KidStartNow – mandarin classes with lots of heart

 When it comes to learning, nothing makes as much impact as a good teacher. Of course, the student’s attitude and level of motivation is important, but I’d say the most crucial game-changer is the teacher.

In this day and age, enrichment centres for every possible topic you can think of abound, but it is really the teacher that your child gets allocated with, that makes all the difference. Not the franchise brand name, not the flashy marketing fluff .

We had attempted to put K on a more steady learning curve for Mandarin about 2 years ago, but the style of teaching and the personality of the teacher at the trial was really not a good fit for timid K.

So when K was kindly offered classes at KidStartNow, we decided to give it a try. After all, about 90% of her current class (including the non-Chinese kids!) attend Mandarin classes, so we figured it would be timely to give K a better chance at surviving Mandarin in primary school, which looms within a year’s time.

I loved the sea themed decor – how cute is that octopus?


Because K was moody that morning, and wanted me to stay in the class (which the teacher graciously welcomed me to) I managed to unobtrusively observe the 100 minute lesson.

Verdict? I was most impressed with teacher Hong Mei! Here’s why.

She relates really well to children. Children have an acute sense of who genuinely cares. She was very patient with K, and gently persevered in getting K to warm up to her, even though K was initially very resistant to being dropped off, since she takes a long time to adjust to new places and people. But by the end of the class, K was giving her a big hug and promising to attend the next session!

She has great passion for teaching the subject. It was evident that she really has a passion for teaching Mandarin, as opposed to someone who’s just going through the motions. She seems to really enjoy her job, which is lovely!

She’s thorough and firm. She would gently correct mistakes, and require the child to get it right, instead of glossing past errors. Her teaching goes beyond reading and writing, to the child’s sitting posture, and arm and head position whilst writing. Great ergonormic advice – I agree that it’s crucial to get these things right as they start regular desk work.

Her more than 20 years of experience in the field, really shows.

字宝宝!

I also liked the curriculum at KidStartNow. It was fun throughout, and only upon reflection did I realise how thorough it is too.

It starts with a song, with dance actions guided by the teacher and a video. K likes dancing, so I guess it’s a great age-appropriate kinesthetic way of getting kids to warm up.

There was a video-guided session with cute animated characters to spur conversation practice, and children were incentivised to participate through a virtual coin reward system. Our children are growing up in a technology-saturated age, so I feel that there’s no need to be a Luddite when it comes to learning techniques. The use of the iPad to illustrate writing strokes, and animated characters did make the session more engaging, and I suspect it would appeal especially to boys!

Reading (or word recognition) was taught via a flash card game between the children and the teacher. No rote reciting there! I thought it was particularly cute that they had a phrase that went “敲一敲,字宝宝在家吗?” Lastly, there was a writing session, and they learnt a ditty to help them remember general rules on the right order of strokes. The good teacher-to-child ratio (1:6 max for N2, and 1:8 max for K1 and K2) means that each child gets significant individual attention.

So if you’d like to expose your kid to more Mandarin, and are searching for a good teacher, do check out KidStartNow! They offer a free trial session, so your child can experience it for herself or himself, before you make the decision to sign them up.

Contest alert!

If you’d like to have a chance at winning a prize of $100, submit your best parenting tip or story on how you help your kid develop a keen interest in Chinese. KidStartNow will be sharing the top ten tips/stories in a blog post (with proper credits given). Just send your entry to dan.tang@kidstartnow.com with the subject [Parenting Tips Competition – #01] before 9th Feb 2014.

I think I might just give it a shot too, haha!

Note: K was offered a full term of classes for the purpose of this review.

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