Oso Pardo, Oso Pardo, que ves ahi?

I won’t even go into the math stuff our little sponge of a first grader is doing right now. Let’s just say he was drawing for me pies and illustrating fractions as I cooked dinner. Last night was another first on the Spanish front, and I’m jazzed to share.

My little reader (in English) has branched out and is starting to read in Spanish. His first solo attempt was a raving success (insert one proud mama smile here), as he read to me “Oso Pardo, Oso Pardo, que ves ahi?” and he read it like he knew what he was doing.  Earlier in the day, he introduced me to the entire school, in Spanish.  A few weeks ago he didn’t know a lick of Spanish. This, my friends, is progress.

While we certainly understand that fluency will take 5-7 years, the openness and comfort level our kids have to even attempt to read aloud (or introduce mom in front of 50+ other kids) is amazing to me. Hat’s off to our own personal adventure. I am a smiling parent!

Why a bilingual education?

I get so many questions regarding why we are pursuing a bilingual education for our son. There are such diverse reactions when I bring it up, and I’ve heard everything from genuine enthusiasm to “Why are we spending tax dollars to force these kids to learn Spanish? We’re in America! They should speak English!” And like any hot topic, there are varying degrees of opinion in the middle.

For me, it wasn’t about the specific language choice, but that there was a second language. It could have been French, German, Mandarin, Japanese, Cantonese… Spanish certainly makes sense in this area, but frankly, any second language would do.  But this isn’t an immigration issue.  It’s about education. But it’s even bigger than that:

  • Children who can speak more than one language have a greater capacity for creative thinking.
  • Bilingual children are exposed to different cultures, foods, celebrations, and customs from other countries.
  • Children in immersion programs typically score higher in their other core subjects.
  • Learning a second language strengthens a student’s understanding of their native language.

We live in an area where cultural diversity is high. People from all over the world live here and many languages are spoken. We see this first hand at our playgrounds and our schools. The young children don’t seem to be phased by all the chatter, they just want to play. They don’t see barriers.

I want this attitude to continue.

We believe that learning another language and about other cultures is a great step in becoming a global citizen. Can we foster a culture of peace, acceptance, and hard work that starts young and continues into high school? I think we can.  With travel becoming easier, the world is becoming smaller. Our future lies with these gentle souls, and it’s our job to get them prepared for their place in it.  Bilingual (or multilingual) multiculturalism is the norm in most of our foreign trade partners. For our family, it starts now.

Waiting for Superman

Waiting for Superman, a documentary film by Davis Guggenheim (Deadwood, NYPD Blue, 24, and Inconvenient Truth), is now playing in Portland, Oregon!

This film explores the current state of our public education system and the effect it is having on our children while they follow the lives of five children and their hopes, dreams, and untapped potential. Here’s a link to the trailer:

http://film.waitingforsuperman.com/videos

The part at the end, with the kids waiting for their lottery number, makes me cry every time. It breaks my heart that most of these kids will go home disappointed.

Why should I post this on my blog? We are full believers in the potential of charter schools and the way we can deliver public education. Our charter school was the only affordable, bilingual education available to us.  And charter schools  are often founded by parents, educators, and just general members of the community. Like you and me!

It’s happening

Monday is my day to volunteer at the school.  First graders have an incredible amount of energy, and a seemingly endless need to use the bathroom.  I made a lot of trips with kids to the bathroom on Monday.

I heard a lot of “mira” (look) and “eschucha” (listen) in the classroom. It was fun.

We have a rule at school that everyone must walk on the asphalt paths to and from the bathrooms. We had too many trips/falls and scraped hands the first week. And from a safe, responsible, and respectful standpoint, we can’t have kids running ahead and causing distress of those who are our classroom helpers (line leaders and door holders). Having a job in first grade is super important, and they take it very seriously!

On my way to take a group of six (3 boys and 3 girls) to the bathroom, I heard my son spontaneously blurt out a couple of sentences in Spanish. I stopped in my tracks. The kids follow suit.

Me – “What did you just say?”

Devlin – <again, same sentences, in Spanish, which I can’t type out due to my limited Spanish>

Classmate – “That means we have to walk, not run, on the way to the bathroom!”

Last weekend he was jumping on his bed, counting backwards from “viente” (twenty) to “cero” (zero). We played a game on the computer and he knew that “nineteen” was “diecinueve” – both written out, not just the numerals.  He has been singing a song in Spanish about the vowels.

This from my boy who could only count to ten and name a few colors in Spanish a month ago. For me, I’m excited to see where he’ll be in January and at the end of the school year. I understand that knowing how to count to 20 isn’t a big deal, especially for a first grader. But here we are reinforcing what he already knows, in another language. Now that is a big deal.