This year, we are presenting a series of posts profiling members of the PKS community. The first installment features the Fung Family.
Liz and Terence Fung and their three children Mia, 7 (second grade), Ashton, 5 (kindergarten), and Camryn, 4 (preschool), are Noe Valley residents who have been at PKS for three years. We caught up with the couple to talk about life with three kids (!) and being a PKS family.
Q: You’ve got all three kids at PKS. Tell us what you like about the school and why you’re here.
Terence: PKS is a very unique school in the whole Bay Area in terms of combining Mandarin immersion and the Reggio Emilia approach starting in preschool. We felt the school provides a great foundation for our children to gain a wide, progressive view of community in general - not just from a U.S. perspective but from a global perspective.
Q: Do you have family ties to China?
Terence: Liz’s family has a Taiwan background, though her father is originally from Hunan. As such, Liz is fluent in Mandarin. My family is Cantonese and Hainanese by background. My language skills have always been underwhelming (whether learning French and Chinese as a youth), but I’ve always felt a strong connection to China – as such, I minored in Chinese at college. Unfortunately my Mandarin is still broken. That being said, it’s always fun for me to attempt speaking Chinese at home; the children typically burst with laughter and show me how to properly speak.
Q: What do you like about PKS?
Terence: For our family, it starts with the simple premise: are the kids having fun and engaged with learning. It’s important that they remain curious and unafraid to ask questions. I was fortunate to have a great East Coast public school education but much of it was based on rote memorization. In contrast, PKS is much more inquiry-based where children are learning practical problem solving. That spoke loudest to me particularly given the Bay Area’s entrepreneurial and collaborative environment. PKS is also wonderful in the diversity of the parent and student body.
Liz: We are always so appreciative of the teachers being so caring and bringing out the best in our children. Choosing a few among the countless examples:
- When Camryn first attended preschool, she had a difficult time adjusting. Wen Jian Lao Shi spent one-on-one time with her every morning at drop off for the first several weeks to reassure Camryn; Wen Jian also wrote a letter to Camryn about how she enjoys playing with her. In the daily newsletter pictures, Camryn could typically be found on a teacher’s lap. Now Camryn runs and hugs all her teachers when she sees them.
- Ms. Paloma let us know that Mia, when entering kindergarten, was having some issues with reading so she offered her time on Friday mornings before school for one-on-one tutoring. Mia quickly caught up and nowadays is so excited to read for several hours before bedtime every night.
- Our children also love all of the Chinese songs learned from various teachers at PKS. Now our children sing to their grandparents and other relatives in Chinese; this always lifts the spirits of our family and brings us all closer together.
Q: What attracted you to progressive education?
Terence: Progressive education focuses on present experience, learning by discovery and problem solving at both a group and an individual level through everyday objects/subject matters/news. In many respects, PKS embodies the spirit of the Bay Area’s forward progression, e.g., adaptability, social awareness, knowledge through direct interaction, etc. With so much positive and negative media at a child’s fingertips in today’s information society, a progressive education hopefully will provide a solid foundation for children to think for themselves and view learning as a fun, lifelong exercise.
Q: How do you feel about the way PKS handles social-emotional learning?
Terence: PKS integrates social-emotional learning starting in preschool with the helpful orientations, play dates, etc. and extends through the school year with the curriculum on a daily basis. It’s been fun to see our preschool children work on self development, social relationships and self regulation through everyday play as well as inquiry-based group cooperative and individual projects. For elementary grades, social-emotional learning is further reinforced with more active learning projects such as field trips and classwork/homework.
We’ve appreciated the teachers allowing our children freedom to explore and push boundaries while at the same time helping them focus on specific social and emotional skills. As such, it’s been amazing to see through the years the growth in all of the kids’ decision-making and self-confidence. So even in the days where the kids experience natural conflict, overall they have a surprisingly positive, constructive approach with ability to develop answers themselves.
Q: What’s your view of the future at PKS, now that we own the school property?
Terence: We are very excited! It’s a homerun for the PKS community to secure a permanent home. It’s been humbling to be surrounded by such a passionate set of parents, students, teachers, administrators and board members who are collectively building an incredible community for years to come.
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