Friday, September 28, 2012

First Month of Spanish School

Kai has made it through the first month of Spanish School.  It's been an adjustment, but overall she is doing fantastic.  Of course, there's the fact that she says she "hates Spanish school"... which would indicate that things are really not going well.  But, when we delve in a bit deeper, we find that she likes playing, dress-up, her new friends, lunchtime, outside time, soccer (they get to be in a soccer class once a week! And Kai says she loves outdoor soccer!  Spanish School is worth the price of tuition for this alone... just kidding), and art. So, we ask her, recognizing that she has just described 95% of school hours, "what do you hate?"

"Oh,"  she replies, "the Spanish."

So, there's that.  But, that was to be expected.  It's a brand new language.  Her teachers speak it exclusively all day.  She doesn't know what they are saying.  It's frustrating.  Of course it is.  So, we tell her that the Spanish is new and it's hard to not know what is going on, but that she'll continue to get better.  Kai doesn't really like to take things slow... so, the adjustment has been hard on her.

But, it's remarkable to me how much she already knows.  She comes home every day singing a new Spanish song or saying some new phrase.  The other evening, she asked us if we wanted to "play Spanish school."  We said we would love to and then Kailey hesitated and said, "OK, but we have to pretend that ENGLISH is SPANISH."  Because, of course, she doesn't know enough Spanish to imitate her teachers in Spanish.  Duh.

So, we started "playing Spanish school" and Kai started off saying, "vamos a la mesa", (in Spanish, obviously).   I asked her what "vamos a la mesa" meant, attempting to repeat the phrase as she had said it to us.  But, alas, I failed (I always fail in my Spanish pronunciation with Kai... she LOVES correcting me) and she said, "no, you have to say it muy rapido, mama! Like this..." and then she repeated the phrase, faster.  So we sat down and she said we were going to do "arte" and that Eric could use "verde" and I had to be "blanco".  The evening preceded in that fashion, with Kailey using so many new phrases and words... we were so impressed.  At the end of the evening, she said, "hasta manana, me papa et mama!"  and then headed off to bed (with Eric following behind to read her stories).

In addition to mastering a new language, she is also navigating new relationships with all the kids in her class. The first day, she said she had one friend, Magnus.  By the end of the first week, she had 2 friends.  But, she was upset because she said that most of the kids "didn't love her."  And, what she meant was they weren't playing with her.  It was hard.  Now, she has about 6 kids she talks about on a rotating basis. On different days, different kids are categorized as "friend".  The other evening she said, "I hit Thomas at school."  We were, of course, not pleased.  So, she backtracked, "NOOO... I just hit him A LITTLE.  Just a LITTLE hit."  We were still not pleased.  She responded, "He hit me, too."  We asked her if it was nice to respond by hitting back and she clarified, "NOOO... I hit him FIRST.  THEN he hit me."  We asked her why she hit him and she explained he tried to take the toy and then reiterated, "it was a LITTLE hit.  And then we laughed.  We made it a joke.  We were just goofing off."  If anything, she knows how to argue her way out of a hole.  But, we are working on alternative methods of communication.  I am glad that she seems to be developing a core group of kids that she enjoys, even if there are conflicts along the way.

So, despite her protests and insistence that she "hates" Spanish School, I don't really think she does.  She is challenged by Spanish School and really trying hard to catch up to her classmates and develop new relationships with the new kids, most of whom have been together and at this for a couple of years already.  She is frustrated at how hard it is to learn a new language and how much she still doesn't understand.  But, she is interested in the effort and eager to show us what she has already mastered.  And, I think that's a good sign.

Last night she brought home all her art projects for the month of September.  She was show proud showing us all she had created.  And, we are so proud of her!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

End of Summer... Start of Spanish School

Kai is now in her second week of Spanish School (as we like to call it).  She started a new spanish immersion preschool right after Labor Day.  The transition has gone well.  Every kid is different with transitions and I think, for Kailey, it was good to not go straight from the daycare she has known for the last 2.5 years to a brand new school with new kids.  Instead, she had a month of different adventures to get her used to the idea of trying out new things and being open to new experiences.

Following her last day of daycare (literally -- that very afternoon), we went to IPNC (as I previously wrote about), which was a true vacation for us with a lot of important time with her favorite cousins.  Then we visited my parents a bit, which she loved.

After we returned to the Bay Area, she had a week of gymnastics camp -- where she had the experience of meeting new kids and being in a different environment for 5 full days.  The first day, she was a bit nervous, but she quickly jumped into the fun.  The last day of camp, there is a show for the parents -- and Kai was one of the first kids in her group to demonstrate a new trick.  Usually, Kai is a little hesitant to perform, especially for a roomful of adults.  But, camp gave her the confidence to show off her new tricks.

By the end of gymnastics camp, Kai was really getting into the groove of trying new things.  She would start each day saying, "WHAT are we doing today?" as if the possibilities were simply beyond her imagination.   After gymnastics camp, my mom came for a week -- "Nonnie Camp" -- which Kailey also loved.  It was a week of the zoo, the science museum, trips to the playground and library, and LOTS of art projects.  Also, during that week, Kai started swimming lessons at a new pool and really loved her class.  The last time we tried swim lessons didn't go so well -- so it was great that she dove right in this time (yes, pun intended... I'm so funny).

The week after that was "Doug Camp" -- harkening back to Kai's first ever daycare experience, and the pure bliss of spending 5 full days with her favorite friend... PENNY!  And, of course, this time there was Max, too.  Kailey told me today that "Max is the funniest person."  I have to agree, he is quite charming and funny.

