Thursday, October 24, 2013

MKB Book Club--Bilingual is Better: Bilingual Education

A while back, I started to "get serious" about raising my kids to be bilingual.  I learned Spanish in college, actually I majored in it.  Originally I declared my major as Art and English.  And then I stepped into Dr. Brown's Spanish 101 class and things started to change.  He started telling stories about studying on a Fullbright scholarship in South America, sharing pictures from his travels abroad, and encouraging us all to travel as well.  One day he brought in some brochures about different study abroad Spanish programs.  My friend and I shuffled through them and nonchalantly discussed doing a summer program offered in Costa Rica.  That casual discussion turned into a reality, and the rest is history.  From then on Spanish became a part of who I am.  Upon meeting me, you might be surprised to learn that about me.  I was not raised in a bicultural family; I am not Spanish; I am not Latina.  But I love speaking Spanish and learning about all the cultures that come with it.  So it was only natural that once I had kids, I started thinking about how I could share my love of Spanish with them.

When I started my research I ran across a book on Amazon called Bilingual is Better by Roxana A. Soto and Ana L. Flores.  On an impulse (and probably out of desperation to get some good, helpful material in my hands) I bought the book.  Best. Book. Purchase. Ever.  Besides all the information stuffed from cover-to-cover, I also found out about the authors' website  And from there I have discovered a link to so many other families and bloggers and resources to help me in my journey of raising my boys to speak Spanish.  Around the same time I bought Bilingual is Better, I had found and been invited to join an awesome group of bloggers called Multicultural Kid Blogs.  When the group discussed starting a virtual book club, and that the first book would be Bilingual is Better, I jumped at the opportunity to join in.  

Multicultural Kid Blogs Book Club
Today our discussion covers Chapter Four of the book: Bilingual Education.  I chose to host the discussion for this chapter because I felt it was the subject I needed to learn the most about!  My boys are young, and so how and where we choose to educate them seems wide open--the perfect time to learn about bilingual options and methods.

Chapter Four
Chapter Four begins with a very informative history of bilingual education in the United States.  I am not familiar with bilingual education in other countries, but as the book describes, here in the United States it is very closely linked with immigration and the country's sentiments towards different immigrant groups.  The book explains one domineering sentiment keeping bilingual education from flourishing here is that speaking English is what makes you American.  One of the first federal laws passed dealing with language in the Naturalization Act of 1906 demonstrates this attitude as it "mandated--among other requirements--that any person seeking to become a naturalized citizen must pass an English proficiency test" (129).  As the book points out, the United States is second only to Mexico as the largest Spanish-speaking country in the world, forcing Americans to redefine what it means to be American, and it seems being bilingual will be part of our new identity.  How we approach education will be a huge factor in shaping that new identity, and the book explains in Chapter Four not only why every child in the United States should speak Spanish, but also citing dual language immersion as one of the best methods.

My Thoughts
It is crazy how many thoughts this chapter got swirling through my mind.  To begin, the part about why children in the United States need to speak Spanish was like "preaching to the choir" as they say here in my parts.  In other words, you do not have to convince me that my kids need to learn to speak, read, and write in Spanish: it is something I passionately desire for them.  I also was not surprised by all the negativity towards bilingualism cited by the book.  Unfortunately, I have heard it with my own ears.  One line in the book really made me wish some of those people were sitting in my living room so I could point to the line and say, "See?  Look!  They are American.  Born here!  When will we embrace them as our own, our neighbors?  Can we quit thinking Latino is not a part of us?"  
The "growth rate in the latino population  is coming not from immigration, but from U.S. born children of Hispanic descent."  (pg. 138)

I agree with author Ana Flores when she says, "I hope there comes a day when it will be absurd to write a list of reasons to convince people of the need for children to learn Spanish at an early age" (137).  Maybe it is because I am lazy, and I wish it was normal for bilingual education to be easily accessible, so I would not have to work so hard to find it and offer it to my children.  I attended a small private women's college here in Missouri for my first two years of college.  Represented at the college at that time were nineteen countries from all over the world and almost every single one of the fifty United States.  So many of my friends from then grew up in countries where learning a second, or even a third, language was the norm.  Some of them raised in multilingual homes.  My roomate was from Ghana and spoke Twi and English.  Another friend in my building from the Democratic Republic of Congo spoke French and English.  I also became close friends with a girl from Moldova.  In her household, she and her sister spoke Romanian with their mother and Russian with their father, but they also understood the language of her father's family, Gagauz.  Both sisters also spoke fluent English that they learned in school, and had picked up on Spanish from some television shows they watched.

