We decided to Move to Mexico in late March 2008. Oldest Son had been in preschool and lower school with the same set of kids and families since 18 months of age.
Oldest Son’s Spanish aptitude was shaped as follows:
(1) Twice a week Spanish classes at his school from PK-2nd Grade. He knew basic stuff like colors and counting. He could read Spanish phonetically and had knowledge of how Spanish alphabet is pronounced. But reading comprehension was very, very low i.e. not much of a Spanish vocabulary. His accent was pretty good.
(2) During April and May 2008, Oldest Son attended twice a week 1-on-1 tutoring.
(3) In June, Oldest Son did a 2 week Spanish immersion camp at local International School.
(4) Throughout April to August, Oldest Son used Rosetta Stone software on average 1-3 times per week.
First Few Months of 3rd Grade
Oldest Son entered 3rd Grade with the day split between a Spanish Teacher and an English Teacher. Most of the kids are Mexican with Spanish as their 1st language. This school is a small Mexican private school with an English immersion program. It is NOT an Expat school.
Hard. Hard. Hard. Oldest Son’s Spanish half of the day was completely in Spanish. His teacher only speaks Spanish. No translation available. Oldest Son did the best he could to track in class. Homework was tough. An assignment that should take 10-15 minutes would take over 2 hours. Husband and Oldest Son would laboriously translate the Spanish to complete his work. Oldest Son, Husband and I had a family meeting. We all agreed we needed more help. We worked with the school to get an after-school tutor twice per week.
First Round of Spanish Exams
In October we got our first dose of Spanish Exams. The 4 days of exams covered all subjects (math, science, grammar, history, etc.) and were completely in Spanish. It was stressful because the teachers were very direct in their expectations that the students study and do well. Oldest Son actually did okay on this first round. We were all pleased. I think this was when Oldest Son first started to realize that he was actually getting better at Spanish and that things were probably going to be alright.
Second Round of Spanish Exams
As soon as October Exams were completed, there was another round in December! Oh my gosh. As you can guess, Oldest Son was less stressed since he knew what to expect. Oldest Son did better than October. Again we were very pleased. We then went on winter holiday.
January through June
January was the complete turning point. Spanish became a non-issue. Oldest Son was basically fluent. He could function in Spanish class as well as English class.
The next round of Spanish Exams brought a 2nd place Spanish diploma and the round after that brought a 1st place Spanish place diploma. I think I am safe in stating that no gringo at this school has ever gotten a 1st place Spanish diploma. (The entire year he had received 1st place English diplomas.)
He proceeded to gather various awards and accomplishments in Spelling Bees, Oratory, etc.
There was the whole Expo situation in February with life lessons galore. See previous series of posts for the gory detail. (Feb 17 - 28)
Mexican schools are big on competitive education – this one is anyway. They have a contest for everything and do not hesitate to publicly acknowledge the winners! Thankfully Oldest Son has been motivated by this paradigm. We are fortunate because I am not sure this approach is best for all kids.
Year End Accolades
Today was the final school assembly for distributing diplomas and year end awards. Oldest Son received several awards including 1st place Spanish and English diplomas AND the Medal of Excellence for Entire 3rd Grade for total year recognition (see medal in pic)! Tears are in my eyes as I type this sentence.
I am overwhelmed with admiration for my Oldest Son. He has shown bravery, perseverance and pride throughout the year. While we are certainly thrilled with Oldest Son’s academic success, there is so much more. I believe this journey has created strength of character and self-confidence that will shape his choices and decisions for all of Oldest Son’s life. Our parent-child relationship has grown stronger as we worked through the adversity together.
For anyone considering time in another culture and in another language with their young kids, do it! Realize it is not easy but the rewards far out way the challenges.