Dinosaurs Mountain, Dinosaurs Sea

To avoid nasty dinosaurs one must jump in the sea.

This is the narrative of an eight year old. There are flaws with this logic which is probably why we don’t have youngsters running countries or performing complicated tasks like surgery or mechanical engineering. Could you imagine if a great power like the United States was ever run by an infant? I’m veering into dangerous territory here…

An eight year old once thought that if they lived in the era of big, carnivorous dinosaurs then the safest place would be the sea. A rampaging t-rex would have no interest in following someone into the water. Then my mother (yes, the eight year old was me) bought a book about sea dinosaurs. There were some nasty, bad tempered looking creatures in those pages which shot my theory to bits.

The Chinese have a saying – “People mountain, people sea“. It means that wherever you go, there are people. You can’t escape them. I have began to apply this bit of wisdom to my own circumstances and the abundance of children in all areas of life.

Where are we going with this conversation?

Your children are the land dinosaurs. The fiery pocket-rocket upstarts might be considered the carnivores – tyrannosaurus rex etc., whereas the milder but occasionally recalcitrant child would be the herbivore – think stegosaurus or triceratops. You might be able to find refuge in areas outside the home. This would be the sea. Perhaps your workplace is kid-free. A sports club or yoga group might be a nice release from a pouty face or high-pitched squeal! Go ahead and enjoy the water – harass a herring or flummox a flying fish. The sharks are nothing compared to what I’ve got.

Hello Daddy!

It’s about my job, you see. It’s an enjoyable job too. Parents reading this blog will understand just how tough it can be to raise kids (the land dinosaurs). Tantrums, homework, and sibling spats are just some of the dangers we face offset with periods of peace and harmony. Most (not all) parents will be able to escape at some point by heading off to an occupation (the sea) that doesn’t involve children. My job involves kids. It is kids. There is no escaping down to the pub with workmates on a Friday night. Kids on land, kids in the sea – which is not necessarily a bad thing. Life would be pretty dull without children around. It’s just…

It’s just that is has been quite a year (for everyone) and many private teachers didn’t get much of a break over the summer holiday. Oh well, if the money is good, best take it. We are on to week 13 now and things are getting a bit tiring.

Dinosaurs Say the Darnedest Things

Armed with notebook, I jotted down some of the things recently uttered by the sea dinosaurs in the jurassic classroom. All experienced dino-hunters (teachers) have heard naughty words, broken up fights, witnessed pant wetting (though pooey pants haven’t reached my island yet), mopped vomit, and inhaled mystery smells – “room clearers” that allow no space for other forms of life. Here is a snapshot of life in dinosaur-infested, southern Chinese waters during a weekend in late November 2020. All comments are in Chinese unless otherwise noted. Much of this chatter happens during break times but not always.

Why is your nose so big?” – Jacky, 4 (teleosaurus).

Hello ice-cream teacher” – Walter, 5 (mosasaurus).

I’m going to smack you on the bum!” – Jimmy, 5 (ichthyosaurus).

My favourite cartoon character is Bum Bum (unintentional faux pas – he was supposed to say SpongeBob Squarepants) ” – Tiger, 10 (elasmosaurus, spoken in English).

China doesn’t have any shortcomings” – Thomas, 8 (tankenginosaurus).

America’s president behaves like a little boy” – Kevin, 13 (trumposaurus, spoken in English).

Teacher, why are you drinking beer?” – Kyle, 9 (alkoholosaurus, upon seeing my can of Monster Energy drink).

Sam: “How many pencils do you have Justin?

Justin: “Swimming.” (This troubled conversation was in English)

I serve at the pleasure of Ultraman!” – Jacky, 8 (kronosaurus). Ultraman was a popular Japanese TV show. He said this before introducing a sofa cushion to an expensive globe that then crashed loudly onto the floor.

Ultraman dealing with wayward globes.

Imagine the Alternative

It could be the other way around. One could live alone or without the sound of little feet pounding up and down the hall. There is nothing wrong with this. Plenty of happy people live dinosaur-free (or with a pet as a companion) and they wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m not sure this is for me though… As I type, a radio blasts aggressive Cantonese sounds from the Kitchen. It belongs to my mother-in-law (a pterodactyl perhaps? Ho ho). We refer to her as the Adult (a secret code word we can use). Ten years of the Adult’s ear-shatteringly loud radio has made an impact. What would one do without it? One takes a sort of perverted comfort in the pain. Stockholm syndrome comes to mind. Not sure why.

Have you seen my radio?

