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  • Writer's pictureMolly

How I do Homeschool Spanish

Homeschool Spanish ... an exciting opportunity, but pretty daunting unless you're fluent, right? I've started teaching my kids Spanish at a young age and I'm always looking for curricula that fit us, but for the most part, I haven't found something I like at a price point I like.

So I've been piecing things together ... and the good news is, I think you could do this, too, even if you don't speak Spanish! You'll learn alongside your kids, but they'll probably be better than you pretty quickly.

The main thing I've been doing with my kids, especially when they were younger, is just singing songs in Spanish. When I was in high school, my family took yearly trips to Guatemala for missions. I found that my pronunciation improved while I wasn't even thinking about it by singing songs alongside the little kids we were serving; in fact, that singing with little kids impacted my pronunciation so much that I've been told I have a Guatemalan accent when I've traveled to other parts of the Spanish-speaking world.

Singing also embeds memory work deeply in our brains, which many of us know from Scripture memory when we were younger or with our kids (Steve Green and Psalty, anyone?). So a few years ago, I started curating a YouTube playlist of kids' songs that my kids could learn in both English and Spanish. I wanted songs that had English equivalents, so without memorizing a vocabulary list, my kids would begin to intuitively translate in their minds because they "just know" what it means. Bonus points if there are actions, like "My God is so Big, so Strong, and so Mighty," "Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes," "Father Abraham," counting songs, or "The Hokey Pokey."

I've lead singing these songs at our little homeschool co-op for the last few years; we would open with around 20 minutes worth of singing, starting with "This is the Day" (in English and Spanish), doing some silly songs with actions, possibly having a little bit of "connecting the dots" so kids realize the songs have real life meaning ("raise your hand if you are wearing rojo today!"), and then closing with the Doxology and "Jesus Loves Me" in both English and Spanish.

Has it worked? Well, my two year old can sing "Jesus Loves Me" and the Doxology in Spanish, so... I don't have research handy, but I believe that the multilingual brain synapses that are being created for her are paving the way for better language learning for the rest of her life. Last year at co-op, I added an "older kids" Spanish class for kids who had been doing the singing for several years and were getting "too cool" for it (imagine a 6th grade boy not having fun with "Head, shoulders, knees and toes!"). With a little bit of teaching, these kids started being able to create their own sentences, usually using the vocabulary foundation we'd established through songs (big, little, colors, numbers, prepositions). I think they knew way more Spanish than they thought just from singing some silly songs twice a month for a few years.

In addition to creating my own - admittedly haphazard - teaching curriculum for the older kids, I added in some children's books that, again, the kids would know in English and thus be able to intuitively grasp the meaning as we read in Spanish. This was to continue the "immersive" quality of the experience while adding in being able to read in Spanish (thus far, everything for all the kids had been oral, which actually helps a ton because their brains aren't focused on strange pronunciations; it also helps moms whose brains are even more confused by it!), working out better sentence structure, and adding in additional vocabulary. For my own big kids last year (2nd and 3rd grade), I would usually have them read aloud part or all of one of the following books a few times a week: Brown Bear, Brown Bear; Goodnight Moon; Go, Dog, Go; Where is the Green Sheep?; Ten Apples Up on Top; and I'm Too Big.

I would also make worksheets for my kids and the co-op based on these things and play games, but those probably require more Spanish ability on the part of the teacher. For example, in "Go, Dog, Go," there is a a running joke of a girl dog meeting a boy dog and asking him, "Do you like my hat?" He always responds, "No," and she goes away huffy except at the very end when she has an elaborate party hat; he likes this hat, and they go away together. So in our co-op class, I gathered a large and silly collection of hats (huge thanks to my mom for her hat collecting habit and willingness to share), spread them out in the hallway and would have each kid take turns selecting a hat, coming into the classroom and asking a classmate, "Te gusta mi sombrero?" To which the other kid would reply either, "Si, me gusta tu sombrero" or "No, no me gusta tu sombrero." Kids thought it was hilarious, but they were actually getting the foundation for a really important, and tricky, idiomatic expression in Spanish. We still do this at home since we haven't had co-op since early March; we just put random things on our head and ask 2 year old Faith if she likes our hat (she always responds, "No, no, no, no, no"). We would also play Pictionary on the white board, do charades, or I would give them directed drawing of silly things like, "Draw a girl; the head is big; the legs are little; the hands are big; the nose is big, and the eyes are small." (Super low-tech: see the pic below for an example.)

That's a little in the weeds if you're not a Spanish-speaker, but know that all of the books I referenced above (and many, many others) are available on YouTube with native speakers reading them if you just search for the title.

I'm looking into some workbooks to supplement what we've done so far, especially for my older kids. For Elese, who is 5 and will be starting Kindergarten, I'm going to use The Complete Book of Starter Spanish, of which I got an older version last year secondhand, for all sorts of kinder stuff (handwriting, counting, colors, shapes, family). (Aside, I'm not really into Kindergarten in general, so this and "Handwriting Without Tears" are the only workbooks Elese will have. The rest of her school will be "Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons;" read alouds from the "Five in a Row" lists, which I already have from when Titus did kinder; and following along with whatever my bigger kids are doing.) currently has a series called "Teach them Spanish" on sale, and it looks like it has copy-able worksheets, so I am thinking of ordering the 4th Grade one to use for my older kids (they are currently 7 and 9; will turn 8 and 10 this fall/winter). Amazon sells these for slightly more but it's not a bad price, especially because I think you could copy and re-use them. If our co-op resumes this fall (still up in the air, like everything else), I will likely use these worksheets so I'm not creating my own.

For younger kids, another thing I'd recommend is using screen time to teach Spanish if you're not hardcore anti-screen time. I would turn on my YouTube playlist during snack or lunch time (they're not as fun for the kids without doing actions with their friends, but it's something!). I also found a video series that I purchased on Amazon digitally called Whistle Fritz, and I liked how immersive they were; we watched those a lot until my kids got sick of them. We also watched a series called "Little Pim" a lot, which I found less interesting, but my older kids tolerated it for longer, and it's free with Amazon Prime. One of the 3rd graders in my co-op class last year also watched these at home, and he seemed to be picking a lot up from them:

So far I haven't taken the dive to any apps - for kids or adults - or more expensive programs, though I've wondered what it would be like to buy "Muzzy," which I keep getting ads for and is very intriguing to me. I just haven't found room in the budget, but if anybody would like to buy it for me, I'd be happy to evaluate it for you!

As with most homeschooling there's a little bit of winging it, constant adjustment depending on teacher and student, always discovering new resources, crowdsourcing, and keeping the end goal in mind while taking babysteps and celebrating milestones... and that's how I've done homeschool Spanish so far!

Edited to add: I am very saddened by this, but I can't keep adding to my YouTube playlist or even create other playlists as I find Spanish things I like. About six months ago, YouTube changed their rules for children's content, and one thing that was impacted was that you're no longer able to add content that's been marked as created specifically for children to a playlist. So I can save individual songs, but I can't create playlists. It's a huge bummer because I used to have a running playlist that I would edit each week with songs about the continents, states, math facts, Bible memory songs, science videos, and whatever else we were working on that week.

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