“What about your kids?,” she says to me. She was a co-worker, mother of two. How will they survive in a country where they don’t know the language. What about school? Naturally, for parents especially, we were asked these types of questions quite often while we were preparing to quit the job, change our family lifestyle and move to Spain, unemployed, for a family gap year that has now turned into 3 ;).
This is about how kids benefit from moving the family abroad by learning to speak another language without extra effort from parents
Fast forward to 2 years after our arrival and Karol was in a 40-minute school theater, in a Peter Pan musical, playing the shadow and one of the lost boys (or La Sombra and Niños Perdidos, respectively). See article on Diario de Jerez: Unos 3.200 alumnos han presenciado la Muestra de Teatro, Música y Danza Escolar.
Recall that my original half-baked/half-brewed plan was homeschooling. That’s how I sold it to my wife Ania. I didn’t give it much thought. I figured if I was gonna be a full time, house husband, I’ll have plenty of time and energy to home school.
The reality? Nothing could be far from the truth. I hardly have time or energy dealing with the kids and running the household, and Ania DOES help out quite a lot.
The result? We never have enough time to properly teach our kids, Karol and Kaj, their new language… It turned out it was not a problem.
children simply learn the new language through integration without any extra effort
First, a few months after we got here, we were able to send Kaj (our then-1.5-year old) to daycare at a mere monthly cost of 150 euros for 5 hours per day. That gave us some breathing space for household chores while he learned to speak the language of our new host country… Spanish. This was (and still is) our number 1 goal for the children, for the big family move abroad.
Then, through help of then-local-strangers-now-friends, we found out that Karol was able to attend public school in a wonderfully diverse and dynamic part of town. BAM!!! Homeschooling = out the window!!! This was a great opportunity for him (and us parents) to integrate with the locals. The class took him in for the last two weeks of school for trial, so he could get used to his classmates and the school, even without him being officially admitted.
kids learn the new language by going to a local school
Naturally, since everything was new Karol was intimidated. So, was I, as I ALSO HAD TO GO TO SCHOOL with him in a class with what we’d discovered as likely the best teacher here for kindergarten. A great experience for both of us! From day 1, Karol was warmly received by his classmates and the staff–even though only 1 spoke English. After a week he had no problem being on his own and played well, learning with everyone else.
1 year later Kaj is enrolled in the same school, which methodology is similar to the Montessori model but with emphasis on math and the sciences. More importantly, it involves a community-based, child education, where parents are heavily included and encouraged to participate in many facets of daily education and activities. In fact, the school is the only one in this town that is certified in this European Union educational model (Community of Learning).
2 years after our arrival here, the kids are Spanish speakers… to the point that Karol for his final note received a 10 in his Spanish and only 9 in English. Imagine that! Both now code-switch in fluent Polish, English and working Spanish, depending on who they are speaking with. Sometimes they even speak English and Polish with a certain Spanish, if not Andalucian, manner of speaking.
5 hours per day of integrated spanish in school. . . for FREE. . . and other activities!
They still need a lot of help with Spanish, particularly with vocabulary. I’m sure they could have learned to speak the language more fluently and quickly if us parents made them do it. And yet, there was no need to push and push and push too much, we thought. As many here would say, they already go to school for 5 hours a day. That’s enough! (Karol also has extra 2 hours per week of martial arts training in a dojo).
After a semester, they both go to “the comedor” for lunch in school… an extra hour per day of integration in a different, a little bit wilder setting. Even more for the next school year when both Karol and Kaj will go to extra-curricular activities of Football and Flamenco. FUN learning activities!
In the end, being able to speak another, widely used, language (such as Spanish) would give Kaj and Karol an added advantage in this globalized, interlinked, international political economies…. I don’t know what that means… sounds fancy though… One thing for sure, they will not have to spend a fortune later, just to learn this language! That SAVES MONEY, doesn’t it.
What’s next? Karol wants to learn Russian. . . we’ll see!
Big Smile (while you still have teeth)! do you teach your child a new language? let us know how!
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