Homeschooling · Our Spanish Journey · Uncategorized

Easy Activities for Real Life

It feels like forever ago since I’ve had a chance to blog because–life. Can anyone else relate?

It has been difficult to get back on the learning track after a painfully long winter of sickness and yuck. I get so distracted by chores, daily needs, and trying to catch up with missed responsibilities that I decided to keep my goals as tiny and simple as possible: if I manage to do one small thing a day with my kiddos, it sure beats being overwhelmed by grand plans and doing nothing.

 

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I’ve been trying to keep motivated by writing down small accomplishments… and noting that there are good reasons for days off!

 

I have currently been seriously in love with Super Simple Español. My kiddos are always begging for screen time and they actually cheer when I finally say yes with these songs. (Trust me, there are plenty of other areas where they immediately groan, “Ugh. That’s just school!”)

The videos on Super Simple Español are fantastic for our monolingual family because they provide very clear context for each of their songs. “Big Sister” even refers back to it when we watch something more difficult for her to understand: “Mom, it’s a lot harder. . .I like it better with the pictures [from Super Simple Español].” The songs are all fun and applicable to children’s daily lives. And, best of all, they are fun enough that even I enjoy following along–and I learn a lot!

Our focus this week: F O O D!!!! Everyone eats and everyone loves to eat (ha, ha!), so there ought to be plenty of opportunity for practice and practical application.

“Big Sister” and “Handsome Man” have been learning two main songs this week (keep reading!), playing with play fruit, and being nudged by Mama Bear to apply various vocabulary as it comes up. They have been so cute to watch as they hardly notice they are learning!

 

SONG 1: ¿Te Gusta El Helado De Brócoli? (“Do You Like Broccoli Ice Cream?”)

This song on Super Simple Español has been a favorite of “Handsome Man” for a while, but we’ve been really focusing on it this week. There are fun visuals that make meaning easy to discern, abundant practical vocabulary words without being too dense or overwhelming, and most importantly my kiddos love watching. I’ll always hear them singing later in the day as they play. . .especially shouting out my son’s new favorite word: ¡guácala! (Yucky!!)

 

SONG 2: “LAS FRUTAS” (“Fruits”)

“Las Frutas” is a song from another resource I’ve recently discovered, Rockalingua. We currently are sticking with just the free content, which is still wonderful.  In keeping with our food theme, kiddos adore the fruit characters and inevitably start cracking up before I even click play. They especially love when the banana character comes marching across the screen (You know you want to click and see! Ha, ha!).

 

APPLICATION ACTIVITY: ¡Si me gusta! ¡No me gusta!” 

To help “Big Sister” and “Handsome Man” begin the journey towards owning the language, we did a simple activity using these adorable printables that I purchased from Mundo de Pepita. The price was right and by far worth the time saved.

Using painter’s tape, I taped the food pictures all over my kitchen. Next, the kiddos were invited to express which foods they liked/disliked by choosing a few foods and sticking them under the corresponding category on a poster board.

This activity was super fun and simple. I was very surprised by their enthusiasm. I purposely placed items where they often had to climb around to reach them, adding physical activity to hold interest–there were NO foods left on my wall at the end! Throughout the game, both children were declaring, “¡Si me gusta!” (“Yes, I like it!”) and “¡No me gusta!” ((I don’t like it!”) I was elated to hear so much Español in this mainly English speaking house!!!

 

Finally, at the end, we all sat down together similar to story time. We discussed what foods were on each list and I snuck in the specific words for each food while holding the printable in my hand (clear context–hooray!) For all the times, they’ve resisted “learning time,” I actually had to tell them when the activity was over. Hooray!!

 

 

 

 

 

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Homeschooling · Our Spanish Journey

The “Breakfast Game”!

As much as I have tried be sly in homeschooling my kiddos, I am a product of public education—it seems like they almost always see right through me! Although intellectually I understand the notion that preschool aged children learn best through play, my natural instinct is always to return to a school type setting: unintentionally “quizzing” them on their vocabulary (“How do you say. . .” “What does ‘x’ mean in English?”), wanting to force them into speaking Spanish, attempting to learn mostly from books, wanting to continue learning beyond their point of fatigue etc.

Not only do these habits generally lead to bored, frustrated kids, but they also seem to sound off an alarm in their heads: Warning, something educational is about to take place! Finally, about a week or two ago, my 3-year-old son “Handsome Man” responded to a poor introduction to learning with, “NO!! I don’t want TEACHER!” and I knew that I had to be doing something wrong.

