Yesterday I asked Ava a question and she replied, “Ja, ja.” Turns out that a few days in a Cape Town and she’s already speaking Afrikaans. This week has been all about language progress. She also wrote her first full sentence, with a little help from me on phonics.
We’ve thought a lot about how to properly expose our kids to the various cultures we visit. It’s one thing to show them nature, feed them foods and listen to music. However, as adults, we feel that the only way to truly know a culture is to get to know its people. We want to give the same opportunity to our kids and have found play schools to be a great way for the kids to form relationships with their own kind and learn about their new home society at the little level.
We have tried to involve the kids in activities wherever we’ve been, be in a toddler drumming circle in Thailand or a Malayalam preschool in India. Throughout these experiences, Ava and Kayan have never complained that communication was an issue. I suppose kids all laugh, swing and slide in the same language. This exposure has given them the confidence to make friends in random places. They are less shy to go up to another child at a restaurant, even when they know the child won’t speak English. It definitely helps that Ava and Kayan have each other. They give each other courage to be outgoing and confident in new situations.
To give the kids a peer group in Cape Town, we enrolled them at Little Darlings Creche for a few mornings a week. The crèche has a flexible schedule where both Ava and Kayan can be together rather than separated in age appropriate classes. In addition to the social exposure, the kids are indirectly learning about South African life. Last week’s theme in school was fire safety and the teacher lit a braii (traditional South African barbecue) to demonstrate how fire is used to make food.
The kids are learning about modes of transportation now. Africa is one of the few places where elephant makes that list. Perhaps as parents the best thing about a good school is the ability to use it as leverage. When things start breaking down we threaten not to take the kids to school (yes, we bribe them and we’re not ashamed if it). That usually restores peace.