American Teaching in Scotland

So, as I have been preparing to go back to work this week, planning and racking my brain on how I’m going to start off this next school year, I’ve also been reflecting on the school year I just completed – pros, cons, and all the things I’ve learned thus far about teaching in Scotland.

The last you heard from me, I had just been offered my first teaching job in Scotland – I hadn’t even started yet! Well, now it is safe to say that I survived until the end of the school term and have learned loads! So, as a part of my reflection process, I thought I’d write some things down (because that’s how my brain processes information) and share with you some of the similarities and differences between the Scottish and American ways of teaching; and some valuable things I’ve learned in becoming a teacher in Scotland.

As to be expected there were many things that were different from my past teaching experiences in the States, but surprisingly there were also many things that were the same.

SIMILARITIES

School Organization

For the most part, primary schools are organized in a very similar way to the elementary schools in the states with the exception of vocabulary.

For example:

Scottish:                                                  American:

Head Teacher                                           Principle

Deputy Head Teacher                              Vice Principle

Principle Teacher                                     Similar to a High School Dean – part admin, part teaching.

Curriculum Leader (High School)            Department Chair (High School)

Additional Support for Learning (ASL)     Special Education

Pupil Support Assistants (PSAs)               Instructional Assistants or Classroom Aids

Stage Level                                               Grade Level*

*There are a variety of stages in primary and secondary schools that I will detail out in a later blog.

…and lastly…

Pupils                                                        Students**

**kids are usually not referred to as ‘students’ in the UK until they reach university (or what we American’s call college).  ‘College’ in the UK is similar to Junior College.  In the UK there is a big difference between college and university (or ‘uni’) where as in American we just call it all college.

(There are also loads of other terms and acronyms that I’ve had to learn, but I don’t want to bore you with the details)

Staff

Another similarity that I experienced was the pleasure of working with a very dedicated staff, committed to their teaching practice, professional development, and their pupils!  I have a very supportive and encouraging Head Teacher and Deputy Head, colleagues who are always willing to help me out and appease my American questions with no judgement, a Support for Learning teacher that knows her pupils’ needs inside and out, PSAs who are willing to help in any way possible, and overall a great atmosphere to thrive professionally.

Kids & Parents

I have learned that kids are very similar to the kids in the states as well – they all deal with similar struggles of academia, insecurities, social media and peer pressure, family dynamics, extra-curricular activities, and more. I teach to a diverse pupil population, with an array of backgrounds and needs. There are many English language learners, as there are in my native California, however, the pupils here speak a variety of languages and come from a variety of cultures! At my school (and my kids’ school), we have many Romanian, Polish, Italian, Spanish, and French pupils (to name a few!).  Parents, as well, are very similar to parents anywhere – they all want the best for the children, some are involved in school life more than others, some work and some stay at home, and all come from a variety of socio-economic backgrounds.

DIFFERENCES

I could go on and on about all the differences with culture, British language and spelling, Scottish slang, and, as I previously mentioned, the variety in terminology, but I thought I’d try to stick to some of the ‘big picture’ differences for this section:

As a teacher trained in American, and more specifically California, there are certain aspects of teaching that are ingrained in you from the start of your first teaching course and from your own experiences as a student in school. Things like grades, grading, GPA, and report cards, homework, text books, class test and standardized test, state standards, and bench mark exams. To my surprise, there is very little of this in Scotland.  Let me attempt to break it down:

Grades: I was very surprised that grades are not given for assignments, nor are report cards issued in the same format that American kids are used to. Teachers do ‘mark’ assignments by giving direct marks or feedback, but pupils also often mark their own assignments followed by a peer or self-assessment.  There are two main peer/self-assessment tools that teachers used: (1) traffic light signals, and (2) Two Stars and a Wish.

Image result for traffic light assessmentTraffic light colors allow pupils to color code their work to let their teacher know how they feel about the assignment – I often use the happy, flat, or sad face method if I don’t want to mess with the kids pulling out their colored pencils.

Two Stars and a Wish is a method of assessment where pupils write down two things they did well or positive parts of the assignment and then follow it up with a ‘wish’ of something they could do better for the next time.  This is a great tool for peer assessment as well.

