Bilingual Preschool at Home: A Peek Into Our Day

Bilingual Preschool at Home: A Peek Into Our Day

Inside: Bilingual preschool at home. 

This post was written as part of a Multicultural Kid Blogs Round-up for A Day in School Around the World. Welcome to our bilingual preschool at home in the U.S.!

We woke up to a cloudy, cool day. This is a rarity for North Carolina in August, much like children sleeping in would be. My kids did today– of course they did, on the day I choose for a look into our bilingual home! But normal has never been the name of our game. Not since the day I moved to the jungle and met a Peruvian guy who didn’t know English, and not since the day we decided to mesh two lives, two languages, two cultures.

My day starts at the blissful hour of 8:00, when I hear my son  Janio (3) waking up. I am not sure what this miracle is, but I’m thankful for the sleep. Pocho recently started working 2nd shift, and we are trying to get used to it and orient our schedules to go bed and get up later. I stayed up too late, as usual– cramming in blogging and planning for the school year.

Today is a slow day, mostly at home. Once I start back to work in two weeks this will all look different. While I teach part-time, the kids go to my mom’s house. She is the wonderful sort of grandmother who takes them outside for hours, knows all the birds, and reads poetry. They love going to her house. With Grandma, cousins, and friends, it’s English, and so this year we must stay on track with Spanish at home. Janio and I play Memory, with our new bug cards.

 

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One of my goals for being school-ready is that my kids can name and identify 10-20 insects, 10-20 birds, 10 trees, 10 plants, and 10 flowers in Spanish and English. This really has less to do with memorizing anything than with what I call “making friends.” In this case, it is noticing, loving, and knowing things in nature, and in our own backyard. I myself am missing a lot of nature terms in Spanish, and I’ve been making little Bingo games and game cards so we can learn the words together. Today I have to look up some of the bugs. Janio is new to the game, and we play as best we can.

Janio eats breakfast and plays quietly, trying not to wake Daddy and Mairi-Jean (1). I squeeze in some emails and planning. When everyone is up, after 9, we make breakfast. I let the kids help, and they drag chairs over to the counter. Coffee spills everywhere. Janio helps himself to an egg to crack, and it does– on the floor. I grab cleaner and spray the mess, and while I’m looking for  a rag, Mairi-Jean decides to join the fun. She slips on it and falls on her bottom. This sounds about right: lovely visions of children developing habits of helpfulness and work, and here we all are covered in raw egg.

I have been immersing myself in Charlotte Mason lately, and plan to do “preschool” a la Charlotte Mason this year. This may sound like an oxymoron if you are familiar with her work, because she strongly advocates delaying academic work until children are 6 years old. She does, however, have recommendations for young children and I feel the need to label so that I’m intentional in following them. I think preschool is a time of becoming: children developing into the curious, attentive, loved persons they’re born to be. I don’t think that’s best accomplished by pushing early academics or fancy crafts, either. It comes from having beautiful things to find and love. This means lots of nature, time, free play, poetry, music,beautiful books, and habits.

We clean up and eat, and end up outside for a while. It’s spitting rain a little, but the kids play anyway. I am in the middle of several books and optimistically bring one by Madeleine L’Engle, of which only a few pages get read of course. I know I need to be reading good books if I want to be a good teacher, here or at school, and I’m so enjoying being back at it.

 

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My biggest goal every day for preschool is time outside. It’s also the hardest one for me! Charlotte Mason taught that young children need many hours outdoors, time with real things. I think we tend to value books and lessons as the best thing to prepare children for school, but she says that’s actually not true.  Being outdoors is better, where we develop the art of observation, wonder, patience, and reverence for the world and life. This dependence on the actual senses paves the way for “book-learning” later, as well. Thankfully, today is cool and it’s nice to be out. It doesn’t always work, but I try to let them find things to do and play on their own. I did tell Janio we are looking for things of three, in an experiment for math later.

 

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The experiment actually does not go well, as he is more interested in throwing the rocks than anything else. I snapped a picture anyway. He usually loves numbers (especially 3, his age), and we’ll try again later. No rush; this could wait for Kindergarten! My idea is to spend the next years or two just becoming friends with numbers: telling stories, making patterns, arranging smallest to biggest. We might find combinations to develop number sense: look, these two shells are orange and that one is white, and these two shells have lines this way, and that one has lines that way.

(As a first-grade teacher, I found that parents often got caught up in what their kids could do, more than who they were. And from the schools, we have a whole system of burned-out elementary students, pushed into work too soon, into long days with little time outdoors. I’d like to see more emphasis on what children love, and less on what they can dissect.)

