Bilingual Homeschooling: Teaching Children at Home (in More than One Language)

by Corey · 30 comments

By Corey Heller

“Last year when my son started school, things really started to change,” reported a woman in my seminar on Raising Bilingual Children. “I can’t get him to say one word in Chinese anymore.  He even said that he hates it when I speak Chinese with him!” Another woman piped in saying “Now that my kids are in school, I let them watch as many DVDs in Italian as they want, something I never thought I’d be doing –  but at least they are hearing the language!”

Home languages almost always take a severe blow the moment our children walk through the schoolhouse doors.  All of a sudden, our children are surrounded by peers, teachers, administrators (even the janitor and bus driver) all day long who speak nothing but the community language.  Our children quickly learn that this “school language” is essential for functioning in society and thus begins the home language–school/community language dichotomy (to the distress of many a dedicated parent).

However, not all families experience this abrupt change once their children are school age.  What is their secret?  They choose to educate their children at home and avoid the whole transition all together.

Although this choice is not available everywhere in the world (in Germany, for example, it is illegal) in those countries where it is legal, multilingual families are realizing the tremendous educational and language benefits of homeschooling, especially if both parents (or at least the primary “educating” parent) speaks the minority language.

What is Homeschooling?
The history of homeschooling in the USA is tough and treacherous, meandering and glorified; full of religious extremist overtones on the one hand and hippie, free-loving radicals on the other.  We hear of homeschooled winners of spelling bees and Stanford University wooing homeschoolers because of their “intellectual vitality.”

Yet we also hear of administrators, institutions and individuals attacking homeschooling because of its supposed lack of uniformity and oversight.  Heck, even Harry Potter’s wizarding world recognized homeschooling as a viable form of education, at least until Voldemort forbade it (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, page 210)!

Many imagine that homeschooling consists of children sitting around the kitchen table for hours on end, working in workbooks and listening to lectures from their teacher-parent who writes information on a chalk board.  This type of homeschooling is rare and an exception to the rule.  For most families, homeschooling is not about recreating the classroom at home.  It is about creating something absolutely brand new and unique; about fostering an environment which is conducive to learning, regardless of material, location or method.  Imagine the joy in learning to read while snuggled with a parent on the sofa and practicing multiplication tables while jumping on a trampoline!

Most families attribute their decision to homeschool to their firm belief that each child needs a truly individual approach to learning, something which standardized schooling admits it simply can not provide.

Studies have shown that children in traditional classrooms spend most of their time waiting.  Waiting for the lesson to start, waiting to receive worksheets and turn them in, waiting for the teacher to answer questions waiting to go outside to play.  With a classroom of 20-30 students, it is inevitable that there will be a lot of sitting and following directions.

On the other hand, with just a few hours of dedicated learning at home each day, parents can far exceed what is covered in a standard classroom.  What is left over is time for playing, socializing, hanging out and best of all: reading and talking, all in more than one language!

What is bilingual homeschooling?
Bilingual homeschooling is exactly what it sounds like: providing a homeschooling education in two languages.  In our home, this means teaching our children subjects in both English and German and covering the body of knowledge that most American children AND German children cover in their classrooms.

Often the question arises as to how this can accomplished without text books in BOTH languages for every grade.  Bilingual homeschoolers use an array of resources for learning different subjects.  What is most important are the results that come from learning a subject, e.g. being able to read and comprehend what is read, compute mathematical equations on varying levels, write a well-researched and well-argued essay, be familiar with world geography and history, and put the scientific method into practice – all of which progresses and matures as our children develop their knowledge and skills.

Many experts would argue that our best learning comes from sources other than text books: for example, while discussing current events, utilizing maps and atlases, calculating the sales tax on a new toy, and, most importantly, reading what are called “original sources” (books from which text books find many of their facts and information).  For example, reading and discussing the diaries of families who immigrated to the United States rather than relying solely on a condensed version of it via a few chapters in a text book.

It is important to remember that bilingual homeschooling is more than just providing our children with opportunities to learn our languages.  While language learning is about learning to speak (and often read and write) in a given language, bilingual homeschooling is teaching a subject in a given language – the subject is the focus, rather than the language.

