Friday, March 6, 2015

Friday Q & A -- immersion programs and moving and making friends

We are thinking about moving and we have a child in Jr. High and a daughter that will be in 10th grade next year plus a first-grader.

I was wondering what you thought about dual immersion programs in elementary school?  For example first graders also learning Chinese?  

I LOVE dual immersion programs.  I'd give my eye teeth if they did something like that here in the desert.  One of my friends in Utah has her kids in a dual immersion program and her son (first grade) is speaking Chinese so well!  Kids are like sponges at that age and from what I understand that is the best time to learn a language.  I know there are nay-sayers who claim that could impede your child's normal education, and I think that's true for some kids.  So it's a good thing that's not a mandatory program.  I think you have to know your child pretty well and don't be afraid to let them do hard things.  Indeed, that's what will make them grow the very most.  

I think sometimes in our society we get so nervous about pushing our kids to do hard things these days.  I bet my Grandmother, who had her daughter (my mom) start driving a tractor on their farm when she was eight (is that right Mom?) and expected her to do everything from plucking chickens to herding cows from such an early age would think we parents these days are funny with how we sometimes shelter our kids.  Yes, we need them to be safe and that has to be a priority.  But sometimes I think in trying to protect them from some things we rob them from some serious growth that could occur if we just let them be.

Ok but back to the immersion deal, the only thing that's too bad with immersion programs is that it's sometimes difficult to figure out how to keep those language skills up when they move on to another school.  Another blog reader emailed that her 12-year-old is now done with the Chinese emersion program he's been doing and she's searching for ways to not let all that hard work go to waste.  But here's the deal:  I don't ever think that learning a language can "go to waste."  It teaches you to use your brain in a different way.  I have forgotten so much Romanian...there is no one to talk to or practice with and hasn't been for nearly 20 years.  But I'm so grateful for that base I was able to gain from expanding my brain in that way all those years ago.  I totally helped give me a base to master Chinese while we were in China.  HA HA HA!  No but really, I don't have any scientific evidence but I bet there are reports out there somewhere that explain the brain benefits of learning other languages, used all the time or not.

I also wondered what your thoughts are about moving children (permanently) to a new city while in Jr. High and High School?  Should I worry about them making new friends etc?

I don't have many thoughts on moving kids permanently in jr. high and high school since I've never done it or experienced it.  I know it was rough for me to move for six months in high school but I appreciated it so very much in the long-run (obviously, since that was part of our drive to live in China).  I was so grateful to be able to go back to a familiar place when we were done with our adventure.  I know that meant a lot to my kids when we went to China too.  A permanent move is a lot trickier, but we have some really good friends who have moved their kids twice across the country to different places (from here to D.C. and now to Texas) through Junior High and High School and they have fared so well!  They have learned so much from the experience and have bonded as a family.  I'm sure there have been struggles and it's not all rainbows and butterflies, but I don't think they would ever trade all that they have gained.  I think it helps to have a lot of open communication and a LOT of love going on.  Every family is just so different.  Every child is just so different.  

Whether or not you "should" worry about them making new friends, just believe me, you WILL.  That's just what mothers do.  We want so much for our kids to be happy and have the best experiences possible.  I think it takes a lot of prayer to figure out something like that for your own unique family needs.  If that's what life brings (a necessity to move) like it brought to my friends, I loved seeing their positive attitude and how they decided to bloom where they were planted.  I know that is so much easier said than done...a lot of prayer and gut-wrenching heartbreak sometimes goes into big things like a move.  

I think moving for a short while OR a long while sure forces kids to get out of their shells and comfort zones which promotes so much growth.  And again on this one, every child is SO different!  An exuberantly self-confident child will most likely make friends much more easily than an introverted extremely shy one.  Some may need more help from parents setting up playdates, or coaching on how to invite others over, etc.  Maybe they need to be reminded what Dave loves to remind our kids all the time: 

"It just takes twenty seconds of courage."
(from the movie "We bought a zoo")

I remember one of my friends talking to her son a long time ago.  He was feeling extremely left out at school and she told him: "I want you to remember how this feels.  Remember how heavy it makes your heart.  Remember how much you wish someone would talk to you.  Because you will be on the other side some day, and I want you to be the boy that goes and makes the difference for kids who will need you."  I have always remembered those wise words and have tried to echo them to my own children.

