Friday, September 30, 2011

太太花园 (Wife's garden)

Though it's Fall and we are learning all about deciduous trees and how they loose their leaves all at once, there will also be a hint of Spring in this house.  We are currently doing a science unit on plants, so we  picked up a flower-growing kit from the grocery store.  We've seen these many times and have never looked very closely, but as we were bringing this lovely package home, we noticed it is labeled as 太太花园(Wife's Garden).  Even though it's a science project, I guess it's never too early for a boy to learn that his job is to help the wife in whatever way possible.  The saying does go something like, "Everything you need to know, you learn in Kindergarten."



And they are BLUE BONNETS...After all, these boys must be educated about the great country state of Texas!

ON ANOTHER NOTE

Most of my blog posts are about the boys and how fantastic they are doing--probably to the point of annoyance for our "followers", but I'm so stinkin' proud of them!  They are growing up into such fine little boys.  Every day, I'm amazed by how much they are learning about the world around them, about loving people, about God, about...let's just say it...everything!  So here I go, bragging just a bit about each of them.  

A while back, we tried to start Preston with reading a few words, and he loved it, but his attention span was just not ready to really work on it.  This week, we picked it up again and he is learning so quickly.  He is very proud of himself and claims that his favorite letter is "rrrr, rrrr, ring," otherwise known as "R".  On the first try, he was able to read all of the /-at/ words.  Just look at how happy he is. I'm so excited that we'll have 2 little readers in no time at all!



I was blown away last week by a story that Tegan wrote (dictated to me).  We read several versions of Goldilocks, and then I had him write his own rendition changing up the characters and the ending.  For you reading pleasure, here is...


The Wolf and The Three Pigs
by Tegan Ransom
with drawings by Tegan Ransom
 
Once upon a time, there were three pigs living in a big house. There was Papa Pig, Mama Pig, and Baby Pig. They were afraid to leave their house because they thought that people or wolves might want to eat them for dinner.

One day, they got brave and decided that they would go outside to play. But before they left, they made a big meal of corn and pig slop because they knew they'd be hungry after playing. They left it on the table and went outside. When they were scared, they hid so that no one could see them, and while they were playing a wolf came.

He went inside the house and saw lots of pictures of pigs and that made him hungry, so he waited for the pigs to come home. The pigs played and played and played, and the wolf got hungrier and hungrier and hungrier. He couldn't wait anymore! He sniffed around until he found the food that the pigs left on the table. The wolf didn't like corn, so he tried the pig slop. He tried the slop in Papa Pig's bowl, but it burned his mouth. He tried the slop in Mama Pig's bowl, but it froze his mouth. Finally, he tried the slop in Baby Pig's bowl, and it was just right, so he ate it all up.
After his meal, he was so full and thought that his tummy would blow up, so he tried to go potty. He sat on Papa Pig's potty, but it was too big and he fell in. Then he tried Mama Pig's potty, but it smelled like flowers. Finally, he tried Baby Pig's potty and it was just right.

The wolf finished up and was so tired of waiting for the pigs to come back, so he decided to take a nap. Each pig had it's own bed and he tried Papa Pig's first, but it was too hard. Then he tried Mama Pig's bed, but it was too fluffy. Finally, he tried Baby Pig's bed, but he didn't know that Baby Pig's bed was special. Mama Pig and Papa Pig had made a special trap on Baby Pig's Bed. It wouldn't catch Baby Pig, but it would catch people and wolves and anything else that likes to eat pigs. So when the wolf lay down on Baby Pig's bed, the trap caught him and he yelled, “OUCH! OUCH! OUCH!” because his tail was caught.

The pigs heard the noise and ran home as fast as they could. When they came in the house, the first thing they saw was the empty bowl at Baby Pig's place. Baby Pig cried, “Oh, no! I'm very hungry.” Then Baby Pig had to go potty. When he sat down he noticed that all the toilet paper was gone and he cried some more. “Oh, no! Now I'll have to go in my pants.”

Then it was time for a nap, so all the pigs went upstairs. Baby pig went in first and screamed because he saw a wolf. “Mama, Mama! There's a wolf in my bed.” The wolf was so scared to see Papa Pig and Mama Pig that he tried to run. He forgot that his tail was trapped, so when he ran, it fell off. He ran away, and after that, he showed his tail to all the other wolves and to all the people. He told them to never, ever mess with the pigs
The pigs were never too scared to go out to play again, and they lived happily ever after!

THE END






Day 365

Thank you for joining with us on this 365 Day Journey of our life in China. Keep following us for regular blog updates!