Although report cards with grades are not distributed, pupils do receive an end of the year formal report outlining what they have covered throughout the year and the individual pupils progress.  The format of these reports vary from school to school.  These reports require a ton of time to type up!  Luckily, my school’s report is a two page format with some boxes to be ticked, which makes the process a little bit less daunting.  However, both my children received 4-page typed up reports from their school!

Teaching Content

Much like the states have ‘state standards’ in all subjects to be taught and met by pupils each academic year, Scotland calls these standards ‘Benchmarks’ (which has a bit different use in California).  Unlike the States, these benchmarks are not public domain in the way that the California state standards can be accessed online by anyone.  Teachers use these benchmarks as a guideline for teaching and assessing each pupil’s accomplishments. Though, how teachers accomplish and teach these benchmarks can vary from teacher to teacher and school to school.

Unlike most schools in the states where every teacher teaches through a variety of textbooks (which usually map out the standards within the texts and teacher’s editions), the only subject that usually uses a textbook here is math, but you are not limited to the use of the single texts.  Instead, teachers use resources – loads and loads of resources – some that the school provides (there are tons of resource closets around the school as well as a resource room packed full!), online resources the school and teachers pay for, and, of course, good ol’ Google.  This aspect was one of the hardest for me to get used to by far.  I have always taught from a text.  This resource-driven way of teaching certainly allows for more individual creativity for teachers in forming lessons, but as a new teacher, it was difficult to navigate myself through all the resources that were available to help teach the benchmarks.  Another benefit to this type of teaching is the flexibility to teach all subjects across the curriculum – interdisciplinary learning is a key element in the curriculum, which I have found really enjoyable! (see below for links to various resources)

Trips

Another thing that I have found quite enjoyable is the focus on experiences for pupils – trips and hands on learning is very encouraged, and living in a city like Edinburgh there are loads of opportunities for

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‘The Hub’ – Headquarters for the Edinburgh International Festival

free activities (all museums are free to the public)! For most trips, classes will use the public bus system, which also helps keep costs down.  There are also a lot of opportunities to take walking trips as well.  In my short 5 months of teaching Primary 7 (aka 6th grade), my class got to travel to Lady Haig’s Poppy Factory during our WW2 study, we walked to the local park twice for outdoor learning activities and a picnic lunch, had 6 weeks of Tennis lessons for PE at Abercorn Sports Club (a short 15 min walk from school), a trip to ‘The Hub’ to participate in an activity put on by the Edinburgh International Festival, and a trip to the Risk Factory during our topic of health and safety.

 

Bilingual Education – French

Scotland, as previously mentioned, has a very diverse population of learning from all over since it is still part of the EU; so it makes perfect sense for there to be English language support and also an element of bilingual education – which I absolutely LOVE! Most schools have a French specialist (in the same way they have a PE and Music specialist) that come in once a week to teach French (and some primary schools even do a bit of German). Finally, I’ve been able to put my petite amount of French that I had learned in High School to good use (although I still regret not knowing Spanish a little bit). I can only imagine what my language skills and opportunities would be today had I started learning another language from Kindergarten.

Other Aspects of the Curriculum

A few other things that I thought I’d mention that are incorporated into the Curriculum for Excellence here in Scotland are the subjects of Health and Wellbeing (HWB) and Religious and Moral Education (RME).  HWB not only covers your typical topics of health (diet, exercise, drugs & alcohol, sex ed, etc) but also covers topics such as peer relationships, problem solving, and life skills.  RME is similar in that teachers can discuss basic moral principles.  RME also allows teachers to discuss religious holidays and practices– which covers not just Christian education but also other world religions.

Other Aspects of School Culture worth mentioning

Assemblies – Schools have assemblies every week.  At my school, assemblies occur every Friday – usually split into lower school (P1-3) and upper school (p4-7) with the occasional all school assembly.  Assemblies serve as a way for classes to present what they are learning to the whole school, a way for the Head teacher/Deputy Head to have face time with pupils, discuss new school focuses, policies and events, and, of course, to celebrate anything great happening at the school or with individual pupils.  In most high schools, assemblies are held every day with a different year group attending each day.

