This has been a very stressful week as JD is doing mid-term exams and the teachers have been putting a lot of pressure on the students and parents to prepare their child to pass the tests. JD has been doing 3-4 hours of review at home every evening (even over the weekend) and getting very sleepy (and grumpy) as a result. This was how we found him between homework and shower the other evening...!
I'd like to say it has all gone smoothly, but we've had our share of tears, tantrums and toy-throwing (...and that's just the wife!). The Primary School concentrate on three subjects: JD's English is great, his Maths is OK but his Chinese is weak. Many other students in his class started doing after-school Chinese language classes over a year ago in Kindergarten and, of course, JD only has one Chinese parent. So we were pleased and relieved to hear JD got 97% in his Chinese exam yesterday. He was still only mid-class, but it was a lot better than the 77% he got two weeks ago. English last week was 100%. The Maths exam is today. Fingers crossed...
We celebrated our Halloween a little late this year due to exams. We invited our American family friends over and played a variety of scary and silly games such as "Get the chocolate out of the flour" game [JD lost - see above], "Crisps on a string" [see below], Pass-the-Parcel, "Treasure Hunt", "Guess the crisp flavour" and a "Feely Box". JD dressed as a fish(?!), while I was Spiderman. Our guests were a witch and a Ninja! All good, but not clean, fun!
Jiajia, JD and I are currently taking a little break for a few days (this week is a national holiday to celebrate China's 70th year as a nation). We decided to use our annual tickets at ShiLin's "Ocean and Snow Park" but, unfortunately, after the 2-hour drive to get there we found out that our passes are not valid on holidays - that small print gets you every time! So we had to fork out for fresh one-day tickets. After bumper cars, the carousel and a terrific circus we headed into the huge sub-zero warehouse for tobogganing, skating and tyre-sliding. Then it was on to the ski run for JD's second "lesson". Last time he didn't quite manage to get all the way down the slope without falling over. But this time, after a couple of early tumbles, he was able to get all the way down a dozen times. And very proud of himself he was too! Mind you, pride comes before a fall and there were a couple of spectacular wipe-outs later as he tried to master "turning"!
JD's Primary School uniform was delivered last week - the boys get a bright pink tunic while the girls get blue!? It's either a very progressive decision or someone made a cock-up!
Jiajia was mumbling about the cost - she found the same clothes online for 50RMB but the school insisted that they have to be bought through the school shop at 400RMB -a clear rip-off.
JD rather likes the uniform though and was keen to be photographed in his "at attention" stance. The constant school "marching and dancing" seem to be having an effect on him!
JD's Primary School continues to be an education to me, if not to JD. Can this really be the top school in the city?? Today the teacher posted photos showing how "well-behaved and happy" the students are. Really?? They look scared and bored to me. JD's first three weeks seem to have been all about "control", with very little actual education. The kids get marked every day - with all the grades being sent to all the parents by phone. Most kids get "As" but JD usually gets "Bs". Why? Well, one day it was for "holding his pencil for a few seconds too long when the teacher had told pupils to put them down". Another day it was for "looking at the textbook when the teacher was talking". And another was for "raising his hand inappropriately to answer a question".
As a ex Primary School teacher myself, the "rows and columns" seating and the publicly published minor infringements seem all about the teacher keeping strict control, rather than having any education value. And woe betide any parents who fail to complete the multiple forms, the homework signing sheets or book purchases. They want control of us too!
[And if you're wondering where JD is in the picture above, we were told he was having a unscheduled trip to the toilet ...another "B"!!]
JD and I attended a foreign teachers' Mid-Autumn Festival activity the other day to make traditional mooncakes. Other teachers also brought their kids and together we had a sticky, but successful, time with the finished products look pretty professional and tasting jolly good too. My Vietnamese friend Cao [to my right, below] came with her two kids (FeiJi and YoLun) and we realised it was exactly a year since we first met (at last year's cake event).