And, to top it off, after Doug Camp we headed to New York City to see Katie and Becca and spend a few days making the rounds of all the fountains that NYC has to offer. We also went to the Manhattan Children's Museum which was, overall, a disappointment. But, there was an exhibit there that allowed the kids to explore the digestive system.  You got to watch food getting chewed up and go down the "tubes" (as Kai calls them) into the stomach.  You had to try to stop the eating before the stomach got to full.  Then you followed the food through the intestines and out (seriously, there was a toilet at the end of the exhibit where you could see different types of poop.  Very thorough.  Very disgusting). Kai LOVED it.  She went through it twice.  She asked a zillion questions.  We left to see other parts of the museum and she asked to return.  She went through again.  And, following the museum (and to this day), whenever she eats or drinks something she announces, "THIS is going THROUGH my tubes and will come out as POOP" (or pee, as the case may be).  Tonight in the bathtub she was eating a strawberry (yes, in the bath.  We were multi-tasking) and she choked slightly and then declared, "that strawberry tried to go down this tube.... the one on the side... but, it's not supposed to go down the one on the side. It's supposed to go down the one in the middle.  So I choked a little.  But then it went down the one in the middle.  So, it's OK.  That will be POOP."  Sigh.

Upon returning from NYC, Kai was primed for Spanish School.  But, still, we knew it could be a rough transition.  Many of her new classmates already had bonds -- she is in the class with other four year olds, and many of them have been together for a year or two.  And, for that same reason, most of them already speak quite a bit of Spanish.  So, new kid.  New language.  We expected it to be a little rough.  And, the first week, it was.  But, the month of fun leading up to it helped.  She was REALLY excited the first day.  She had a new lunchbox and was ready to take on the challenge.  She was nervous getting to class, but when they called the kids together for circle time, she found a spot and never looked back.  At the end of the day, she didn't want to leave.  But, that night, she literally fell to pieces when I told her she had to wait to eat more cereal (until after we had dinner).  She sobbed for 10 minutes - just letting the stress of the day pour out.

The rest of the week was largely the same, peppered with occasional commentary from Kailey that let us into her anxiety and made us extremely worried that we made the wrong decision.  She would say things like, "the other kids don't LOVE me." When we pressed, she explained, "they don't play with me.  When I ask to play they say NO. They don't love me."  Or she would ask why everyone could speak spanish except her, and why the teachers would not speak English.  And, she started to fret about circle time and sharing.

Each day of the week, different kids get to bring in something from home to share with their classmates.  I have to admit, the first time I heard this would be a weekly activity, I panicked a bit.  It brought back all my old anxiety of speaking in class, which I always hated.  So funny, since now I spend the bulk of my job speaking in front of audiences ranging from 20 - 300 people.  But, still, the idea of having to share things about myself to a room full of people makes me break out in a sweat.  In fact, when I heard that each parent is expected to go to school and talk a bit about what they do, I also panicked.  I can tell a room full of 300 people the ends and outs of complicated state and federal laws, but do NOT ask me to go tell a room of four year olds about what I do.  AHHHH!!   Which is to say, I understood her anxiety.  And, to top it off, she not only had to share -- she had to share in Spanish.  We told her we would help.  That she would be ready for her first day of sharing, but still, it was clear she was fretting.

At the end of the first week, we felt like things were turning a corner.  Kai was hanging in there.  There was no sharing the first week, so we had dodged that bullet. And, over the weekend, she spoke of some positive aspects of school -- she loved the time to do art and playing outside.  She had two friends.  Things were OK, but it was clear that she was still feeling uncertain about the whole thing. So, we talked a lot about how she was feeling  -- and we told her that we knew it was really hard.  I think it really helped her to have us validate that she was a little lonely at school and that it was hard to be there when she didn't fully understand what was going on.  I think it helped her to hear us say that we knew she was trying and we were proud of her, without trying to gloss over how she was really feeling.  She didn't want us to just say it would be OK -- and so we didn't.  But, we worried endlessly about our approach and hoped that things would continue to improve.

And, they have.  This last week has been better.  She made a third friend, and announced to me this evening, "I have THREE friends.  ONLY three.  Uno, dos, tres.... my UNO amigo is Vivianna.  My DOS amigo is Bianca.  And my TRES amigo is Magnus."  She was actually doing this -- interspersing spanish and english - by the end of last week.  Four days into school, and trying out her new vocabulary at home. Eric was especially proud when he heard her talking to herself in the other room as she muttered, "I am very SUCIO" and then he walked in the room to find her covered in chocolate.  Rather then reprimanding the chocolate, he hugged her and said, "YES, you are very SUCIO!  Way to go Kai... you're learning spanish!"  She was so pleased.

Wednesday was Kai's first day to share.  We practiced with her, selecting the watch that we had bought recently at the science museum for her big debut.  The watch has a lot of butterflies on it, all different colors (and Kai has long known her colors in Spanish).  We taught her the word for watch and butterfly and how to say, "my watch.  It has butterflies.  The butterflies are red, green, blue and yellow. My watch is purple." (in spanish, of course).  We practiced.  She went to school, chin up, ready to try.  At the end of the day, she jumped into my arms and hugged me tight.  I asked her how sharing had gone and she beamed.  She said it was good.  That all the kids clapped for her. I was so proud.

It's been a crazy couple of months, but really good too.  Here's to new beginnings and my courageous kid who faces new challenges head on.  We love you, Kai!