Political Awareness – I’ve never met so many young people interested and knowledgeable as toImage result for bbc newsround what is going on around the world and in their own country!  The conversations I have had with pupils (especially all their questions about President Trump!) is mind blowing, in a great way!  One way that many schools promote these conversations is by watching BBC’s Newsround, every day. Newsround is a short (c. 6 min) update for kids that airs twice a day covering world and UK news. Our kids often bring up Newsround topics and want to discuss them at the dinner table (lucky for me, I know what they are talking about because I watched the same episode with my class as well.)

Golden Time – Golden time is an all school reward system that most schools use here.  For my school, it occurs every Friday for 30 min. All pupils are rewarded Golden time at the beginning of the week; however, depending on their behavior, they can lose Golden Time as the week progresses. I have to admit that as an American teacher, I felt that Golden Time was a big ‘waste of time’ when I first started, but I’ve seen the effect that having Golden Time has had on my own kids (something for them to work towards each week) and am slowly changing my feelings towards the reward system.

Half day Fridays – yup, every Friday is a half day! This is a bit inconvenient for working parents, but it makes for a great start to your weekend!

 

Like I said, there is so much to compare and discuss when it comes to the differences between the American and Scottish ways of teaching, but I thought these were great starting points.  Please feel free to comment below if you have any further questions or thoughts about this new way of teaching I’m working through.

-Leah

 

Six Months In….What We Not-So Love

As with anything there are two sides to the equation. In our last blog I wrote about some of the things we really LOVE about our new city and new life. But, not everything is always rosy. So, we thought we’d also go through a list of some of the things we not-so love about our new home. Enjoy!

We NOT-SO LOVE…

Our regular walk up Calton Hill, which leads to a spectacular view.
Our regular walk up Calton Hill, which leads to a spectacular view.

 

Walking – Although walking has amazing health benefits, it does fail when trying to get to places in a timely fashion. Walking requires much more planning and timing, which can be difficult when you have small children and things don’t always go according to plan. Also, with small children come little legs, which can’t endure as much walking as adults. We brought our sit-n-stand stroller (or buggy) from the states, but the wheels are not fit for cobblestone or the rough roads.

 

See the COBBLESTONE?!?!
See the COBBLESTONE?!?!

 

We’ve thought about buying a single buggy for the boy, but the cost is just not in our price range. The buggies here are insanely durable, constructed from kryptonite and Schwarzenegger’s sweat (to take on those cobblestones from hell!), rather than our cheap plastic California stroller. So, for now, we’ve chosen to invest our money in warm jackets, gloves, hats, and better footwear. Walking in rain hasn’t been too burdensome, but at times the wind is uncomfortably chilly and the ice is slippery, which is never any fun, but we are doing our best to trudge on.

 

Penelope on our daily walk.
Penelope on our daily walk.

 

Public Transportation – Although a great, faster (and warmer) alternative to walking, public transit still has its time constraints. A trip that could take 15 minutes in the car, may take 30 minutes and transferring between multiple buses. Again, it calls for greater planning, but most people sympathize when you are late somewhere due to bus delays since the system is used by so many.

 

Waiting at the bus stop...Penelope is so bored.
Waiting at the bus stop…Penelope is so bored.

 

Smoking – Everywhere you go the ever so disagreeable smell of cigarette (and sometimes something else) smoke graces your nostrils. With Mark’s asthma, this is especially frustrating and irritating. Before we left California, I remember Mark and I having a specific conversation about how it was such an oddity to see someone smoking in public. Not any more! It’s everywhere! I think the most frustrating situation is when someone is smoking at the bus stop or in front of a building entrance. There are no-smoking signs everywhere, so some folks will generously step aside, yet forgetting that the ever so gusty wind doesn’t care. End of rant.,,,

 

Lacking a Dryer – I have never liked air-drying clothes and have never had the need to do so unless the tag on my sweater called for it (and even then sometimes I didn’t listen). However, long are the days gone now when I would throw my clothes into the dryer to get them warm before I’d put them on or to freshen them up. Long are the days gone when after I washed a pair of pants they would shrink back up to their original size again and fit like new. Air-drying is the way of life now. No washing and wearing on the same day anymore, another task that causes more planning and thinking ahead. On the bright side, our electric bill is probably lower and our home smells of fresh laundry constantly (two things I don’t hate).

