A neighbor from New York City asked us several questions in preparation for her family’s year off, one of which was what do to about pre-schooling her three year old twins. I think only New York parents would worry about this (we did) since our school system forces us to get competitive at birth.
We figured once we started the trip (and deferred the kids’ pre-school admissions for a year) that the family would get an educational experience far richer than anything learnt in a school. What has that meant so far?
The most obvious lessons have been with language, English and otherwise. We’ve already been through three countries and both kids have learnt basic greetings and words in each. Their favorite foreign word so far is ‘tuk tuk’. Learning foreign words means that we go through long explanations of why people speak differently around the world to say the same thing. Kayan knows words like ‘fireworks’ and ‘lantern’ because he saw them nearly every night in Chiang Mai. Ava knows ‘approximately’ because of all the currency conversions.
We’ve been exposed to a lot more nature than at home. Yesterday we got caught in a thunderstorm. In New York, we would have hailed cab and called it a day. In Penang we walked back home, which gave us plenty of time for a discussion of thunder and lightening. Ava still calls them “thunder stones” but there are some things I don’t have the heart to teach. Kayan now thinks thunder and lightening are Penang’s version of fireworks, and Ava thinks the covered paddle boats in the ocean here are tuk tuks, so all this education is not without some confusion, but we’re working on it. When we first got to Thailand, both kids thought a buffalo was a horse. Now Ava can name several flowers – her favorite is the frangipani. She also knows why it grows in Asia and not New York.
Socially, both kids have made huge developmental strides. Since they have to create friends everywhere we go, they’ve learnt to be more outgoing. They realize that they can have a lot of fun with kids who don’t speak the same language, such as making lanterns with Japanese and Thai kids. They’re also learning to be patient, since Sandeep and I spend quite a bit of time trying to figure things out.
The kids still have their sibling issues but, since we have limited toys, they are much better about playing together. More often than not they’re engaged in some sort of creative play, whether it’s making up songs, serving invisible pizza or creating sand houses.
Perhaps what we are most proud of is that they’re developing a more adventurous palate. Kayan will eat most anything, and Ava is finally moving beyond pizza and sushi. Since we are in Penang, we can’t end our post without some talk of food. We spent the evening at a Batu Ferrangi hawker market. This one is more touristy than our neighborhood Tanjung Jungah market, but still has that great Penang vibe. Every hawker market has a satay stand, serving by the stick or ‘set’, usually 10 or 12 sticks. They’re sweet on their own, but with some peanut sauce have the perfect balance between sweet, salty and spicy.