Expat Parents in Thailand May/June 2014

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In this issue…

Editor Kristen Paes kristen@elbkk.com Features Editor Becky Horrace becky@elbkk.com Assistant Features Editor Yasmin-Tamana Tanwani yasmin@elbkk.com Digital Media Editor Latoya Brown latoya@elbkk.com Photography KT Watson katwaa@gmail.com, http://photogr.aphi.ca/ Cover shot by: Yort Parkorn Maiaing Art Dew Piyaman dew@elbkk.com 089 144 7837 Editorial Contributors Peter McMurray Heather Preen Ami Parkes Neil Richards Michael Behrens Bea Toews Ben Prianes Christian Olofsson Courtney Bentley

Eric Mason Jacqueline Bowen Ali Khakpoor Danielle Cevallos Ruth Richert Kittima (Tinny) Sethi Wakanyi Hoffman Dominique Perry

Proof reader Michael Whitaker Accounts Noreya Eska (Nid) accounts@elbkk.com Advertising Sales Peerarat Voracharusrungsri (P) peerarat@elbkk.com 086 535 1544

8 Growing Up Online: Should we Spy on our Children? 12 Why Expat Children Do Not Fit In A Box 16 Ice hockey in Bangkok 18 Pass the Carrots: Eating healthy for teenagers 22 Drama therapy and physical theatre in Thailand 24 Building blocks for literacy 28 A mother on a mission – dyslexia in Thailand 30 Parenting organisations in Bangkok 32 The Ancient City: the largest outdoor museum in the world 36 Storytelling for young children 42 Getting your child ready for “Big” school 44 Considering homeschooling in Bangkok 46 Travelling with a toddler emergency kit 47 Memories of an expat child: Bangkok during the 70s and 80s 50 The case for boarding 52 Five top tips for finding a university for your child 54 How can anyone be Krabi? 56 Teens and drugs in Thailand 58 Three cultures, one family. Our adoption story 62 Surviving homework hour 64 Life with a newborn 66 Why International Baccalaureate (IB)?

Elle Chaikaew elle@elbkk.com 085 237 6444 Administrator Kantira Chayawong (Porche) admin@elbkk.com 084 656 0593 General Manager Sasi Kantapak sasi@elbkk.com 091 426 5624 Publisher and Managing Editor Nick Argles nick@elbkk.com 089 721 3384 Office Address: 20/70 Prommitr, Klongton Nua, Wattana, Bangkok 10110 tel. 02 258 8352, 02 259 3661, 02 259 7007 Fax : 02 259 7008

A huge thank you to our Expat Kids cover stars! Cole Schachnovsky, Miranda Onofre, Linka Park, Julian Rizvi, Ayden Rizvi, Kalyee Mai, Marcus Onofre, Akeakamai Lawrence, Pontus Olofsson, Wynn Park, Sebastian Olofsson Subscribe now Subscribe today to Expat Kids in Bangkok and have your issues delivered direct to your door! Simply send a bank transfer to Pareto Communications Co. Ltd. Bank of Ayudhya account number 001-9-46370-4 saving account and send a confirmation email to subscribe@elbkk.com confirming your payment and giving us your address, email address and telephone number in case of problems. One issue 300B or 6 issues 1,200B.

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A Centre of Excellence

The same is true of a child’s education.

From the editors... As an expat parent with an two and a half year old son I know how hard it can be to find information and resources which are both fun, affordable and from a legitimate provider. Bangkok is crammed full of different organisations all trying to promote their products and convince us as parents to part with our money. It can be a dizzying experience especially if you are new to the city or country.

Welcome to the first issue of Expat Kids in Bangkok! As a parent of two young boys in Bangkok I am excited to be introducing this new magazine to you and sincerely hope that you will find the pages to be filled with information that is interesting, stimulating and of use to you as an expat parent in Thailand. It is my hope that this print, online and social media magazine will provide entertainment, value and depth as well as a forum for expat parents to turn to when they have questions where the answers are not available or immediately apparent. I am proud to introduce a team of new editorial contributors to you. Interesting and talented parents and a range of qualified professionals in their field. You will read parental experiences from across the globe - teachers, headmasters, principals and educational specialists. We will include useful travel tips, family friendly activities, hotels, tourist attractions and locations. Fitness advice, nutritional guidance and a wide range of contributions from authorities in their respective fields. So please, sit back, enjoy the journey and let us know what you think when you have read it.

My name is Becky Horace and I am proud to be the features editor of Expat Kids. I have been living here for over a year and have felt the overwhelming effects of the constant barrage of information, when it comes to finding activities, doctors, dentists, information on schools and facilities for my child. I have had to fight through all of this information to make the right selections for my family. I decided that I wanted to help other parents who might be in a similar situation and pursue an avenue which would allow me to share my experiences with others. I became a blogger and this is where I shared whatever I found until Expat Ladies came along and offered me the position of features editor for Expat Kids. In the first issue of the magazine you will find articles ranging from an ice hockey league in Bangkok to providing healthy snacks for your teens and why it is so important for their wellbeing. You will also find articles ranging from travel advice to guidance from a child psychologist on how to spot if your child is struggling at school and what you can do as a parent to mitigate or solve that problem. As you will see from the table of contents our articles run the gamut of information for you as an expat parent with children ranging from birth to university age. I do hope that you enjoy the first issue and I encourage you all to get involved and write to us to share your experiences and tell us what you want from us in the future. It is your magazine and provides all parents in Thailand with a platform to voice their concerns, problems and experiences.

Signing off as a fellow expat parent. Happy reading and successful parenting. Kristen Paes Editor kristen@elbkk.com 6

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Becky Horace Feature editor becky@elbkk.com


Growing up online: Should we spy on our children?

by Brian Taylor

New technology certainly has its perks, but it can also bring additional worries for the modern parent. How can you protect your loved ones from cyber bullies? Should you enforce strict limits on screen time? Will your children’s digital breadcrumbs haunt them later in life? These and other parenting dilemmas are part of larger questions: Is it ethically or morally correct to spy on your kids? When is there a good enough reason to do so? What’s a good excuse - their online safety? Their physical security and privacy? Or is it never okay to spy on your kids and invade their privacy? For some time now the ‘spying’ debate has been raging online in numerous parenting and educational forums. In my role as Assistant Principal for Technology Integration at Bangkok Patana School, I come across these issues on a daily basis. In this article I hope to present both sides of the argument and at the same time reconcile my own thoughts on the matter, in preparation for the time when my own children become digital citizens. Last year during a presentation about online safety to a group of parents I realised that, as the father of three boys below three, my turn would soon arrive. When I


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was growing up there seemed to be much more of a ‘walk or ride to school by yourself’ philosophical way of life. These days we label it ‘free range parenting’. A proponent of the model is Danah Boyd, Principal Researcher at Microsoft and author of It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens. She talks about the culture of fear that motivates parents when it comes to looking after our kids. “We’re afraid of all of the ways in which our children might be harmed,” she says. “And we’re afraid of all of the things that children might do to disrupt the status quo.” Do a simple search for articles similar to this and you’ll come across Katie Roiphe blogging about letting her nine year old daughter surf the internet by herself. It all comes down to giving children opportunities to make choices, assess the risks and make strategic decisions based upon the evidence presented to them. In other words, preparation for independence. As always, there is the opposite end of the spectrum. According to the Journal of Adolescent Health, 26% of online sex offenders make use of social networks to get information about where children live or their whereabouts

during the day. If that isn’t scary enough, consider the fact that according to the National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children, one in seven kids receive some kind of sexual solicitation online at some point, and over half of those solicited are asked to send a picture of themselves. These statistics prove there’s a very real danger to anyone under the age of seventeen on the Internet. In an interview in 2012, supervisor of the FBI Cyber Crimes Division, Russ Brown said: “So, is it a child or is it an equal adult with the same developed emotional capabilities as an adult? If you’re empowering your child at the age of twelve to be on an equal level as you are, then you aren’t

really a parent anymore. Technically, they aren’t really mature enough to handle that stuff.” The children that get into these situations are not stupid or immature, nor do they lack the understanding that there is a very real danger online that needs to be avoided. What children lack is the years of experience that adults have in dealing with people who may not be completely honest. The dangers have most certainly grown since the growth of social networks and online gaming, some argue that preventing access is the single most important thing a parent can do with their child. Read the statements in the table to try and figure out which side of the digital divide you stand.



• It is up to the responsible parent to install strong and effective filters and surveillance software, in order to track what sorts of IM software the children are using, who they are talking to, what social networks they use and who they are communicating with. The idea isn’t to spy or intrude into the private lives of the child - it’s to monitor for the tell-tale signs and red-flags that only adults with years of hard-earned life experience will recognise. To do anything less would be irresponsible, and even dangerous.

• Children are smarter than we give them credit for, and educating them rather than spying on them shows that you respect them; a relationship of mutual trust between you and your child is the only real thing that you can do to protect them online.

• Kids need to learn right up front that what they do on the web isn’t private. There is no such thing as privacy, just degrees of public. The Internet is the largest public forum in the world. ALL children push their boundaries; online more so than offline. • Teenagers can (and will) buy cheap phones, tablets, or laptops without their parents’ knowledge, and free public WiFi is then widely available. Younger children will use the computers or phones of their friends, or they will get around their parents’ Internet filters or the weaker filters at their school. • The reality is that Internet filter software and parental control software is made so that parents don’t have to be computer experts to use them. Secondly, and more importantly, those filters can be customised to be very lenient, even in many cases allowing all traffic through, but flagging parents when certain activity takes place, like inappropriate words during IM chats, new and unknown incoming email addresses, or IM contact activity.

• Is there a reason a parent feels they should monitor their child closely? Only that parent knows or can make that decision, based on the character of that child. • Instead of instating harsh rules and regulations that you (falsely) believe can’t be broken or circumvented, try building a genuine relationship with your children; educate them about the dangers that lurk online and make them feel comfortable talking to you about it. • For teenagers though, you need to trust them and get them to trust you as an advisor. Filtering and spying sends all the wrong messages to them, and in the end doesn’t teach them to be sensible, rather it teaches them to circumvent the spying. • Most parents today probably don’t know the first thing about Internet filters or surveillance software.

Expat KIDs in bangkok



So what should a responsible parent do? The truth is, no matter how intently you watch their online activities, your children will find ways around it. Unless you want to imprison your child in a room with absolutely no connection to the outside world, they’re going to communicate with other people without your knowledge. Let’s say you find a way to track all the websites your children visit on the home WiFi, you track their text messages and phone calls, and you don’t let them have Facebook or any kind of social networking access. Great. But what about when they’re at school? Or at a friend’s house? They can act irresponsibly or naively when you’re not around. They can use their friends’ phones or computers or public WiFi hotspots or proxies to get around your parental controls. You’ll never be able to fully control everything your child does. One anonymous student recently posted on a leading UK school’s website: I figured out that using a proxy server at school allowed me to access everything, and going into safe mode on a Windows computer disabled the monitoring software. Nowadays I am even sneakier and make a bit of money. I have a mobile hotspot with unlimited 4G data that I pay around £20 /month for, and everyone pays me to connect to it on the bus or when they need to do something questionable at school. On reflection perhaps we should avoid using the word ‘spy’ altogether. If the title of this article was “Should we monitor our children’s use of social media sites?” I’m sure we would immediately think of a parent’s natural instinct, concern and responsibility to teach and protect their children from danger. Spying elicits an entirely different emotional response. My grandfather used to say that when there are two extremes then the truth is usually somewhere in the middle. Let me try to find some common ‘amber’ ground with the following statements that will hopefully help you to make the best decisions you can with your own children. Good luck.


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Tips for keeping them safe • Err on the side of caution; it is likely the smarter choice. You are the best judge of subtle changes in behaviour of your children; they are likely to turn to you for support/ advice when young, their friends when teenagers. • All children are different, even amongst your own; what works for one might not work for another. • As for spying…well, perhaps monitoring is a better word. Doing any of this completely covertly really undermines any trust between you and your child. Discuss openly the reasons behind monitoring. • What works for an 11 year old does not necessarily apply to and 13 year old. The debate should classify monitoring/filtering for under 12s and for teens. Parental controls need to be set-up appropriate to the age of the child. Regularly update and audit the parental control settings; as they get older the controls need to be adjusted relative to their level of maturity. • Cultivating a relationship of honesty and communication is definitely key, but a very tricky thing to actually accomplish. Yet, never stop trying and learning different ways to foster dialogue with your children. • Take an interest in what your children are doing online, discuss it with them – if your default setting is to block things they want to do because you are scared of them or don’t understand them, then their default setting will be ‘mute on’. • Do not have internet enabled devices (or even a TV) in the bedroom; it is for sleeping. The family laptop or PC in a shared space is perfect for younger ones. Have access to their login details for social networks, but don’t use them unless you are given a valid reason. • Know where you stand; the law imposes upon you very specific obligations concerning how you to provide for the welfare of your children. Where you live determines how a child is defined, how welfare is defined, what obligations apply and which don’t. In essence: you must look after your kids and may have to prove in court that you are doing (or have done) so.


Why expat children do not fit in a box By Wakanyi Hoffman

When asked where home is, a little girl replied, “Where my mommy is”. In the case of my five year old, it’s “Where the green couch is!” I would like to think of my family as global nomads, having lived in six different countries so far. My three children, all conceived and then born in different countries, do not consider a sense of home as being in one particular place. They see their current locale as their permanent home and seem to embrace the next move as a trip to the next subdivision in their global village. This very conversation has come up recently as one of our neighbours prepares for a move back to the United States (US), their country of origin. My oldest two have been very saddened by the loss of their friend, but mostly, it has sparked a debate about when our family will depart Thailand and to which country. When I asked my seven year old where she felt home is for her, she replied, “Everywhere!” I always suspected her to be the most emotionally unattached to places but something else she said threw me off. “I would like to stay in Thailand until college”. She explained that while she has loved all the moves that she can remember, she would also like to be able to attend her current school and graduate from it in high school. This is of course understandable, given her social ties but I reminded her quickly that she will have to say goodbye to many friends even if she stays here (I think a little dose of reality is always necessary when living life as an expat). The older the children get, the better their understanding of the world that they live in and what feels secure to them. The topic of moving or staying is without a doubt, the most common dinner table conversation in all expat households. One never quite feels at home, even after several years of living in the same foreign country. Yet ironically, saying goodbye remains the hardest final episode after the boxes have been packed, because expats are known to form deep friendships really quickly with the knowledge that at any given moment, someone is bound to pack up and leave without a trace. For the adults, the move 12

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itself isn’t so much a question of the fear of the unknown, but mostly, how the children will really cope. I attended a workshop on raising multicultural expat children once and the opening statement left everyone in the room silent and for most of us, in tears. The speaker, Ruth E. Van Reken, a renowned writer of the famous expat bible, “Third Culture Kids -Growing Up Among Worlds”, posed this question, “How many of you were born and raised in the same town and attended the same school as your friends?” Nearly all the hands in the room went up. The speaker then asked this rhetorical question, “How then do you suppose that you know exactly what your expat child’s life is like, when you haven’t lived life like they have?” All of a sudden, I realised then that all of my research and conclusions and well meaning comments about how amazing my children’s lives are, how much richer, how diverse their perspective of the world is; all of this was actually an echo of my own fantasy on what my life would have been if I had lived as an expat child. But I hadn’t. And up to that point, I had never asked my children what their life was really like. The following are short interviews of mothers around the globe that I have met, whose stories have continued to change my perspective on raising multilingual, multicultural, expatriate children, who did not make this choice themselves.