 

The Weather – This California girl misses the sunshine. Although the sun has been saying hello more now as of late, it is still not the same. Even though California is craving the rain (and soaking up the rain it has been receiving lately), I miss having more dry days than wet – especially when it comes to being able to play at the park. Also, the lack of sunlight effects the good ol’ production of Vitamin D. SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) is a real problem that presents itself, and we’ve been doing what we can to increase our vitamin intake and exposure to sun, but some days you just want to stay in bed, cuddle up, and watch Netflix all day. Motivation is a struggle as well, but our daily routine of taking the kids to school must go on. Mark must research, even if it’s in his pajamas on the couch!

 

 

So, with all that said, the grass isn’t always greener on the other side of the Atlantic pond, but we are learning to adjust, anticipating the spring, and are embracing the simple things of a slower paced life.

Six Months In….What We Love

When you embark on a new journey, it is typical to do pre-research to prepare yourself for what you are about to encounter. Before moving to Edinburgh Mark spent countless hours on blog sites (it’s amazing the things people blog about!) trying to prepare our family for our new home in Edinburgh. Now that we’ve been here for roughly 6 months, I thought I’d throw together a little list of the things we love (so far) about our new home and city. Enjoy!

We LOVE…

Walking – When we moved we did not bring our car with us. And, if you remember from our arrival story, driving here was not our best experience! So we’ve embraced the life of walking. Recently both Mark and I downloaded the Pacer App on our phones to start tracking our steps. We shoot for 10,000 steps a day. With our five-story stair climb and three walks to and from the kids’ school a day, we’ve found that hitting 6-7,000 steps is easy to do just by walking our way through our daily routine.  On the weekends we have been trying to take some walking adventures; some Saturdays that may just be a walk into town to go to the store, or Penelope’s favorite walking place – Calton Hill.   We also walk to church on Sundays (about a mile away), which takes us roughly 20-30 minutes because we often detour through London Road Gardens.

Our family on a treasure hunt at the London Gardens.

Public Transportation – On the same note, when we can’t or don’t want to walk, the public transit is great! With a very helpful app, it is so easy to navigate our way through the city. A few weeks ago we decided to take the tram just to see where we ended up, and low and behold we found the Saughton Skatepark. We also stumbled upon a great shopping center and found some much needed items at great prices. Our kids love the bus (much more than walking!) and get so excited when we tell them we are going for a ride.

History & Culture – Everywhere you go you will find some sort of monument or homage being paid to someone. I think I’ve spent more time on Wikipedia and Google since we’ve been here than I ever have before. The other day we found out the building we live in was built in the 1890s, Penelope and Markie’s school is the second oldest working primary school in Edinburgh, and Mark found out that one of his peers lives in the former flat of J.M. Barrie, author of Peter Pan. The stairs in our building are very worn in the middle of each step, and it’s hard not to think about all the people who walked up and down these stairs before us each time we walk them.

 

The kids hanging out at Calton Hill with their Aunt Hannah.
The kids hanging out at Calton Hill with their Aunt Hannah.

 

National Healthcare System (NHS) – With Mark’s Diabetes and Asthma, healthcare bills are something that have always been a part of our lives. Even with the good insurance we had before we left the states, we had been paying upwards of $5000 a year in deductibles, prescriptions, and co-pays. When we applied for our visa we were charged $1000 to pay into NHS for all four of us for four years! This was peanuts compared to what we were used to paying annually. So, like many who are skeptical of National healthcare, we were curious what kind of service was going to greet us. We have been amazed! Our Surgery Center (or GP’s office) is just up the road, and we have never had to wait more than 5 minutes – if that – when we have a scheduled appointment. We’ve had a few urgent care situations in which we were seen either the day of (within a few hours) or the next morning depending on the problem. Mark has already been referred to a specialist at the University of Edinburgh – one of the leading universities in medical studies. Also, all prescriptions are paid for through NHS, so you walk in, give them your script, and walk out with your meds in roughly 10 mins! I never realized how my awareness of medical fees was engrained in me until I got sick a month ago and waited as long as I could bare it before making an appointment. Mark had to remind me that through NHS that burden was something we no longer had to bare. (Unfortunately, we still have a few medical bills beckoning our attention back in the States from when Markie took a spill down the stairs weeks before we moved!)