My parents had no foreign language to pass on to me, but what they did pass on to me was an appreciation and fascination for the world.  They always welcomed people from different places into their home, and they always encouraged me to travel.  Also, growing up in a Baptist church, I was also exposed to different cultures and countries through all the missionaries we supported and met.  In some ways it is hard for me to understand why we would not, as a country, want to encourage students to learn second and third langugaes at a young age.  Even if I had not fallen into Spanish as a major, I think I would still desire to know a foreign language, and at the very least would seek it out for my children.

As I got to the part in Chapter Four about bilingual education, I got a little nervous.  You see, I have been considering and looking for immersion programs in my area to send our boys to when they reach the age to enter school.  As I read about how Spanish-speaking students are put at an academic disadvantage when they are expected to assimilate to an English-only environment within three years of entering the public school system, I flipped the situation in my head and wondered, "Would I be putting my boys at a disadvantage if I enrolled them in a program where all subjects were taught in Spanish only, and where reading in English is not introduced until the second grade?"

Then I continued to read, and discovered a method I had never heard of before: Dual Language Immersion.  I am in love! The book explains that different approached exist to this method, but in any approach, the goal is to have an even amount of English speakers and speakers of the target language enrolled in classes together, with the goal of spending fifty percent of the day with instruction in English and the other fifty percent with instruction in the target language, in our case Spanish.  I wish this method could become the norm by the time my first son enters Kindergarten.  Is that too much to ask for?  One thing I have learned in our bilingual journey is that IT IS HARD WORK!!  I am glad to have the knowledge from this chapter under my belt to aid me in working towards the best education I can provide for my sons.

Lines from Chapter Four That Made Me Say, "Yeah!"

"All over the United States parents from all kinds of backgrounds are beginning to see bilingualsim as an asset rather than a threat."  --page 133

"No matter which career you choose nowadays, you will likely encounter a need to speak Spanish in the United States.  Not only is it useful in daily interactions, but it is also helful for expanding business potential and reaching a broader scope of the population."  --page 136

"For the first time in U.S. history there is a new generation of Latinos who . . . are committed to raising a community of skilled biliterate and bicultural children who can communicate fluently in two or more languages."  --page 139

"Many people have the wrong idea that what unites the country and its people is the language, when the reality is that it's all about its values, its laws, its attitudes and the fact that they have always accepted people that come from all over the world."  --page 150

Lines That Made Me Fall in Love with Dual Language Immersion

"Both groups of speakers are highly valued, not only the English speakers, as is the norm in most classrooms."  --page 141

"Teachers are expected to communicate this equity to students in the classroom so that all students value each other, regardless of their language, ethnic, religious, or social class bacground."  --page 141

"Dual language or two-way immersion programs promote complete bilingualism, biliteracy and multicultural awareness."  --page 147 

What Do You Think?
I'd love to hear from you and what you think!

  • What is the norm for public education where you come from?  Does it include bilingual education?
  • If you could have any education setting available for your kids, what would it be and why?
  • If your kids have finished school, what was their education like?  What did you like or dislike about it?
  • Do you think the United States will ever be identified as something different than an English-speaking country?  Why or why not?
Be sure to check out the discussion from the other chapters, and the ones to come from these awesome blogs!

More to Come...
Chapter Five (Be Bilingual) - October 31
Chapter Six (Laugh & Learn) - November 7
Q & A with Author Ana Flores (Dads the Way I Like It) - November 14

You can also join the discussion on Google+!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Show Me Your Neighborhood Around the World: Kansas City Suburbs

Bienvenidos a nuestro barrio //  Welcome to Our Neighborhood

I am so excited to be a part of the fun series organized by PiriPiriLexicon, one of the great blogs of the Multicultural Kid Blogs group.  For amazing tours of neighborhoods all around the world, click on the icon at the end of this post.  So far we have visited France, the Netherlands, Spain, Brazil, San Francisco, Germany, Japan, and Djibouti City.

And now for our little neck of the woods.  Welcome to Lee's Summit, Missouri--a suburb of Kansas City.  I thought it would be fun to take you on a walking tour, so each photo you see below is within walking distance of our house.  One of the reasons I love living here is that you get the best of everything--a quick drive to the countryside OR the city, and a nice quaint town to live in.  

Donde jugamos //  Where We Play
Playing is something we do best.  Here are two of our favorite parks.  The first we call the "Ship Park," as it has a fun pirate ship to play on.  We also love this one because it has a nice walking trail that goes aroundt the entire park, and it is always filled with lots of kids and people.

Another park we walk to frequently is actually the playground of a local elementary school.  It has a fun map of the United States to run around on, and many different areas for climbing and sliding.  We can only use this one during non-school hours, so it is one we walk to in the evenings for a quick play after dinner.

There is Missouri!

Como nos viajamos  //  How We Get Around
The most common form of transportation is driving.  On the roads of our town you wil see many mid-sized cars, minivans, SUVs, and trucks.  Most families own at least one car, but usually one car for each person in the family who has a drivers license.  

