The homeschool soft start was a little insider trick I learned from a veteran homeschool mom. It works wonders, and we made it our own by adding a Spanish Immersion twist.
Balancing Morning Time when juggling two languages takes a little finesse, but it can be done. Let me walk you through how we do it around here, and perhaps you'll get some ideas to use in your own home.
If you're new to the whole concept of Morning Time, you might like to read about what is it and how it transformed our homeschool before jumping into the specifics here.
But if you're ready for the details...Let's go!
Everyone who is homeschooling bilingually is swimming up stream. We encourage our kids to swim with us, but many days they would rather float easily into the current of monolingualism. We end up fighting to keep them by our side on the journey, and it's exhausting.
Where do we find rest?
It is so important on this bilingual journey to find spaces of rest. An oasis, a safe harbor, where our minority language is embraced with joy and laughter. For us, in our homeschool, we have found that respite in Morning Time.
One of the biggest questions I get asked is How exactly do you homeschool in two languages?
I figured the best way to answer the question is just to tell you what we’re doing this year. Keep in mind, this is only one way. It seems there are as many ways to make it happen as there are families out there.
Also of note, we have an all-day enrichment program on Tuesdays, and my Big and Middle Lady take one class out of the house on Thursday. I’ll get to our Thursday schedule later in the post.
But for Monday, Wednesday and Friday our day flows as follows.
Time: About 1 hour
We begin each day with Morning Time. If you’re not familiar with Morning Time, check out this post from Pam Barnhill. Basically, we start our days together, reading literature, singing, memorizing beautiful language, writing, and playfully drilling Spanish vocabulary.
For us, this time is completely in Spanish. It is a way for me to start the day strong connecting as a family and using our minority language. Here’s what we use for Morning Time:
Morning Time Plan. For the bulk of our morning time we use our 10-week seasonal morning time plans. They include weekly poetry memorization selections, excellent book recommendations, nature and craft activities, and 100 seasonal vocabulary word flashcards. Currently we’re using Cesta Mañanera OTOÑO, our fall themed plan. If you're curious to see it you can download a free trial here.
Time: 20 mins each child
From Morning Time we roll right into math. Math is a subject we do entirely in our minority language. First I tried a curriculum in Spanish, but it wasn't a good curriculum.
I didn't want to sacrifice quality of education just to be able to do something in our minority language. So I found a work around.
My trick to making this work as a non-native Spanish speaker is to choose a scripted curriculum. In other words, a curriculum that writes out exactly what I’m supposed to say during each lesson.
That makes it easy for me to see exactly what vocab I'll need. If I don't know certain words, I look them up and jot it down right there in the manual so when we get to that lesson I can roll smoothly along.
Time: 40 mins
At this point in our morning the school language switches to English. If you are not familiar with Loop Scheduling, check out this post from Read Aloud Revival. But basically, I spend 40 minutes each day working on phonics, spelling and grammar.
My Oldest is in 2nd grade, and I spend 15 focused minutes with him looping phonics and spelling. What that means is that we work through two lessons from All About Reading, regardless of how many 15-minute segments it takes us.
Then we do one lesson from All About Spelling, then two lessons of All About Reading, then one lesson of Spelling. Wash. Rinse. Repeat. While we are working, the Middle Lady reads to the Little Man (or they play). Then we switch.
The Middle Lady is in Kindergarten, and so we are only doing 15 minutes of All About Reading. I’ll add All About Spelling once her reading becomes more fluent. While we’re working, the Biggest reads one book to the Little Man, sometimes in English, sometimes in Spanish. Then they play.
The last 10 minutes of our English Language Loop is spent working through First Language Lessons by Susan Wise Bauer. These lessons are extremely bite-sized, and so even though we don’t spend much time on them, we can actually move forward each day. Most of the time. 🙂
All About Spelling. This is the only spelling program we've used, and we love it. It uses the same Orton-Gillingham approach. I feel like the combo of these two programs are giving my kids an incredibly solid base in phonics and spelling.
First Language Lessons. This is a classically based complete grammar program written by Susan Wise Bauer of The Well Trained Mind. It includes copywork, narration, picture study, and it's entirely scripted.
I'm sensing a theme in my curriculum choices. Scripted curricula must be my love language...
