Concerned Mamá: What will preschool do to my son’s Spanish skills?

My son is only 17 months and I find myself already thinking of preschool applications! Yes it is true, if I want Enzo to start next year, I have to apply now.  I cannot believe I have to start thinking about what school I would like him to attend next year. I mean, I feel like I am just discovering what kind of kid he is becoming!

As I have started this process, I have so many thoughts about sending him to school. The good points are that, he is going to have some structure to his day and he is going to be socializing with other children his age. Another advantage is that his Abuela, who babysits him, would get a break.  But I do have doubts about sending him to school at 2 years old. (He would be 2.5 when he starts.)My questions are: Is he too young? Is he going to get sick all the time? Is the day too long? The most important question is “will putting my son in school at 2 instead of 3 hurt his Spanish language skills?” I wonder, wouldn’t he be better off developing a more solid base in Spanish until he was 3.5, and then be exposed to English in preschool? Right now, I can’t answer this question. First of all, because I cannot anticipate what his Spanish language skills will be a year from now and second, because I just do not know how he will react to the introduction of English in a school setting.  In my perfect world, I would put him in a dual language preschool program, but I have yet to find one of those in my area for young children.

My son currently hears Spanish and French at home. He hears English on TV and in a weekly sports or music class, so exposure to English is limited. Exposure to French is limited as well, since his Papa is the only one who really speaks to him in French on a daily basis, whereas Abuela, babysitter and mama speak in Spanish. Enzo also says a lot more words in Spanish than in French (and he has learned some words in English, like “POP” when he is watching the Fresh Beat Band!) If I send Enzo to school at 2.5, am I just going to confuse him too early? Is waiting that extra year worth it?

When I went to Pre-K I was 4 and I did not speak any English, but I was a lorita in Spanish. I really do not remember having a traumatic experience in the classroom, where I did not know how to go to the bathroom, or did not understand what I needed to do… I might have had those experiences but, thankfully, they were not memorable enough to have scarred me for life! So, if you had asked me about this issue months ago, I would have just said, he will go and figure it out… but the post by Marika Lynch brought up some interesting points, which I hadn’t thought about—Enzo doesn’t know the common words for “potty” or “water” in English. I imagine that explaining to him that he is going to go to a school where the maestra is only going to speak English to him would be easier to do at 3 than at 2, hopefully limiting any potential traumatic experiences??

At this point, I think that I have to apply and see what happens. I can always see how I feel about Enzo’s language skills when he is 2 (also, there is no guarantee that he will be “accepted”). I have thought about other possible options: a part time program, where Enzo would go to school two mornings a week, or two full days, thus giving him SOME exposure, but at a slower pace. I have also thought of finding a family care program (in a person’s home) where the teachers speak Spanish. I am hoping I will have a Eureka moment when I will figure out how to get the best of both worlds.

{photo by  shannatheshedevil}

Diana LimongiDiana Limongi-Gabriele is a Latina New Yorker with proud Ecuadorian roots, married to a Frenchman. She is mommy to Enzo, a French/Hispanic/European/American (one day trilingual) 17 month old boy. She works hard juggling a full-time job, motherhood, family, grad school and her blog: where she writes about issues she is passionate about, including teaching her son Spanish, parenting, Latino issues, good quality food and motherhood.

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