Candle is in her fifth month at WIS. 45days ago, I gave notice that I was leaving the school. I am saying this so that you will take my review into account as a parent who may not have the best experiences but of course you might have experienced otherwise.
A couple of months before Element was born, Candle and I went on a hunt for schools with part-time enrollment ie. 3days a week from 9am-5pm. I think we visited almost 5 schools mostly with English as the main language and either Spanish or Mandarin as the 2nd language.
I was thinking to myself that it will be good if Candle was bilingual -speaking both Mandarin and English. Hence, I started speaking to many people about my concern and they told me that kids living in the US will be able to pick up English language really easily since it is spoken everywhere but if I want Candle to learn Mandarin, it will be best in an environment where that is the only language they converse in. That is when I decided to search for schools teaching solely in mandarin, many schools were either too far or I had to be waitlisted. That is when I chanced upon Washington International School (WIS) in Factoria, Bellevue – the drive took 15mins and I can be enrolled by January 2017 which meant I will have some form of help when my parents left at the end of Dec 2016.
First Impression of WIS from my visit (apparently I was not allowed to bring Candle so D had to be home for the day)
1. it was located at the basement of a church so it wasn’t as fancifully decorated as the other schools I have been to. They had mandarin worksheets on display so I thought as long as it served my purpose of Candle speaking and writing mandarin it is ok
2. I could either go through a lift in the church or walk down a flight of stairs to get to the school. I use my stroller and car seat a lot so definitely opted to use the lift.
3. I could only schedule for a walk through at 10am-11am from Mondays to Fridays depending on availability. I thought it was pretty restrictive since I could schedule for anytime in the week (9am-5pm) from Mondays to Fridays but that i just shrugged it off and went for the specified time allocated from them.
4. When I met the principal, the first thing she said to me was “let me bring you on a walk through the school but please do not ask me any questions and keep your questions till the end”. Of course I forgot about that and popped in a question on my way down the hall. So she reminded me again to leave my questions for later. I didn’t particularly like that because I have so many questions in my head and if I didn’t write it down somewhere i will have definitely missed a question or two! True enough I did…… I forgot to ask what kind of food they were serving for lunch!
All in all, I was there for an hour and felt like it was a pretty traditional school, rules-based so definitely non-Montessori (culture of a company trickles from the top and i feel like the principal has pretty specific rules in the short span of time on my first visit compared to the other schools ie. 3 & 4) and it served my purpose of Candle learning mandarin. I came with a cheque in-hand so I handed over my deposit, sat back and relax till my parents left for Singapore (my parents helped with cooking, cleaning, entertaining Candle while I focused on Element and tried to rest as much as possible. When they left, January – March were the toughest few months, mainly because Candle was jealous and tried all ways and means to get attention. I wasn’t getting enough sleep and it’s hard to have to pump milk 4 times a day and worry about the decreasing milk supply. I could go on and on in another post).
In the period i was in the school (it is her last day at time of writing), I had a couple of incidents:
1. Before Candle started school, I always gave her a bottle of milk and honey. So she usually drinks one and I brought the other along with her water bottle to leave it with the teachers so that she can drink it whenever she wants to. They told me I cannot bring in milk bottles unless it is sealed up with no teat. So I did that but they asked if I had another type of bottle I could use but bottles with straws and no-spills are not usually recommend for flavored drinks other than water. I was undoubtedly annoyed but that’s fine so I decided to give her only one bottle of milk in the morning but strangely whenever I pick her she will say she is thirsty and hungry. When we get home she asks for drinks and rummages through the fridge and pantry to get food. This happened for a week then I thought she probably was on a growth spurt but it happened again the next week. This time round, I made her walk in with the drink so that it seem more natural and we were good for a few days. After that they found out I’ve been bringing in the bottle and I couldn’t take it lying down. I told them Candle seemed to be hungry and thirsty the moment she reached home they assured me she has full diapers and there is nothing to worry about. The next thing I know I received an email mid-day that she puked during lunch (ate too many corn dogs!).
2. I didn’t realize they had corn dogs for lunch – that’s like store-bought frozen food that you can either warm up in the oven or microwave it. So I decided to look out for traces of lunch (I forgot to ask about that the last time I talked to the principal because I was told to ask all my questions at the end of the hour). I realized they had frozen pizzas on 2 consecutive Fridays! I’m not a fan of consuming frozen food so it’s a big thing for me – I used to cook fresh lunch for her everyday but now we are paying for her to eat junk so this isn’t acceptable.
3. The traffic was always jammed up towards the school and it took me at least 20-25mins to get there. In order not to be late and get fined, I’ll get Element ready to go at 4pm. With babies, a 20mins car ride can have it’s good and bad days it’s always a surprise. I’m always praying that she sleeps through the ride but of course it’s not always the case.
4. The access to the lift is through the church compound and it is always locked at 4!! That means I’ll lug Element down a long flight of stairs (mostly rainy and slippery days) and every time I do that I envisioned myself tripping or slipping one fine day
5. There was one day I woke up late and only got to school at 9.45am. I did my usual routine of pushing the stroller through the church to get to the lift. This time round I opened the doors to the church and a man was standing there with a mop and said “the floor is wet” so I said “okay, Candle please watch your step”. On my way to the lift, I felt like he was burning my back with his intense glare but I did not do anything about it. We went into the lift and right before it closes, he came up and said “come back up in 45mins when it dries!”. Then I realized he was not telling me to be careful because the floor was wet but to get outta the way till it dries!!! But no way am I wasting 45mins loitering around the school so I came back up through the lift. Right in the middle of the entrance of the lift, he placed the Slippery floor signage and my stroller could not go through. WHERE IS THE LOVE???? Obviously not in this church.
6. The weather has been getting warmer and sometimes on good days we will bring the kids out for a stroll. So a couple of weeks ago, i picked Candle up and a couple of other mums were there around the same time so we were deep in our conversations and decided to let the kids hangout for abit outside the church in the garden. A few days later, we received an email from the administrator that we cannot hangout in the garden because the flowers are planted by the church. Fine, so we never allowed the kids to play there anymore.
7. 3days before the end of my torturous journey in the school, fellow mums were having a conversation so we sat on the benches outside the church. I mean if there are benches it will mean that they promote people to .. hang around and sit on it right? So I thought it was a good place and we would not be told off this time round. How WRONG! The next day we received an email “not to hang around the building after you pick your child. The church have services, trainings and meeting upstairs and it is disruptive.” You have got to be kidding. You know what is disruptive to the services, training and meetings? Renting the place out to a school that is for kids! Why would u do that if you are concerned about noise and having kids around your compound. PLeASE!!!
8. Candle does not like to attend the school and always asks if we are going YMCA instead
The only good thing I have to say is that Candle progressed pretty well in her Mandarin and she is able to communicate and sing a couple of songs! I believe though that the cons outweighs the pros for USD$970 (approx 1000 bucks) and so ‘Adios! Hope to not meet again.’