One could work in an office. Here I’m reminded of the stale mid-1990s workplace. I’m sure it is very different now. Older, chauvinistic alpha men ruled the roost with a “harden up” approach to younger, more emotional, subordinates. What the heck was mental health awareness? Meetings were long, drawn-out affairs with someone called Mary or Dennis, wanting to reconfirm what we’d just spent an hour confirming. It is no surprise that most of my best line managers were female. They were empathetic to struggling youngsters but they also knew when valuable time was being wasted. Perhaps the sea is not so bad after all.

One Week Later

My second daughter, my little oviraptor, has taken an interest in dinosaurs. She pours over an encyclopaedia of world knowledge complete with science and high culture. She could learn about land mammals, Machu Picchu, the solar system, Ancient Greece, or Indian civilisation. Instead, we find ourselves at pages 98 to 112. Dinosaurs. I’ve seen some familiar faces. Old bosses, neighbours, grumpy high school classmates, an ex-girlfriend. The oviraptor asks why a corythosaurus (helmet lizard) is looking on retardedly while its mate is being ripped to shreds by a T-rex. Why did the deinonychus hunt in packs? I mumble something snarky about society not having changed much. She doesn’t know what society means.

Corythosaurus – not the smartest

Then we’re back in class. Walter is now jumping up and down on a coffee table and leaping into a newly bought Christmas tree. I think to distract him by pointing at a large, yellow horse.

Walter, what’s that?

A stinky fart!” he replies in Chinese.

I guess that’s what you call exstinktion.

The End of Homework in China!

And there she was, a nine year old in southern China, doing homework at midnight.

Ten of her classmates were also awake trying to complete the same task.

It’s the bane of many parents – homework. It gets written into a little, specially designed notebook. Sections are created for Chinese, Math, and English. It gets worse as they get older. Big kids have to deal with the sciences too. Let’s not forget history. And politics.

It’s now June

Which means that the end of year exams are lurking around the corner like the shadowy monsters that inhabit children’s dreams. This will be our third year of exams in China (as parents). Evenings are filled with mock exam papers, extra math tests, extra English dictation, extra Chinese essays, and extra headaches.

My task will be to keep our preschooler away from the young scholar.

A Typical Day

Kids finish school at 4 or 5pm depending on the weekday. They either go home or head to an education centre till their parents finish work. A typical homework load might contain:

Homework assigned on June 11th, 2019


Chinese – four items (correct and review the previous lesson, preview new characters, a fill-in-the-gaps worksheet, essay)

Math – three items (textbook work, calculation book, double-sided A4-sized worksheet)

English – three items (dictation, reading and writing comprehension)


If she doesn’t muck around (playing on her grandfather’s phone), gets on with things and does a proper job, and one allows time for dinner and shower (Chinese almost always shower at night) she might be finished by 9pm. If she decides to delay the commencement of the homework…  well we’re looking at a much later bedtime.


There’s also the music and art homework which can be very time-consuming.



The Numbers


Three hours of homework is the average amount Chinese kids do each night.


This is twice the global average according to the Global Times.


The Education Ministry here released a report which among other things highlighted the lack of sleep amongst Chinese primary school-aged kids. Apparently, only 30% of fourth-grade kids are getting the necessary sleep.

A third of Chinese kids spent more than 30 minutes a night on math.


This homework assignment made national headlines a few months back and caused both students and parents many headaches. Students in Foshan City were expected to count 100,000,000 grains of rice. Some parents even made calculations that it would take a year to count that much rice at a rate of three grains per second. The teacher defended her position and said she was trying to promote critical thinking.


One-third (again)…

of Chinese students felt under great pressure according to the study. Many struggled with  Math and Chinese which led to enrolment at:

Cram Schools

Very popular now, even after the criticism that was levelled at such institutions. It is not uncommon to see kids spend their entire weekends at these “places”. Ironically these places hand out extra homework which leads to more stress which leads to futher underperformance at school etcetera etcetera….

How do you feel about the Chinese homework situation KJ?

As a language teacher – one can see the absolute benefits of a bit of revision and prep for an upcoming lesson.

As a parent I can also see the absolute hell a three hour homework load can wreak on a family life. Everyone is affected by late night study sessions.

Why the heck would you keep your daughter in the Chinese education system?

Because it pushes her to levels she would never achieve in my home country. Her math is streets ahead of many Western kids her own age. She gets opportunities to perform in front of large crowds (owing to her Western features). She gets to become trilingual at a young age. She gets out of her comfort zone!

It forces her to form good study habits at a young age. She also gets a few international holidays (and expensive presents) a year which softens the edges…

Summer Reading

The blog title was a bit misleading but it points to some essential summer reading. This little gem was written nearly 20 years ago. I am not in the business of subverting the authorities but if I could get this book into the hands of the policy makers here then we might see a reduction in the amount of homework done!


Or maybe it’s a case of the family that slaves together stays together.