Rachel Hadell:

Rachel and her husband Richard are originally from the UK. They arrived in Thailand a few years ago to volunteer their time at a children’s home that is affiliated with Christian Care Foundation for Children with Disabilities (CCD). Initially, Rachel and Richard planned for a short stint in Thailand after their graduation from a teacher’s college in Canterbury where they had met as students and intended to move back home. Three years later, they are living in Thailand as residents and are parents to Lily and Tom. Meet Lily and Tom. British/Western names aside, Lily is possibly a Burmese orphan who was abandoned at birth and rescued by a Thai government orphanage. Lily is deaf and suffers from cerebral palsy. Tom on the other hand, was picked by Lily as her “brother” when she insisted on having a sibling, and he too suffers from developmental delays that have left him small for his age. They both attend an international school where their mother Rachel is a teacher and have integrated into an environment surrounded by expat children and locals from mostly wealthy backgrounds, a far cry from their life back at the orphanage. Lily has had to learn British sign language alongside her parents and at thirteen years old, she has had to cope with being in a class with seven year olds. Despite their unique background, both Lily and Tom fit inside the larger spectrum of the expat child due to their parents’ British backgrounds and expat status. In spite of this though, it is difficult for the local Thai community to embrace Lily and Tom as “farang” children and every now and then, Rachel has had the unfortunate encounter with some unnecessary negative comments. “The main question that we get asked is, why are the children so dark and the parents so white?”, explains Rachel. “They are very surprised when we say we are going to take them back to England with us.” Her family back in England is a lot more tolerant and in fact, have embraced the children wholeheartedly. Lily made her first trip to the UK last spring and judging from the photos of her flashing her trademark infectious smile, she had a marvelous time. For a child who spent the first decade of her life in a government run orphanage with very basic care, Lily has adapted quite well to the expat life, a common feature that is to be found amongst most third culture kids. According to Mrs. Monica Sudhirak, the head of school at St. Andrews International School

Samakee and a long serving educator who has had over four decades of teaching expatriate children, it comes as no surprise that Lily and Tom have already built such resilience and embraced their expat experience so swiftly. Despite their Thai/Asian looks, most children at international schools do not have a specific “look” or similar backgrounds, which helps ease the integration process. Mrs. Sudhirak gives the following characteristic examples of an expat child that she has observed over the years: • S ociable, easy going and flexible. •A ble to make friends swiftly, often popular and in general have a high self-esteem. •A ble to negotiate confidently around a new environment easily and to fit in almost instantly. • Take full advantage of school community events and social gatherings. • S ensitive and openly welcoming to the needs of others of all nationalities and abilities. •M ore inclined to try new things, open to change and new ideas. •R esilient and often tenacious. •Q uick to build relationships with children and adults. •H ave an innate understanding of how a school is organised and where to seek help when needed. She recalls a six year old expat boy who joined her school a few years ago. He could not speak a word of English. His mother tongue was Portuguese and he had been living and attending a school in Germany. “He was so determined to speak english as quickly as possible and every morning before school began, he targeted adults to practise some new English words and phrases,” she says. “He did this every day in the playground for weeks and in an amazingly short span of time he was speaking English fluently.” According to Mrs. Sudhirak, this was a testament to one of the main characteristics of an expat child who has had experience with various international schools, having lived in more than one posting. “This young boy had an innate understanding of how schools work and skillfully integrated himself into our environment from day one. His high expectations were visible to all. He expected to be welcomed and to make friends, and he did.” Expat KIDs in bangkok



Hazel Birchall:

Hazel and I first met at a playgroup in Nepal when her youngest and my oldest were both toddlers. Our friendship continued since and after a few moves in between, we have found ourselves posted in Thailand at the same time. Hazel’s three daughters are named Sri, Dewi and Usha. Not your typical names and certainly not common in the UK, her native home, or anywhere else outside of Asia. Her husband is Belgian and as a family, they have lived in neither the UK nor Belgium but have expatriated to six different countries so far and have had their children in Rome, Cambridge and Singapore. With names that often leave many unable to trace the children’s roots, the interesting thing about the children themselves is that they are so obliviously comfortable in their global village and blissfully assume that their names, or the colour of their skin, or their birth stories abroad have no reflection on any aspect of their being residents of any country. Most of the times, negative comments often come from the outside. Hazel recalls moments after the birth of Sri in Rome when the nurses asked for the baby’s name. “On hearing my reply, the nurse looked at her colleague and said (with a gesture and insulting tone), ‘Che nome?’. Translated, ‘ What kind of name is that?’ Of course being rather hormonally post partum, I received this comment rather

negatively! We had been excited to use this name that we had discovered and been saving since our first posting as a newly married couple in Indonesia, and so the comment at the time hit hard!” Asked what her girls truly feel about their unusual name choices she said, “The girls have never once complained about their names, and from what I can gather rather like them. Most of the time they are in such an international environment, with the most weird and wonderful names (Pancake and Password to name a few at their present school!) that no one seems to batter an eyelid.” For the most part, extended family members usually offer support rather than questioning glances, even if difficult for them to explain their expatriate relatives’ crazy life. On a lighter note, Hazel recalls overhearing a conversation between her young (at the time) niece and the little girl from next door in England, asking what her new cousin was called. “She answered ‘Sri’.” The neighbour then asked, “And what’s her middle name?” Hazel’s niece answered, “Lanka”, deadpan face! She had in turn overheard the grown ups explaining to each other about the pronunciation of this rather unusual girl’s name, using the island’s name for clarification. This brings to mind an expat mom I once met whose little girl’s name - Malaya left me red faced and totally unable to explain just what a profanity that word is in my native Kiswahili. I shared this story with my husband who speaks fluent Swahili and after the shock he said, “She’s probably better off than our son whose first and last names sound Jewish yet his dad is mostly German and his mother black and himself a mix of us, without a single trace of racial identity.” Perhaps my son Noah Hoffman might gain an express pass into Wall Street, but I still cannot get over the cute three year old named “prostitute” (the Swahili translation for “Malaya”).


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Eme Oduor:

Eme is a mother of four. Her husband works for the UN and since leaving their home country Kenya in 2006, they have not returned. Their first child was born in Nairobi while the other three have had their births in Nepal and Zimbabwe. Eme explains that while her children have a strong sense of Kenya being their home, her oldest, now 10 has the hardest time embracing this expat life. This is largely due to the constant farewells to friendships that he has made. It also makes for a hard adjustment in an “African only” school due to his international exposure. When the family returned to Africa from Asia, they placed him at an “African only” school. He was shocked and struggled to fit in, despite the common similarities of colour and heritage. “Soon after we were forced to place him in an international school where his confidence came back,” Eme recalls. For Eme, a self professed loner, the expat experience has shaped her into a very involved mother and has forced her to step out of her shell by socialising more with other mothers in similar situations. “If I was back home in Kenya, I would work full time and be sure that the time would be made up for by myself or other family members,” she says. In spite of these adjustment struggles though, Eme says that her children are always delighted to go back for visits in Kenya and they do not struggle to fit in there. In the confines of actual blood relatives, expat children seem to find solace and a sense of acceptance, another complex factor of their perception of self. My children certainly seem more “themselves” when surrounded by relatives that they hardly even know and most other expat mothers that I have interacted with have confessed noticing the same with their children.

Ofrit Chaskelevitch:

Ofrit and I met here on a hot and steamy school day. She had just moved to Thailand and her son was in the same class as my then first grader. In true expat bonding fashion, we skipped the small pleasantries that seem to take weeks in an ordinary aquaintance and went straight to our life stories and how we had both ended up standing right where we were. It turned out that Ofrit grew up in Kenya, my home country, which is also where she met her husband, himself an adult expat now. It was like being reunited with a long lost cousin and our friendship blossomed from then on. Ofrit tells the story of her arrival to Mombasa, a town on the coast of Kenya, where from the age of 12 to 15, she would spend her time attending a local British school. “Everything was different; the scents, the people, the vibe, how strict the school was,” she recalls. However, her schoolmates, most of who represented different nationalities that is typical of an international school, embraced each other and socialised in English. Upon completing her A levels at age 18, she went back to Israel for the year long mandatory military obligation, but the adjustment in her home country was anything but swift.

“I did not feel like a part of the Israeli social circle. So I worked on my roots and part of the reason I became a flight attendant for El Al, the Israeli national airlines was to continue the feeling of belonging to my country,” she says adding, “For years when someone asked me where I was from I got confused.” As a mother raising her children in an expat environment, she feels an urgent sense to provide them a firm ground, roots upon which to define their identity. “I have a very clear wish that my children will be raised as Israeli. I feel strongly that the sense of belonging gives a child and an adult support and as much as I like the romantic idea that we are citizens of the world, clarity as to who you are is many times defined by where you come from... I just feel that I left something there... And one day I will just go and get it. It is like a constant gap... a longing ...and whenever I see something Kenyan my heart fills with joy.” This is a common sentiment amongst adult expat kids who often describe a sense of belonging to a country that holds their most precious childhood memories, but one in which they would not fit in as adults.

My husband, an adult expat kid himself, has held various passports whose impressive visa stamps from remote immigration offices around the world would leave one convinced that he works for a government spy agency. But despite the exotic travels, he tears up at the sight of a photograph of an acacia tree because it always takes him back to his beloved Africa. “It is the distinctive smell of fire burning and the smell of the red soil after a rainy spell...that’s the Africa that I know and wish to be back to every single day,” he tells me. His fluency in Swahili may have caught my attention, but it was his African ways that intrigued me. He is the “mzungu” on the outside, but he is plenty Kenyan on the inside. Expat kids are complex in that way. While they may lack obvious roots to answer promptly the question of where home is, they are in many ways children of the world. The ones that paint an idealist’s vision of a perfectly harmonious world, devoid of colour, religion or political prejudice.

Expat KIDs in bangkok



Ice hockey in Bangkok

By Christian Olofsson

Your kids’ ice hockey equipment is probably not the first thing you put in the container when the moving company comes to get your household and personal belongings ready to be shipped for your new assignment in Bangkok. But perhaps it should?

Federation’s Asia Challenge Cup held in Abu Dhabi, U.A.E. this March. In addition, Thailand’s national women’s team had a great start to the year as they captured a silver medal at the IIHF Women’s Challenge Cup of Asia held in Hong Kong.

The ice hockey community in any country is made up of passionate fans, sacrificing parents and dedicated key individuals that surrender their free time to ensure that kids get to experience the great sport of ice hockey. It’s no different here in Bangkok, except for the fact that it’s 35 degrees Celsius outside, the rinks are situated in shopping malls, and you can play a round of golf and a game of ice hockey in the same day; but we’re not complaining!

Thailand Ice Hockey Academy

Ice hockey was introduced to Thailand by a group of expatriates back in the 1990’s, and today there are national teams, adult recreational leagues, and youth teams that practice and play in tournaments both domestically as well as internationally (Hong Kong, Singapore, Macau, Kuala Lumpur, Abu Dhabi). Thailand’s national men’s team continues to improve and is set to compete in the International Ice Hockey


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Expat KIDs in bangkok

To support the growth of youth ice hockey in Thailand - both for Thai nationals and expatriates – The Rink at the Central Plaza Grand Rama 9 mall has established the Thailand Ice Hockey Academy (TIHA). Teaming up with the Ice Hockey Association of Thailand (IHAT) and the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF), Thailand’s Ice Hockey Academy put together the Learn to Play Programme, which focuses on skill development, and most importantly, participation by all and having fun. An interesting element of the Learn to Play Programme is that it makes the game proportionate to the size of the players. For example, for the little guys and girls, skating across an NHL size rink and shooting on NHL size nets is akin to adult hockey players playing on an ice surface the size of a soccer field (or football pitch, depending on where you’re from!), and goalies trying to stop pucks

being shot at a goal the size of a soccer net; not only would this change the nature of the game, it would be utterly exhausting! With the Learn to Play Programme, practices and games are played across the width of the hockey surface. This cross ice practicing and playing model has been used in many of the leading hockey nations in the world for a number of years and has stood the test of time. It has shown that children who begin their hockey training in this environment have an outstanding hockey experience. Studies have shown that benefits of cross ice practicing and playing include: children have more energy with which they can improve their skills, more puck contact results in improved puck control skills, decision making skills are enhanced because more decisions must be made more frequently and at a higher tempo, increased puck possession time for each player, and hockey sense and understanding of the game develops more quickly. Even with this improved cross ice training format, ice hockey isn’t an easy sport; a famous ice hockey player was once quoted saying that “to have success in this sport you need to have the strength and power of a rugby player, the stamina of a marathon runner, and the concentration of a brain surgeon. But you also need to put this together while moving at high speeds on a cold and slippery surface while five other guys use their bodies and sticks to stop you … all while standing on 30mm metal blades. Is playing ice hockey hard? I don’t know, you tell me.” But the payoffs of years of hockey playing experience are numerous: kids develop long lasting friendships; they learn principles of teamwork, sportsmanship, and discipline; they develop physical strength, cardiovascular health, flexibility, and mental focus; they get to compete at international tournaments in Hong Kong, Singapore,

U.A.E., and China; some get scholarships at prestigious universities and play professionally; and most importantly they have years of fun!

Youth hockey league in Bangkok Thailand’s Ice Hockey Academy will also organise a youth 3-on-3 cross ice hockey league this April and May, and a youth 5-on-5 league beginning in September - both at the NHL size rink at Central Plaza Grand Rama 9 mall. For the long term, the Academy would like to see both recreational and competitive youth leagues, as well as a strong national development programme. With the backing of the Thai Ice Hockey Association and the IIHF, and a proven skill development curriculum, the programme will undoubtedly grow and realise these goals.

How to get started The Ice Hockey Academy currently practices every Tuesday night from 19:15 to 20:15 and Saturday mornings from 8:45 to 9:45. Boys and girls six and up can join. For a free trial, please contact the Director of the Academy, Zak Garofolo, at the email or number below.

Don’t have equipment? Don’t worry! The Academy has full sets of equipment for rent, for all sizes, and equipment can be stored at the rink, so there’s no need to smell up your car or house! There’s also a hockey shop inside the rink that sells the latest and greatest in hockey gear from top name brands like Bauer, Nike, and Graf - all at North American prices. Expat Kids in Bangkok will be following the development of the academy as it progresses! If you are interested in getting your children enrolled or want to contribute to the programme, feel free to make contact with the Thailand Ice Hockey Academy directly.

Thailand Ice Hockey Academy The Rink Ice Arena, Central Plaza Grand Rama 9 Contact persons: Mr. Zachary Garofolo (Zak) – Director of TIHA (English speaking) Tel: 092-646-3621, Email: zak.garofolo@gmail.com Mr. Cherdsak Janevarakul (Pew) Tel: 080-259-0007, Email: pew@therink-icearena.com Mr. Christian Olofsson Tel: 090-1985 318, Email: emailme@ christianolofsson.com

Expat KIDs in bangkok



Pass the carrots: eating healthy for teenagers By Courtney Violet Bentley

Growing up in a highly processed junk food household, you would be surprised to find out that I came to be a personal trainer and nutrition coach. Studies show that children, who eat fast food on a regular basis continue to eat it as adolescents and even more so as adults. With 12.5 million children and teens, who are obese, there is need for action in prevention through diet and exercise. My hunger for my cheeseburger, ketchup only, french fries extra crispy and extra thick milkshake on the daily, came to be due to a childhood filled with ‘drive through’ meals. In between and on occasion, my mother may have made me pot roast or macaroni and cheese from the box, of course. It was not that my mom was a bad mom, she was a single mom, who worked a full time job, and as a teenager who was on the go running from class to cheerleading practice to hanging out with friends, all day long I needed food that was fast, easy and cheap, so we opted for fast food every time. In turn my skin was filled with zits, red marks and rashes, my nails were brittle, my energy and mood were always low and to top it off I was highly addicted to this junk food lifestyle. I was active as a teenager; I attended cheerleading practice and ballet school daily and loved to run on my days off. Although active, I still continued to feast on junk food and never thought twice of the future health of my body. The facts were unclear and I figured as long as I was eating the kids sized portions and not over eating these ‘foods’, I was ok. Because of my skin, I lacked confidence, because of my energy I could barely make it past lunch and all of that slowed me down during those critical growing years.


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Expat KIDs in bangkok

My junk food filled days were over the day I met Marcie, a girl who had glowing skin, exuberant energy and long luscious hair. I had asked her what beauty products she used and she responded simply with, ‘I eat healthy’. That moment changed my life forever. Upon arriving home that afternoon, I Googled what was considered healthy foods. Come to find out, it was as simple as eating whole unprocessed foods that were easily found at the local market and farmers markets. After a few weeks into my new lifestyle change; (bringing my lunch to school and grilling myself chicken and fish during the week) I started to notice my skin was clearing up. I had energy way past lunchtime, I was sleeping better and my lack of confidence was in the past, I had a new addiction.

vegetables and lean proteins at every meal. If your tummy is filled with nutritious foods that give the body all of the nutrients it needs for organ functions, your body will stop craving the sweet stuff. Filling your teen’s mind with negative emotions towards a certain food can only make your teen rebel and eat more of these types of foods. Filling your teen’s plate with more vegetables, lean meats and whole grains leaves their tummies full of the good stuff and less room for the candies and ice creams.

Here are a few tips that help crowd out the unhealthy sedentary lifestyle and bring in the healthier one:

A healthy household: Fill your cupboards and refrigerator with cut up fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and water bottles. Healthy snacks include dehydrated vegetable chips, organic yoghurts, fruits, vegetables, hummus, rice crackers and almond butter. Keep these foods at eye level so when your teen gets home from school, the first thing he or she will grab will be a handful of watermelon and a water bottle.

