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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Playing and Learning Mandarin on the Lawn

We hit another milestone last week!  Yea!  My oldest son (almost 3 1/2) stayed at Language Stars* class with his sister for a FULL 3-hour session!  I was so shocked when, on the first day of the summer "camp" classes (held outdoors with more games and fun stuff), he sat right down and asked to stay the whole time.  I'm sure it had something do to with all the balls, colorful parachutes, and active classes that he saw happening on the lawn.  I have to admit, I was scared to get that call in the middle of class that he just couldn't take it anymore, so I didn't let him stay.  Instead, I promised him that, if I got a good report about his behavior, he could stay the full time the following week.  Guess what?!  He got a great report AND asked again if he could stay the full 3 hours the following week.  I have to admit that I almost fell over!

So, Tristan stayed the full time last week (sans the meltdown that I expected, either during or after).  But, why should I be surprised?  I was just telling someone this week about our classes at Language Stars and how "child friendly" and "developmentally appropriate" they are.  Believe me, a Mandarin class is hard enough to find, let alone one that is geared toward young children.  It's harder still to find classes that are in the play-based form that young children need.  I was telling her how I feel really lucky that my children have the opportunity to attend classes at Language Stars.  It has become one of the top reasons why I'm glad to be living in Chicago.  Since I'm from small-town Kentucky, I know that opportunities like this certainly don't exist in most places.  The chance to learn a second language didn't come for me until I was in high school.  That's already too late to gain the accent and you have to work so hard at memorization.   No "play-based" approach there!

But for Tristan, at 3 1/2, everything is play.  Learning is still fun (when it's presented in the right way).  He doesn't think about memorization, only about how to have fun or how to get something that he needs/wants from the teacher or about how to make Mommy proud (He knows one sure way is by repeating some Chinese!).  His focus really isn't on learning the language at all, at least not in the way adults try to acquire language.  For him, the language is just a means to an end.  For us, it IS the end product.  I think that's what makes 2nd language acquisition so difficult for us:  It is not immediately useful unless you use it every day at work,  need it for a trip to another country, or have friends/family who speak the language (and refuse to give you a glass of water until you ask for it properly).

The truth is, I would LOVE to stay for the 3-hour class with Tristan, too!  I think I'm already doing pretty well in the Parents & Tots class and I'd really like to move up!  But, it makes total sense why parents can't attend.  My kids misbehave a lot more when I'm around (what IS that about, anyway?).  While I understand, I know that I'm missing out on a fun way to learn a language.  Yes, I bought a CD-ROM thing for Mandarin, but I'll be honest:  I haven't even opened it!  Like my son, I'd rather be out playing ball or sitting on a parachute in the middle of the lawn doing a fun activity.  When LS decides to open a parent class, I'll be the first one signing up.  Until then, I'll have to hope my kids learn a lot and then come home to teach me.  Or, at least, withhold my glass of water until I can say it right!

As always,
Thanks for reading!


*We receive 50% off our Language Stars classes for blogging about our experiences.  But, all opinions expressed are my own.  
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