Back to School - Immersion Style

Parents, can we just take a step back and give ourselves a collective pat on the back? It is mid-September and we are a good 2-3 weeks into the new school year. Through the morning chaos, we got kids out the door fully clothed and with backpacks and lunchboxes in tow. Those same kids arrived back home in one piece, hopefully with those same backpacks and lunchboxes. I’m calling it a win. Ok, maybe they came home a bit more disheveled, with those first day outfits a bit more worse for the wear. Maybe there have been a few or a lot of tears (from both kids and/or parents). And let’s face it, getting back into a routine is exhausting. For our kids, staying focused and on task for 6 hours after a lazy, blissful summer is no small task. Oh but wait, let’s not forget 6 hours were in a completely different language!

Just think about it, not only are our kids learning how to “do school” but that learning is a completely different language. They are stretched more in one day than we, as adults, can fully understand. Their little brains are like those ultra-marathon runners that run 50 miles through the woods. All the while our grown up brains are winded after just a jog around the block. It’s no wonder there have been a fair share of after school meltdowns these first few weeks of school. Our kids are simply exhausted. Jennie Hayle, a 5th grade teacher and long time kindergarten teacher at Woodcrest Spanish Immersion in Spring Lake Park, Minnesota, says parents should, “Make sure they get plenty of sleep, stay positive (kids reflect your attitude), and don’t push them to use Spanish.” I remember the first few weeks of school when my son started kindergarten. He walked in the door and it was all I could do to just pounce on him and ask every, “How do you say…?” and “Tell me about…” I could think of. While those conversations are critical both at the beginning of the year and throughout, I had to remind myself often what a busy day his little brain had had and to ease up a bit.

With that said, I also had to remind myself of the old clique, “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” Or in this case, maybe it’s more like, “Barcelona wasn’t built in a day,” but I digress. Like many of you, I do not know how to speak Spanish. Beyond being able to say words like bathroom and water, prior to my kids starting Spanish immersion, I was pretty much at a loss. So during the first few weeks of Spanish immersion, be prepared to learn a lot yourself as parents. Sending your child to an immersion school, most parents understand that you are also really signing yourself up; you will grow and learn just like your child. Richie Kuchinski is a principal at La ola del lago Spanish Immersion School in the Prior Lake - Savage area schools in Minnesota. He states, “Trust the system and the teachers - it’s a six year commitment.” It truly is remarkable how much our kids learn when we trust the process. I remember my extended family was shocked when I told them at Christmas time my 1st grade son had taken a pledge to only speak Spanish while at school. In just that short period of time he and his classmates had already gained enough understanding and functional language to navigate their way through an average school day. So in these beginning days of school, just remind yourself all that awaits your child this school year. While some nights you might find yourself just as tired as your child during these first few weeks of school, don’t forget to take a step back from the chaos and remember that by choosing immersion, you are truly giving your child the gift of language. And that you may learn a few things along the way too.


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