Like many Chinese Americans, the authors inherited the traditional Chinese culture. Yet they also opened their minds and embraced their new culture. Through the collisions of these two cultures, they developed a unique parenting strategy: a combination of the best of both worlds to educate their children.
This approach offered them a cutting edge in developing their children to be among the most competitive. As they raised their children, they
• held parties to build their children's social groups;
• used teamwork to create a harmonious family, strengthening the family bonds;
• helped their children excel in academic competitions;
• taught their children how to be rigorous and strive for perfection;
• inspired their children to explore innovative strategies to overcome obstacles;
• developed their children's creativity, leadership, and initiative;
• encouraged their children to be involved in the community; and
• gave their children freedom to develop their individual personalities and discover their full potentials.
The authors believe that their story will be beneficial to other parents and also provide a new perspective of Chinese American families for mainstream Americans.
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THE CHINESE-AMERICAN METHODRAISING OUR CHILDREN WITH THE BEST OF BOTH WORLDS
By Linda Hu John X. Wang
Trafford PublishingCopyright © 2013 Linda Hu and John X. Wang
All right reserved.
Chapter OneNews of Victory
December 14, 2007. After school, Fanny rushed home without staying in school for an extra moment.
The air was filled with tension when she arrived. The invisible pressure made it impossible for us to breathe. My entire family was extremely anxious as we hovered in front of Fanny's computer. We had been waiting for this moment for the whole day because today, Yale would announce its Early Action decisions. For so many years, we, along with our children, put in so much effort to obtain a good education for them, so you can imagine how much we wanted Fanny to receive good news!
Fanny's eyes were fixated on the computer screen. From her fingers constantly typing on the keyboard, we could sense her nervous energy, but we could not read her restlessness or expectations from her facial expressions. Bill stood off to the side, as usual, chattering about his Pokémon hero, Reshiram.
"Bill, can you be quiet?" Fanny had finally had enough and called him out.
"If this is America, don't I have the freedom of speech?" Bill snapped back. As we were about to interrupt their argument, Kathy joined the fray as she held our family's pet cat, Blacky.
"Bill, shut up!" she ordered firmly.
Facing the alliance of his two sisters, Bill had to surrender, but his mouth still could not stop.
"Yes, I'm sorry, my two queens!" he sullenly retorted, always wanting to get the last word in any conversation.
Yale University is among the world's best colleges. In its long history, many outstanding students have been rejected by its admissions office. We all wondered if the same result awaited Fanny.
At 5:00 PM, it was time for Yale to release its decisions. However, when we checked its Web site, we only saw an error message informing us that the server was down because the traffic at the moment was too heavy. There were countless students and parents just like us, waiting for this moment, and we envied those who had already seen their results. After what seemed like an eternity, we successfully accessed the Yale Web site and logged into Fanny's account.
"Woof, woof!" The picture of Yale's bulldog mascot was barking at us loudly from the top right corner of the Web page. Under the mascot, "Welcome to Yale!" flashed in large letters.
"Fanny has been admitted!" we all cried out. My eyes began to tear up with joy. We cheered loudly, giving each other high fives in celebration.
Yale's admissions letter to Fanny said,
Congratulations on your admission to Yale College, Class of 2012! It gives me great pleasure to send you a letter that honors your accomplishments and marks such an important moment in your life. You have every reason to feel proud of both your work and your aspirations.
On December 23, 2007, our family boarded a flight to the Florida State Resort in Fort Lauderdale. I joked with Fanny before we left, "This holiday season was depending on you. If you were not accepted into Yale, you would never hear the end of it from us."
This made Kathy and Bill roar with laughter. On the side, Fanny turned to John and shyly pleaded, "Daddy, you have to help me!"
With John on her side, Fanny was freed from our teasing. We were all happy to be together and on our way to sunny Fort Lauderdale to have a great vacation as a family.
As the airplane gently flew through the clouds, Kathy and Bill chattered nonstop in the front seat. However, Fanny was surprisingly quiet.
"Look! Apparitions of the Virgin Mary! Doesn't that cloud look just like your face, Fanny?" Kathy pretended to be surprised, pointed to a piece of cloud, and shook Fanny. Fanny, curious, turned to look out the window.
"Who says it looks like me? It looks nothing like me!" Fanny exclaimed.
"It looks just like you!" Bill chimed in with Kathy. I touched John's shoulder, and we smiled at each other. We knew that Fanny was still thinking about the applications she had sent to Harvard University and Princeton University.
We had a great time in Florida with our children as we relaxed with the sun, sand, and waves. The sky was so blue, and the sun was so bright. At the same time, we also looked forward to more and even better news from other colleges!
News of Victory
Fanny applied for eleven universities in the United States: Harvard, Yale, Princeton, MIT, Columbia, University of California-Berkeley, University of Pennsylvania, Johns Hopkins University, Caltech, Cornell, and New York University. These are all elite U.S. colleges with highly competitive admissions processes. Although we were confident that Fanny would have a good chance of gaining admission into some of these universities, we were not going to relax anytime soon.
