I have a young teenage neighbor who is about 13 years old and speaks very good English. Not long after we moved in to this apartment, she came over and introduced herself. I was quite impressed that she had the courage to come alone. She is very outgoing and friendly. She has reached out to our son, and invited him to go out and do things with her, although he hasn't accepted yet. He's a little on the anti-social side. But she keeps trying, and every so often will come ask him to go skateboarding, or running, or play ping pong or something. Although he hasn't been very friendly in return, she still continues to try. I see him gradually warming up to her. She's such a friendly girl, you can't help but warm up to her!
Her father is a "home church" preacher here in China. Basically that means that his religion isn't state approved, so they meet quietly in private. But they are Christian, and to their credit, they believe in repentance and really strive to be Christlike. They have chosen to home school their daughter so that they can teach her their Christian beliefs. Home schooling here is not common, but I think they were influenced by American Christians they know who have come here to secretly proselyte. They also have two young women who live with them, and also home school with their daughter. These two girls are about 19 years old. Their English isn't as good as the 13 year old, but it's not bad.
So not long ago, this girl came to me and said, "We have been talking about how to improve our English, and we have decided that you are the perfect person to help us." I had to laugh about the way she put that. It was more of a statement than a question. But I really like these girls, so I agreed to help them. We decided that we will meet twice a week for an hour.
I really don't think it's useful to just sit around and talk. And I'm not really a trained teacher, so I don't know how to help them progress. So I decided that I will just plan activities for them to do, and speak English while we do them. In our church we have what are called "activity days" for young girls ages 8-12. I think of our classes as "activity days". We can't talk about church because of legal restrictions given to our church and its membership, but we can do activities that are non-church related.
The first class I had them help me make some bread. They had never done that before, and they had never had to follow a recipe before. Chinese cooking is very different and doesnt' require a recipe, just a list of ingredients. But western baking is very precise. So taught them about teaspoons and tablespoons and measuring cups.
The next class I prepared a project for them to learn how to embroider. I like to do "free style" embroidery. You basically learn the stitches, then use your creativity to embroider your own designs. The older girls had sewn before, but never embroidered. The younger girl had never even threaded a needle before. So we started from scratch, and they learned quickly!
Well, now I have created a monster! These girls LOVE to embroider! They came over a few days after class to get more embroidery thread from me so they could work on a project they have. I may have to eventually send for more thread, but right now I still have a lot. But they are loving this new skill, and it is fun to see them get excited about it. I have been thinking about new things I can teach them.
I also may have created another monster. I introduced them to Pinterest. I told them to search "embroidery" and "needlework" on Pinterest. They are coming over today. It will be interesting to find out if they were able to figure it out. I may have started an addiction in them......
I only had one daughter, and I tried to pass along some of my hobbies to her. But I only got one daughter, so it's fun to have a second chance to pass along some things to more girls. I hope they will find as much joy in it as I have!