I’ve been blown away by kids kiddos lately. They’ve been in school for almost a year now on this side of the globe. They are the only two white kids out of about 1400. And they are thriving. They go to school happy and they come home happy. This alone does a Mama’s heart good.
AND they are learning.
Boy are they learning. Except they don’t even know it.
Have they learned academics? Well, kinda.
Have they learned hundreds of life and cultural life lessons. A RESOUNDING YES!!
I could talk your ear off for hours about why we have chosen to put our children in a local school (even if they call it ‘international’). The classes are taught in English, and it is curriculum straight from California, even if the books are 10 years old. Also, hello Common Core!! Aren’t you odd?!
This school has required a lot of flexibility from the start. Including the super long delay getting them enrolled and then the false start date my kids got all ready for and then ended up back home half an hour later.
We have school holidays with two days warning, or days off school when no one says anything at all and we have to figure it out for ourselves.
We have lists of supplies sent home for projects that should be purchased before school the very next day (and I don’t always know where to find things here and my husband travels and hello I have four kids).
This is just the start.
We are flexing. Bending. Adjusting some more.
I’m starting to notice the flexing more recently, because we are all definitely getting much better at it.
So what I’ve learned is this… there is more than one way to do something.
I could put my kids in this school and apply all my expectations about American schools (which is what it’s ‘supposed’ to be) and I would be frustrated to no end. But it turns out, the way I think school ‘should’ happen is not the only way school actually ‘can’ happen.
My kids have led the way in this flexing thing.
Did you know you can be at school all day and not have a proper lunch time? Like… there is no collecting lunchboxes from backpacks, forming a line, following the teacher to the properly cafeteria (disinfected daily), sitting at your seat on the bench at the appropriate table, obeying the rules, waiting for the time to finish, packing up and then filing outside for recess? I used to think kids had a ‘right’ to eat lunch in this way! They are kids. They must have a proper meal time to succeed at school and stay healthy, right?
Turns out that another way is just to send kids to school with food and they’ll eat it when they are hungry. Like, maybe during math class, or maybe when they finish their Social Studies assignment early. No big deal. Or if a kid in the class forgets their lunchbox at home. Maybe no one actually needs to call the Mom to bring food… it is no emergency. Nah… the other kids will just share their food, or someone will buy them some chips from the snack shack or *gasp* they might be hungry for a few hours. Turns out there is more than one way to do that. And what I love here is that this is full of lessons… responsibility, not forgetting, sharing, empathy, and even what hunger is like. I really value these kinds of lessons, too.
Bathrooms don’t have toilet paper or soap. In the U.S. if a bathroom is out of TP or soap, I feel my ‘right’ to those items has been ignored and *huff* WHY aren’t they paying attention and re-stocking necessary items?! A girl has got to use the loo people!! But it turns out there is more than one way to deal. My kids have just learned themselves to grab tissues from their backpack before they head to the bathroom. And when H wants to wash his hands after recess, he swings by his desk first and squirts liquid soap in his hands on the way to the sink. Done. They’ve flexed.
Those last minute supply lists that are sent home the day before the project? Well, everyone is flexible. So if I can’t find something or don’t have time? Whatevs. It’s actually okay. I just don’t send it. Someone will share with him or a teacher will have extra and it doesn't really matter. Or maybe he won’t get to do the project and he’ll have to watch his friend do it instead. It’s ACTUALLY OKAY.
Here’s a great one… On birthdays kids like to take treats to their class. Same in the U.S., right? But in the U.S. I’d want it to be special diet friendly and pinteresty cute and something really nice. My kids would actually expect something like that because that’s a lot of times what the other parents would bring for their child’s birthday. And also because I enjoy that kind of thing. BUT here for H’s birthday, Mike stopped at a ‘snack shack’ (literally shacks on every corner selling drinks and hundreds of junky snacks), grabbed a dozen packages of Oreo cookies, threw them in a plastic bag, paid the equivalent of $2, threw the sack for him to take to school and DONE. Everyone was thrilled. Wow so easy!
Well I guess there is more than one way to do birthdays!
Because there are only a handful of Christian families at this school, there is an Islam class that most of the students attend. My children don’t attend this class and are occasionally sent to be with a lone Christian teacher who takes a few kids at a time to do Bible lessons with them while the others are in Islam class. Sweet N came home one day to tell us that she was sent to the library with another Christian friend to meet this Christian teacher. Here’s the thing. The teacher didn’t do any of the lesson in English! And N speaks little Arabic yet. But she politely sat through the whole lesson even though she didn’t understand a thing (First of all, wow). But anyway… N later told us “I wasn’t sure whether she was praying to God or the devil… But then she said ‘God in heaven’ in English, and so I knew she was praying to our God.” Ha! Talk about a kid being outside their comfort zone and just sticking with it and rolling with it. (Side note, I generally don’t believe that Muslims pray to the devil, FYI… but that’s certainly a different topic).
All those examples pertain to the kids’ school. Because it’s where my eyes have been opened to my children’s incredible resiliency and growth in this area. They are inspiring and I could NOT be more proud of them. But seeing them learn all the different ways that things can be done has me really reflecting on it in all areas of my life. I’ve been noticing all the ways we flex now. And all the other ways I need to learn to flex a whole lot more. And I see that for a lot of these things it just comes down to me giving up ‘the rights’ I thought I had that I actually never did. A ‘right’ to know when my child is going to have school or not, for example. I would LOVE to have a schedule so that I can make plans (I love plans!), but I’m never going to get a schedule a this school. What can I do? Nothing. Except FLEX. Roll with it. Give up the right that never a right to begin with and find joy in the differences.
We’ve all got a long way to go here. We all struggle with our attitudes, for sure. But my kids are leading the way here with their flexibility and I’m so thankful.