Identity Crisis:

This is somewhat in continuation to my previous blog– what is the purpose of education and why homeschooling?


In my son’s school, 85% of the student population is Caucasians with my son being the only student whose parents came originally from Taiwan.  In my daughter’s daycare, 99% of the student population is Caucasians with her being the only non- Caucasian.  We would like our kids to befriend Taiwanese kids, who share similar background as theirs, to whom they can relate as they encounter identity crisis. 


Is it my fault that I don’t think like the majority of the Taiwanese moms living in Minnesota?  Would our differences in child-rearing philosophy and life style drive our kids away from making any Taiwanese friend? 


I constantly feel out of place when interacting with the Taiwanese moms living in the US.  Maybe I am the one having the identity crisis.  I didn’t have any luck finding a Taiwanese family with dual wage earners and it has been difficult for us to find time to attend any Taiwanese American Association sponsored events to meet other Taiwanese.  I wonder why it is so hard to find a Taiwanese who has similar background like ours and also shares similar values.  The Taiwanese mom I met is a stay-home mom whose friends are either stay-home moms or homeschooling moms living in her community.  Their activities are held on weekdays when I have to work.  Their subjects surround on methods of improving their kids’ grades and children’s enrichment activities, which disinterest me.  I can neither fit into their schedule nor their hard-core child-rearing philosophy, which values the Asian culture of academic excellence and only academic excellence.  I am viewed as an outcast in their community, especially that I don’t live in their community, a community filled with Taiwanese immigrants and focusing solely on academic excellence.  I live in a community with us being the only non-Caucasian family. 


My Taiwanese friend, the stay-home mom, once told me that her school district, a pretty prominent school district flooded with Taiwanese immigrants, started student ability grouping from Kindergarten on the first day of school.  She further stated that all the Taiwanese families in her school district were cramming their kids with materials at least 2 grades ahead of their grade levels, so their kids could get a good score to be grouped with smarter kids.  She then advised me to follow suit.  I was rather skeptical of what she had told me and questioned its validity.  I know that our school's students take Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) test, an assessment tool to monitor student progress, on the first day of school and throughout the year, to help the school to identify areas of improvement for the students.  The purpose is not to group students with similar ability.  There is however the IQ testing for gifted children, which tests are completely different.      


Over the years, my ignorance of her parenting philosophy and my inability to blend into her network of friends rip a hole into our friendship.  I am considered as an intractable person, whose children might become a bad influence to her kids as I do not place academic excellence as the utmost purpose of education.  She started to distance her family from ours. 


Still, I don’t see a problem with my parenting philosophy, which gives my children more freedom and responsibilities.  I prefer a lay-back approach, partly because I am a lazy mom.  After a day’s work, I am totally exhausted to have energy left to argue with our kids and pressure them into doing something they have absolutely no interest in.  I had tasted the consequence when I once enrolled my son in a skating lesson and he refused to get on his skates at all.  In the end, I have to ask for a partial refund.  It taught me a lesson.  Kids will learn faster if they enjoy what they do.  Since then, I always ask for my son’s opinion first.  This approach has worked wonders.  It relieves the tension between the kids and the parents.  With this approach, everyone is happy.  For example, to get our son interested in learning violin, we took our son to a violin store to rent his own violin.  It boosted his interest to include him in the decision making process of selecting his own violin.  We didn’t force him to take the violin class.  We simply asked if he would like to take a violin class, we would rent that violin for him.  We didn’t seek out a well-known violinist to teach our son to play violin either.  We just enrolled him in the school’s summer music and instrument lessons, ignoring the advice from my Taiwanese friend to follow her suit to get the best and the most strict teacher in town.  Anyway, to me, I really don’t care how good he plays as long as he is having fun and we are giving him the opportunity to learn.  Sometimes, I feel that I have missed out on some fun in my childhood because I was told to concentrate on my studies only.  I don’t want my kids to have the same regrets. 


So now the one and only Taiwanese whom my son befriends is gone.  He doesn’t seem to feel the difference.  His best friends are still playing with him every day at his school.  Maybe he won’t have an identity crisis.  Maybe we will enroll him in the Saturday Chinese language school next fall to give him the opportunity to make other Taiwanese friends.  Maybe we will find a Taiwanese family who won’t shy away from us due to our parenting style and our view of education.        


By the way, I recently read an interesting book “Nurture Shock” by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman.  In chapter 3: Why White Parents Don’t Talk About Races, it states some depressing facts, one being “The more diverse a school is, the less likely it is that kids will form cross-race friendships.”  Maybe it isn’t that bad that our kids are surrounded by Caucasians, studying in a school with little diversity.  Right now, our kids view themselves as white.  They see people in two colors only, black and white.  I have been trying to teach them that they are yellow people like the Asians and there are red people like the Native Americans and brown people like the Indians.        


Anyway, we cannot control the destiny of our kids.  All we can do is to prepare them for the world.   


Written By Elisa English

On 8/24/10 in Minneapolis

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Link to Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman’s website


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