How to Bilingual Homeschool
Each family will need to come up with their own bilingual homeschooling plan based on their languages and subjects which they plan to cover.  Family members must also decide who will be teaching which subjects in which language and when. Planning is probably the hardest part so families need to make sure they find as many resources as they can – general books on homeschooling as well as books in the target language which can be used for specific subjects.

I am not a native speaker of German and my German vocabulary is limited, so it is important that my husband and I teach our children together.  In any household where either parent is not as strong in a given language or where parents are practicing the One-Parent-One-Language (OPOL) method, it is important that both parents team up in their homeschooling endeavor.

A homeschooling lesson/activity might go something like this (which includes time spent in both languages): Someone becomes interested in a certain country in Africa so we decide to use it as the focus for a homeschooling lesson.  We start by looking up the country on a map, talk about what we know about the country, ask questions and explore ideas.  We then go to the library and find books about that country.  My husband and I look up what we can find online (printables, information about the land and the people, traditions, etc.) and consult Encyclopedias and atlases at home.  Then we spend time looking through the materials we have, discussing the traditions and languages of the people of the country, we talk about the land and what resources it provides, discuss where people live, what they eat and what things the children like to do.  We even throw in math and other subjects to go along with the theme!

None of this lesson focused specifically on the language per se.  However, my husband and I both make sure we are using vocabulary from both languages when we learn/teach about the country (even if the materials are only in one or the other language).  This way vocabulary is learned along the way but it isn’t the primary goal of the activity.

Many parents will realize that they are doing this on a daily basis but on a smaller, incremental scale.  The difference is usually the amount of time and dedication spent on any given subject.  When kids are in school, how often will a parent spend time with his or her children after school and on weekends working on an independent lesson about the culture, climate and traditions of a given country in Africa?  Ironically, most parents will do more of what might be considered homeschooling before their children start school.  Once their children are in school, much of the after school learning focus is on homework and targeted school subjects.

Part Time Homeschooling
Any parent who is raising a bilingual child and who wants their child to learn to read and write in their language is probably going to have to become a homeschooling parent to some degree, even if it is just now and then.  So, start today!

The catch with homeschooling outside of regular schooling means you will be cutting into time that your child would otherwise be using for other activities, homework, playing and just hanging out with you.  The answer is to find the right balance.  Make it fun, fun, fun!  Engage other families who are also interested in part-time homeschooling their children in the same language and do it as a group.  This will help your child not feel that he or she is being punished for growing up in a bilingual family.  So, don’t call it homeschooling.  Just call it have fun together!

If you are going to part-time homeschool, then you need to get your priorities straight before you start.  You can’t teach your child the same subjects in school all over again in your language, nor should you.  If that is your intention, then you should just bilingual homeschool 100% of the time.

You will need to pick and choose what are the most important subjects and tasks. For example, start with reading and writing and then go from there.  No matter what you do, don’t push things too hard.  Concentrate on the “child lead” type of learning and utilize your child’s interests as base topics from which you can incorporate additional concepts.

Remember, every child learns things like reading and writing in their own time. If you can get your child to enjoy listening to you read a book out loud, that in itself is teaching about reading and writing in your language!  Try the same for other subjects and activities!

Top Tips
Monolingual homeschooling takes patience, dedication, perseverance and a view to the future.  Bilingual homeschooling demands even more, especially a clear plan of action, even if that plan means taking things one step at a time.  Most homeschooling families will tell you that they started out very strict with book learning and worksheets each day.  But soon they realized how exhausting and unproductive this was and finally let learning follow topics of interest.  As homeschoolers, we don’t have to follow the same plan that a teacher of 20-30 kids must follow.  We only need to match the needs of ourselves and our children.

