When asking “What did you do at school today?” it is a lucky parent who has never received the exasperating answer “I can’t remember” or even more galling, “Nothing.” The more you try to winkle out an answer from your child, the tighter lipped they become, and so begins a vicious cycle that becomes a stresspoint for everyone involved.
As educators we are familiar with this situation, and we understand how frustrating it is as a committed and vigilant parent to feel like you don’t have a window into an important part of your child’s world.
So today’s post is designed to answer your questions, with a specific focus on the early years, where children are just starting to be exposed to their target language.
When very young children begin their journey with us at the Academy as part of the entry level Positive Start programme, it is crucial that they become comfortable in an environment where the language is unfamiliar to them. For this reason, in the initial stages we foster an atmosphere where it’s okay to make mistakes and focus on relationships so the children truly feel part of a little linguist community. From the Academy’s perspective, we try to avoid having a set level of expectations as to what the children are achieving in terms of linguistic objectives.
At this point it’s probably unrealistic to expect your children to talk about everything they’re doing in class, and it’s definitely unlikely they’ll be talking many French words to you or their peers.
It’s very difficult for children at a young age to be able to associate one word in a foreign language to another – this level of maturity doesn’t really happened until children reach the age of 8 or 10 – as far as they are concerned, they are just playing with the language, and that is exactly the mentality that we want to encourage.
As much as VICI Language Academy is a centre of academic excellence, we don’t want to feel like ‘school after school’; we want to be part of the children’s education by becoming and fun and enjoyable element of their routine, rather than feeling like a chore.
Obviously as a parent you are excited to know what your child has been doing – but it’s important to understand that children feel the disappointment of their parents very keenly, therefore if they are unable to answer your questions it can actually have an implications on their attitude towards the classes, ranging from making feel shy and lacking in confidence to even campaigning to stop coming altogether!
Fortunately, at VICI we understand how committed you are to your children, and that you want to know not just what they are learning, but how they are progressing. As soon as children have developed beyond Positive Start, we offer the Linguistic Masters Programme.
As part of this:
Students attend class for a full hour, up to 3 times a week 50 weeks a year.
Parents receive a VICI Record of Achievement, which explains all the topics and modules go through every six months.
We organise Parent Clinics twice a year, which provides an opportunity (much like a school Parents’ Evening) to discuss progress with one of your child’s French coaches.
We run a rota of Child Focus Weeks, during which each student is the subject one-to-one observation. At the end of this week parents receive feedback from their French coach to give a thorough insight into their progress, and what you can do to support their ongoing development.
As part of our tried and tested (award winning) offering, we feel like this is the best method to ease young students onto the pathway to a love of language, while ensuring their parents have a comprehensive understanding of exactly how their child is engaging with the syllabus.
In answer to the question “what can I do to help?” in our experience, the best way for parents to support their child is to provide an immersive environment; reading books, watching bilingual cartoons or listening to French music in the car is ideal. This may sound intimidating, but the good news is that we can provide tools to make this easy, including for parent’s who aren’t linguists themselves.
So as you can see, our experience has resulted in a firm understanding of the best methodology to ensure that we are not only teaching your child how to speak a foreign tongue, but that we are instilling in them a love and appreciation of languages from the very earliest stage. And that, above all else is our goal.