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Trusting the model

contributed by: Monica VanderZwaag

When we started in Spanish Immersion, we were so excited but also hesitant about the process.  Our kids started in preschool, where parent helpers were required, so every few weeks one of us would go in and participate in the class.  We had no idea what the teachers were saying!  The kids, however, rolled with it so well.  In one particular class,  we noticed that when the teacher brought the puppet out it meant the puppet would be speaking English.

Even at the beginning of our kids’ schooling, we saw that the curriculum would be the same as in the English classes, but we wondered if they were catching on. We read everything and went to all the information meetings. We were often reminded that we needed to keep forging ahead, trusting what our children learned in Spanish would transfer over to English.

To support their language skills, in Kindergarten, before the end of the Christmas break, the teacher sent an email to all parents stating that she forgot how to speak English while in Mexico over break.  So, from now on only Spanish would be spoken.  It was a creative way, early on, to let both students and their parents know that the best way to learn to speak a language is to be immersed in it and speak it.

In Kindergarten, our oldest daughter, Gina, didn’t seem to be picking up what we thought she should be. We met with her teacher and an add.a.lingua staff member, and, once again, we were assured that if we stuck it out she would sort it all out. In 1st grade ginaGina was given extra one-on-one support in Spanish reading. At that point, we were uncertain we had done the right thing in keeping her in the Spanish program. Would she be struggling as much if we had made the decision to put her in the English program in Kindergarten? Her 2nd grade teacher ended up being the teacher who provided her extra one-on-one reading support. I remember the phone call when the teacher called to discuss the additional support Gina needed to be successful and I was distraught that she wasn’t where she was supposed to be.

Enter 3rd grade. For the first time, Gina hit the reading milestone! 3rd grade!  It took her until 3rd grade for it all to click. The thing we are most amazed about – she didn’t struggle to read in English. Everything we had been told about trusting she would learn would transfer over to English was true.

Last week our family went to a dinner with mostly Spanish speaking families. We decided to play Uno after dinner with another family, and they didn’t know how to play. Gina paired up with the 5th grade girl and rose to the occasion, translating how to play not only to the 5th grade girl but also to her parents. What a gift to be able to meet that family where they were and for her to be able to bridge the language gap so we could all work together to play a game and connect with one another.

When asked if we would do anything different, the answer is, “no.” Was it always easy and black and white? Nope. As parents, did we spend many nights discussing what we should do when things didn’t always seem to go the way we thought they should? Yes. But to see her grow and learn, as well as use her Spanish skills to bridge gaps and connect in ways we can’t, confirmed for us that trusting her teachers, and the language acquistion process was the right choice.


To learn more about add.a.lingua’s two supported immersion models, check out the understand page.

Filed under: dliparents, Research, Spanish Immersion, 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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