This is us.  The one showing lots of shoulder (in her Chengdu, China Marine Ball ball gown!) is the EFM who writes this blog. The one wearing a tux (James) is the employee who moves her (and their two sons) around all over the world. The red link, below, is how you can get in touch with me...

The time in Chengdu, China

Chengdu: city of fabulous food and beautiful Buddhist monasteries!
Yes, Beijing's Forbidden City (pictured, above) is really pretty and all, but I like Chengdu much better than Beijing!

In Our Same Boat (with State)

  • Beyond the Cornfields
    Brand-new State Department family in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Love their two little girls (she just recently had a baby while being posted in Dhaka), horticulture, traveling and adventure!
  • Email From The Embassy
    State Department family formerly in Beijing, China, and recently posted to Amman, Jordan. A trailing spouse, she's also a writer, and frequently publishes articles with major news sources. A very experienced State family, this new post is something like overseas post number six or seven for them.
  • Just US
    A beautiful family of seven - they have arrived at their new post: Jerusalem! They just finished off an unaccompanied tour to Iraq and are very much looking forward to sightseeing around the middle east.
  • Our Life
    State Department family on their second post...Tijuana, Mexico. It's their first overseas assignment and they have two little boys. They love Tijuana so far and post pictures frequently! They also get to enjoy the best of both worlds for they can sneak over the border into San Diego when they want to!
  • The Dinoia Family
    State Department family formerly in California, now in DC for a DC tour. Next, the husband will do a one year unaccompanied tour. A very experienced State family (formerly in Iceland and Caracas) with a blog that has been around quite a while and has great archives. Jen has a sweet heart and a lot to give!
  • The Perlman Update
    State Department family formerly in Chennai, India, who then did a year-long unaccompanied tour in Iraq. They are now on a DC tour and after that will do another unaccompanied tour (Afghanistan). She totally tells it like it is and doesn't sugar-coat what life is really like. Witty, snarky, funny and down-to-earth. Look elsewhere if you want fake. Read if you want REAL.
  • Where in the World Am I?
    State Department family formerly in Bujumbura, Burundi and now in Hyderabad, India. They just had their first baby this summer - a beautiful little girl- (there's a separate blog about this) and she also eats gluten-free (with a separate blog, also).
One of the most intriguing things about Chengdu is that it is a seamless blend of ancient and modern... all together, side by side.

Can't Live Without (non-State)

  • Crass-Pollination: An ER blog
    The best ER nurse blog EVER!
  • Doctor Grumpy in the House
    The best doctor blog EVER!
  • In Which...
    My IRL friend, a stay-at-home, homeschooling Mama of seven. Her darling daughters are, goshdarnit, probably too young to be hoped for as my future daughters-in-law.
  • The Crib Chick
    My IRL friend, a stay-at-home, homeschooling Mama of five. Hopefully two (Any two! I'm not picky!) of which are my future daughters-in-law.
  • the underwear drawer
    An anesthesiologist who is possibly the most talented & entertaining writer ever. I've read her blog ever since she started medical school. No, don't know her in real life. Wish I did.
  • The Bloggess
    This blog is both hysterically funny and hilariously irreverent. I actually let my 17 year old son read it (who loves it as much as I do!), but wouldn't even CONSIDER letting my 12 year old son read it. Which is about all the description it needs!
The grounds of Chengdu monasteries can be very, very peaceful...even though they are smack dab in the heart of a city of millions of people.
Yes, there are Starbucks in Chengdu! All over the place, in fact. So much so, Starbucks even crafted mugs for Chengdu stores!
Texan bluebonnets. Because I learned during our very first posting (Houston) that there's nothing prettier in the spring than the meadows of Texas.
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So homeschooling is LESS work? I'm just not sure I understand. But congrats on making it work for your boys - and yourself.


Congrats to you on coming up with something that works for you. Me? I could never homeschool in a million years - I need a few hours of time for me (selfish I do admit).

But glad it's all coming together! China is just around the corner...


I am glad that you are all happier. That is awesome.
It is great that he can homeschool and take the Chinese class!


I'm curious -- why did you decide to take the oldest out of school as well? I homeschooled until 9th grade. When I went back to (admittedly, private) school, I loved it until 10th grade, when my parents switched me to (hell on earth) public school. I'm just curious why things didn't work out, but I totally understand if it isn't a topic for the Internet, too...

A Daring Adventure

@ Donna - Oh, you BETCHA homeschooling is less work! Merciful heavens. Matthew was coming home with TEN HOURS of homework a night, and I honestly didn't find any of it to be worth spending all of that time on. Mostly... busy work, if you will.

In addition to that, (@ Missy) we were getting notices home about HUGE projects - for each class- that would have to be completed (as homework). A few of them were okay, but most of them were nothing I would have chosen to have him spend his time on if I were homeschooling him.

In addition to that, there were two classes whose structures/teachers/methods I did not care for. They were not committed to making their classes work for their students; they were not committed to helping their students be successful.

