How 'Bout a Little Update? . . . Three Months In!
Hey friends and family . . . and anyone else who’s strangely drawn to read this,
It’s the beginning of November, so that means we’ve been on this new chapter in life for a little over three months. The queso withdrawals are real.
The Energetic Life of Jones: Jones is right in his element. Back in the States we were extremely hesitant to let Jones just hop on his bike and go. Even when we lived in the neighborhood off Heritage Trace, we were always apprehensive about him playing outside. That’s a very different story here. Our apartment is in a gated complex, and sure, weirdos can still live in gated complexes, but there’s a very real sense of community within the walls and people looking out for each other’s kids. Jones will come home and hop on his bike and be gone for the next couple of hours after school. He has several friends from school who live in our complex and we know their parents from work. It’s awesome. Some aspects of school have been a challenge, math in particular. That subject is pretty different here, but we like it. The school works hard to teach the why of math and not just the what, something I wish I’d had growing up. Many of the Chinese kids in his class were being tutored in math the moment they popped out of the womb, so they’re light years ahead of other human beings on our little planet. This made Jones feel pretty inferior as he was trying to make the leap to a new school and new concept. Thankfully, the school recognized Jones’ (and several other kids) need for help, and now he’s in a program that meets once a week to give a little more aid. If you know Jones, you know he’s eating up the opportunity for a little extra focused time.
The Dungeon Master’s Apprentice - Harrison: The beginning was hard. Really hard. For any of you who made a school change during your junior high/middle school years, you know that making that social leap feels insurmountable. Thankfully, a group of kids reached out to Harrison and threw him a life line early on. He’s been hanging out with those kids nonstop, and Janice and I couldn’t be more grateful. They’re drama kids, band geeks, and they all play Dungeons and Dragons together (I know, insert 80’s paranoia gasp here). He’s had two swim meets and is doing well, improving his personal times at each meet. His second meet was in Beijing, a total mind blower to me. He boarded a plane with his team, passport in hand, a document that is everything. Miraculously, he returned with it and everything else we sent him with. I’m still struggling to wrap my mind around the idea he took off on a plane to another city several hours away for a swim meet. In the States, the longest we traveled for a meet was Frisco. The experience was great for him, the exact reason why we chose to follow this road. We want them both to be stretched. Academics have been eye opening to him. In Texas, things came decently easy for him. His biggest struggle was putting in the effort to do the homework, not necessarily the concepts themselves. That’s being challenged. Harrison is also being stretched in the world of math, as I explained above with Jones. Thankfully, Harrison is a good thinker and can pick it apart. Probably the biggest challenge there is asking for help when it’s needed. It’s interesting watching him traverse the world of social studies as well. They’re talked about social issues, everything from abortion to gay rights. Initially, I wanted to cringe, avoid talking about heavy issues, but more than that, I want him to think. Having only attended Christian schools, he’s challenged by the thoughts and ideas of his friends who haven’t grown up with the same belief system he has. It’s new and different for him. Likewise, it’s new and different for his parents. Not that we didn’t pay attention before, but it’s certainly raised our awareness level, and requires a stronger intentionality (I think that’s a word) from us.
The Counselor and the Drama (cringe) Teacher: Rhythm and structures. One of the great things about the school we’re at is the wide open freedom. “Make the drama (cringe) department look like what you want it to look like.” That’s great. “Bring your expertise and perspective to the counseling system.” Again, so good. I can’t speak for core teachers, though I’m sure some of these elements are the same, but anyone who has taught the arts knows how tricky it can be to come into a new place and start implementing what you teach and how you teach it. Both times I’ve started at a new school, I would find myself looking at the provided textbooks and shaking my head. I always felt like those books were a mishmash of decent information, but just an ugly shotgun blast. I always end up piecing my own curriculum together from different sources. That’s what I’m currently working through. You show up that first year and work on assessing what the kids know and where they’ve been. You also work through a few months (to a year) of “Miss So-and-so didn’t do that” or “Mr. What’s-his-face did it this other way and we liked it better.” It takes a good year or two for the students to fully adopt you. We’re in the process of rehearsing for the spring play, Daisy Pulls It Off (yes, again), and it’s going well. I’ve added in a few things to keep it interesting for me. I felt like it was wise to do a show I’m very familiar with in order to make this first one easy on myself as I’m still learning the culture around me. Janice is knocking it out of the park and on more than one occasion I’ve had teachers come to me saying they love what she’s doing. She’s a pro.
We’re working on this place becoming home. On Tuesday, our shipment from the States should arrive and we can hardly wait. It’ll be nice to cover our walls with the things that remind us of who we are as a family. Besides family, friends, and Mexican food, the thing we miss most about the States is the ability to take care of things quickly. Recently, Harrison’s phone crapped out on us. In Texas, it would take me a couple hours tops to deal with it. Here, I spent a whole day and a bucket full of emotionally stability. The thing is, I know there have to be simpler ways, I just haven’t learned them yet. They’ll come with time.
I finished my book and have started the next. That’s all I’ll say about that.
We love you all and love the shout outs you send us here and there. Some good friends sent us a package full of love a couple of weeks ago and it arrived at just the right time.
In December, Janice’s parents will be visiting and we’re all taking a trip up to Beijing to do some touristy things. We can’t wait. After that, we’ll be off to meet my parents in Kauai, a little after Christmas vacation in Hawaii. We’re looking at the possibilities of Thailand or Myanmar at the Chinese New Year. We’ll see which one wins out.
Thanks for reading the ramblings. I’ll try to be a bit more on top of it!