Grace is one of our naturally friendliest kids and it was difficult for even her when we moved last semester.  She was so worried about missing her friends, but reached out of herself while she was there and ended up realizing it wasn't so bad.  She even wrote a paper on being the "New Girl" for one of her classes:  

Loved that.

The amazing thing is that she made such great friends that one of them ended up MOVING HERE!  Two miles away from us here in the desert to be exact!  We could hardly believe our ears when they told us the news (her mom had become my good friend in China too).  Her husband's contract had expired and they were looking for a new adventure and I think they heard enough about how great the desert is from Grace (and a few other friends too) that they decided to move right on over.  They like to joke that we "imported" them:)

 (My parents happened to be leaving town right as they arrived.)

Claire thinks Rebeka is her best friend too :)

It has been so fun to have them around.  

Even as probably the most shy freshman on the planet living in England that one semester I was able to make a few good friends, a few of whom I have run across randomly, but one in particular who actually comes to visit every now and again because she works for British Airways and has stopovers here occasionally.  She just came last month.
So grateful for that great Sarah.

Ok, that was a total digression once again.  But I think it's awesome how resilient kids are and how much better they can be at making friends if we give them big opportunities.

The world is such a small place with social media.  We use this thing called WeChat (everyone uses it to communicate in China) and so my kids are able to keep in touch with friends there from here.  It has broadened their horizons so much and done a lot for their confidence and self-esteem and we are all so grateful.

Moving with kids can be a huge challenge.  It's rough at times.  Emotions are roller coasters on all ends.  But it can sure be a wonderfully positive thing too.  Maybe the biggest factor in how positive a move becomes depends a whole bunch on the attitude of the parents.  I know that's a huge burden for parents to carry, but if parents are excited, confident and upbeat (even if sometimes inside they're scared to death), kids will fare much better than those with parents who complain or grumble.  Sometimes it's scary how much we rub off on our kids!

Ok, I didn't know I had quite so much to say about that, dear-blog-reader-who-wrote-in-these-questions! I wish you the best of luck with those big decisions (even though that email was a while ago!)  If you did end up moving and doing the immersion program it would be fun to hear a report on how it's going!

Love, Shawni


  1. I'm in love with "it just takes twenty seconds of courage" !! Sometimes these screenwriters sure nail it! The one around our house that has a life of its own is "Never Give Up, Never Surrender!" from Galaxy Quest. (Yup, an oldie but goodie.) Lots of men live here, and they eat that one up :)

    Thanks for the lovely read :)

  2. Grace's paper is very well written.

  3. Grace is such an amazing writer already!

  4. Here, in Western Canada we have French immersion programs that start in pre-school and kindergarten. It possibly helps that technically we are a bi-lingual country and most us suffered through our mandatory French during our high school years. As a child I always though my French would appear, like my molars did. One day I would just wake up and be speaking fluently. Most of us can do soup and cereal box French since everything is labelled in both languages. If we are too lazy to turn it around we can manage in the other language. To us it seems that the US is also a bilingual country with Spanish as the second language. It seems strange that some people seem to take pride in being unable to read or speak it. At least they claim to.

  5. Just as an FYI for all of the fellow "desert dwellers". ASU Prep (downtown and east valley) which is K-12 has dual immersion, they start mandarin in kindergarten. And some Gilbert elementary schools have Spanish dual immersion programs. I knew a little girl that was Chinese, she knew mandarin and English fluently her parents then enrolled her in the Gilbert Spanish immersion and she did great. :-)

  6. We moved a year ago with two teenagers and a 8,6 and 3 year old. It has been a good move and people have been very friendly, but it has been hard for those older kids. It's hard to move to an area where most of the kids have been friends since kindergarten. My boys havent yet broken into social groups to do things outside of school. They will, it will just take time. I have realized even more how my home needs to be their safe haven and eye of the storm. It needs to be where they are accepted and loved and wanted. We have spent more time together as a family which I love. We do more of what they like, we play more games together etc. I know as they make friends it won't stay like this as they become more social, but I am loving it and I think they are liking it too. We prepared and talked about it a lot before we moved, we knew it would be hard for a time and that was okay. I didn't know it would
    Be this long but I have hope the friends will start including them soon. In the meantime we have all learned positive and valuable lessons about inclusion.

    1. After reading your post I wonder if it is a cultural thing where there is a commonality like a religion. It appears that when the church (Mormon, fundamentalist, catholic) fills most the week with events, programs, school the children are always seeing the same social group. The new kid sticks out like a sore thumb. The groupings of friends travel from one activity to another without much exposure to a new kid or being the new kid.

