Friday, September 17, 2010

Adventures in Pre-School, Take 2

So we're trying pre-school again.

Attempt one was here.  We didn't stick with that.  I wasn't up to driving 80 minutes a day to give Grace four hours of sitting on a bench.  Even though the teacher was a sweetie.

But I have been nagging myself about Swahili for Grace.  This is her last year before kindergarten.  If she's going to learn it, it's got to be this year.  And it's just not happening.  The neighbor kids come over, but they end up just speaking the few English words they know.  My Swahili friends who also speak English (which is most of the people in our community) speak English to the kids, despite my attempts to get them to do otherwise.  I've tried so hard to get our house worker and gardener (who is great with the kids) to be intentional about working on Swahili with them.  But I think they just don't understand how language develops, so it just isn't happening.  I even resorted to hiring a Swahili tutor during the summer to work with them.  That was great--just pretty expensive.

Sigh.  I so much want my kids to learn it.  But we live in a bi-lingual city, and are working at a school that's all in English.  And like I said in my previous pre-school post, any school that has more than a bench and a chalkboard is in English.

But we're trying again.  A friend told me about a new pre-school that's less than 2 miles from our house.  It is in English (of course), but it's not catering to the ex-patriot population.  It's got all Tanzanian teachers and all Tanzanian kids. 

So I went and observed one day.  Technically it is an English pre-school.  Any upper-class Tanzanian family who could afford this school (about $100 per month) would want their kids to learn English.  But all the kids that go there don't speak it yet.  So I listened.  All the kids speak to each other in Swahili.  The teachers speak to each other in Swahili.  When they teach, it's in English.  But other than that, it's Swahili, or a combination of both. 

We're trying it.  I signed her up for three days a week, for three months, and we'll see how it goes. 

I don't really expect her to learn much in the reading-and-writing category.  They do teach it, but they still resort to the classic bench-and-chalkboard Tanzanian method which just isn't very effective with four-year-olds.  However, they only do that about 30 minutes a day--and then they sing and play and listen to music.  They also eat ugali and beans and drink uji--all very Tanzanian and not really present in our house.  So I like that part--I want Grace to feel comfortable eating and acting Tanzanian.

And she totally loves it.  It's been two weeks, and she's tickled pink (just like those beautiful walls) that she finally gets to go to school. 

Time will tell if it really helps her learn Swahili. The teachers promised me they would work on it with her. But one thing is for sure: She may not learn Swahili, but she will learn to speak English with a Tanzanian accent. This part cracks me up.

So she comes home the other day and says, "Harriet was biting kids today." But she says Harriet with a Tanzanian accent. "Harriet?" I say, very American-like. "No, Mommy, Harriet," with that great accent. Love it, love it!

She sings, "Lo, lo, lo your boat," and "Ren, ren, go away, come agen anoter day, leetle chidren want to play futball and netball...."
Grace with her "teachas"
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