Spanish in a multi-age family home

That was me 4.5 years ago. I was feeling completely intimidated by the fact that I had a big goal in mind, but no one would help me reach it. Don’t get me wrong, I had 100% my husband’s support and encouragement, but him being busy at work, was not going to be able to provide a lot of help; other than keeping me motivated to keep going. For that, I am very thankful. However, it was me saying “YES, let’s bring the kids back home”, “YES, I will home educate them” “YES, I will teach them Spanish”…yet, inside I was like “What am I getting myself into?!

Well, my friend, I stopped giving the idea so much thought and decided to simply say “YES” and trust that we would figure it out along the way.

If you are like me, whether you are an English speaker who learned the Spanish language or were born in a Spanish speaking country or you want your family to start learning the language together, you have a desire for your kids to learn the language and are willing to put some effort into the journey ahead of you.

But now that you have decided to do it, one more concern comes up to mind “How do I teach to all my kids at the same time?!”…You may have 2, 3, 4 or even more kiddos to care for and while you have all the intentions, taking on a second language with many kids to care for, might sound like mission-impossible. But mama, let me tell you something:

YOU ARE CAPABLE-YOU ARE EQUIPPED

Putting things into perspective, you already care for all of them, you already teach them all the things on the daily, you already decide the way your days will look like based on their passions and interests. Don’t let fear get in the way.

Here are three things you need to do or have to succeed:

  1. Guidelines
  2. Practical ideas
  3. Spirit (lots of it!!)

Guidelines:

Information and advice grounded on research and real-world
experience should serve as the foundation for your bilingual journey. The better informed you
are, the better equipped you’ll be to create an effective plan for your particular set of
circumstances.
Most books on raising bilingual children naturally focus on offering guidelines.

Practical Ideas:
Second, you need practical ideas. Knowledge of general guidelines is vital, but they can’t
really be implemented successfully without concrete ideas that you can draw on daily to
advance your child’s language development. These ideas involve not only strategies for
nurturing language ability, they include awareness of suitable resources for supporting your
minority language.

Spirit:

Think about it. You can be the most knowledgeable person in the world when it comes to
guidelines and practical ideas, but if you don’t possess sufficient spirit to carry them out, to
see them through, you simply can’t succeed to the degree you hope.
The reason spirit is so enormously important is because raising a bilingual child is a large,
long-term effort (in many cases, 18 years, from birth to college!) which demands daily
attention and action. In the face of frustrations involving the child’s language development,
and the other challenges of life that will naturally occur throughout this time, you must
continue to step forward, day after day, with your greater goal in mind.

These three -super helpful- ideas were found in an amazing little resource called “Instant Inspiration for parents raising Bilingual kids” by Adam Beck, the author of one of my favorite books “Maximize your Child’s Bilingual Ability”

Now that we got those out of the way, lets go onto the practical lists of things you can do to teach your kiddos Spanish in a multi-age family home

AGES 2-5:

  1. Books, books and more books. Read to them when possible, have older siblings do the same.The goal is at least one book per day.
  2. Call things for him/her in Spanish. Their bottles, their toys, parts of the house, etc.
  3. Flashcards are always a good idea! Alphabet, numbers, etc.
  4. Have him watch shows every now and then in Spanish. But be make sure they are slow, and life-giving programs…It’s crazy the stuff you can find out there for little kids (just awful)
  5. Songs, songs and more songs. (Los Pollitos Radio on Pandora has beautiful classics!)
  6. Get in the habit of greeting them and saying goodbye in Spanish as well as saying “please and thank you”.

AGES 6-9:

  1. Books, books and more books. Read to them daily but also get board books or level 1 readers so they can start to practice their reading skills.
  2. Songs, songs and more songs!
  3. Translate their daily rhythm or schedule in and place it in a visible place
  4. At this point, you can find some helpful educational apps for them to practice vocabulary. Duolingo is free and excellent, also, Rockalingua Spanish offer several free resources as well.
  5. Board games are a very fun way to practice a target language. Some of our favorites are Bingo, headbands, guess who, Candyland, sorry, and monopoly. Pro tip: You can find the Spanish version of most of these games online but if you have a favorite, you can always translate it. It will require a little bit more prepping time upfront but lots of fun in the long run!
  6. Ask them easy questions daily in Spanish. For example: “How are you?, Do you like this?, Would you like a drink?, etc.”

AGES 10-13

If your child is already around this age group, he can start doing the same things as the little ones but the nice thing is that they will outgrow those activities super fast, giving way for you to start working on more elaborated things like grammar, spelling, reading and speaking. But don’t rush on this, your child will show signs of being able to take on more and that is the clue you should look for.

  1. At this point you might want to invest in a program for them whether it is a curriculum or an online program like Rosetta Stone.
  2. Books! The goal is to read to them at least one book per day plus provide a mix between readers level 1 and 2.
  3. Keep the songs going, but at this point you can have them translate parts of their favorite songs, memorize them, etc. Seek songs that are enjoyable for their age.
  4. Have them write sentences, questions, and easy stories at least twice per week.

As you can see, most of the activities are very similar per age group, but you just add a little bit of depth and/or complexity to older siblings or make it easier for the little ones.

The beauty of learning a second language as a family is that everyone can participate as much or as little as possible.

Here are some things that we do together to practice Spanish:

  • Books are essential and that is why everyday, I designate a child to pick out a book of their level for me to read to everyone out-loud. No matter the level everyone will get something out of that time together.
  • Board games are fun because everyone or more than one child can be included and you simply just forget you are practicing Spanish. I try to do at least board or card game twice per week.
  • We have “Spanish lunchtime” We all take turns asking a question in Spanish and the rest answers in Spanish” for my little guy, I just ask him what does he want to ask and then I help him translate it into Spanish and then he repeats every word after me.
  • My son (middle child who is 9 years old) practices Duolingo daily and my 11 year old girl does Rosetta Stone daily as well.
  • Lastly, unit studies are an excellent way to practice the target language as a family as they typically include activities for different age groups and they are all focused around one topic.

WHERE TO FIND SOME OF THE RESOURCES MENTIONED

  • Lots of books in Spanish. I’m usually adding new books per age group to my Amazon store front. Feel free to follow me if you’d like here
  • Duolingo Spanish
  • Rosetta Stone Spanish
  • Songs via Pandora. Our favorite playlist here
  • Unit studies: We LOVE unit studies and you can find them in the shops of my amazing friends and in my little shop!

Remember parents, guidelines, practical ideas and LOTS of Spirit. That is the key to successfully start teaching a second language. No one is more equipped than you to design the perfect plan for your kiddos.

I would recommend dedicating a couple hours to sit down with your spouse or on your own and put some thoughts into paper, design a simple doable plan and jump in!!

Was this helpful? Did I spark some ideas or questions in you?- I would love to hear your opinions. Also if you are reading my blog posts, do you mind leaving a comment in them? I am quickly finding out readers are more enticed to read after seeing a review from someone else first 🙂

Thanks in advance and happy learning!

Saludos,

Dayana

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