Wednesday, July 28, 2010

English Tales

Every week I go to English Group and learn something new.

Which might not sound so very surprising until I tell you that I am in the four-year old group.

I've finally learned quite a bit of English after all these years as an American. Nappies. Serviettes. Savoury snacks.

All of which is going to help very little when we move to Australia!

Two weeks ago I learned that a little bit of improvisation goes a long way. Five year old Thomas was vomiting in the car. Three year old Jack was having a nose bleed next to him. So that we kindly excused their mother from her teaching duties that day.

Karen threw some materials at us; papers, books and a CD. And said: teach 'em about camels. Have fun. I've got to go clean up some blood and vomit. But she said it with a real nice English accent so that it still sounded classy!

And we learned about camels. Kind of. Not having prepared - or read up on - the materials - I'm sure we didn't do it the way Karen had in mind. We used the CD - a fantastic collection of Rudyard Kipling stories - and then acted out our own version of how the camel got its hump. Something I would never have been brave enough to try - IMPROVISATION WITH 4 and 5 year olds! - unless forced into it. It was great. The kids had fun.

This also explains why your child may be running around with a pillow on her back making "humpff" noises by the way!

Last week Sarah taught us about fairy tales. When she asked Aidan what we read at home he told her we didn't have that CD! Uh oh. (Aidan has quite the crush on Sarah and will tell her just about anything to keep her attention. "He doesn't speak very clearly yet, does he?" she asked me later. And I had to explain that he is so busy raising his hand to catch her attention that he usually doesn't have an answer and tries to mumble his way out of it! Could be her accent. Could be the smile!)

"You don't have that CD?" Sarah asked. "Does your Mommy read you any books at home?" I waited as Aidan debated how to best capture her attention for the longest amount of time possible.

He's no dummy. "No." No, Mommy doesn't read them any books at home. Sarah laughed. Which makes me think it is the smile Aidan is so fixated upon.

"Do you just watch TV then?" Sarah continued. In a really lovely Irish accent.

Aidan nodded his head eagerly. Yes, yes. That's it. No books in our house. Just lots of TV. (Star Wars is the ultimate fairy tale, but I didn't think it was the time to explain this to Sarah!)

But he did hold her attention longer than any of the kids who DO read at home!

Later Sue came up to me in the parking lot and told me my boys had been telling her about the wombat stories we've been reading at home lately.

"Good." I said. "Because according to Sarah's information we don't have any books at home!"

Another lesson learned at English Group: always trust your children to paint you in the most humorous light!

But we did come home and read Snow White and Beauty and the Beast tonight. I DO read to the boys, but I've been missing the princess classics. And I do realize they are a cultural basis of our society.

I see NO moral value to Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Which Andrew was only introduced to at his hearing evaluation when he was four. "Of course you know this story," the teacher began. Oops. The Gingerbread Man bugs me too. DO either of these two characters have ANY redeeming features? And all the Cinderella, Thumbelina, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty "find a prince and marry him" stories. ALthough I loved them as a child.

But I tried them on the boys. Snow White bombed. "Why" asked Aidan when the stepmother wants to kill Snow White." "Because she is jealous of Snow White." I answered. "Why?" he continued. "Because she is prettier?" But none of it was making any sense to Aidan.

I could almost hear his mind working. "WOMEN!"

Honey, you won't understand us later either.

Although the hunting scene was cool. And Snow White falling down dead. "Why?" "Because the apple was poisoned." "Why?" "Because the stepmother was jealous?" "Why" "Because she is a really small person who needs to work on her self-esteem and sense of self-worth."

I am a really lousy fairy tale reader. Aidan gave up. At least there was a dead person to think about. No blood though. "Why?" Somehow I think boys need a new set of fairy tales.

Beauty and the Beast had more success. "Is he the bad guy?" Aidan asked, pointing at a picture of the Beast. Ahhah. Chance for a moral lesson! "Do you THINK he's the bad guy?" I asked. "No." Aidan replied. "He is nice to Beauty and he is her friend. So he is not the bad guy."

Which made it all the more confusing when we had to turn him into a prince at the end. Was the moral not about judging others by their appearance but that if we are lucky enough to marry someone beautiful we will automatically be more beautiful too? Aidan didn't get it.

Matthew was shocked into silence. He finally paddled away to get one of his monster stories. Way more comforting than this "R" rated garbage I was suddenly trying to read them!

I didn't dare start in on Hansel and Gretel. I like sleeping through the night!

Thanks though, really, to my friends at English Group, for helping me fill in the's not easy raising kids between cultures and it's reassuring to have a mix of English-speakers sharing just enough of a cultural background to pass at least some of it on to our Germany-raised children. Together.

Meaning I teach yours about Pilgrims and turkeys and you teach mine how to hang a guy in effigy. (Whose side was he on?) We'll say "football" when we mean soccer and your kids learn a song about baseball.

I will never ever ever ever ever ever ever ever in my life be comfortable with a "zed" at the end of my ABC's. But then again, you will forgive me and know what I mean anyway. (I also reserve the right to take out a couple of those ever ever evers since I will have children in an English-speaking school system soon. Oh dear. Am I going to learn how to speak ENGLISH now too? Or only Australian?!)

Today Aidan, Matthew and I are invited to our first ever Teddy Bears' picnic.

Anybody know if we need to bring serviettes?!


  1. A common question right about now. Truth is, we're not sure WHERE we'll be this fall. Not Germany. Not happy with the school system. (And other details. Just time to move on.) But Damon HAS gotten Australian citizenship as of July 2 - his mother was born there and his Gma is still a citizen. And the goal is to be there by the start of term January 2011. A new adventure. A step we needed. Til then - we're selling it ALL (except for the kids) and playing it by ear. Who knows where the path will lead?