Thursday, July 2, 2009

Oldest Son – 3rd Grade

Today was Oldest Son’s last day of 3rd Grade. Without exaggeration, this is a year that has changed his life. I truly believe his experiences will become part of his personal blue print.

Where We Began
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.


Bob Mrotek said...

I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate Oldest Son (and his brother) and Mom and Dad on a job well done and also ask that Oldest Son put my name on his short list for doorman or gardener or chauffeur or whatever for the time when he becomes president. I always thought it would be nice to work in the White House and besides, we could chat in both Spanish and English :)

Theresa in Mèrida said...

What a success story! Oldest son will walk away from this experience knowing that he is a winner and that will shape the rest of his academic life. Of course, he had exceptional support from his parents, and so he also has learned that his family is there for him, will help and do what ever is necessary for him to excel. If that is the only thing your family got from the year, that would be enough, but from reading your blog, I know you got so much more. Congratulations to all the family!!!

Nancy said...

In the current "everybody is a winner!" world of kids in the US, I think the challenge he faced and the success he achieved is the real thing. I am sure he is proud of himself, and he knows, without a doubt, that he can do anything he sets his mind on!

Congrats to him and to the whole family. I wish I knew his name so I could watch him as he becomes the amazing adult I'm sure he will be! You'll have to update the blog here when he becomes President, for sure!

American Mommy in Mexico said...

BM, T and N - You guys have been so helpful and supportive this whole year. Thanks to each of you! As parents, we know to embrace the moment. The future is so full of factors that one cannot predict. We do our best to give our children what they need to survive and thrive in this world. Year by year we will watch and see. I can only say so far so good ...

Leslie Limon said...

Congratulations to Oldest son! If only us adults could learn a second language as fast as he did! (In my case a third language.)

Please let us know when he runs for President. I'd return to the States, just to vote for him!

Anonymous said...

Congrats! Number 1 son should be very proud. However his parents are two very smart people. So his accomplishments are not too surprising. Tell both boys I said hola and have a great 4th of July!

Uncle John, now on Facebook...

Steve Cotton said...

Years from now, I will have many fond memories of Mexico. But one of the fondest will be the evening I spent with your family in La Manzanilla -- as improvised as it was. That is not mere puffery. As you end your year in Mexico, I hope you will remember those of us who have shared in your adventure. Please pass along my congratulations to Oldest Son. If I were there, I would give him a book.

Constantino said...

Congrats to all, I have to commend you on building a great foundation for them for their future life. Hopefully they will not soon forget after going back North....

VisitLaManzanilla said...

So happy for oldest son and your entire family! I'm always delighted by your posts and they way you approach your life with such joy and gusto!

On Mexican Time said...

YAY - felicidades!!!

That's amazing - and what a short time line if you really think of it? With such wonderful accomplishments, and life experience!!

Schools' out for the summer!! LOL!

American Mommy in Mexico said...

LL - Given my goals of learning Spanish has been a total failure - I get how hard it is as an adult!

UJ - Gracias on the vote for good genes!

SC - Yes our evening in La Manzanilla was quite wonderful - so agree! As YOU SO WELL KNOW - Oldest Son would value the book above all other gifts.

C - I am already anxious about keeping this skill up for them. It will just be a huge challenge.

VLM - I would say our families share that gusto. It is not always roses but that is where I try to focus.

OMT - You are right - 1 year - not too much time but so much compacted. It is not always quantity but often quality.

Refried Dreamer said...

Wow. My kids are going through exactly that. But we're still in Phase One.... but this reassures me that there is hope!!!

Congratulations to Oldest son. He must be very proud. He will succeed in whatever he chooses!!!

American Mommy in Mexico said...

RD - Kids are amazing in their ability to adapt!