Introduce more YES foods: The best way to counteract the hunger for sweet treats is to eat more

Lunch time: Lunch time is a time where a parent has little to no control over what there teen eats. When I was

Garden International School Sathorn, Bangkok

Your choice. Their future. Our family.

Providing education for children from 2 to 16 years of age 34/3-4 Yen Akart Road, Sathorn, Bangkok 10120 Thailand Tel : 02-2491880, 02-2401307 Fax : 02-2491943 Email : marketing@gardenbangkok.com www.facebook.com/Garden.International.School.Bangkok www.gardenbangkok.com www.twitter.com/gisbangkok www.youtube.com/gisbangkok


a teenager, my friends and I would frequent the local pizzeria across the street, as it was affordable, close and quite tasty. The staggering numbers of fast food restaurants popping up all over the country are almost double to what they were in 1970 and most schools serve processed foods for lunch as meal choices. The only way deter your teen from these foods is to either have him or her pack a healthy lunch or educate them on which foods off of the fast food menu are the healthier choice. Another option is to pack a piece of fruit to go along with lunch so that instead of french fries a banana is consumed. Out to eat: When dining out as a family, order family style. As a group decide on two to three entrees (depending on the size of your family) to share and order sides like beans, rice, vegetables and some healthy appetisers. If your teen normally eats a fried, savoury dish with a serving of french fries, let them order it but ensure it is split between other family members. By sharing your teen will eat a fraction of the fried food and enjoy healthier sides to balance things out. Balance is key to a healthy diet and having a few french fries and a slice of pizza every now and then is not a big deal. But when consuming these foods becomes an everyday habit, diseases like obesity and type 2 diabetes become issues. Tea time: Sugary sodas are one of the main sources of calories in a teen’s diet. On average a teen drinks one to two sugary filled sodas a day, this not only counteracts with the development of hormones it also puts your teen


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Expat KIDs in bangkok

at risk for type 2 diabetes. The taste of water can be bland to many, so by adding mint leaves, lemons, limes and other herbs you can add some flavour to that boring water! Herbal teas are another way to add flavour without sugar or other chemical additives. Brew a large pitcher of Bael Fruit Tea, Ginger Tea or Chamomile Tea, once cooled pour over ice for a refreshingly tasty beverage made of herbs and water. Keep them active: Ask your teen, what sports or outdoor activities he or she would like to try out. Enrol them in a class or join them for a run around the park or even a bike ride, keeping active at least three times a week will help your teen make wiser decisions whilst eating away from the home. When you have a healthy mindset, your body automatically starts to crave nutrient rich foods versus highly processed foods with low nutritional value. Educating your teen on the health factors and risks of eating a highly processed diet can be a helpful way to get your teen on the right path towards a healthier lifestyle, but if the home is filled with bags of chips, cookies and candies then avoiding becoming a statistic may be rather difficult. Remind your teen of the benefits of eating vitamin filled fruits and vegetables and be sure to add that these foods are beauty foods, this may entice them even more. Keeping your teen active and fuelling him or her with high nutrient filled foods will keep your teen healthy and happy for the rest of their life. For fun workouts and healthy recipes check out http://www.courtneyvioletbentley.com


Drama therapy and physical theatre in Thailand By Jacqueline Taylor

Thirteen years ago I travelled to Thailand as a single mother with my two young children, then aged five and seven years old. For three wonderful months we travelled across Thailand from as far as the hidden mountain trails up in the Northern regions beyond Soppong, down by train, bus, boat and taxi to the white sandy beaches of Koh Chang and across to Kanchanburi. We sailed on bamboo rafts, rode elephants and trekked through the jungle surrounded by beautiful butterflies, rich cotton fields and glorious sunshine. This was the idyll I had dreamt of. Being a community theatre practitioner and drama teacher in England, I was interested in discovering the Thai education system. So I approached a local secondary school, and was delighted by their warm and friendly invitation to teach English through drama. After breakfast we would walk from our guesthouse on the banks of the River Kwai, to the local school in Kanchanaburi. There we encountered an educational environment a world away from our own. My children joined me in group sessions and were happy to learn Thai as well as teach the children English. It was during this time that I discovered a language which transcended the spoken word. Without a command of Thai, we found alternative ways to communicate that often left us in fits of laughter. We learned the art of mime which closely mirrored many techniques that I had found in physical theatre. I recall many ‘conversations’ that taught me about the healing nature of spontaneous play and overcoming the language barrier I had created in my mind. I fell in love with Thailand and with the wonderful people we met on our incredible adventure. I dreamed of creating a life in Thailand, but fulfilling my responsibilities as a mother, and the development of a career in community theatre were far more practical on home soil.


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On my return to England I threw myself back into my work. I created a youth theatre company for young people aged between eight to thirteen years old. Through theatre, drama and music we explored complex life issues such as family relations, friendship, peer pressure, first love, teenage pregnancy, and urbanism etc. In the meantime, I placed my dreams of living in Thailand in a box, in a quiet place, only to be opened on those rare quiet moments in between mothering, working and running the family home. From as far back as Ancient Greece and throughout history, theatre has been used as a way of developing

stronger community cohesion, healing and transformation. Through the sharing of real life stories, both actors and audience have achieved a catharsis, and thereby a renewed sense of self. In today’s instant press button culture and multicultural society, many adolescents appear to struggle with the transition between life stages. The most challenging time seems to occur in those years between adolescence and adulthood, and leading psychologists suggest that this and old age are fraught with difficulties. People most often need support to come to terms these phases of life, and to accept all that comes with growing up and growing old. Theatre and arts based processes allow people of any age to rediscover themselves in a new and helpful light, whilst also enhancing their internal resources and developing better coping strategies and stronger resilience. It became evident to me throughout my work as a community theatre practitioner that arts based activities, particularly theatre, provided children and adults from all walks of life with both a healing and creative outlet. By providing individuals with the opportunity to fulfill their creative potential whilst dealing with challenging or painful emotions in a nonthreatening way could transform perspectives and enable a level of personal insight that was otherwise very difficult to achieve. My developing specialty in adolescent transition and rites of passage, combined with my passion for theatre, led me to undertake a Masters of Arts in Drama Therapy. A unique combination of psychology and drama, drama therapy can support both young and old to cope with difficult life transitions, starting at their own level of interest and ability whilst held within in a safe contained, creative space. It would be easy to think drama therapy is just for actors or those with a strong interest in theatre; however drama therapy is for anyone from any background or age with an interest in personal self development and enhancing their creative potential. Drama therapy can also support people coping with

emotional or behavioural difficulties or other issues such as loss, anger, grief or addictions. Defined by the British Association of Drama therapists, drama therapy is an intentional use of the healing aspects of drama and theatre as the therapeutic process. It is a unique method of working and playing used to facilitate creativity, imagination, learning, insight and growth. From my personal experience, travels and experiential training and research, I have endeavoured to create a unique approach to building a bridge between social theatre and theatre as therapy. Utilising a range of techniques including role play, storytelling, art and collage, movement, mime, music, scriptwriting, poetry and working with myth and fairy tales. My particular approach supports participants to express and explore their personal life stories through metaphor, whilst at the same time transform negative life experience into more positive fulfilling ones. Engagement in the therapeutic and creative arts can lead to a better understanding of cultural and social differences whilst developing more effective methods of communicating both verbally and non verbally which can be utilised and used in daily life. I return to Thailand after thirteen years and once again open my box of dreams, this time with the aim of developing myself and my work as a drama therapist and theatre practitioner. In Thailand drama therapy is a new approach which can offer both Thai nationals and the expat community opportunities to explore and respond creatively to cultural and social differences. Whilst at the same time overcome the difficulty of facing a language barrier, ultimately leading to stronger community cohesion and a more integrated sense of self.

Expat KIDs in bangkok



Building blocks for literacy By Ali Khakpoor

Anna is a nine year old, third grade student in an international school in Bangkok. The school she attends has high academic standards and pressures for achievements are intense. Anna is struggling to keep up with her peers. Her reading performance is a full grade behind the standard for her age, and her teachers are concerned. As well as with her literacy issues, she has recently started to behave in immature ways with peers and adults. Alternating between excessive shyness and overly affectionate behaviour, she appears to be losing her close friends and is perceived unapproachable by her parents. If you ever encounter a similar scenario with your child, there are things you could do. If your child has been in school for at least four years, like in Anna’s case, and is still behind in her reading by at least a grade level, then something might be going on that is worth finding out. More often than not, things do not just go away by themselves. Extra tutoring hours after school or reading a wide variety of books could work in some cases, but for children in this age group, stakes are high and time is a precious element. As a parent, it is important for you to try to understand the nature of your child’s difficulty. Your child’s teachers might have an idea why this has happened, and they might even have some ideas as to what to do. In this case, they have done what schools would


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Expat KIDs in bangkok

do in similar situation without much progress; if this is the case you probably should investigate the situation further. At this point, my best advice would be to contact an educational psychologist to see whether an assessment of your child’s needs, learning style, strengths and weaknesses would be helpful or necessary. If your child does require an assessment, try and find the best service available in your area. A typical psycho-educational assessment takes several testing sessions at the very least, is conducted by an experienced specialist well versed in assessing children in a multicultural setting, and is performed using standardised, well known testing tools. Do not settle for anything less! Appropriate and individualised support and remediation can be devised only based on the findings of a comprehensive, high quality evaluation of your child’s individual needs. These measures would most likely help your child to close the academic gap in due time. Once positive learning experiences and successes are realised the child’s behaviours will usually improve dramatically. Let’s talk about something else parents can easily do; I am talking about prevention. Prevention, in many cases, is possible and (in my opinion) the best way to ensure future success. If you are a parent to a younger child there are lots of simple strategies that you could implement to avoid a scenario like Anna’s. These strategies might not be what you would have guessed.

Let’s start by discussing how a child learns to read. We learn to read and write by matching written forms to spoken words they symbolise. Not surprisingly, many parents think that learning your letters in the preschool years is the quintessential pre-reading skill. Some even drill their children in matching written

letters to letter names. It is important to eventually learn the alphabet, but this is a task that is made more comprehensible and manageable if it builds on other pre-reading skills, especially strong oral language abilities. Such abilities do not require memorisation or drills; rather they mostly depend on conversational interactions between sensitive, responsive adults and young children. Here are some essential tools to give your children the best possible start:

Vocabulary Growing a good vocabulary is important for reading. Pre-kindergarten vocabulary size is more predictive of reading skills by the end of third grade than knowing the alphabet before kindergarten. Vocabulary growth is grounded in adult child conversation during play, at noontime, on outings both mundane (grocery shopping) and exotic (a trip to the zoo), and so on.


Narrative Narrative or storytelling skill is also a building block for reading. Reading requires that children understand that language is symbolic and decontextualised. Telling and hearing stories about past experiences or fictional situations helps children to understand that language can function to represent events and experiences that are not part of the current context. Again, adult child conversation about shared experiences, as in collaborative co-narration, is key to growing narrative skills.

Shared book reading Extensive and positive early experience with books is another cornerstone of later literacy. Adults reading to children, known as shared book reading, helps children learn that books are a source of information and entertainment. If enthusiastic adults engage children in conversations as they read, encouraging children to talk about the story, to discuss new words, and to make inferences which connect the story to the child’s experience, language skills grow as well as the child’s love of reading. Having a lot of experience with books, will also teach children not only how printed

words work but what letters look like, that print conveys meaning, English is read from left to right, pages turn from right to left, and so on. As children become aware of what print looks like and what it conveys, they will notice it throughout their environment, on signs, on packaging, and so on. The prevalence of print creates “teachable moments”, opportunities to print out the letters of the alphabet, for example.

Phonemes Phonological awareness is critical for beginning readers, and refers to the recognition that words are composed of separable sounds or phonemes. These phonemes will eventually be matched to printed letters or letter combinations. When adults engage children in play with language, “let’s find everything in the room that starts with the ‘tuh’ sound” or “what words do we know that rhyme with yes,” they are directing children’s attention to the smaller units of sound that make up words and therefore promoting phonological awareness. Many children’s favourite storybooks highlight phonology by having fun with alliteration, which is the process of repeating the same beginning consonant sound over and over, or using rhyme, similar to what you would see in a Dr. Seuss book.

Ali Khakpoor is a clinical child psychologist and director of the Reed Institute in Bangkok.


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Expat KIDs in bangkok

BERKELEY INTERNATIONAL SCHOOL Providing an outstanding American education with an international focus

- 55% plus international student body - 50% from Europe and North America - Native English heard throughout the school - Small class sizes with 15 students - Warm family atmosphere - Located near Udom Suk BTS Sukhumvit Line

Innovation is at the core of Berkeley. We continually seek to find the best ways to reach all students. The status quo in education is not good enough, we strive to do better. Berkeley’s outstanding teachers are caring and motivated educators from America, Canada, and the United Kingdom. They bring the best of each country to add an international perspective to our curriculum.

Schedule a school tour at info@berkeley.ac.th Address: 123 Bangna - Trad Road Km 1, Bangna, Bangkok, Thailand 10260 Tel: +662 -747 -4788, +662 -747 -4888 Fax: +662 -747-4988 www.berkeley.ac.th


A mother on a mission – dyslexia in Thailand By Dominique Perry

Do you feel that your child is struggling at school with reading and spelling? Are they finding it difficult to remember sequences? Then, as a mother, my advice to you is to have them professionally assessed to find out why! Your child may be dyslexic. My youngest daughter was experiencing learning difficulties at school. I was given many explanations for her difficulties from a number of teachers and schools even friends and family members. But they were reasons I couldn’t accept. You may have been given similar causes, such as: • She is struggling because she is bilingual • Boys are slower than girls • She is just a slow learner • Her brother / father / aunt / uncle / husband was the same at school • They have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (there is a strong link between ADHD and dyslexia) I will always remember May 14, 2013. This is the day my life changed and sent me on an educational mission. My eight year old daughter had been assessed by a


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professional educational psychologist and was diagnosed with dyslexia. I spent four hours reviewing the results with the assessor, and discussing what options where available to us in Bangkok. To my shock there was not a single, wholly dedicated dyslexic programme, at any school in Bangkok. So on the one hand; I was relieved that we finally had a name/a reason for my daughter’s difficulties. However, we had zero options to deal with the diagnosis. What was I going to do? I was given the option of having my daughter pulled out of normal classes for an hour each day, for 1-1 tutoring, or have a teacher sit next to her during normal classes. Neither was an option because Learning Support Teachers and ESL teachers are not qualified in teaching dyslexia. Dyslexic children do not learn the same way as non dyslexic children; they require multi sensory teaching methods. So neither option there would have been of benefit to my daughter. I was concerned that her confidence would be shattered in front of the other children to have a teacher sitting with her or pulling her out of class and still not being able to keep up in English and other core subjects was not an option.

So I spent every waking hour for the next four days researching everything I could about dyslexia. There is a world of research on educating children with dyslexia and many institutes and schools around the world that specialise in programmes for children of all ages. In my search, I eventually stumbled across Kildonan School in the US. The US is leading the world with dyslexic teaching, and Kildonan is one of the top dyslexic schools in the world. I was ecstatic to find out that the school has a summer camp, Camp Dunnback and the timing worked out perfectly for us – I couldn’t believe my luck. As I looked into it further I found that they use the Orton-Gillingham method of teaching (multi sensory), which is widely recognised as the number one method of teaching dyslexia. Camp Dunnback is a six week programme, run during the summer, which incorporates all the usual fun summer camp activities plus 1-1 Orton-Gillingham tutoring every day and Cogmed for working memory if required. I immediately filled in all the forms and was lucky enough to be offered a place a few days later, after a Skype meeting with the Director and my daughter. The camp started at the end of June, so I still had three weeks at the beginning of June that I could use to help my daughter get on the right track educationally - so I searched for a dyslexic school in the UK and found one in my home town, Bristol. Belgrave School also uses multi sensory learning and works closely with the Bristol Dyslexia Centre, who developed the Nessy Learning Programme. I immediately flew to the UK to visit the school and see if I could enrol my daughter into the school for three weeks - the school agreed! twenty hours later I was on another flight – my destination this time was New York, to Camp Dunnbeck. A few days later, I’d visited the school, found an apartment to rent and I was on my way back to Bangkok. Whilst putting my daughter into a three week programme in England, or a summer camp programme in the US is a traditional education model, I knew that I was doing the right thing for my daughter. After months of minimal progress at school in Thailand, I couldn’t afford to wait any longer to restart my daughter’s education. Over the nine week summer holiday period in a dedicated dyslexic programme (three in the UK & six in the USA), my daughter’s reading age progressed by two years. Even my daughter’s personality changed – she’s confident, happy and now a very relaxed child. Not the frustrated, low self esteemed child that had left Bangkok in June. She loved the summer camp and the school. It has made such a huge positive impact to her, just by meeting up with other dyslexic children, who have struggled like her. It is truly amazing to see the progress a child can make when taught in a method that suits them and accounts for their learning difficulties.