Back inside, and it’s after 12. I let the kids watch a DVD that teaches French while I make lunch. I enjoy the calm. (We are very good at banning tablets and phones… movies, not as much as I’d like.) Supposedly, I am staying a step ahead practicing myself on DuoLingo and Coffee Break French, but I am not keeping up. Something to work on this year. Since we already speak Spanish and English, I figured I should practice what I preach and start our first foreign language young.

Lunchtime with Daddy before he goes to work. It feels very South American to eat a big meal in the middle of the day, together. Rice, beans, fried eggs, and tomatoes and cucumbers in lime. Janio plays another round of memory with Pocho, while Mairi-Jean tries to climb onto the table and grab all the cards.

 

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After, I let the kids snuggle into bed with me. We use our “morning time basket,” though it’s not always used in the morning. This is where we do the bilingual essentials– the very best, beautiful books, poems, and songs. There are a lot of things I feel I do badly still (too many movies, never enough time outdoors), but I am so glad for all the music and poetry. Janio must know well over 3o poems by now, in Spanish and English. We don’t always say or sing them formally, it’s just part of bedtime, driving in the car, or putting on shoes.

 

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Books in Spanish are a lifesaver for me, too. Even though I can communicate what I need to, it’s not always the best and richest language. I love that when we read books, I am still learning alongside the kids. Mairi-Jean will finally listen a little longer, instead of just trying to eat the books or turn all the pages before we can finish the page.  You can find my Spanish recommendations here.

Naptime, and the end of our “school day.” The whole day is really school, of course– learning to be, having things to love– but I’ll end the detailed version here. Later we are off to Grandma’s and I teach a quick Spanish class. We eat at her house, and Mairi-Jean goes to bed since she never actually napped. Janio stays up and watches a show in Spanish, and then we read in Spanish before bedtime. Thank you for joining us!

 

La educación es un ambiente, una discplina, una vida. Charlotte Mason

 

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Bugs, Dirt, and Kids

Bugs, Dirt, and Kids

For Christmas, my mom’s gift was the book Lasagna Gardening, along with several promised deliveries of manure and mulch. Yes, I know– my nature and garden-loving mother is amazing. This week was another delivery of mulch, and we all got outside to work on getting our beds ready for springtime planting. We’ve been saving eggshells, coffee grinds, and all other fruit and vegetable scraps for compost. This is one of the layers for the garden, and also great for patting around our blueberry bushes and baby apple trees.

This is our first spring in a house of our own, and my first stab at actual gardening. We’ll see!

Here in NC in early March, not much is growing yet. Little signs are appearing and growing, though, and with them my resolve to take the kids outside more. I know Charlotte Mason encourages us to get outside in all weather, but I am a bit of a baby when it’s cold. I have started to think through preschool plans, and am reminded that loving and enjoying nature is at the center. One of my favorite Mason quotes (one I’ve referenced in another post) is this one:

“Let them once get touch with Nature, and a habit is formed which will be a source of delight through life.  We are all meant to be naturalists, each in his degree, and it is inexcusable to live in a world so full of the marvels of plant and animal life and to care for none of these things. ” (Vol. 1, p. 61)

let-them-once-get-in-touch-with-nature-and-a-habit-charlotte-mason (1)

Little ones needs tactile ways to learn about God, and what is more hands-on than admiring and exploring the plants and animals he has made? In this age of early academics and stressed-out seven-year-olds, I think we would be wise to spend more time with bugs and dirt. would be wise to spend more time with bugs and dirt.

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Learn Spanish with Kids: How to Start at Home

Learn Spanish with Kids: How to Start at Home

Inside: How to learn Spanish with kids, at home.

“Oh, I would love for my kids to learn Spanish. Your kids are so lucky!”

I hear this one often. Really, ask anyone if they’d like their kids to speak a second language and the answer will be YES. Of course we would. But then-

We barely remember high school Spanish. I took German. We can’t afford a tutor. I have no idea where to start. 

Don’t let excuses like this stop you from learning Spanish with your kids! The goals can be simple: exposure, fun, some new songs and new words. The earlier you can start, the better.

 

How to teach to teach your kids Spanish at home

 

Beginning early attunes the ear to new soundshard-wires the brain differently, and sets words and patterns into the long-term memory. It is one of those few things where the longer you wait, the more difficult it becomes to learn. Most students in the U.S. show up to their foreign language class in high school with zero practice– and what could be their most enjoyable, practical subject becomes something they are scared of and forget two years later. It’s never too late, either: learning a foreign language has amazing effects on adults as well.

Before I share my ideas, here are some don’ts.

  • DON’T be self-conscious. Learning a language for adults can feel awkward, but set a relaxed, fun tone anyway.
  • DON’T give up if you miss a week or two. Those songs and words stay in little minds longer than we think.
  • DON’T make perfection the goal. Do what you can. A little bit every day is great.

