DC2 got into the dual language program

Which means zie won’t be going to private school or skipping a grade.  At least not right away.

Our plan was either DC2 does public school in the dual language program for kindergarten or zie skips K and goes straight to 1st in private school.  DC2 lotteried into dual-language and will be going to the one on our bus route.  (A benefit of being rezoned into one of the worst school zones is that’s also where the specialty programs are housed in the hopes of getting high SES parents and kids involved with the school.)

I’m not sure how to feel about this development.  On the one hand, dual-language is awesome.

On the other hand, while DC2 doesn’t need to skip two grades at this point (recall DC1 started K early and did K and 1 at the same time–DC2’s birthday is right before the deadline unlike DC1’s), zie really does not need to take K.  Zie can read pretty much anything at this point and writes pretty well (with some getting letters and numbers backwards a lot much like I did at hir age) and is up to double-digit addition and subtraction without carrying/borrowing in hir math books.  The state goals for K involve counting to 10 (recall that learning goals for this state are about a year behind those in much of the rest of the country).  Not to mention that class sizes are large, which makes it more difficult for teachers to differentiate and give personalized attention, though obviously some teachers are still good at it.

We’re hoping the second language acquisition will make the lack of other new material in K more bearable.

Starting K early wasn’t possible if we wanted to do dual-language, and skipping dual-language K doesn’t seem like a great idea even if it’s allowed given that DC1 knows very little Spanish.  It’s possible zie could skip dual-language 1st or a later grade, but we will cross that bridge when we come to it.

So I worry.  I hope we’re making the right decision.  But I know we can course correct if not.

I also hope that my eager, strong, excited DC2 doesn’t get beaten down too much by school.  I hope zie isn’t silenced by expectations and peer pressure.

I want to protect hir.  But I don’t know that I can.

Posted in Uncategorized. Tags: . 23 Comments »

23 Responses to “DC2 got into the dual language program”

  1. Hypatia Cade Says:

    Two thoughts… Would a good conversation with the teacher about skills/differentiated instruction help for DC2? Even if the teacher isn’t all that skilled, a heads up and some strategies/suggestions from you about what might maintain interest would be helpful perhaps…. I’m assuming there’s not a high quality GT program at that age?

    Also K or 1st in a private school in English and then 1st in a dual language program (if there is sibling preference and DC2’s enrollment is guaranteed?) with the same hope that dual language is enough of a challenge to balance things out?

    And as long as you are on the topic of dual lang programs I’m curious about your thoughts (or your readers’ thoughts) – we will have the option to lottery in to 2 dual lang programs: Spanish or Mandarin. There are other pieces of these choices (school location, true public vs. charter, curriculum differences) that make it complex….But if the language of instruction were the only variable would you pick one language over the other? Why? (And to what extent would parental familiarity with a language enter into this?)

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      GT starts in first grade and it’s pull-out. We won’t know who the teacher is until a week or two before school, most likely. We are planning on contacting her (or, less likely, him) to ask if a directed donation to the classroom would help, since I think something like 60% of the kids in this K-4 are on reduced/school lunch. My big worry is that there are just going to be a lot of kids in the class. (We did talk to DC1’s K teacher about differentiation, but that was easier because it was a private school with small classes and it was the teacher’s first year doing K instead of pre-K.) Since we had to fill out an application to get in, the teacher will have some info on DC2 being brilliant (or just having irritating parents). There’s also the worry that we should have picked the “best” of the three dual-language programs (that is, the one with highest SES), even though it’s not on our bus route just because that’s the one that parents with similar concerns to ours will have picked and it will be easier to cluster. This school is reputed to be the most caring of all the elementary schools though, so that’s something.

      Barring out-of-district dual-language transfers, the only way to enter the dual-language program here as an English speaker is through K, and it’s lottery. So zie can’t start in 1st. If zie hadn’t lotteried in, we would be doing 1st at the private school that DC1 went to and skipping K.

      I would probably pick Mandarin over Spanish all else equal because it’s easier to pick up Spanish at older ages. And they’re both useful languages to know (I wouldn’t choose Dutch over Spanish even though Dutch has similar pronunciation problems to Mandarin for English-speakers, because Dutch isn’t as useful).

      We’re out of ask the grumpies questions right now, so if you’d like, I can throw this one up on Friday in case people don’t wade through the comments.

      • Hypatia Cade Says:

        Sure – throw it up as ask the grumpies… we’d love opinions.

        There’s also a demographics issue between spanish/mandarin. There is some value I think in being a high SES family at a low SES school – community building/support but also you will be a good advocate for all the kids. And caring isn’t something to be disregarded.