During our time in Camp Dunnbeck, I met three expat families from Hong Kong, Taiwan and Korea. We had numerous conversations and all felt frustrated at the lack of dyslexic learning programmes in Asia – not one. Amazing considering there are estimates that 20% of the population are dyslexic. It was from these conversations and more than three months in the US and UK dedicated programmes, that I came up with the idea of setting up a dyslexia school here in Thailand. In conjunction with Kildonan School and Berkeley International School, we have set up a 100% dedicated dyslexia programme starting in January 2014. Kildonan School has an impressive record of getting 100% of their students into university and is also a training academy for Orton-Gillingham teachers. Kildonan School will be supplying the teachers and establishing the programme here in Bangkok at Berkeley International School. The Ministry of Education has even shown an interest in using this as a case study for schools in Thailand. I am presently working on a “Dyslexia in Thailand” website. The objective of this website is to provide information and resources to parents whose children are dyslexic. As I myself found, there is very little information available and I know personally of many families, who have had to leave Thailand due to the lack of education for their dyslexic child. Hopefully, I will be able to assist families in the similar situation in the future, starting with information of professional learning assessments for our children – which we are not always, advised to do. The majority of learning support teachers are not qualified to diagnose dyslexia. Trust your instinct with your child; seek out answers from educational psychologists. Dyslexia doesn’t need to hold your child back - if you give the child the right opportunities. Once equipped with the right tools, a dyslexic child can even go back to the main stream education system and be extremely successful. The key is early intervention. With the collaboration between Kildonan and Berkeley International School, this programme now makes those tools available to our children here in Thailand. If you would like more information on my story, or the programme we have set up at Berkeley International School, please do not hesitate to contact me. This is just the first step in bringing more support to dyslexic children in Asia and I welcome any and all feedback. Dominque Perry dom@sjsthailand.com (please make the subject dyslexia as this is my work email account)

Expat KIDs in bangkok



Parenting organisations in Bangkok By Becky Horace

There are several different parenting organisations in Bangkok, which strive to offer support for all expats parents. Expat Kids in Bangkok is pleased to feature two of the many organisations in our first issue, IPN and BAMBI.


The International Parenting Network (IPN), established in Bangkok in 2008, is an organisation, which offers a wide range of parenting support services to parents and childcare professionals through events, seminars, and workshops. IPN provides parents with family based resources, learning opportunities, and effective techniques and strategies designed to support the raising of well balanced children. Their rapidly growing network provides parents with a community platform where they can exchange parenting experiences, share solutions and ideas on positive parenting and receive advice and counsel from experienced professionals, support groups and other parents. Parents are offered the opportunity to meet with child psychologists, counsellors, physicians, paediatricians, authors of parenting and children’s books, school principals, and other families from around the world to share with one another on how to raise happy and healthy kids in today’s fast paced world. Speakers who are experts in their field are invited to talk about various aspects of parenting and to provide helpful tips and strategies in raising their children of all ages. IPN is happy to support parent teacher associations and parent groups in every school. Often, being a part of a larger network of parents and childcare professionals can greatly benefit parents as we can get a larger perspective and outlook on different parenting issues, which we experience, at some point or another in our lives of parenting. Sometimes, we as parents need a break to step out of our current or smaller circle of friends and families in order meet new people, build new friendships, and enjoy an evening together with other parents. At the same time, it lends the opportunity to gain meaningful insights and life enriching values from the informative presentations and discussion topics, which are presented at each of the monthly IPN events. IPN monthly events are held on the last Tuesday of each month, at the Foreign Correspondents Club Thailand (FCCT), Penthouse Floor, Maneeya Centre, (BTS Chidlom, Exit 2) from 6:30pm to 8:30pm. For further information on IPN cardholder membership and monthly IPN events, please visit www.ipnthailand. com, IPN’s Facebook, or email ipn@ipnthailand.com. 30

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Expat KIDs in bangkok


Bangkok Mothers & Babies International (BAMBI) was founded in 1982 as a project of the Childbirth & Breastfeeding Foundation of Thailand (CBFT). BAMBI is a nonprofit organisation run by volunteer mothers with the main goal to provide support and companionship for pregnant women and parents of young children of all nationalities in Bangkok. BAMBI is here to support all mums no matter what their birth and baby feeding choices may be. At the same time, BAMBI promotes what is considered by UNICEF, the WHO and the Thai government as ‘best practice’ to promote and support healthy mums and babies. BAMBI is known for providing prenatal and postnatal support, support and advice to the parents of babies and young children, information relating to childbirth and childcare. In addition, they are there to support and promote educational programmes designed to assist in establishing high quality childcare, encourage the setting up of playgroups for young children, and sponsor activities beneficial to the members of BAMBI. Since BAMBI is a nonprofit organisation, all surplus funds raised through membership, donations and activities are donated to local charities, which reflect BAMBI’s concerns and priorities. The charities team is committed to helping a number of local charities, which are focused on children and/or mothers. We make regular visits and ensure the funds and items, which BAMBI members have donated, are being used properly. In any given year, the committee may choose to focus on one or two charities as principle benefactors. BAMBI charities team collects necessary items to donate, distributes or facilitates donations of items, motivates and facilitates volunteers, organises fundraising events, and raises awareness of BAMBI members of organisations to support. A member elected group of volunteers manages BAMBI. Some positions require a larger time commitment, while others simply require a smiling face and a little time. Some positions can be fulfilled almost entirely from home, while others will have their volunteers out at various BAMBI functions and in the community. For further information on BAMBI cardholder membership and BAMBI events, visit www.bambiweb.org, BAMBI’s facebook or email chairwoman@bambiweb.org.


American Curriculum-English Language United States Accredited (Western Association of Schools and Colleges) History Since its establishment in 1995, the Thai-Chinese ( American ) International School ( TCIS ) in Bangkok has maintained a tradition of delivering a high quality American Curriculum taught in English. TCIS is one of the top ten international schools in Bangkok that have an American English curriculum. TCIS is the only school in Bangkok where Age 2 through Grade 12 are taught 100% of the time in American-English; yet still take daily language lessons in Thai and Chinese. TCIS participates in BISAC which is the top athletic league in Bangkok and is sport s association is limited to only ten international schools.

Who are we – Where are we? TCIS is an international school with an enrollment of 800 students. We operate under a non-profit foundation board that has a great track record for supporting education. We employ 65 highly qualified American Teachers, 12 Chinese Teachers and 8 Thai Teachers. We are located south of the city; close to the IKEA store and the new Mega –Mall Bang-Na. Google us for more geographic details. www.tcis.ac.th.

What makes our campus such a great place to learn? Our center is our focus! And our focus is academic learning In the physical center of our campus, we have a brand new astro-turf athletic field that is used day and night! We also have a wonderful young children’s play area, three gymnasiums, a state of the art theater/ concert hall, multiple technology centers , an indoor swimming pool and an extensive library resource center. All of our classrooms are air-conditioned and a wellappointed; supporting state – of – the art technologies.

What is our academic program like? TCIS follows an American curriculum for the core subjects of English, Math , Science and Social Studies. Numerous options are also offered in music, the arts, athletics and technology. Our high school is an ‘all Mac’ school and every student has their own laptop which holds the bulk of their curriculum. More programs for IPADS and other technologies are being planned and implemented each year.

Can you afford TCIS? TCIS is one of the most affordable international schools in Thailand. Reviewing the top 25 tuitions in Bangkok, we are the 21st lowest in tuition yet we deliver a top ten instructional academic program. You won’t find a better learning environment at any price!

Come and learn more about TCIS! We welcome your interest in our school! Our Admissions officers ( +662 751 1201 ) will be happy to provide you with more information and registration materials. Our website also holds much enrollment and application information and a great map for locating us for a visit. We look forward to your inquiry.

What are our credentials?

Thai – Chinese International School

TCIS is accredited in the U.S. by the Western Association of Schools and College (WASC). We offer 18 AP Coursed at the high school lever. Each year our seniors are accepted to many top universities in the United States , Taiwan , China , Thailand and elsewhere throughout the world.

Dr. Charles C. Knisley, Head of School 101/177 Moo 7 Soi Mooban, Prasertsin Road, Bangplee Yai, Samutprakarn 10540 Thailand Mobile: 089 230 9702 Email Address: dr_chuck@tcis.ac.th Skype Name: drchuckknisley Expat KIDs in bangkok



The Ancient City: the largest outdoor museum in the world By Bea Toews

My Canadian friends have two girls, aged eight and two years old respectively, who were looking for a fun activity to pass a Sunday one weekend not so long ago. After a brief discussion of what would be appropriate and enjoyable for us all, we decided to head to the Ancient City, a popular attraction a short drive from Bangkok. At the entrance, I produced my Thai driver’s license and was promptly given a map of the site in exchange for the entrance fee. You can download the map yourself at http:// ancientcitygroup.net/ancientsiam/en/map/ so you can plan a route, if you are that way inclined. The numbering is not totally systematic so it is easy to get lost and I would print off my map in advance for my next visit. We rented two golf buggies and split up so the older girl and I could see what she wanted to see, and the younger could be with her parents. Older children and younger friends might want to rent bicycles to see the site, but as it was a particularly hot day, we chose the more convenient option, did the paperwork and rented a buggy. My passenger was particularly excited about the prospect of spending the day in the buggy, and was soon begging me for a turn at the wheel! I assured her that her turn would come, just as soon as she turned eighteen, but we passed many small children being snuck into the driver’s seat by more adventurous


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Expat KIDs in bangkok

and carefree parents and guardians. It seemed that at every turn there was something we both wanted to see, and the most difficult part of the day was deciding where and when to stop to do some exploring. Is Mueang Boran the biggest outdoor museum in the world? Maybe not. Hapmpi in India and the open air museum north of Copenhagen are larger rivals, but this park, is spread over 200 acres and houses both miniature and full size buildings that are of great significance to the history of Thailand. Whether or not it wins first place in the biggest outdoor museum contest, it feels huge. I suggest to set aside a full afternoon to see the entire museum, and much longer to explore each of the approximately 120 features, including temples, palaces, outbuildings, fountains and chedis. A full list of the buildings can be found in a book at the museum or on line at http://en.wikipedia. org/wiki/Ancient_Siam and it is worth taking a look to highlight your favourites prior to visiting, especially if you are short on time. Originally planned as an 18 hole golf course shaped like Thailand with miniature buildings dotting its fairways and greens, the park has since evolved into the outdoor museum we can visit today. The wealthy owner Khun Lek Viriyaphant (now deceased) noticed that important historical buildings in Thailand were falling into disrepair. And wanting to find a way to preserve them and make them accessible to others, he bought many of the buildings and other items, had them dismantled, transported and reassembled in Mueang Boran. What he could not acquire, had been destroyed, or were beyond repair, he built from their descriptions in old manuscripts. The National Museum assisted his team to ensure historical accuracy, and an extensive workshop and crew, who are still working from a site at the end of the museum, ensure that buildings are well maintained. If you download the map, the status of each - reconstructed, duplicated, created – is clearly marked.

Dotted here and there in the park are replicas of traditional houses some of which are used to sell food. In the north is a Lanna village. There is a market town where you can buy lunch and a strip of shops that sell traditional toys. Though the place is commercial, the visitor is not overwhelmed with souvenir shops and food shops. Places to picnic, places to sit, room to run around are all there, making it an ideal spot for families of all ages and interests. On the weekend we were there, the museum played host to hundreds of people and still did not feel crowded. The former Grand Palace of Ayutthaya (destroyed in the Burmese invasion of 1767) is recreated near the entrance. This charming building has the curved roof that is typical of traditional Ayutthaya palaces. The cool silver coloured roof tiles set it apart from the rest of the buildings in the museum, and was a personal favourite of mine. A second highlight is the miniature Phimai Sanctuary. If you and your family have travelled to Isaan for the elephant round up, you will have stopped at the original Phimai Sanctuary. If you have not seen it in real life, this miniature is a great introduction and a much more accessible

Most of the fountains are creative designs and they are spectacular in concept and execution. One such fountain is of Phra Mae Thorani wringing her hair to flood the earth and drown Mara or evil, while it is tempting the Buddha. A second extravagant fountain features three headed dragons spouting water around a many armed bodhisattva performing a miracle. As an adult you will appreciate the story of the fountains and buildings, whilst younger children will find beauty and joy in the water cascading down and the opportunity to climb in the buildings.

Expat KIDs in bangkok



location for those that cannot make the trip. Phimai is thought to have been built by the Cambodian people around the same time Siam Reap was built, which is evident when looking at the stones and the trees growing through the doorways. We made slow progress that day and didn’t reach a third building that I really wanted to visit, and I highly recommend it to all who make the journey to the Ancient City. Wat Khao Phra Viharn is a temple built on the Cambodian border atop a manmade hill. The temple is the centre of controversy as to who owns it, and continues to be a point of much delicacy in both Thailand and Cambodia today. I have visited it, and strongly encourage you to do the same. The visit is not complete without a climb up the stairs to the top, purchasing a drink from the vendor at the peak of the hill, and enjoying the view of rest of the park. We ran out of time largely due to the fact that every time my small friend saw a set of stairs, a bridge or a building that she fancied, she pleaded to stop to explore it, and we were more than happy to encourage her childhood curiosity. Whilst the Ancient City is an appropriate location for children, I highly recommend the need to supervise them at all times, but rest assured that everything can be investigated and explored. One spot that seemed to be especially tempting to the smaller ones in all groups was the Pavilion of the Enlightened, with so many places to hide, bridges to cross and things to explore. I have not asked if it would be possible to do the equivalent of brass rubbings at Mueang Boran, but the many bas-reliefs cry out to be copied. Art students and photographers have documented every square


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Expat KIDs in bangkok

centimetre of the museum, I am certain, but it does not feel over used. My eight year old friend played photographer that afternoon, and she took numerous images of flowers (the gardens within the Ancient City being lush and well kept), as well as some Buddha images and a selfie. No one can resist a selfie! To conclude our afternoon, we reluctantly returned the buggy carts and made our way to the car. We unanimously decided that we would love to return, and agreed that next time we would bring sunscreen and large hats, in an effort to stave off the afternoon sun.

Where is it? 296/1 Sukhumvit Road, Bangpoo, Samut Prakan 10280 Tel. : 0-2709-1644-8 Fax : 0-2323-4055 info@ancientsiam.com

How to get there by car: Take the Expressway as far as the SamrongSamut Prakan exit. Turn to the Samut Prakan Intersection. Turn left along the old Sukhumvit Road (towards Bangpoo) until you get to km. 33. The Ancient City is on the left. by bus: Take airconditioned bus No. 511 (Pinklao-Paknam) to the end of the line. From here, take the minibus No. 36. It passes the entrance to the Ancient City.

Cost: Adults 700B./each Children 350B./each Private guide in English 1,500B (2 hours) Personal vehicle/van entry 400B each

Sukhumvit 53 (Adjacent Thong Lo BTS) T: 0 2260 7890 | www.bkkprep.ac.th

A Leading School Internationally Accredited And Affiliated With CIS, NeASC, FobISIA, TISAC, ISAT And oNeSqA

offering education For Students From 3-18 Years old


Storytelling for young children By Wakanyi Hoffman

Reviewing children’s books is similarly one sided as reviewing restaurants. It all boils down to personal preference topped with childhood memories that a storyline or a particular food taste might trigger for one and do quite nothing for the next person. With that in mind, I realise that my review of children’s books will be slightly biased to what my own children, aged 7, 5 and 2 (not counting the one still in utero but whose literary journey cannot be discounted given that big sisters and brother are keen to give him/her an early head start with their “read aloud” sessions), have discovered as their favourite narratives. When my oldest was two, she began speaking in full sentences. She also memorised the entire story of

“Goodnight Moon” by Margaret Wise Brown, written over six decades ago, which became our bedtime staple. It has since been passed on to the other two siblings and I’m embarrassed to share that I have many a time misplaced the book, now a tattered copy of the shiny original, and proceeded to read it from my head verbatim in a hypnotising and poetic sort of way, which always puts my children to sleep. If I were an artist, I believe I could just as easily illustrate the book to resemble the original. In short, Goodnight Moon is a keeper and the story never grows old. We could never quite figure out why the cow jumps over the moon and why the quiet old lady whispers hush, twice. Oh, and what’s with saying goodnight to a bowl full of mush? What does mush symbolise? So I did a little research and this is what I found in an authoritative review of the book by The Book Foxes:

“....Goodnight Moon is the story of a passive little rabbit, who allows himself to be put to bed without much of a battle, although at one point – in an uncharacteristic moment of action – the rabbit does turn to look at the wall behind him. And let’s remember that the quiet old lady finds it necessary to whisper “hush”, so the little rabbit might well be doing something to get on her nerves. On first glance the rabbit’s bedroom appears to stay the same, but closer inspection reveals that over the course of the book the light fades, the hands on the clocks move from 7:00pm to 8:10pm, some mush gets eaten and the mouse is implicated, the red balloon comes and goes, the moon rises in the window, and the kittens and the mouse move from place to place. Most interestingly, at the start of the book the quiet old lady’s rocking chair is empty except for knitting, then she first appears in a black and white plate, then colour, then at the end of the book she is no longer present and sleeping kittens fill her place. The best thing about the book is the mouse. Each full colour plate features a tiny white mouse that is seen in a different place each time, and he’s remarkably difficult to spot, especially because of the fading light of the nursery. Another point to note is that the book has a strange hypnotic effect on the reader, and the very act of reading it feels like winding down for sleep. The diction and syntax do something to the brain which in turn has an effect on the body, with the reader’s breathing becoming a little slower and deeper, and tension in the body seeming to drain away.”

