Last week, Kayla of Kayla June told us about the Japanese Saturday School at the university where she teaches. I knew of Saturday schools, a popular way for expat Japanese families to keep their kids up-to-speed with Japanese culture and academics. I just did not realize that there was one in Jacksonville, our nearest city. The school started in 2011 and now serves over 50 families from the area. Starting from preschool and extending to the sixth grade, it is run by volunteer parents who use the official Japanese public school textbooks and curriculum as a guide. They are so above board that they anticipate to be recognized by the Japanese government in the coming year. Pretty rad, ne?
We attended their open house this past Saturday and were really impressed. For three hours every Saturday, Sebastian and Nico can study kanji, mathematics, and reading while making friends with other bicultural kids. Every other Saturday, Colette can join the preschool class where they sing songs, make crafts, and learn to read and write in hiragana.
Being there amongst a crowd of bilingual/bicultural families was such a wonderful thing. We all felt it, a sense of belonging, a sense of relief. To be able to hear Japanese all around us, to be able to laugh at the same jokes, to hold our cameras high as the children threw beans at the demons: I cannot express completely what a fantastic occasion this was for all of us. You can take the family out of Japan, but you can't take Japan out of the family.
The change in Sebastian and Nicolai was immediate. They walked differently back to the car, tall from their proud, straight spines. They stopped bickering and started helping each other, taking turns carrying their heavy bags across the campus. I knew that they had been frustrated that their bilingual/bicultural needs were not being met in the past few months, but it was not until after Saturday school that I saw what a toll it had been taking on them. It was as if the sun had been covered with clouds for the past seven months and suddenly a clear wind blew them away.
We will definitely be going again.