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One of the most common questions I get asked is how to teach reading in a bilingual homeschool?

Which language should you teach first?

Can kids learn to read in two languages simultaneously?

How do you teach your kids to read in Spanish?

First off, my approach has changed with each child. Therefore, more than a treatise on HOW to teach your kids to read in Spanish, this is a conglomeration of what I have learned in my research on the subject, as well as what my kids have taught me through hands-on experience.

For English phonics, I use All About Reading, a program I thoroughly recommend. For Spanish, I used the skills and ideas I learned in the All About Reading program to teach Spanish phonics in the order laid out in the Nacho Sílabario.

I am writing a scripted phonics program (in Spanish) to teach Spanish phonics at home. You can sign up below to get the first few lessons free.

1) Phonics and My Firstborn OR

The Delayed Simultaneous Method

While I had done pre-reading and literacy skills with my Firstborn since he was quite little, I waited for him to show an interest in learning to read before I began formal lessons.

For him, this coincided with the beginning of first grade, which is late compared to the public school. However, for us it worked well.

In researching best practices for teaching reading in two languages, I came to the conclusion that it is not only possible, but good, to teach bilingual children to read in both languages simultaneously.

And so I launched into a fabulous rhythm of English phonics instruction one day, and Spanish phonics instruction the next day. 

Despite my excellent planning and good intentions, my Firstborn had not gotten the memo that learning to read in two languages simultaneously is awesome and fun.

He was extremely frustrated that AEIOU made one set of sounds on Monday, and a completely different set of sounds on Tuesday.

Perhaps this would be different if your languages had different alphabets? Not sure.

However, so great was his frustration that phonics lessons became a battle of the wills. Especially in Spanish.

I was loosing him, and it wasn’t worth it.

English is his stronger language, and I had an excellent curriculum for teaching English phonics. Meanwhile I was piecing together our Spanish lessons myself.

So, I decided to stop our Spanish phonics lessons completely.

After about three months, my Firstborn was decoding three letter English words with ease. Now that he knew how to blend sounds together into words, I was curious if I could re-introduce Spanish phonics.

It worked!

I began again with our Spanish phonics lessons and there was no push back this time. 

I call this Delayed Simultaneous phonics instruction. (Sounds fancy, but I just made it up!)

Once he figured out the technicalities of turning letters into sounds into words (decoding), then he only had to focus on the different sounds some letters made in Spanish.

He now reads both languages beautifully. He still prefers to read in English, but he has daily Spanish readings as part of our homeschool.

2) Phonics and My Second Born OR

What to Do With Suspected Dyslexia

Since the Delayed Simultaneous method worked so well for my first, I approached phonics the same way with my Second Born

Unlike my son, however, my daughter asked me to teach her to read when she was 4.5 years old.

Because I’m a great mother, I put her off for six months, and began formal instruction when she turned 5 and officially started Kindergarten in our homeschool.

I figured I would spend about three months starting out in English, and then introduce Spanish. She would be reading in no time!

Wrong. We spent the first six months of her Kindergarten year painfully and slowly working through our English phonics lessons.

After 30 lessons, she still could not decode three-letter words

My mama instinct told me something was off, I sought advice and met with a reading specialist.

Turns out, she does not have dyslexia but is simply one of the many many kids for whom learning to read is a slow trudge up a steep hill

I was given a few ideas:

  • Take a break from formal lessons.
  • Read aloud a lot (which we have always done).
  • Switch to spelling lessons (some kids can encode (spell) easier than they can decode (read).
  • Start over at the beginning of Level One.

The beauty of homeschool is, with no one to compare yourself against, my daughter wasn't bothered at all by the apparent "set back". Though my ego took a hit.

We took a month off from formal lessons, began afresh with Level One Spelling to end out her Kindergarten year.

When thinking through how to approach phonics in her 1st grade year, I decided that my goal would be to move as slowly as she needed to maintain forward growth AND maintain her love for reading.

Also, I decided to add Spanish phonics.

Some may think that was a strange decision, but here’s my reasoning:

  • I did not want to set a precedent that she didn’t need to study Spanish simply because it was hard.
  • Everything I’ve read from BILINGUAL reading specialists convinced me that dropping Spanish would not speed up her English phonics mastery.
  • I like to experiment on my kids and wanted to see how it would go. 

We started this past Fall where we left off with Spelling at the end of Kindergarten. We finished Level 1 Spelling, and then started back at the very beginning of Level One Reading.

It is now one year since we quit phonics and took a month off. We are almost back to the lesson we quit on in Level One Reading.

She is doing so well! She reads slow, but she IS decoding and comprehending what she reads.

On top of that, once a week we do Spanish phonics instead of English. I teach her through highly physical games and play. So far, she loves it! I write her small stories and I sometimes even catch her reading them on her own!

Most important to me, she is still motivated to learn to read.

Thank you, Jesus, for that.

I am writing a scripted phonics program (in Spanish) to teach Spanish phonics at home. You can sign up below to get the first few lessons free.

3) Phonics and My Little Man OR 

English Can Wait

If you've read this far, I'm impressed! I'll keep this one short, as there's not much to say!

This is the first year I am doing any sort of formal work for my 5yo son. He is the typical baby in that he is highly motivated to “do school”.

So he and I have been working on Spanish phonics. He is reading short syllables and enjoying the games we play while learning.

I am not doing any English phonics instruction with him.

In fact, I'm not doing ANY formal schooling in English with him.

The longer I homeschool, the more I wish that I hadn’t worried about a “balanced” bilingual homeschool in the beginning, and had just emphasized the minority language as much as I could in the little years.

My kids WILL speak English. That’s a given. But their Spanish ability is based on the amount of input and instruction I alone can give them (as non-native speaker doing this solo). 

And so, my 5yo does what little formal work we do entirely in Spanish.

Besides, language skills transfer from one language to the next. I saw it clearly with my oldest, and now I’m confident I'll see it the other way around with my Little Man.


Again, if you're curious about the scripted phonics program I am writing (in Spanish) to teach Spanish phonics at home. You can sign up below to get the first few lessons free.

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  • Hi! We are loving what we see in the free phonics lesson. Do you have an estimate on when the program will be released? Mil gracias!

    • Hello! I am so glad you love it! Due to all the feedback, I was asked to get the readers out first, so I plan to have the illustrated readers for the first level available in Kindle Direct Printing by the middle of August. As for the full-scripted lessons, I don’t have a date for that yet!

  • Hi. I just wanted to reach out and tell you thanks! I am a Non-native Spanish speaker attempting bilingual homeschool. My husband is a native speaker, but his family does not speak to my kids in Spanish. My first child is going into 1st grade, and I have had many of the same struggles with picking curriculum and teaching simultaneously. She is now beginning to read in both languages. It happened very slowly, and then all of a sudden. It is so encouraging to find this resource. I stumbled across you today, and am amazed at some of the similarities in our beginnings. Thank you for being a much needed resource.

    • Wow! Thank you so much for your kind words and encouragement. It is possible! And it is hard. Sounds like you’re doing a great job!

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