I am Eileen, not only am I the tutor for English storytelling, but the feature writer for this series called “Our People”. In this feature, I will be interviewing parents with diverse backgrounds and from different countries.
The parents I am presenting are my friends. There is no manual when it comes to parenting and we rely on our intuition and rely on our village for knowledge. My friends are my village, they are my role models and my real life parenting help book that I can depend on for advice. I have the privilege of taking the best part from each of their parenting and applying it to my own family.
I thank them for their honesty and vulnerability as it’s honourable to admit that parenting is not easy. Here, there is no judgment and we should all embrace that every family is different and we are all trying our utmost to raise the next generation the best way possible.
Hopefully these parents will inspire you and make you see parenting in a whole different light. Firstly, let me introduce myself and my family:
The Kao family
We have a 10 year old daughter and an 8 year old son. They are third culture children which means they are being raised in a culture different from mine and my husband’s nationality. They have dual citizenship in UK and Hong Kong, but they have never lived in these 2 countries. They spent their early years in Abu Dhabi and we have now been living in SIngapore since 2018.
The children attended a British International School when we lived in Abu Dhabi and since moving to Singapore, we placed them at a French International School. We have no ties at all with France and we do not speak the language, but I really liked the idea of having them learn a new language through full immersion because French is the medium of instruction. I was confident that they would both adapt and I was committed to supporting them fully.
An interesting thing with the French curriculum is that children don’t formally learn to read and write until they enter the first year of primary school (6 years old). Throughout kindergarten it was play based learning and this aspect was what I loved about the school. Initially, I was worried because their peers in UK already started to read books from 4 years old, but I am in favour of this later start. With the supposedly 2 year delay, my children are at the same reading level as their peers from different schooling systems.
We have never had the obsession with early literacy, numeracy, nor rushing the children to learn a particular instrument or sport. We are more obsessed with them to develop an understanding of the wider world and their place within it, having cross cultural awareness and being able to recognise and challenge stereotypes. Raising a son and a daughter, we bring to their attention that they will encounter gender inequality. We help empower our daughter and we want for our son to know that he can take action against gender bias.
I am extremely proud that the children’s mother tongue is Cantonese, considering their only exposure is through my husband and I. Speaking French takes up 50% of their time, Cantonese is home based, and English and Mandarin are taught as a second language in school. I place little emphasis on English at home because I know that they will eventually move to an English speaking country and the language can be picked up pretty quickly. Now that they are both fluent in French, we would eventually love for them to learn Mandarin and to be confident to hold a conversation. We feel that having the ability to speak many languages can open up much more opportunities as compared to being academically accomplished. In our experience, being able to speak with people and through language connection alone can get you through the door irrespective of your background.
We highly regard building a positive mental attitude and a positive outlook can help them approach challenges and overcome obstacles in all stages in life. We see this as a survival skill and will give us peace of mind that wherever they choose to go, for them to believe they can, then they are already halfway towards their goal.