Photo credit: wodleywonderworks

“I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.” — Mark Twain

One of the main purposes of SpanglishBaby’s existence is to share with our readers the kind of useful information that can make the journey to raising bilingual children a bit less daunting. Education is not a new topic to this blog. We write about it often and, in fact, we’ve even dedicated a whole week to exploring the topic of bilingual education.

If you’d like your children to be educated in a bilingual environment, but don’t live in an area where dual language immersion schools are an option or if you feel like your child would get bored in a school like this because of everything you’ve already taught him at home in Spanish, then you need to know there are other choices. Thus, we’re dedicating this, the last week of April, to bilingual homeschooling.

We hope to provide with you with an overview of this alternative way of schooling your children as well as some useful resources you can explore for yourself to see if this is something that could work for your family. As you well know, SpanglishBaby is all about creating a supporting community for all of us raising bilingual children, so if you’re already homeschooling your children and would like to share your experiences, dish out some advice or points us in the right direction in terms of curricula or lesson plans, we’ll be forever grateful.

Before we get into it, I’d like to preface this whole week by saying that we’re really not interested in getting into the on-going debate over whether homeschooling is right or wrong. We respect every parent’s right to choose the way they raise their children—this is merely another option to educate them bilingual. I will say, though, that I truly admire those who successfully homeschool their children because I am sure it’s no easy task.

An Introduction

It is estimated that 1.5 million of the 56 schoolage million children are homeschooled every year and the number keeps on growing. The reasons why parents choose to homeschool their children abound. They include anything from overcrowding to religion to the need for especial education. In many instances, the public school options available are not up to par with what a parent considers sound education for their children or their teaching values and methods are not consistent with what a parent wants for their children. In the case of those raising bilingual and bicultural children, homeschooling seems like the perfect fit.

“Having my children at home, I can decide how much Spanish they get and if I feel their vocabulary or comprehension needs a boost, we take care of it and it’s quick. We don’t have to wait for the rest of the class to be in the same place,” said Eliza Campos-Montero who just started homeschooling her 10-year-old son this school year even after he attended a dual language immersion school in Chicago.

The Mexican-American, who also has a three-year-old son, said the decision to pull her son out of public school was not an easy one mainly because she really loved the dual language program he attended for the amazing cultural experience it provided him. She felt that her son; however, was more advanced than the rest of the children and was worried about his possibility for advancement.

“In third grade, I began to feel as if he needed to be doing more with his time and that he could be accomplishing more, learning more in depth if he didn’t have to share the one adult in the room with 20 other kids, some of which needed more help than he did,” she said.  “Then I started noticing that by the time he was in fourth grade I just felt that, although he loved going to school most of the time, he was very bored, easily distracted, and not putting his best effort into his work.”

Trying to avoid something similar happening to her daughter, Brisa Martinez de Byrnes has finally decided that she will be homeschooling her children this Fall, starting with her preschooler. Her daughter, who recently turned three, has already shown a keen interest in reading and learning in general. Brisa and her husband feel that she’d be more advanced than her peers if she were to go to a regular school and she might not be given the attention necessary for her to continue advancing at her rhythm. Not to mention the fact that they are raising their daughters bilingual and bicultural.

“Something extremely important to us is that they learn to read, write and speak Spanish correctly on top of learning about my country’s traditions and history,” said Brisa who is from Mexico. “Truth is I find it very difficult to believe that I can find a school like that, where they’ll learn both languages well in addition to both cultures.”

The down side to bilingual homeschooling has to be the difficulty in finding curricula to homeschool bilingual children. Even though there are tons, and I mean tons, of online resources for those wanting to homeschool their children; unfortunately, the same can’t be said about bilingual homeschooling. I’ve been scouring the Internet for a while now doing research for this topic and I’m sad to report that I’ve come up short.

A Little Support

The same can be said in terms of finding others on the same boat. In an effort to change this, Stephanie, a bilingual homeschooling mom of three, decided to create the Yahoo Group, HomescholersHispanas in 2003.