  • Parents of bilingual children in general need to know when to step in and direct a language situation and when to step back and just let it happen.  The same is true for bilingual homeschooling.  Help your children find their interests, facilitate their access to materials and directions and then step back and let them experiment as much as possible.
  • If you notice that you are spending the majority of time homeschooling your children in one language, don’t worry.  Just start to focus more homeschooling effort on the other language.  This may also mean getting more involvement from your spouse.
  • Homeschooling families are no different than any other family when it comes to needing motivational support.  There will be moments when you lose your energy and need to get focused again.  This is normal!  Homeschooling families are not perfect and parents find that they need time away from their kids, just as any parent feels from time to time.
  • Remember that many subjects overlap between your two cultures.  For example, mathematics.  You don’t need to start from scratch in each language when teaching some subjects.  Just make sure you switch back and forth with languages so that your children will be familiar with the concepts and vocabulary in each language.
  • Standard schooling focuses on imparting information which a given society believes is most important.  In bilingual homeschooling, you will want to make sure to cover this same information in a depth that does justice to each culture.
  • Want to prepare your children for higher education in both countries?  Then ask yourself what you need to do to accomplish this goal.  Answering such questions can help you better formulate your homeschooling program and better define you goals.

The decision to homeschool bilingually can be a frightening one but with enough preparation, support and motivation you can make it a successful one for you and your family.  You may also be surprised how many others around you are homeschooling their children!

Resources

Home Education Magazine
This magazine is a fabulous resource for families who are homeschooling.  It will give you the tools and the motivation to stick with your homeschooling adventure month after month! www.homeedmag.com

Family Matters: Why Homeschooling Makes Sense,
by David Guterson

As with many advocates of homeschooling, Mr. Guterson was a school teacher while he and his wife homeschooled their children.  His book is a beautiful discussion of why homeschooling can be the right choice for families around the world.

Postscript

When this article was first written for Multilingual Living Magazine, there were virtually no websites dedicated to bilingual homeschooling. There are now many out there! Do a web search and you will find many discussions, tips and support on this topic. You can also search our bilingual homeschooling tag to read more about this exciting approach to bilingual education!

Corey Heller is the founder of Multilingual Living and the Editor-In-Chief/Publisher of Multilingual Living Magazine. Multilingual Living is the place where she shares her knowledge about raising multilingual and multicultural children. Corey, an American, and her German husband live in Seattle where they raise and homeschool their three children, ages 13, 11 and 9, in German and English.
CLICK HERE to send her an email! You can also follow her on Google+!

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{ 27 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Annett May 13, 2010 at 7:45 am

We are very fortunate with our son who is fluent in 3 languages (English, German and French) and also learning Arabic and Chinese.
He goes to a French International school where he is exposed to multilingual culture every day. He is proud to speak several languages.
But I have friends who’s children go to public school. They experience similar problems and say that their kids suddenly respond back in English or say that German or French isn’t a cool language.
I believe that there are several things that come into play. Firstly, kids don’t want to be seen as outsiders. They adapt to what they see as main stream. If English is main stream they basically adapt to that. Also we have to take into account that when we teach kids a second or 3rd language it is not just about teaching the language. A major part to make it work is to teach a child pride into the language. In other words as a parent you need to connect the language on a very personal level. In my son’s case we utilize things like soccer, cars produced in Germany and German musicians that he finds cool. He loves to play soccer, is totally into cars and racing and likes pop, rap and hip hop music. He loves to talk about that at school. Finding a personal connection to people, culture, history and things of the country the language is spoken in I think is extremely important.

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2 Cristiane March 18, 2011 at 10:37 pm

Hi Annett, thank you for your comment. It gave me some insights. I am from Brazil and my husband is american. We have a little son who just turned 1 year old and my biggest fear is get to a point where he will not want to speak Portuguese. To make things harder, we live at a place where there is nobody who speaks my language. I dread the day when he will start talking, I am always scared that he won’t speak in my language. But reading this article was very helpful and your comment was very insightful and gave me ideas on how to deal with it. I have a desire to homeschool my son and that will be helpful too. Thanks again!

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3 Priscilla January 26, 2014 at 6:45 pm

Hi Cristiane, i just noticed u wrote this comment a few years ago but i totally relate to it. I’m from CE and my husband is american and we don’t have any Brazilian friends where we live… I have a six months old baby girl and we’ve been thinking about homeschool her in the future( for many other reason besides the language) anyway, if u ever get to read this comment write me email, i’d love to hear how’s the experience of teaching ur son is so far. Take care

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4 Corey May 15, 2010 at 1:20 am

Thank you for this insightful comment, Annett! You are so right about the personal side of things! In fact, that is what inspired me to get Multilingual Living up and running – a place to really focus on the “living” part of multilingualism. I feel like the human side falls by the wayside when we get too focused on the “learning” side of things, as you mention! I love your ideas for helping make German more of a “living” language for your son. I’m sure he will truly appreciate this in the future (if not now already)!

