We have found ourselves attending two very different types of churches here and both have served their purposes in providing community. Arise is a massive church on the charismatic side. I had looked up churches before going, in hopes that someone would help us out with housing. I found Arise and it seemed like everyone in Wellington goes there. My friend Skylar from California connected us with her cousin who married a Kiwi. They attend Arise and so we planned to meet them there on our first Sunday. Well, we did meet them, and then we met another family who we happened to have a mutual friend in California. Small world! That connection has made all the difference. I joined a mom’s group and have made lots of mommy friends who I can guarantee on seeing twice a week.
We also wanted to attend the church right next door to our house though. The fact that it is next door seemed like it would be easy to get there 😉 and I hoped that it would be a good connection to our neighbours. The kids LOVE it! It is tiny, maybe 20 adults on a Sunday morning and anywhere from a half a dozen to a dozen kids. Being so small, the kids get to partake in so many aspect of church. Our first Sunday there, Tatum was the one carrying the candle to the altar for communion. After the service, the congregation meets in the hall for “morning tea”, a.k.a. tea, coffee, and snacks. The church has also become where the kids practice piano and take lessons from one of the members of the church. The sanctuary is open daily and so, a few days a week, after school we head over for a bit of piano practice.
Now to tackle the subject of school. Wow, there is so much to say. School has been such a great experience for Piper and Tatum (okay, mostly Piper). It is very individualised because school starts when you turn 5 years old, as in on your 5th birthday or the day after, you start going to school. So especially in those beginning years, there is a range of abilities. We just had parent conferences and Tatum’s teacher felt she was a little behind in reading from where she would be for almost turning 7 and finishing 2 years of schooling (not concerned or anything, but just an observation). I told her, “Yes, but she hasn’t completed 2 years of schooling. She is turning 7, but she didn’t start school until she was 5 1/2.” I can’t imagine what it would be like to teach year 1 students and getting newcomers in all year! Everything is differentiated, just like we are taught to do in the classroom, but it doesn’t necessarily play out that way in the schools I am familiar with (not an easy task either). For instance Piper has her own spelling list for her level and she moves up to a new list at the end of the week if she gets her words right. I don’t know how many lists there are or how the teachers even conducts a spelling tests with so many different words, but they do! I love it because it makes each child feel successful and challenged where they are.
One of my favourite things is the big/little buddy thing. I know a lot of schools do it, but here I love that the big buddy is in charge of planning an activity for their little buddy. So unlike how most schools do it. I am more familiar with the teacher saying “we’re going to being doing this Christmas bingo today with our little buddies” or something like that. At their school, the big buddy picks out a book to read to their little buddy on library day and some time during the week they have time to plan an activity around that book. They can bring supplies from home or use the supplies at school. I think it puts the responsibility on them and I like that. Piper is an amazing big buddy as she loves to be creative. Tatum’s big buddy is named Bruno, and while he might not be as creative as Piper, who doesn’t love the attention of a big kid on campus?!
The big/little buddy thing just highlights how they view kids in general I feel like. There is a lot of responsibility given to the students. At first I found it frustrating because Tatum was coming home everyday and telling me that her teacher said she need this A18 notebook or a “book bag” (which is not a backpack), and it all was so foreign to me. I felt that it was causing stress on Tatum. If we knew what a “book bag” was or what the different sizes of notebooks meant, it would’ve been fine. But we didn’t. Tatum was actually in tears just this Monday because “school makes her have to be too responsible”. It’s a hard lesson, but I know it is worth it. Piper’s teacher is a bit more experienced and flexible. She let’s Piper use a college ruled notebook, allows her to do the “column method” in math, and doesn’t try to change the way she writes in cursive (just says that it is very curly 🙂 )because she realises that Piper needs to do what will work for her when she goes back to California.
Their teachers are amazing and think highly of the girls. Though I worried a bit about how Piper would adjust after being home for 3 1/2 years she has fit right in and made friends. Tatum went to a birthday party this weekend and Piper got an invitation for a party just yesterday. Which reminds me of another thing! They wear the same clothes multiple days in a row. Tatum gave her friend Indy a Billabong shirt with the bear flag and it said “California Girl”. We were excited to see Indy wearing it to school on Monday and then she wore it again on Tuesday. Piper has tried to do the same over the past month or so, and I said no. I wear the same clothes 2 days in a row, if I don’t plan on seeing the same people, but it seems that, in my American mindset, it is like a cultural faux pas to let kids wear the same things to school. It isn’t just the students, the teachers too! Tatum’s teacher wears black and white stripes every day. She probably has 6 outfits and whether it is a dress, skirt, or shirt, it is black and white stripes. I saw her on a Monday, and then on a Wednesday and she was wearing the same clothes. Not sure about Tuesday, I wasn’t there. Piper said her teacher, Jane, does the same. I don’t know why this seems so odd to me but it does!
Another oddity is the twin thing. There are tons of them first of all. I just learned that IVF is covered once if you qualify. We live in an area with older parents, so possibly that has something to do with it also. Anyway, the twins are encouraged to live separate lives. They aren’t in the same classes, and though I thought it was a big deal that Piper invited a girl to her party not knowing she had a twin sister in the other class, it is actually common. The party that Tatum went to was for her friend Indy. Indy is a twin, and her sister, Milly, is in the other class. They each had their own invitations. It said on their that it was a joint party with Milly, but gifts for Indy only please. Just something else that I noticed.
Well, it is time for me to go. Time for me to go get the girls from school now. I have been trying to finish this post for over a week now. It’s all over the place, I know, so sorry about that. 🙂