JD's latest obsession is playing Monopoly. He has a firm grasp on the rules and tactics, but does favour the green set above all others. We've been playing almost every day of late, sometimes twice in a row. It's great for his Maths and English. He charged me £26 yesterday for landing on his property before spotting he had the whole set and immediately saying, "Oh no, £52! And on the e-bike to school this morning he suddenly asked me what "annuity matures" means! He only wins about one game in four at the moment though and has to choke back the tears when his houses get removed.
Last week was a steep learning curve both for JD and his parents! He has had multiple random and nonsensical school rules to get used to while learning dance routines for hours every day. Meanwhile Jiajia has had to trawl through well over 50 texts a day from the school ranging from what the maths homework is (received at 9.40pm - to be handed in the next day) to how the school expects pencils to be sharpened. We are trying to bite our tongues, especially in front of JD, but it seems like Chinese schools are indeed as disorganised and petty as we'd been led to believe.
JD managed to get 10/10 "thumbs up" stickers most days last week. He had a bit of a wobble on Tuesday, getting told off for "whispering in class", "not dancing energetically enough" and "allowing his elbow to lose contact with his desk while trying to volunteer an answer"!? We had to apologise to the teacher and give JD a "stern" reprimand at home!? To try and get back into the teacher's good books, we have agreed to let JD represent the school in an "English Speaking Competition". Fingers crossed!
The "Secret Forest" opened again last week now that the wet season has begun again here. JD and I apprehensively searched out our den to see if had survived the last six months. And survive it had! We've visited twice more since and added a rather pretty arch feature to the side of the main structure.
We call it the "Secret Forest" as it seems that only a handful of people know about it and we seldom meet more than 2-3 other people on a typical afternoon visit. In a noisy and crowded city like Kunming, it really is an oasis of peace, solitude and natural beauty.
Those that know any of the wider Hider family may be aware that "sticking out your tongue when concentrating" is a very strong Hider genetic trait. JD exhibits it all the time!
After a few initial bike-riding lessons back in February, we finally got the bike back out today for some more practice. Very quickly, JD was riding along without any help, tongue firmly sticking out! He seemed to enjoy it too, after the nerves of previous attempts. He'll soon be joining the older boys racing around the neighbourhood.
JD and I made the trip across the city to the Horticultural Exposition Park yesterday armed with a large picnic and a kite. On arrival we were delighted to stumble across some festive Dragon Boat Racing - I'd been told on good authority that there was no such boat racing anywhere in Kunming this year! Then we got the kite out with mixed success - blustery winds but not consistent enough to keep it aloft for very long. Exhausted, we found some shade for our picnic before searching for a couple of ice-creams.
JD is growing in confidence all the time - riding the "Danube Rapids" water ride without me, approaching a fearsome looking Clown on stilts to blag a free balloon animal, chatting with the ids of strangers, etc. Great to see. We had a lovely day but we got very sunburned!
JD [corralled by his teachers, top left] finishes Kindergarten next month. His "graduation" photo came through a few days ago. I was trying to explain to JD that he will go from being one of the oldest students in the school to being one of the youngest, but I don't think it really sank in. He'll start "ShiDa Primary School" - considered the best in Kunming - in September. Then, sometime before those six years are over, we plan to return to the UK for his Secondary education. Time is flying!
Yesterday was a small landmark in JD's life - his first milk tooth wobbled out (with a little help from some misdirection and a quick yank!). JD was very excited and proud. Many of his classmates have been losing teeth for a few months now (most are older by 6 months or more), Mind you, he did actually lose his first tooth at three years of age when eating an under-cooked corn on the cob!
JD has been involved in a few incidents of naughtiness at his school recently. Nothing serious, but he's now finding out what a punishment feels like! One small positive to come out of it was they he was quick to confess each time, without us having to pressure him or investigate. So at least he has a conscience....!
JD had his birthday party today. We had to rearrange the restaurant's balloons on arrival as they spelled "Happy Baithdry"! Ten of JD's best friends came along with their parents. Then, after lunch we headed upstairs to the cinema and watched the live-action "Dumbo" film (3D in Chinese). Everything went really smoothly and JD had a blast!
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