Viet Namese Adoptee Who Found His Family

This is a longish read, but it’s really interesting and captures some of the complexities of international adoption.

Tuy was left with an orphanage as a baby, and according to their records, nobody knew who his parents were. He contracted polio while at that orphanage due to contaminated water. He was transferred later to a better orphanage with better access to medical care, and then was adopted by an American family who had adopted other children internationally as well.   The stories of his life and accomplishments are well worth reading, and there are many surprises and cool twists and turns.  I hope you’ll read it.  I want to talk about just a couple things that just get a mention.

He eventually returned to Viet Nam to visit the orphanages where he had lived.  The orphanage had older children helping to take care of younger children- this is common in families as well as institutions in Asian countries, and probably others as well.   The day he was there, the adult woman who had helped care for him when she was only 7 was also there.  She had just stopped by to visit the nuns while she was in town on other business.  She remembered Tuy- and even though the record book the orphanage had of him said his parents were unknown, she knew his mother.  She was able to go get her and bring her back.  His mother told him that she had put him in the orphanage because she was very sick and couldn’t care for him and had no help.  She also says that later, when she recovered, she returned to the orphanage but the nuns told her the rules were that once you put your child there you couldn’t come and take him back.

So there’s a family disrupted for decades, for life, because a young mother was too sick to care for her baby and had no help.  The American family, of course, had no knowledge of this, nor were they in any way complicit or to blame.  Had they uncovered every stone to find his parentage when he was a child, they would have gotten nowhere themselves (it was illegal for Americans to even visit Viet Nam for many years).

It’s undeniable that the health care, nutrition, and education he received in the US were much better than they would have been in Viet Nam.  But he needed some of that additional health care because he had been in an orphanage to begin with- that’s where he contracted polio.   He’s been able to take the skills, knowledge, and education he got in America and apply them to helping his Viet Namese family, and that’s a good thing.  But international adoptions don’t always end that way.

I have questions.

How did the girl who had been in an orphanage herself, taking care of other orphans at 7, know who Tuy’s family was when the administration and staff of the orphanage said they didn’t know?  How is it that no record exists of his mother coming back and asking for him?  Why didn’t the orphanage at list write down her name?  Some of you have probably thought of the possibility that his mother is telling a story to assuage her own torment and guilt, or not.  We don’t know.  But the fact remains that another orphan knew who she was and where she lived, some 30 years later.  It bothers me.  But then again, the mother herself didn’t have his father’s name right even though she’d lived with him in some form of marriage (not being morality judge here, I just don’t know what the legal circumstances were) for long enough for Tuy to also have an older full sibling.  So I feel like there are probably cultural differences here contributing to the questions I have.

I’d like to blame the nuns at the orphanage for not letting the woman have her son back, but… the reason Tuy was able to find his mother was because one of the orphans from that orphanage still came back to visit the nuns.  They probably aren’t the villains either.

How is it that in her own culture the mother had nobody to help her when she was so sick?  Because she’s a member of a country torn apart by decades of war and poverty, that’s why.  But…

What if instead of taking children out of  the country, the same amount of money and energy had been applied toward building families up within the country, with helping to improve education, with helping to improve nutrition and standard of living from within?  That’s a bit pie in the sky- it wasn’t possible to do that in Viet Nam for many years,  at least not for Americans.  But it has been possible other places, other times, and still, so often our first inclination is to wonder if we can have people’s children.

I am not opposed to all international adoptions.  I know several where enough of the story is known to be clear that given the cultural attitudes at the time and the conditions that existed then and there, the children involved didn’t have options and they would be dead if they hadn’t been adopted.  But there are other children who didn’t hit the lottery with their international adoptions, children who ended up abused, being put in foster care, being abandoned again by their American families.  There are many more poverty orphans created by our blind zeal to respond to the pain of learning about the poverty and hardship other people live in by scooping up their children and supporting orphanages instead of building and supporting organizations that do the less photogenic work of supporting intact families.   There are families disrupted by the too traumatized children who never recover from what they’ve been through through no fault of their own.

It’s just messy, and I want clear and easy answers, preferably one size fits all, and instant fixes.  They don’t exist in this world and they won’t.   Believing they exist probably contributed to the problems with international adoptions.

Conclusions?   Cool story.  Interesting character who has done some impressive things.  Really glad I read it.  I’ll be thinking about it off and on the rest of the day.   Life is messy.  There are no perfect fixes.  What are we going to do about the messy world we live in and the messy, imperfect options available to us here and now?


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Review in a Charlotte Mason Education

From Wikipedia: “Spaced repetition is a learning technique that incorporates increasing intervals of time between subsequent review of previously learned material in order to exploit the psychological spacing effect. Alternative names include spaced rehearsalexpanding rehearsalgraduated intervalsrepetition spacingrepetition schedulingspaced retrieval and expanded retrieval.”

