On preschool and secret languages

My five-year old graduated from preschool today. They had a little ceremony and marched in to Pomp and Circumstance, received diplomas. It was sweet.

My son, Gabe, is ready for kindergarten. I’m excited for him to start full-day school in a few weeks. He’s on the brink of learning to read, which is so great to witness. I love that he almost, but doesn’t quite, know how to put the letters together to make words, or how to translate the letters that are there into sounds. But he tries so hard.

The teachers at Gabe’s preschool speak Spanish. All are native Spanish speakers, and most of the kids in his school have parents who are native Spanish speakers. My daughter also went to this preschool, and now attends a Spanish-immersion program in our city’s public school system. Gabe will start there in August. He already speaks and understands lots of Spanish, thanks to preschool. He and his sister speak to each other a little, and I look forward to them sharing it more as they get older. Neither Geoff nor I is fluent in Spanish, so for the kids, it will be like their own secret language. I like that. I love the sounds of Spanglish floating around my house, and I love that my one-year old calls all cookies and crackers galletas.

I love that as my kids grow, the sounds of Spanish anywhere — here in our city, or in any other place — will always bring them back to being a kid in preschool. There is something so magical about the memories of early childhood, and how a sight or sound or smell can take you back instantly. Childhood seems somehow more vivid than the rest of life, and I like that my kids will have a whole language as signifying fodder.

I also love that the Hispanic teachers at my kids’ school treat them like family, that the kids know what it’s like to have a huge family with lots of cousins even though we don’t. The kids in Gabe’s class are relaxed, and no one is forced to make art projects or complete other tasks. They play. Parents can come and go in the classroom as they like, and the kids seem genuinely happy. Singing is nearly constant.

When Gabe starts kindergarten in six weeks, he will be comfortable with being on his own in a classroom. The sounds of Spanish around him will calm him, and he will be ready to learn. I’ll bet that he’s reading by October.