Monday, June 28, 2010

What is Bilingual Homeschooling?

© Can Stock Photo / Esermulis

More and more parents are turning to homeschooling as a way to nurture their child’s bilingualism and biliteracy. Why? Two reasons are at the top. First, because it is a way for them to pass on their family’s heritage and culture and instill pride in their children. And second, most parents also recognize that bilingualism is an important skill that creates many opportunities, both professionally and personally, throughout one’s life. But many families do not have dual language or immersion schools in their area, or the applicants are chosen through a lottery system.

Most bilingual families who decide to homeschool don’t have much guidance and must blindly figure out their way through the process. Lack of resources and support has made things difficult in the past, but things are changing dramatically these days as more and more products and services are hitting the market to support bilingual learners thanks to the growing number of dual language schools across the country. Sites such as are invaluable for the quick and easy, print-and-go materials that bilingual ed teachers use in their own classrooms. Amazon is also a good resource for education materials published in Spanish-speaking countries, though finding them takes a bit more dedication and careful use of keywords for searching. And Facebook groups can provide tips, expert advice, and resources for homeschoolers to use in their bilingual journey.

For parents wanting to provide a bilingual homeschool education for their children, it’s really important to understand what bilingual homeschooling is exactly. Technically, bilingual homeschoolers devote equal time and energy to studying in two languages. Emphasis is placed on fluency in both languages. The definition seems simple enough, yet I receive a steady stream of messages from parents who want to homeschool their children bilingually, but they aren’t really sure how to start or where to find materials. Even before finding the right materials, they should understand the definition of bilingual homeschooling and consider which approach they want to implement.

Below are some of the ways in which bilingual homeschoolers are teaching their children:

Complete Immersion (Spanish)

Complete Immersion families teach their children all subjects in the minority language (i.e., Spanish) only and rely on their child’s interaction with relatives, friends and other influences to teach them the majority language (English). Unfortunately, this is a very difficult situation to be in, because most homeschool families must meet State laws which require yearly testing…in English. In order for children to achieve academic success later on and qualify for college admission, they must be able to effectively communicate and learn in English, which may or may not be advanced depending on how much they actually learn from others. This approach also becomes more difficult as the child enters higher grades where very limited teaching resources are available. Very few families (if any) successfully homeschool K-12 in Spanish only.

Partial Immersion

The ideal method. Becoming more popular, this approach teaches a combination of subjects in both English and Spanish. Generally, the minority language (in this case, Spanish) is nurtured and developed in the early grades with introduction to English by 2nd grade (or vice versa). This approach is still difficult due to lack of Spanish-language resources for bilingual homeschoolers.

Language Learning

Probably the most common type of bilingual homeschooling, Language Learners are English-dominant and learn a second language (Spanish) generally at an early age for greatest success. The second language learning begins in Kindergarten or 1st grade and continues to be developed throughout the entire learning process.

Bicultural Learning

Different from bilingual learning, but takes a multicultural approach by emphasizing learning about foreign cultures and traditions for a more global learning experience. Homeschoolers may begin learning a foreign language (Spanish) in later years.

So in a perfect world, bilingual homeschoolers would fall under the Partial Immersion category, but the reality is that most land somewhere between Partial Immersion and Language Learning. Wherever your homeschooling journey takes you, the key is to remember that the intentions of your heart and the efforts you put into raising a bilingual child are what define you.

Further Reading….

• Bilingual Education in the Classroom :: Education Corner

The Reinvention of Bilingual Education in America's Schools :: Slate

• 6 Potential Brain Benefits Of Bilingual Education ::

Bilingual Education - Need for Bilingual Education, Benefits of Bilingualism and Theoretical Foundations of Bilingual Education :: State University

• 5 Amazing Benefits of a Bilingual Education :: Bilingual Kidspot

Con mucho cariño…

Did you enjoy this article? Are you thinking about homeschooling your child? Let me help! My book - The Latino Family's Guide to Homeschooling - covers everything you see here and more. 


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