      When my child was younger it was a deliberate choice that since my mother was doing our child minding in my old neighbourhood that she would have her school friends. I would find her an activity in the neighbourhood (scouting/guiding program) that would enable them to find friends that lived near us. And I ensure that there was a swimming or sports program that had an ebb and flow of people that were neither school nor neighbourhood.

      That has worked out well as an adult. Child now moves from situation to situation with the appropriate socialization skills and makes first, second and third circle friends. We never made a big deal out of being the "new kid" or the "old kid", just welcoming and receptive.

    2. I think you have really great points and are right about a lot of that. It's been interesting because we are members of the dominant religion and are very active and outside of church activities my kids aren't included.

    3. Parents are always for their kids to be in class each year with the same kid or two. Seriously a library program that lasts a few hours has kids trying to sign up for the same session and volunteer hour as their friend. I think parents enforce the sameness. They want to like the parents of the kids their kid is hanging out with. It takes courage for the mom to let things go outside the friendship since preschool and expand their childs list of friends. I changed schools in 2nd. And I really didn't make friends where we did things outside of school until I befriended the newest new students who transferred in junior high. The school went to 8th grade. The kids in kdg stayed friends and it was hard to let new people in. I think it's nice so many school only have 3-6 grades. Everyone needs a fresh start at some point.

  7. Maybe this isn't the right spot to send a question for your Friday Q and A, but here goes: I've been thinking a lot about music lately and trying to keep out the bad and encourage the good. What do you listen to with your kids? The radio? iTunes? I'd love some good suggestions or even ideas on how to encourage the kids to choose uplifting music.


  8. My friend had her first grader in dual immersion for Mandarin Chinese and the (native Chinese) teachers did not appreciate her daughter's vivacious, cheery personality. They wanted everyone to be serious. My friend pulled her daughter out because the daughter looked absolutely deflated all the time.

    I know several kids in our neighborhood who have been in dual immersion for several years and want out because the teachers haven't been friendly to them over the years and they want kinder teachers.f

  9. My family moved when I was 14 and at the time it was pretty much the most devastating thing EVER. It was the first really really hard trial I went through in my life. Even though it was hard, and for a while, because I'm not one to be super outgoing or make friends quickly, I'm so glad it happened. I grew a lot, learned more about myself, made amazing new friends, and I think it also prepared me to experience more trials later on in life. Moving is hard, but it's a part of life, and everyone will have to experience it at one point or another! Getting the experience when you're younger makes it a little more bearable later in life. Nobody really likes change, but we're human and we all adjust and eventually become so grateful for it!

  10. Loved reading Grace's paper! She is really a great writer!

  11. To help your teenagers make friends, fill your fridge with tons of food, and have them over for a party. Works wonders. Feeding bottomless pits wins friends :)

  12. Our children are in the Chinese Immersion program here in the public schools in Utah and we love it. I am amazed when I hear my 3rd grader speaking so well to his Chinese teacher. They do learn it so quickly and it comes so much more naturally to them at this age. The Chinese teachers can be a little more intense (but not all) and we have loved all the teachers our children have had. Here in Utah the language immersion programs are designed to go through jr high and high school. Eventually they will take the AP language course in 9th or 10th grade and then take undergraduate classes through high school. We are excited about the opportunities these kids will have. These immersion programs should be available as an option everywhere in the U.S.

  13. Yes, that was me driving that tractor in the hay fields when I was 8! I never thought of it as hard, just that it was my life and I was needed. Fun to look back! Loved your great wisdom here and that you have forgiven me so splendidly for taking you to England when you were a fledgling high school kid who had to wear an ugly brown uniform every day. LOVED Grace's essay. That says it all! What a treasured memory that will be and what an excellent writer she is!

    When we moved to DC for 18 months, Tal (15) never did find a friend who would sit with him in the school cafeteria. BUT knowing how that felt. when he returned to his "comfortable" home high school and for the rest of his life, he became the master of always looking for someone who looked as though they needed a friend. In that case, hard was REALLY good!

  14. A little off topic but I would love to see how you keep organized! Do you use a paper planner or is it all digital? Do you have a family command center? Thanks!

  15. My brother in law recently took a position with his company that has taken their family to Brazil. Their kids are in public school down there and in six months they are almost speaking with great fluency. These kids range in age from eight to three. My sister and brother in law are taking a bit more time in learning the finer points of portuguese


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