These are just a few of the many things we love about city we now call home. There are many more facets that would make this blog terribly long, but as you continue to follow our journey we will continue to share all our new experiences with you.

Hotels to Home

“The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.”

– Maya Angelou

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Do you know the comfort of your own bed? How about the coziness of your “own space” where you throw off your shoes, flop on the couch, and let the dishes stack up? Since we sold our home in May we haven’t really had a place to call our own, even though we experienced some amazing hospitality before we moved (thanks Mom and Bobby and Rick and Lorraine Davies). After arriving in London on September 13th, we shuffled into a tiny hotel, though admittedly we would have been willing to sleep on some cardboard boxes under a bus bench (gotta love those red-eye flights!). Two days later we flew into Edinburgh where we had reserved a vacation rental flat for 8 days. Numerous letting (rental) agencies assured us that the housing market moved quickly and finding accommodations within our time span was easily attainable. While the “harvest was plentiful” with housing the availability (move-in dates) limited our options. In the end, we figured that the earliest housing would be available October 1st, some 7 days after our vacation rental was up. This meant a few more days in a tiny hotel (bummer). However, we lucked out in our search and found a great flat, owned by a sweet couple (which means no management co. to deal with!). The house is in a great neighborhood, with a good primary school, and only a short bike/bus ride to New College. Our place is on the 5th floor, which means we get a great workout (especially when we’re carrying two bags of groceries) and an even better view. The flat also came fully furnished with beds, neat furniture, dishes, silverware, and even cooking utensils! These extra inclusions helped us keep our move-in budget on track, which was nice considering the extra hotel expenses we incurred while patiently counting down to October 1st. We snapped a few photos to welcome you to our new home. Thanks for all the prayers and encouragement while our search for housing ensued.

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Planes, Buses, and Automobiles

The adventure has started…

So much has happened over the last week that it is almost overwhelming thinking about where to start.

The Flight:

Our flight from LAX to London ended up only being 9 ½ hours (we were told it would be 10 ½!). Our flight left LA at 9:45pm Pacific Time, and we landed around 3:30pm European Time (7:30am Pacific Time). Both kids slept most of the trip, but we… did not!

Lesson learned: never underestimate the value of the neck pillow!

We stayed at the airport hotel for two nights, and we are so glad we did! We were allowed double the luggage on our LA flight, so we had to ship 4 of our bags via post while we were in London. This was so great because it made our check-in process so much easier than it was the first time (see picture! – it was as awful as it looks!)

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Us before check in at LAX: 3 luggage carts, 15 bags, 1 bike, and a double stroller!

Our second flight from London to Edinburgh was about an hour and the kids loved their little travel kits that they got from many of those who attended their birthday party before we left (thanks again!!).

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Arriving in Edinburgh:

This day was CRAZY! We landed around 10am, then we rented a car – big mistake!! So stressful! Mark drove, on the left side of the road and the right side of the car.

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Our first stop – McDonalds! We were starving and it was right by the airport. Next, we got SO lost! We didn’t have GPS because we couldn’t access our data on our phones, so we stopped at a literal castle (Craigmillar Castle) to get directions.

Not a terrible place to get lost!
Not a terrible place to get lost!

At the gift shop, there were two ladies that looked up directions for us and spent quite a bit of time explaining them to us, and, when all was said and done, they gave us a small atlas that we’re supposed to return to them sometimes in the next 3 years (Ha!). After we left the home of Mary Queen of Scots, we got lost again and ended up stumbling upon Mark’s school, New College, (another castle looking building) and he was able to get directions from the computer (not exactly the way he would first experience stepping on to campus). Then we, finally, got to our place and unloaded. We were exhausted and cranky to say the least. However, after driving around aimlessly trying to find our place, we then found ourselves driving around to find parking (which there was none!). SO … we decided to just go back to the airport (with the help of my atlas) and returned the car, give up on driving forever, and took a taxi back to our place. Kids slept the whole time until we had to get them out of the rental to catch the Taxi.

