HELP! (For language learners with young children) In general, 35-40 hours per week of intentional language study is necessary in order to attain “normal” levels of language competence in a timely fashion. “Normal” levels will vary depending on the language being studied, the aptitude of the language student and the types of instruction being used. For learners with small children even putting in 25 to 30 hours of study time during one week can be extremely challenging. You could easily become discouraged and de-motivated. However, it is POSSIBLE to study for 35 to 40 hours a week AND to be loving, adoring, and fully-committed parents AT THE SAME TIME. Now, just to be honest, you may fall behind on housework and there may be no gourmet dinners for a few months, but that is a small price to pay for your sanity! Here are some helpful hints and sample schedules that can aid parents of young children. These tools and guidelines can always be modified to fit diverse families, languages, and cultures. Hint #2- Play with Your Food! Okay, I am NOT really advocating making waffle forts or teepees for your breakfast (remember that movie? 50 First Dates?) or using peas as sling shot pebbles. I AM advocating focusing your attention during cooking times and meal times on your kids. Cook with You Kids Yes, you can cook faster and clean faster without your kids’ help, and I know that a key to surviving language school is good time management. HOWEVER, your kids still need you when you are neck-high in grammar books and conjugation lessons. Therefore, why not focus meal times (and cooking times) on your precious little darlings? Even young kids can help actually cook! And, even younger kids can have a blast just being in the kitchen with you while you are cooking. For the youngest kids, give them plastic bowls and wooden spoons to play with while you are cooking. Older kids can actually help! I recommend getting a cook book written for kids. The advantages to cooking with your kids? First of all, you don’t have any “wasted” time. There is no time when you are at home and your kids are awake, but you can’t give them the attention that you want to give them. Another advantage is that kids are more likely to eat what they help cook! You are also building up their self-esteem and teaching them cooperation! Have Picnics (at home) If you only have time (and energy) to make a sandwich for dinner, don’t feel guilty! As long as you serve some carrot sticks or celery or cucumbers with that sandwich, you aren’t depriving your kids of anything! AND, you can make meal time really fun, too! Just spread a big towel or blanket on the floor of your living room, and turn any sandwich-for-dinner night into a picnic-at-home adventure! You may even discover bears, bees, tigers or monkeys hanging around your house! (Just ask your kids—they can see all the animals!) You can even use paper plates for quick clean-up. Actually, any meal becomes special if you make it into a picnic. You can have a pizza picnic, a sandwich picnic, or even a pasta picnic (just go easy on the sauce)! Don’t Worry, Be Happy (keep it simple) You don’t have to make gourmet meals every night (or ever, really). Focus on nutrition and not presentation or the level of difficulty of a certain recipe. I actually recommend eating what you serve your kids. This saves lots of time! You can even modify some recipes mid-way through the cooking process. Set aside a portion of chili or chicken for your kids before adding more spices. Set aside some ingredients for you kids before you mix up a casserole or filling. When I make rice and chicken burrito stuffing, I set aside some rice and some chicken before I mix everything together since my daughter wants her food separated. Just remember to keep everything simple. You don’t have enough time to worry about everything during language school! So, don’t worry about meal times. Just have fun!