“Extreme Schooling”: Article Review

by flickr (The Commons)

If you haven’t had read the NY Times article, “My Family’s Experiment in Extreme Schooling” by Clifford J. Levy, you need to do that now. It is insightful, well written, and will help make sense to the rest of this post.

After I read his article, I felt like he had some really good points for parents who have children attending schools where the family’s first language is not taught.

1. He mentions that his oldest daughter had an inner struggle with not being able to learn the language “effortlessly”. I think as parents we need to remember that though kids do learn languages quicker than adults, it does take effort and time. Also, we need to make sure our children understand this so they do not see themselves as the “dumb foreigner.”

2. Mr. Levy and his wife researched schools online and then had the opportunity to visit the school before enrolling their children. They met the founder of the private school and learned about his philosophy. Most families are not able to actually go to the school beforehand, but research is definitely a possibility now with the internet.

3. Mr. Levy and his wife didn’t force their children to stay in the Russian private school. They gave them the option of leaving and starting at the international school. Interestingly, though, none of the children took them up on this offer. They all stayed in the Russian school and began to survive, then thrive. The Levy’s, I believe, were fortunate to have this option. Not every family has the option of schools available with their first language taught.

4. It seems that the Levy children noticed their own personal academic strengths. They put their energy into those subjects to show some success. The strength was math. I’ve witnessed this when I taught at the international schools. I noticed that the favorite subject of almost every ESL student I had was math. It was the one subject they could really succeed and even be at the top of the class in. As parents, we need to watch for this and encourage our children in their strengths.

So, I’m curious to hear from you. What are your thoughts about this article? If you are sending your child to a school that is not taught in your native language, how have you helped your child(ren) cope? Please share in the comments below.

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Global-Minded Children

A couple of weeks ago I read a blog post, Global-Minded Education: A New Currency for the 21st Century, by Libby Stephens. That article has made me stop and ponder what I teach my own children on a daily basis. If you have a moment, go and read it. It is very insightful and thought-provoking as a parent and as an educator, too.

I know and understand that most schools are educating our children in many of the areas that Libby mentions, but what, as parents, can we do to reinforce this global mindset in our children?

1. Educate Yourself. You will not be able to teach, or even talk about any of the issues that Libby writes about if you first do not already know something about it. So grab a newspaper, open up an online news channel and find out what is going on globally. Read articles on environmental living, and brainstorm with the whole family ways to change your lifestyle habits for the better. If you haven’t read Libby’s blog post, go now. That’s a good starting point.

2. Talk with your child(ren). Some of the issues are not for the younger crowd, so if you have young children pick the ones that are appropriate. If you have older teens, find out what they already know and begin the discussion. Talk to your child(ren) and discover what issues really concern them. Are they concerned? Can we challenge our child(ren)to think about other things other then their homework, their friends, their iphones, etc.? I think so. Make one night of the month Discussion Night and talk about one of the issues.

3. Make a Plan. I think talking is good and it helps to educate the whole family, but is there anything that you or your child(ren) can do? Does your child want to actively do something? I was challenged this summer by the story of Rachel Beckwith, the 9-year old girl from Washington state that asked her friends and family to donate money to Charity Water instead of buying presents. Her goal was $300, but she didn’t quite make it by her birthday. A few weeks later, she died in a car wreck. Her death challenged people from around the world to give in her honor. The total amount given was around $1 million. A 9-year old. Astounding isn’t it? What really stood out to me about Rachel, though, was her desire to help others, her global mindset.  At age 5, she grew her hair out for Locks of Love, an organization that uses hair to make wigs for people who have cancer or other diseases. Where did she hear about this organization? How did she come up with this idea? I don’t have those answers, but I applaud her parents for encouraging and allowing her to do those things. Her parents are an example to me. How am I equipping/encouraging my children to do those kind of things? It all goes back to #1 and #2. Inform yourself, talk with your kids about those issues, and then listen to see what your kids want to do about them.

What are your thoughts? Are you challenged by Libby’s post? What are your ideas? Please comment below.

*If you’d like to read more about Rachel Beckwith, Nicholas D. Kristof wrote an excellent piece, Rachel’s Last Fund-Raiser, for the NY Times.

The Days After the First Day of School

Last post I shared tips on how we were going to help our youngest make the transition into a new school. Her first day went well.  She made friends. She liked her teachers. A week has gone by and all seems okay, yet she isn’t completely confident. She’s excited about school, but also nervous. At first I was concerned, but my wise husband reminded me that we just need to give her time to adjust.

Maybe, like me, you are concerned about your TCK and how they are adjusting to their new school.  Give. It. Time.  Whether transferring from a new country or from a local school, he is in a period of transition. It may take a few days, a few weeks, maybe even a month for him to find his place and feel secure. This all depends, of course, on his age. How can parents help?

1. Listen, Listen, Listen.  This is probably the most important, yet hardest to do. We all want to “fix” the problems immediately for our hurting/struggling child(ren), but many times we just need to listen.  Listening to a 6-year old vs. a 16-year old is not the same and should be approached differently.  Younger children can be asked questions like, What was the best part of today? the worst? Who did you play with at recess? Older children will shut off immediately if you start asking questions like that. They may even brush off the question, How was your day?  I’ve found that I’ve learned more from my oldest child when I am not trying to pry information from him.  This usually happens when we are playing a game, putting a puzzle together, or doing the dishes together. Really, it can be anything that doesn’t make him feel like he’s under interrogation. Find time to do something with your older child, but the key is when they do start to open up and share, you need to listen.