Lesson Learned: Never drive again the entire time we are here! Mark ended up telling his supervisor about our chaos driving; her response, “I’ve lived here 15 years and have never driven here!”

So how do we get around?

The Bus System:

Lothian busThe bus system is very well organized here. However, it did take us getting lost a few times, missing stops, and missing buses to begin to figure out the system. Mark got his cell phone service activated on day 2 here in the city, and the first thing we did was download the Lothian Bus mobile app, which is SO helpful! The kids are also loving taking the bus (especially because it means they don’t have to walk!), and their favorite place to sit is on the top deck, so they can see the city as we drive around.

Speaking of cell service…

 

Phones:

Here in the UK you need crazy good credit in order to sign a contract with a cell phone provider. Because of this, most people here just purchase monthly service which runs around £25 (approx. $39) per phone – this includes a data plan. Mark was able to set up his phone and get a UK number, but unfortunately my phone is still locked up through AT&T – who told us it would be no problem to unlock online.

Lesson Learned: always go into the AT&T store to do anything!

Unfortunately, we don’t have the option now to go into the store, so we are still waiting on this process, which hopefully will be cleared up in a week.

Until then, Leah does have access to her phone using Wifi. The best way we’ve been communicating with our friends and family WhatsAppfrom the US is through WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, both which are free!

Through WhatsApp we can call and text. Through Facebook Messenger we can call, message (text), and video chat. We encourage anyone to message us through either application! We love hearing from our friends FB Messengerand family! We have an 8 hour time difference, so just remember to mark it down on your world clock, or here’s a few ways to think about it:

Noon in California is 8pm in Scotland (we go to bed around 10 or 11pm)

Midnight in California is 8am in Scotland (we tend to wake up around 6 or 7am)

So feel free to contact us first thing when you wake up in the morning, at your lunch break, or, for you night owls, right before you go to bed (after 10pm).

Weather Report:

We have been greeted by this city with the most beautiful weather!

University of Edinburgh Old College
University of Edinburgh Old College

It has been in the high 50’s – low 60’s – Fahrenheit that is – with only a few sprinkles of rain.

"Mark texted me this picture while on the bus home on his first day of orientation" - Leah
“Mark texted me this picture while on the bus home on his first day of orientation” – Leah

The biggest shock was on Mark’s first day of school when there was a random downpour on his walk home.

Lesson Learned: always check the forecast in the morning even if it looks sunny outside. Next purchase is to be umbrellas!

 

Housing Updated: We finally found a place to live! We move in October 1st, so stay tuned into the blog for all the details!

 

Grace and Peace,

Mark and Leah

 

A White Picket Fence

I grew up in a middle class hard working family. I was taught strong values of work ethic and lessons on success. I remember the day when I opened my first bank account with my name on it. I was in the 5th grade. From that point I began earning money. For every straight “A” report card I earned a $20 bill (and a dinner party trip to the local Sizzler! Yum!). So, with that said, I had an ideal of what adulthood should look like. I would go to college, get a great job, get married, and one day own a house.

Well… when Mark and I decided to get married straight out of high school at the ripe age of 19, some of these plans were slightly changed. I started college, got married to Mark a year later, and we lived off of mediocre jobs, which consequently created slim savings. In 2007, I graduated college, and a year later finally started my teaching career while Mark began to seriously pursue college for himself. At the time, California was experiencing a rise in the housing market, and my older sister and her husband were in the process of looking for their first home. Me, like all good sisters, started to compare my life to my dear sister’s (whom I absolutely love and adore by the way) and cried to Mark about how “we will never be able to afford to buy a house!” After many tears and a patient husband who listened to me wail, Mark reminded me that not everyone owns a home; we were hard working people, and that if a home was in the cards for us, then it would happen…one day.

