China travel

Published on April 11th, 2011 | by Paz


How to find a Kindergarten in China K-3

Deciding to move across the globe with kids brings up many concerns. One of ours was the education for our 3.5 yr old. She loves social interaction (still not sure where she gets that from 😉 ) and learning. We realized last year that she needed school.  How were we going to find a kindergarten in China for her? We had so many questions and concerns.  Well we did it! We found her a kindergarten in China. 

Our biggest mistake in looking for her education was not starting sooner. It took us much longer to find a reasonable school than we ever expected.

Since I was just working 15 hours a week and Zeek was able to work more at night we took tons of time to just hang out as a family. First off, it was great for us to be together as a family for over a month. We took little adventures together everyday. We ate breakfast, lunch, dinner and anything in between as a family. We even were able to have a few family naps. Those are always my favorite. Zeek was never able to take lots of time off when either of the kids were born, so the ability to spend some days together as a family was great, but we should have been spending some of that time looking for schools.

Lupita makes friends very easy and loves talking to kids. We noticed that on our walks she started stopping at every single kid we saw and wanting to play with them. She even invited many over to our house to play. (Good thing they didn’t speak English) Not that we don’t want her to have kids over….just not every kid we walk by that we have known for 15 seconds. This is when we said okay obviously we are a little too boring for our social daughter and we should start looking into a school or organized activity.

Why do we want her to go to an all Mandarin/Chinese School?

We only are looking at normal Chinese Mandarin schools. So yes all of her classes will be in Mandarin. There may be a teacher that speaks some English, but there most likely will not be a fluent English teacher that can translate for Lupita. Why these schools and not International schools? Well it is very simple for us. We came to China to experience China, plain and simple. We know that Lupita will not understand what the teacher is saying and we know that she will be frustrated and it will take longer for her to make friends. Why would we do this to our beautiful 3.5 yr old? Why would we submit her to making her life more difficult? Plain and simple because it builds character and we know that she will thrive! We always joke and we are throwing her in to either sink or swim, but in all honesty we have no doubt in our minds that she will swim and even do a few laps in the process. She will learn the language very quickly being immersed in it all day. She will find out what her strengths are and use those to communicate and understand what is going on.  She will learn that their are different ways of doing things and they are not right or wrong just different and it is important to understand diversity.

In the America Lupita was the only “white” kid in her entire school. All of the other kids were African American. Now in China she again is the only “white” kid and everyone else is Asian. Many people are scared to let their kids be different than everyone else and think of the hardship that it puts on them at such a young age. I couldn’t disagree more. There is nothing wrong with being different and children are not born with feeling different than another person. It is society and parents that instill and distinguish different. Millions of kids immigrated into America over the last hundred years from every country in the world not knowing English and they learned and caught up just fine. We have no doubt that Lupita will finish her year having a great time at school with many friends.

I was very naive in thinking that we would do a simple Google search and find 5 schools that would all be very similar and we would just sign up for the closest one to our house. I was WRONG!

Google search resulted in 25 schools within a 15 minute walk from our house.

Good = lots of choices

Bad= lots of choices

We had to call our translator (Frank) and have him come to help us look at schools. We saw 6 schools that day. Which if you have ever looked at schools it is very exhausting.  We knew that we had to have another day of looking at schools. Every time Frank comes to pay us a visit it costs a little to have him come, nevertheless it is well worth the $30.00 USD to have him come and help us. He translates all of our questions and concerns. We also like asking his opinion of the schools. It is good to get some local feedback.

What did we find? The schools are all over the map!!! They ranged from a school that was created for migrant workers’ children where a lot of the kids don’t speak Mandarin but their local dialect to schools that spoke a lot of English and had $700.00 USD enrollment fee. None of the schools were the same. They were all so different and had such different charges I felt like I needed an excel spreadsheet to just keep track.  Another bonus* (sarcasm) was that none of the schools provide you with any of their information written down. You had to remember it or write it down yourself. Which would have been fine if any of them would have had any paper for me to use. Really, you are a school and you don’t have paper for me to write down your information?! At first I thought it was just a crappy school that we first saw, but then every school was just the same. I get conserving your paper, but come on people!! So I started writing information down on receipts that were in our wallets.  After our long day we only saw one we liked, however it was about a 25 minute walk and you had to cross a very very very busy street. Okay so the search is back on!


Three more days of searching for schools and we believe that we have found one that fits us. Finally!! However, the day we arrive to pay and register they up the price another $100.00 USD. What??? They said that our translator did not do their job correctly and that they gave us the right amount before. We asked multiple times what the charges where and what were they for, so I know that I and our translator did not get anything wrong. The woman at the school gave us the wrong information or they just wanted to take advantage of us. This was a very unsettling feeling. Mostly because $100.00 USD is not only a decent amount of money for us, but a considerable amount in China. So I KNOW that these prices would not be easily confused. It is like someone saying $1000.00 vs. $2000.00 huge difference and they should get it right. So we left without registering. I think this was a sign that this was not the school for Lupita and we would have spent lots of money to register her ($450 USD) and then had problems later on.

Kindergarten in China

Lupita on her first day of school. She started on a Wednesday…so no uniform.

Our decision came on our last day of looking.We were about to enroll her in the school closest to our house, which we knew wasn’t great, but it was clean, and the teachers were nice. It was also very inexpensive. Our nanny told us that Lupita should not go to this school and she knew of a better one. So on we went, again! When we arrived we used our very good body language to communicate a lot and then did have to call our translator on the phone for a few last questions we had. The 3-4 class was full, but the principal was willing to ask the teacher if Lupita could join their class. I had to call tomorrow. Off we went.