I would love to say that I seized the moment and intentionally changed my methods; however, the reality is that I’m obsessed with researching teaching ideas whether I need them or not and I just happened to stumble upon a few new resources that turned us in a more productive direction. Hooray for serendipity!

Today, I’m going to share about one of those resources we’ve just begun this week: Play and Learn Spanish by Ana Lomba and Marcela Summerville. This book is filled with Spanish phrases and vocabulary associated with various daily routines for children and families. The point is to provide authentic Spanish that helps learning parents provide a truer “immersion” experience. I loved the added confidence of knowing that my translations were correct.

My “Type A” personality just had to start at the beginning with the morning routines, “¡Buenos días!” (“Good Morning!”) and “¡A desayunar!” (“Time for Breakfast!”). Full disclosure confession: I am horrible at waking up in the morning, especially after nursing baby “Bubbles” all night long. So several times this week, I woke up, found the kiddos’ playing, and invited them back to their beds to pretend they were sleeping. One day, we even played “¡A desayunar!” (“Time for Breakfast!”) in the middle of the afternoon. . .oops!

Each day, “Big Sister” and “Handsome Man” would scramble down the hall with eager anticipation and jump under their blankets to wait for the game to start. Then, amidst excited snickers and giggles, I would sneak into their room and declare, “¡A levantarse! (Time to Get up!)” They laughed and groaned, pretending to sleep. They kicked their little legs and pulled at las mantas (the blankets) as though fighting to stay asleep. They squinted their eyes as though surprised to see the sun peek through an opening curtain. Until, eventually, they began to anticipate my saying, “Dame la mano. (Give me your hand),” and we marched off to the kitchen to learn some more for breakfast. 

On the first day, they just enjoyed the game. But as the week carried on, “Big Sister” would interrupt our play to ask, “What means [insert Spanish word here]?” and I would do my best to use some Spanish that she already knew or even body language to explain the vocabulary. One day after we had moved onto setting the table for breakfast, Saul interjected with joy, “Are we playing the breakfast game!?!” 

What an incredible difference it was to shift from frustrated, annoyed learners to kiddos who simply thought they were getting extra play time with Mama. We all loved the experience, and we all learned so much in the process. I cannot wait to learn a new “daily routine.” ❤

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Homeschooling · Our Spanish Journey

In Celebration of “Small” Victories

“Poco a poco, se anda lejos (Little by little, one walks far).” —Mexican Proverb

It’s quite late in the evening. I’m exhausted from the day, I just finished my evening chores for tomorrow’s survival, and I’m typing one-handed while nursing “Bubbles” in the opposite arm and periodically checking in on my crying “Handsome Man” who is ill and not sleeping well at all tonight. . .

Any sane person would seize this moment to get as much sleep as possible, but I’m so crazy excited about “Big Sister’s” little milestone today that I had to write a quick entry. Although I have actually been brewing a completely different entry in my mind, it will have to wait for another day!

A little background on today’s little victory: given the anxiety and inhibitions “Big Sister” has experienced since beginning our Spanish learning journey, I have been working off of a hypothesis: if I could encourage the kiddos at home by teaching them vocabulary bit by bit, they would gain some confidence and also have a mental reference for when they hear a word they know spoken by a native speaker.

Honestly, life has been so crazy since “Bubbles'” arrival that we haven’t had tons of interactions with any Spanish speakers. How disappointing and frustrating!! On top of that, nearly every language expert I encounter emphasizes the importance of immersing children with as many complete sentences in the target language as possible. Not to be deterred, I decided my kiddos would benefit more from the imperfect approach of a non-fluent learner than from no teaching at all!

We started quite simply with my reading board books to them and periodically swapping out English words for Spanish to slowly grow their vocabulary. Again, not ideal but doable for a teacher who is learning. More recently, I have been working to add physical activity to reinforce vocabulary (something which I hope to blog more about!). . .and even more recently, I’ve been working overtime to learn simple sentences and phrases to add to our reading dialogue or just around the house in our basic daily activities.

All of this semi-technical detail when all I really want to say is this—tonight the kiddos and I got to chat online with my friend, “Amiga,” and “Big Sister” spoke her first Spanish sentence outside of our home!!! HOOOOOORAY!!!!! 