This is basically the design behind SCM’s memory verse card technique.  Also from Wikipedia:

“In the Leitner system, correctly answered cards are advanced to the next, less frequent box, while incorrectly answered cards return to the first box for more aggressive review and repetition.”
You can read more about it here.  Many online programs and apps utilize the method and program the spaced repetition or graduated intervals into their system.
While listening to a Pimsleur ‘learn Korean’ program I realized that similar spaced repetition is actually built into Charlotte Mason’s method.  Unfortunately, because we don’t realize these built in review points are there, sometimes people try to pretty up the method and make it more ‘fun’ or ‘entertaining’ and accidentally make it less effective.   It’s not that one or two mistakes can ruin the whole program, but the value of these review points are cumulative so the benefits accrue over time, and when we consistently miss some of them, we are shortchanging our kids and ourselves.
  This is something I’ve thought about from time to time in a desultory fashion, but I missed many of those spaced intervals until this last week when the Pimsleur recording I was listening to really started my thinking down this track in a more comprehensive way.
Here are the recollection intervals I see in the CM method:
Narration is obvious.  Every school reading except poetry is narrated.  Skip a narration and you are skipping the first and most important of the reviews.  So much is happening in this first review, and most of it is below the surface so the observer thinks it’s boring.  But what we cannot see is happening is the brain attempting to scan and retrieve the information it has just read or heard, to look for key details, to select them on the basis of importance or interest, to organize them into a logical sequence, and then, hardest of all, to reproduce them for others to read or hear.   We may only get a single garbled sentence from that, but that sentence is not the whole, there are many little idea fishes swimming in the deep where we cannot see them.  But when we substitute our questions for the narration where the students own mind must ask and answer the questions, we hinder this review process- especially in the younger years. It interferes less with their own thought processes when they are older, but when they are younger they need to first be given the time and space to think, select, and then tell on their own.  You can ask other questions after they have had the chance to narrate as best they can.
Short Reads: Don’t keep reading. The short readings, stopping while the children are still interested is another vitally important link here, and it is, regrettably, one most often missed.  Parents assure themselves and others that their children ‘remember the books just fine’ and they ‘are able to narrate well’ so they don’t see a problem with continuing to read, or letting the child finish in a few days what should have been scheduled over a period of weeks.  How well they narrate or discuss the books is not the point.  We want them to spend time really ruminating, digesting, and thinking deeply about the stories.  When they have to stop reading a book while they are still keenly interested, they can’t stop thinking about it, so the review is a spontaneous reaction to the hunger for more that is burning inside.  They will be reviewing what happened, who was involved, the small, nuanced turns of phrase or details that seem insignificant when lost in the pleasure of devouring too much of the book in too short a time.  They are thinking about, pondering, wondering, and going over the material in their minds again and again.  This is a powerful way to review the material, spontaneous, under the child’s own power and it requires no external implements or questions.  It’s a glorious thing when a child is this deeply invested in his own education and he does not even realize how much work he is doing.Take full advantage of this and don’t trade it in for something else.
Several books are naturally reviewed each week when the children incorporate their stories and learning into their free play.  This is one area where it does help if the children can spend time with others who are enjoying the same kind of education and reading the same books.So for this type of review to happen, we need to be sure the children have free time for imaginary play, and the inclination for it.  That may mean fewer screens and more boredom, boredom is often a necessary motivator for good imaginary play.
       Spontaneous review initiated by the children is not just for imaginary games, either.  I have witnessed some young children engage in some energetic and spontaneous review of the Burgess Bird Book when a bird landed on the birdfeeder outside their grandmother’s window and there was a difference in opinion as to what type of bird it was.  A vigorous intellectual debate followed full of logical arguments and supporting facts to scaffold each small person’s point of view.  This quite serious scientific discussion was between a person of 4 and her 7 year old brother, btw, and it was an astonishingly thorough review.

We also get a bit of review in whenever we read other living books.  Living books are not one dimensional.  They are multifaceted, rich with allusions, metaphors, ideas that carry across to other situations and conversations, with connections!  Because education is the science of relations, there will usually be connections to be made. After the narration is complete, you can ask the child ‘Does this remind you of anything else?” and there is an additional review point as they quickly scan the treasure boxes of their memories, review the material inside their own minds.  Whether they pull something out to share or not, the question itself has relevance and the brain stores it away, reminded to look or similarities and patterns-which is easy since our brains are pattern finders anyway.  One book, one thought, one idea, one connection leads to another, to another, like beads on a string.

