Inside: I’m welcoming Johana from Mama Tortuga! She is a lover of nature, culture, and languages, backyard gardener, raising multicultural and multilingual children. Supporting families in South Florida to have families that are conscious, multicultural and green. She is a proud Latina mom!
The decision of raising children in a culture, community, and language that is different from the one we grew up in, is one decision that many times is not taken in a totally conscious way. Sometimes life takes you there, or perhaps you can see it as a new challenge, one that you never thought of encountering, but one that we are completely committed to our very best!
After ten years of being a couple that didn’t want to have children, we planned to get pregnant and raise children. Both of us were very lost and appreciated any advice on how to be great parents, but since the beginning, we knew we wanted to raise children that speak Spanish and English and also learn other languages.
We always loved plants. We enjoyed time outdoors and taking care of our yard, but never had any vegetables. That quickly changed when we had the kids. Very quickly we wanted to show our children the process of planting a seed and getting a plant, one that you can enjoy and eat or that you can offer to the world like the flowers that call the bees and butterflies. Children love expending time outdoors and exploring. It came as a natural thing to do with our children and it reminded us of the many ways we wanted to parent. I noticed that I was also enjoying incorporating language learning and vocabulary while we care for our garden! It became an organic way of learning, a hands on activity that also offered many additional benefits!
Here are some of the things we do, to make our garden a language learning experience:
-Label everything. When they were younger, we used labels on everything, including the garden. We used the name of the plants, tools and places in the garden in Spanish.
–Use resources to learn from our insect friends in Spanish. For example we learned the cycle of the butterflies in Spanish and we observed it in our garden. You can do the same with worms or other species.
–Talk to your child only in Spanish when working in the garden. Making distinctions and associations with a good feeling and a place, can really motivate a child to learn.
–Create a Fairy garden with your child and incorporate little figures. Children enjoy the imaginary play and games that a fairy garden can offer. My children also always included their favorite characters to their little gardens. I have instructions in my website if you want to learn more!
–Make a garden tipi to grow sunflowers and make it a reading nook for favorite books in Spanish. See instructions on how to make your own tipi on our site.
–Grow things that you can prepare and enjoy together! Cooking your own produce, is not just healthy but can give a child a sense of understanding on where food comes from and also pride of cultivating it. You can incorporate cultural learning to this and follow instructions for recipes in Spanish. We loved making fruit salads with fruits available in the season or in our community. Besides, what better way to learn the names of all the fruits in Spanish?
My children are older now and we are still very committed to our language-learning journey as well as to our garden. The garden has helped us to see how perseverance in our language learning and teaching can pay off, and in a parallel, how the “garden” of teaching our children languages needs care and tending daily!
Till this day we enjoy working in our family garden together, I have learned a lot more about the name of the plants, both in Spanish and English, and we will be going to our first Herbal Conference this month. We hope you find your own grove in your family language experience, in incorporating teachable moments to your children and to never give up! Yes, it can be challenging at times but it can also give you a lot of great moments together and great pride in the future.