Over recent weeks, Jiajjia and I have been making a concerted effort to encourage JD to be more independent; helping with cooking and cleaning, doing homework without being monitored, keeping his bedroom tidy, making his own way to after-school club, choosing his own clothes, packing his schoolbag each evening, etc. It's a slow process, but I think we're getting there!
We thought JD's 85% in the Chinese end of term exam was fairly good until we were told he ranked bottom of the class! We were really upset after all the many hours of homework and preparation we had put him through during the COVID-19 months and afterwards. However, other results came back today including 98% in Maths, putting him in the top ten in his class, and an "Outstanding Student" certificate for English!? Art, Science and Politics were all A's. Just as important was a short written report from his class teacher saying how responsible, outgoing and well-loved JD is within the school. So a better end to the academic year than we feared at first!
These signs have been popping up all over Kunming recently exhorting people to "Follow the Communist Party forever". I wonder what exactly the local people think when they see something like this - it's not wise to ask. Maybe they view it as laughable propaganda, or maybe it engenders some sense of patriotism or belonging. I don't know. But I can imagine how the British public would react if something similar happened the London's streets!
JD and I have been gradually extending our den in the Secret Forest. We started it about four years ago with a little stick house, big enough for JD and a friend to sit in. Later we added gateways to either side.
Last year, alongside the regular repairs and small improvements, we started to construct a fence around the area in front of the den's door. Then, this Summer I've begun to put up a roof to cover the fenced enclosure while JD has started to make a little garden in one corner.
The forest is only open in the Summer once the rainy season starts, because of the perceived fire risk. So we have to get cracking once we're let in!
JD starts his "end of year" exams this week. English first (should be fine) and then Maths (like the puzzle above, which he managed to do in 20 seconds but which took me 2 minutes to work out!) and finally Chinese (which will be the toughest for him). JD's teacher is very competitive and likes her class to get the best results of all the ten classes in his year group. So the homework is mounting up!
This weekend Jiajia and I booked JD in for 30 basketball lessons at a nearby club. He seems to enjoy learning the new skills and the 2-hour sessions hopefully burn off some of his excess chubbiness! He fell asleep on the sofa after yesterday's session, so it must have left him pretty exhausted!
Basketball is easily China's most common participation sport - a lot more popular than table tennis or football.
Yesterday Mr Sun, his wife and son (who JD knows from school) invited us to go climb a nearby mountain and see a partial solar eclipse.As we climbed,the sky was covered by dark rainclouds but, as the eclipse time neared, the skies suddenly cleared and we were able to see the sun being "eaten" by the moon very clearly.
We continued exploring the mountain before returning to our cars and sharing a nice restaurant meal together. The last eclipse I saw was when I was in Primary School, so this will be a very special memory.
JD was given a toy electronics kit for Children's Day the other week and together we've been working our way through the 1000+ experiments outlined in it. Unfortunately they are all in Chinese, so we just follow the circuit diagrams and try to guess what each is going to produce!
We started with lighting bulbs and then adding a fader switch. Next came a speaker which played "Happy Birthday", and the fader became a volume control. After various other increasingly complex experiments, we took a chance, skipped to the back of the instructions booklet and, to our surprise, managed to build a working radio! All great fun!
Exam results from JD's first week back at school saw scores in the bottom five of his class. So, when JD's teacher rang Jiajia for "a chat", we feared some sharp words. But when she called, she said she was just genuinely surprised, as we had completed more of the home-schooling work during lockdown than any other family and so she expected JD to return to class ahead of the other students. She suggested a few exam tips to teach JD (like not overlooking questions and checking his answers) and promised to move his deskmate (the naughtiest boy in the class) to another seat and keep an eye on JD's focus. We also worked through a few homework tantrums with JD in that first week, and have tried various punishments (banning his iPad, limiting hamster play etc), rewards (cup of tea, workpoints leading to a toy, timed competitions to complete work, etc) and scheduling changes (40 mins on, 10 minutes off, etc).
This last week has seen a big change (although we are not so naive as to believe it will last forever) with homework done more quickly and with less of a fight. He has apparently been focusing better in class and has now had a couple of exam results in the top five of his class. JD has also got 7 good behaviour stickers towards the 15 needed to become a "Young Pioneer" (i.e. a junior member of the Communist Party). Not quite sure how pleased to be about that one!
Last weekend JD and I built a Duplo maze and gave the Hamsters a variety of races. Being nocturnal critters, we found they were more likely to snuggle up under the Lego and fall asleep than race around the many corners! But by the end, Whitie was a clear winner (sorry, Goldie!). "Medal Ceremony" below...
We took a trip to the Bird and Flower market the other day to fulfill a Birthday promise to JD to buy a couple of gerbils. Unfortunately Kunming doesn't seem to know about gerbils, but we were able to get a two dwarf hamsters instead and JD is delighted with them. "Mr White" was tame from the beginning, but "Goldie" is a biter and needs more gradual human contact! I also bought a Venus Fly Trap while there which I'm hoping will help keep the flying insects to a minimum in Jiajia's balcony garden!
JD finally returned to school today after four months of holidays and home-schooling. I've quite enjoyed teaching him English and Maths most mornings, but Jiajia has found it difficult to get him to focus on his Chinese (a subject he finds difficult) and there have been quite a few stressful moments. So we're happy to see the professionals taking over again!
Some schools in China are helping students to understand social distancing by using home-made hats. Fortunately, no sign of JD having to make one, but he does have to take a handful of masks to school each day.
We spent yesterday with our friends at a park in the south of Kunming. Although there were a lot of families (being May Day holiday) it was a large enough place not to feel overly crowded and we pitched our tents, and ate our picnic, by a large lake.
JD and I have taken on a "30-day Internet Lego Challenge", with a new build each day. Yesterday we built "a town" complete with a church, a hospital and a rescue helicopter. Today's challenge was a castle. I don't think we'll be able to keep up the build-a-day pace (and it's sad to have to dismantle each new creation the next day) but it's a little "carrot" to get him to do his homework quickly. He's back to school in 3 weeks.
Things are slowly picking up here. We're still supposed to stay at home (or within our neighbourhood at least) but buses and the subway have started up again and there haven't been any new confirmed infections within Yunnan for a few days now. So, maybe some small Advances towards being able to Go out! Meanwhile, JD has been getting homework projects sent through from his school and I've been keeping him busy with Monopoly, making dens and sorting drawers, cupboards and CDs/DVDs.
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