After much discussion, Piper, our 6-year-old daughter, and I took the first steps to what we both hope is the journey toward a second language for her this week.
She loved kindergarten. Her teacher was as close to perfect as a teacher can be. She was in a great school, but like others, her dad and I realize the gift of learning a second language early. After spending the summer on the French Immersion waiting list, we were thrilled to get the go-ahead phone call week before last.
Then reality began to hit. The other students in her class would be a year ahead of her in learning French. They would understand so much more. What if the change in school caused more harm than it did good? What if the teacher wasn’t welcoming to a child at a different level than the other students? These are the questions that try a parent’s soul.
Even though we still aren’t certain how the year will go, reassurances started with a common theme in my life these days.
Yes, tomatoes led the way to me feeling better about my first-grader changing schools. Let me explain.
Last Sunday afternoon, as my husband and I unloaded the relative boatload of tomatoes my dad sent from his Mississippi garden, we talked about the possibilities of Piper’s first-grade education. Should we or shouldn’t we go with French Immersion?
As my dad is prone to do, he not only sent tomatoes, but he also sent strict instructions about my delivering them to my friends.
My husband and I weren’t sure what to do about our daughter’s education, but I had tomatoes to deliver. So, I called my friend to see if I could bring a bushel of bounty by, and she said, “Please do. I’ve got a house full of guests.”
“Who’s visiting?” I asked unsurprised. My friend has frequent guests.
Her answer caught me off guard.
“The new French Immersion teachers are staying with me for a few days,” she said.
Stunned, I asked how many and where they would be teaching.
You can probably guess the rest of the story.
Sometimes it pays to listen to your daddy.
Within the hour, Piper and I were sitting around my friend’s ample kitchen table swapping tales with my daughter’s soon-to-be teacher, feeling greatly reassured about the year ahead of us. On Thursday, Piper and I made our way to finish her enrollment process at her new school. When we drove up to the new school with the playground right in front, the first thing she said was, “Mama, look how big that slide is.”
It looked like a regular slide to me, but somewhere in the back of my mind, I remembered a slide about that same size on a playground far away. Piper’s words were a good reminder just how big slides used to seem – especially in unfamiliar places. She began to ask questions. Would she be the only one who didn’t know anyone else at school? Would they talk to her at lunch? Would they play with her on the playground? Would they speak French on the playground? Would she understand?
Once inside, the school secretary told us the first grade English teacher happened to be in and asked if we would like to meet her and see the classroom.
That extra perk seemed to help calm Piper’s nerves, as well. We both felt better about taking on a year in which we didn’t know what to expect.
Piper held my hand and hopscotched her way back to our car, right past the giant slide.
“I’m nervous, Mom,” she said. “But it’s a good nervous.”