expat kid

Realizing I just understood an entire conversation in a new language without having to think about it:

Originally posted by giveme-yourattention

Apple Pie School

Over the past month, we’ve been thinking about what our homeschool goals are for Asher. Because in most traditional subjects he’s working at a much higher grade level, we’re not really concerned about him falling behind in his core subjects. 

Sure…we cover a lot of ground in math, reading, writing, art, social science, and science, but learning academic material comes easily to him. He has a partial photographic memory and seems to be able to absorb and assimilate information with relative ease.

But what’s not so easy for Asher? Executive functioning. Emotional regulation. Life skills.

And these are the things we know are critical for him to master in order for him to have every possible opportunity available to him as he gets older.

So, we’re doing a little paradigm shift over here. 

Rather than focusing on content and learning of information, I’m going to use every opportunity, in homeschool and otherwise, to help Asher gain skills in the areas he struggles with. Things like flexibility and adaptability, self-reflection, self-care, time management, problem-solving, perspective taking, and independence. 

We’re on week two of this new focus, and on the outside, it probably looks the same. I still make my list of activities for the day, we still start the day with a meeting to plan our schedule, we still set aside time for various projects, he still gets his mid-day Minecraft break.

But it’s what I do within these activities that’s different. I look for opportunities to practice the skills we want him to learn. So while he might think he’s just working on an art project, he’s really learning how to organize his thoughts and develop his problem-solving skills.

One of the things I’ve added to our schedule is that once a week Asher will be responsible for either making a meal or baking something. Yesterday, he decided we would make our (famous) apple pie, which he would wholly subsist on if given the chance.

That one activity – baking an apple pie – brought with it a ton of learning opportunities. He had to:

  • find the recipe in The Joy of Cooking (learning how to use a detailed index)
  • write down the ingredients for both the pie and the crust (our crust is to die for)
  • see which ingredients we already had and then pare down our shopping list (life skills)
  • make estimates on how much each item would cost (estimation)
  • walk to the store (exercise and showing flexibility, as he generally hates to go shopping with me)
  • find the items we needed and comparison shop (life skills)
  • compare our estimated costs with the true cost (math skills)
  • figure out how to get home (when we left the store, I told Asher I needed him to lead us the several blocks home, which forced him to notice the outside world, observe, and practice safety crossing streets and bike paths)
  • help me develop a plan for making the crust and filling (planning, organizing, time management)
  • making the pie itself (life skills, measurement conversions from the imperial system to metric)
  • cleaning up our mess / loading the dishwasher (life skills) 

All that learning, and the best part? He was the happiest kid on the block. He felt great about himself, he was happy to surprise his dad with a pie for dessert, and he knew he’d just locked in several days of round-the-clock pie eating (he’s a pie-for-breakfast kind of kid).

Who knew that baking apple pie could involve so much learning? I think I’m starting to catch on to this whole homeschooling thing…

the same ppl complaining about immigrants not speaking their countries language are the ones that as expats will put their kids through international schools and look down on them speaking the local languages

Cutting Losses

Sometimes you’ve gotta know when to cut your losses.

This week has continued to be a little dodgy with homeschool. Again – might be the “fall regression,” might be the fact that Derin is working too much and isn’t as available to Asher as he would like, might be the fact that the “newness” of homeschooling has worn off, might be the change in the weather / less sunlight. Who knows? But it’s making schooling rather challenging.

Some days it’s worth it to push through. To stay calm, to ooze of patience and nonchalance, to be steady and true to the goals of the day. 

And some days, like today, you reach a point where you’ve got to just abort mission and throw all the “have to’s” and “shoulds” out the window. 

The morning was a wash. Well, I take that back. After starting school a half-hour late, we did manage to do our movement exercises. But then during our morning meeting where we talked about the disaster that was bedtime last night and the accompanying consequence (no TV time today), things fell apart.

I get it. He was upset. I’d be upset too if I’d lost my TV privileges on the day I was supposed to catch up on Project Runway All-Stars with my mom. 

So I left the room and let him know we could resume school when he was ready to be respectful. 

