International Sunshine Home is often cited as Xiamen’s premier bilingual school for younger children. Opened in 2010, Sunshine Home has grown from three classes to 20+ classrooms covering students between 1.5 years and 6 years of age.
One of the school’s strengths is that it combines the insights and approaches of educators from the United States and China. The organization has a robust curriculum and teaching approach that relies on a Western approach -- the Montessori method as well as positive reinforcement, emphasis on creativity and small class sizes. At the same time, the local and foreign teachers are careful to respect and celebrate both Chinese and Western cultures.
Sunshine Home includes many licensed Montessori instructors. The hallmarks of a Montessori classroom include uninterrupted blocks of time to work on the subject matter that is of interest to them, whether it is mathematics, language, geography, etc. Students direct their own learning, with teachers tracking interests and progress over time, modeling proper behavior and grace, and teaching self-control rather than a dependence on external discipline.
Sunshine Home also focuses extensively on language development. Students and staff use English and Chinese both in class and in their daily work, creating an immersive language environment. Native-language instructors teach Chinese and English classes.
With at least three staff members for each class of 18 students, the school uses a low teacher-student ratio to tailor each class to the needs of the students and to increase classroom safety.
The school’s curriculum includes three-week subject blocks that build over time and that are periodically reinforced. Popular themes include Animals, Family and Friends, and Outer Space. The subject matter is age-appropriate so that while students under the age of three are learning basic words like “the sun,” older students in the Elementary classroom are exploring the life cycle of a star.
The main teaching methods for Chinese and English classes include structured game play, music and dance, independent study, group story time and play-based activities. Unlike traditional local schools, the staff avoids group recitation, call-and-response and formal lecturing methods. Students are not assigned homework.
Students are divided into groups by English level rather than age. Sunshine Home uses English levels to organize its students because mixed-age classrooms mirror the natural learning method of children, which includes learning both from parents and from their brothers and sisters. Younger students look up to, learn from and aspire to be like their older classmates. Older students earn the confidence that comes from demonstrating subject mastery, teaching what they know and being the object of affection and admiration. This is a key Montessori tenet.
With students from more than a dozen countries including China, England, New Zealand, Pakistan, Russia, the U.K. and the U.S., Sunshine Home is experienced in addressing the needs of international families.