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5 katie August 16, 2010 at 6:33 pm

I can’t get the Early years link to work. Is it just me?

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6 Corey August 16, 2010 at 11:07 pm

Hi Katie, thanks for reading the post! I just tried the link and it worked for me. Perhaps the site was down when you tried it?

I’d love to put together a new list of bilingual homeschooling sites! There are a few sites that list them for Spanish-English but I’d like to see how many others are out there with other language combinations. I’m sure there are quite a few! Let me know if you know of more!

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7 Gen Clark September 12, 2010 at 10:01 pm

Very interesting! I was just reading today about the growing «unschooling» homeschooling movement, which does away with curricula and grades and instead focuses on curiosity-driven learning and exploration. I was wondering how this form of learning would work in a bilingual household. I got my answer by reading your post: it can work just fine!

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8 Corey September 19, 2010 at 10:18 pm

Thanks for your comment, Gen! Yes, I have to admit that we definitely do our share of “unschooling” in our house! It is a fantastic way to approach learning. I have had to “unlearn” so much myself… I had so many expectations of what education must look like. It feels “right” to all be sitting at the table, quietly doing work in a book. THAT feels like learning because it is what we were told was the “right” way. And even though my kids do a lot of that (and really enjoy it!) there is so much more to learning – so much variety.

When I think back on my childhood, I learned things that I truly retained during the summer when my mother and I took trips to the library to get books on things I was passionate about. I believe it was those summers that had the most positive impact on my learning. This doesn’t mean I am against school at all! I am just very much for following my children’s interests and incorporating what they “should” learn into that – which works so well in a homeschooling environment (even with three different kids who have three different interests!). It is fantastic fun and keeps my creative juices going all the time. We have learned so much while jumping on the sofa doing times tables for each jump or a nature walk with a plant book from the library in hand.

And here is my big secret: it is so much easier than people think. When our kids are excited and passionate about something, THEY drive the learning and it is an amazing thing! It is hard to get them to shut off the light at night because they are begging to please read one more chapter in a book or do one more German crossword puzzle. Can you tell that I love everything about it? LOL!

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9 Rachael March 18, 2011 at 8:53 am

In Germany one does not have the option to “home school”. I believe this has a lot to do with the mentality of the system which is desperate to funnel children into tiers of schools from the 5th grade. From the third grade standardized grading is lodged with the Schulamt, and most schools begin this grading in the second class. These children are seven or eight years old, and already thinking about whether they can get into the top tier of schooling. One can of course go through the cirriculum in another language at home, and we do review vocabulary and discuss concepts in English with our children. But we live in a country where the state forbids home schooling. The thirst for alternative (or what I would term “progressive” pedagogies has seen a rise in Waldorf and Montessori schools. What we do at home remains unrecognised, but we are attempted to “work the system” as much as it “works” our children.

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10 Corey May 25, 2011 at 10:27 am

This is one aspect that disappoints me about Germany, primarily because we would be delighted to move back but I’m not willing to give up our homeschooling. Granted, children in Germany are in school fewer hours each day than in the US, giving them time after school to do other things. However, what you wrote about the competitive element of schooling is what most disappoints me (here and around the world). This drive for success is so frustrating – why do we think that children need to be driven to the point of such anxiety and worry? Your approach to “working the system” sounds great and I can imagine that your children benefit from this a lot! At the very least, you help balance out the standard, competitive thinking that makes learning even more difficult. Bravo!!

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11 Lorry March 19, 2011 at 5:19 am

This is a decision I am still struggling with. My girls are 5 mos and 2.5 yrs, so I don’t have to decide today ;) but part of me wants to homeschool and part of me wants to put them in Danish public school, and I honestly don’t know. For me, it is more than just language. Danes speak very good English (though not native, and that IS an important distinction to me) anyway, but also about identity. Though homeschooling is legal, I’ve only gotten very negative reactions about it. Going against the grain is generally frowned upon, and I feel like I have to decide between raising them to be Danish and raising them to be American, but they are BOTH.