A few fantastic origamis later (including a stellar swordfish), he finally came upstairs to talk. But our conversation quickly turned to him yelling, so I asked him to take a little more time by himself.

He did.

And then I joined him and said we could just skip the conversation for now and start school. By this time it was noon and we had to leave for therapy by 2. So I made him lunch and we did what we could – some writing, a little math, and some reading. 

There were more things I wanted us to work on today, so I told him we’d have to finish school when we got back from therapy. Well, that news didn’t go over so well. 

And then we went to therapy, which judging from the shell-shocked expression on his therapist’s face when I retrieved him after an hour, didn’t go over so well either.

On the walk from the therapist’s office to the bus stop in Amstelveen, we got caught in what is turning out to be one of the storms of the year – wind gusts up to 130 kph, hail, ice rain, thunder, lightning, the works. 

It was then that I decided we were done with school for the day. The only way to turn things around at this point was hot chocolate and pajamas. My “plan” for the day was mute. 

As we braced ourselves against the freezing wind and waited for the 170 bus to come along, I interrupted his complaining with these two words: Hot chocolate

He perked up. 

Then the bus came, we grabbed two seats next to a heater, I whipped out his Kindle, and we headed north.

Twenty minutes later, we were running through the fierce storm from the bus stop to our apartment, and the anger had shifted to laughter – somehow we became united in the cause to make it home despite the ridiculousness of the weather.

We got home, soaked. He changed into fleece PJs. I heated up milk for hot chocolate. 

And now, two hours later, he is happy, calm. Enthusiastically showing me his creations on Minecraft, thanking me for complimenting him on his structure.

We can catch up on the rest of our school work tomorrow. Or not. I know being rigid about what we must do doesn’t really result in an Asher who is open to learning. 

So today, instead of finishing the map we’re making in geography, he got to practice self-care, flexibility, and being in the moment. And for Asher, those themes are as important as any academic subject.

Coming Home

Because Asher was so devastated when we moved to Amsterdam and for months and months was desperate to go back to Seattle, we were unsure how he would respond when we returned to the States for Christmas this year. 

It’s been nearly a year-and-a-half since we moved, and we knew that Asher’s anger had dissipated. In fact, in recent months he’d come to an uneasy acceptance of our life here, telling me one afternoon while riding on the back of my bike, “I like it in Amsterdam. Like, I’d be okay if we have to stay here longer than we originally planned." 

We were visiting friends and family on the East Coast, so I knew he wouldn’t really be faced with the "home” he spent his first nine years living in. Still, I wondered what visits to Friendly’s and driving everywhere and unfettered access to Campbell’s Chicken Noodle Soup would do to his mood. 

My husband and I were prepared for the usual questions he’d throw at us whenever he was reminded of home. Questions like, When are we moving back? and Can you please promise me that we’ll move back to Seattle when we are done in Amsterdam? We expected at least a few disses on Holland, perhaps complaining about the guttural language or the lack of his favorite food brands.

But instead we got contentedness. Regulation. And acceptance.

Asher enjoyed his time with his grandparents and Aunt Shelly. He savored every sticky bun and soft pretzel and bowl of chicken noodle soup he devoured. He happily went outlet shopping with me so we could get him some new shoes, chilled with my parents while Derin and I spent a few days in NYC, embraced the science center and swimming pool and playgrounds he visited.

And remarkably, there wasn’t one word of annoyance or sadness over not living in the US anymore. In fact, the most upset he got was the day we were leaving—he had in his mind we were flying in the morning and instead he had to wait until the end of the day.

Most incredibly, when we looked at the sunrise out the window of US Airways flight #798 and the lovely, flat green fields of Holland came into view, Asher commented on how beautiful it was, and how happy he was to be back home.

I love that Asher has opened himself up enough to be in the present moment, to enjoy what’s happening when it’s happening. And I’m grateful he’s let go of his anger and allowed himself to fully step into his life in Amsterdam without conditions or constant questions about when and if and how we move back to the US. 

It seems as though Asher’s uneasy acceptance has become a little easier.