The city streets near our house.
In the suburbs, it is hard to survive without a car.  But there are other modes of transport that we love and use.  Here is a picture of my dad with my boys.  Biking is a favorite sport in the area, and we see many people biking to get places in the downtown area we live.  In fact, when the weather permits, my brother bikes to work everyday.

We also live right by the train and get to see at least one passenger train pass through a day.  My boys call it the "People Train."  Here is the train parked at the station in the downtown area for passengers to disembark and embark.

Waving to the train never gets old.
Another popular mode of transportation is the school bus.  Here is a typical school bus you will see taking children to and from school--from Kindergarten all the way through highschool.

Donde vivimos  //  Where We Live
Here is a view of the train right from our front yard!  I found it difficult to capture a picture of a "typical" house in our city.  Houses vary from apartments and duplexes, to restored historical houses in the downtown area, to large four-bedroom houses in the neighborhoods, to expansive houses situated on large plots of land.

Las calles  //  The Streets
We walk to the downtown area of our city a lot--to visit our favorite ice cream shop, to go to the bookstore, to shop at the farmer's market, or to go to fairs and festivals.
A local barber shop.

The local farmer's market.  It runs April-October.

There are a few restaurants in the downtown
area, and every Friday and Saturday you can
grab a hot dog or Italian sausage from a food cart.

Main Street
Donde aprendemos  //  Where We Learn
The three main forms of education families in our area can choose from are public school, private school, and homeschooling.  Many homeschooling families form coops where everyone gathers together one day a week to get instruction from differnt teachers for each subject.  I teach Spanish at a local coop, and we also participate in a preschool coop for our boys.  Usually coops meet in classrooms that local churches open up for use.  Here you can see pictures of the two coops I am involved in.

I hope you enjoyed your visit!  Be sure to check out all the other neighborhoods we will be touring in the "Show Me Your Neighborhood" series.  For a schedule of the upcoming cities, check the schedule here.  What do you love about the place you live?  What neighborhood would you love to visit!?

Show me your neighbourhood around the world

Thursday, October 10, 2013

E de esqueleto // Skeleton Crafts

We have had a lot of fun around here lately doing alphabet activities and crafts alongside all the great bloggers participating in "31 Days of ABCs."  Many of the activities we have chosen to do relate to fall or el Día de los muertos.  For the letter E (la letra E, pronounce "ay/eh") we talked about esqueletos.  The song "Los esqueletos" from Babelzone on YouTube inspired us.  Even if you cannot understand all of the Spanish words, it has such a catchy tune you will find yourself singing along!

If you are having trouble viewing the video here, click this link to watch it on YouTube.

This song provides so many learning opportunities--it rhymes, it counts, it teaches time!  We will probably be re-visiting this song throughout October.  To keep it simple, we just worked on learning "E de esqueleto."

With our first craft we used Q-tips as huesos and built an esqueleto on black construction paper.  I found the idea here from Pinterest.  My older child really enjoyed this craft.  First I made a calavera out of white construction paper and drew on a face with a permanent marker.  We glued the calavera at the top and added all the huesos underneath.  I had cut some Q-tips in half, so as I added the glue in the shape of an esqueleto, my son chose which Q-tips to lay down.

As you can tell from the picture, my two-year-old did not enjoy the craft as much.  He is at the stage where, whatever the project is, he wants freedom to do it himself.  Following directions or a pattern is not in his realm of interest.  Which is fine.  We glued on a few Q-tips together and moved on to just glueing anything we could find on another paper and throwing Q-tips.

On another day, while my Little Guy was napping, I got out some watercolor paper and taped two pieces together.  I drew on a "secret" picture of an esqueleto with a white crayon.  Next I had Jefe (my older son) come over to see it.  I told him we were going to paint the paper with watercolors to reveal a secret message.  He kept trying to turn the paper over as we painted to find the message--it was cute.  Even though I knew what the secret message was, I think I had more fun than he did painting the paper and watching the esqueleto reveal itself.
Hamming it up for me, "What could
the secret message be?"

Beginning to paint.

Originally I had thought we would paint the enitre thing
black, but following the style of Día de los muertos, we
decided to make it all colorful.

Almost finished!  Jefe still could not tell
what it was at this point.

"It's an esqueleto!!!"

This project was probably one of my favorites we have done so far this fall.  After we painted the esqueleto, we read a couple of books by Yuyi Morales about a skeleton character named Señor Calavera.  Both books are award-winning, recieving the Pura Belpré Medal for Latino/a authors and illustrators.

In the first book, Just a Minute!: A Trickster Tale and Counting Book, Señor Calavera has an appointment with Grandma Beetle to take her with him.  However, Grandma Beetle needs to finish a number of tasks, and by the end Señor Calavera cannot wait any longer and leaves a note that says, "See you next year!"  I love how the author shows Grandma Beetle's culture as it counts through the things she has to prepare and clean and do to get ready for her birthday fiesta.  

