language. I try my best to read mandarin storybooks to them at home and expose them to mandarin songs and cartoons, but my ability to give them a solid foundation in the language is extremely limited.
So, when Dan Tang, the co-founder of KidStartNow, invited J to attend to attend a mandarin immersion holiday camp at KidStartNow, I was so grateful for the offer! The holiday camps at KidStartNow run over 4 days (3 hours a day). The camp encourages kids to learn mandarin through the use of animated storybooks, games, crafts and music. All the Ministry of Education (MOE) registered teachers are native speakers who have experience in engaging preschoolers and are passionate about helping children develop an interest and a love of learning the Chinese language.
The core philosophy of KidStartNow is to motivate kids to love Chinese and make learning fun. This stems from Dan’s (the co-founder) personal experience in school, where rote methods were forcefully employed. He grew up, like many Singaporeans (including myself), to dislike learning Chinese, finding it tedious and difficult. However, after a move to Taiwan encouraged him to improve his fluency in Chinese, Dan quickly realised how much easier learning the language became. As a tech analyst, Dan also observed that technology was creeping into the lives of children and parents were finding it difficult to find that balance between preparing their kids for a digital environment whilst ensuring that the time spent on the computer is used meaningfully. He then decided to quit his lucrative career in finance in favour of sharing his passion for chinese with the next generation of students.
It’s evident that Dan’s heart for helping kids appreciate and enjoy learning chinese has pervaded the atmosphere of KidStartNow. J really enjoyed his experience at the holiday camp and looked forward to attending the classes everyday.
Apart from spending time and effort in crafting a curriculum based on the current Primary 1 Higher Chinese syllabus, the KidStartNow team has spared no expense in creating a comfortable learning space for preschoolers. Just walking into the clean and bright waiting area of the centre, we were met with cute and colourful ocean-themed decorations – which really helped J to get all excited about the holiday camp, which was set in a fantasy sea world. The waiting room for parents had lovely comfortable sofas, and a huge screen for us to watch our children as they immersed themselves into their underwater adventure!
KidStartNow creates an interest in Mandarin learning through the use of interactive, animated storybooks which are developed in-house by a team of experienced educators, creative designers and technology specialists. Below is an excerpt from an animated storybook developed by KidStartNow.
I was initially worried that the entire programme would consist solely of kids goggling at a computer screen, but after observing the class and talking to my son about his experience at the camp, this was not at all the case.
The ebooks (which are exclusive to KidStartNow and available free of charge to enrolled students) were used only at intervals, to introduce new vocabulary and to draw the children into the story. There were plenty of opportunities for the children to practice speaking and reading mandarin aloud by interacting with the onscreen characters and with their teacher. The kids would then play a game, complete a team activity or craft which was related to the story. Once they were successful in completing their task as a group, this would result in them being able to proceed to the next chapter. I liked the way that this made the children to learn together and encourage one another during the class, which made for a very friendly environment!
I also noticed that the teachers and staff were incredibly patient and supportive of all the students, gently encouraging them to overcome their shyness (especially in the nursery-level students who experienced some separation anxiety) and rewarding their attempts to read or speak aloud in class. This really helped J’s confidence in conversing in mandarin and he seemed very excited about working hard to learn new vocabulary each day! Not bad for a kid who hardly says a word of chinese at home!
Unfortunately, all the holiday camp slots are fully booked this December (unsurprisingly!). However, if you’re interested in checking out KidStartNow, do sign up for their free trial classes which are available for Nursery 2, Kindergarten 1 and Kindergarten 2 level from January 2014! You can reach KidStartNow via email or telephone or even via their live chat support.
KidStartNow has also very generously offered to sponsor a Christmas Giveaway right here on Owls Well! Huzzah! One Owls Well reader stands to win a full term of classes (12 weeks) worth up to SGD$450! This is open to Singapore residents only and closes on 25th December 2013.
- Leave a comment on this blog post (with your email address so that I can contact you if you win!)
- Be a fan of Owls Well on Facebook
- Like KidStartNow on Facebook
- Optional bonus entry: Share this post on your Facebook page (set to public)
(UPDATE: This giveaway is now CLOSED. Carol Lim is our winner! Thanks for playing!)
KidStartNow is easily accessible by public transport and is located at CT Hub, 2 Kallang Avenue, #02-09, Singapore 339407