When I was in graduate school, I met a man who was Puerto Rican and spoke Spanish.
His wife was Korean and spoke Korean. When they had a daughter, they made the conscious decision to only speak English to her so that she wouldn’t be confused by the languages.
I still look at that situation and mourn the tremendous opportunity to learn three languages that this child missed.
Imagine the job opportunities for a trilingual speaker who speaks Spanish, Korean and English!
My husband is Japanese, and while I speak a bit of Japanese, I am by no means conversational. (Just ask my husband’s mother; I still panic when she calls because I only know a few conversational phrases.)
We determined when we married that we wanted to raise our children to be bilingual; however, that is difficult when mom doesn’t speak the language and dad is at work 10 hours of the day.
We decided to pay tuition to send our children to a private Montessori Japanese language school. We resolved to invest money in our children’s education upfront, fully aware that the money we spend now is money we won’t have available when they go to college.
Why Invest in Education Upfront?
- The skills learned at a young age will be easily learned again. My son went to Japanese school for five years; he has a strong foundation in the language, and we are confident that if he spends part of his summer in Japan and studies Japanese in high school or college, he will be able to more easily pick up the language than if he had never studied it.
- Learning another language improves cognitive problem solving skills. According to Therese Sullivan Caccavale, president of the National Network for Early Language Learning (NNELL), “Foreign language learning is much more a cognitive problem solving activity than a linguistic activity, overall. Studies have shown repeatedly that foreign language learning increases critical thinking skills, creativity, and flexibility of mind in young children. Students who are learning a foreign language out-score their non-foreign language learning peers in the verbal, and surprisingly to some, the math sections of standardized tests” (ACTFL).
- The children will have a strong educational base. Both my husband and I believe that if young children receive a strong educational base, they will be stronger students throughout their lifetimes. If reading is enjoyable and easy, children are more likely to read frequently. The more they read, the stronger they become as students, which helps them excel. It is a positive cycle.
Of course, we are taking a gamble.
We hope that our children will get scholarships to college, but we know that scholarships are harder and harder to come by. In eight years when our son is going to go to college, the projected costs for a four year, in state, public college education is $130,686. There is no way we will be able to pay that, especially when most of the money we could put away for his college fund is being used now for his and his sisters’ current education.
Still, my husband and I both love reading and learning and were good students who worked hard in school. We want our children to also experience that joy.
Public School Education and Cash for College
Many people who understand our rationale for paying for an expensive language program for our children now don’t believe it is the best use of our money.
These people believe it is better to save money for college instead. They argue that a free public school education will be good enough for their children or that it provides a strong enough foundation.
I do agree that a public school education can prepare a child for college. I attended a public school in kindergarten and then for grades 7 through 12, and I was able to get admitted to, and graduate from, a Big Ten university. One of my high school classmates was accepted to, and graduated from, Harvard.
However, the quality of public school education varies greatly based on where you live.
While I grew up in a fairly small town with a good education system, we currently live about a mile from a great school district. Our school district, however, leaves much to be desired. In addition, the schools are so large that I prefer my children attend a smaller, private school. I am willing to pay more for the quality of education now with the intention that they will be stronger students overall than if they attended our mediocre school district.
In an ideal world, parents would be able to give their children both a primary and secondary education as well as a strong college education. However, many people are unable or unwilling to pay for private primary education or to live in an expensive school district. Others would like to help their children with their college education but must instead save for their own retirement.
Ultimately, the parents must decide what is best for their children.
We have taken a gamble by investing in our children’s education at the youngest age, but we feel it is worthwhile. They may choose to not study Japanese again, but if they do want to, they will have a strong foundation in the language.