The second book we read, Just In Case: A Trickster Tale and Spanish Alphabet Book, follows Señor Calavera as he prepares to visit Grandma Beetle on her next birthday.  He is so excited to see her he forgets to get her a present.  Thankfully, with the help of Grandpa Zelmiro's ghost, Señor Calavera manages to collect gifts for Grandma Beetle from every letter of the Spanish alphabet, "just in case" some of the presents are not what she would love the most; however, Señor Calavera runs out of time to find something for la letra Z,  and ends up falling and dropping all of the presents he gathered, arriving at the party empty-handed.  Or does he?!  You will have to read the story for yourself to see what Señor Calavera ends up bringing to the party that Grandma Beetle loves the most!

"Grandpa Zelmiro"
My almost-four-year-old was really taken by the text and illustrations of this book.  Morales depicts Grandpa Zelmiro so endearingly, that Jefe wanted to dress up like him.  I thought that was a great idea, so we dug through out dress-up clothes stash to find just the right outfit for "Grandpa Zelmiro."  Pretty soon after that, the Little Guy woke up from his nap, so we dressed him up as Señor Calavera.  For fun, we went around the house collecting things from the Spanish alphabet for Grandma Beetle.  The boys got tired of playing that game before we got to la letra Z, but as we went to bed that night, Jefe saw the container we had collected the gifts in and asked if we could finish finding the rest the next day: a clear sign that he loved the book and extended play we did.  Yay!  If you have not read these books already, I highly suggest you check them out or any others written and illustrated by Yuyi Morales--you will not be dissapointed!

"Señor Calavera"
Later in the day, after reading and acting out the books, we sat down to do some "clipboard work," as we call it.  We made la letra E out of esqueletos and did an esqueleto coloring page with dot markers.  You can print your own from the printable below.  We will be linking this post up with the "31 Days of ABCs" on the page for the letter E!

**This post contains affiliate links.**

Friday, October 4, 2013

31 Days of ABCs--Letter C

We are so excited to be taking part in the 31 Days of ABCs this October!  If you have not already, be sure to check out all the previous posts in the series.  Each post is hosted by a different blogger and has a link-up at the bottom where anyone can post ideas for that letter . . . a great way to gather resources for learning letters this fall!  Be sure to link up your own ideas below!

Our letter for the day is C.  Of course we are doing the Spanish letter C (pronounced "say"), but feel free to link up English or Spanish posts below.  The Spanish C can say the "s" sound like in the word cinco.  It can also say the "k" sounds like in our words for the day: calabaza and casa.  For fun practice saying all your letters in Spanish watch this video on YouTube--it is our favorite Spanish alphabet song.

Not too long ago I found a super fun counting video in Spanish about calabazas.  After finding it, I decided to make some little pumpkins that we could use to act out the song as we sang it.  Here is what you will need:

pintura anaranjada (orange paint)
limpiapipas verdes y cafés (green and brown pipecleaners)
tijeras (scissors)
pinceles (paintbrushes)
un cartón de huevos (an egg carton)

Cut out egg holders and trim them.

Paint them all orange.

Once all your little calabazas are dry, carefully poke a hole in the top of each one with your tijeras.

Next, cut your brown limpiapipas into small pieces and fold them in half for the stems.

Then cut your green limpiapipas in slightly longer pieces and wrap them around a pencil to make the curly leaves/vines and wrap those around  the brown stems.

And voila!  Your very own little calabazar.

Next you will need to make a little casa.  Gather these materials:

papel rojo y papel amarillo (red paper and yellow paper)
una caja de cartón (a cardboard box)
cinta adhesiva (tape)
pegamento (glue)
tijeras (scissors)

Take the cardboard box apart on the long edge (we used an old ceral box).  Then turn it inside out and tape it back together.  Cut the top in a triangular shape.  With your colored paper, make un triángulo rojo, dos cuadros amarillos, and un rectángulo amarillo.  Glue them all on the little casa and then you are ready to play along with the song Cinco calabazas from Spanish Together.  

What I love about this song is that is teaches counting, C vocabulary (cinco, casa, calabaza), and feelings in Spanish.  In case you did not catch all of the words or their meanings, I made a FREE printable with the lyrics and vocabulary that you can get here.  You also have my permission to print these photos below to use as visual aids for the song if you would like, in case you do not have all the materials to make the calabazas and casa.  I hope you enjoy this song as much as we did.  Don't forget to link up your own posts about the letter C!!

I will also be linking this post up with For the Kids Fridays at, Sharing Saturday at, the weekly Kids Co-op at, Mom's Library at, and Show-and-Share Saturday Link-up at!

31 Days of ABCs - October 2013