Bilingual is Better
Saturdays are for Spanish School

{Photo by: Renato Ganoza}

¨Hurry up and put your shoes on,¨ I tell my son, “or you’re going to be late for Spanish school.”

He stops fidgeting and looks up at me with a big grin. “Mama, did you know that for some kids Saturday isn’t a school day? For some kids, Saturday is a Mommy and Daddy day.

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We’ve made the decision to enroll the boys in Spanish school on Saturdays. Like most parents who are raising bilingual children, I worry about the constant barrage of English they get at school–and after school–now that they’re in kindergarten. Though there is a dual-language immersion program in our area, that wasn’t an option for us, so I looked into Saturday classes and found two programs. One was an extremely reputable school with formal ties to Latin American ministries of education and an incredible curriculum–and it completely intimidated me. The very thought of putting my autistic children in a strict, Latin American-style program where they would be expected to do dictados and the like made me hyperventilate a little. Tuition was also expensive–what if it didn’t work out? And the place was far away.

The second school is, in a nutshell, smaller, laid-back (to the point of being a little chaotic), much cheaper, and ten minutes from my ouse. I knew the program would not be nearly as rigorous, but I was fine with making that tradeoff.  Really, all I want is for my sons to have some kind of regular exposure to Spanish that doesn’t involve me, that involves native Spanish speakers from different countries, and this fit the bill quite nicely. So I took them over on registration day, chatted with the staff and wrote a check.

I then talked it up to my boys.  How cool, you get to go to two different schools. And one of them is in Spanish. I joked with friends that it would all be fine until they figured out that not everyone goes to school on Saturdays, or that the boy across the street goes to karate class on Saturday mornings instead. I just didn’t expect the gig would be up so soon.

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My son’s comment catches me by surprise.  I feel a swift pang of guilt, and wonder if I should agonize over our decision.  I’m adding another morning of school to what is already a packed school week during the big transition to kindergarten.  They’ll be going to school instead of, say, swimming lessons. I don’t want to over-schedule them. But my son’s entire comment was in Spanish, except for the phrase Mommy and Daddy day, which leads me to believe that’s something he’s picked up at school. His statement was simply a statement of fact, not anything that should send me packing on a guilt trip.

So my boys and I sit down and have a little talk, during which, basically, they tell me that they like Spanish school because they get to have juice boxes and cheese curls during snack time. That’s good enough for me. I tell them we will have plenty of Mommy time later, and indeed, we spend the entire glorious autumn afternoon outdoors, in the bounce house at our local Fall Festival and then at the park on a playdate with a friend. And I look forward to many such fun Saturday afternoons this fall. But for now, on Saturdays at nine o’clock, it’s time for Spanish school.

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