Introducing the next reading of the same book: Where were we?  What do you think will happen next? Another review interval comes when we return to the same book and introduce a reading by asking “Where were we?” and the children remind us of what we read about last.
“Keeping”– all those little tools for keeping, the timelines, the commonplace book, and even nature notebooks.   Children review their readings again when they make entries on their timelines, in century books, or on century charts.  They are to choose their own entries, and, again, in our efforts to pretty this up and make it somehow more appealing, we dilute the power of this review by providing lovely, ready made figures we’ve purchased or printed out.  When they choose the people and events themselves, they are reviewing a larger portion of the week’s work as a whole.  When they have to select and sketch the details to include, they are doing a great deal of close review in their own minds, thinking more deeply about the character or event they have chosen and asking themselves the questions about what details would best convey why this person belongs on the timeline, who they were and what they did.
Charlotte Mason says the mind can know nothing except the answers to the questions it puts to itself.  When we supply the ready-made figures, the children are not the ones asking and answering those important questions.
There is additional review whenever they do mapwork, finding places from their reading on maps, marking them on a large wall map, looking for them on a globe- as they search the maps and globes they will be reminded of places they have read about previously.  This is not the strongest of the review opportunities in their days, but it is yet another small linking bead in the chain they are building.
With Shakespeare we also often have the children work through the book by using paper dolls,  peg figures, or other objects to work through the plays.   Like the timeline figures, they will be doing more work and reviewing in their minds if they are the ones doing the work of deciding on the figures, sketching them out (however poorly), selecting the little details to add that most represent these characters.  Sometimes in our homeschool we sketched the characters on the front of an envelope and then on the back we would write out a bit of character description, adding a little more each time some new aspect of that character was revealed.
Copywork and Commonplace Books: Like mapwork, copywork is another lowkey, perhaps not vitally significant opportunity for review, but it is, nevertheless, one more small opportunity for their minds to review.  Miss Mason suggests that the children should select their own copywork. I really don’t see much harm in the parent making the selecting (particularly if  the student is inclined to dawdle or stress over choosing).  It isn’t like the work of narration or the fantastically deep thinking that happens when we stop reading while a child’s interest is still sharp.  But if you want a small additional opportunity for your child to do some extra reviewing in his own mind, midway through each day ask your student to choose something from yesterday’s reading to use for copywork.
The exams, of course, are the ultimate review at the end of the term.  I did not give exams enough attention when I was homeschooling.  They are yet another chance for the students to perform some intensive mindwork and deep review of the material, really internalizing and assimilating it.  This is why often the first few exams feel like failures- the students haven’t used this tool often enough yet for it to provide them with that motivation for deeper attention- often for perfectly good reasons.  But don’t give up too soon.  Keep doing the exams even if you think they aren’t working.
Who is doing the work? The more often your child is doing the work, selecting the details, choosing, and organizing, the more often he is doing the work of chewing on, thinking about, reviewing, and really absorbing the information in a truly meaningful way, moving the ideas from short-term to long term memory, improving his understanding.

Whatever tools we use- charts, timelines, maps, guided scrapbooks, projects, century books, colouring pages, all those pretty free or almost free printables are tools Charlotte Mason would have classified as “Disciplinary Devices.”  They are not necessarily wrong in and of themselves.  They do, however, merit some careful thought before we use them.  Some of them are fine in extreme moderation.  Some of them are always problematic, depending upon how scripted they are, how much of their use is just a template with the project designer asking the questions and choosing which information and ideas the child can write or draw about instead of the child.

Just as our lecturing and explanations of the books should not come between the book and the child, these ‘disciplinary devices’ also “must not come between Children and the Soul of the Book.–… but let us be careful that our disciplinary devices, and our mechanical devices to secure and tabulate the substance of knowledge, do not come between the children and that which is the soul of the book, the living thought it contains.”

Take full advantage of all these wonderful, free opportunities for the children to come mind to mind with the living thoughts and ideas inside their books themselves, and then to revisit those living ideas without external scripts telling them what to think, do, record, and remember.
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All discoveries begin with wondering

One of the best ways to test your understanding of a geographical term is to read a description or definition, and then attempt to either draw it, or to model it using blocks or other small objects.
Then look for a picture and compare the picture to your rendition, correction any mistakes in your understanding. Find the following places on a map, but where a definition is given, first try to picture it in your mind, and then on paper.

An archipelago is a cluster or chain of islands grouped together in a large expanse of water. Individual islands, or small bits of land surrounded by water, become part of an archipelago when there are many islands grouped together so closely they are considered part of the same geographical area.