        I’m confused about the ages… DC1 is older? And ze just lotteried in…. But DC2 won’t be able to lottery in? Am I mixing the kids up?

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        Whoops! That should have been DC2 throughout. I fixed it. (DC1 is in middle school!) Thanks!

    • Cloud Says:

      FWIW, we found that the language learning kept our 1st kid challenged up to about grade 2. In 3rd grade, she had a really good teacher who excelled at giving different kids what they needed, so we felt like she was getting enough challenge. This year was 4th grade, and I’m less sure, partly because there was some chaos with changes in who her teacher was, partly because class sizes got bigger. Our school doesn’t do gifted and talented pull outs, because it doesn’t work with the way the immersion program is structured. Our daughter REALLY wants to stay in the school, though, so we’re brainstorming what to do next year to keep her challenged. Maybe she’ll get another teacher who is good at challenging the advanced kids. Maybe we’ll need to find an after school program that can do it. Maybe we won’t worry and will just encourage her to challenge herself more in her independent reading and music (which was the route I was taking at that age). We’ll just have to wait to see how things go.

      We had a choice between Mandarin and Spanish for language immersion programs, and chose Spanish based primarily on the fact that the school that does Spanish is in our neighborhood. We had low probability of getting into either, but got very lucky (a literal lottery win!) and got into the Spanish school in our neighborhood and have loved it. Also, it starts at 9 (with before care provided by the YMCA for a fee) and the Mandarin school starts at 7:45, which even for our early rising kids would have been a struggle and a PITA for the entire family.

      Don’t underestimate convenience for the entire family when choosing schools, particularly if both parents work and extra particularly if you make enough money that you can use money to fix other failings (by paying for after school programs or the like).

      We pay for very low key private Mandarin lessons, mostly because my oldest kid really excels at language so we want to let her push on that. But it also means that both kids will have learned the tones at an age when they can really learn them and that should make it easier for them to become fluent in Mandarin later if they want to. Bonus: the Mandarin teacher picks the kids up from the after care program one day per week, giving us extra schedule flexibility on that day. Win-win.

      FWIW, we have noticed no real problems with learning two languages at once. I don’t know if that would be true if we were really pushing on the Mandarin, but with our immersion Spanish and low key Mandarin, it seems fine. We have noticed that our younger kid, who was not reading fluently in English before starting the Spanish program, tends to spell English words with Spanish phonics, which is hilariously cute. (Eg, miles is spelled “mayols”) We assume that will sort itself out by about grade 3, when her school starts working on English spelling. She is now reading fluently in English, which should help.

      Since I’m writing an essay in your comments section anyway, I’ll continue… Our younger daughter seems to have an interest in robotics and so another thing I’m thinking about over this summer is how to let her push on that. The school does have a Lego robotics league team, and I think next year she is old enough to join. Maybe that’s all we need. But I don’t know.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        That’s what we’ve heard from other people too, that the challenge kind of peters out in 2nd or 3rd grade.

        DC1 had GT pullout this year in 6th grade and we weren’t particularly impressed. The literature tends to agree that pull-out isn’t great, so you’re not missing much.

  2. becca Says:

    Can DC2 be accelerated just for math (e.g. visit more advanced classroom)? That worked for us in a school with a reasonable number of lower SES kids and thus less individualized time. I see math as least useful to do in the dual-language environment, and perhaps most important to build up momentum and confidence in.

    Hypatia Cade- given Mandarin or Spanish, I’d let my kiddo pick, which would probably result in Spanish. Dad took Spanish, Mom took Mandarin, so that’s not a huge factor. But my kiddo is SO into soccer, and Spanish means ze can translate when we go on dream Argentina trip ;-)
    If I were factoring in efficacy of language training (i.e. how proficient they are likely to end up), I’d lean toward Spanish. Though for that I’d consider possible peers who might help hir practice too. Pronunciation on Mandarin is probably easiest to learn very young, but this wasn’t the trickiest part to me. The thing I think was really hard about Mandarin was the writing. Are they doing simplified characters, or traditional, and when do they bring in typing? It’s very challenging, and I wouldn’t suggest it for most kids until about age 11 or so.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      That is a really good question (it is, in fact, how DC1 did K and 1st grade simultaneously). I think the answer is not until next year, but it may be that if we push a little harder we could. I will put it on DH’s list of things to ask about. Our district makes acceleration very easy starting in 1st grade (it didn’t back when DC1 was in K, but it does now!).

      ETA: Hm, it looks like they don’t do credit by exam for single subjects until 5th grade. They only do full-year acceleration. Booo.