“I created HomeschoolersHispanas because I felt completely alone in so many ways. Nobody I knew in the local Hispanic community homeschooled. At times I felt that I was the only one,” said Stephanie, who has been homeschooling for 10 years. “This group made it easier for me to face criticism and misunderstanding with the knowledge that I am truly one of many.”

Photo credit: jimmiehomeschoolmom

The truth is that, although minorities in general seem to be warming up to the idea of educating their children at home, Latinos still make a very small part of the 1.5 million children believed to be homeschooled today. It might have something to do with the fact that this alternative way of schooling is not really popular in Spanish-speaking countries. It is, in fact, actually illegal to homeschool in Spain. It also has to do with not really knowing too much about what it really means to homeschool.

“I never even thought of homeschooling. I wasn’t familiar with it. I thought that homeschooling was something for farm kids or very strict Christian extremists,” said Eliza, who is Christian herself and a member of the Yahoo group. “It never dawned on me that before he entered school, I had already been homeschooling him and doing a much better job than what someone who didn’t know him could do having to divide themselves among so many other children.”

Added Stephanie: “People tend to like the image of hermits or oddballs trying to hide their children from a big, bad world. We’re not about fear, but joy and excitement, for the most part. We want our kids to embrace new knowledge, to rejoice as much about an episode of Mythbusters as most kids do about Spongebob. For me, it’s less about the world’s negative influence than about an enthusiastic family’s positive one.”

HomeschoolerHispanas, which currently counts with close to 120 members, exists to exchange curriculum ideas, advice and more than anything to encourage and support moms who are homeschooling their bilingual children.

“Among my members, the most common reason to homeschool was to promote family unity, for the freedom to raise truly bicultural and bilingual children, and for the chance to raise kids who truly love learning,” explained Stephanie. “I know the last one seems odd, but everyone knows some children who are so burned out from homework that they won’t pick up a book to read for fun. Our kids read all the time, and because they want to! My son, for instance, asked for two books for his birthday, each one from a favorite author whose books he devours!”

Debunking Myths

Although the majority of the research I’ve done for this series point to the fact that any parent can homeschool their child, I still find that difficult to believe. I personally think it takes a special kind of mother (or father) to do this and, even when my children’s education is of utmost importance to me, I don’t think I’d be able to homeschool them, but maybe I’m wrong…

“Personality is not the key, but rather an outlook,” said Stephanie. “If you’re considering homeschooling with any agenda at all that doesn’t include letting your child grow up to be who he or she is, then maybe this isn’t for you. Want to turn your bookworm into a football star? Don’t bother. Allowing your budding author more time to work on his next book. Ding, ding, ding, you win!”

Another common worry has to do with not having any kind of professional experience or training as an educator. Many of the mothers I’ve spoken to regarding the possibility of homeschooling their bilingual children have said this factor can be a bit intimidating.

“Most homeschooling parents are human—okay, all of them are. We have strengths and weaknesses, and sometimes the biggest strength is realizing when you need help. If you can’t handle teaching long division, hire a tutor or swap that lesson with another mom. You can handle this, if you really think it’s for you.”

It is precisely because she thinks that this is the right option for her daughters that Brisa has made the decision to homeschool them, even when she knows it’s not going to be easy. She said she’s already received a bunch of criticism to which she’s turning a deaf ear because, truly, at the end of the day, her daughters’ education is her’s and her husband’s responsibility.

“As their parents, nobody cares more about our daughters’ education than we do,” she said. “If we want our children to be truly bilingual, and to also learn about our culture, our history and our traditions, then it’s our responsibility to teach them.”

Are you homeschooling your children? Why? Or have you thought about homeschooling them? What’s stopping you? We’d love to hear your thoughts, questions, tips, experiences on this topic.

We have a lot more coming your way this bilingual homeschooling week. Not to mention the awesome giveaways you can enter to jump start or add to your bilingual homeschool classroom.

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