Finishing school

We originally posted our article on Reaching And Teaching blog.

Eight months ago, our previously homeschooled English-speaking boys started school at an Argentine all-Spanish speaking public school. We thought it would be difficult, however, we were not fully prepared for all of the emotions that they would experience for the first few months. Transitioning to a real brick and mortar school, in a new country, with new friends, new daily structure, a new teacher who is not their mom, and a completely new language, was very difficult for them. For about the first two months, almost every day was filled with fear and many tears. They struggled with fear, anxiety, and feeling overwhelmed.

But, in spite of these tears, we are grateful for the experience of our family’s immersion language learning. And we know that God’s hand has been leading us through it all. And after one year, the boys will be finishing their first year of school this week.

We made the decision when we moved to Argentina that we were going to send our kids to school in a full-on immersion setting. We decided that they would have a Spanish tutor outside of class time, but the bulk of their learning would be through this immersion.

We feel that this experience has been a gift from the Lord to our family, especially to our children. Their language learning and cultural acquisition has blossomed and grown in amazing ways, and we are so proud of them. In fact, they are only two weeks away from completing their first full year of school in Argentina.

We understand that every child is different and family is different. So, our experience is not the same for every missionary kid. Our observations are solely based upon what we have seen in the lives of our kids and other expat kids as well. And we are definitely not interested in being prescriptive in our approach to how families may learn a new language. We firmly believe that God leads each family to make different educational decisions for their own unique situation in different ways. But, here are some observations that we have seen in regards to how and why immersion language learning in a school setting has worked for us:

  1. It is an opportunity to shepherd our kids through difficulty: Although difficult, we would not trade the challenges that our family faced for anything. It is a joy to shepherd our children through the challenges of learning a culture and language. In many ways, we are more sympathetic and understanding, because we as parents are walking through the same challenges they are. We have been encouraged to watch them persevere. And we have great hope that they will look back on this experience and use it for good in their own compassion and understanding of others in the future.  We pray that God will use these memories to help them minister and become more like Himself.
  2. They learn very quickly: Though the beginning was very difficult, over the last three or four months, we have seen our two oldest boys learn Spanish very rapidly. Often times we see them having full conversations with other Argentine kids and our friends. It is amazing how fast they are absorbing the language and becoming fluent without the formal grammar school that we, as adults, have to work hard through.
  3. They are learning to love all kinds of people and cultures: Being in Argentina has allowed for our kids to become friends with kids from many different cultures and countries. Because of the recent refugee crisis in Venezuela, they have several friends that have fled here from Venezuela.  Through these relationships, they have been able to learn about their lives and appreciate the challenges that their friends have faced, but also the blessing of seeing how God has created various cultures.
  4. We have hope that God will use this skill for His glory: I have frequently told my kids that being able to learn a different language is a great blessing. We hope that God will use their dual language ability in the future for their personal growth, lives, and ministry. Perhaps God will use them in missions, pastoral work, or any other Spanish-speaking work in the future.
  5. Living a life of mission costs something: Learning another language and culture is hard work. Our kids have been frustrated many times by their inability to understand and be understood. And through these times, we are trying to teach our kids that living a life of mission costs something. Frequently, the cost is your comfort. Regardless of one’s ministry location, living a life of mission is going to cost you something. It has cost our kids comfort, the ability to communicate, the ability to understand their own culture, and stuff that they have possessed. Yet, we believe that the cost is worth it!

Just to give you a little idea of how well the boys have done in language, here is a short video of Josiah speaking in Spanish.


8 thoughts on “Finishing school

  1. Gladys Brown says:

    Hi Abisor family !
    Oh my goodness! Josiah has grasped the Spanish language beautifully! So proud of him. All for the glory of our God that he placed you all there. Your family is such an inspiration, truly. May God continue to lead you in the path he’s designed. Never give up. We love you all more than you’ll ever know. Un abrazo grande y besitos para cada unos de ustedes!! ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️
    ¡Feliz Navidad y un próspero Año Nuevo !


  2. Sarah Slyman says:

    Oh my. I am so overwhelmed at this video!! What a testimony to hard work and dedication and to our faithful Lord, sustaining, growing and challenging! Well done, Josiah. I am so proud of you, kiddo. We all miss you and your whole family, but it is obvious that the Lord is preparing each of you to be used in great and special ways. You are in our prayers and hearts and we can’t wait to see you!
    Love and hugs,
    The Slyman’s


  3. Cindy Vaughan says:

    Amazing! Well done Josiah! Praising the Lord for His goodness that allows us to see His work in our lives. He has rewarded your hard decisions and faithfulness to serve Him with visible fruit!!! Love and miss you all and sending the boys a hug for a job well done in completing their school year!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Zenita Bockstruck says:

    ¡Que me encanta ésta vídeo! Josiah trabajó con fuerza a aprender español. Habla bien.💕💕ojalá que algún día puedo viajar a visitar tu familia y hablar en tu casa. Con mucho cariño, Tía Zenita

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Carolyn Nichols says:

    O Josiah, estas hablando Español muy bien! Me encanta hoir sus palabras en un lengua different de ingles. Estoy horando para usted y su familia, que tienen un Feliz Navidad y Prospero año Nuevo! Que Dios me bendiga!
    I am amazed at how quickly children can learn a new language! May God bless you all as you carry His message to the people of Argentina!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Don & Betty Webster says:

    Josiah, your video is amazing! You have worked hard and God has enabled you to speak Spanish like a native Argentinian. We praise God with all of you for strengthening you through each day this year, some of them quite difficult ones. You are living examples of God’s loving care and enabling. We miss you, and wish each one of you a wonderful Christmas!

    Our love, Don & Betty Webster


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