So, where to start? Here are some simple, easy ideas to teach your kids Spanish at home without spending money!

 

1. Learn Spanish with Kids Through Songs

 

If you only take one thing away from this post, it should be this one: learn and sing songs in Spanish. Songs are the BEST way for non-fluent parents and children to learn, and will keep sounds and phrases in the long-term memory longer than any App or game could. I have lists of songs on YouTube by theme, and recommend these CDs:

Diez Deditos/ Ten Little Fingers

De Colores and Other Latin American Folk Songs

You can know zero Spanish yourself, and still learn words, pronunciation, and phrases along with your kids. It’s much more important for children to know the sounds of the language than how to read it (Spanish phonetics are far easier than in English) and this is the very best way for them to develop an ear for the language. If you learn one song a month, you will have over 10 songs memorized in a year. Watch them together, and sing them in the car or as part of bedtime.

 

2. Find Spanish Resources Online

 

Use free apps and websites to learn and practice. DuoLingo App  is great for older students who can read and perfect for busy adults, in case you want to stay one step ahead. I’ve also collected awesome lists of free online Spanish resources for kids, free online Spanish resources for older students and adults.

 

How to teach kids Spanish at home

 

3. Go By Topics in Spanish

 

It can be overwhelming not knowing where to start. Choose a theme that interests you (food, colors, animals) and learn the words that go with it. It’s okay if you only do 3 or 4 topics a year! Learn some greetings, numbers 1-10, colors, and some foods. I have boards by topic on Pinterest so you can find links, activities, printables, and more by theme. Lingo Hut is a free site where you can search by topic, and at Quizlet you can make study lists and hear the pronunciation.

 

4. Learn Spanish with Your Kids Through Books.

 

Invest in some books or check them out from the library. If you took some high school Spanish but don’t feel comfortable producing language on your own, books are a good start. These two are my favorites:

Richard Scarry’s Best Word Book Ever / El mejor libro de palabras de Richard Scarry

¡Pío Peep!: Traditional Spanish Nursery Rhymes (Spanish Edition)

You could also check out my list 50 Authentic Books in Spanish for Kids:

 

And 50 Bilingual Books in Spanish for Kids:

 

Picture Books for Kids in Spanish and English

 

5. Set Specific Language time to Speak Spanish as a Family

 

Pick a certain time during the week (maybe dinnertime on Thursday nights), where the whole family is specifically trying to practice what they’re learning. It could mean saying please, pass me, and thank you in Spanish, and using the food terms you know. Don’t wait to use Spanish because you aren’t fluent! Use what you know.

 

6. Use Props to Learn Spanish with Kids

 

Kids learn best when using real objects. If you are learning fruit, practice with the real thing. Another way to use props is to get a new stuffed animal or puppet, and introduce it as a Spanish-speaking ________. Have conversation or puppet play this way. This can sometimes help with a resistant learner or shy student who would rather act out speaking Spanish than speaking it directly.

 

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7. Play Games in Spanish

 

I love games! Learning Spanish with young kids should be a pleasant, successful experience, not stressful. I like using picture cards so English isn’t even part of the game. Play Bingo, Go Fish, or Memory. I have some game sets by theme for sale here, or free download here. If you feel uncomfortable saying the words in Spanish, practice your pronunciation at Lingo Hut, or cue up the words at SpanishDict. For extra practice, call out the words and have your kids draw the pictures themselves.

 

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8. Teach Your Kids Spanish with My Free Lessons

 

So far I have created three units in a series I names Español in the Jungle (I set the characters and stories in the Amazon rainforest). I designed these for parents (homeschoolers or families supplementing school) who are not native speakers, but remember a bit of high school Spanish or are willing to do a little prep of their own. Remember, speaking a foreign language is good for us adults too!

I have fables told in simple Spanish and also have a Preschool Spanish Series with plenty of links and freebies.

 

 

9. Make a Notebook to Track New Words

 

Let your kids make notebooks where they store what they’re learning, if they’re old enough. Use a composition notebook or three-ring binder and record new words and activities so it’s all together. I also have a Blank Pictionary and Illustrated Words Book that you can purchase to create personalized illustrated dictionaries.

 

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10. Learn Spanish with Kids through Movies and Shows

 

Sarah from A Life with Subtitles explains how to set your Netflix to Spanish, and I have a list of shows in Spanish on Netflix for kids.

 

Netflix Shows in Spanish for Kids

 

I hope this helps! It takes some work to get a Spanish routine going in your family, but it’s worth it. Learn Spanish with your kids, and you’ll never regret your decision to get started!

Like it? Pin it!

 

learn Spanish with Kids

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