2. Encourage your child to get involved. What is your child interested in?  Check to see if your school offers activities or clubs after school, then encourage your child to get involved with one. If there are no clubs at your school ask if you could start one. Being involved in school activities helps develop friendships and forms a feeling of belonging. Both necessary for the transition to a new school.

3. Talk with your child’s teacher. If after a few months have past and you still notice that your child isn’t transitioning well, then make an appointment to see the teacher. Ask his teacher if he has noticed anything during the school day. If there is a concern, then a counselor might need to be consulted.  If the teacher hasn’t noticed, then ask him to observe that week to see what your child does at recess or during free time. It might be that all is fine at school, but at home he is reminded of what he left behind.  In that case, he is still in transition, which is normal.

How have you helped your child(ren) transition after that first day?  Love to hear your ideas!

Parent’s Guide to First Day of a New School

I posted last time that our youngest will be attending a new school in a few days.  I shared some ideas about how we have prepared her for her new school.  Now what about that first day? How can we, the parents, make the start as smooth as possible for our child(ren)?  Below are 5 ideas that I think will help you (and me, too!).

1. Talk to your child(ren) about the first day.  Does your child want to be taken to the classroom or just to the front door?  A younger child will probably want to be taken to the classroom. An older child may prefer you be out of sight that first day and most likely everyday! Talk to your child and make a plan, but be prepared for a quick change of mind that morning. First day fears could take over.
2. Do a practice run. One weekday before school starts you should calculate how much time it takes to get to school in the morning. Leave your home about the time you think you will be leaving to see how long it actually takes. This way you don’t run the risk of arriving late on the first day because you did not consider morning traffic.
3. Plan to celebrate.Kids love to celebrate, so why not celebrate the first day at the new school? It may help your child(ren)  knowing that later on they will get a special treat. It could be dinner that evening at their favorite restaurant or a trip to the ice-cream store right after school.  If it’s not possible to celebrate that first night, plan something for the weekend. If your family is really into celebrating, do both. =)

4. Prepare a little surprise for lunch or snack.  Write a note on a post-it simply saying, “We love you!” or “Hope you are having a great day!”  You could also wrap their favorite snack up like a present.  Here’s what Jamie Oliver (!) suggests: carve a message into the banana peel. The words become darker with time.  Anything to bring a little smile to their face!

5. Don’t stay too long. What I mean by this is, don’t stay in or near the classroom very long. I know some kids will cry and cling, but the best thing is for the parent to kiss the child, tell them they love him/her and will be back after school, and then walk out.  Leave. Don’t stand in the hallway or anywhere your child can see you. This will only upset your child more. Usually, after about 15 minutes or so, they will become engaged in an activity and the tears will stop. If you are worried, you can always go to a nearby coffee shop with some friends.  The school has your phone number, so if there is a real problem they will call you.

Okay, your turn. Do you have any other ideas? I’d love to read them. Please share in the comments below.

*photo by flickr

Back to School…only it’s a new school.

It’s that time of year again.

I have started to think about school supplies…like trying to locate the backpacks, lunch bags and anything else that my kids will need on their first day of school.

Yes, school starts in less than a week for two of my kids. For my youngest, this will be a new school. She attended a local school for the past few years, but will now attend the “American” school where we live. She’s a bit nervous and excited all at the same time. She’s been asking questions about her class, her teacher, and if she will have to take her shoes off before entering the classroom.

I believe as parents we must help our kids transition into a new school.  Whether it is changing schools because of a new city/country, going from local school to international school, home-school to a classroom setting, we need to help them feel more confident. I’ve listed 5 ways that you could help your child with this transition.

1. Tell your child what language will be spoken at the school. This sounds very simple, but younger children (and maybe even some older ones) may not realize this and are either pleasantly surprised because they do  understand OR worse, shocked and scared because they don’t understand.

2. Tour the school.  If you can, call in advance and set up a tour.  Or, if this not possible, look up the website of the school and see if they have any video tours or pictures to show what the campus looks like. Show your TCK the classroom, the playground, the cafeteria and anything else that would be of interest to your child(ren).

3. Meet the teacher(s). If possible, try to meet the teacher. Don’t stay too long because they are busy, especially the week before school starts getting the room ready. Most teachers are happy to meet new students briefly before the semester starts. Older students may or may not want to do this. I’d go with whatever they decide. If you are not able to meet the teacher, then check online and see if the school has photos of the faculty. Then at least you and your child will see what your teacher looks like.

4. Meet classmates.  This one might be tough to do, but it’s not impossible. Ask your school if they would be willing to give you contact information of other parents. Also, go to English language churches, clubs, or restaurants that you think other members of the expat community might attend.  In addition, there maybe various websites regarding expat life in your city. Check those to see if there are any events for children.

5. Listen to your child. This is the most important. Let them share their fears, excitement, and sadness with you. They will most likely be sad about leaving the “old” school.  You may just need to hold them and let them cry. It can be a hard “season” for everyone, but it is just that, a season. It will change and it will get better. Share that you understand and are there for them.

I understand that my daughter might still be nervous and may even shed a tear come Monday morning. But, at least I know some of her fears can be put aside because of taking these steps.

I know there are other ideas out there. So share. What have you done to help your child transition into a new school?