It turns out that the mush symbolises a snack that a child might typically ask for right before bedtime, as a sort of nightcap, while the picture of the cow jumping over the moon might be, in my humble opinion, a representation of a child’s imaginary world such as would be a picture of a Unicorn hanging from a child’s wall. While Goodnight Moon remains a classic that was as relevant to parents and children in 1947 as it is in 2014, it is best suited for children between 0-5 years old, possibly younger.


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Expat KIDs in bangkok

1. Great for beginning readers and mastering phonics A child who is learning to read is learning to connect the sounds that go with letters, so that he can then put them together to make words, which then become sentences. Repeating sounds frequently help a child master this skill. Dr. Seuss is the master of repetitive sounds and engaging stories, while using limited vocabulary — an ideal book for a beginning reader. A good example: Hop on Pop.

2. Great read aloud books For the early reader, we encountered the world of Dr. Seuss and became instant converts. It all began with “The Cat in the Hat” and by the time we made our way to understanding “Wacky Wednesday”, we had made a family tradition of celebrating each birthday with a jolly reading of “Happy Birthday to You”. “Green Eggs and Ham” became a Wednesday staple, to be fed to both our literal senses and nourish our bodies (although the sneaky mom that I am, I replaced the green food colouring in the “official” Seuss recipe with puréed spinach). My husband found it his cause to give an early political lesson to our then four and two year olds with an animated recital of “Yertle the Turtle”. The children have since sworn off any form of dictatorial leadership and I suspect they might join an antigovernment movement in their adult life. While we have exhausted the entire collection of ‘Seussland’ and pride ourselves in being his greatest fans, some critics find the incorrect use of grammar a disgrace to the English language and the moral lessons too complex for a child to decipher. We disagree, and so does this review from The Children’s Book Review, that gives as the following, five reasons to love Dr. Seuss:

Dr. Seuss’ books sound great when they are read aloud, thanks to his clever rhyming. Did you know that reading to an infant helps with brain development, speech skills, and bonding between parent and child? There are a lot of Dr. Seuss books available in board book format (Bright and Early, Board Books), which are the perfect size and durability for the smallest hands and curious mouths. Example: Put me in the Zoo

3. Great for reluctant readers Sometimes the hardest part of reading is getting your child to read. I think you would be hard pressed to find a child that would not be entertained by the sheer absurdity of Dr. Seuss’ wacky plots and zany characters. Example: I Wish that I Had Duck Feet. Sometimes a little fun and excitement is all that is needed to get kids reading.

4. Great for teaching life’s lessons With enchanting worlds and wonderful creatures, both familiar and unfamiliar, Dr. Seuss teaches readers many admirable life lessons. Example: The Lorax is a great book for teaching children the importance of taking responsibility for the earth.

5. Great for gift giving and children of all ages Need a gift? Dr. Seuss is your guy! He has written books that children of all ages can appreciate, even college students. From Go, Dogs, Go! for the littlest kids, to Oh, the Places You’ll Go for the graduating college student.

Expat KIDs in bangkok



If you are still unconvinced, consider this one famous Dr. Seuss quote, “Today you are you, that is truer than true; there is no one alive that is youer than you!” (Happy Birthday to You). Before you, the reader concludes that my review is outdated; let me quickly move on to authors that are alive and still writing. Although in the wisdom of Dr. Seuss, I’ll quote just another one of his famous lines to defend my fixation to old classics. “They say I’m old fashioned, and live in the past, but sometimes I think progress progresses too fast!” My two year old has recently discovered the Dr. Seuss of our time, namely, Mo Willems. In fact, after months of trying and failing miserably at toilet training, her older sister brought home a copy of Mo Willems’ “Time to Pee” and

almost magically, the terrible two is now a fully fledged toilet trained toddler, who has not only memorised the entire book, but also insists on saying this sentence (from the book) each time she needs to go, “Boys can stand and girls should sit”, because you must never do the opposite. But nothing beats the fun in Mo Willems’ “The Pigeon Wants a Cookie”. The moral lesson is teaching children how to share and ask for things politely. But as the story progresses, one is left with the feeling that neither the rude and obnoxious pigeon or the kind and monotone (albeit well mannered) duckling are that different. The latter has a calm temperament while the former’s emotional outbursts are synonymous with a preschooler who has yet to learn the valuable art of self regulation. Both characters represent two facets of child development that all children experience. This New York Times review tells it better than I ever could:

“Willems has a Pixar-esque knack for speaking to parents and children at the same time, without over or underestimating either.” The Pixar analogy is perhaps most apt for the trilogy of his bestselling series about the “Knuffle Bunny”. In the first two installments of “Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale” and “Knuffle Bunny Too: A Case of Mistaken Identity,” Willems introduced readers to Trixie, who first as a preverbal toddler and then as a feisty preschooler navigated her Brooklyn neighbourhood with Knuffle Bunny in tow - and then not. We trembled when Trixie lost Knuffle in the first book and commiserated when she confronted Knuffle’s limitations in the second. In the finale, “Knuffle Bunny Free,” we find Trixie confident and backpackclad, and watch as she lets Knuffle go. Yes, Willems has brought Trixie’s saga to its inevitable end. Once more, the beloved bunny is separated from its fretful owner, this time on an airplane to Holland to visit Trixie’s grandparents. The story is again relayed through the distinctive juxtaposition of photographs and ink drawings. Text is spare, and detail and context are reduced to the essential emotional experiences of the characters”. 38

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Expat KIDs in bangkok


Another popular writer in our household is Amy Krause Rosenthal, whose famous “Plant a Kiss” we had the pleasure of having her autograph at an author’s visit at my seven year olds elementary school. Amy, like Mo Willems and perhaps even Dr. Seuss, turns moral deliberations that have timelessly continued to torment all of humanity, into limited text, beautiful illustrations and simplified storylines suitable for early readers. A must have Amy Rosenthal Classic is “Spoons”, a story about a spoon that feels inferior compared to the more exotic chopsticks, or versatile fork. The story of every child feeling left out when faced with a new environment, or feeling envious of another child’s qualities. This is especially relevant to an expat child who is constantly in search of an identity and a group in which to fit. Amy does a fantastic job of showing how the different qualities are assets rather than hindrances and that while no two people can possess the same qualities; it is the differences that make us richer and better. My multiracial kids live for Amy’s stories. The sequel to “Spoons” is “Chopsticks”, a hilarious account of Chopsticks’ woes with his/ her personality in retaliation to Spoon’s lamentations. You just have to find the books as I can’t give away any more of the storyline.

own home, his mother sneaks into his bedroom, pulls him from bed and rocks him while she sings him this song: “I’ll love you forever, I’ll love you for always, As long as I’m living, My baby you’ll be.” I have read that book countless times over the last seven years, but it wasn’t until quite recently that I stumbled upon an article describing the true meaning behind that famous song. In his website, Mr. Munsch writes, “I made that up after my wife and I had two babies born dead. The song was my song to my dead babies. For a long time I had it in my head and I couldn’t even sing it because every time I tried to sing it I cried. It was very strange having a song in my head that I couldn’t sing. For a long time it was just a song but one day, while telling stories at a big theatre at the University of Guelph, it occurred to me that I might be able to make a story around the song.” Like me, countless parents have sung that song to their own children, in different countries and different languages, in different tunes and styles, but it now bears a brand new meaning and elicits a new kind of emotion in me - empathy. Not only is it a relatable tale of a mother who just can’t let go, but it is also a testament to the love that persists beyond time and space, and an ode to those parents who never had the chance to rock their babies. I recommend a box of tissues when reading this book to your newborn, toddler, preschooler, big kid, tween or teen.

I admitted to being a bit of an old fashioned reader who enjoys classics more than moderns. I couldn’t find a good night’s rest if I failed to mention yet another household favourite, “Roald Dahl”. Ah, the adventures of “Fantastic Mr. Fox”! It is a chapter book, best suited for a good reader with a wild sense of imagination. The dialogue is impeccably witty, and actor George Clooney does a brilliant job of telling the story as Mr. Fox in the book’s film version. Finally, for a book that evokes all the emotions of parental love, my absolute favourite is “Love You Forever” by Robert Munsch. The book begins with a mother rocking her newborn baby, singing that now familiar song as he drifts off to sleep. From there the baby grows into a troublemaking toddler, a caked-in-dirt little boy, a sulky teenager and, eventually, a husband and father with a baby of his own. Through it all, every night, even after he’s moved into his


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Expat KIDs in bangkok

While I haven’t come across any children’s book that I could truly criticise as being bogus, I do believe that sometimes finding the right book every night can prove a challenge. When faced with this catastrophe, retreat back to your own childhood and recall your own experiences, then tell them to your children. Those have been the stories that my children have listened to so intently and continuously ask to hear about. Happy storytelling!

Expat KIDs in bangkok



Getting your child ready for “Big”school By Heather Preen

The move from primary education to Senior (or Secondary) School is a big moment in any child’s life. Although the average 11 year old still needs considerable support and nurturing, there is a definite feeling that they are no longer babies and they are ready for a change. It is an exciting and challenging time. Some schools in Bangkok finish at the end of Year 6 (in the British system) forcing parents to start a schools search but others use this milestone as the moment to really think about where their child is heading in terms of their academic, co-curricular and pastoral needs. Of course, many children will stay in the same school, particularly if they attend international school. But this might not be the right decision for every child.

Consider this:

• If your child is an exceptional learner, is the current school offering enough individualised support in order for them to reach their true potential? • Has your child developed a passion, say for gymnastics, creative writing or mathematics, that their current school is unable to support because of a lack of facilities or teaching talent? • Is the current school too small, leading to a lack of opportunities? Or is it too big, leaving the child feeling swamped or lost in the crowd?

Here in Bangkok the choice of international school is huge and if you feel that your child’s school may no longer be the best fit for them then it is worth making visits to other schools. In many instances a visit to another school will make you realise that your child’s current school is the best fit. However, it might help you decide that a move is the right decision. Irrespective of whether your child is moving up or moving on, the journey from the top class of primary school, Year 6, to the bottom class of secondary, Year 7, is probably the biggest change your child will have ever known. Don’t underestimate the importance of this moment in your child’s life, even if most of their friends are going to the same school, and you have older children. Mr Steve Allen, Head of Senior at Shrewsbury International School, says: “There is much that is new, or at least different, about the Senior School. Students will need to be more independent and to take greater responsibility for their own learning. In reality, however, 42

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they are excited by the new opportunities; they thrive in an environment which encourages them to develop their own personal voice alongside collaborative learning”. “Here at Shrewsbury, we pride ourselves on helping children make the transition into Senior School, irrespective of whether he is new to the school or has been there since he was 3.” Because moving schools is such a big change in their lives, your child will almost certainly be nervous. Take time to talk things through – or at least, let your child know that you realise they might be anxious and you’re willing to listen. Children often feel better about worries when they share them. Once August comes, aim to keep your time as free as possible around the early days of secondary school – your child may be growing up, but this doesn’t mean you’re not needed. Could you get home from work early, or even work from home, so that you’re there to talk through how things are going when they return home? As Steve Allen at Shrewsbury says, “The school will be as keen as you are to make sure the early days go smoothly. If you have any worries ask if you can talk to your child’s Form Tutor or Head of Year. However small a problem seems, it’s worth approaching the school for support if you or your child have concerns.”

Top tips for kids • Your child may be feeling insecure so be reassuring, give lots of praise (and try to ignore their occasional weirdness - they may be hormonally challenged!) • Establish a routine and check that they are eating and sleeping well. Moving up to senior school can be very stressful and tiring. They need all the support they can get. • Don’t just rely on the school for after-school activities – seek out opportunities for your child to move outside the pressure-cooker atmosphere of school and to make friends with children from other schools. It will help put school life and friendships in perspective. • Help your child to get organised. Work together to make checklists - equipment and books needed for classes, names of teachers, timetables. • Senior school may seem large and frightening at first. Go along to any open days and get a plan of the school to go through with your child. • Remember that your child will have lots of new books and files - you may have to buy a new school bag.

Top tips for parents Parents will go through a period of readjustment too as they are forced to “cut the apron strings”. Consider these coping strategies: • I f the school has a parent association, consider joining up and getting involved. Help out with planning events, bake sales or on sports day. The school will be delighted to have extra support and you will still feel connected. • I f your child makes a new friend, engineer moments where you can meet the child’s parents - who knows, you may make a new friend too! It might also give you the opportunity to find out more about school, local goings on and share lifts home. •G o to school events whenever possible - even if your child is in the back row the choir or not in the performance at all; it’s very important for them to see that you are still interested in what is going on in school. •C elebrate your child’s successes by making a poster, taking a photo, putting it in your family diary, letting them choose dinner or stay out a bit later - something special.

Top tips provided by Kidscape (kidscape.org.uk) which has lots of parenting tips across a range of school based issues


Considering homeschooling in Bangkok By Ami Park


Deciding which school to send your little one is stressful enough with all of the different options available around town, but one Mum took homeschooling head on and has never looked back.

learning a foreign language, amongst many other great things, and as parents our goals were being met. I really believed that school outside of the home was the answer.

When I first had my twins in 2007, the thought of eventually homeschooling them had crossed my mind for a brief moment. As my daughters turned one, then two, and three, the thought gradually vanished as we found ourselves in Bangkok in 2011. At that point, they were 3 and a half years old, and I had to make the decision of whether or not to put them in school. Since one of our goals was for our twins to learn a second language, and with my husband and I being monolingual, we knew we would need to immerse them into a school that taught a foreign language. So off they went, and I have to admit life was easier! For two years, I was able to relax a bit (and God only knew how much I needed that). My twins were happy, I was happy, my husband was happy! Life was good! My girls were

Then one day, I attended a presentation explaining the following year’s (Kindergarten) curriculum at school. I became a little unsettled as I discovered the philosophy of the education would be much different from the philosophy we wanted to instill in our children. At first I thought we could easily compensate for this, but the more I attended the presentations for parents, the more I contemplated my original thought of homeschooling.