We were chatting away and I was actually relaxed and not fussing over whether “Big Sister” was feeling comfortable with being in a Spanish conversation, when she casually asserted herself to ask “Amiga,” “Where is your daughter?” It may not sound like much, but it is so far from where we were just a year ago! I’m incredibly proud of my daughter, so thankful to God for her ability to learn, so thankful for “Amiga’s” willingness to be our friend. . .and super excited to see what else is to come!! HOORAY!!!

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Homeschooling · Our Spanish Journey

Off to a Confusing Start!

IMG_2987.JPGIn the beginning, I assumed that our biggest hurdle would be the obvious: I do not speak Spanish! This fact certainly makes teaching difficult. Little did I know, however, that we were about to encounter an emotional stumbling block. . .

 We first started our Spanish ventures when “Big Sister” was around 3-years-old. She enjoyed it right away and I thought things were really going to take off back then. Around that time, I met a friend, an amiga, who speaks only Spanish. This was a major encouragement because the impetus was on me to break the language barrier. If I wanted to communicate, I had to speak en Español.

This blessing turned out, however, to be a major hurdle at the time. My amiga did not know to make the context of her Spanish super clear to “Big Sister” who was just beginning the language. We had no idea at the time, but as my daughter became increasingly angry and resistant to learning Spanish—and eventually, almost hostile to even seeing mi amiga!—it was clear that something was very wrong.

At first, I interpreted “Big Sister’s” attitude as a disciplinary issue. She was probably almost 4 by this point and was quite ready to lash out at my lovely native speaking friend. I felt flabbergasted and angry at my daughter’s behavior. . .but then, it occurred to me that out of the norm behavior was simply a response to something out of the norm in her environment.

From there, the issue became plain as day! Through “Big Sister’s” 3-year-old eyes, our family seemed to be welcoming this new stranger with open arms. . .and allowing her to laugh at and make fun of her. My heart was broken! “Big Sister” was too little to understand that my gregarious amiga, full of laughter, simply thought she was adorable. All my daughter heard and saw was a stranger speaking strange words, pointing, and laughing. No wonder she had grown so angry and resistant!

Praise God, once my amiga and I had both apologized to “Big Sister” and the situation had been clarified, emotional healing took place rather quickly and easily. But it would be another 6 months to a year before we would safely get back to learning. . .

Homeschooling · Our Spanish Journey

Yellow Apple, Red Banana

On Saturday morning this past weekend, in a fog of exhaustion, I could feel my 3-year-old son—we’ll call him “Handsome Man”—as he crawled into bed with me in the too early hours of the morning.

He is an endlessly talkative little boy, so his voice was fading in and out of my awareness. My brain would try to capture a phrase: “OH! That is SO cute. I want to remember that. . .!” And then, “Zzzzzz!”

Somewhere in between “I don’t go into the forest [we have no forest] because there’s dinosaurs,” and “I REEEEALLY love you Mommy!” I heard him repeating a joke that he’d shared with his big sister the afternoon before:

My 5-year-old daughter–we’ll call her “Big Sister”–had been laughing at herself, shouting and giggling “¡Manzana amarillo [yellow apple]! Is that funny, Mama!” In response, “Handsome Man” cried out, “¡Banana rojo [red banana]!! Is THAT funny!?” As a Mama who has greatly regretted not continuing Spanish studies way back in my youth, this felt like a tiny little glimmer of hope that maybe, just maybe I could learn Spanish and continue to further ignite my kiddos’ language development as they grow.

So, back to those foggy Saturday morning chatterings…There I am in between bouts of snoring and my mind spinning to wake up and listen to my son, when “Handsome Man” again jokes, “¡Plátano rojo! Is that funny, Mama!” It may sound like such a small thing, but I’ve been on a high ever since.

It’s been about a 1-1.5 years since I’ve been trying to learn Spanish and teach my kiddos. Nonetheless, we’ve only really managed numbers, colors, and some animal names—and somewhere in between, brought home baby #3, “Bubbles.” I’ve been doing everything I can to study and listen to Spanish while “stuck” snuggling with “Bubbles”—and suddenly the kiddos start saying tiny phrases that show they’re hearing my efforts. And, in my heart, we’re off to the races!

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While this blog will likely include some of my other passions such as worshiping God and growing in the LORD, homemaking, and homeschooling, it is my love of Spanish that I’ve been specifically wanting to document. I don’t even know if it’s possible to manage teaching anything that resembles fluency by their adulthood, but I figure what is there to lose? Let’s reach for las estrellas (the stars)! ¡Vamos a empezar! That is, hoping my Spanish is accurate, let’s get started!