End of school year…yet again!

This must be the most repeated title in my blog. I am sure there are eight other times that I have talked about it. That is how long I have been blogging about Akank. So much happens during the year at school that I really look forward to blogging about the end of the school year, every year.

This year has been a difficult year for Akank. The challenges have been many.  Beginning with a new school, in a new country with new methods of teaching, new culture, new schedules, new subjects, new accents, new cliques to contend with. The first two terms were pretty traumatic and shook her confidence and self esteem. From a popular, liked, influential individual to almost being a non entity is a big change. She managed alright but only barely. She has learnt that not everybody needs to be friends, has become self reliant with school work and become more assertive with speaking her mind.

We have had our share of mother daughter tiffs, but that has helped us learn about each other better. She is independent, confident, restrained and surefooted. Her sense of humour is sharp and that helps in a big way.

At school, she has had fantastic exposure to the performing arts and global services through out the year. Apart from academics where she learnt to make her own presentations and models, she has been a part of the developmental swimming team, the choir and the junior band. She learnt to Irish dance and unicycle. She went camping, cleared a high ropes course and was part of the dragon boating team. She raised money for charity at bake sales and by playing her piano. She auditioned for roles for drama (Never won the part though), took active parts in the day of sport, the disco, the talent show. She hosted a few play dates with people she wanted to be friends. She continues to acquire skills in piano and classical music.

That in a nut shell tells you what was up the whole year in Akank’s life. Next year, she moves to a sprawling new campus (I will need a GPS to find my way around that campus!) and she is very excited with the prospect of being a buddy to the new kids who will join the school next year. Good luck, Akank!

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Posted by on June 15, 2011 in School, updates


My little bird grew wings!

I know the title is a tad dramatic, but allow me to explain. Akank went to her piano class on her own yesterday. It was her first time on a bus, on her own. She has been wanting to attempt going on her own for sometime now. Even though we knew it was completely safe for her to attempt that, It is just that we thought she was still very new here and anyway one of us was always free to accompany her, so we never really made the effort or encouraged her into going on her own.

Our helper is away for a fortnight and that meant everything she did at home and outside has been my responsibility. Though it might not seem much, between walking Maxx four times a day, feeding him twice, the usual odd chores around the house, washing, cooking et al, I barely have the energy nor the time to do much else. Maxx has never been left alone at home from the time he has come home and so yesterday I was unable to go with Akank to class. When I asked her if she wanted to go by herself, she was hesitant at first. She asked if she could skip class instead. That was the easy way out. But being mom has its perks, where you can insist that the class not be missed. She did not need much convincing. She went armed with her hand phone,her wallet with emergency expense money,her bus access card and her head held high on her shoulders. She called thrice in the span on an hour – Once when she reached her class, then as soon as she was done at class and from the bus on her return.

The only hitch was it had begun to rain by the time she got done and I knew she hadn’t carried her umbrella along. When I told her she could grab a cab and reach home, she offered to buy an umbrella from a store at the mall and walk up to the bus stop and ride the bus back home.

She came home with a big grin, a brand new umbrella and a lighter wallet. I am so proud of you, Akank!

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Posted by on May 4, 2011 in Growing up


The birds and the bees in Science

This term Akank’s grade is learning a very touchy lesson in science. The Human Reproductive System (HRS). I recall my school days when the boys and girls were separated into two groups just for this lesson. Of course, I am talking about 30 years back in Trichy, where I grew up. I think it was in a higher grade too, maybe in Grade 8 or 9 when we were much older and could digest some hard facts of life. Things have changed, I accept, from what it was 30 years back in a little town to now. Akank said her science teacher played them a video of the HRS to introduce the lesson to the class. She said the whole classroom erupted with a war cry like objection, voicing how they felt about the subject. She feels insulted to be in the same classroom with the boys when they discuss the finer details of a female body. To add insult to injury, her home assignment was to colour and name the parts of the HRS of both the male and female body.

But that is not all. Akank’s English teacher was not in class last week and so the Science teacher stepped in to keep the grade busy with an exercise in poetry. He chose a topic for them to write a poem on- Science this week! Akank said that while they wrote their poems, he whistled and waited for them to come up with their thoughts. This is what Akank wrote –

Science this week, Was worse than bleak
It was sicker than a lizards suction, we were learning reproduction!
It made our teeth grit, even the ones with wit
I went totally red, like when I was one and wet the bed,
All the girls had closed their eyes,
We wished we had been separated from the guys.

Akank also asked me to observe if she become quieter of late. When I wondered aloud why she had asked me the question she blamed it on the poor lesson.


Posted by on April 26, 2011 in Emotions, School


Summer jobs, easy money

It is common to find hand written or typed posters of services being offered by children, in the condominium that we live in here. A few days back, our neighbors daughter, who is a year older than Akank, had taped a typed poster in the elevator console that announced that she was available to baby sit children over the summer vacation.

Yesterday, I asked Akank if the girl had been successful in finding a job. Akank was doubtful because she had seen the girl spending time with friends in the park near by. I asked Akank if she intends doing something similar over summer. Since she loves books, I suggested that maybe she could read to the kids. She gave me one of her don’t – be – ridiculous- ma looks and said no one would pay her to read books to their kids but she said she probably could walk dogs for pet owners. And the conversation progressed like this-

Me – That seems like a good idea. You could charge them two dollars for a half hour walk.
Akank- Two dollars is low.
Me – Why would they want to pay you anything more when they have their maids to do it for them for free?
Akank- Ma, five dollars is easy money to make for walking dogs.
Me- ( finding an opportunity to drive home a valuable point) No money is easy, Akank.
Akank ( nonchalantly) – Yes it is. I have to just open your wallet to take out a five dollar. That is easy isn’t it?

