Joshua takes on preschool

by Kristi Van Dyk

Friends, this is a big week at the Van Dyk house. 

Joshua starts preschool in English
Joshua visits the ENT. (for interpretation of the results and tests we had at the end of July)
Joshua gets fitted for a BAHA hearing aid. 
Joshua starts preschool in Mandarin Chinese. 

When big things happen for Joshua - big things happen for everyone. Joshua's joys are the joys of the entire house. Joshua's hards are the hards of the entire house. Joshua feels his feels for all of us to experience. (Honestly, I'm thankful for this because there isn't a lot of guess work to our little guy). 

This morning Joshua sat down with our big kids and completed his First Day of Preschool paper. This is something a monolingual mom might take for granted, but I was sure to have it ready when the kids woke up so they could help him complete it. I treasured up each moment as they completed the questions together. He had ready answers for everything. 


As the bigs piled unto the bus the questions began: 

"Momma, you change your clothes? We go!" 
(Various comments about later ... later ... not yet)

****** (5 minutes passes)
"Momma, I get my shoes on, we go! We drive di di to school! Let's go!" 
(more attempts to explain later, soon, but not yet .... hang on buddy)

******* (5 more minutes passes)
"Momma? Kayleigh, Benny, Maddie, Di di go bye bye school. You stay here. Bye!"
(more and more and more attempts to explain that we have to wait)

Since school didn't start until 10:30, I gave up and turned on his favorite tv show
"How many momma? How many bears I watch before school?"
(even his distraction isn't distraction enough) ... 

Until, finally, the moment was here. He went to the bathroom one last time (unprompted as he knows I won't let him get in the car without trying); he shoved his feet in his shoes, grabbed his paper and stood outside on the front porch 

How did he remember that is exactly what we did on their first day weeks ago?


Upon arriving at the school he was half way down the hall before I had closed the van doors. So I peeled him off the walls and dragged him back outside for the obligatory ZCS preschool picture by the sign. He was not super happy with me, so this won't be his best photo ... He wanted nothing to do with going backwards and everything to do with moving onwards and upwards. 


It figures that this image above was our stinkiest picture of the day. I had hoped to get a brilliant winner with this one. You see, this moment, this photo, was 4 years in the making. This place, beginning with a Mandarin Immersion preschooler, was the beginning of a new lifestyle for us. The circumstances that led our first child into this program directly contributed to our 4th child's presence in our family. It was through this school, its belief in Mandarin Immersion, its courage to step out into a language so different and unfamiliar, that we were drawn in. Through that event God shaped our family, and here he is ... the result falling in love with a culture, a language, and a people.

Today is also the start of a promise fulfilled. Part of our adoption process included a letter of intent. I remember writing this, honestly, sincerely, with great pride, to the adoption officials in China. 

Yang Jin Hua would come to a home where Mandarin Chinese – his native language – is learned, appreciated, and respected. We actively participate in cultural events through the school. And, it is our hope that Yang Jin Hua would also be able to enroll in this school and this program so that he could be taught by native Mandarin Chinese speakers and interact with his people and his culture when he grows up. 

So today was more than a first day of preschool, so very much more. I had giant tears welling in my eyes as his Mandarin Preschool teacher called, "Fan Jin Hua?" He startled. His name. His culture. A face like his.

Joshua will be attending English preschool AND Mandarin Chinese immersion preschool. Today he got to experience both. I loved watching him engage with each teacher. I loved watching his expressions and responses to all that went on.

To the casual observer he was a young, scared, shy little boy ... who looked positively confused about all that was happening. 

To his Mommy he was a courageous warrior, stepping into yet another new world that he never imagined, never asked for, and still fully embraced. He clung to my hand most of the day. He didn't say much. He struggled to engage his teacher. But he was processing. 


Upon returning home he grabbed my face in his hands, "Momma! I go back to school. I go back to Chiao Lao Shi. I say zai jian! And Momma hui lai!" He gets it. He's excited (at least for the Mandarin part). 

Like most of our journey we will celebrate the good and warrior through the hard. The English will be hard at first. I know, he will grow. He will gain more of the skills he needs for survival, for continued learning in the United States.

In Mandarin today my heart was at ease. With time this classroom will bring him joy and healing, comfort at fun. I was at ease today hearing his belly laughs, at ease watching his eyes light up at familiar songs, familiar words, familiar phrases. He told me later that day, "Momma! Chiao Lao Shi ... and he points to his mouth ... Chiao Lao Shi ... DI DI!!" 

I think I read his heart, "You like that Chiao Lao Shi speaks Mandarin too! You think thats fun?"

"Yes, Momma! Fun! Yes!" 

Prayers for tomorrow as it means he goes all by himself ... to HIS total immersion setting ... all in English with many, many new faces.