Tuesday, September 23, 2014

our school here in China

En route to China I got a comment from a blog reader who actually lives here in Shanghai.  

She works at one of the mighty international schools here.  I say "mighty" because I'm telling you what, there are some power-house international schools around here!  The academics are exceptional and the facilities are beautiful.  It turns out that she teaches 2nd grade there and her husband coaches the volleyball team.  We got in contact and she invited us to come watch a volleyball game at her school.

Our school isn't quite in the same league with the big international schools.  I love it but I will say that when we arrived at that school that night our kids' eyes opened wide in wonder and a little bit of envy.  Here's our little walk from parking:

We loved meeting some of the excellent staff there and some of the great students.  It was kind of like we were in the Disneyland of schooling.  Half way through the game Max looked at us and told us with a smile that we probably shouldn't bring Elle and Grace to that place (they were at girls' camp).

Loved meeting this wonderful woman who has two of the cutest little boys and has taught with her husband in Russia and Saudi Arabia for a few years before here.
The reason I bring all this up (aside from the fact that I love what a small world it is and I was so impressed with this great family and the school), is that although part of me would love for our kids to go to those awesome schools (and they would love it too), it also made me grateful for ours.  If we were here for longer we may be more worried about getting that experience for the kids, but for this short period of time we feel like our school is a perfect fit for our kids.  It feels somehow like it's giving us a more cultural feel even though the kids are in the English track.

I talked about how we chose the school route rather than the home-school route back HERE.

But I haven't talked much about the school we chose and a lot of people have asked so here's the run-down.

The elementary school is just over the bridge from the middle/high school and has a different principal, but they are all considered the same school.  

There are approx. 60-80 kids in each grade in the high school (a little contrast to 600-800 back home).  

I am really impressed with the teachers.  Dave and I went to "Back to School" night the other night.  We had to really scramble with a plan of attack because it was at the same time for all students and all grades.  

But every teacher we did manage to meet is pretty phenomenal.  Max's global citizenship teacher went to Stanford and got a graduate degree from Harvard.  Grace's English teacher explains things incredibly well.  Claire says her social studies teacher makes things so interesting.  So many of them have lived all over the world.  It was fascinating to meet them, and we are so grateful for the influence they have on our kids.

We all walk to school together in the morning.

I love to walk behind these girls:

There was one particular day where we had to walk to school in sheets of rain (I talked about that back HERE).  

Little did we know at the time how many of those we would get!

These views are pretty typical.

Tracking down school supplies was a little adventure in and of itself.  
Grace and Claire were so happy to be able to track down (after trying a few different places) the stuff they needed.

Tracking down textbooks was a little tricky too.  We worked our tails off trying to find used books because those puppies sure add up in cost I tell you!  Here is one of the bags of books we were able to buy from a neighbor after sending out a whole slew of emails to people I hoped could understand English from a list the front office gave me.
And here's Elle with a few of hers our sweet neighbor helped us track down:
Yowza, check out the size of that literature book that girl lugs around!

I spent a lot of time here (the main office) trying to figure things out the first couple weeks.  
The staff has been SO helpful.  So grateful for them.

En route to school:

Picking up these two from school...one of my favorite parts of the day.

Sometimes Claire greets me with stuff like this, but always with multiple stories of her daily adventures which usually include her classmates' reactions to her hair-dos she loves to have me do.

Lucy is doing exceptionally well. There's something so wonderful about how her teacher greets me every day with such a great smile and doesn't seem to be worried in the least about some of her more stubborn traits.  I love her.

The only thing she's struggling with is Chinese, but that's a story for another day.

For the first couple weeks we pretty much did homework from the time the kids got home from school until late at night.  Even Lu has a ton, mostly because we are trying to keep her up on all the things her teacher from the States sent with us to help keep her at grade level.  (Love that teacher too and so grateful she sent us with so many supplies.)  I say "we" on the homework deal because we are all in this together.  I love having the time to be more involved here.  I loved helping Max write a big essay a about Adam and Eve's relationship in Genesis and reading social studies with the girls, learning Elle's flashcards with her and practicing Chinese with Lucy.  I am learning so many inspiring things.  So intrigued right now by Paradise Lost that I don't think I ever really read in high school.  I have also loved watching Max be the resident homework helper (math and physics just come to him).

Now things are starting to level out a little bit and we're all starting to get into the swing of things a little bit better.  

I still can't get used to seeing this for homework:

...and hearing the kids start to say so many Chinese phrases to each other.

Wish I were catching on as fast as they are!
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