And she burst into laughter seeing how I reacted and to tell me that she was just joking. Or, I hope she was.

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Posted by on April 10, 2011 in Conversations, Humour


The 21 day challenge.

Akank has a sharp temper and a short fuse. She realizes too that she needs to do something about it. As long as things go her way, she will be the sweetest kid on this side of town. But things don’t always go her way and we have situations that make her angry and furious.

For one it is her hair. A year back she was fine with braiding, oiling, brushing it twice and letting me handle it for her. Now, she wants to brush it on her own, wear it her way, don’t even mention oiling. She still wants to grow her hair long but she won’t braid it and has these side flicks that she calls ‘bangs’ that has to fall in a particular way over her forehead, not higher, not lower but somewhere in the middle. So you will often see her adjusting her bangs. I worry that she gives a lot of attention to her hair and when I tell her about it we have a situation.

Then it is the music. No, it is not the choice of music. I have in fact caught up on all the new stars in her generation starting from Bieber to Kesha to Fifie Dobson. It’s the volume with which we have a problem. She is smart enough to close the door to her room when she is listening to music on her iPod dock. However, she gets into trouble with us every time when she is out with us. She almost always never leaves for a dinner, shopping or anywhere we go without her gadget. If we point out to her that she plays her music louder than required, she will show you the volume dial to prove it to us how it is still at 50% and there you have a situation.

Sometimes it is Maxx. Maxx’s exuberance knows no bounds. As long as she is in the mood, Akank will play along. Maxx on the other hand, is always in the mood to play. When Akank is sulking (which would be because we talked to her about her schedules, music or hair), she expects Maxx to understand that it is not the right time to pounce or play tag with her. He continues to do that and there you have a situation.

We have situations during home work. If I observe that her handwriting needs improvement she says ‘ everybody writes like this’. If I observe that her class work looks incomplete, she says ‘ No one was able to complete it’. Her lunch comes back unfinished because ‘ there was no time to eat’. Her home assignments can be done later because ‘ it is not due till next week’. She won’t revise her lessons because ‘ I have already done it in class’. When she is made to do stuff against her will, we have multiple situations.

When Akank is angry, she does not talk back nor slam doors. She sulks and goes to bed in that mood. This week Akank has taken on a 21 day challenge. Robin Sharma says Follow a new habit religiously for 21 days to make it a permanent habit. It works with me and I am hopeful that it will with Akank. Akank has just completed her 5th night of going to bed a happy person, without sulking, without anger. It hasn’t stopped her from sulking or being angry but we make sure we resolve the situation before she retires for the night.

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Posted by on March 10, 2011 in Emotions, Trouble


Learning by doing

I love the learning methodologies that Akank is being exposed to in the new school system.  In Humanities, they took the lesson on development a few steps ahead. Akank was asked to read a book by an author who wrote on the subject and she chose Minfong Ho’s “Rice without Rain“. I can tell you with conviction that Akank would never have ventured into reading books like those if it had not been for the school. The best part of the deal was that she loved the book and reviewed it on Shelfari.  At school, Akank is learning to write book reviews in the format followed world wide.  The Grade 6 students were invited by the tutor to open accounts at Shelfari to review books that they have read and share it with the others. The Humanities lesson on development began with the hunger banquet, the role playing of families from different parts of West Africa and it progressed to building shanties with recycled material. Akank took rags, shoe boxes, milk cartons and everything she could find her hands on that qualified as scrap to contribute to building material for the shanty that her group had to build. Last week, they were taught to make envelopes from newspapers using home made glue, that they could trade off to the teachers to break away from the poverty cycle. It is as real as it gets. I think this methodology of learning the concept of what it means to have less makes a huge impact on learning and retaining what is learnt.

I wish more schools in India could teach subjects like Social studies with more creative approaches that will change the way our children comprehend social studies instead of regarding it as just another subject one has to learn till Grade 10.

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Posted by on March 9, 2011 in School, updates


Roleplaying to the hilt

Akank’s class is discussing Poverty in West Africa in humanities this term. They have been divided into teams and each team represents a country from the African continent. Akank and her team represent a family from the Ivory coast (Côte d’Ivoire). Each day the teams are presented with a stack of cards that have situations described for crops, family, disease etc. Each team gets to choose one card from each stack that dictates the situation in their representative country. The kids are then asked to reflect on the situation and write down their thoughts into their Humanities work books. Akank is the geriatric head of family with a drug addicted son in law, a grandson with worms in his stomach ( as though that is ghastly), an unmarried depressed young man who is her son in law’s brother and as of yesterday a refugee from Ghana where the crops failed. Each day she gets a new situation to reflect and write. On day one her situation card read a very grave message ” You hate your son in law because he is an addict. Your daughter died at childbirth, the grandson has worms, the crops are failing”. Yesterday the situation changed to ” your country is disease free, you have a refugee from Ghana, he is young and energetic, your relationship with son in law has improved”.

I am waiting for her to get back from school to tell me what the new twist in her life in West Africa is!  What a way to learn social studies!

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Posted by on February 10, 2011 in Humour, School