Kids in America

Earlier I wrote about how our kids adapted to life in Korea, now it’s time to recap the situation here in California.

The Older One, as I wrote earlier, went to kindergarten for about 3 months and that has now finished. In the beginning, her English was very much at a beginner level. We had armed her with some vocabulary by going over names of some basic things and teaching her that the correct answer to an unknown question is “I don’t know”. Things improved quite quickly, we practiced English words at home as well, and now her default language seems to be English when she talks to us. Sure, she makes mistakes, but the progress has been phenomenal; even her teachers were amazed at the speed at which she picked up English.

I took her to school in the mornings and stayed in the classroom for a bit to read books, help her with breakfast, and so on (as did many other parents), and during that time I could observe the “natives” speaking, reading, and doing stuff. There was a fair amount of actual teaching and the kids learned to read, write, and count. Reading and writing English is a mess, not that I needed any reminding, but it was very interesting to see the 5 and 6 year old kids struggling with the “nonsensical” English spelling and pronunciation. Our Daughter really aced everything and when the teacher wrote on the report card that she was “at or above class level”, I knew this was really the truth and not some over-optimistic American way of expressing things. In the Fall, she’ll get to repeat the same things in Finland, since kindergarten starts a year later.

Overall, we were really happy with the school in every respect. The teachers were great and the other kids in the class were really welcoming and there were no problems whatsoever in integrating in the class. They also had lots of other stuff, like gardening and cooking classes, and they made a dance performance and a play (Giggle, Giggle, Quack). The only bad thing was that it started at 8 in the morning which made for very early wake-ups… I sure don’t miss those.

The Little Guy has been at home with mom and his only exposure to English has been via TV (Disney Junior is a particular favorite of both kids) and learning from his big sister. Somehow he’s picked up an astonishing vocabulary and he makes longer sentences with great ease. The sentences are actually more of a “miki-talk” than real English, but he’s not bothered by that. Ice hockey fans might be familiar with “tiki-talk“, others can check the Wikipedia entry; that’s what first comes to mind when our Little One speaks English. Actually, practically all the words he uses are English, but the ordering might not always make sense (and he has some particular attachment to the word “together”; that probably comes from TV).

Otherwise, the kids have adapted pretty well, but The Older One seems to start missing our home in Finland. The particular feature she misses is our backyard where you can play. The Younger One doesn’t seem to remember anything from Finland, which is understandable since he was only 2 when we left.

The funny thing with English is that both Kids are now speaking it and it has actually become their common language during play. Yes, after 4 months in the US they have started using English as their primary language, even when speaking to us. I really did not expect that. When we’re driving, it’s funny to hear a “Dad, are we there yet?” question with perfect American accent coming from the backseat. (Followed by the “miki-talk” version of the same…) So, we wanted the Kids to be exposed to English and learn it a bit, but they have totally surpassed our expectations. :-O

Other than that, there’s not much special about the life here. Kids are kids, they seem to enjoy things here and everything has so far gone smoothly.

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