2nd Tier versus 3rd Tier

For the past two years, I have been a teacher at Hunan University of Commerce 湖南师范大学. I enjoy the school and teaching, and am blessed to have a great job with some great students and fellow teachers.
This school is unique in that there is a North and a South campus, so I have to commute between the two. The situation is also unique in that the South Campus is a 2nd tier school, and the North is a 3rd tier school.

In China, the Universities are ranked by tier. Obviously the higher the tier, the better it is, and the more desirable it is for the students. As a teacher who has students at both campuses, I get to interact with both the 2nd and 3rd tier students. So which one is better? Are the students at the 2nd tier school really smarter or better prepared that the 3rd tier?


South Campus: 2nd tier: I have found that the students here, while prepared for school, don't really appreciate the chances they have to learn. The school is located in town, and so they are distracted by the things around them. 
While their language may be good, they don't want to use it, and they don't take things as seriously. They desire to have fun, and don't make learning a priority. Personally, I find it harder to teach on this campus; the kids don't listen or pay attention as well.
Yet in the end, they do test well and show that they have learned.

North Campus: 3rd tier:

The students here seem to begin school with a chip on their shoulder, struggling with the idea that they are less than the other campus. Therefore, they try harder and work more. They desire to use their English to talk with the first foreigner they ever learned from (me) and are more open to suggestions. Their campus is actually located out of town--a 40 minute bus ride to the things their classmates enjoy--so there is more time to do homework, and less to just waste on other activities. I prefer the buildings, classrooms themselves, and the technology that is in place. I enjoy my time at this campus, and the kids are more open to the ideas that we want to share with them!


So who wins....it depends on what you are looking for and what you judge the winner on. Both sides have their benefits and draw backs, but my personal preference is for the kids at the 3rd tier school....

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Day 359


How?

Today at the deaf school we met this family. Thats unusual, as usually its just the kids. But this family was actually dropping off a returning student. He had attended the school last year, and went home for the summer. Now that summer is over, its time for him to come back.
Renee and the Mom started talking, and we learned some amazing things. They actually live in a city 8 hours away by train. They come in once a year, to drop him off, and will return next year if they have time.
They have to pay ¥1,400.00 ( $200.00) per month for him to attend the school, and they can hardly afford that, as its the majority of their monthly income. They have no government help, so all they can do is put him in this school, and hope for the best.  Why do they make this sacrifice? Honestly, in her mind its, the boys only chance!
In China, the deaf must learn to talk. There is no other option, and in this school they boy did just that. The parents choose to live 8 hours from their child, to pay a huge fee simply because there is no other choice.

She told Renee that she was supposed to be "one of the lucky ones, because she and her husband have 2 kids."  "Yet, this life is a bitter life" she said, "because this is not how life was supposed to be." She went on and said how they want to move closer, but cant. So she has to do what she can for her child.


A Mother is not supposed to live apart from her child, and a child is not supposed to live apart from their parents.  So how does she do it? How does she say good-bye to her son, and tell him we MAY see you in a year? In her mind, its what a parent does...

So in the meantime, we told her that we will see her child every week, and watch over him for her. We asked her for an address, but she did not have one. She has no email address, or phone....so until she knocks on the gate, her son just waits for his Mom, and we do our best to freely give him the love, that has freely been given to us.....

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Day 358


Adoption-The Back Story

This post is also under the Adoption tab on our blog. From now on, I will post any updates on that page.
I know many of you had questions about what agency we are using and the process. Here is a short summary
We never imagined ourselves as a 3 child family, but things change! About a year ago, Renee and I sat down and talked about our family. After looking at many things, we decided that our family was not quite done, that we had room for ONE more child, that we really wanted the experience of raising a girl.

Because we had a great experience the first time, we contacted our old agency, Holt International
The Ethiopia program had never worked with an expat family, but they were willing to give it a try. Sadly, we quickly realized that we needed an agency that was smaller and could give us more attention, as there are unique challenges with an expat family. We did some research, and joined a Yahoo group for Americans in China with Ethiopian Children (there are probably about 40 of them, including one about 3 hours from us that we have spent time with) and discovered another agency that deals almost primarily with expats, and we started the process over.



Right now we are in the waiting process. We have requested a girl, 0-12 months. We should have picture next summer, and will probably have her home within a year or so The process in Ethiopia is stable, but has slowed some since we brought the boys home almost 2 years ago. But we are excited and honored to be in process again, and look forward to brining home our daughter, and completing our family.

Whats next? My Mom will bring us a copy of the notarized home study next month, and then we will take a trip to file the immigration paperwork (I-600A)  at the US Embassy in Beijing. We will be fingerprinted at the same time, so the process will be faster than if we were in America.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Day 357

For the last 8 days, we decided to post some favorite pictures from the past year!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Announcement--Here We Go Again

We are pleased to announce that our family will soon be growing by one.  No, it's not another animal (though that's always a possibility), but by a baby girl from Ethiopia.  We have just received word that we are officially on the "waiting list".  We expect to get a picture of our princess sometime next summer.

