“Happy Winter Vacation” Homework

To me, it’s an oxymoron to use the words happy, vacation and homework in the same sentence, but in China it’s the norm. Every holiday kids get even more homework than usual to complete. For this winter vacation, which should be about 25 days or so (we still don’t know when they have to go back to school), my first grade son has two workbooks with 54 pages in each. One is Chinese and the other is Math.
But wait! There’s more…
This morning we had a parent’s meeting to listen to the teacher brag on the top-scoring students and criticize the ones who got the lowest scores. Then they gave us a paper which outlined the rest of the homework, on top of the 108 pages that we started.
He has to
  • memorize the first two stories in his new Chinese book
  • learn to read and write the words from the first four units
  • memorize the math facts up to 100
  • memorize half of a famous book about morals
  • read at least 2 books every day
  • write six “big” pages of Chinese words
  • do a page of 20 math problems every day
I know I’m forgetting some of it and there’s one thing that I don’t exactly understand.
So it looks like we’ll be having “school” time in the mornings, broken up by bits of play, reading and flashcards.

Having A Baby In China: Embassy Regulations

I know a few people that were born abroad and had dual citizenship as kids, so I just assumed that things worked the same in every country. Not so. China doesn’t allow dual citizenship, so if you’re having your baby in China, you need to decide if she’ll stay Chinese (which is automatic due to birth) or transfer to your or your spouse’s nationality.

For Americans there are different requirements based on which parent is American and if/when the couple got married. I suggest checking your country’s embassy’s citizen services website as soon as possible so that you know all of the requirements and can get everything in order. For couples who were married at the time of the baby’s birth, things are pretty easy and straight forward. There’s a lot of paperwork involved, but just make a checklist of everything you need, go through it one-by-one and it’s not so bad.

We decided that our kids would get American citizenship, and at the start of my third trimester I filled out all of the necessary papers and had my mom send a new transcript from my college and tax returns for my whole adult life (proof that I am indeed American). I also put together a photo album documenting our marriage and the pregnancy. Even with all of this I was still interrogated beyond what I’d expected and was terribly nervous the entire time. It was a woman who questioned every little piece of paper and up until she signed the papers approving his citizenship, I wasn’t sure he would get it.

So I prepared even more with my daughter. I updated my photo album, got a new transcript, added the most recent tax forms and job records and, wouldn’t you know, it was a breeze. The very personable guy that we interviewed with didn’t even open my new transcript (had to order another because it was opened) or look at any of the records beyond our passports. He looked through the photo album and commented on photos in a friendly, conversational way and then congratulated our baby on becoming an American citizen.

As I noted previously, regulations changed slightly between my pregnancies. One was that photos documenting the pregnancy are now required. For my son it was just something extra I did. I’m not too into maternity photos, so I’m glad I caught this change or else I probably wouldn’t have had more than one or two. I took monthly photos and added them to my photo alubm, along with updating it to include pictures of my son’s growth over the years.

The American embassy does recommend you file for the report of birth abroad and citizenship and Social Security Number as soon as possible, but you can wait too. Most American couples make this their first stop on the way home from the hospital, but if you’re part of a Chinese couple, mother and baby may not be allowed out for the first month to 40 days. For our son we waited until he was 3-months old but with my daughter we took her a week after my zuo yue zi was over.

Other posts in the Having A Baby In China series: