Monday, July 11, 2011

School Year in Review and 3.5 Year Language Update

The official last day of school was June 30. K started the school year in October, at a different school we weren't happy with ultimately, so we finished out the year at a different school that we ended up loving.

In under six months K went from speaking in individual words to conversing entirely in CZ/SK (she speaks Czech but it's interesting how strong an influence the father-language has on her still, i.e. Czech hasn't taken over completely) confidently, if mildly ungrammatically.

I'd be interested in an actual evaluation of her speech level, since I don't have much experience with native Czech speaking children so it is hard for me to judge what is age-appropriate and what isn't. I would estimate, though, that she may be up to a year behind her age level, or maybe less, which is a massive step up from the 2+ years behind she was at the beginning of this year. I'm hoping to ask one of the teachers what they think, too.

As far as English goes, K is the star of the school's English hour. Hahah. Again, it's hard for me to judge where she's at but I believe she is right at her age level. Grammar concepts are slowly coming together, although some, like he/she and his/her, she still doesn't have straight. Everything in the past is yesterday, and there are still several sounds she can't produce - but those seem about typical for 3.5, it seems to me. When we were in America, a few relatives commented that they could understand everything she says with no trouble, one adding, "I find her easier to understand than [cousin who is a year older], actually."

I do wonder, though, if K will STAY at age level, and if I will recognize the signs if she doesn't. Will her English stagnate with just me to talk to? Will I provide rich enough stimulation to keep her vocabulary and fluency growing? Will I notice if her English starts to lag? I think so...but I'll have to remember to monitor.

Socially and developmentally speaking, K is really thriving and happy, and I think her school is contributing to that. She is confident and friendly and usually very reasonably behaved. She has a wild imagination and loves to tell stories and play pretend. She often plays out both sides of a conversation at once, between her dolls or even, this weekend, between her toes. As in, her toes were having a conversation with each other. She seems to have a feel for music, picking up songs easily and singing them on key usually - not a given at her age. She recognizes a few letters (I teach her only when she's interested) and has good crayon and scissor control. I think our Kumon workbooks have really helped her confidence with crayons and scissors. She can count to 10 and is working on up to 20 in both languages. She knows the Czech months and is learning the English ones. Her reasoning and negotiating skills are developing at an alarming pace...

We've noticed that Czech is becoming her self-play language, especially since a lot of her scenarios revolve around school type situations, imaginary conversations with her friends, etc. It isn't a hard-and-fast preference for Czech, though - it seems that K's toys, like K herself, fluidly and naturally switch between languages at will. But there's more Czech present than English most of the time, I'd say, even when she was, for instance, playing with the toys at my mother's house.

Which takes us up to the end of the school year. I had been minorly wondering what happened to all the children's artwork, since K often came home with paint in her hair but rarely had any pictures sent home. They did display artwork on the walls at school, but that wouldn't account for everything. All was explained, however, when during the last week we were presented with a binder filled with K's work from the year, displayed in plastic sheet protectors. The binder also had several pictures of K and classmates on the front and back, two CD-Roms with pictures and video clips from the school year, the daily record of what went on in school (today we went outside and talked about snails, etc), and a letter to K from the teachers summing up her year.

K's letter talked about how she started out quiet but quickly learned to talk in full sentences, made lots of friends, and generally had a fantastic year and her teachers are proud of her. I thought the letter, and the whole book, were really sweet and a nice memento of the school year.

The "summer break" didn't last long, though, since we decided to keep her in school for the summer - her school is staying open except for a week at the end of August, just before the first day of school on September 1. I think school is good for her at this point, and there's no reason to stop if I don't have anything more fun for her to do. I am going to keep her home a few days if I manage to take us to the zoo or do something else worthwhile, but otherwise it's work and gestating for me and school for K.

So pretty much she finished school June 30, had a Mama and K day July 1, and left for a week in Slovakia July 2, from which we just returned. And then, today, back to school to play with her friends.

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