Jon's new job offered a stipend to help us pay for the children's schooling (awesome!). Unfortunately, it wouldn't completely cover the private international school that looked beautiful and was all taught in English. :( The stipend for homeschooling was more than generous, we thought. Our other option was a local public school taught in Russian, and we were comforted to hear that, in general, the Kazakh people were a lot nicer than the Muscovites. Still, I wanted to try homeschooling.
Then, the move came. I'm sure most of you know the pressure and stress of moving and how young children really don't fully comprehend all that and instead of giving you space to get things done, they get in your face and want your attention. I think they're just seeking for reassurance, understandably, during such a time. Unfortunately, I became quite concerned that with all the recent neediness, I couldn't be both their teacher and also do all the other things I have to take care for our home and family, especially if the extreme neediness should continue.
So, as a last minute decision, and of course with prayer, we decided to send the children to the same public-school our friends, the Willardson's, were sending their girls. Now, it would be quite unfair for me to leave out that the Willardson's had already done a TON of legwork in finding the school and getting things set up for their girls. It was a headache! They were so good and patient to guide and help us along with getting paperwork, medical checks, and such completed. Thank you, Spencer and Yulia!
The children's new school was BRAND-NEW and still not fully completed a few days before school started. We were excited to hear that the president of Kazakhstan was coming for the first-day celebration, so the workers were working extra hard and fast to get the school done.
Unfortunately, because it was such a new school, things weren't quite as organized as we would like. When we went to pick up the children's uniforms at some random, hard-to-find store across town, we found out that the school had not ordered enough uniforms and so we got what little they had left for our children, and then we had to find stuff that would "work" until we could complete Kate's and James's uniform sets. The uniform code seemed to be a lot stricter at this school than what Kate had in Moscow. We also had to buy our own books, and finding those special bookstores and books was also a headache. Thankfully, Yulia found most of our books for us! We really couldn't have done this without her!
Later, we also discovered that the cafeteria would not be complete for several weeks after school started, so we'd have to send lunches and snacks for the children. And, most shocking of all, Kate would have to start attending school on Saturdays. Another disappointing development that did not affect our family THIS year, but did affect the Willardsons, was that because the school was so full of children, they had to split up the days so some children went to school from 8am-2pm while the other ones went from 2pm-7:15pm! That's 15 minutes past our younger children's bedtime!
All of these strange developments caused me to often question my resolve about doing the whole public school thing. But, we figured we'd trudge ahead and finish what we started. The children WERE excited to go to school, and, Kate and James were lucky enough to get to each share a class with one (or two) of the Willardson girls their ages.
After scrambling to get all our preparations done, the first day of school was upon us. In this part of the world, school always starts on September 1st, no matter what day that lands on (this year, that was on Monday) and is considered a holiday. Mostly, the first day of school is geared towards the first class to welcome them and celebrate.
-My handsome, sweet James waiting at the bus stop. That scenery behind him is just a picture covering the metal wall. Beyond that, they're building in preparation for the 2017 World Fair!-
-The school, for grades 1 through 11-
As the children from first class approached, each of them were given a balloon and were asked to join their teachers and classmates. (Of course James asked for a blue balloon!) It's always hard for me to let my lambs go off with "strangers" in such a crowd, out of sight, until I can finally find them in the crowd. There are *13* first classes with 25 students each!!!
-The Willardson twins, Sophia and Lexa, noticing a couple stray balloons floating away in the sky.-
The presentation was okay, but a little disappointing for Jon and me. President Nazarbayev wasn't able to show in the end :( and since Jon and I couldn't really understand most of it, and we couldn't see much because we were shoved into a corner by a large crowd, we were a little bored. The whole thing also went a little longer because I think they were waiting for the president, so my feet were dying before the end.
-We brought snacks for William to encourage good behavior-
One tradition that I've come to love (and they did this in Moscow as well) is that the children all release their balloons together at the end to complete the celebration. Hooray for the first day of school!
-Our cute and tough first classers (I realize that "classer" may not be a word, but I'VE decided it works)-