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Chinese Lessons Now Closer to Home

Grace Brennan did not want other parents to travel as far as she did to have her daughter learn to read and write Chinese. To solve the problem, she opened her own school in the renovated basement of her Weston home.

The three-hour commute to Flushing, N.Y. every Sunday for nine-year-old Aubrey’s classes are what inspired her to open the Happy Panda Mandarin School, she said. A Weston resident since 2007, Brennan said she has talked to many people in the area who expressed interest in a school like hers. “I met so many moms who wanted to send their children to learn Chinese,” she said.

The school was approved by the state in March according to Brennan, and she said she hopes to start teaching children four and older beginning this summer. Brennan says teaching students at an early age is key. “The world is getting smaller and smaller and early exposure to a second language will help — it’s easier to adapt to another culture,” she said.

Students will be able to attend two, two-hour classes per week. In the first class, Brennan will teach speaking, writing and listening. The second class of the week will include a review of the prevous lessons and a culture lesson. Beginner, intermediate and advanced levels are offered and students must pass a test in order to move on, she said. Classes are small, with a limit of six students per group lesson. She said she hopes to expand both her classes and curriculum and move to a larger location once she has the funds to do so.

A professional fencing champion in China at age 12, Brennan said she believes that teaching culture is one of the most important parts about her classes. She plans to incorporate pictures into her lessons that will help students get a better grasp on Chinese history, geography and traditional clothing.“If you don’t understand culture and Chinese history, you’re missing cultural richness,” she said. “I want all children to be able to use chopsticks and make rice and write words with a brush.”

Brennan says that the classes are not about making money, but about teaching the language and the culture. She charges $25 for each class and $45 for private lessons.She added that she also offers private lessons that are available to adults as well as extended hours for those that are looking for some extra help.

Brennan will host an open house on June 6 from 2-4 p.m. at 188 Davis Hill Road. For additional information, contact Grace Brennan at 203-227-8088.

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