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Expat KIDs in bangkok

At this point I wasn’t really interested in pursuing other schools. This school was providing the best education (albeit from the wrong perspective in our opinion) and I didn’t want to take a step down. This by far, was the hardest part of the whole process; making the decision of whether or not to homeschool. I lost many a night’s

sleep, worried, fretted, prayed, and then painstakingly came to the final decision that “Yes, I would take this very big leap and just do it.” In the end, there were just too many benefits to homeschooling that I didn’t want to miss out on. Once that decision was made, the next hardest step was committing! I accepted that this may be the hardest thing I would ever do. I envisioned myself homeschooling and embraced the thought of taking full responsibility of this arduous job of educating my children all by myself. Once the commitment was made, the next exhausting step was figuring out how to do it, which was definitely the most dreaded part. While my daughters were still enrolled in school this past summer, I spent the better portion of every day researching, reading, contemplating, and reviewing the whole concept of homeschooling. This was definitely the most difficult part of the whole process to date (and I’ve had many challenging days in the classroom since then). I went back and forth and back again as to what programme and philosophy I would use. I became an expert on the different available curricula and interviewed as many people as I could about what they use and how it was working. I knew I would dread this stage … it was downright scary! At first I thought, “Homeschooling won’t be too bad, I will choose a programme in which the children watch videos of a real teacher teaching a real class. I will supervise, of course, and do all the work needed to send in the lessons, etc ... this should work.” This was a good thought at first as it helped ease me into this journey but then I started contemplating and reading more about how this process is really just school, only at home, and I wanted and thought I could do more. I think those programmes definitely have their place, but in my case and for my children, I was able to devote myself entirely.

and the thought of doing “whatever, whenever” gives me anxiety. Routine is my thing; luckily, while reaching out to others, another consideringtobe homeschooling mom recommended I read, “A Well Trained Mind” by Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise. It’s a guide to classical education at home. The author claims, their book will “instruct you, step by step, on how to give your child an academically rigorous, comprehensive education from preschool through high school - one that will train him or her to read, to think, to understand, to be well rounded and curious about learning.” I read the entire book and finally put completely at ease about my mission. This was a combination, in a sense, of the two philosophies I had previously considered and it seemed perfectly in line with who and what I am as a teacher and mother. Things started to fall into place. I now had recommendations of curriculum to use, an organised approach, and guidelines with which to follow. I still ordered other resources such as “What your kindergartner needs to know” and “Core knowledge sequence” just to have a cheat sheet to make sure I didn’t miss anything. With these few tools, I took the plunge and started homeschooling on August 19, 2013. I have never second guessed my decision, although there have been challenging days. I knew there would be difficult days and that it wouldn’t always be easy but, all in all, I have no regrets. Ami is an expat wife, mother and former special education teacher. If you have any comments or questions about homeschooling for Ami, you can contact her by emailing amipark@att.net

My next thought was to incorporate a philosophy called unschooling. Unschooling is a philosophy that doesn’t use a formal curriculum and instead allows children to explore and learn what interests them. Autonomy is promoted “by allowing youngsters to decide what they learn and how they learn it”. Families encourage mastery by allowing children to spend as long as they’d like and go as deep as they desire on the topics that interest them. This sounded good and very freedom oriented. I dutifully studied this concept, but eventually came to the conclusion that I am not as much of a “free spirit” as I would like to be

Expat KIDs in bangkok



Travelling with a toddler emergency kit

By Becky Horace

One expat mom shares her travelling with a toddler “must haves” to make that long trip home a little less painful. I wouldn’t say that I am a seasoned veteran when it comes to toddlers and aviation but I do believe coming from South Carolina to Bangkok on a 28 hour flight does give me some street cred. I wanted to share a few products with you, which I believe has saved our lives before, during and after landing on our travelling adventure.

Preparation for the flight To help prepare my son for the long flight back home, I purchased two books from Asia Books; both can be found for less than 270BHT. The first was “Busy Airport” by Rebecca Finn. This book was such a hit in our household because it is a moving book, meaning your little one can take their little fingers to spin wheel to make the airplanes spin around in the air or pull the arrow flap to reveal the children sitting in the plane, patiently waiting for takeoff. Finn’s book takes you step-by-step through the flight process from arriving in the airport, dropping off your bags, boarding the plane, takeoff and soaring amongst the clouds. The second book was an “Usborne touchy-feely book” entitled “That’s not my plane…” This book is so much fun with the little white mouse telling the reader why this can’t possibly be his plane, for a number of reasons from the wheels are too squishy or the wings are too bumpy. My next book I will be purchasing is “Usborne: Flip Flap Airport”. This toddler friendly book is full of fun flaps when lifted provide more detailed information about the airport, a perfect book for your inquisitive child. You can find this book at Asia Books for around 380B.

During the flight My toddler has confiscated my iPod Touch and I am perfectly okay with that if it


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Expat KIDs in bangkok

keeps him quiet on the plane. To protect our most precious possession, I purchased a Fisher-Price Laugh & Learn Apptivity Case. This case is made for iPhone and iPod Touch and will protect your Apple during that inevitable toy throwing, temper tantrum at 30,000 feet. You can find this on Amazon.com for around $12US. With our upcoming summer trip to the US, I know we will have a lot of time to catch up on the latest Disney movies during our flight. I know he will need headphones that are fun but will also protect his hearing. I have researched several options, read many reviews and I purchased the KaZoo MyPhones. These over the ear headphones come in two fun animal options, a frog or a penguin. The best feature on the headphones is the built in volume control. The highest decibel the headphones are able to reach is 85, which is the max level recommended by many health organisations around the world. This product is a win-win; a cute frog, little ears are protected, and mommy doesn’t have to hear any noise. You can find this product on Amazon. com for around $18US. To limit the amount of “stuff” we take in our carry on bag, I purchased a small, travel Fisher-Price Magna Doodle. The magna doodle is guaranteed to provide mommy with a minimum 15 minutes of peace and quiet. The magna doodle with the attached pen is an easier option than carrying a notepad and crayons, which are bound to be lost under the seat at some point. You can find this on Amazon.com for around $13US.

While on holiday I highly recommend the Deuter Kid Comfort III as a safe, comfortable and durable child carrier that has worked for every type of holiday we have taken around the US and Asia. This is a wonderful alternative to travelling with the stroller and our son begs to ride in it. One of the best selling points of the Deuter Kid Comfort III is the built in roll cage; meaning if you were carrying your child through the jungle, tripped on a root and fell, you would not crush your child due to the strong frame. You can find this on Amazon.com for around $300US.

Memories of an expat child: Bangkok during the 70s and 80s By Kittima Sethi

I was just a few months old when my mom boarded the plane from New Delhi, India to join my father who had accepted a job in Bangkok. He was an expat with an insurance company that was owned by the government of India. It was our first trip overseas and my mother was rather apprehensive of what to expect living and raising a child in a different country. My mom had led a nomadic life herself, moving around all over India at various army bases as my grandfather had served in the Indian army. She was accustomed to moving into new homes and making new friends every few years, but moving to an entirely new country was daunting, required lots of adjustments, and she finally settled in. My sister was born a year after we moved to Bangkok and another sister followed a few years later. I am very much a third culture kid (TCK), having lived all my life in a country outside of my birthplace. I attended an international school in Bangkok, mixed and mingled with other expat kids whose parents were either working for the diplomatic corps, United Nations agencies or other multinational companies and grew up in an environment with four languages: English, Thai, Punjabi and Hindi. I had friends from all over the world and was always fascinated to learn about their cultures and backgrounds. Back in the seventies there were only a handful of international schools and pre-schools, probably about ten. International schools were reserved for just expat kids, whilst only Thai kids whose parents worked in the foreign ministry were allowed to attend. We used to write letters to our pen pals or pen friends and anxiously wait for weeks or months for their letters

to arrive and share them with our schoolfriends. We would be fascinated by simple things like the stationary paper and stamps. Growing up as an expat kid during the 70s and 80s in Bangkok was very different than the lives of expat kids today. We had just one major supermarket, Villa Market on Sukhumvit Soi 33, which is still in operation today. It was a place where every expat you knew would shop. Back then, I remember all the groceries were packed into large brown paper bags, long before plastic bags came into use. It was the only supermarket that imported all types of sauces and ingredients and was a great learning place. If ever I wanted to know what certain imported vegetables or snacks looked like, I would hop into Villa. It was rare to find fruits such as apples, pears and the various berries back then. Either Villa had it or families who worked with the UN or diplomatic corps as they would get regular supplies of these exotic fruits and vegetables. There were just two or three cinema halls showing English movies and each was very large, seating about 200 people. The two most popular ones were Siam and Washington theatre, which is now where the Benjasiri Park sits. We would get to see these English movies about 2-3 months after their

Expat KIDs in bangkok



world premieres. Today of course, countries around the world launch premieres simultaneously. There was also a dedicated theatre for just Indian movies, called Queen which was located in Little India. There were no cable TVs back then of course, and the only way to watch foreign movies was at an expat friend’s home as they were the only ones to get the latest movies which we saw in a darkened room on a projector, and later on video tapes. Amongst the expat kids back then, popular TV shows included Different Strokes, The Bill Cosby Show, the music show Solid Gold, Bionic Women and the Six Million Dollar Man. Local TV would show Thai dubbed English movies during the weekends and we had to tune to a radio station to get the English soundtrack. We had to wait for weeks to find out what the top pop songs were. The most popular radio show was the American DJ Casey Kasem’s Top 40 countdown which we would get to hear two weeks later, but that kept us abreast of pop music. For friends who missed listening, we would tape songs off the radio by holding our portable tape player up to the speaker! At the weekends, I would bump into school friends at either the Central department store in Chidlom

or Thai Daimaru in Rajdamri, which were the two largest department stores. Each had a huge indoor amusement park which was popular amongst expats. Lumpini Park was another place my family would frequent. There would be live concerts and stage performances during the weekends and lots of different arts and craft workshops that were free to the public. Many expat kids frequented The British Club, RBSC Polo Club or the RBSC Club during the weekends. December was my favourite month as it was just so festive, with the shopping malls and streets decorated with coloured lights. I was part of the school choir and every week we would be invited to sing Christmas carols at the various hotels’ coffee shops and lobbies and then get treated to the holiday goodies! Many expats, including me, lived in apartments, which was different from condominiums today. The only facilities that apartments had were a swimming pool and a large outdoor playground. There were no gyms, indoor playground or multi-purpose rooms, so we mostly played board games when inside the apartment. In the evenings, all the kids would rush down to bike, play tag or hide and seek, hopscotch and Chinese jump rope! Jump ropes were the favourites amongst us girls and they were made with rubber bands. We would laboriously make these jump ropes as colourful as possible and show them off at school to play with the other kids. Nowadays, I see kids having playdates at each other’s house over laptops or video games. The only electronic games we had growing up were the handheld Nintendo games called “Game and Watch”. There weren’t many international restaurants back then and I used to love going to my classmates’ homes, to eat various international food. Japanese food was extremely expensive - there were no fast food Japanese chains as there are today. Everyone’s mom cooked us meals and we never had to order food delivery, as many expats do today when friends come over. Sometimes we would go to drive-in restaurants that would serve us food on trays clipped onto the cars windows sills. The only fast food chain I remember was Hoburger on Wireless Road. Dunkin Donuts opened in 1980 and became a favourite snack at birthday parties. I


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Expat KIDs in bangkok

recall when the first McDonalds opened in Amarin Plaza in 1985. It was the most talked about event in town and drove all the expat kids crazy. Pizza Hut opened a few years before that, followed by Swensen’s, and other fast food chains that continue to grow. The popular beaches were Pattaya and Cha-am and most of these beach resorts had bungalows. There were no highways back then and it would take between three, four or five hours to reach Pattaya or Cha-am. However, it was still a favourite holiday spot for everyone. Traffic was chaotic and in the 80s, the Bangkok bus lane was introduced along with the one-way traffic from Asok road to Pathumwan intersection. I remember there was utter confusion on the streets and sometimes we would get off the bus and walk to school! Metered taxis were only introduced in the 90s and prior to that, I remember my parents having to bargain with taxi drivers over taxi fares! Taxis were also non-airconditioned and each had a small fan installed on the dashboard. Even mandatory seat belts in school buses and cars were only introduced here in the 90s.

Like the US have “snow days” where offices and schools were closed due to severe snow, we used to have “rain days” as classrooms and schools were inundated with flood water. With no mobile phones back then, expat families had to tune in to the English radio station to hear announcements to hear if schools were closed or not. Bangkok has gone through a momentous transformation. Spacious homes have given way to the skyscrapers, shopping malls now dominate our lifestyle, international schools now number well over hundred, the sky trains have changed the city’s skyline and there is now access to a wide range of resources and facilities that make an expat child settle in to life in the city much easier. Kittima Sethi describes herself as a diversity embracing adult third culture kid. She has lived and studied in New Delhi and Bangkok. She has two teenage sons, both of whom are also TCKs. Kittima co-owns Brand Now, a boutique marketing and PR agency based in Bangkok, co-founded the Bangkok based International Parenting Network (IPN) and freelances as a cross cultural trainer.


The case for boarding By Neil Richards

‘Boarding’ is not, and never should be a substitute for a positive, nurturing home life. I say this as a father of four and as a headmaster. As such I find it difficult to ‘make a case’ for boarding schools per se. However, I can, I hope, make a case for any environment that is nurturing and enables young people to reach their potential. I suppose this is the essence of the dilemma for many parents. Can a better (and defining this word is a minefield in itself ) education be provided through a boarding environment? What is the trade off? And once committed to the idea, what is the next step? I should come clean immediately: as a teacher I have spent over thirteen years in four different boarding schools, and ten of those years as Headmaster, and while I would not necessarily advocate boarding for all children, I certainly know how rewarding it can be when circumstances are right. For some, the boarding school represents a safe haven, while for others it may provide welcome stability, for yet others it offers educational and recreational opportunities that would otherwise not be possible. It can also free parents from the myriad of problems that may be associated with location … as well as relocation and relocation. For those who can


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Expat KIDs in bangkok

afford it, it creates choice, although such choice may also be limited by the size of the pocket as well as by the size of the intellect under examination – the more prestigious the school, the more selective it becomes. And is there, perhaps, more than an element of hubris involved? Perhaps we had better not go there. Not immediately. The best boarding environments, of course, provide a structured approach to study and recreation. Very often this means designated periods for homework as well as for group activities and relaxation. Nutritional meals and snacks are as regular as a metronome, and ‘lights out’ means exactly that. Use of technology and social networking are both subject to strict guidelines that are applied firmly. Students in boarding schools are under supervision – it is perhaps a little harsh to call it control – at all times. And surely this must help to develop a sense of discipline and responsibility, and protect them against the harmful influences of excess, in its multitude of forms, in the modern world? I have wrestled with the alternative, and know how demanding, and exhausting, emerging adults can be in the home.

Along with general discipline comes a more controlled emphasis on keeping abreast of academic work. Regular homework at a set time, or ‘prep’ as it is sometimes called, is extremely beneficial for most students. Having friends, and often teachers, readily available during these periods provides a support framework that cannot be replicated at home without reference, it so often seems, to social media – and I know just how much this very term makes parents shudder with anxiety. It is, perhaps, this wrap around and disciplined academic support more than anything else that attracts parents to the ‘boarding’ concept. Of course such an environment doesn’t guarantee anything, but it certainly weighs the odds in favour of students achieving their academic potential. Then there is the issue of language: for non native speakers of English the advantage of total immersion in an English environment must be beneficial, although probably less so where large numbers of a single nationality may lead to an alternative boarding house lingua franca. But there is an obligation on the part of the school to ensure that individual students do not get isolated by language, or retreat into a first language as a matter of daily routine. This must be a concern where the majority of students are from a single nonnative speaking nationality. For the students, of course, what will matter most are the opportunities to socialise and to engage in worthwhile activities (this is not an objective statement). Problems will occur if the balance between work and play is not a healthy one. A miserable student will not perform well – at anything – no matter how structured an environment. This is one of the greatest challenges for schools. The phrase ‘home away from home’ is such a hackneyed expression; a boarding environment, after all, bears little resemblance to most homes. Schools do the best they can, but each individual student will bring to the boarding house a different set of issues and experiences, and it is important that these individual identities are valued and developed positively. As with most things in life, it is the ‘relationships’ that matter most. Good schools will have outstanding support structures, designated and experienced boarding parents, and do not expect their teachers to deliver well in the classroom and then pick up hours

of boarding duties. They will provide opportunities for student self expression and for responsibility. And in those moments of inner crisis that all children and especially adolescents face there will be responsible adults to turn to for support and reassurance. Boarding schools are not the answer for everyone, of course, and much has to depend upon the exact question being asked. Some students will flourish, while others may withdraw. The responses are as varied as the children themselves, and how could it not be so. It is important, therefore, for parents to know exactly why they are examining the boarding option for their child – more especially if it remains an option only. Then there is reputation. The increasing numbers of ‘branded’ international boarding schools is an interesting phenomenon in Asia. Of all reasons for sending a child away to school surely none of them should be for family prestige. No matter what name the school goes by, the searching questions need to be asked, and the only answers that should be acceptable are those relating to the wellbeing of the student. In my time as Headmaster I have recommended boarding over day school attendance, and conversely I have recommended that a student should stay at home with parents. Each student and set of circumstances is unique. Personally, I am grateful that I never had to consider ‘boarding’ as an option for my own children, but there is no doubt in my mind that in the right circumstances, and for the right child, there are great advantages to be gained from such an experience.

Expat KIDs in bangkok



Five top tips for finding a university for your child By Michel Behrens

Choosing a university for an expatriate family is not always easy. We do not live in our home country, or you may not even have what many consider to be their ‘home country’. There are many factors that come into play when choosing a university for your child but the most crucial and sometimes most difficult one is to decide what to study. As a university counsellor at an International Baccalaureate (IB) world school in Bangkok, I assist students with their applications to universities literally all around the world. I hope you find this guide useful when making the difficult decision with your expat child as to which institutions to consider.

