For years, I’ve been searching for a good way to get my kids more exposure to Polish. There is a Saturday school in the Hague but I can think of approximately a million ways I’d rather be spending my weekends than schlepping my kids by tram to the other end of the city on a weekend morning. We have a tutor coming over every two weeks and my family visits once in a while but most of the time, we’re on our own.
At some point, I realized that they had no idea what their peers in Poland did in school. They don’t know what books I refer to sometimes and don’t get it when I use certain terms from history.
I looked around for educational materials but they were pretty scattered throughout various pages and websites and I didn’t want to sift through all the worksheets or plan a whole curriculum. I’m a parent, not a teacher! Give me a break.
After a while, a solution presented itself: a minority language online school in Polish, designed specifically for Polish children abroad. In other words, children like mine.
If this is an option for you, here are:
A few things to consider when choosing a minority language online school
The most obvious resource is, of course, money. Online schools will vary greatly in price and quality. Many online schools offer sliding scales or packages to give parents options depending n their needs and budgets. But think of other resources, like time or energy. Maybe you don’t want to spend hours of time making your kid do schoolwork in their free time. Or maybe you’re just too tired. That’s OK! Online schools vary greatly in what the requirements are so pick one that works with your limitations and constraints. If you feel the school is too strict, choose another one!
My main problem with other online schools was that they were basically the equivalent of a Polish school, with kids having to take all the subjects. But that’s not what I was looking for. I don’t need my kids to learn math in Polish. Or biology. Or art. They do quite enough of that in their regular school. I wanted them to focus on five areas most typical for Poland: the language, literature, culture (the first three falling under “Polish”), history, and geography. Luckily, the school we picked offers just that. That saves us some time and prevents the frustration of having to do the same material twice – once in school and once in online school. I really don’t need them to have a school diploma from a Polish school, just to have some basic knowledge of their mom’s home country.
Attendance requirements and pace
Many schools, online and otherwise, can be pretty strict when it comes to attendance. The very idea of having yet another commitment sounds pretty scary to me. I wanted a school where my kids could go through the lessons at their own pace. The material is well organized and their progress is measured but it’s all very playful and fun. The lessons are short and interesting and there is a test at the end of every lesson (but it’s low-stakes). So, with two of my three children attending the school, it all looks very doable. There are live lessons too but recordings are available if we miss it.
What else does the school offer
You could also consider what other additional services does the school offer on top of online lessons. Can the kids talk to one another through Zoom or Skype? Is additional tutoring available? Can they talk to the teachers? Our school also offers ideas for arts and craft projects as well as additional lessons on Polish culture and traditions. There are also recipes, lessons on Polish dialects, and some resources for parents. All of it very helpful and interesting. Check if your school offers something similar.
Motivating your child
My biggest challenge so far has been to motivate my kids to speak more Polish. “But I already speak it, I don’t need lessons,” they say, especially my eldest. She doesn’t like the tutor because of the homework and so I made her a deal: you don’t have to go to tutoring if you find another option that you’ll be willing to do. I’d been making suggestions for months and they all were met with “lame” or an equivalent thereof (can you tell I almost have a teenager?).
Until now. I started checking out various online schools and showed my top two to my eldest daughter. She said yes immediately. With time, I signed up my middle daughter as well. I want my son to still go to tutoring because I want him to catch up on vocabulary before he starts. Also, his classes wouldn’t be so different from what he is learning in school so I’ll just wait for a year or two before I sign him up.
Is a minority language online school an option for you and your family?