But, honestly, I think that homeschooling has spoiled all of us. I've been doing this for eleven years now. I have all of the specialized knowledge I would need in order to comfortably homeschool them through all of their subjects. To me, I would rather choose excellent curricula and have Matthew learn it at home and then have the choice as to whether or not he completed absurd busy work on the side (probably: not).

Furthermore, I really, really wanted him to have all the time he could to study Chinese. The accelerated Chinese class at the local public school is a very high priority for us. His teacher is phenomenal, the class is laid out perfectly, she makes it easy for the students to know EXACTLY what they need to do to in order to be successful (my specific beef with two of Matthew's other teachers were that, not only were their expectations wholly unclear, but they refused to clarify when asked either by me or Matthew!), and Matthew is doing incredibly well in that class, even though he's pretty much the only non-native-Chinese-speaking student in the room.

To me, Chinese is the huge outside-of-the-home (and inside-the-home, as he's also doing Rosetta Stone) academic priority. Everything else, I can cover on my own. Taking a FRACTION of the time out of our days that public school did. And with much more clarity. And far less ridiculousness. And less stress. And about a billion times more flexibility. And the only person who has a knife in school is the teacher/mom lady in the kitchen making meals. :)


Less stress, definitely. Less work? Maybe, maybe not. Just different work. Instead of a massive 10 hours of homework that you are helping him slog through, he now does 10 hours of work (including the Chinese commute and homework) basically on his own with only occasional help from mom. So mom is a manager of what he does ON HIS OWN rather than a full-time homework assistant. At least, that is my idea of how it is you have more time now.

And good for you. You and your Alot are awesome.


I don't understand either, and it kind of scares me with what you're saying about the VA educational system, but I'm so glad you guys are happy. And how amazing that one of the most important subjects and apparently the only one you can't teach him-Chinese, of course- is going great and he's able to keep that up!


What Jeni's saying makes sense to me; I would think homeschooling would take less work in the sense that it's familiar to all of you, you have the basic structure in place and so on, but I'll bet he's still putting in plenty of time each day on school-related stuff, be it Chinese or something else.

For whatever it's worth, I was public schooled from kindergarten through high school, taking a rigorous curriculum right the way through (Honors, AP, yadda yadda) and never had a time when ten hours of homework a night was typical (or even physically possible, assuming someone gets out of school at two or three in the afternoon). Maybe around midterms and finals I'd be putting in that kind of time on the weekends, but on a nightly basis? No way. Not that I don't believe that that's what kind of time Matt was putting in, but I don't think that's at all typical of most public high schools (or private ones, for that matter). I have high school-aged cousins who live in other states, and they're definitely not carrying that kind of workload, either, so I don't think it was unique to my district. I also never had anyone show up at my school with a gun, knife or other weapon, though the police may have come once to bust someone for pot, and they directed traffic into and out of the school parking lot every morning and afternoon.

In any case, glad to hear you guys have things worked out. I have to go and start my nightly battle of wills with 中文.


That's really surprising! I was actually bored to death in high school, as I had covered most of the high school topics in junior high. I did have to work a bit at math and Spanish, and a tiny bit in Chemistry, but otherwise I usually did my homework in the 10 minutes before class. To have 10 hours of homework is crazy talk.

That being said, the busywork principle apparently remains the same. I used to HATE that, particularly since it is such a non-issue for homeschoolers! It's great preparation to be an office worker or a bureaucrat I suppose, but not much else.

It's funny -- I feel much the same way about school for my children; it can be so frustrating to try to have them somewhere on the dot, and there are always a million forms to fill out for every little thing, and I'm always losing the forms and looking like an idiot, and then there are early-out Wednesdays, and parent-teacher breaks, and grading days, and all kinds of other mini-vacation days that have to be accounted for when you're working outside the home.../sigh.

Anyway, sounds like everyone is happy again. Have you considered hiring a Chinese tutor for yourself and the boys since you gave up your class? I'm sure there are plenty in the DC area.


I really appreciated my parents having the "each child, each year; best for the child, best for the family" attitude about schooling choices. (And among my siblings and me, we've done it all -- h/s, p/s, boarding school. . .)

One thing I believe has REALLY benefited the US culture from the homeschooling movement, is that it has empowered more families to consider various schooling options and what is best for them. It's no longer the default of the neighborhood public or parochial school, as it was for my parents' families. I think that everyone benefits from having more options. . . and I'd like to see more voucher systems in place. (Though, I guess that might be opening a can of worms. . . I just want families to have the ability to choose what is best for their kids.)


Glad to hear life is good again. You even sound happier and your boys sound happier. Basque in the appreciation while it lasts!! You are awesome!

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James loves me. And our sons. And his job. But not having his picture taken. In 2011 he finished up over a year and half of training, and in the fall of 2011 we got to our first overseas post - Chengdu, China!
Mao says hi! Because Chengdu is one of the only cities in China with a Mao statue.
Flowers are like friends. Each one is unique. Each one is beautiful. They brighten up everything around them. And you can never have too many. 

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2012 is the Year of the Dragon, y'all! Talk about the ultimate in good luck! This kinda party only comes around once every twelve years!
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Colorful! (Inside a Chengdu ancient Buddhist monastery.)
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