At this point in the morning, we are ready for a 30 minute snack & play break! We move from snack into read aloud time.
Time: 45 mins - 1 hour
This is one of my favorite times of the day as the kids grab something from our read-aloud basket (think coloring books, wiki-stix, or other hand-busying projects) and we find a comfy spot - often heading outside.
I read to them for as long as we can make it. Most days we’re talking around 45 minutes. We cover our history, English literature, and science reading here (Spanish Lit is covered during Morning Time).
We use the Tapestry of Grace booklist for history and literature, and I always read these subjects in English.
History has proved to be a subject that is too difficult for me to manage in my minority language. I’m sure a native speaker could do it, but I came to terms with my limits, and we study history solely in English.
We use the Exploring Nature With Children curriculum for science, and there are excellent book suggestions for each weekly theme. I always look to see what books are available in Spanish for the weekly science theme, so we read both English and Spanish books for science.
Tapestry of Grace. This is a fabulous K-12 complete curriculum based on the classical education model. It is priced as such. I love this curriculum, and we follow their syllubus and book recommendations for history and literature. However, I do believe any good book list will serve you well for these subjects.
Exploring Nature With Children. This is an absolutely gorgeous curriculum that guides you through a year of nature study. Each week has a different theme with a fabulous book list (as well as art, poetry, nature journaling prompts, and activity suggestions). It is based on Charlotte Mason principles.
Your Local Library. I would be remiss if I did not mention the library as a read aloud resource. I spend some time online each week requesting holds for books about 4-6 weeks in advance of when I want them. Then on our weekly library visit, I pick up whatever books have come in and save them for the proper week. If you are having trouble finding certain titles, ask your librarian about interlibrary loan. This is especially helpful when searching for minority language titles.
Time: 90 minutes
By now it’s about noon. After Read-Aloud we do a quick pick up, then gather around the table and eat. After lunch, everyone finds a quiet spot for an hour. This is my time to work ahead in my math manual and write in Spanish vocab, get online and requests holds from the library, read for fun, answer emails, or stare at the ceiling. 🙂
Time: After quiet time until dinner.
After Quiet Time, our pension for formal schooling goes way down hill.
I use the afternoons for nature walks and journaling (again, following the Exploring Nature With Children curriculum), involving the kids in dinner prep (home economics), heading to a museum or park, or declaring free-time until dinner.
That's our basic Monday, Wednesday, Friday schedule! We've been at it for a month and it's been working really well.
Now we get to Thursdays.
Thursdays are odd days as the Biggest and Middle Lady have one class at co-op that starts at 10am. So we start our morning as usual with our Spanish Morning Time routine (detailed above at the tippy top of this post).
Then we head to co-op and stay for lunch with our friends. When we get home from coop, I gather the kids for intentional Spanish instruction.
Time: 45 minutes, once a week
Just like with our English phonics lessons, I spend 15 focused minutes with each of my two Bigs learning and practicing Spanish phonics.
Then I have my Biggest read a Spanish book to all of us. The Middle Lady is not at that level yet in either language.
If attitudes and interest are holding up, I read a book or two in Spanish as well.
I have also started working systematically through Spanish grammar with my kiddos during this time. I am creating this material as I go, using First Language Lessons by Susan Wise Bauer as a guide.
And that's our week in super detail!
If you've read this long, I'd love to hear how your weeks are organized, and how you merge two languages in your homeschool. Let me know in the comments!
Montessori 3-Part Cards are a beautiful way for children to interact with new information. Because these cards can be used in endless ways, children can interact with the information over and over again without growing bored.
This repetition leads to mastery of the information on the cards, which in our case leads to an ever growing vocabulary in your target language!
This post will cover what exactly Montessori 3-Part Cards are, how to use them for a Basic Lesson, and how children can use these cards to study independently.
Let's get started!
Montessori 3-Part Cards, not surprisingly, consist of three parts. There is a Control Card that includes a picture with a word label, a Picture Card with only the picture, and a Label Card with only the printed word label.
If you are using our Morning Time Plans, you can create Montessori 3-Part Cards by printing two sets of the flashcards. Cut the first set into Control Cards by leaving the labels and pictures together. Cut the second set into Picture Cards and Label Cards by separating the labels and pictures.
If possible, I suggest printing on 110lb cardstock for durability. Alternately, you can laminate the cards (it's easier to laminate before you cut them up).
