The 1st post! What to write???
Let's start by telling you about Dual Learning homeschool. A bit fancy, but with the purpose to keep me feeling professional! I use the terms dual language because, sadly, where I live the more appropriate term, "bilingual," has been extremely misused. In my experiences, I have found that when using the label, "bilingual education," parents, principals, and teachers are referring to the one way trip away from the student's native language. These days, very few bilingual teachers speak the language of their students, and what happens is more and more students are loosing their first language. Bilingual education became ESL, (English as a Second Language), where by means of immersion, students were learning in English only. It is successful in attaining the goal of having the child learn the target language. But in my opinion, it lacks the benefits of developing a truly bilingual and bi-cultural individual, and sadly diminishes the value of the child's culture.
I am a bilingual educator by degree. With all the bells and whistles I am a Bilingual/ Bi-cultural Elementary Education double Major with an area of concentration in English (my second language) and Social Studies. My first major being Education, in Elementary and middle school grades, and my second major being Bilingualism and Biculturalism. In addition to becoming an elementary teacher, I studied the art of teaching a second language while maintaining, and developing the native one. Because I was learning to teach a second language, I studied more than linguistics, grammar, and pronunciation; I also learned about the need to go through the processes of transition, adaptation, assimilation, and understanding of a new culture. After all that takes place -it takes years for adults, and is simultaneous for children- one can become bilingual! What a gift! It is such a special one that I would be selfish not to pass it on to my own children and to my students.
I went through the process of learning a second language at 19 years of age. That was a bit late and, mostly imposed by necessity. I moved to the US and I needed to learn ... and by the way ... it had to happen fast since I was already enrolled in college classes. It was frustrating to want to say something, and although I had the thought; I didn't have the right language to be understood. The only subject that was easy for me at college was Math because I knew numbers and I didn't need to understand what my teacher was saying. Perhaps that was the only reason for me to take Calculus 2 when I didn't need it! I love English, I am still learning it, I use every opportunity to learn more. Like I said before, it was my area of concentration in college. But there are some things that I cannot say in English, only Spanish seems appropriate. Just like after 13 years in the US, I have found I am only able to say some things in English. There are specific words to explain cultural items, and even feelings that only belong to a particular language. I had a hard time learning English, and I set my own goal to become a teacher and help children learning it as a second language. Most of all I wanted children learning a second language to be proud of who they were, and able to keep their native language growing. In the process, and while teaching in a dual language program, I was also inspired by how my English speaking students were so excited about their culture, and were so open to learn about mine. They were eager to point at the similarities and differences in our cultures and languages. I enjoyed seeing friendships across races, and in different languages develop. I loved to see my students get to know each other not as part of a group, Hispanic or Americans, but as individuals. Through them, I saw that without the language barrier they were able to be open, and caring; not prejudiced, and discriminating. In a way they made the world better. Once a language barrier is broken, we find in each other more similarities than we previously thought possible. These similarities bring us closer!
For my students I wanted to find ways in which learning would be natural, and enjoyable in two languages. To me, ignoring the fact that a child speaks another language is taking away from who they are. I could not do that. Just as well, I could not teach in such a way. I use many tools to help achieve proficiency in a target language. Like children, I love movement, hence I have found that kinesthetic approaches, and a ton of hands on learning are ideal for learning a second language. I would be talking to them, showing them, singing to them, surrounding them with information, making them exposed to as many experiences as I could offer. At the same time, I never let a child not participate simply because he/she is shy or insecure using the target language. I was no stranger to being caught up with puppet shows, and acting up impossible things like place value, or geographical terms.
To summarize, I worked with three different types of programs
1. Bilingual Education, (usually Hispanic students learning English with as little as possible Spanish instruction).
2. ESL and SSL English and Spanish as a Second language programs where instruction is completely in the target language. The only goal is proficiency in the target language.
3. Dual language program and two-way immersion program. Immerse the students in a second language through content, and interaction with target language speaking classmates. Both, native and target languages are used in different subjects. It also can have a half English and half Spanish speaking population, (two-way immersion), but it is not necessary. The focus is more on what language the teacher is using for presenting materials to the students.
Note: The above are based on my own experience, every program, school, and district is different.
Of the three programs above, I worked the most using the Dual Language approach because I truly believe in it. It gave me the most freedom, and it also proved to me most effective in teaching both languages. I love the challenge to get the kids speaking, reading, and writing in a language they do not use at home whether is English or Spanish. It is so rewarding to see them express themselves, and realize their own potential. It is not easy but it is AMAZING! Oh! the stories I have to tell you! The things the kids were able to say and write! Those are some of my favorite memories from teaching. Those are the most heart warming, and hilarious stories that otherwise would have been lost without their, "translations".
Forward to 2009! When it was time for me to be a mom, I wanted to do this at home. I wanted my kids to be dual! I knew that I wanted to be the best mom, and the best teacher I could be. Doing both at the same time, like one teacher told me, would make me simply a good teacher.... not a great one. Don't get me wrong, I was not seeking fame and recognition, I was seeking dual language proficiency in my students. As a mom, I would not have been able to stay late at work creating materials without neglecting my own children. Even after teaching for a few years, I needed more things done. Every class had a completely different proficiency level in the target language. If you asked the night custodian at my last school, she would tell you about all the very late dinners we shared at school while I was working on my materials (I miss you Nan!).
Also as a teacher, I would not have been able to provide the best dual language environment for my own kids, and I would miss them too much! My husband and I decided to tighten our financial belt, if you are a teacher you don't have to tighten too much... we don't make enough any way! and made the decision to homeschool our children for now. My dear Tom: Thank you for being so supportive of it!
In a way I got my wish. I get to be a great mom (or try to) and a great teacher (or try to)!
This blog is about learning to be truly bilingual. It helps me organize my thoughts, reach out to others, and keeps me making the important contribution I was put on this world to share... helping others become bilingual.
Thanks for reading!