We are officially homeless. Our apartment in Cairo has been packed, and we do not have an onward assignment yet.
It is unsettling. I am reading about schools, housing, and career prospects in different countries. The more I read, the more I miss our spacious and beautiful Cairo apartment, and our open plan Montessori-like school.
I remind myself that I had similar worries about Cairo before we went. We made lovely friends, many of whom I think will be lifelong friends. We loved the school my boys went to, despite its quirks. We loved our second apartment. I got to know the veggie guy, the fish guy, the policemen on our block, and so many other people. We walked everywhere. I learned to like koshary. I even learned enough Arabic to give directions to taxi drivers and buy fruit from the ever present donkey cars.
How I miss that life. How I wish we could be settled in (somewhere, anywhere) again.
Expat friends, what advice do you have for these transitions?
So we tried a little homeschooling this week, and it was bad. Abysmal actually. My 3 year old’s attention span is not very long. (Do you spot the understatement there?) He will concentrate for a long time if it involves duplos. Other than that? Not so much. He loves reading books to himself, making up the most incredible stories, and he loves building and pretend play. The only part of arts and crafts he likes are the scissors. The only part of arts and crafts his little brother likes is coloring the sofa. Yeah, so with much cajoling, “assistance,” and maybe a few threats, we completed our first alphabet craft.
Complete and utter failure since my son tells me it is a crocodile, not an alligator. He insists.
Then, I watched this TED talk about education. And I listened to the anecdote where Ken Robinson tells about a girl who couldn’t sit still in school, and she turned out to be a dancer and choreographer. Maybe that’s his thing. School is just not for him right now. He is only 3.
Although I hope honest to goodness he is not a dancer. I have a lot of experience with dancers, not much of it good. I went to a performing arts high school. Kinda like Fame, except not really famous. Well, maybe slightly famous. Charlize Theron was my classmate. I did her math homework. Yes, she is that gorgeous, and no, she was not the most beautiful girl in our school by far. Yes, it sucked to be the slightly pudgy math nerd in a performing arts high school full of beautiful girls, but I digress.
Back to dancing. The ballet girls would say things like, “oh, she ate half an apple at lunch! Did you see that, half an apple! “ It was a cardinal sin to require some food before you danced for hours on end. The pressure, even at the high school level, was incredible. So yeah, I hope my son is not a dancer. No offense to dancers anywhere, but I hope that he can be a kid as long as he wants, without pressure.
So where does that leave us? We’ll keep trying some crafts and letters. We read a lot. We joined the 1000 Books Before Kindergarten program at the Arlington Library, and in the week we’ve tracked, we already read almost 30 books. You can read more about the program in the Washington Post.
I love books. I read for hours on end, even when I have no time to read. Reading opens doors to magical worlds, and faraway places, and new skills, and I know once my imaginative boy discovers it, the world and all its wonders will be open to him.
Some days I think my job is less to teach them than to learn from them. I’m learning how to be this amazing boy’s mom daily.
I haven’t had much of a chance to write lately. The entire family has come down with an awful awful cold, resulting in some breathing problems for my little guy. So much for “outgrowing” it once we leave Egypt! It has not been much fun.
I’m doing lots of reading and research for whatever the next phase of our life may be. Everything is up in the air. Where will we live? Egypt? Somewhere else? What will I do? Back to work? What type of work? Of course there is the usual “making do with what you brought in your bags”, and not handing my husband’s entire salary to Target. This, folks, is that glamorous expat life. Yup. I’m still looking for the glamor too. That being said, I wouldn’t change the decision to join the foreign service at all. We had a good run in Egypt, and I miss many things about it dearly.
Since I’m reading lots of good things, I thought I might as well share:
Bullet Journal: A new-to-me planning/journaling method. The website is well designed and the video is a quick watch. I’m implementing this in my trusty notebook as we speak. The many lists have to live somewhere other than a post-it note. (My planner is still in Cairo. Along with the family calendar on the fridge.)
Monster Momday: A call for sanity in the mommy wars. We are deep in it again here in Nova. Someone actually asked how I felt about giving my son asthma medication. Just fine, thanks. Of course I’d prefer that he didn’t need it, but when all’s said and done, I prefer the medication to him turning blue.
Be a World Citizen: This one is for all the friends who site their kids as the reason they no longer travel. Of course you don’t have to, but why not? 3 Thinsg for Mom is a wonderful site, and discover lovely people and ideas there all the time.
You have some more time? Go check out a Ted talk. Why am I only discovering these now? What are you reading?
My big guy (three and a half this week!) started at a new preschool today. My first impression was that it is certainly not our Cairo school, with its wooden open-ended toys, hands-on classrooms, and montessori inspired lessons. There can be 16 children with one teacher and a coop parent aide. That ratio would be unheard of in our Cairo school where Jack Jr’s classes where mostly 12 kids with 3 teachers.
But. The teacher is really nice. Jack Jr took to her immediately, and enthusiastically hugged her goodbye when I went to pick him up. He loved his day at school, and told me about the dinosaur’s shadow and a book they read all the way home. It reminded me how independent he is – he could barely bother to say good bye this morning.
Baby Hulk (who really needs a new blog name, don’t you think?) is different. He was miserable leaving his brother, and called for him all morning. If there is one thing this evacuation life brought us, it is the inseparable bond my boys are developing. They make each other laugh (and cry) all day. When Jack Jr. is in a time-out for hitting his brother or taking his toys, little Hulk will often go comfort him, rubbing his head or foot. When I separate them, Jack will call for “my baby” until I allow them to play together again. In this foreign service life, I’m comforted to know they will always have each other, even if they have to make all new friends every time we move.
Since I love school just as much as my big boy does, and the mere phrase “bouquets of freshly sharpened pencils” thrill me to my toes, we will be starting a little home schooling project this month. I like the curriculum on my new favorite mom blog, here. You can also follow my inspiration on this board.
How do you keep your ids learning at home?