 

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Fast forward to Dec 2009, with some government graces and incentives, an ideal buyers market, and some family funds, we were able to miraculously buy our first home! And, to top it off, our mortgage for this 3 bedroom, 1 bath home was $60 cheaper than our rent for our 1 bedroom apartment! Our house, something that I had come to peace with possibly never owning, has been such a blessing to our small little family. In 2010, we brought home our baby girl to this house, and, in 2012, our baby boy. We’ve had many prayer meetings in our house (packing over 20 people in the small living room!), which birthed the ministry of Anchor (see pic below), and shared many cups of coffee with those we love.

 

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Here is a little fun fact about Mark and I. Since we’ve known each other, there has never been a time when one of us was not enrolled in school; we met in high school, I started college, I graduated from CSUB, Mark started BC and I started my master’s program, I graduated with my masters, Mark started CSUB, and now, as Mark started to approach his graduation from Fuller Seminary in August this last year (in 2014, after 10 years of marriage and hours of homework), our conversation about the next step began to start. Mark, who barely graduated high school, was entertaining the idea of pursuing a PhD! So, after hours of filling out applications, writing and researching for a dissertation proposal, and completing a personal statement, we got the news that Mark received a place at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland!

 

But what about the house?

 

After doing MUCH research, reading a bunch of blogs, trying to familiarize ourselves with UK economics, and conversations with financial aid, we decided it would be the best choice financially to sell our house. As we were having our last big yard sale and moving our big items and keepsakes into storage, I was left standing in my empty living room talking to some dear friends. I was telling them the story of our house and how I thought we’d never own one, which led me to reflect on how grateful and thankful I was—and still am for this house, and God’s timing and plan for this journey.

 

Here is the reality of our situation…

 

There is absolutely no way we could be moving for our family to pursue this next step without our house. Because of the diminishing market value when we bought our home, and because of the recently surprising spike in Bakersfield’s home values (we sold in April, which was the best seller’s market since the housing market crash!), we were able to sell our house at a price that will help sustain our cost of living for the next 3 years. Simply looking at the numbers, this is a miracle. When I think about what a conversation would look like between my current self and my 2007 self, I am overwhelmed by the faithfulness of God and his timing and its alignment with the calling that he has had and still has on our family’s life.

Cheers to 2600 Corto Street! You will be missed.

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Hindsight truly is 20/20! What situations in your life have panned out in a way you didn’t expect? Please share your encouraging story below.

 Grace and peace,

Leah

Welcome To Our Blog

Hey there family and friends!

     As many of you know, Leah, myself, and the kids are moving to Edinburgh, Scotland. I (Mark) was accepted into a PhD program in the department of Religion and Theology at the University of Edinburgh. We ship out September 9th! We are excited about the adventures ahead, sad about leaving family and friends, and a little nervous about entering into the unknown. However, we are confident of our decision after seeing countless opportunities and provisions made possible only by God. The last few months have been a whirlwind of change and excitement for us all. Selling nearly everything we own, picking up shop, and moving to another country is no simple task. From managing finances or selling our house to preparing immigration papers, life has been anything but idle. So far this journey has challenged us, focused us, and most importantly, proven to us that we are moving in the right direction. We are thankful for such an outpouring of support by family and friends. To those of you who have believed in us, encouraged us, and supported us through the years, we are beyond grateful…and this blog is for you!

Blog-Family Pic

We are beginning this blog with a number of goals to achieve. We hope to keep family and friends connected to us through chronicling our lives: achievements, failures, and successes. We’re excited that we’ll get to share pictures of Penelope’s first day of school, Leah’s paintings, or Markie’s first time using the potty (hopefully, before he’s 30). We want our family and friends to be with us while we are away, and this blog was our solution. Also, this blog will be useful for strangers attempting the same process that we are (whether moving for school or otherwise). With only nominal resources available online for those attempting a PhD in the UK, I (Mark) hope to provide useful tips / warnings along the way. Lastly, Leah and I hope to write occasionally on areas pertaining to our family adventures, creative experiences, my dissertation topic, favorite books, church ideas, or any other fun stuff that pops into our heads. While Leah and I are still in the country we hope to write weekly, updating everyone on our progression as we countdown the final weeks before our departure. On the right-hand side of the screen there is a “subscribe” button, and we ask that our friends and family subscribe to receive regular updates and prayer requests. Thanks for all the support, and we look forward to seeing you in the blogosphere.

Best wishes,

The Lamas Four