The Philippines is an archipelago nation in Southeast Asia. There are more than 7,500 islands in the Philippine archipelago. Most of them are quite small. Some people think the arrangement of the islands looks something like a man kneeling in prayer. The three largest islands lay in a line from north to south. They are Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao, with the island of Luzon at the northernmost tip and Mindanao being the most southern of the three. You can take a plane from the Davao airport in Mindanao to the The Ninoy Aquino International Airport on Luzon, and it will take about 3 hours. Or you can drive through the mountains and valleys of Davao, taking bridges and ferries connection the islands north of Mindano and arrive in Manila three days later. Be sure to carry extra fuel and food supplies because you may not be near a petrol station when you need it!

The islands are lush and green, with a flourish variety of fruits and palms and hardwood trees, with flowers blooming year ’round. The mosquitoes also flourish year round in the lower elevations because it’s a tropical climate. The southern islands are only about 350 miles from the equator. Surrounded by seas (The PHilippines SEa, the South China Sea, and Celebes Sea), the Philippine diet includes many foods from the ocean, including various sea vegetables or seaweeds, shellfish, crustaceans, and a variety of fish. Families might buy the fish at the market, or the children might take fishing lines and go fishing in one of the abundant (though not always clean) rivers or streams.

Ricardo Babaran lived in Cagayan province, which is the northernmost end of the island of Luzon which is the northern most of the largest islands. If you got in a boat and sailed north from Cagayan Probinsya you would get to Taiwan. Ricardo loved to go fishing with his friends. Most of the time they used earthworms for bait, but sometimes they would use crickets. Young Ricardo noticed that they caught different fish when they used crickets instead of earthworms,and he wondered why that happened. He asked his friends, but they hadn’t really noticed, and they did not know why. It was a mystery he couldn’t stop thinking about, and he wondered about it for along time.

When he grew up he left Cagayan to go to The University of the Philippines, Diliman, still on the island of Luzon, but a bit further south in Quezon City. He learned many things. He also sometimes endured some teasing from others about studying ‘fishing’ for four years, when anybody could fish with a line and a pole. But he did not solve the mystery of why he had his friends caught different fish with earthworms than they did with crickets. He still wondered about that.

When he had finished his four year degree, he still wanted to learn more, so he studied for his Masters at the University of Washington, in the Seattle Washington area near the Pacific ocean and the Puget sound. HE learned many interesting things there and had many interesting experiences, but he still couldn’t find out why some fish were caught with earthworms while more of other, different species of fish were caught using crickets.

He was curious about many things and wanted to know more, so he went to Japan to study for a Ph.D. in Fisheries Science at Kagoshima University, Japan, which is also near the ocean. At last he learned the answer to the question he had been asking since childhood. “I learned that catfish and mudfish responded differently to earthworms and crickets because of a process called chemo-reception.”

All organisms transmit some chemical information about themselves- when you sweat and others smell you, that’s an act of chemo-reception. When you smell a piece of fruit and decide whether or not it smells good enough to eat, that is an act of chemo-reception. The organisms receiving the chemical information have special cells that detect and process the transmitted information and draw conclusions from it- ‘this would be good to eat’ or “this seems dreadful.” And because different species have different needs and different physiology, they require different diets. So catfish and mudfish receive different chemical signals from crickets and worms, and they are consequently more attracted to one of the other species.

Dr. Ricardo P. Babaran is now the tenth Chancellor of the University of the Philippines-Visayas where he will help a rising crop of students answer their questions and discover new things to wonder about and ask.

What are you wondering about? What questions are you asking yourself? This is where true education begins.


I read about Dr. Babaran here, at PinoyPenman3.0 blog, written by Jose Dalisay, Jr.
According to Wikipedia, Professor Dalisay is currently a Professor of English and creative writing at the College of Arts and Letters, U.P. Diliman, where he also coordinated the creative writing program. He writes a weekly Arts & Culture column for the Philippine Star,

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Vintage Directions for Storing Sweet Potatoes

KEEPING SWEET POTATOES. Put a layer of corn-stalks on the smooth surface as thickly as you can, and cross-lay with another layer of stalks. Spread over the stalks about four inches of pine straw or any other straw. Next, nail together four planks or boards, forming a hollow. Bore holes in each side of this tolerably thick ; stand it on end in the center of the straw, and pile the potatoes around it. Put a layer of straw over the potatoes, and a layer of corn-stalks, setting on ends over it. Cover the stalks with dirt, spading it from close around the bank, thereby forming a ditch to turn the water from the potatoes. Be sure to let the top ends of the boards extend a little above the top of the bank.

Leave the top open until rain or cold snap comes, then cover with a piece of plank until the weather moderates. This hollow furnishes a channel through which air can readily reach the potatoes all around the center, and should be kept open as much as possible while the weather is moderately cool, but as winter approaches it should be kept closed. Potatoes always go through a sweat after being banked, and air distributed through them is very essential.—Southern Cultivator.

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Raccoon tracks

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