5 weeks, Los Angeles, Soori Bali, Ubud Bali, Flora Sea, Komodo, Singapore, Tokyo.
Off to Kyoto, Hiroshima, Kanazawa, Hakone, back to Tokyo, and then off to Hong Kong.
Exhausting. Exhilarating. And everything we could have hoped for.
Biggest upside surprises: Adaptation to everything. Foods, long hours, unpredictable schedules, cultural stimulation, and the genuine seamless interaction between Professor Gugick and the children.
Biggest downside surprises: Proximity. Being in close confines 24 x 7, difficulty in finding soccer fields and the ceaseless challenges that need be navigated by our rock star leader, Stacia. We salute you daily.
Culturally, Japan is simply other worldly. More on that later from the kids, in their own voices. Be it Sumo, food, cleanliness, respect, rituals, language, simplicity, and a seeming never ending parade of oddities, Japan is crazy cool.
Thus far, it seems that the teacher and student interface is completely natural. We can walk in the door and say, “school in 4 minutes”, and they jump and go (really). They genuinely like it. A lot. Frankly the only disruption is when dad sticks his nose under the tent to see what’s happening. But the truth is, Professor Arthur commands their respect, is engaged on a level beyond that for which we hoped, and the kids adore him. Thank GOODNESS!
Another surprise as relatively easy part has been the near daily transitions from “classroom” to “activities.” Regular “school” runs daily, from 8:30-9:00, until 13:00, 14:00 or 16:00, depending upon availability of actionable “outside” experiences. And boy has each stop delivered experiences, from the mundane to the fascinating. Even just riding subways can be a a new experience.
Next stop , KYOTO, the former capital and cultural center of old Japan for centuries. Bullet train. We are all looking forward to this one.
Speaking of which, prior to any activity, we research the upcoming locale, read about and watch videos about the subject matter. Contextualizing as best we can in advance has provided perspective, made the visits relevant, has (nearly) eliminated whining. It also allows everyone to point to specifics we saw in the preview research, experience live, and share their knowledge. For example, the kids watched 12, two minute episodes of Sumo-Pedia (who knew that was thing) before attending a day of matches. They got to teach me ans Stacia about the subject.
And they surely enjoy reminding me of proper etiquette while eating, for example reminding me to slurp my soup; or bring my rice bowl to my face, and not lean over. “Dad”, they’ll whisper, “you’re IN JAPAN…being rude…SO American.”
Finally, one of the best discoveries we’ve found to keep the kids informed of current events is an App called Newsela. It allows kids a daily news read on events across the spectrum of subjects, like an adult paper, based upon their interests. Sports, science, business, etc. Each section has a quick quiz, a series of questions to show reading comprehension that Arthur can monitor. And the best part, each article scales in vocabulary and sophistication depending upon the student.
So Annika, Alexander and Nicholas can all read the same article, but calibrated to their level. And Professor Arthur can move them up the difficulty scale as needed. Pretty cool, huh? It’s a winner. Check it out.