Tip #1: Research, research, research Once students decide what field they want to study, I encourage them to dig deeper into how universities structure their programmes. This is when students discover that even within the same field or degree, the course components and outlines vary a great deal. So my number one piece of advice is to research course components and programme structures and compare between the universities.


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Expat KIDs in bangkok

For example, let’s say your child wants to study business. I tell my students to explore the different business schools, their courses, modules, internship opportunities, ability to combine their degree with a minor or a second major etc. They will see that some have a strong focus on entrepreneurship and encourage their students to be innovative, creative and invest in their student initiated start-ups, while others have the more classic business and management or accounting type of approach. You need to really look at the course components to understand what your child would get out of the course and what their years at university would actually be like, and whether this aligns with their personal goals.

Tip #2: Ditch the rankings Rankings or league tables are often the starting point when looking at the quality of universities. But rankings give you zero information about whether the university is the right fit for your child. If you are just after the Ivy League bumper sticker, then by all means, go by rankings. If you care whether your child can be successful at a university and happy while studying there, ditch the rankings!

Rather than just going with a brand name, ask yourself where your child thrives. Do they do better in a small community environment or would they do well at a large campus? Does location or climate matter? Do they have certain interests or hobbies they would like to continue at university? Would they enjoy a research heavy environment? Does class size matter? Is religion an important aspect? My one exception in terms of rankings are the largely unknown ‘Washington Monthly’ rakings: “We rate schools based on their contribution to the public good in three broad categories: Social Mobility (recruiting and graduating low income students), Research (producing cutting edge scholarship and PhDs), and Service (encouraging students to give something back to their country).”

you kind of know as soon as you walk through the door. So, if you have the chance, go travel and visit universities during the summer before their senior year. There are also organised tours that your child could join during holidays if you are not able to go as a family. If you are not able to travel and visit in person, visit with the university representatives that frequently travel to Bangkok. There are a large number of university fairs every autumn and spring with institutions from the US, UK, Canada, Australia and other countries. Most countries also have education sections connected to their embassies, such as Education USA, The British Council, The Goethe Institute (Germany), Nuffic Neso (Netherlands) etc. In Bangkok you literally have the world coming to you.

Another crucial point to consider is employment rate after graduation. While Exeter University Business School ranks higher than Manchester University Business School, graduates from Manchester may fare better in their employment after they graduate. According to a study by High Flier Research, Manchester came out third (compared to Exeter at 20) on a list of universities targeted by the UK’s leading investment banks, law firms and consultancies.

Tip#3: Work with your school Check whether your child’s school has a designated university counsellor and go to meet them. If there is no university counsellor, check how much their high school counsellor is involved with assisting your child with his or her applications to university. While this may be the first time you embark on the process to choose the right university, educators are the experts in the field. Think about it! International schools are full of educational professionals from all over the world. These teachers and counsellors are alumni from universities all around the world. What a wonderful pool of knowledge! Encourage your child to talk to their teachers about the university systems in the countries of their origin. Most international schools will have career guidance and university preparation built into the students’ timetable. Having worked in Bangkok for almost ten years, I know most of my colleagues at the other schools. We do this year in and year out so that you and your child can benefit from our experience. Use it!

Tip #4: Visit universities If you can, visit the universities you may be interested in. Every year students tell me that as soon as they set foot on a university campus they knew they would love it, or that they would not. It’s a bit like looking for a new home:

Tip #5: Compare the cost Tuition fees vary a great deal. Not just from country to country but also between universities within the same country. While a bachelor degree in the UK usually takes three years, a degree in the US will usually take four. Check whether the university offers scholarships and if those scholarships are also available to international students. Many universities want to attract international students and offer specific scholarships just for international students. And most importantly, understand the difference between the tuition cost if you attend a university as a domestic student or go somewhere else as an international student. The difference is usually quite high. This requires quite specific research and you should compare each university once you have started to make a list of possible universities to apply to. While choosing a university can be a daunting, these tips should help you get started with the process. Enjoy the excitement and encourage your child to look forward to a new stage in their lives. Michel Behrens is the university counsellor at KIS International School, an IB World School in Bangkok, where he has worked for the past eight years.

Expat KIDs in bangkok



How can anyone be Krabi? By Becky Horace

The New York Times has just named Krabi one of the fifty two places you should visit in 2014 and I completely agree! Children of any age will find it very hard to be the tiniest bit crabby with elephant treks through the rubber tree forests, kayaking through caves to see paintings dating back 3000 years, or snorkelling to find Nemo. One of the best things a family can do together is to take off on an adventure. The typical beach vacation is full of relaxation, listening to the waves lap onto the shore, and reading a book in a lounge chair soaking up the sun’s rays while your little one builds a castle in the sand. May I suggest to you a different kind of vacation, one full of exciting activities your entire family will enjoy? Phuket is a very popular destination among tourists visiting Thailand but for the Bangkok expat family, skip the hustle and bustle of this tourist trap and make your way south to Krabi. Krabi has much to offer families, you can stay in the more touristy location, Ao Nang, where there is a plethora of family friendly restaurants to choose from every night and a walking street for those who love to shop or you could make your way to a more secluded, quiet location by long tail boat to Railay Bay.

Water fun No matter where you stay in Krabi, your entire family is sure to enjoy a day of island hopping by speedboat.


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Expat KIDs in bangkok

This full day excursion starts in the morning, you will be whisked away to four stunning islands with beaches of white sand and crystal clear water that is sure to wash away any stress you might be carrying with you from the Big Mango. At Top Island you can walk along the sand bar to another smaller beach, while the tide is out, but be careful not to get stuck on the other side. After your kids have splashed around and enjoyed a fresh juice drink from the little beach bar, the tour continues to Chicken Island. Upon your arrival to Chicken Island, the boat will drop anchor and you will have around an hour to search for Nemo, while you are snorkelling. Even if your child isn’t the best swimmer the boat will provide a life jacket for them to wear, to ensure a safe experience. As the schools of brightly coloured fish swim around them close enough for your little explorer to touch, they will be in total awe and feel as if they too have become one with the ocean. The snorkelling will leave everyone tired and hungry, this is the perfect time to visit Poda Island, where you can enjoy a traditional Thai lunch, refreshing ice cream and your little one can enjoy a nap in the sun. Travel tip: Take your child into the water to wash off the sand, wrap them up tight in a clean beach towel like a burrito, and take them for a walk along the beach. After about ten minutes of listening to the waves, they will be sleeping like a baby in your arms.

Your day will conclude at one of the top ten beaches in the world, Phra Nang Beach, where you can go rock climbing or enjoy a refreshing swim before you head back to the hotel.

mangroves, you will notice a slight current, which will lend itself to a nice upper body workout (and during my trip a marital counselling session on working together as to not paddle into the mangroves).

The great outdoors

During your kayaking tour of Bor Thor, you will paddle through the dark and mysterious Lod Cave and on to the site where the movie the “Blue Lagoon” was filmed; although it is no longer blue it is still beautiful. As you make your way back to the pier, your final stop will be at Skull Cave, here you will be able to get out to explore on your own. Skull Cave is the best part of this excursion because of the huge stalagmites and stalactites, the scenic view of the mountains once you reach the opposite side of the cave, and the 3000 year old cave paintings.

It might be hard to believe but after a few days of playing in the sand, your children might want a change of scenery. There are many excursions from Krabi, which can easily be booked from your hotels front desk. One activity that is sure to please everyone in the family is an elephant trek. During this excursion, you will climb onto the back of Thailand’s national animal to take a ride through forests of rubber trees. At the end of your ride, you children can feed their new pachyderm companion bananas, which was my son’s favourite part of the day.

Travel tip: Please research tour companies before you book this type of excursion. The reason being, you want to make sure to support the company, who is known for their good treatment of animals.

These are only a few of the excursions available to you on your next holiday in Krabi. With Krabi being only a couple of hours away from Bangkok by plane, why wouldn’t you want to take your family to a location, that is sure to leave them anything but crabby, with the potential to make memories that will last a lifetime?

Another fun outdoor adventure, during your visit to Krabi, is cave exploration expedition by kayak through Bor Thor. Upon arrival at Bor Thor, you will be given a life jacket and a brief explanation of how to kayak. Children of all ages will enjoy this excursion; while your teenagers paddle on their own take your younger children with you in your kayak for a family spelunking adventure. As you begin to paddle down the waterway through the

Expat KIDs in bangkok



Teens and drugs in Thailand By Eric K. Mason, MA, MS

Parents often fear that their children will fall into drug and alcohol use. Indeed, drugs and alcohol can become very destructive. Substance abuse and addiction tears families apart, ruins careers and costs society’s untold amounts of money. The good news is that treatments are available and improving rapidly. Parents may ask themselves what they can do, if they suspect their child is using drugs. Research shows that the biggest predictor for success in the prevention of substance abuse and addiction is early intervention (i.e. treating the problem before it becomes unmanageable). If you suspect that your child is using drugs or alcohol you should seek professional help as soon as possible. Early intervention is the key! People often have common misconceptions when it comes to drugs/alcohol, such as the notion that alcohol is not a drug. By all measures, alcohol is a drug and perhaps one of the most destructive. The legality of a drug has nothing to do with its potential to wreck lives.


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Expat KIDs in bangkok

Another misconception is the idea of “gateway drugs.” In other words, the idea that some drugs lead to further drug use while other drugs do not. Often, marijuana is defined as a gateway drug. Parents mistakenly believe that as long as their child has not started smoking marijuana, they will not go on to use other “heavy” drugs, such as cocaine or heroin. The truth is your child’s first encounter with drugs could be any drug. They may smoke cigarettes first then try prescription pain killers and then marijuana next. Just as likely, they could try alcohol first then ecstasy then marijuana. The point is, in my experience, the progression of drug use may or may not follow some sort of predictable pattern. Drugs and alcohol are readily available to teens and adolescents in Thailand, just like in most parts of the world. In addition to all the other negative consequences of drugs, Thailand’s legal system deals harshly with drug offences. This includes heavy fines and long jail sentences. To say the least, you should have a conversation with your children about Thailand’s drug laws-especially if you come from a country where drug laws may be more relaxed

Parents may find themselves asking ‘how do I know if my kids are drinking or using drugs?’ Although it may not be the same for each teen or adolescent, there are a few common warning signs to which you should pay attention. For example, how is your child doing in school? Poor grades and overall school performance may be an indicator of drug use. Has your child stopped engaging in sports or activities that he or she once enjoyed? Has your child’s overall behaviour and attitude changed, such as becoming depressive or irritable. Lastly, is your child friends with teens that drink or use drugs? This is perhaps the biggest predictor of drug and alcohol use in teens. Teens rarely hang out with others who drink and use drugs and not partake themselves. Sometimes parents already have a hunch that their child is using drugs, but choose to ignore it in hope that it will go away on its own. Parents sometimes suffer from some form of denial, as well. In my opinion, if you have some sort of nagging feeling that your child has a problem with drugs or alcohol, then you are probably right. Call it a parental instinct! What should you do if you suspect that your child is drinking or using drugs? As I stated in the beginning, early intervention is the key! Don’t wait until the problem has become so big that it is unmanageable. If you have any concerns at all, seek professional help. Make an appointment with a counsellor, preferably one with experience in treating substance abuse and addictions. Drug

testing kits are available at most international clinics at hospitals. You can choose to make drug testing a part of your child’s routine health checkups. Lastly, don’t accept or tolerate alcohol or drug use by your children. This is maybe the most important thing that a parent can do. Some parents tend to accept some drug and alcohol use as part of growing up. In my experience, this is the wrong message to send. Although experimentation may be part of adolescence, parents can implicitly contribute or enable alcohol and drug use if they send the message that it is ok. Drug and or alcohol abuse and addiction can affect anyone, regardless of race, religion, socioeconomic status or individual intelligence. However, age appears to play a big role. Rarely does alcohol/drug abuse and addiction begin after the age of 30. It almost always has its roots in adolescence. You can play a huge role in ensuring that your child lives a drug free life. Nevertheless, there are times when professional help may be necessary. If you find yourself being concerned about your child’s drug use, I would advise you to consult with a professional. Eric is an American licensed professional counsellor, licensed clinical addictions specialist, certified rehabilitation counsellor, and an internationally certified advanced drug & alcohol counsellor. Eric is the director of Lighthouse humanservices & consulting in Bangkok where he provides general counselling, as well as mental health and substance abuse. He may be reached at lighthousehumanservices@gmail.com.

Expat KIDs in bangkok



Three cultures, one family: Our adoption story By Danielle Cevallos

Four and a half years ago, our lives were forever changed when we brought our daughters home from Ethiopia. However, our adoption story started years before that. Right out of college, almost eleven years ago, my husband and I got married. We were young, and enjoying life as a married couple. Years prior, God had really placed a desire in our hearts to adopt one day. I don’t really know another way to explain it, but we just knew it was something we were supposed to do. About five years into our marriage, we started talking about children. At that point, we had no reason to believe that we couldn’t have biological children, so we spent some time praying and thinking through the options. Ultimately we decided that we both really had a heart to adopt, so we decided to go ahead with that first. So I dove head first into mountains of paperwork. After extensive soul searching and research, we chose Ethiopia, and turned in all of the necessary paperwork as quickly as we could. We were told it takes about nine months once our paperwork was approved, and between ten months to a year for the whole process to be completed. That isn’t quite how it worked out. Two years later, after much heartache, waiting and prayer, we were finally able to bring our girls home. Those two years were some of the most difficult we have walked through together as a couple. When you are pregnant, you know that at some point,


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around forty weeks or so, that baby is coming out one way or another. With adoption, once you turn in your paperwork, everything is completely out of your hands. The wait time hinges on the government and social service systems. There was constant fear in my mind that this might not happen. That maybe, just maybe, we would have waited all of this time, and spent all of this money, only to be told we wouldn’t be able to take the girls home. Then, on top of that, there are so many unanswered questions about your children. Are they safe? Do they know we are coming? Do they know that they are wanted, that someone somewhere is desperately trying to get to them? It was a tumultuous rollercoaster of emotions for the entire two year period. Thankfully, in September of 2009, God worked miracles (seriously, it was a set of crazy awesome miracles), and enabled us to bring our girls home.

The first few months were hard. For those with newborns, there are sleepless nights, dirty diapers and loud crying at all times during the day. For us, we had two young girls, aged ten and seven, who had complex thoughts, fears, opinions and needs, but they didn’t speak a word of English. So for about five to six months, we played a constant game of charades that was filled with many tears, some temper tantrums and a few breakdowns from all of us. As the girls began to become adjusted to American culture, found foods they liked, and learned English, our family was able to really bond in some amazing ways. But those few months were extremely difficult. We had to adjust to life as a family of four, when it had always been just the two of us. We had to communicate some hard things, with little to no common words. There were many days when I wondered to myself why we had chosen this route. However, looking at those precious little ladies really did remind me why this was exactly where we were supposed to be.

There was a lot we found out once the girls were home. One of our daughters had a pretty significant health condition. There were facts that were either left out or misinterpreted, but at the end of the day, we knew these girls were the ones God had in mind for our family. Fast forward to four and half years later, and my 14 year old and 11 year old are finding their way in Bangkok. They are healthy, well adjusted and in every way completely


ours. We talk about their birth family openly. We try our best to answer their questions about adoption, pray for their biological mother and father, and do the best we can to continually reassure them that we are completely committed to them. Adoption is an absolutely amazing picture of redemption, but in so many ways it is built on a foundation of loss and hardship. We have found that it is so important to help our girls process through that loss. That is a hard thing to do, but the longer we are together, the easier it is getting. Today, I look at my family and feel so much more than blessed. I know that our story is not everyones. I know that there are adoptive families who have had much harder roads to walk down. I know that people won’t always immediately understand our family, and that many think it is not quite as ‘real’ as a biological family.

These are some questions we are frequently asked about our adoption and how I usually answer them! Weren’t you scared about your children having issues from being adopted? This one always gets me. I guess because I can’t imagine a mother anywhere who isn’t worried about their child having ‘issues’. Whether it is abandonment or Autism, things being ‘off’ come with having both biological and adopted children. We knew at the time that God was calling us to do this. We knew the risks, and decided it was worth pursuing anyway. Our girls do remember a time without us, and they sometimes miss their lives back in Ethiopia. However, they have adjusted to life here with us, and consider us their parents. They know that they have two sets of people who love them. We talk with them through whatever they are feeling. Many adopted children struggle in their new families, but many don’t. Just like many biological children are perfectly healthy, while many aren’t. There are risks to being a parent. Do you want to have your own children? We do! Are they real (biological) sisters? Now they are! Was it difficult? Yes! For about six months the girls didn’t speak


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But for me, this is exactly the family that I was created for. It is quite real, quite imperfect, and quite wonderful. The long, hard road getting here, was one well worth walking, and I would do it again in a heartbeat!

