Teaching your first language to adorable little kids is probably the best side-job I know of. I didn’t grow up babysitting, but it seems a little comparable to me. Having two bundles of energy storm our house twice a week has taught me a few things:
1- how to make worksheets in under five minutes because you forgot to watch the time
2- just how ridiculous the English language is (how am I supposed to teach a 4-year-old why “laugh” and “eight” are spelled that way?)
3- how to pull children away from the fridge
4- the best way to teach is through play (I’m so glad we brought our Playmobile toys)
5 – little boys like to scream and touch everything in your house
6- the concept of Cowboys are universally appealing
7- Brice’s attention span is equal to that of a 7-year-old
8- I’m not ready to have children
The boys have an attention span of 45 minutes, on good days. We’ve noticed that if they’re sick or tired from a long day they can concentrate longer. We take them through worksheets, either hand-made or printed off the internet for the first half-hour and then we try to do something interactive with them. The 7-year-old’s favorite are the “Verbs.” One of us takes turn standing in the family room and we yell as many verbs as we can think of (laugh, run, clap, hide, sleep, read, snap, etc.) and the other players have to do the action. You wouldn’t believe how appealing this game is to little boys, and how amusing.
Another thing we do is playing with the Playmobile toys I brought, to teach them the names of objects and the grammar of a narrative in English (“He has a cobra on his head,” etc.). The 4-year-old, a kid with a great attention for detail, got so tired of Brice instructing him to speak English with his brother instead of Italian (yes, they speak more languages than we do), that he began imitating Brice and having his toys yell: “NO! Speak English!” to all the other toys.
They’re incredibly well versed in Disney movies so we let them watch a few minutes after we’ve finished their hour-long session. Once, their father was coming from farther away to pick them up and they stayed an extra half-hour… I felt like I’d survived a tsunami when they finally left, and now have a great admiration for those who work in child-care.
If we survive this, I think someday we’ll be much more qualified to be parents.