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Reflections on parenting the immersion student

Contributed by: Ben and Cara Wickstra

As a mother, I think one of the key elements of being an immersion parent is patience. One of those qualities you never volunteer to learn and always wince a little when you pray for, because you know, the Lord will provide opportunities to be patient instead of granting you some magical patience powers.

I’ve noticed that the learning process doesn’t go at the same pace I expect because I’m thinking and comparing to my experience, which has only been in English. Or, I compare learning to friends and family who have children in a traditional English classroom. If I’m not careful, I begin to feel that my child is behind. I’m learning that I need to trust the teachers (often blindly, since I can’t understand all of what they’re learning). And by trusting the teachers, I allow my children an opportunity to gain ownership and confidence in their learning process. I know myself well, and I know I would be tempted to push and compare my child, to “help” and take more control than necessary. But in immersion, I have to step back and trust. Trust the teachers, trust the immersion process. And, I must be patient as I watch my child learn at a pace different than what I’m used to, but at exactly the right pace for immersion.

As a father, I’ve noticed the decision we made to place our family in an immersion classroom affects each one of us. It impacts the choices we have made and will make in the future. In our daily lives, we have changed where we like to go out to eat, what we notice when we visit festivals and events, and even gifts we buy the kids.   The kids enjoy talking with Mandarin-speaking people we meet at restaurants or on excursions. They have already seen how knowing a common language creates a connection and trust beyond a smile and a handshake. In the long run, I hear about opportunities in business, medicine and economic development, and I am excited to see how my decisions now are opening those doors for my children. But most importantly, I notice the impact it has made on our hearts and minds.

Inclusivityowen-epcot and individuality have become central concepts to our society.  The goal is to embrace what makes each of us unique, in culture and personality, and yet invite and include others. Accomplishing this has taken many forms. It was this last summer that I saw success in this area when I realized my son saw China as one of “his” cultures. He  understands he is not from China but he is interested in it, concerned for their well-being, and wants to see their success equal to this country. He is not content with being familiar with the culture he wants to be part of it. Their minds are grasping a global perspective I cannot teach them.

Our goal has been to bring up our children in a way that when they are older they embrace and continue the momentum. Although it is early on, the foundations are set, founded in truth, and are pointing them toward opportunities I never had. Needless to say, I am proud of them.

Filed under: dliparents, Mandarin Chinese

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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