In our family, we always knew we wanted to teach our children Spanish. We both come from bilingual backgrounds with bilingual families and experience living in South America. My husband learned Spanish when he was a young boy just by playing with his friends and I started learning English at school and private language lessons from the time I was 10 years old. Being bilingual is a huge part of our lives as we frequently mix languages, listen to music in 2 languages, and make a variety of Latin-American and American foods. It only makes sense that we would homeschool bilingually.
If you are reading this, you may be wondering how in the world does one homeschool bilingually? Or you may be wondering if it is even possible to teach a second language to your child when you don’t even speak it. The short answer is: bilingual homeschooling involves providing materials in 2 languages and being prepared to teach in two languages. OR it involves finding materials online or at the library (really, there are so many resources available!) and learning alongside your children.
How to Homeschool Bilingually
This is what bilingual homeschooling looks like for us. First things first, let’s define bilingual (dual language) homeschooling. Then we can talk about what it looks like and why we do it.
What Does it Mean to Homeschool Bilingually?
Bilingual Homeschooling is basically teaching each and every subject in 2 languages.
Our main focus is teaching the content in two languages, English and Spanish. This differs vastly form language learning in our home, because our children already know Spanish because they have heard it since they were in the womb. We approach Spanish in the same way we approach learning in English. Start from the beginning and teach it as naturally as possible.
In our bilingual homeschool, I include Spanish as a subject of study as well.
We study in English when learning phonics, reading, and writing. We also study Spanish in that way. I teach my kids how to read and write in Spanish at the same time they start becoming literate in English. I am currently working on several printables that I will be offering at my blog to help other families teach their children Spanish, even if they don’t speak it at all.
We study other subjects like Math, Geography, History, in English and Spanish also. We do calendar time, counting, memorization work, in two languages.
It is very normal at our table to speak two languages simultaneously. It is just how we roll. My kids like to use a lot of words and sentences related to food and play time.
Is there confusion?
No, it is a transferring of language skills. Our brains are so intrinsic that one language helps the other in the process. I am able to borrow from Spanish to English and back and forth. Language mixing happens and it is a beautiful part of being bilingual.
Why homeschool bilingually?
The gift of a language is the gift of a lifetime. It doesn’t have a return policy. ~Fabiola Woerner
We believe that teaching bilingually will equip them with tools for a lifetime.
They are learning language, grammar, reading, writing, as well as how to use the language in every area of their lives. Speaking two languages is something they will be able to keep forever, wherever they go, in whatever they are doing. Wherever life takes them, they will be equipped with two languages to communicate with others.
I believe learning a second language opens the doors to a whole new world.
It opens your eyes to seeing beyond the world and culture you are part of in your everyday life. It helps you see there are other places, cultures, foods, and people out there who speak an entirely different language than yours. It stretches your worldview. It allows you to be more accepting of other cultures and appreciate their differences without feeling like one culture is better than the other. You just appreciate them for what they are.
I believe learning a second language allows you to have access to more jobs.
Just by being bilingual, our children will be able to apply for more jobs or simply be able to write down that they are fluent in Spanish. Online translation devices work fairly well and are improving each day. But it is still very important to have fluent speakers in a language to communicate with others.
Language learning is so challenging and fun.
There can be ups and downs in the journey, but I promise it is worth it. In my own experience, I have been able to see when language learning has been difficult, but it has not stopped me from being able to learn English completely. Let’s just say those are little stones along the way that help you refocus on what needs improvement until it all clicks and makes sense.
Learning two grammar structures can lead to some really funny moments.
Seriously. Sometimes saying the wrong verb, article, or prepositional phrase can lead to a humorous sentence. When that happens, just laugh and try again. That is what I tell my kids. It happens. The only way to learn a language and to learn to use is by allowing yourself to make mistakes. In the end, you will be able to speak two languages.
I am so thankful for the opportunity to be able to homeschool our children, to be able to pass on the language. More than anything, I am thankful that I am able to teach them how to use the language in every area of their lives from a very young age even while living in the United States.
Fabiola is a bilingual Chilean living in the United States for more than 15 years. She loves teaching language and sharing with others how to adjust to American life at The Bilingual Homeschooler.
This article is part of the I Homeschool Because . . . series. Click here to read other articles in this series, download the free eBook, You Can Do It, Too: 25 homeschool families share their stories, and enter a giveaway from Kiwi Crate valued at more than $200.