Thursday, 11 September 2008

Too much learning?

(sorry to any friends I've told this to but it's still going through my brain so must go onto the blogosphere).

"You're teaching her too much. She's got her entire life to learn." That's what the nanny told Jérôme the other morning when he dropped her off. My chin dropped when I heard this. How can someone be learning too much? "Did you tell her that Suzanne asks to learn?" He said, "yes I told her that it's Suzanne not us."

Granted my 2 year old knows two languages, can identify about a dozen letters, can count in two languages, recognizes the difference between numbers and letters. But she asked for all of that information (except the two languages but she has no choice in the matter).

Being my typical defensive self, I was angry that the nanny was questioning our parenting skills. But after I took a breath, I realized that we're just not from the same world. And maybe she's never seen a kid with such a thirst for information. She did tell me the other day as Suzanne identified the letters (LETTRES) on her mail slot, "I've never seen such a young child do that."

Jérôme and I both come from knowledge hungry backgrounds, mothers who are teachers, surrounded by books. So many books in fact that we still haven't unpacked them because the built-in bookcases are too small for our collection.

There's also the misconception that bilingual kids are learning twice as much and it takes twice as much energy. It's true that they are learning two languages simulataneously; but if you believe the theory, it isn't more effort for them. They don't know the difference because their brains develop seperate compartments for each language.

So my question is: can you learn too much or is the nanny just "uncultured" ?

7 comments:

Jan Exner said...

She's not uncultured, she's just repeating what everybody says.

I guess this is due to the fact that modern education turns learning into a chore and that most people learn to loathe it...

bibilamalice said...

I understand how scary it can be for people when they see kids learn so much - I feel quite intimidated myself sometimes when Suz impresses me with her new words, new knowledge, new brain compartment...
Then I remember that I'm bilingual too, and although my parents never blogged about it like you are doing, I'm sure they went through the same amazement when my little brain kept spongeing up information.
And look at me today! How normal can you get? OK so I love playing secret squirrel, but let's face it, I don't know twice as much as anyone else just because my brain works in two languages. My brain has never exploded, I'm just a litle bit more schyzo than I should be I suppose ;)
Hip hip bilingual kids!

L said...

It's not like you're trying to help her cram for some exam... It sounds like the babysitter just isn't used to bright, curious kids. I was talking about polka dot patterns when I was three (it's on video...) and my parents were so proud of my vocabulary. I apprently counted my toes all day long once I learned how to count to 10. Someone might have seen me counting all the time and thought my parents were going overboard on reinforcing numbers, but it really was just my thing. So keep doing what you're doing.

Amber said...

Unsolicited opinion of a stranger--Your nanny isn't uncultured, she's just trapped in the french "moule". As a language teacher, I say go for it. Give her everything that she can take and don't hold back. If she's capable, let her brain sort it out. The brain of a little kid is a truly amazing thing when it comes to language. The numbers and letters are a good thing to start young- i've worked with 6-year old third culture kids who can't read because their parents thought they were doing "too much" and held back. I'm keeping your blog on file for the day that I bring a new life into this cross-cultural world- you've got some great stories to tell and I admire you and your husband's devotion to raising your daughter in both cultures!

Reb said...

All of your comments are helpful and reassuring.

"Uncultured" was a poor choice of words. I didn't mean to bad mouth the nanny - she is wonderful. But I don't think she's very curious herself. That doesn't make her a bad person. She's great with Suzanne and Suzanne loves her.

When Suzanne was born, I never imagined people could think being bilingual was a negative thing or just didn't understand why you'd want to raise your child bilingually.

It is definitely true that people just repeat what they hear.

NewWrldYankee said...

I really do think you are doing the right thing by teaching your daughter as much as possible at an early age. I remember my french teacher in school having a poster with his three year old granddaughter on it, with the slogan "She's the perfect age to be learning a second language". The only thing is keeping it up - when I moved to the states after living with my grandparents, I spoke english, Hindi, and our native tongue in India. But since my parents didn't use it regularly around us, we all got rusty. I am the only one out the three kids that even tries, and I struggle most of the time.

Pardon My French said...

I had a long comment typed out last week and didn't end up posting it because I couldn't quite figure out what I was trying to say. I agree with Amber in that I just think nanny isn't used to it and so is perhaps a little uncomfortable. If it's outside of the norm, it's automatically weird and all that.

I have a friend in gifted education who is used to hearing things like this (assuming that it's okay for the [bored] kid to mark time in the present because he/she will be able to be challenged in college). So it's not only just a French thing, either...

Have been trying to think of a snappy comeback for this kind of stuff but end up invariably falling back on 'clenching teeth, smiling and nodding.'

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