BY LIBBY PETERSON
Many parents have found that choosing the right education for their children can be exasperating. For Daniel and Sierra Roussos, who both grew up studying foreign languages, their search for a multilingual preschool for their young son came to naught in Bloomington. The solution? They opened their own—in their living room.
Today, four years later, 16 youngsters fill the Bryan Park Preschool for Global Children—Bloomington’s only multilingual-immersion school—in the Roussos home on East Sheridan Drive.
With the freedom to create their own educational environment, Daniel and Sierra say they strive to support children’s growth as whole people, both physically and intellectually. They set up play-based activities, serve organic food, and practice the MindUP program that teaches children to manage their emotions. And they teach in French and Spanish.
Although the preschoolers don’t speak solely in French or Spanish, the school offers a first exposure to these languages and their cultures. “One teacher will come by who speaks Spanish, and when children want more food, they’ll say, ‘Mas, por favor,’ and a French teacher will come by, and they’ll say, ‘Encore, s’il te plait,’” Sierra says.
According to the couple, numerous studies have shown that children with multilingual educations have better problem-solving and critical-thinking skills, score higher on standardized tests, and tend to be more open-minded and empathetic than single-language learners.
Daniel says adults who know about these benefits need to provide early language opportunities to their children. “People don’t understand that we have one chance with these kids. Give it to them now.”
A multilingual preschool is especially important in a state like Indiana, Sierra says, where people generally look alike and talk the same way. “It’s really easy to grow up in Indiana and just have no idea that there’s anything else out there. People have different traditions and cultures, and we need to be respectful of that.”
The preschool will move into a larger space this fall, which will allow about 30 more children to attend, and a kindergarten will be added next year. “We’ve had some of these kids since they were just a few months old,” Daniel says. “We want to see them grow.”