Mom and Judy took the amazing sunshiney autumn wonderweather with them when they left. Damn it.
I have a problem that I have brought upon myself, sort of, and I don't really know what to do about it. See, we use the OPOL method at home to raise our bilingual children. OPOL stands for One Parent One Language, which means that each parent speaks their own native language to their children consistently. I've always spoken English to the kids and Anders has always spoken Sweden. He and I speak English together, because it's the language we met in, and it was just easier, and I have always been of the opinion that it helped the kids' English because they weren't just hearing it directed at THEM, they were hearing full conversations between the two of us as well (and to be honest, Anders says it's also helped keep HIS English at a higher level, too).
Even though Martin was home with me for nearly 3 years (almost all English all the time) and Karin for a year, they have been surrounded by and immersed in Swedish pretty much since they started daycare. Their English capabilities have shot up drastically each time we have taken a long vacation in the States, and the visits from my mom and brother, and time with our American friends has also helped...BUT I'm realizing sadly that it's not enough.
Part of the problem is that they haven't been given the opportunity for hemspråk lessons, which are actually mandated by law in Sweden. Hemspråk literally means "home language" and children of non-Swedish speaking parents are entitled to special tutoring during classtime, as long as there are 5 children with the same language requirement in the county. There are 3 alone in our school, and I know for a fact there are more than 5 in our county, yet the school authorities have fobbed us off for nearly 3 years now with the excuse that they haven't been able to find a teacher to take the job. Which is no wonder when you consider that they are offering it as a part-time position, for crap pay, with the requirement that the teacher must have their own car (and pay for gas) and be able to drive around to several different schools for 1-hour lessons during the week. Despite the fact that I've met a perfectly suitable and qualified candidate who actually interviewed for them, they haven't hired anyone.
ANYWAY. After my mom's visit, it was painfully obvious to me that the English my kids are getting just isn't enough. A few hours in the evenings, and the weekends doesn't help when they are speaking primarily Swedish, even to me. Mostly I've ignored it, and answered them in English regardless of what language they use, and have been pleased that they DO use it, if infrequently, and have an excellent understanding of it. But watching them struggle to talk to their grandma, especially Karin, who hasn't had as much exposure or practice as Martin, brought it home to me that something needs to be done.
Even though Martin can read in English, he also prefers Swedish since that is, of course, what he is getting in school and what comes easiest. They will start regular English lessons when they are 9 years old in the Swedish school system, but I feel that is too late. And even then it will cause problems, because they will be far more advanced than the rest of their classmates, which could cause them to be complacent and retard their actual progress. :(
I've talked to them this week about trying to use more English at home in the evenings, but neither of them is particularly keen on the idea. I understand that it isn't easy for them to switch when they've had it pretty easy with me understanding Swedish and responding to them regardless of the language I use. It's hard for me to break the habit either, and it's admittedly much faster and much easier to just let them answer and speak to me in Swedish.
I am also afraid of pushing the issue and causing them to button up completely. I don't think that forcing them will work, and will just make them obstinate about NOT using English, Karin in particular. I've tried a bit of the "I don't understand you...can you repeat that?...in ENGLISH" thing but it doesn't go over well after the 3rd or 4th time and feels artificial and irritating. I've mentioned this to Anders, and told him that I think it would also help if HE spoke more English with the kids, but that means a hard change of habit for HIM as well, and I don't want to ruin the rapport he and the kids have either.
So, innernets, got any ideas?