Homeschooling in Spanish and English
If you are raising bilingual kids, chances are, you are doing some type of homeschooling. Whether your kids go to an English speaking school and are homeschooling in Spanish or you are full time bilingual homeschoolers, there are a range of resources to help you do it successfully. Find below, a bilingual homeschooling plan from a family who homeschool in Spanish and English.
I Should Have Been Bilingual
The reason I have such a passion for raising bilingual kids is because I should have been one, but I wasn’t. I’m 4th-generation Mexican-American. Spanish was my mom’s first language, but she lost it when she started going to school. She re-learned in High School, but was never really comfortable speaking it, so she didn’t teach us.
I started studying Spanish as soon as I could, which in my school at the time was 8th grade. And I’ve never really stopped. I planned on marrying a Latino, preferably a native Spanish-speaking one, but I fell in love with a German.
What was I to do? We married, started a family, and I began the journey of speaking to my children in Spanish.
Why We Homeschool
This journey has led us to homeschool our kids. There are various benefits to homeschooling such as being in control of their education, but also others like having museums to yourself on a Tuesday afternoon in January. My husband works a non-traditional schedule, and I love how flexible we are to take days off when he is off. However, the real impetus for us is Spanish.
I am the only person who regularly speaks Spanish to my children, and I knew if I put my son in public school that English would take over as it had with my mom. There were no dual-language programs in the small town we lived in at the time, so that was not an option. I had worked too hard to impart Spanish to him for the past five years to just throw in the towel. So, we decided to homeschool.
How We Homeschool in Spanish and English
The beginning was rough, I won’t lie. I naively figured I’d simply present all material in both languages. This obviously created twice the work for both me and the kids, and most of those early days ended with all of us in tears. I began researching best practices on dual language learning, and scouring the internet to find resources in Spanish.
We’re three years in now, and through a lot of trial and error I feel like we’ve found a good rhythm that incorporates both languages and works for everyone involved. A huge part of this journey has been accepting my own limitations.
How much time and effort did I realistically have each week to learn new vocabulary? After all, homeschooling in my minority language requires I learn new words every week.
Were there any subjects that could be done exclusively in Spanish? Any subjects that I should relegate to only English?
This has been our best homeschool year yet, and here’s where we’ve landed:
This is a subject that has proven too difficult for me to maintain in Spanish. There are just too many names, dates, and obscure vocabulary for me to keep up with in my minority language. So we read all our history books in English.
Science has been surprisingly easy to study bilingually. This year we are focused on Nature Study and Nature Journaling. This method teaches science based on your children’s observations and research of their natural environment which culminates in their keeping a Nature Journal. This means I can curate books on our current topic in both Spanish and English, and we research and journal in both languages.
We do Math exclusively in Spanish. The vocabulary is contained and repetitive, and I can work ahead to learn new-to-me vocab. We use a Montessori based curriculum that’s written in English, but since lessons are presented with manipulates, not worksheets, I can present the material in Spanish. At first I worried my kids might lack English math vocabulary if we only studied the subject in Spanish, but I quickly realized that’s not the case. English is by far their stronger language, and they can talk math concepts in our majority language just fine.
This is another subject we do exclusively in Spanish. It doesn’t matter what language you use when talking about forming letters, and I found wonderful workbooks in Spanish by Handwriting Without Tears which makes this subject easy for me to teach.
Reading is a big deal. All the research I read convinced me that children do not get confused when learning to read in different languages, and that teaching phonics in both languages simultaneously is ideal. So that’s what I did. However, my first son did not obey the statistics.
He grew increasingly frustrated with Spanish phonics to the point where I decided we needed to stop. We studied only English phonics until he grew comfortable “decoding” – blending letter sounds into words – in English. It only took about five months, and at that point I added the Spanish phonics back in. This time there was no push back, and now he reads beautifully in both languages. I’m following this same delayed-simultaneous approach with my daughter. I use Libro Inicial de Nacho to teach Spanish phonics, and we read a whole lot of wonderful literature in both languages.
Morning Time: The Glue That Keeps It All Together
If you’re thinking about homeschooling in two languages but this seems like a lot to coordinate, I’ll let you in on a little secret. It’s called Morning Time.
Morning Time is simply a time to come together to focus on beauty, goodness, and learning together as a family. The beauty of Morning Time for the bilingual homeschool is that it is easy to create a culture around this ritual. Our Morning Time culture involves Spanish. Aside from the books I read in English, Morning Time is a sacred space where I speak only Spanish. My kids know this, so there is no push back.
We begin our day lighting a candle and speaking out what we are grateful for. We look at the calendar, sing songs, and review memory work. Then we read good books. Much of our History, Science, Spanish Literature and English Literature reading happens here. We end our Morning Time with two pages in our handwriting workbooks, and you know what? The only thing we have left to do is math and phonics!
We generally finish before lunch, which leaves our afternoons free for Nature Walks, projects, or just enjoying childhood.
You can find more information on our morning time routine here.
If You Are Raising Bilingual Kids, You Are Homeschooling Too
The truth is, if you are raising bilingual kids you are homeschooling too. Maybe not full-time, but you think about things like how to grow a child’s minority language vocabulary. How to ensure they learn to read the minority language. How to include their minority language in a trip to the zoo or a museum.
I’d encourage you to look at this concept of Morning Time and see if that might be an answer to some of these questions. The name is miss-leading, because a family can gather together at any time of day to learn together. The key is to keep it consistent, fun, and centered on your target language and learning goals. Here are some ideas for implementing this idea in your home at other times of day.
- You might begin using a 10-minute window after your kids get home from school to gather together over a snack. While they eat, you read aloud from a poetry book in your minority language. If Spanish is your minority language, Poesía Alada is a great place to start.
- Get the kids ready for bed 20 minutes earlier than usual and then pull out a captivating chapter book to read aloud as a family. Harry Potter is available in 60 languages!
- Start a tradition of gathering together on a weekend morning to write a letter to a loved one in your minority language. This allows you to focus on writing and punctuation in your minority language.
- Keep one child up after bedtime to spend a few minutes working on reading in your minority language. Even 15 minutes a couple times a week will produce great results.
There are as many ways to implement a Morning Time as there are families! If you are a Spanish-speaking family interested in implementing a more in-depth Morning Time in your home, you can find easy-to-follow Spanish Morning Time Plans here.
Keep It Simple, and Keep it Up!
Be encouraged that it is possible to teach your minority language at home whether you choose to go all in and homeschool in Spanish full-time, or whether you carve our small pockets of time to learn together as a family.
The work is hard, but worth it!
Author: Lauren Stengele is a non-native Spanish speaker, language teacher, and bilingual homeschooling mom. She is passionate about creating homeschooling resources for bilingual families. She is always up for a conversation on bilingual homeschooling! You can follow Lauren on her website, Facebook and Instagram.