Is dual language learning something that your family is interested in? Here’s how to make it work.
Learning a second language has become popular in these recent years. There are over 350 two-way immersion programs in 30 states of the United States public school system which includes Arabic, French, Hawaiian, Japanese, Korean, Mandarin, Portuguese or Spanish, and more.
If bilingual education is so beneficial, how about for homeschoolers? How can we add and incorporate a second language when we are teaching our children at home?
In this blog post, I’m going to share 5 important steps to make plans for dual language learning as a homeschooling family.
I’m a homeschooling mom of five who is currently teaching my children Cantonese, Mandarin, and English at home. From my experience, being a homeschooling family is the best way to immerse your child in different languages and cultures by living it every day as a family. There is less pressure and comparison from peers, and also less limitation of other policies and curriculum from school.
If you are interested in adding a second language to your home, here are five important steps:
Step 1: The Big Why & Setting Realistic Goals
Learning and acquiring a new language is a lifelong journey. It’s just like before we decide to homeschool our children, we must know our big why.
For example, ask yourself:
- Why will knowing another language will benefit our children & our family?
- How will our homeschooling journey look like with or without it?
- Is it something valuable for our children’s education?
- For what reasons do you want to add a new language in your homeschooling?
After you make the decision, it’s also important to set some realistic goals based on your current situation, background, and your child’s interest.
You can ask yourself the following questions:
- Do any of you (or your spouse or relatives) know other languages or come from another country?
- What would you like to see your children be able to do in the future with the target language? (Speak fluently only or able to read and write?)
- Are you going to learn/ teach the target language yourself? Or will you outsource from somewhere else?
In my case, since I’m a native Cantonese speaker, and we live in the United States now English is my children’s mother tongue, and I speak and teach Cantonese every day. But for Mandarin, it’s an add-on language, which is not as important as learning Cantonese. That’s how I prioritize and balance learning different languages.
Step 2: Finding Resources
Once you decide which language you will add, it’s time to do some research and find different resources to support your decision.
I would suggest the following resources to start with:
- Visual aids (e.g. books, pictures, photos, flashcards, etc.)
- Music (e.g children’s songs, instrumental music of that country, musicals, etc.)
- Media (e.g. tv shows, movies, documentaries, story-telling, etc.)
- Audio books
- Local community events and resources
- Access to native speakers
Step 3: Creating the Environment at Home
As you are finding and adding language learning resources to your homeschooling, it’s also important to create a target language learning environment at home, especially when you are not living in the area with enough exposure to the target language. How we do it in our home may be different than what works for your family, but chances are there are many of the same components.
These are the five things you can easily add to create the environment at home:
- Home library
- Place to Play
- Routine & habit
- Role models
Step 4: Making Learning Language Fun & Consistent
Honestly, learning a new language can be difficult and stressful, especially when you don’t have enough exposure and purpose for your children to use it daily. So, making the whole learning experience fun, positive, and consistent is vital in learning a target language.
As a homeschooling mom of four, I often make decisions on how to guide my children to learn, here are some examples:
- Watching a story-telling YouTube video in Chinese while pausing and having discussions with my children
- Organizing playdates and inviting families that speak Chinese or are learning Chinese
- Playing Chinese children’s songs as a background during free play
- Learning more about the Chinese culture through celebrating festivals, making cultural food with my children, reading English books about it
- Planning to have at least one cultural & family-oriented activity each month
Step 5: Learning the Language with Your Child
Lastly, the most important key to success is to learn the target language with your children. It shouldn’t be strange for homeschooling parents, after all, we are always learning something new with our children, right?
One of the reasons for learning languages is to give a real-life purpose to your children to speak the language and to get to know the culture even at home. That way they feel encouragement, excitement, and enjoyment while learning it as a family, but not alone.
From my experience, my children don’t like it as much when I just play a Chinese cartoon on the tv without watching it with them. My children are more likely to speak and enjoy that moment while I am doing it with them. It’s a wonderful opportunity for them to get to know my culture even more, and also open their eyes and hearts.
In conclusion, teaching a new language in a homeschooling setting is the best. You can travel the world to learn the languages and culture without leaving your home. You have the freedom to create the environment and experience unique and fun activities as a family. Your children will benefit academically, emotionally, socially, and more.
If you are serious about adding a second language to your homeschool, check out this series on how to write a year-long bilingual homeschooling plan with a free workbook to get you started. You can also contact me through my blog and social media if you have any questions as well. Happy bilingual homeschooling!