For storage, I organize our cards in envelopes by week (if using our Morning Time Plans) or by theme.
Pretty straight forward. Not too complicated. But now you have envelopes full of Control Cards, Picture Cards, and Label Cards. What next? Use them, of course!
The 3-Part Card Basic Lesson is my preferred way to introduce new vocabulary to my children. The main reason for this is the immediate attachment of a new Spanish word to an image rather than an attachment to an English word.
The Basic Lesson, like the cards themselves, consists of three parts. It begins with the introduction of the Control Cards. This is followed by the matching of the Picture Cards, and it ends with the placement of the Label Cards.
It is best for lessons to take place completely in the target language. However, if you are learning a language alongside your children go ahead and use English for all words except the vocab words you are learning. Try to keep those in the target language. You’ll be surprised how quickly your vocabulary grows!
For this example, I am using the Spanish word for "backpack", la mochila.
Sit across from your child at a table or on the floor and slowly place one card down and say “This is la mochila. Can you say la mochila?” Repeat this process for each of the new vocabulary cards. Work through them slowly allowing your children time to begin to attach new labels to common images.
Note: Having children repeat out loud is key for mastering new vocab. Encourage and praise their efforts, but don’t force a child to speak new vocab aloud if they are hesitant. New sounds are strange, and it takes courage to speak them out loud. If your child doesn’t want to repeat new words simply say “Maybe next time. I know it feels funny to make those sounds, we’ll all get used to it!” Remain cheery and excited about your family’s language learning.
Once all the Control Cards are laid out, pick up the Picture Cards. One at a time show the cards to your child and say “This is la mochila. Can you say la mochila? Excellent! Can you find the other mochila?” When your child points to the matching Control Card say “Awesome! You may place la mochila card next to the matching mochila card”. Hand the card to the child and let them place it next to the matching Control Card. Slowly work through all Picture Cards.
Note: At this point in the lesson they have already heard each new vocabulary word seven times, and repeated it aloud twice.
With your Control Cards and Picture cards matched up, take the Label Cards one at a time and say “This label says la mochila. Ready to say it? La mochila.” If your children are eager learners or confident readers you can say “Can you remember where la mochila is? Read the labels if you need help.” If your children are pre-readers or do not enjoy being put on the spot, work through the Label Cards by saying “This label says la mochila. La mochila is here [point to cards]. You may put the label card in its place.” When all the cards are matched, celebrate!
Note: Placement of the Label Card is the most difficult part for children learning new vocabulary, especially if they are pre-readers. When first introducing vocabulary, you decide if your child would enjoy the challenge of finding the correct match, or if they would prefer to be shown the correct placement.
Congratulations! You have just completed your first Montessori 3-Part Lesson! Now let’s learn some simple variations that can lead to independent work.
The simplest variation is to let your child lead you (or siblings) through the basic lesson. Ask your child if they would like a turn. If so, shuffle the Control Cards, Picture Cards, and Label Cards and let them run the show! If they are new to the Basic Lesson they may need some direction from you, but it doesn’t take long before even very small children can guide others through the Basic Lesson.
Once a child has been introduced to a new set of vocabulary, they can drill themselves using Montessori 3-Part Cards.
A reading child may take the Label Cards and lay them in a line, reading each label out loud as they go. Next, the child takes the Picture Cards and matches the Picture Card to the correct Label Card, again, speaking each word aloud as they create matches. Once the child believes they have correctly matched the Pictures with the Labels, they may use the Control Cards to check their work.
When your child is ready for a challenge, they may start by laying out the Picture Cards first. Recalling and speaking the vocabulary words aloud without seeing the Label Cards in front of them creates a layer of difficulty. After the Picture Cards are laid out, they may match the Label Cards and check their work with the Control Cards.
A pre-reader will need more repetitions before they can work independently, but even very small children can use these cards independently to review and master vocab. Just make sure that they are speaking the vocabulary words out-loud while matching up the cards.
Remember: The goal is Mastery, Not Matching
The goal with Montessori 3-Part Cards is not that the child match the cards correctly every time, but that the child manipulates and interacts with the information often and in a multitude of ways so as to master the vocabulary!
Mistakes, especially when self-corrected by the child using the Control Card, are the way to mastery!