Friday, October 1, 2021

Bilingual Homeschool for the Parent Who Doesn’t Speak Spanish

The following is a guest post by homeschool mom, Rachel, from Where'd You Learn That.

Can you attempt Spanish-English bilingual homeschool, even when you don’t *really* speak Spanish?

Sure you can! For the exact same reason that homeschool parents don’t need degrees in chemistry or physics so that their kids can study high school-level science.

You don’t need to be an expert in everything that your child learns during their homeschool journey. You do need to be willing to learn alongside your child, and to seek out resources and tools for the learning journey that you are embarking on.

Let me share what I’ve learned since beginning bilingual homeschool as a mom who doesn’t *really* speak Spanish...or didn’t until this journey started!

Where I Started

My family is fairly typical of those you’ll find among the bilingual parenting community. My husband has Mexican heritage and grew up speaking Spanish in his family, and I’m an English speaker. I did take a couple college classes in Spanish many years ago, is the story of many who studied a language but never needed to use it to communicate...I never spoke it, up until after we had children.

Raising Spanish-speaking kids was important to my husband, so it became important to me. We started out with the typical OPOL method, “One Parent One Language.” But...where we live, we have zero access to a local Spanish-speaking community, and I’m the primary caregiver, while my husband works outside the home. We quickly realized that if the only Spanish exposure our kids got was through conversation with him, it wouldn’t be enough for them to build really solid Spanish language skills. I needed to get involved in the process. Spanish needed to become a natural part of our homeschool preschool routine. I needed to get outside my own language comfort zone and challenge myself in order to give my children the gift of bilingualism.

So, I set my mind to the task of bilingual homeschooling, even though I was far from able to hold a conversation in Spanish. If you’re in a similar place, how can you get started?

1. Build Your Library

I started by collecting any Spanish picture book I could get my hands on. Translated or authentic, it didn’t really matter when I was starting from nothing. What mattered was that even though my spoken Spanish was slow, broken, and awkward, my background of taking Spanish classes had equipped me with the ability to pronounce Spanish words and read them aloud. 

I don’t understand every word, or the grammatical order of the sentences in the endless picture books I read to my young children, but illustrations, a storyline, and young, eager listeners provide the perfect foundation for understanding. Make it a goal to learn how to read Spanish aloud, and you’ll quickly grow more and more comfortable with the vocabulary and rhythm of the language.

2. Expand Your Music Collection

I can sing dozens of songs off by heart—all the songs I heard throughout my childhood. Every one of them is in English. When exploring bilingual homeschool, I needed to enter the unknown world of Spanish music for children. I asked my husband about his favorite artists. I talked to other parents raising Spanish-speaking kids and got recommendations of artists creating child-friendly music in Spanish. I made it a habit to play Spanish music during times of work and play throughout our day.

When the Spanish music plays, I don’t turn my mind off. I listen. Over time, with repeated hearings, I try to sing along. I stumble over the fast pace of the words at first, but with time, I get better. As time has passed, I begin to be able to sing some of these songs even without the music in the background. Today, my sons can be heard singing in Spanish as they play together. Bilingualism isn’t built in a day, but in a million tiny decisions throughout the years.

3. Don’t Try to DIY Everything

Although my children are young, I feel very comfortable in the world of homeschool and education. I was homeschooled from preschool through graduation. I’ve been a classroom teacher, a private tutor, and a curriculum writer in the days before parenthood. If I were homeschooling in English only, I’d be just the type to create custom, DIY curriculum, to go off-script, to lead spontaneous activities and unit studies.

But because I’m homeschooling bilingually in a language I’m not yet confident in...I need a script right now. I have purposefully purchased workbooks and learning guides that are published in Spanish so that I have a script to follow. I use Spanish-language videos to teach concepts to my children, and use the same videos to teach new vocabulary to myself. I don’t have all the vocabulary words that a native-speaking teacher would have. I know myself. If I’m not prepared, if I don’t have some sort of script to give me the basic words, I’m going to freeze, and all the vocabulary I do have will disappear from my brain. I’ll revert back to what’s easier for me: leading any activity in English. Curriculums that are already in Spanish help make bilingual homeschool possible for me.

Many families choose to incorporate online or in-person classes taught by native speakers. You are not “betraying” any homeschool ideals when you hire a teacher to help strengthen the Spanish component of your homeschool. There are no unwritten rules that good homeschool moms do everything on their own. I know it feels like that’s a rule...but trust me, it isn’t.

4. Be Willing to Feel Dumb

I want to applaud everyone out there who’s on the journey of learning a second or third language as an adult. It’s tough. You feel like an intelligent, capable human being when speaking your native language, but in your second language, you stumble. You speak slower. You make errors that are obvious to a 1st grader. You get frustrated with your clumsy tongue. Sometimes it’s just easier to be quiet than to continue trying to speak.

When you’re using your second language to homeschool your kids, there will be times when your native-speaking kids know the right Spanish words to use before you do. Times when they correct you and remind you. That means you’re on the right track. You’re giving your children the gift of language acquisition at an early age. This is something that’s going to benefit them for a lifetime, and it’s okay if there are times when it’s a little hard on your own self-esteem. Press on!

5. Find and Follow Experts Who are Further Along on Their Journey

I have young children. We’re rather new to the journey of bilingual homeschool, but I am already seeing fruit from the intentional decision to make learning in Spanish a regular part of our lives. 

So many years lie ahead of us. The subjects we study will get more complex. I may not know where to find Spanish-language books, videos, curriculum, and resources for science, history, and beyond!

That’s okay! It may feel like you’re walking this path of bilingual homeschool alone, but you’re never truly alone. Search out people who are further along on the journey. There are amazing homeschool parents out there sharing resources on their blogs, Instagram accounts, and YouTube channels. There are parents and educators creating new Spanish curriculum to fill in the gaps that they have noticed along the way. 

I seek out such people. I follow them. I save their book recommendations and their posts in lists I’m making for future years. I gain new ideas and am encouraged that it is possible to build a thriving bilingual homeschool. Follow people that keep you looking ahead to the adventures that await you. You CAN do this!

Photo credit:(c) Can Stock Photo / pressmaster 



Rachel is a 2nd generation homeschool and a mom of two. She shares her bilingual homeschool journey on her Youtube channel, Seven in All. Rachel and her husband, a Spanish teacher, work together to create printable resources for bilingual homeschoolers on their website.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...