We are incredibly excited to add the final, yes FINAL, piece to our family.  The boys are excited beyond all measure to have a little sister.  Down below, you see their renditions of our next family picture.




We'll post more details later (including bits of our adoption roller coaster thus far) under the "Adoption" tab on this page.  But for now little princess, we're coming!

Day 355

More moving in!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Day 354

Someday this will all be part of the city

Homeschool Curriculum


If you don't care about curriculum--don't read.  This is more for my teacher friends and fellow home-schoolers.  But first, here's a cute picture of Tegan doing an exercise on Noah and obedience/following directions...



and a one of him with his food chains that supposedly made him too hungry to give a good smile. 


Over the past month or so, many people have inquired about the homeschool curriculum that I am using.  The answer is not as simple as giving the name of a company or some program, so I've decided to just lay it all out here.  

We start every morning by watching Channel One and a Tumblebook online.  Channel One (http://www.channelone.com/) is a 12 minute news cast targeting middle and high schoolers.  I know that so much of it goes over Tegan's head, but he is already recognizing the faces of several of the US presidents, and can tell you all about September 11,  and the fires in Texas.  Tumblebooks (http://www.tumblebooks.com/) are online animated books.  If you link to it from your library, it's free (and is a good babysitter when the floor needs to be mopped).

The Bones:
The Core Knowledge (CK) sequence is a list of objectives to be mastered within each grade level.  This covers Language Arts, Math, Science, History, Music and Visual Arts.    What I love about this is that it covers Pre-K all the way through to Grade 12.  It is consistent and leaves no room for holes.  If you've ever heard of the book series What Every __ Grader Needs to Know,  the books come from this sequence.   40 of the states in the US have adopted this as their supposed standards (too bad they get caught up in teaching to the test, so the standards aren't really met).  I use this to make the basic outline of what needs to be accomplished.  It's not a curriculum, but a roadmap. The sequence can be downloaded for free from  http://books.coreknowledge.org/home.php?cat=314.  *Disclaimer:  It takes a lot of work to initially "map out" the school year using this route, but it's well worth the effort*

Language Arts:
I'm using Abeka for phonics and independent reading, but other than that, I pull units from the internet based on the concepts that need to be taught.  All of the stories for read-alouds can be found in books we already have.  At the Kindergarten level, there are so many free worksheets for EVERYTHING, that I didn't feel a need to purchase an expensive set of material when I could print it (or make it myself) for free.  Also, my Kindergartener is pretty advanced and would consider the activities too babyish.  This allows me to adapt to his level.  A great resource for handwriting is http://donnayoung.org/penmanship/index.htm.  Instead of purchasing a handwriting workbook, I print out handwriting paper and make the pages myself.  I know that I can't be this cheap next year, but for now it's working great! 

Math:
I'm using Saxon math (which is GREAT, but a little slow paced).  We do about 8 lessons a week whereas Saxon plans for 12 per month.  The idea is that by the end of Grade 2, we'll be finished with the Grade 3 book.  Doing it that way, we'll be right on track with the CK standards. 

Science:
Scott Foresman follows the CK sequence very closely.  I'm supplementing some where SF doesn't meet all the objectives in the CK.   I'm also adding a little bit in on disaster preparedness in the Weather Unit and on hygiene in the Health Unit--those things aren't in CK or SF, but I think they are important.

History:
Basically, I haven't been impressed with anything out there for history.  I would end up scrapping most of any curriculum, so I just find age appropriate units online with lots of activities, coloring pages, and worksheets.  Once again, it's cheap and easy, and I can make it fit our needs, and once again, the CK sequence.

Music:
I follow the list of songs in the CK sequence and hit one a week or so.  Tegan also takes drum lessons, so that covers a lot of the material too.

Visual Arts:
We do a lot of crafty things in our regular activities and see a lot of art in our storybooks, so I just take a few extra minutes here and there to talk about texture or style and things like that.  We don't have a set "Art class".

Good Book:
We are focusing on character development.  I found a great resource at http://www.hubbardscupboard.org/character.html.  Basically we have character trait and memory verse each week along with several stories that show examples of the character trait.  We also do a craft to reinforce it all and make it fun.  This won't last the whole year, so I'll have to come up with something else later.

Chinese:
The boys both have Chinese lessons 2 times each week.

PE:
It called Tae Kwon Do and means I don't have to get out there and run!  YAY!

I know this probably takes the cake for "Most Borring Blog in the World" but there it is.  Now if anyone asks, I can just tell them to read this.

