(This post is focused on the kids and how they’re changing and growing since moving to New Zealand; it’ll probably be more of interest to family members and close friends than readers who found this blog because of the travel element.)
Our oldest, Evelyn, has grown significantly since we arrived in New Zealand at the end of June.
I don’t know her height now but she measured 5’6″ before we came here and has clearly gained a few centimeters since then. Just as important is the advent of middle school (called intermediate school, here).
She is literally the youngest student in her class, and it’s a learning experience. While the academic subjects seem right at her level, the social interactions and school culture of middle school and a foreign country have led to important and ongoing conversations at home.
For instance, she says that all of the kids use cursewords, and that it’s not really treated like a big deal by the teachers. She says that she doesn’t feel threatened or scared by the “bad” words but she’s having to adjust. Part of this, I’m sure, would happen at a U.S. middle school, but I do think some of it grows out of different educational and social priorities. Apparently disrespect to teachers is punished quite harshly, whereas inter-student spats and bad language doesn’t receive attention or censure.
School is also interesting because it’s close and safe enough for Ev to walk on her own. The students have morning tea (at 10:15) and lunch (12:30) both outside, plus an hour for recess. On Fridays Evelyn has “tech,” which is either cooking, plastics, metals, woodworking, or other hands on materials class. Tuesdays she has drama, which she loves. Gym happens a couple times a week as well, and every day she does the obstacle course on her school campus–Ev’s taking a lot of pride in her increasing strength and confidence.
At home Evelyn is incredibly helpful. While she still requires reminders to clean up after her self, she also pitches in, often without anyone asking. She’s my go-to person for helping fold a load of laundry or dry dishes, for example.
She’s also very kind to her brother and sister and she makes us all laugh with her silly antics and regular requests for pizza.
Charlotte has had a harder time than Evelyn adjusting to our new home. She keenly misses her friends (Evelyn does, as well, but she’s a bit more stoic about it…) and we’ve had some concerns about her acting out when it’s just our family.
Her teacher, Mr. H., seems like a creative and firm educator, and the kids in her class, for the most part, have welcomed Charlotte with open arms. She has a crew of little friends who seek her out for games on the playground and to sit together at lunch.
Like Evelyn, Charlotte gets to walk to school on her own. She takes great delight in that independence, though most days she returns within a minute or two of leaving the house to collect something she forgot–glasses, her lunch, her homework folder.
While Char’s school setting and social world seem quite level, she talks frequently about missing family and friends from Delaware. Sometimes she just wants to play online educational games and I’m pretty sure it’s to distract herself from sadness.
She gets animated on the playground after school, when she sees birds and other animals, and when she can climb trees.
Char is clearly going through a growth spurt–she’s hungry all the time! And her legs are getting so long. Tonight packing her lunch for tomorrow she selected an apple and explained, “I picked it because it’s tall and skinny. Just like me!” She continues to balk at eating meat–it wouldn’t surprise me if she takes a vegetarian path in the future.
The most noticeable change over the past month and a half is her hair, which she got cut this past weekend. Her hair is quite thin and gets easily (and frustratingly) tangled. We had threatened to get it cut quite short and finally followed through. I think she looks adorable with her new pixie cut!
Like his sisters, Calvin also goes to school nearby, an early childhood center affiliated with the university. He goes four days a week from 9-3; we send all of his food with him. He is the oldest child at the center due to New Zealand’s practice of starting 5 year olds in “Year 0” at primary school as soon as they turn 5, regardless of when in the school year that birthday falls. So if we were to be in Christchurch in November he would actually start (gulp) Year 0 (US kindergarten) on the Monday after he turns 5. That won’t happen because we will be moving on from this city before then, but it’s alarming to me that my baby boy is old enough to start school officially. In New Zealand, at least.
He loves his school and is thriving there. Each day starts with free play, then there is a short whole-school circle time and morning tea. No worries–they’re kids so there’s no actual tea. It’s just a snack.
Then they have outside play time unless the weather is absolutely miserable. Even on cold days Cal gets to be outside a lot–they just bundle up!
Lunch is at noon and the afternoon he spends in the kindergarten room with his teacher, Miss Susie, and about 8 others 4 year olds. His favorite part of the day (other than riding bikes on the cool outside play loop) seems to be show and tell. He builds something from Legos and takes in his creations nearly every day. (Sometimes I am able to persuade him to take in a letter, photograph, or piece of nature. But usually it’s a Lego thing.)
Over the last few weeks we had a spate of what Cal’s teachers kindly called “toileting accidents.” By which they meant he peed or pooped himself. He’s been solidly toilet trained for a year and a half, so clearly there was some regression/emotional aspect to this problem. We worked with his teachers at school and mandated regular trips to the bathroom here at home, as well as doubling up on affection and family assurances of his safety, etc. We’re one week out from the last (hopefully EVER) accident. There’s just something awful about a nearly 5 year old soiling his pants in public… and I’m not ashamed to say that, along with hugs, assurances, and bathroom reminders, we also employed chocolate at the end of every day he didn’t have an accident.
On Wednesdays Cal stays home from school and we have a day together. Things that he enjoys doing are building Legos, going to the library, playing online animal games with Charlotte, running around like a crazy person, dribbling the soccer ball, and demanding that I do things for him that he can easily do for himself.