Back-to-school season has been deemed as one of the most
stressful times for parents. I would say it’s on par with the summer months where we have to quilt a mix of summer camps, vacations, and “quality time” at home with our brood. This summer was emotional for us as we left behind Zoé’s amazing preschool and embarked on our journey through the US public school system. Beyond the real concerns one might have about the state of our current K-12 system, this posed a real existential crisis for our family because the preschool we left behind was bilingual (English/Spanish) and her Kindergarten classroom would now be English-only.
Three months ago, I was nervously awaiting the lottery results for our local dual-language programs and I am glad that luck is not something I’ve ever counted on because Z didn’t get into any of them. Even though I knew the odds were against us, I still felt devastated and angry. It felt like everything we had worked so hard on was now under threat because in my district and really, the whole country, second-language learning has been devalued. I live in an area that’s 69% Latinx, most of which speak Spanish. We also have large numbers of Hatian Creole and Portuguese speakers. How is it that we have such scant options for dual-language programs? This is not a rhetorical question; we will be exploring US dual-language education in an upcoming series.
There is still a chance she can test into the program in 1st grade but, for now, I will have to maintain her Spanish as an extracurricular. Right now, Z is a very balanced bilingual so my plan is to maintain what she already knows and slowly introduce more skills that run parallel to what’s she’s learning in school.
- I’ve determined that I need to monitor her Spanish language exposure on a weekly basis, ideally I want about 25 hours of exposure a week. This means reading in Spanish every day, continuing to speak Spanish at home, and finding activities that incorporate the language. The latter is by far the hardest one to accomplish with our busy work schedule (hubby and I both work full time) and I am still not sure how we will do it but it’s the only way.
- This summer I enrolled Z in a weekly Spanish class. It’s an hour a week where she will be learning literacy and grammar in a structured enviroment. I wanted to get the habit started prior to the begining of the school year to build it in to her week before the Kinder transition begins. So far it has been succesful, she’s reading and writing as well as developing an understanding that this is a part of her life. In the fall, we will enroll her in art and theater classes in Spanish. We are so lucky to live in an area where these things are easily accesible but limiting our extracurriculars to Spanish means that we have to give up soccer, which she enjoyed, because it just demands too much time (two nights a week plus Saturday games) and I don’t want to overschedule our family.
” …there will be a spike in English after a few months in the new monolingual curriculum… “
- After speaking to some parents that have gone through a similar transition with the minority language, I learned that there will be a spike in English after a few months in the new monolingual curriculum. I am trying to get prepared for this by talking with her homeroom teacher about what we’re doing at home in the hopes that she can share her curriculum so I can model it in Spanish. One of my main concerns is that Z will not be developing her academic language in Spanish so subjects like science and social studies will have to be addressed in español at home. I will also try to get a Spanish club going in the school, but that’s the subject of a future post, so stay tuned.
“The plan” is still very much in the theoretical phase and some parts may blow up in our face. I wonder how the Kinder transition will impact Z’s interest in Spanish and how much time we’ll really have to focus on the language. I will continue to share our progress in the blog and you know we are working on a podcast about this. 😉
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