Well, school is back in full swing for our family. Most of the rest of the city started classes last week but we have been in session for three weeks already.
My children attend an independent school which offers full immersion language classes. While most families in our southwestern town are drawn to the Spanish program, our family is there to learn French. My boys have been learning their father’s native tongue since they started at the school 4 years ago. Since my hubby is the family breadwinner he has not been able to teach the kids French himself because he simply isn’t home enough to make it stick. Not to mention the kids are quite stubborn when it comes to speaking their second language at home.
At school it is a different story. They are excited to learn and come home with new vocabulary every day. I remember my older son’s first day at school in kindergarten, he came home so excited! “Mom! I learned a new word. Bleu!” Yes it is almost the same in English. But, I have to say, he had the accent down.
At this point, 4 years later, not only is he learning vocabulary but actually studying subject matter in French. The students spend half the day learning curriculum in French and half their day in English. Continuity comes from learning the same unit material in each class . Their teachers are all native speakers, visitors here on a work visa, bringing their culture and world views to the school and the kids. Their French instructor is Parisian and their English teachers call England and Australia home.
One of my favorite things about the school is that it gives the kids an broadened view of their world. The school’s motto is “Open the World to your Child”. And it has. My youngest has plans to visit Africa, Australia, (the homeland of his previous teachers) and his old mates living in Paris, who returned home after spending a year abroad last year. This knowledge of different cultures and places is teaching them that people are not so different and there is more to life than whats in your own back yard.
Having classmates who are foreigners has afforded other students (and their families) to travel across oceans to continue relationships that blossomed in the classroom. For the parents, we are a pretty close knit community as well. The school fosters this in creating an open, caring environment where they expect a lot of family participation but we all get so much in return.
We faced a rough year with the economic downturn and were debating if paying for a private education was the best choice for our family. We have had a difficult time affording the school’s tuition, as my husband’s commission based income suffered. The thought of not returning to the school created a lot of heartache for me, as well as my kids. Not only would we be making a sacrifice in our kids’ education and losing the opportunity for continued study of French, I felt I would be losing a circle of good friends, a community, if we left. The school makes an effort to offer itself to families of diverse economic and cultural backgrounds. We were pleased to learn that we were eligible for scholarship aid and so we are able to continue our worldly adventures at the International School of Tucson.
Our children’s generation are citizens of this world more than any other before. As the United States of America faces economic troubles, possibly losing it’s place as the strongest financial world power it is essential that our future leaders and business owners be able to maximize their potential by being adaptable to different markets.
About Wenonah Michallet
Married for 15 years and mother of two boys, age 8 and (almost) 7. Work my day job being "the Glue" at a freestanding birth center. "I support midwives" should be tattooed on my forehead.