Preschool: Aha Punanaleo o Waimea
Long before kids, I was browsing through an issue of Hawaii Magazine at Mr A's friend's house and came across an article about Aha Punanaleo, a Hawaiian language immersion school. At first I casually scanned the article, then I read it word-for-word, then I looked at the school's website. I dreamed about how great, albeit slightly unrealistic, it would be to send my kids to a school like that.
Fast forward five years, now I have two kids and Punanaleo has a school 3 minutes from my house! Fueled by other parents recommendations (ex "they create special people"), we went through the application process last year and were very impressed. However, we realized it would be too much to take on considering our other commitments (esp. Mr A's graduate school aka Biggest Time Suck Ever) and decided to keep Ikaika at home.
This year, I am full-steam-ahead, super excited. And I have more than one reason to get all jazzed because APL now has a K-2 and are planning on expanding an elementary grade level every year! The school is a satellite of Nawahiokalani in Keaau (near Hilo) and it's public (yay free education).
I believe in the benefits of bilingual education, so I was already sold on APL. But, knowing that there wasn't a true immersion elementary school in town, I had to accept the fact that they would eventually lose most of what they had learned in preschool and any benefit would be strictly intrinsic (maybe they would have an easier time picking up a language once they were older since they had already been through the process). Knowing that they can stay in that system, if thats what fits with our family, is just an added bonus.
Yes, between the weekly language classes and the mandatory volunteer hours, this is going to be a huge undertaking. But having the chance to give my children a culturally relevant education, something more than just ABCs and 123s, is literally a dream come true.