English. We lived in a constant state of charades and tears. However, once they learned, our lives began to look pretty normal. Now, we have problems, but they are just like the ones most families have. Parenting is hard. Are you worried that they will want to find their real parents? We are their real parents. If they want to find their biological parents in Ethiopia we will be more than happy to encourage and help them in that. Them loving their first set of parents does not negate their love for us. Them wanting to know their first parents does not negate our love for them. If there comes a time when that is an issue, we will walk through it. How could you love children that weren’t yours biologically? This wasn’t hard for us, but I know that other families have struggled with this. We prayed and waited for our girls for two years. By the time we got them, there was nothing but love from us, and yes it was immediate! We knew these were the girls God had for us, and were instantly in love with them. That doesn’t mean everything was all roses and that we immediately became the perfect little family. It just means that God enabled us to love the girls through the good, the bad and the ugly. However, when we were foster parents, I found this extremely hard to do. I am not sure why it was so easy with our girls, it just was.

Book Reviews for Youths By Danielle Cevallos

When You Reach Me Written by Rebecca Stead

Miranda is a latchkey kid from New York City in the 70’s. She lives a pretty normal life, until things get strange. Her best friend Sal gets punched in the face, and then decides he doesn’t want to talk to her anymore. On top of that, Miranda begins to receive strange notes from a traveller who wants her to tell a story. Left on her own, she has got to figure out what story it is she is supposed to tell. When you Reach Me is a lighthearted mystery that will keep your young readers engaged. Miranda is a normal 12 year old, who is relatable and clearly depicts the struggle and excitement contained in the middle school years. When you Reach Me is written at a reading level most 9 to 10 year olds should be able to comprehend. There may be some content that slightly goes over the head, but this book would serve as a great read for both male and female readers alike.


Written by Louis Sachar Stanley Yelnats has a family history of bad luck, and the book Holes is the story of Stanley’s troubles. When Stanley gets “caught” stealing a pair of shoes, that he didn’t actually steal, he is sent away to a work camp filled with delinquent young boys. As Stanley tries to fit in with this rough and tumble crowd, he spends his days digging holes, to build character. Or so they say. Stanley quickly realises, that there is more to this hole digging than he thought. He quickly discovers that the Warden is actually looking for something quite specific, and that the hours these boys spend digging holes has little to do with building character. When Stanley’s friend Zero runs away from the camp, Stanley goes after him. They end up hiking up a mountain, that we find out, is the same one that had an influence on both of their lives, hundred of years before they were even born. The boys end up going back to camp, with the purpose of finding their own historic treasure. They get back to camp, find something quite notable, and are sent home. It seems as though Stanley’s family’s curse has been lifted, and that things are turning around for the Yelnats. Holes is a great, easy read for middle school students. There are many themes applicable to this age group, including friendship and luck. This book is particularly fun for boys, as it follows the life of these male delinquents. The reading level and content level of Holes is suitable for readers ages 10 and up!

Don’t Judge a Girl By Her Cover Written by Ally Carter

Don’t Judge a Girl by Her Cover is the third book in the Gallagher Girls series written by Ally Carter. It follows a couple of young girls who are anything but ordinary. Cammie and her friend Macey, both attend the prestigious Gallagher Academy for Exceptional Young Women. While this school seems like nothing more than a stuffy, prep school filled with spoiled snobs, it is actually one of the top spy schools in the world. Cammie and her friends are required to put their spy skills to the test, when their friend Macey finds herself in a bit of trouble. Macy, in the centre of a kidnapping plot, after her father accepts the Vice Presidential nomination, will need her friends and their spy skills more than ever. This book is a great read for young girls, as it follows these intelligent resourceful young women through an intriguing mystery. This book’s reading level is suitable for youth ages 11 and up. However, there is some violence, although minimal, so it’s content might not be suitable for your more sensitive readers.

The Hunger Games

Written by Suzanne Collins Every year, the people of District 12 wait the treacherous day, when one of their own is chosen to participate in the Annual Hunger Games. The Games, a reminder of the Capitol’s power, pits the young against one another, in a fight to the death. This horrible fight is a spectator sport for those living in the wealth of the Capitol. For those in the districts, it is a tragic picture of their powerlessness, as they watch one of their own die needlessly. The Hunger Games is the first in a series of three that follows 16 year old Katniss Everdeen through her struggle in the Games. This book is action packed, with romantic undertones. Katniss’ love for her family compels her throughout the entire story, while Collins eloquently depicts her internal turmoil. While it’s reading level is suitable for students ages 13 and up, the content is mature, with a good bit of violence involved, so it may not be suitable for more sensitive readers.

Expat KIDs in bangkok



Surviving homework hour By Danielle Cevallos

Every parent of school aged children knows how difficult the homework hours can be. Your kid can’t find their text book, you can’t figure out that 5th grade maths problem, and all of your pencils are in the deep dark abyss that sucks up your school supplies right when you are about to begin. By the end of the evening, everyone is crying in a corner, trying to figure out some way to muster up the fight to keep going. However, there is hope! There are several things that we as parents can do to make these hours far less traumatic, and far more efficient.

Get in the homework zone Help your children get in a routine after school. Give them a small break, but get them started shortly after they arrive home. Provide some snacks and a place that is comfortable, and free of distractions. This could be the dining room table, their bed, or a desk. Find a good spot, and then make sure pencils, paper and any other necessities are stocked up in that location. This will minimise the twenty hour search for an eraser, and help your student get to work quickly.

Set a timer and work in some breaks Have your child look at their assignments and set some work times for each of those assignments. For example: maths workbook 20 minutes, grammar notes 15 minutes and so on. Have them set a timer for the amount of time they think the assignment will take, and then let them work for that amount of time. After the timer goes off, they get a break, and begin the next assignment. If they finish early, they get a longer break, or can start on their next task earlier. At first your kids will need help with this, but eventually they will learn to manage their time well. This also helps them see that there is an end in sight, which can motivate them to work harder during their ‘work’ times. If you have a smart phone, the 30/30 app is a great tool to set up work and break times!

Let your child choose their work order As parents, we have an idea of what we think the most efficient way to do homework might be. Some of us think doing your easy assignments first is ideal, while others think it is best to get the hard stuff out of the way. We need to keep in mind that it is our children’s work, and that one day, they will need to prioritise their lives and activities. Letting them prioritise their assignments gives them ownership over their work, and gives them a sense

of investment and control. So set the expectation that everything needs to get done, but let them choose how they go about doing that.

Ask for help If you are like me, you have looked at your 8th grader’s maths homework and scratched your head. Or maybe the ‘super-amazing-sparkly-new’ way to divide leaves you completely clueless when your child asks for help. When this happens it is okay to call in some help. Is there a neighbour or friend that can talk your child through it? Does Kahn academy offer an online video? If you can’t find help, just shoot the teacher an email explaining the situation. Most teachers will be more than happy to help your student work through the issue the next day at school. If your child needs to go to school the next day with all but one of those maths problems done, it’s okay. The world will go on spinning, and you will be saving yourself and your child years of therapy bills, by letting it go.

Host a homework group Tell your child to invite some of his or her friends over once a week so that everyone can work on homework together. If you have your child and their friends in your house, you can monitor to make sure everyone is doing their own work while making homework less of a drag. Plus if someone gets stuck on something, or forgets something, there are others there who can help. And you might even get a few minutes of quiet! Make it a weekly thing with snacks and maybe a dinner or movie when everyone finishes.

Keep things in perspective Homework is meant to be practice of what was learned that day in class. In some cases it is meant to be a preview of what is coming up the next day in class. It is not a reflection of your child’s intelligence and is not a determiner of your child’s future. Many amazing people with great jobs forgot to turn in an assignment or two. Some of them couldn’t do their homework on their own, or spent hours upon hours at night trying to get assignments done. Teach your child to persevere and to try their best. Remind them that at the end of the day, homework is just one small piece of a grade, and that is just one small piece of who they are. Their grades do not define them, nor do they dictate their futures. Use homework as a way to teach your children about responsibility and putting forth effort even when they don’t feel like it. Those are life skills that really matter! The homework hours don’t have to be torture. It is possible for both you and your children to come out safely on the other side of homework. Find out some

things that work for your family, and then make them a part of your regular routine. Encourage your children to work hard, but to work smart. Decrease distractions and try your best to make some parts of doing homework fun. Include breaks, snacks and friends so that your children won’t dread their first hour’s home from school. Try to keep things in perspective, and remember that at the end of the day, your child is a whole lot more than just a number at the end of the marking period!


Life with a newborn By Ruth Richert

When I was pregnant, I was often told that while life with a baby is wonderful, it is also incredibly challenging and overwhelming at times. I tried to prepare myself as best I could, but when you’re a starry eyed pregnant woman dreaming of your first baby (either that or just dreaming of the day that you will no longer be pregnant), it is almost impossible to envision what motherhood will actually be like. When Zoe was born in the beginning of December, it was like a small bomb went off in the middle of my life; for better or for worse, motherhood became the reality that dominates my every waking – and sometimes sleeping – moment. Here are five lessons that I’ve learned from my first eleven weeks on the job.

I sometimes wonder if her extremely healthy (i.e. hefty) early weight gain will doom her to a lifetime of obesity – guilt!

1. Maternal guilt knows no bounds

2. Sleeping when the baby sleeps is good in theory

I’ve always been a bit of a guilt-prone individual, but motherhood has really raised this tendency to the next level. On any given day, the opportunities for feeling guilty are truly extensive: after a rough night, I am not necessarily overwhelmingly happy to see her smiling face in the early hours of the morning – guilt! Sometimes, I can’t wait until my husband gets home from work so that I can hand her off to him – guilt! And


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Expat KIDs in bangkok

And then there is the guilt that bashes me from both sides of an apparent contradiction. For example, I feel guilty when I put Zoe alone in the bedroom for a nap: “Oh no! She feels abandoned! She’ll grow up thinking that I never wanted her around!” But I also feel guilty on days when we are out during naptime and she has to sleep on my chest in her carrier: “Oh no! How selfish of me to take her out during naptime just so I can fulfil my own selfish need to see adult faces once in a while! She probably won’t sleep well, and she hates waking up in her carrier! I’m a terrible mother!” I can’t win.

When I was pregnant, I read over and over again that mothers should ‘sleep when the baby sleeps.’ “No problem,” I thought. “I’ll just nap with her during the day – I’ll probably be pretty well rested that way.” And then Zoe was born, and that plan was promptly scrapped. I discovered that I am totally unable to nap at the same time as my baby. Her every twitch disturbs me, and

I’m constantly paranoid that she’ll wake up just as I’ve finally – FINALLY – dozed off. It has gotten so bad that even when my husband is watching Zoe, I can’t nap. On one memorable occasion, after a particularly rough night, I was muddling my way through the day, and kept telling myself “Just a few more hours until Todd gets home. Then I can nap alone!” After I finally handed him the baby, I found myself in a dark, quiet room, completely unable to sleep. I promptly burst into hysterical tears. And then I decided to stop trying to nap – it was just too traumatic.

3. Travelling with a baby is a ‘unique’ experience When Zoe was two months old, we decided to travel to Koh Samet during my husband’s school break. Normally, the island is a pretty easy jaunt from Bangkok – how much harder could it really be with a baby? A lot harder, it turns out. Everything from the speed boat ride to meals at the hotel restaurant was suddenly an endeavour. The bus ride to the pier seemed to take an eternity, particularly as the driver decided not to stop for the usual noodle break. We discovered that it is possible to change a diaper in a moving vehicle, and that keeping a two month old happy for a four hour bus ride requires a lot of nursing. The beach was as beautiful as ever, but we had to take turns enjoying it as the sun was much too hot for Zoe. We also had to take turns at the breakfast buffet when Zoe decided she wasn’t in the mood for sitting around. All of this was completely normal behaviour for a two month old, but as first time parents, it was a wake up call.

4. Parental paranoia and Bangkok are a potent combination I think it’s natural for first time parents to be paranoid no matter where they are, but life in Bangkok seems to offer extra opportunities. We have done things here that we would never dream of doing in Canada. Many of these things centre on transportation. There

are times, for example, when we have to take a taxi, and without seatbelts, there isn’t much point in using a car seat. This means that Zoe is strapped in her front carrier while her parent is wearing the seat belt. In Canada, we would be arrested for this, but here, it is just an unfortunate reality of life. The BTS is a good option with a baby, but it often entails a walk on both ends of a trip – i.e. lots of opportunities to dodge motorcycles, soi dogs, and random people who want to touch your baby. Then there’s the general parental paranoia that isn’t specific to Bangkok. For the first month of Zoe’s life, my husband and I would have the following conversation every single night: “Do you think the room is too cold for her?” “I don’t know. What do you think?” “Maybe. Let’s turn the A/C up one degree.” “But then it might be too warm.” “Ok, let’s leave it, then.” “But what if she’s too cold?” And on and on, ad nauseum. Both of us have also had frequent dreams about Zoe’s whereabouts during that first month. For some reason, my husband thought that one of the pillows on our bed was Zoe, and he would often squeeze it during the night, thinking that he was protecting her from some unknown danger. I on the other hand, would often dream that I was feeding Zoe, and would rummage through the blankets, trying to remember where I had set her down. In both these scenarios, Zoe was always grunting happily in her crib as her parents lost their minds.

5. It’s all worth it Before Zoe was born, I couldn’t fathom how challenging and sometimes bizarre it is to have a baby. However, I also didn’t know how wonderful it would be. Amidst the sleep deprivation, the paranoia, the guilt, and the curtailed travel plans, I have a profound sense that my life is better with Zoe in it. Her arrival may have been like a bomb going off in our lives, but the pieces fell in just the right places. She has brought us more joy than I could have anticipated, and I’m so grateful that I get to be her mother.

Expat KIDs in bangkok



Why International Baccalaureate (IB)? By Peter McMurray

In an ever complex and changing world, where the growth of human knowledge is accelerating at a pace faster than ever known to mankind, it is critical that we provide our next generation with the tools to adapt to this world and to succeed in it. I believe that that provision lies in the International Baccalaureate Programmes currently offered in 146 different countries to over 1.1 million students, with 3671 schools authorised to offer one or more of its programmes. I write this support for the IB wearing many hats: an IB Diploma teacher, a Director of IB schools in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and now Thailand, an IB examiner, (for higher level English), an IB authorisation visitor, and most importantly, a parent who saw his daughters through the Middle Years and Diploma Programmes. So why am I a big supporter? Firstly, the Diploma Programme is an all rounded programme that offers students the opportunity to study two languages, the arts, the sciences, and mathematics. It also offers a unique course in the theory of knowledge, exploring the nature of knowledge and instilling in students a natural and rigorous tendency to question their world and the veracity of what they see, hear and learn. In addition, students in their second year write an extended essay which, from parental experience,


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Expat KIDs in bangkok

allows students to go to university well grounded in independent learning, research, and essay writing. Both my daughters complained to me about the number of their friends who had gone through the traditional “A� level path, who would come to them for help at college on how to reference and how to research for longer papers than they had ever been forced to write. And then there is the ethical piece. Because students are required to perform community service, and explore the concept and principles of service giving, there is a natural discipline of guiding students to want to make their world a better place. Good CAS programmes, in essence achieve this, but also make it a lifelong process. Both my daughters have chosen careers which have been strongly influenced by those Community Service Programmes: one works in the UK for a charity called the Rainbow Trust, and is assigned to help and support families who have had a child diagnosed with a terminal illness. My second daughter is an actress who works with a charity group, which uses drama to educate prisoners in UK prisons, (including top security prisons for serious offenders,) about issues revolving around violence to women, homophobia and racism. The IB programmes instill ethical values which are lifelong, offer strong preparation for both acceptance to top universities and success in them when enrolled: why would I not be a supporter, as well as a proud father?

Exceptional people. Outstanding opportunities. Academic excellence. Shrewsbury International School helps children achieve the very highest academic success and to grow into balanced, happy, confident young people ready for the challenges of life at university and beyond. We are currently accepting applications for Year 7 and Year 12 in August 2014. A limited number of places is available in other year groups. Call 02 675 1888 or email admissions@shrewsbury.ac.th Be part of the Shrewsbury success story.


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