View Full Version : A Family’s Experiment in Extreme Schooling

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09-26-2011, 06:09 AM
A New York Times foreign correspondent formerly stationed in Russia tells the story of placing his three kids into an unusual school in Moscow where all the instruction is done in Russian.

Three American siblings attend an experimental school in Moscow where instruction is only in Russian and classes are videotaped to improve teaching.

NY Times: My Family’s Experiment in Extreme Schooling by Clifford J. Levy (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/18/magazine/my-familys-experiment-in-extreme-schooling.html?_r=2&pagewanted=all)

Really great read from the NY Times and I highly recommend that people watch the video as well.

09-26-2011, 08:18 AM
Can't read the article, but I don't see anything extreme about all the instruction being done in Russian in a school in Moscow. :)

09-26-2011, 10:32 AM
Immersion schooling is not uncommon, and not extreme in my view.

09-26-2011, 04:29 PM
There are at least three French immersion schools in Louisiana. When I taught high school, a lot of my freshman came from one particular middle school. They had the best grammar in English :swoon: No split infinitives, dangling modifiers, no issues with who/whom, its/it's, there/they're/their. They also had the worst French grammar. :rofl:

09-26-2011, 04:33 PM
This is how my grandfather and his siblings learned English when they came from Italy. It was the same for lots of immigrant kids in that generation. I'm sure it was hard, but I don't know that any of them would call it "extreme."

09-26-2011, 04:48 PM
Same thing happened with my friend. When they lived in the US, they went to US schools and spoke nothing but Russian at home, when they went to Russia it was the opposite. This was many years ago. She told me that she was something like 5 or 6 before she even knew that her mother spoke english!

09-26-2011, 05:01 PM
I guess it could be considered extreme for the entitled American, who generally knows only one language and won't put in any work to learn another.

As it is, this is something I can see myself doing for my future children should I find myself in a location with an immersion school.

09-26-2011, 05:56 PM
I think the extreme is doing it so late in life. Thought extreme is a pretty big word, I agree.
Here there a French immersion schools, but they actually don't take kids who doesn't speak French if they are older than 3 or something.

I think it was pretty brave, regardless, especially since they had a choice to go a private English speaking school, and they had plans to return to the US; they are not immigrants.

I found the article interesting, and Russian and not, the school they found seemed to have some interesting ways of teaching.

09-26-2011, 08:38 PM
My dd started French immersion at eleven. Yes it is difficult, but certainly not impossible. It requires hard work and a real desire to learn the language. Lots of kids around here do it. Early immersion starts at five in kindergarten but kids also transfer over in Grade one. Early immersion kids make up well over 50 percent of dd's school.

09-26-2011, 08:59 PM
I confess I did poorly when I had to take Italian in grad school, and the professor would hardly speak a word of English. I had already had two semesters of the language as an undergraduate, but I couldn't seem to learn from her at all. In fact, I think I actually started forgetting what I already knew.

Maybe it's easier to do when you're a kid and your brain works better. (And if your professor isn't about 350 years old and tough as nails.)

09-26-2011, 09:23 PM
Basically, by the time you turn 17, it is very, very hard to learn a new language.

Very interesting TED talk on how babies learn to speak: http://www.ted.com/talks/patricia_kuhl_the_linguistic_genius_of_babies.html

09-26-2011, 09:39 PM
Kids find it much easier to learn languages, for sure. Fifth grade is NOT too late to learn, and it's hardly extreme. Immigrants all over the world put their kids into foreign schools where they don't speak the language every day.

I applaud them. It was brave, but those kids will reap the benefits from it for a long time.

09-26-2011, 09:53 PM
I remember my French immersion classes in college. For about 2 weeks you just sit there and blink but later you start picking up a word here, an expression there and before you know it, you are speaking and writing in French.

ETA: was able to read the article: I wish I could send Mini Ice to a school like that.

09-26-2011, 10:34 PM
Having read the article, I do think what the parents did was extreme. And it seems to have worked for them too.

09-26-2011, 11:24 PM
Kids find it much easier to learn languages, for sure. Fifth grade is NOT too late to learn, and it's hardly extreme. I remember wanting to learn a foreign language before 5th grade, but my parents were told I had to wait until 5th grade to be able to understand it. :wall: Yes, things were backwards then.

Immigrants all over the world put their kids into foreign schools where they don't speak the language every day. That's what I thought about, too. My cousin didn't know English when her parents came to the US. She was in 4th or 5th grade. A friend of mine from HS immigrated to the US when she was 17. I remember teaching her English before that and it wasn't easy. A few years later I called her here and didn't even recognize her voice on the answering machine, she didn't even have an accent. Which was amazing since she started rather late.

A case that didn't work out was a friend of mine who decided to put her daughter in an English school in my own country. I think it was kind of status thing, since it was a school foreign correspondents/diplomats/etc. sent their kids to. The poor kid got shell shocked and her record was abysmal. After the first year my friend moved her to a normal school and she turned out to be an excellent student.

Knowing a foreign language is always an advantage. Good for the family from the article for recognizing that.