Kindergarten in China

Lupita’s school issued back-pack.

A co-worker of mine called the school for us and YESSSSS they had room for Lupita and we should be there at 2:30 to pay and register. Since I was working Zeek and our translator went to the school and took care of business. It cost us $160.00 USD for everything. For registration (2 uniforms+ 1 backpack) it was $50.00 USD, for classes $67.00 USD, for food for the month $31.00 ($1.54 a day for 20 days of school) and then she gets an ID card which was $7.70 USD. If she misses school we get reimbursed her money for food. See how complicated the price schedule is and why it should all be written down on a sheet of paper that you just give people. Yes, I am going to send out a country wide memo on this procedure, because come on people. Now that she was registered she had to complete a health check before they would let her begin. Okay so now how do we do that and wear do we go????

Kindergarten in China

Here is Lupita getting ready for school! Brush your teeth.


Kindergarten in China

Lupita wears her uniform on Mondays and Fridays only. They are given a hot uniform (above) and a cold uniform to wear. It just depends on the weather. Not sure why they aren’t required to wear the uniform everyday. But we have seen some kids wear their uniforms on non-uniform days. So this is probably just a suggestion.

What does her day look like? What is a typical K-3 day in China? Well here you go!

7:30 – 8:00 am arrive (exercise time outside)

8:00- Breakfast

8:30- reading

9:30- art

10:30 play

11:00 lunch

12:00 – 2:00 nap

2:00- 3:00 writing

3:00-4:00 reading and English class

4:00 – 4:30 exercise

4:30 go home!

A long day for our little girl, if she took her nap it would be better.

Kindergarten in China

Now we are off to get her health check!

Health Check!!!

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About the Author

Paz is an avid adventurer in life and food. Traveling across the globe with her family they enjoy cultural immersion and checking out the local eateries.

6 Responses to How to find a Kindergarten in China K-3

  1. Angela White says:

    Love Lupita’s outfit! Can’t wait to hear her talk Mandarin when she gets back…she can teach Caleb.


  2. Paz says:

    Hey!!! Of course she can. Hopefully we will learn a little something too.

  3. With the hectic lifestyles and tiresome working hours, parents cannot find right amount of time to devote to their children. In such a scenario children spend a quality time in Kindergarden schools. Thus, the initial learning phase of their life begins there. Here the onus lies with parents to provide them with schools that provide a protective and learning environment.

    • Paz Chentnik says:

      Cognita Group,

      yes, lives are getting too hectic and requiring too many working hours for parents. It is very important for parents to find a good school for their children.

  4. rebecca sell says:

    Hi Paz! We emailed with each other a while back and I lost contact with you…I think you were very busy at the time 🙂 Anyway, we are FINALLY at the point of interviews and I think the work of disassembling our lives is just becoming unbearable (it has always felt this way, but I definitely think its gotten worse!)..I wonder if it will ever be over! Anyway, all of these new concerns are coming up about what to do with our 5 year old son Julian- all school? part-time school with ayi? just ayi to start then combo? aye-aye-aye! I’ve had Chinese interviewers tell us Julian cannot go to a Chinese school, he is a foreigner and will have to go to Internat’l School (impossible financially!)..then I see you guys did it…do you have any suggestions of how to go about it? I see that I will need an interpreter and pen & paper…anything else? Any suggestions about an ayi? We are SO nervous about all of this- we only ever left Julian a couple times with a babysitter and he is only in preschool in the states, for 2.5 hours a day, 4 days a week!!! Poor boy is going to have a rough transition! We are looking at Jiangsu, Zhejiang provinces and north of there. Where are you guys now? Thoughts???

    • Paz says:

      I am so happy for you and your family! Yay you are moving to China. It is a crazy process and once you are on the plane no matter what you “forgot” to do it doesn’t matter anymore and you are on your way to the next chapter in your life. Try to enjoy this process and take a bit of time out for yourself. In the last month or so I would skip out and go to a super cheesy girly movie and zone. For an hour or half your brain gets to relax and you don’t have anyone asking you questions or tugging on your shirt, priceless!

      As for the school, you can enroll in Chinese government or normal schools. You might have to pay a little more because you are a foreigner but nothing crazy, not like International Schools. Those were also WAY out of our price-range! You need a good interpreter and if someone knows the area that is even better because there are schools in every nook of the cities and having someone to help you out goes a long way.

      I would start slow, get acclimated to the city and give yourselves a couple of weeks to look for something for him. It is a big change and since you are living there…no real rush. Also remember your experience is also your kids experience so keep that in mind when getting nervous about something, try to stay positive and put on a good face. It is hard, but kids pick up so much. If you find something for him to go to, I would start out with half-days. You will have to still pay for full days but pick him up mid-day and go get some steamed buns together and have an adventurous trip to the market. A slow transition for both him and you will most likely be better in the end.

      A piece of advice is that noting went as it should have for us in China..NOTHING! At first I was lost crazy and so depressed, and then I realized that we had gotten to China for a reason and we had to let go of what we thought was going to happen and let life happen. It is easy to say now, but really that was the biggest life lesson we have learned. You are truly free to turn right or left, don’t get so caught up in the decision that you miss out on the action.

      We aren’t in China at the moment, we are taking a stint in the U.S., but please keep me updated as I love to hear about other families in China.
      Take Care,

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    We are a family of four: dad, mom, sister, brother, who decided to leave our job, home, and community to live life in China. After a year abroad we decided to become permanent nomads. We road school our children and try to enjoy every minute.

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