Tuesday, November 20, 2012

We like to move it, move it.

So many have asked me “How do you manage to move so often?” that I decided I’d write it down so that I would find the answers too.

Newton taught us that all physical objects resist change and as humble beings we are no different. So the first phase in any move is always the denial phase. “Thou shalt not move”, is what I rant for the first week. Thankfully I have a husband who thinks differently than what I do and that always helps in getting a new perspective.  And he has a knack of convincing me… always!

The second phase is the pandemonium phase when there’s utter chaos in the brain. It’s hard when you have to move. It’s harder when you have to move across countries and continents and it’s still harder when you have to with your children. But the hardest part happens right here in our brains. Should we move? Should we not move? Should my husband move and we not move? Should we move, but later? Should I leave my job (again)? I hate that period of my life – my mind is working overtime and there is constant pressure that you make the right decision for yourself and for your children. It is at these times that I wish I could be a child again when mom and dad could take all the decisions for you. Thankfully my parents, in-laws and lovely friend Ketaki are always ready to hear me out and give their honest opinion.

In the end, our judgment is always based on the answer to the very simple question “Are you ready to stay away from each other for a year or more?” (Again Ketaki, thanks for asking it). Since that is never a yes, the decision is made. For a large part of my young age my dad worked in a different city and came home only on Sunday. And we all missed him a lot during the week. That desire to keep the family together is probably what keeps us moving - TOGETHER. 5 years from now if we have to move again maybe things will be different; kids would have grown older, become more independent, and schooling would be a big question. But let’s cross that bridge when we reach there.

So once the decision is made, the third phase is actually one that I love – the planning and execution phase. My rational is if you know you have to do something, the best thing to do is to do it with a smile with all your energy. Friends who know me know my fetish for lists. That’s how it always starts. Different lists – To do lists, Shopping lists, ‘things to trash’ lists, “restaurants to go to before leaving” lists. The more you move the more of an expert you become.  You know for example that it’s not worth packing up all your plastic boxes since you’ll get much better and cheaper sets in IKEA for much less. You know there’s no point keeping back any kids clothes because by the time you come back they’ll have outgrown them. You know it makes sense to carry all your ‘flat bottom’ stainless steel utensils since those are expensive in the US. You know you need to carry small pouches of chilly powder, turmeric, mustard seeds and jeera since you are not going to search for an Indian store on day one. You know how to prioritize and select what goes in each bag. You know exactly how many sets of clothing go in your cabin bag. (Deja vu – Kapil spilling orange juice thrice on his shirt on the Mumbai- NJ flight. Yes this time it would be different - the flight would be to LA. The rest is going to be the same!)

The last phase is the landing phase. Since my hubby goes first and we join later, he takes care of renting the apartment and buying the car. Craigslist – Jai ho. The Asleys and LazyBoys are not for us nomads. By the time we reach, most of the house is set. Then all that needs to be done is school admissions which when we move to the US, are done the day after we reach. See, it’s not that hard!

Plus there are some amazing benefits:

  1. You get the best of both the worlds. We never get India-sick or US-sick. By the time we start missing India we move J and vice versa.
  2. You get to travel a lot and see new places. It’s like a paid vacation every time.
  3. The kids learn much more than what they would in one location - of course it needs a lot of effort (see previous blog) but in the end they emerge far more enriched – academically as well as culturally. My kids speak fluent Marathi (with the Puneri thaska) and fluent English (with the American accent). Last time we moved my daughter picked up the accent in 1 month. This time she was ‘hash-phushing’ in 2 days.
  4. You make many new friends every year. (God has been kind; we have always been blessed with wonderful friends wherever we went.) The tough part of course is parting from them when it’s time to move on.
  5. You become more adjusting with a don’t-care attitude. You don’t care if you have to sleep on the carpet or the futon. You don’t care if your kitchen drawers don’t have PerlPets lined up but emptied Yogurt containers. You don’t care if you have just two sets of shoes – wait, no. That I care. J
  6. You become an optimist. After my first move I would not have thought of all the points above. You start to believe that there is a good in everything that happens and the belief helps make your dreams come true.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Moving from India to US for a second grader (and her mom)

Moving from India to US for a second grader (in the middle of the year) -  

We moved from India to US once in 2010 when my daughter was in KG. At that time I felt kids in India had more in studies than in India so the move was smooth. Then we moved from US to India in 2011 and my daughter did her 1st in India. Now we moved again in October this year (talk of 21st century nomads).

My view:
I am comparing 5 months of 2nd grade in India with two months of 2nd grade in the US. I am comparing 2nd grade in a good SSC school in Pune with the 2nd grade in a good public school (rating 9 on GreatSchools) in LA, California.

When I moved, I was again under the impression that what my children were learning in school in India was way ahead of what they would be studying in the US. That was what most other moms who had moved back and forth had told me too. But I was shocked to see it the other way round. My daughter went to second grade in a SSC school that’s not too aggressive in studies, so you would say that’s the reason but my sis-in-law who also moved this year with her 3rd grader feels the same. Her son went to an ICSC school in Bangalore. Other than the multiplication tables that we do in India (which I really miss here), the syllabus here seems to be ahead of that in India, if not behind. The purpose of this post is not to weigh down what we have in India, but to have a reality check, so that other moms know the truth if they need it!
  • 1.    English – In India my daughter started with punctuation, action verbs, proper nouns and common nouns. Here they have all of that plus – Root words with prefix and suffix, Subject\Predicate, Homophones and homographs (which is hard for children who have just moved as their vocabulary is not as vast) and loads of reading and comprehension.
  • 2.       Math – In India she had basic addition, subtraction and multiplication tables. Here she has addition with regrouping (carry-over), multiplication, basic fractions, very tricky word problems and they just also started with subtraction with regrouping.
  • 3.       Social Science – I haven’t seen much difference yet, so it seems to be at par with our EVS.
  • 4.    Science - She didn't have that subject in India. Not much has progressed in this subject here either, but again it's just been 2 months. 
I know my daughter will come up to speed here soon, because she;s taking a lot of effort and I am helping her out. But it's not going to be as easy as I had thought.

Some thoughts on multiplication tables -
I have seen so many US moms frown on that subject. “Why learn that by heart? Children don’t even know the meaning of it. In India they mug up everything” I had the same thoughts before a very knowledgeable teacher told me why. Thought of sharing her views - At this age, children have tremendous grasping power as well as retention power. Let them learn by heart what 13x7 is even if they don’t completely understand it means 7 groups of 13 or the other way round. Then as they grow up and start using it they slowly understand the meaning. But what they mugged by heart at a very early age they remember for life.