~Renee

Monday, September 19, 2011

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Day 352

My favorite from the Muslim noodle place on campus

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Day 351

Selling essentials to the Freshman

Good Bye Chi Chi's...

 Yesterday we heard that there was a Tex-Mex restaurant in town. That happens to be Renee's favorite type of food, so this afternoon off we went. We were so excited, to finally have some good Western food, but it was not to be. Within the last 5 months, it opened and closed. So that leads us to big question...."is it better that we never tried it, and not know what we lost...or have eaten there and know what we are missing?"
The sign says:
新华楼进驻坡予街。。。。敬请关注

xinhualoujinzhupoyujiejingqingguanzhu


We love the 奶奶s!


Anyone who has spent any time at all in China knows that the philosophy of raising children truly follows the old adage, "It takes a village to raise a child."  The most common sight in our complex is to see all the 奶奶 (nainais--grandmas) circled together with all the 2 and under kids in the middle.  The grandmas topic of discussion is most about the needs of the children in the complex and how they can be met better.  

SO…when I venture out with the boys on a school day, their concern turns to my children.  The most common comments I get are, "They need another layer of clothing,"  and "They need to be in school" .  Quite often, the comments are a little more confrontational as if it is the sole mission of the grandma group to make sure the foreign kids are taken care of.  "WHY AREN'T they in school?" My usual response is that I teach them at home, which elicits a whole stream of questioning such as, "How can a mother be a good teacher?"  So I go through the schpeel (sp?) about how I used to be a teacher, and we want them to be taught according to the American philosophies, etc etc.  The conversation is always concluded with me feeling defeated and them unsatisfied.  

Just recently, I was engaged in a conversation in which I could tell was headed in the same direction, so I started right into the speech.  This time, I began with, "Well, I'm a teacher," and that was enough to end the conversation.  I tried this response the next few times and that was all it took.  The grandmas were concerned about MY qualifications as a teacher.  They weren't questioning my parenting, but my ability to teach.  So to all my friends in China who homeschool, try that response.  It's saving me lots of frustration and calms the neighborhood grandmas all at the same time!

~Renee

Friday, September 16, 2011

Attitude

Confession....both Renee and I struggle with maintaining good attitudes. Our nature is not to always see the good in someone and in a situation, in fact our first instinct is to do the opposite.

The past few weeks, we have seen ourselves, and our family begin to slip back into a struggle with our attitude. So last Sunday, as a family we talked about why we needed to do better, and talked about ideas for how we can maintain a better attitude. We took it to Father, and left it with him. We all made a conscious decision that we would see the good in everything we do, and that we would see people as our Father sees them.

While it was not easy, with His help, we made a huge attitude change. We talked about what we saw, and the good things we saw and experienced. We pushed down the negative thoughts, and pushed through when they threatened to erupt. And you know what...this week was one of the best ones we have had as a family, and one of the best weeks we have had in China in a long time.

Thats our desire for this week, that we will be able to maintain our attitudes, and do better as we reach out  to our community and make a difference in this amazing country!

Alex

This is a post about our friend Alex. You may have seen a few pictures of him on our blog before, but he is a really special guy.

We met him almost immediately after we arrived in Changsha, and he has been a close friend since then. He is a student at the school where I am a teacher, and though he has never been my student, he is always there to greet me, and help me with anything I need. We have lunch together once a week, and he always chooses the most delicious food!
We have been so excited to be a part of his journey he has recently undertaken. He is so strong and confident in his beliefs, that its an honor to walk along side him. He has come with us to the deaf school several times, and he fits so well into that kind of situation. He calls me 哥哥, and we are truly brothers in many ways.......
 We got to go to his hometown, and spend time with him in his comfort zone. We got to meet his Mom, and tell her what a great job she did with her son.
In addition to everything else, he is our boys Chinese teacher. They had a different one last year, and she did great; but we know first hand how much more you can learn by having different teachers with different styles. 
Alex, thank you for all you do for our family. We are so happy that we are friends, and that we get to see you all the time. You have made an impact on us, and we are extremely grateful!


Day 349-350

Peppers for dinner

Yummy moon cakes

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Day 348

She does not really like her clothes

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Day 346

Welcome freshmen!

黄花菜

We were given the gift of some Yellow Flower Vegetables-黄花菜 and told we needed to make a soup of it. This flower is a special delicacy of the Hunan Province, so it's a special gift.
Step 1. Find out which end of the pod is the bud of the flower and which end is the root.

Step 2. Cut the root off EVERY piece

Step 3. Soak them in water--the water will come out yellow (that's normal..we think)
No picture; it was just yellow water

Step 4. Boil pods until soft



Step 5. Make your kid try it first


Step 6. Wait 5 minutes, make your child is ok



Step 7. Drain, and enjoy your 黄花菜!