Curious about where C is right now? Click on the above link, and it will take you to the SCAD website. That's where he is, trying to get used to everything being verrry sloooow, in gentle deep-south southern fashion, which right now is driving my NewYorkCity-loving son crazy. Culture shock, indeed.
It took me two days because of interruptions, but I got another mandala done, another of Julie Keefe's lovely Mandala Mondays designs. Do visit her site & try one out! My coloring is nothing particularly spectacular, but as always, the point was in the doing, and the doing felt good! Very gradually, life is beginning to take on some semblance of balance and routine, as new classes and extra-curricular activities kick in, and the girls get used to their schedules, teachers, new surroundings and so on. I'm spending much more time in the car, but a lot of it is by myself one way, which allows me to select my own listening material, and that makes a big difference. I'll be posting reviews of audio books in the coming months, I think!
I do have a couple of books to talk about today. One is a brilliant children's book that no one should miss - 17 Things I'm Not Allowed to Do Any More by Jenny Offill, with pictures by Nancy Carpenter. Anyone who's ever been a kid should read this book. I'm serious. It's brilliant (okay, I already said that, but I mean it!). And if Ms. Offill based the
part about the beaver report on an actual experience, that teacher should be drawn & quartered. (Well, she got partial revenge - he certainly was drawn, and not very kindly, either!)
Go find this book in your library - that's where we got it. And we renewed it. And then we kept it an extra week, after taking it down to Virginia to share with N's fairy godmother, who also needed to read it. Better yet, cut Ms. Offill and Ms. Carpenter a break & buy a copy so they'll get a bit of money from all their brilliance!
Bruce Feiler, author of Abraham (which I read with great pleasure) and Walking the Bible (which I haven't yet read, but plan to), began his writing career with a wonderful book based on his year-long experience teaching English in Japan. Learning to Bow may be the most utterly satisfying book I've read all year - and if you are one of the two or three people who've been reading my blog, you'll know that I've read some pretty darned good books so far this year, so that's high praise indeed.
Feiler's experiences in Japan were very similar to my own experiences in Taiwan, with of course the obvious difference in locale. His insights into all aspects of Japanese culture, how the culture and history impact the education system and how modern Japanese educational philosophy is affecting the course of current Japanese society, make for good reading whether you're interested in education, travel, business or just your fellow human beings.
The book came out in 1991 - hey Bruce, I think it's time for you to go back & write us an updated version that includes some of the latest phenomena, most particularly students (and others) meeting in chat rooms to arrange suicides. Where does that fit into the picture?!
One of the things Feiler mentions with concern is how little downtime students - and adults - in Japan have. In fact, from the time one begins school until the time one retires, the sole exception to this is college, which is mostly play-time for Japanese students. I thought of this just this afternoon when I picked up N after school. She had begged me to sign her up for a textile-art-for-kids class at the Baum School this fall, which entails grabbing her right as school lets out & driving half an hour to the school to get there in time for it to begin.
She was excited about it this morning when she left for the bus, but when I picked her up, she was tired & cranky. "I don't wanna go, Mom!" she pouted. "But, Honey, we paid for it and they're expecting you, so let's go see what it's like. If you don't like it, you don't have to go back," I promised.
By the time we had battled our way through the traffic, she'd polished off her snack & drink and listened to more of Brian Jacques' Redwall on tape, but was no happier about the class. As I parked, she burst out, "I had school ALL DAY!!! I don't want to sit and listen to a teacher any more, I just want to go home!"
We were there, and parked, so we went in & met the teacher. The project was cool, and the teacher was nice, but N went into meltdown mode. She sat on the floor & refused to say a word. Tears coursed silently down her cheeks, but an angry frown made her look scary rather than pathetic.
I explained to the teacher that it was just going to be too much for N, with the long day and then the long drive, and apologized. Only three children had signed up & it looked as if the class would be canceled anyway, so this would be the only day they'd be holding it. N thunder-clouded her way back down the stairs, and we drove home. Once we got home, she got out her math homework & whipped through it happily in less than 3 minutes (her idea) and then went to play with her guinea pigs.
As of today, she only has one after-school activity: acrobatics. She'll come home on the bus and have 40 minutes at home before we have to drive 5 minutes to her lesson, during which she'll jump all over the place - no sitting & listening. And I think that will be enough for this year, no matter how many other things she asks to join.