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12 Corey May 25, 2011 at 10:36 am

I can totally imagine what you are feeling, Lorry! Even as an American in the US (in Seattle, no less!) I feel like I go against many different establishments and never fully fit into any: I used to work part-time in an office where 99% of the employees worked full-time (I got many comments about not being in the office on Thursdays and Fridays), I homeschooled my kids but also worked three days a week (most families had at least one parent at home full-time), we bilingual homeschool (most others do it just in English), etc. After a while it starts to wear a person down… sometimes all I want is to BELONG! I just want to be a normal, average, standard, American (at least sometimes). But I also wouldn’t give up what we have put together with our work-homeschooling-life situation.
One thing that you have on your side is that one of the Danish ministers homeschooled his/her children, right? ;-) We often think of moving to Denmark (right over the border from Germany) since homeschooling is legal there (and not in Germany) and my husband’s family only lives an hour or so south of Denmark. One can dream – ahhhh.
Good luck on your choice and let us know what you end up doing. Remember that no matter what you choose will be the right decision (at least for your current situation). You can always change your decision later.

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13 Mandy April 29, 2011 at 3:26 am

We are an OPOL family and have just decided to homeschool. Do you still do OPOL even while teaching? So you teach in one language and your husband in the other? I’m just a little worried as I will be the stay at home parent speaking the minority language and I feel that I should teach them using the majority language so they can share what they’ve learnt with others in the community. But it feels weird suddenly to switch languages on them. They give me strange looks too. Maybe they’re just not used to it.

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14 Maria H May 1, 2011 at 10:48 pm

Mandy,

We are also an OPOL family and I am at home speaking the minority language. For me part of what I like about homeschooling is that I have not had to change our language pattern and I have been able to keep up their growth in the minority language. I have no doubts that the majority language will receive all the support it needs so I I can say that in my experience I have done everything in the minority language and have not found it to be a problem for them to be able to talk about what we are learning with their dad or others in the community. At times I will let him know what we are spending time on so that he can chat about it and give them some of the specialty vocab in the majority language as they talk but really overall it has not yet been a problem (my oldest is about to turn 8). The one thing I will do in the majority is if he chooses to read or write in the majority language I will support him/help him as needed but when we are “talking” about it or I am explaining something I still only use the minority language. I would do what feels right to you, but not feel pressure that you need to give both languages equal time by any means.

best of luck!

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15 Corey May 25, 2011 at 10:52 am

Great answer, Maria! I totally agree! We do the same: when books or lessons are in English (since it hasn’t been easy to find things specifically in German) I might read the instructions out loud in English but then we do the rest in German. It is important to remember that our children will transfer concepts that they learn from one language to another. On top of that are things like vocabulary in each language: once my children understand how the digestive system works (for example) in German, then we can review it in English as well to pick up the vocabulary. This would mean that the bulk of learning takes place in German and then a smaller portion in English but specifically targeted toward vocabulary in context (e.g. talking about it in English). This is just what my family does. In your family, Mandy, you can do what Maria said and have your spouse do the smaller portion in the community language. Does that make sense?

I have also made an exception with math since it has been hard for my kids to learn math concepts with the German numbering system: Germans say eight-and-twenty for 28, rather than twenty-eight. This has been tough for my kids and I to deal with when trying to work on more complex math concepts. So, I have opted to do most math in English but to go over it in different ways in German when we do math review.

I think that each family will have to figure out what works for them and continue monitoring how things are going along the way. Being that you are an OPOL family, you have a great excuse to integrate your spouse into your homeschooling fun!

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16 Kiersten April 30, 2011 at 9:15 pm

We are a bilingual (German/English) family homeschooling our daughters. It’s funny, I began my blog two years ago to really look at our homeschooling and to document it. I never even mentioned our bilingualism – it has become such a part of our life. I am absolutely enjoying reading some of my newly discovered blogs (like this one) regarding raising children bilingual. It is inspiring me to think and write new posts and to perhaps be able to offer some encouragement to young families raising their children bilingual. My daughters are teens and it has worked so far! They are fluent in both languages!
Thanks for this blog!

