Claire and Aerin are now halfway through their first summer camp experience.
The camp is run by Claire’s Montessori school; it is set during the hours that would otherwise be taken up by classes during the school year. And while the school continues to run educational programs and activities at camp, these summertime sessions tend to be less structured with more “fun” activities like outdoor games, messy art projects, visits from exotic animals and their handlers, and even field trips.
For a small additional fee, children ages 3 and over — like Claire! — can take a bus to the local pool and take 2-hour group swimming lessons twice a week.
Aerin’s first week was admittedly tough with some tears and extra clinginess toward her mommy. But this was expected; I knew camp would be tough for my little girl who has never been in a daily class environment before.
But by the end of the first week, she no longer cried at dropoff, and even began to voluntarily hug and kiss her teacher — something she only does with 3 other people in her life!
I had been nervous all last month that Aerin’s delays would adversely affect her participation in class. But a week before I left for Korea, Aerin went through a mini language explosion: constantly repeating things we say; correctly identifying objects, letters, colors, and numbers; regularly using 2- and 3- word sentences; and most importantly, verbally communicating her wants and needs.
With the language explosion came another desirable behavior: interacting, and playing with other kids more — especially her older sister! Many times, Aerin will follow Claire around the house, imitating her and trying to include herself in whatever activity Claire might be doing. Claire sometimes gets annoyed at Aerin and they will inevitably fight, but to have my two girls play with each other and communicate amongst themselves…to have Claire look out for her little sister (she defended her at the playground the other day) and to see Aerin clearly looking up to her older sister for companionship and guidance — all behaviors they had never exhibited before — are so encouraging and heartwarming!
Aerin’s teacher tells me that while her speech is still behind other kids her age, the delay is modest, and at about the same level of that of other young children who come from households whose main language isn’t English. “Most importantly,” she told me, “we can all tell that she’s trying. She looks at my mouth when I speak, and I could tell that she’s just soaking everything in!”
For Claire, the transition from preschool to summer camp has been painless save for one aspect: her twice-weekly swimming lessons. My cautious girl has never been a big fan of water and hates to get water in her eyes. Even when taking a bath, I have to place a washcloth over her eyes whilst rinsing her hair!
Her swimming instructors tell me that Claire refused to get her torso into the water for the first couple of sessions. Instead, she sat on the pool steps and splashed around. But little by little, she has gotten braver — she even tried to doggy-paddle the other day!
J, who was a competitive swimmer in his younger days, wants the instructors to push Claire more. However, they told us that because she is still at such a young age, they don’t want her to associate the water with bad experiences. Instead, they want her to feel fully comfortable in the water and see her having fun first. This is the teaching style with which I agree, but J believes that it’s too “American.” He feels that children should be pressured to succeed. It’s a topic we will certainly approach again and again as our girls grow older.
Aside from her swimming lessons, Claire continues to thrive and be a leader amongst her peers. While her introspective and analytical tendencies definitely come from me, she is much more confident, assertive, and social than I ever was as a child. Her teachers and classmates love her, and I am so glad that preschool has helped her get out of her shell this past year.
J and I are thinking about extending C&A’s summer camp by another couple of weeks because it seems so beneficial for everyone involved. We especially feel that it will be a nice transition period for Aerin, who will start preschool in September. (Claire will move onto pre-K…where does the time go???)
As for me, while I have been enjoying the extra 3 hours to myself while the girls are at camp, I’ve been keeping myself busy…by job-hunting. Yes, I am back in the market again so that we can comfortably send both girls to school starting in the fall. Please wish me luck!