We’re two months into our elementary school experience, and I underestimated how much work it would be. Kindergarten is nothing like I remember.
Homework has been the biggest shock to our system, but we’re getting in a groove. All of Zoé’s homework is in English so, she does some in her aftercare program and the rest with her dad. Part of her weekly homework includes a book report, and we’re doing all Spanish language books because reading comprehension works in any language. I feel comfortable doing this because at the beginning of the school year, I met with Z’s homeroom teacher to talk about our bilingual home project, and she was very supportive about doing some of the curricula in Spanish at home.
Part of our weekly routine involves going to the public library to pick out information books about areas of interest and subjects covered in class. It has been a great way to supplement her conceptual vocabulary and spark discussions that go beyond the textbook.
Z’s school requires families to keep a reading log of all books read at home. Guess what our reading log looks like? Yep, all in Spanish. Right now, we’re going full out with the Spanish exposure at home. All media is in Spanish, and as a family, we are speaking more Spanish at home, even making Z her dad’s Spanish language tutor. They read books together, she regularly corrects his pronunciation “a la mamí” and encourages him to use his Español outside of the house.
The Spanish tutoring classes did not work out as planned. I noticed that after being in school all day, Z wasn’t happy going to another heavily didactic environment so I took her out. It was a tough decision because she had made tremendous strides over the summer in terms of literacy, but the structure of the class was just too restrictive.
Next year, I will look for a school or tutor with a different approach, one that’s more developmentally appropriate, because there’s only so much sitting a young child can take. On the other hand, she’s enjoying her Spanish language art and theater classes. We are very fortunate to have that resource available to us. It has been lovely to see her use the language with peers in a more immersive environment that’s genuinely fun.
I was expecting a Spanish dropoff by now, but it hasn’t happened. I want to think that my awareness of this potential issue has counteracted the effects of monolingual instruction. Although it’s challenging to be in an environment where Z’s Spanish skills are not valued, I have found opportunities to inject the language into her school life. It has been a big change of pace since we have to be even more proactive with the language and I keep thinking about how our efforts will have to evolve with an ever more demanding school curriculum.
On a recent volunteer experience at the school, I went in to read to a small group of kids during lunchtime. I read several books to Zoe and five of her classmates while they ate lunch outside. I carefully picked two Spanish language books knowing that the odds of getting a bilingual group were high in Miami, and as soon as I pulled them out, the kids lit up. They all rushed to tell me that they spoke two languages and showed off their Spanish skills. I could see that this was a point of pride for them and me recognizing that was a moment for them to shine. It was a revelation. Children deserve a chance to use their entire knowledge spectrum in their educational environment.
This is how language activism is born.
Hasta la próxima!
Read the first part of this series here.