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17 Corey May 25, 2011 at 10:54 am

Hello Kiersten! I think I have heard about you from a mutual friend of ours? In any case, how wonderful that you have been homeschooling your daughters bilingually all of this time! Wow! I will have to check out your blog and we’d love it if you ever wanted to write something for Multilingual Living about your experiences or some tricks of the trade (so to speak)! So delighted to be in contact and congratulations on raising teens who are fluent in both languages – what encouragement to the rest of us!

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18 Melissa S May 25, 2011 at 8:07 am

I am ashamed to say I was one of those hideous people who trash talked parents who home schooled. I received such a wonderful American public education years ago. The home school children I had met had extreme ideas that did not translate outside their family home. When I had children I had no problem sending them into the modern public school system. I was quickly horrified. Not only are teachers under qualified to teach on several subjects, they are overworked. Political opinion is curriculum like my 3rd grader was told Puerto Ricans speak only English because they are a Common Wealth and we don’t allow Spanish to be spoken in our country. We are Puerto Rican and my daughter said so. The teacher said she couldn’t be, she wasn’t brown enough. Only one of many examples of stupidity and racism. As a child, we had French week, Spanish week, Chinese week…..as America should be.

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19 Corey May 25, 2011 at 11:08 am

@Melissa – that is horrible to hear about your daughter’s experience! This is exactly what Karen Nemeth, Judie Haynes and others are trying to change in our schools. Teachers sometimes have no idea of the impact of their words and when they are completely misinformed. They need to let themselves learn from their students, not fill them with hurtful misinformation. Even if your daughter wasn’t from Puerto Rico, the other students in class will pick up on what the teacher says about it (and other countries) and that will sit deep. I am saddened to think how those children will see the rest of the world when explained through the eyes of that teacher! I can still remember many things that my elementary school teachers told me about other countries and cultures and how that shaped me.

I understand how many can feel horrified with the idea of homeschooling. There are some examples of it that I, too, am not enamored with. But as you say, there are school examples that horrify me as well – so I guess no matter what we choose there are extreme examples in both directions. In our case, we actually have very good public schools in our area and I have heard great things about the teachers. For us, though, the bilingualism was very important (most parents we know say that their kids stopped speaking the home language as soon as school started) as well as the opportunity to help our kids become truly comfortable with living in their communities and world on a daily basis (while still learning the “three Rs”). I hope that this will end up being the case for my children.

Thank you so much for your comment! You are so right about the school system needing to work on how to educate children from all cultures! This is where many children form their first impressions of their wider world – we should make sure that it is one that embraces diversity, multiculturalism, many languages, and a love of humans, no matter where they are from, what they look like and what language they speak!

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20 Noggar January 28, 2012 at 2:32 pm

After stumbling across this website, I wonder whether anyone could help me out with the following: I was raised & schooled in Germany, and am now living in an Arabic speaking country, however my entire environment speaks only English. I am planning to homeschool my 2 1/2 year old, but am totally overwhelmed by how to handle the 3 languages. My English & German are fluent, but my Arabic definately needs a lot of work. For my daughter it is essential to me that she picks up the Arabic & German – I am worried that only the English language will prevail.
Currently my husband speaks only English to our daughter, and as he is very busy with his work, I do not expect him to teach my daughter Arabic (or German). So I am faced with the following:
The best homeschooling materials I found were definately in English, so I am forced to mostly school in English. However, how am I going to incorporate German & Arabic? So far I was speaking only German to my daughter, but now that I am starting with letters, numbers, opposites, I do think I need to explain them not only in German, but obviously also in English & Arabic. (The reason I have been speaking only German so far to her is because it is the minority language. I am pretty much the only German input for her). But how do I do that? Do I do the “sit-on-a-desk-lessons” in English only, while normally speaking German/Arabic to her?
Help!!!

