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how to be a great immersion parent

As I listen from the kitchen, my kindergarten son picks apart the specific words chosen by my 1st grade daughter. An argument ensues, most of which I can not understand. They are at it again, using their second language to communicate on a level I could never have imagined at ages 7 and 5.5. I sigh a contented sigh, proud of all that they have accomplished. Then, I chastise them for arguing, prompting them to talk with Lao Shi tomorrow to settle their disputes. They grudgingly oblige and revert back to their typical pretend play in English, and I’m left alone again with my thoughts.

I am so thankful that we took a leap of faith and enrolled our children in an early total one-way Mandarin Chinese immersion program. I’m excited for the future that awaits this crop of students, and I can’t wait to watch their progress over the next 12 years of education.

BUT…this type of education–so foreign (pardon the terrible adjective) from the way I was raised–produces many questions:

  • How do I become a great “school mom” when education happens in a second language?
  • How can I advocate for best practices in immersion settings if I don’t fully understand how immersion works?
  • What is the difference between program models? Are they all equal? If not, what markers should I be looking for?
  • How can I advocate for well rounded educational practice without sacrificing the investment we’ve made in acquiring a second language?

The answers to these questions – as well as many others – will be the focus of our featured series: How to be a great immersion parent.  To kick things off, we’ll begin with 3 simple tips:

  1. Be informed. Don’t leave your child’s educational experiences up to chance. Dig in; do the research for yourself. You are your child’s greatest advocate, even when your child is an immersion student and you have a limited understanding of the language of instruction. The following sources are great places to start when looking for best practices:
  • CARLA – Center for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition
  • add.a.lingua Facebookand blog
  • ACTFL – The American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages
  • CAL – Center for Applied Linguistics
  1. Ask good questions. Stay tuned over the next few weeks as we ask (and answer) some of the most critical questions that impact program success!
  1. Expect unity. District leaders and teachers should answer the critical questions in the same way.  Inconsistency among school leaders and teachers may reveal an unclear vision or purpose. Quality programs aren’t developed by chance or by accident; all members of the team are committed to the shared vision and expectations and will be moving in the same direction. Press for clarity on responses that seem vague and inconsistent. Consider it a red flag if program leadership can not answer critical questions.

We hope you’ll join us as we explore, over the next several months, how to become a great immersion parent.  And if there’s an issue you’d like to hear add.a.lingua address from an immersion parent perspective, leave us a note using this contact form.


Filed under: Mandarin Chinese, Uncategorized

About the Author

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Kristi Van Dyk is an immersion parent who is passionate about offering dual language immersion as an educational option to all schools and districts. The opportunity to raise bi-lingual children, despite her family’s lack of second language proficiency has expanded the dreams she and her husband have for the future of their children. It is this passion for real life change that Kristi brings to all of our new partner schools. Kristi’s educational training began at Hope College in education in the areas of English and Mathematics for elementary. Kristi pursued additional training in brain based curriculum development through the Midwest Brain and Learning Institute as well as an M.A. in educational administration from Western Michigan University. You can find Kristi connecting with new potential partners, sharing experience with new parents and assisting with training of new teachers.

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  1. Pingback: questions immersion parents should be asking, part 1 | add.a.lingua

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