By Franck & Cristina
Photo credit: spiritinme
Stories, games, music, conversations are all great ways to expose children to a second language. And best of all, our kids will be learning without really realizing that they are learning. They soak things up while having fun: Slowly developing understanding and fluency in a second language.
But what about homework?
Time is obviously limited. Not many of us have time to spend an hour with their kids going over a French grammar lesson or reviewing Chinese tones.
In our family, we believe that structured homework helps us focus. We believe that it helps our children, Pablo and Elena, make a little progress every week. It also gives us confidence that we cover different aspects of what we believe children should learn when studying a 2nd language.
We know it is important. But we have little time. So we do it 10 minutes at a time.
After our workday, it is challenging to do homework for the second language. We use a low-pressure approach: an activity, or a page of the homework book, for 10 minutes. Although the time is short, the satisfaction of doing it together feels great and has a great benefit.
Here are a few things we have to keep our kids engaged with homework, with the limited time we have on our hands:
- Tip #1: Finding the right homework method
We get homework books from Spain and France and we do what Spanish and French children do: In Spanish we use the Santillana books. In Chinese we use, Better Chinese. In French, Elena loves Lecture silencieuse, story books with homework associated with each page of the book.
- Tip #2 Creating a fun routine
We created with Elena and Pablo a routine we call “Aperitif en Francais”. Instead of calling it homework, we call it “French Appetizers”. Our kids are more motivated to do a page of their French book with baby carrots, almonds and nuts. When we come back from work, we sit-down for 10 minutes with a light snack of their choice, and we do a page of French. Once it became a routine, the initial “whining” about homework disappeared.
- # 3: Letting them choose what homework they want
Our homework in French is less structured with Pablo. He is 4-year old and does not have to go from lesson 1 to 2, 3, 4 and so on. The book has different topics. So I let him choose a page in the homework book he feels like doing in French: reading, math, science, with stickers, or coloring, whatever he feels like doing that day.
- #4 Doing it together
Pablo and Elena are 3 years apart. We all sit around the kitchen table for homework. We do not do any chores during that time. It is “family time”. We tried to do two things at the same time (cooking + homework for example), but the kids would easily become unfocused and it would not get done.
- #5 Doing it first thing in the morning on week-ends (or at least trying to…)
Our kids, just like most kids, focus better in the morning. When we can get a page of our homework book done in the morning right after breakfast, we feel great about our accomplishment for the rest of the day.
- #6 Giving stars
Giving stars works with both our children. When an exercise is done right, they get a star. It motivates them to stay focus and to do a effort.
We’d be delighted to hear about your tips and tricks to help your child with homework in a 2nd language. Please let us know in the comments below. Every tip helps!
Don’t miss Franck & Cristina’s other “10 Minutes at a time” posts:
Helping Children Learn a New Language: 10 Minutes at a Time
Technology to Help Children Learn a New Language: 10 Minutes at a Time
Music to Help Children Learn a New Language: 10 Minutes at a Time
Franck & Cristina are from France and Spain and now live in New Jersey, USA. Cristina grew up in the Basque Country, in Spain. Her best high school memories come from teaching English to young school children. She learned French when she met Franck. Cristina works for a consumer goods company. Franck grew up in Alsace, France, speaking Alsatian (a German dialect) with his parents and friends and learning French in school. He started learning German in elementary school and English in high school. He came to Boston where he was inspired to learn Spanish when he met his wife Cristina. Elena (7) and Pablo (4) are Franck & Cristina’s children. They live in New Jersey with their parents and speak English, Spanish and French. The whole family is learning Chinese. In order to expose Elena and Pablo to their first Mandarin Chinese words, Franck and Cristina created a free iPhone and iPad app, “Princesses Learn Chinese”. Since then, they also released “Princesses Learn French” and “Princesses Learn Spanish.” You can visit their blog at www.earlylanguages.com