  3. anandar Says:

    My kids are at a dual language, low SES school (with large class sizes, thank you CA Prop 13!). What % time in Spanish will DC2 start out with? We’re at a 90-10 (ie, 90 % in Spanish for the first 3 years, dropping very gradually). The first couple months of K for my monolingual kids were quite disorienting, since everything the main teacher was saying was in a foreign-to-them language. They reacted characteristically (my DC1: did not say a single word in class until late November! my DC2: spent all her time chatting with friends and ignoring the teacher!). The kindergarten academic expectations are indeed very low (they are trying to catch up the monolingual Spanish speakers, many of whom didn’t go to preschool or come from a literacy rich environment), but we chose the school partly for its well-designed, project-based curriculum, which from the K kids’ perspective is all about hands-on science, art, and play. My kids both though the phonics practice or counting games that are part of the daily K routine were fun, the fact that they were technically too “easy” didn’t seem to be a problem at that age. Higher grades have more differentiation.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      It is 50% Spanish, 50% English from K-8. It’s how they satisfy the state’s ESL requirement.

      Maybe we should not worry about things for a year. Zie will still be doing Singapore math and reading and stuff at home. People have told us that for the first year or two the additional challenge from Spanish is enough, but after that more acceleration is needed.

  4. gasstationwithoutpumps Says:

    My son was in a dual-language program for K-3. We had him learn Spanish literacy with the Spanish-speaking students, since he did not need help from school with English literacy. After that we did private school for 4-6, a different private school for 7-8, public school for 9, and home-school (through a school-district umbrella) for 10-12. We did not edn up skipping a grade for him (though we considered it many times), but did do subject acceleration, particularly in math (one of the reasons for the private schools was their greater willingness and ability to do subject acceleration).

  5. crone Says:

    Spanish vs Mandarin~ One consideration might be which language is easiest to reinforce from home or environment. I have 5 year old grand child who has been Mandarin immersion from 2 pre-school years and just finishing K. Reads and writes and speaks in both English and Mandarin. Both parents speak Mandarin, my co-grandparents speak primarily Mandarin, so lots of reinforcement happened naturally from birth. Had a Spanish speaking nanny before preschool and both parent’s Spanish increased in fluency through those years. But for last two years, post nanny, it has been harder to reinforce and keep in use. Being able to reinforce and use the language outside of school makes a huge difference.
    No school is perfect in all ways for any child. That is practice for life. Watch for the behaviors the child learns and brings home; some will be wonderful and some not so much. But learning diversity early early early is way better IF equality is also taught.

  6. Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life Says:

    I hate that we’re going to be worrying about this really soon.

    I’m doing my best to teach JuggerBaby all the languages that I know because I haven’t yet figured out if we have dual language programs available. The daycare does minimal language instruction but believe me when I emphasize MINIMAL.

    Digging in deeper, this looks like we don’t have any dual language programs and that’s kind of depressing.

    “I also hope that my eager, strong, excited DC2 doesn’t get beaten down too much by school. I hope zie isn’t silenced by expectations and peer pressure.
    I want to protect hir. But I don’t know that I can.”

    I have these feelings so much whenever I think of the future of our kids.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I thought you were in SF? If so, Not a Wasted Word’s daughter is in a public school dual-language program there. We also have friends in South Bay whose kids go to one.

  7. ChrisinNY Says:

    My daughter has dysgraphia so found the Mandarin characters problematic. (She was exposed to both the characters and… pinyan?) In theory learning Mandarin sounds great, but living in the US Spanish may be more useful and enjoyable. My daughter ended up learning French and still keeps it up on her own as a young adult.

  8. nicoleandmaggie Says:

    If you live in Montana and are registered to vote, go vote for Rob Quist today! (That would be the candidate in that race who didn’t physically assault a reporter last night.)


  9. Rosa Says:

    The last part…there’s no decision you can make that will protect your child from bad school experiences. But, whatever you choose, if you’re willing to make changes if it doesn’t work for hir, you can do that. None of these decisions is permanent or quite as weighty as we think when we’re making them.

    My child has always had teachers that were good at differentiation, but the last few years his teacher was so terribly disorganized it was really, really difficult for him to deal with. But he never seemed super unhappy and continued to like school and feel like he could cope, so we kept him there. And in the end, the metacurricular stuff he learned from having an authority figure who changed deadlines and requirements all the time, gave unclear directions, didn’t have a good system for keeping track of materials, etc. was really good for him – he learned a lot about rolling with change, figuring out what was actually important when someone couldn’t prioritize work they were asking him for, and other skills that I never picked up until I had some similarly-challenging jobs in my 20s. Plus it made him appreciate the structure and multiple-teacher nature of middle school in a way i don’t think he would have otherwise. And it turned out that, under the chaos, a lot of what he was learning in the actual curriculum while we were focusing on coping with chaos, he was still learning.

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