Sunday, April 11, 2010

1st Day of School

After months of homeschooling, we have finally surrendered our children's learning to someone else. The kids started school today at The Millenium School in Mohali. After multiple frustrating months of trying to arrange for the kids admission remotely, and despite all the warnings we got from folks, it was remarkably simple to find a great school and get them admitted on arrival. The hardest part was actually paying for the school (and our flat).

Its quite awkward doing business in cash; I felt like a gangster running around town with bags of money, sitting across from someone and repeatedly counting out bills one by one for many minutes. Most folks here have boxes full of fruit colored cash lying around for such transactions, but we were left with repeated trips to the ATM, and an onslaught of phone calls from vigilant bank officials back in the states.

The school itself is quite impressive: swanky new buildings, oodles of computers, projection systems, cute uniforms, and heavy piles of books. The school is taught in English, which wasn't our first choice, but too many folks were freaking out about the kids being kidnapped or getting lice from the "low class" Punjabi schools. Nonetheless, the kids have a class for Punjabi, Hindi, English, Math, "Computer Training" and some other subjects like Environmental Science.

On admission, Nayan took a challenging examination. Its a good thing we home schooled him in math and brought him up to Indian standards, the Seattle School system is spectacularly slow, and North Beach uses an overly repetitive curriculum called Saxon. We switched him onto the Singapore math curriculum, augmented with my own impromptu few months of computer programming (using a cute visual programming language called Scratch), where he wrote automated math exam programs. The excitement of taking exams of his own creation kept Nayan excited and motivated.

The school itself is quite impressive. A bus swings by in the mornings, picks the kids up, and hauls them off. For the young ones, there are Ayas, or nannies, on the bus. Ameen hopped on the bus for Ananya's first day to witness multiple shreaking 2 year olds (yes they start school here that young) who were quickly scooped up into the warm, loving arms of the Ayas, and eventually cooed into smiling submission. Once at school, the teachers greet the buses, slurp the kids off and pop them into class. Unlike virtually everything in India, the schools are remarkably organized and efficient.

After the kids left, my wife and I realized that this is the first day in 8 and half years that we've been alone together. To celebrate, we're heading to The Taj for breakfast.

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