Back to {Bilingual} School

{Photo by: jimmiehomeschoolmom}

Editor’s note: We’re dedicating this whole week to Back to {Bilingual} School. We have a variety of posts that we hope will make the transition easier regardless of what your kids’ schooling situation is. We hope you come back all week to read the posts by our amazing guests and to enter the awesome giveaways we’ve put together for you!

Unlike most parents who feel that the start of school actually means a step back in their children’s ability to speak Spanish, I actually breathe a sigh a relief when the school year begins. As a sixth-generation Mexican American on my mother’s side of the family and a first-generation Spanish American on my dad’s, I really struggle to pass on the language to my children.

While Spanish was my first spoken language, and I understand it perfectly, I’m rusty. Attending English-only schools my whole life and a lack of Spanish-speaking amigos (I was the only Latina in my class), has succeeded in undermining my confidence as a native speaker.

Back to {Bilingual} SchoolBut when my children were born, I became obsessively passionate about passing on my heritage to my beautiful children. Though my mother and grandmother are both fluent in Spanish, they only spoke English to the kids. My grandmother easily switches back and forth when she talks with me, but it is English-only with the nenes. My husband does not speak Spanish, though he can understand enough to get by. So their acquisition of Spanish, is completely up to me.

I hopped on the bilingual boat a little late and juggled around OPOL, ml@H, and various other methods. And I have spent a lot of time reading bilingual and Spanish-language children’s literature to the kids since they were born. But in the end, it has been their schooling that is the key. Why? For one simple reason: I homeschool.

Sadly, I do not live near any dual-immersion schools, and since we live in a “failed” school district, the traditional schools found in our area are not an option either. Some have been taken over by the State.

So teaching my kids Spanish has turned out to work best for us as part of our daily lessons. I pull from a lot of resources, and though my kids are by no means fluent, we are working hard to correct that. This past summer was actually a big brain sucker for my kids. It’s like a hole opened up in the side of their head and everything they knew fell out. I felt like a total failure when we started up school, but my son surprised me one after noon, when he walked up to me out of the blue and spoke a few words in Spanish. I live for moments like these because the genuine delight on my face is the best encouragement he could ever have.

For those of you who are starting out – or even if you’re an old pro – here are some activities for boosting your child’s language learning at home:

Books, books, and more books – Reading about Latino cultures is a great motivator for learning the language… especially when you read stories about other Latino children.

Flashcards – No, no! They are not boring! Well, okay, SOME of them are, but if you find the right ones, they are an awesome tool. I recommend the alphabet cards from Línea Descubriendo.

Bilingual board games – Dora’s Candyland, Spanish Bananagrams, Spanish Zingo!, ¿Adivina Quién?, Cuéntamelo, Lotería, and others are great fun and a perfect way to sneak in Spanish learning.

Cooking – Making recipes from Latin American countries and Spain can help your children learn food-related words. It’s also a great way to explore the culture behind the language.

Printables – The internet is full of Spanish printables for children of all ages. The hard part is deciding which one to print first! Check out sites like DJ Inkers for fun downloads of basic themes like the alphabet, numbers, shapes, and colors. They offer both English and Spanish versions.

My site,, has some free downloads, including a few for Kindergarten and 1st grade that were created by Lectura para niños.

But one of my favorites is Their entire site is a valuable resource, and they offer may activities and printables for you to use at home or at school.

Mónica Olivera Hazelton home schooling Spanish bilingual motherMónica Olivera Hazelton is the publisher of, a site for Latino families who want to take a more active role in their children’s education. Monica feels quite strongly about the future of our children and believes that all parents should strive to raise their children to be proud of their heritage and culture. As a result, she has also created and publishes the Latin Baby Book Club, which reviews Latino children’s literature and is a resource for families raising bilingual – and bicultural – children. And she is the owner of Latin Baby, an online baby boutique for Latino families.  

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