After an unplanned blogging hiatus, now seems like a good time to return.
The new semester has been a good one. For my Taiwanese religions class I have a group of students that I really like. Most come from Christian families, but there’s also a couple that grew up in non-Christian families, which means they know local religious traditions really well. It’s interesting to me, because they often seem to enjoy the class the most, as if they both can revisit what it was like to be a child and also have a depth about what their faith means now. Recently an older student asked me “what generation Christian are you?” and it was a reminder of how different the world is from which I come. (Short answer: I told him that my ancestors are a mix of not very good Christians, with some OK Christians, and also some great Christians, but it’s kind of a mix.)
I’m also co-teaching a course on youth ministry with a returned student Yu-Hui CHANG. It has been a really fun class. It’s not something in which I have a lot of training, but I’d done PTS’s youth ministry certificate and worked as a part-time youth director for a number of years, and I really get a kick out of both the material and student engagement. I think it’s the first time our seminary has offered this class (although they do have some background in campus ministry and run recruitment camps for young adults). Yu-Hui’s background is in education, so I also learn from her. A challenge for me has always been how to do good student discussion. “All class” discussions never worked great, but this semester we often split students into smaller groups to talk and then come back to discuss “in the round.” It’s made me happy to see books translated into Chinese by teachers or classmates, including Kenda Dean, Jason Santos, and DeVries. Andy Root has just come through Taipei (he’s actually in Taiwan now) and his most recent book has been translated. This is an area I hope I can encourage with modest effort until we produce others locally who can encourage it at our seminary.
The kids’ schooling is always a bit of a dilemma. In general, it’s been a very good semester. Sam likes his English teacher a lot. He’s also gotten along really well his current Chinese teacher (she gave him an award recently for “obedience”). Unfortunately she’s had eye troubles and is leaving mid-semester. This has happened with this class before, so I feel sorry for the teacher and wonder if there’s more to the story. Sam’s interested in moving to one of the international schools, probably Morrison Academy. I think the area he needs the most help is likely with math, and doing this might help him. We’d hoped he could stay at Lih-Jen through grade 6, but now may be a good time to move him. Still, it’s a lot of paperwork.
The twins are also doing well at their school. They are in the afternoon program, which gives them extra homework help. One of the continuous tradeoffs we’ve had has been Chinese/English. They have really incredible Chinese right now, but it’s still a struggle to keep them up with peers, and we will need to do some extra work on English reading and writing, perhaps over new year. I think the parents that do bilingualism the best are the ones where they each speak a different native language. For Chinese, it really helps to have parents that have the characters cold and can explain/teach (we can do some of this, but we’re not great).
Sam’s doing the National Write a Novel in a Month program. I think it will really be good for him. I feel like he sort of naturally corrects for curriculum gaps. He’s been really big into Percy Jackson, so he’s pretty much memorized large chunks of Roman, Greek, and Viking mythology, and for his own books he wanted to use the Egyptian pantheon.
Emily’s been able to be more involved at the twins’ school. She’s a story-telling mother 故事媽媽 gushi mama and helps in the library. An oddity of schooling here is that public schools and international schools request/demand parental involvement but at the schools like Sam’s they are almost hostile to it.
The kids continue to do scouting, some music, some swimming, and church. I think it’s already a pretty full schedule. Sometimes I wish they could do more outside activities, but this is a pretty full schedule.
This year I’m headed to the American Academy of Religion again. I’m in two groups that meet, Society for Buddhist-Christian Studies and the Chinese Christianities group. There are a lot of other conversations I enjoy when I can get to them (a seminar on immigration, the Chinese religions group, world Christianity, Reformed history and theology). I’ll get to see Yakhwee and a former student here also and am just really excited about it. I’ll also visit one of our supporting congregations in Boston and I’ve tacked on several days pre-arrival to see my aunt and uncle in Williamstown, MA and hopefully to visit the Williams College library (they have at least some materials I could use).