Learning Italian is challenging for me. I have complained about that fact in previous posts, though. Kids learn foreign languages faster than adults. Vicenza Elementary School has a great program that families with elementary-aged kiddos will want to know about. Italian language immersion classrooms are available to students in first through fourth grade.
I enrolled my son in one of the immersion classrooms. Our family has a great experience with this program. My son, while not fluent, has picked up a good deal of Italian. He explains things about Italian culture that no one else in the family knows. Throughout the year, the children have done performances in Italian (and English, too!) The kids had an exchange day with an Italian school and have explored Italian castles on field trips. My son’s teacher is awesome, as well. I definitely would explore this option if you have children in the first through fourth grade.
Grades 1 to 4 each have a one language immersion classroom. In these classrooms, the teachers are fluent in Italian and speak Italian and English throughout the day. This program is for children that have not been exposed to a foreign language at home or elsewhere. Children must apply for the Italian Immersion Classroom and then school counselors select students using a variety of criteria. Make your request as early as possible, because the classes will only hold so many students.
To learn more about the Italian Immersion Classroom, the Vicenza Elementary School Handbook has information on the program. You can contact the school at DSN 634-7710 or from the United States at 011-39-0444-71-7710.
In the United States, we have preschool for our 3 to 5-year-old children. In Italy, preschool is called asilo. Some Americans here in Italy choose to send their young children to these asilo.
An asilo may also be called scuola materna. Don’t mistake these schools as child care centers, an asilo is a school. The school year runs September through June. July and August are vacation months.
The asilo may be a public school or a operated by the local Catholic parish. If the school is public, there is usually no charge to attend. A private asilo will likely charge a monthly fee to attend.
Some benefits to attending a local asilo over the preschool programs on post:
- Language learning. Unless you are already a bi-lingual family, there is probably not a more effective way to introduce your child to a second language. Kids younger than five soak up language like sponges, take advantage of that fact.
- Price. Depending on your sponsors rank, the preschool on post is possibly costly. Another mother shared that she only paid $40 per month for her child to attend a half-day asilo program.
- Location. Military families live all over the Vicenza area and in many of the surrounding villages. Getting to post through traffic and then finding a place to park is challenging some days. If you can walk a few blocks with your child to school, it makes the trip easier!
Some challenges to attending a local asilo:
- As valuable as language learning is to your child, it is hard communicating with staff that do not speak English. Sometimes a few of the staff do speak English, but don’t count on it. Start practicing your Italian basics, so you can get the general idea of what teachers tell you. One suggestion for parents who choose the asilo: write notes and use Google translate. Yes, I know the grammar is not correct and that it may sound funny to the staff. In general, staff will figure out what you mean.
- Lack of a parent peer group. You will often be the only American family in the asilo. Because of the language and cultural differences, it is easy to feel left out. It is hard to volunteer in the classroom and chat with the other parents when you don’t speak the same language. Another reason to learn Italian…
Here is a google map of asila schools around Vicenza: