I have briefly described my family’s experience with two of our au pairs in my posts about Crêpes and Language Teaching Tools for Babies (Tool #7). In those posts, I promised to elaborate more on the topic of au pairs at a later date. So, in the spirit of keeping my word, I will share with you one of the most valuable, enjoyable and long-lasting tools I have implemented in raising my children to be multilingual world citizens. This tool encompasses Passion, Partnerships and Planning (3 P’s from my Formula for Raising Bilingual Children)
Parents-to-be who are developing a language plan for their family as well as parents currently following a language plan and considering options to support the bilingual upbringing of their children may find this post of interest.
Au Pairs are young adults (male or female) who travel to other countries to join a family and offer their services as in-home child care providers. In the USA, they typically stay for a minimum of one year in exchange for a stipend and a rich cultural exchange. In some cases, au pairs are not the sole child care provider, but as agencies advertise, “au pairs can be an extra set of hands” for stay-at-home parents. In my experience, au pairs have potential to be much, much more than merely “an extra set of hands.”
Welcoming au pairs into our family proved to be instrumental in our endeavor to shape our children into world citizens and nurture their love of languages. Our au pairs (with the exception of one) spoke fluent English upon arrival and hailed from Brazil, Japan, Spain, Germany, Bolivia, Uzbekistan, and France. And some of them were trilingual. Both my husband and I, as well as our boys learned many intriguing facts about our au pairs’ respective countries, and our au pairs, in turn, discovered a great deal about the culture in the USA and about themselves during their stay.
How did Au Pairs help us further our goal of raising multilingual world citizens?
1. They shared a passion for languages and were genuinely interested in supporting our family’s goal of raising multilingual children.
2. They partnered with us and proactively planned activities that exposed our children to other languages and cultures.
3. They helped develop our boys’ palate and piqued their interest in tasting different foods by sharing their culinary traditions.
4. They were young, fun-loving role models for our children who saw in them a genuine interest in studying languages and their desire to learn about other cultures.
5. They embodied world citizenship, and to this day continue to influence our boys and help shape them into world citizens.
Some Fun Tidbits About Our Au Pairs:
1. Our Brazilian au pair started taking an on-line German class to keep up with my son’s German language acquisition and ultimately traveled to Germany, staying for a year and becoming fluent in German!
2. Our Spanish au pair had used Muzzy to complement her English studies as a child (20 years ago) and loved that she knew the characters, the plot and the songs and could join right in with my boys when they watched it in Spanish!
3. Our Japanese au pair, who was an avid basketball player in Japan, introduced our boys to basketball and taught them everything they know!
To learn more about how to leverage the Cultural Exchange and Language features of the au pair experience, please visit the Consulting and Coaching tab of my blog and submit your request for a complimentary consultation about Au Pairs.