When applying to U.S. universities, a student's high school performance plays a large role. Universities not only examine the student's ninth to eleventh grade high school performance but also base their decisions on the first half of twelfth grade and the student's midterm grades and test scores. At the end of the student's senior year, the high school sends the student's complete transcript to the university the student is going to attend. If the student's grades fall, the university can withdraw its offer of admission. This expectation was clearly pointed out in the Princeton University acceptance letter:
Let me remind you that your admission to Princeton is contingent upon the successful completion of your senior year. We expect that you will keep up the high academic standards and good conduct you have maintained throughout high school.
Therefore, Fanny needed to maintain her "high academic standards," though nobody doubted that she would.
One afternoon in March 2008, our doorbell rang.
We rushed to the door.
"Congratulations!" the postman said with a smile as he handed Fanny a large heavy envelope. Our eyes grew as wide as saucers when we saw that it had been sent by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. At that moment, we were all thinking the same thing.
Super! Fanny captured another school! Without even opening it, we knew that a big thick envelope from a university meant another acceptance.
From April 6 to April 14, 2008, Fanny received admissions letters and packages from a number of colleges, including New York University, Johns Hopkins University, UC Berkeley, and the California Institute of Technology. The CalTech admission letter stated,
The staff, faculty, and students on the Admissions Committee see in you, not only an accomplished student, but also a person with the passion and creativity to pursue study in mathematics, science, and engineering at the highest level. You have an opportunity to take your place amongst a community of scholars with an extraordinary record of accomplishment and a shared commitment to become leaders in the scientific community ...
We waited patiently for the arrival of April 15, because this was the day that all the Ivy League schools would release their admissions decisions. At 5:00 PM, Columbia University gave us the first reason to celebrate. Then there came acceptances from Cornell University, the University of Pennsylvania, and Princeton University:
Congratulations! I am delighted to offer you admission to Princeton's Class of 2012. Your academic accomplishments, extracurricular achievements, and personal qualities stood out in a record pool of more than 21,000 applications this year. We know from reading your file that you will take advantage of all Princeton has to offer and that the University will benefit from your many talents.
The good news kept rolling in, but we still hadn't received anything from Harvard. Since it used e-mail notifications, it took more time to send out all the results, keeping us on tenterhooks. From 5:00 PM onward, some students began posting their admissions results on the Internet, and we anxiously checked Fanny's e-mail constantly. Finally, at 7:00 PM, Fanny received the e-mail from Harvard, and the first words were the words we had been dreaming of:
I am delighted to inform you ...
"Fanny has been admitted to Harvard!" Everyone shouted the words over and over again until they echoed throughout the house. The entire family was deeply immersed in the joy of success.
After the cheers, we carefully read the acceptance letter from Mr. William Fitzsimmons, Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid at Harvard:
I am delighted to inform you that the Committee on Admissions and Financial Aid has voted to offer you a place in the Harvard Class of 2012. Following an old Harvard tradition, a certificate of admission is enclosed. Please accept my personal congratulations for your outstanding achievements.
This year over twenty-seven thousand students, a record number, applied for admission to the entering class. Faced with many more talented and highly qualified candidates than it had room to admit, the Admissions Committee took great care to choose individuals with exceptional character as well as unusual academic and extracurricular strengths. The Committee is convinced that you will make important contributions during your college years and beyond ...
At the bottom of the letter, there was a handwritten note: "Hope you will join us!"
It seemed like we could see his welcoming eyes staring at Fanny, looking forward to seeing her on the prestigious campus. My heart was difficult to restrain; it felt like it was trying to jump out of my chest.
The deluge of good news brought our family happiness, laughter, and confidence; but the news also elicited some subtle changes in the children's behavior. Kathy's sense of humor was filled with more confidence, and Bill was more respectful to his sister Fanny. Although Fanny was still very humble, we saw that her face beamed with joy and excitement.
I used to say that if Fanny was admitted to Harvard, I would be so happy and feel like I was living in a dream. Harvard has always been an outstanding school known for its excellent education, not only in the United States, but also worldwide. Fanny was a very fortunate girl!
Fanny had been successfully admitted to many top universities, which convinced John and me that we had raised our children correctly. We had not been born and raised in the United States; so initially, we did not understand the U.S. education system, college admissions standards, or culture. The road to Fanny's good education and her proper cultivation was not straight and smooth, but full of twists and turns and scattered with sticks and stones. In the continuous process of understanding and exploration, we had to change our methods, paths, and directions multiple times. On the road to success, Fanny was our family's pioneer in the United States. Her complex, winding path was filled with much effort and many struggles. In the process, we also gained a significant amount of experience, which guided our efforts to develop Kathy.
Two years later, in 2010, thanks to our joint efforts, we once again experienced the thrill of receiving admissions letters bearing good news, one after the other. This time, though, they were for Kathy. Kathy was also admitted to Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Columbia, Brown, and the other prestigious Ivy League schools to which she had applied.
At that time, the two Wang sisters became front-page news in the community. Their story was the center of much discussion at school, between friends, and throughout the community. When people passed along this incredible news, they also inquired as to how it happened.