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21 Anastasia @Healthy Mama Info March 12, 2012 at 4:56 pm

I am currently homeschooling my 3 year old ( preschool stuff) in both Russian and English and blogging about it. Right now, things are great, but I am concerned about him ( and my other kids who are too little to go to school now) receiving enough education in majority language as we go forward. We are OPOL family, yet I am the one who stays home and does all the schooling. I never speak English to my kids, I teach them concepts in English, or translate some words into english for them.I am not sure how would this work as the kids get older. Right now, my oldest’s Russian is better that his English, but he does speak both.

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22 Bryn August 7, 2012 at 1:32 am

I never usually post on websites, but this site is talking about EXACTLY the kind of thing I want to explore and learn more about, which is very exciting!!! :-) Our daughter is only six months old but we’re already thinking we want to explore the bilingual homeschooling path.

Both my husband and I are native English speakers living in Australia but we mainly speak to each other in Indonesian at home and speak almost exclusively in Indonesian with our daughter. We both speak near-fluent Indonesian (though it’s amazing how many words we’re realising we still have to learn as we describe the world to our little one!)

I’m not too worried about finding or translating materials into Indonesian but am not sure how to work out the English-Indonesian balance. I love speaking to our daughter in Indonesian but am conscious that my Indonesian vocabulary isn’t as rich as my English and also, given that we’re not an OPOL family, my husband speaks to our daughter mainly in Indonesian as well.

On the other hand her extended family here speak to her mainly in English (including her grandma who’s looking forward to being involved in homeschooling!) and almost all the community activities we’re likely to be involved in will be with other English speakers. From other people’s experience, do you think exposure to English mainly through homeschooling networks, extended family and odd bits of vocab is usually enough?

(Given my Indonesian isn’t as strong as my English I’m very conscious of wanting to try and stick with Indonesian as much as possible so that I develop a habit of searching for words I don’t know instead of falling back on English.)

Any tips or experiences greatly appreciated! Am looking forward to reading more on people’s blogs!

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23 Bryn August 7, 2012 at 1:36 am

I’m also interested to know more about how people have mixed in additional languages. We’re mainly focused on wanting to include English and Indonesian but my husband and I both speak reasonable Arabic and Spanish which would be fun to possibly add into the mix at some point :-)

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24 Hendrine February 25, 2013 at 11:22 pm

I am an Afrikaans-speaking mother of two German-speaking, homeschooled kids. I have found that the role of movies or tv should not be underestimated in language learning. Since kids love watching a favourite movie several times, and can identify with characters, they experience the language of the movie character to be very alive, even if it is the minority language. They pick up vocabulary, pronunciation and sentence structure. Watching minority language tv-programmes also contributes greatly to keeping a language everyday and real. In this way you can increase the number of minority language speaking “people” your child knows . Of course the choice of movies should include stories with proper language use and not babbling cartoons.
Movies in dad’s language also takes the strain of mom trying to balance the languages. They practise dad’s language even when he is not there (or vice versa).

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25 Heinke April 4, 2014 at 9:59 am

I really like your article. I am a native German speaker, my husband is American and we live in Maryland. I what language do you recommend I teach my daughter to read and write? We are a OPOL family. Both languages are important but the approach to reading is very different. How would you handle this?

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26 Vera April 19, 2014 at 6:33 pm

thank you so much for this article. it answered a lot of the questions i had about bilingual homeschooling. i am a russian mom to an almost 3 year old, our daddy is american, we live in the states, not many russian people around us, and while my daughter understands a lot of what im saying to her she doesnt respond in russian. i will definitely refer a lot to this article and very helpful comments from other parents while bilingually homeschooling my daughter. thank you

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27 Marcia September 9, 2014 at 4:31 am

I have been looking around for this kind of information for a long time. Your story is fantastic! My son is 6 and we decided to do part-time homeschooling. He goes to regular school not only because he must learn English (while I teach Portuguese at home) but, also, because as a Brazilian family living in the US, I want him to have a complete immersion in his place of birth. Actually, my intention with regular school plus part-time homeschooling is giving him the best of the two worlds and help him find himself (his identity) as an American with a Brazilian heritage. I would love to homeschool full-time ( since I have doubts about the education system) but, at least for now, I think that school plays an important role in the construction of his identity as an American. I believe it’s working great. He’s able to speak/read/write in both languages and all nuances around them. . Thank you.

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