With PanSIG 2014 so close to Golden Week, the wife and I decided to take advantage and combine a little work with pleasure. We packed our three small children, one poster presentation, and a ton of diapers into our little Honda hatchback and headed down to Miyazaki. It was a great way to see the land, and visit friends along the way.
PanSIG, for those of you who do not know, is when various JALT Special Interest Groups gather to share their research. It is a more intimate gathering of members than at the annual JALT International Conference, and a wonderful chance to learn from other SIGs.
On the way down to Miyazaki, we spent a few days visiting with other families raising bilingual children. It was interesting to see my own children enjoying the company of others their own age, and using English as their primary mode of communication. I think children get a lot out of such experiences.
Many of us teachers here in Japan are working to raise bilingual children, and so it is no surprise that one of the more popular presentations this year was was given by a member of the Bilingualism SIG.
Christie Provenzano of Kumamoto Gakuen University presented on ways parents can contribute to their children’s education through a blend of homeschooling, distance learning and independent study.
One of her ideas which fit my children and their age, was that of parent led learning circles. This is where a number of parents organize to have their children learn together in one or more of the family’s homes. Education is led by one dedicated parent, or by many parents taking turns planning and teaching lessons in rotation.
With the peer and community support provided by such a collaborative approach to homeschooling, children get multiple sources of confirmation for themselves as bilinguals. As we traveled around Japan visiting with other bilingual families, I was able to witness firsthand my children flourish socially and mentally through interaction with other bilinguals.
Bilingual children really are a special breed. They are developing more than just language skill. They are also learning the cultural rules of two or more cultures. I think Christie’s description of learning circles provides a format for bilingual children to blossom not only linguistically but also socially.