Behind this one story, there are simply too many other stories and anecdotes to share. The following stories record the laughter of our joy and the difficult journey we took to guide our children to where they are today.
Chapter TwoThe American Dream
In 1980, Professor T. D. Lee of Columbia University, winner of the Nobel Prize in Physics, launched the well-known China-U.S. Physics Examination and Application (CUSPEA) program. Every year until the program ended, approximately one hundred promising undergraduate students from Chinese universities were invited to the United States in order to study and obtain their PhDs. In 1982, John had the honor of being selected as one of those students.
While studying at New York University, John witnessed Professor Lee's elegant style at the podium and was occasionally given the honor of listening to Professor Lee discuss social issues related to education in an individual setting. In laymen's language, Professor Lee explained the current problems of physics; and through these conversations, John discovered that Professor Lee not only had remarkable academic accomplishments, but also discussed ideology at a high level. In the past few decades, Professor Lee has been supportive of China's reform efforts and has made tremendous contributions to help China make the transition to a modern society. To commemorate his wife, Mrs. Huijun Qin, and to promote education in China, he used their savings to set up the "Jun Zheng Fund" in order help a new generation of Chinese students. Professor Lee is not only a master of contemporary science, but also a shining example of a humanitarian.
John's life has been full of hardship. When he was a child, most of his time was spent in poor rural counties. He lived through ten years of chaos during the Great Cultural Revolution in China and struggled for five years during middle and high school (three years in junior high, two years in high school). He had to attend four different schools for political and family reasons, making him miss a lot of basic education, but he never stopped chasing his dreams. When he fell behind in his classes, he borrowed his brother's textbooks and caught up in that vulnerable time. He had nowhere to go after middle school for political reasons, so his father advised him to learn a workman's trade to survive. He resolutely refused and declared, "No matter what, I want a higher education!"
Facing his strong determination, his father had no choice. In order to make John's dream of studying come true, his father had to ask everyone for help. Finally, a high school in the desolate countryside, more than ten miles away from home, generously accepted him; but he was not allowed to officially register as a student. Often, he walked more than twenty miles on harsh mountain roads in order to attend school; the opportunity to learn was that precious to him. During that time, he studied very hard, enjoyed helping others, and was highly praised by his teachers and classmates.
In 1975, he graduated from high school. The prevailing regulations stated that only one graduated child per family could stay in town with his or her parents. The other children, after their high school graduation, had to go to the countryside to become farmers. Because his two brothers had been sent to the countryside already, John could have stayed in town with his parents and become a substitute teacher. Under the same circumstances, most young graduates would have considered it a very attractive opportunity. However, he gave up the chance to stay in town and instead chose to go to the farms in order to witness the real life most young people were experiencing. During his time in the countryside, it was hard to find food, so the other youth from the city often went back to their parents' homes to eat meals. He rarely did so because, at that time, everyone in the city had been issued limited food supplies by the government. He knew if he ate more at home, then his parents would have to eat less, and he could not bear to divide his parents' rations. Therefore, he often went to the fields to do heavy farm work, dizzy with hunger. Although the difficult rural life and near-constant hunger left him with chronic stomach problems, this harsh experience made him even more strong and determined.
In 1977, he passed the first national examination held after the ten years of chaos in China, was accepted by the University of Science and Technology of China (USTC), and entered the Department of Physics. Because he had never learned English, he raced against the clock to do so after entering college, starting with the alphabet. He made flash cards and carried them everywhere; even during lunchtime, while he was standing in line, he would concentrate on memorizing a few words. He had no basic grammar background in either English or Chinese, so learning English grammar was particularly difficult for him. To solve this problem, he repeatedly read and memorized English textbook articles. Memorizing the articles had three advantages: remembering words, familiarizing himself with syntax, and learning common idioms. The best time for him to memorize English articles was during the middle of the night, when everyone else was asleep. Even in the freezing winter, when the wind knifed against his face, he wrapped himself up in a cotton-padded jacket and resolutely stood outside, loudly reading and memorizing English articles. Finally, he began to reach the level of the students with a strong English background. At the University of Science and Technology of China, he established a new goal: to go to the United States or Europe for further education in order to broaden his horizons.
Excerpted from THE CHINESE-AMERICAN METHOD by Linda Hu John X. Wang Copyright © 2013 by Linda Hu and John X. Wang. Excerpted by permission of Trafford Publishing. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
ContentsChapter 1 News of Victory....................1
Chapter 2 The American Dream....................9
Chapter 3 Educational Differences....................18
Chapter 4 Childhood....................33
Chapter 5 Practical and Innovative Ability....................60
Chapter 6 Frustration and Rebuilding Confidence....................89
Chapter 7 Leadership....................112
Chapter 8 Developing Interests....................134
Chapter 10 Self-Management....................169
Chapter 11 Teenage Rebellion....................191
Chapter 12 Social Development and Community Service....................206
Chapter 13 High School: Ready, Set, Go!....................218
Chapter 14 Replicating Success....................255
Chapter 15 Conclusion....................272
Appendix Methods for SAT Preparation....................275