Do you ever feel like parenting is a juggling act?
Schedules. Activities. Responsibilities. Caring for ourselves. Connecting with each child. Using our minority language. Raising kind humans.
If you’ve ever struggled trying to juggle the many pieces of everyday life, you’re not alone. I’ve found that parenting, like many things in life, is about finding balance.
Today I want to tell you a little more about why I chose the blog name Bilingual Balance and why I end my posts encouraging you to “Find your balance.”
Each family will have unique goals for their child’s language learning, different plans for meeting those goals, and distinct circumstances in how they are able to support the language learning journey. I encourage you to reflect on these three pieces in terms of your family. As you find what works for you, I hope to prepare you with language learning resources and ideas, and inspire you to give your child the gift of another language!
Define your goals
So where do you begin to “find your balance?” The first piece in finding the right balance for you in bilingual parenting is to reflect on your goals for your child. Do you want to introduce your child to a little bit of a new language? Are you supporting your child’s learning at home as they study the language at school? Do you want your child to be able to speak fluently in the language? Is your goal for your child to be able to read and write in both languages?
Have you ever heard the term “balanced bilingualism?” It means that a person has equal levels of competence in both languages. While this may be the ultimate goal for some parents, it is not mine. My goal has always been for my kids to become fluent in both English and Spanish. Because of where we live, English may always be their dominant language, but we continue to prioritize Spanish learning.
Knowing what your aspirations are will help you create a plan for meeting those goals. The size of your goals will determine the size of your efforts.
Plan a balance of language input to meet your goals
After you’ve considered your goals, it’s important to think through factors and resources that will impact those goals. Take some time to think about how your child will learn another language. Many of my favorite bilingual parenting books have home language planning guides in them.
So think about who is going to speak the language to your child. Will you only speak the target language at home (a method called Minority Language at Home)? Would one parent speak English and one parent speak the target language (a method called One Parent One Language)? Are grandparents or other family members available to speak the target language? Do you have teachers or child care providers who can help?
Consider where your child will learn the language. Will you teach the child at home? Perhaps there is a bilingual school or daycare nearby. A bilingual school is an incredible support system for parents who want their children to become fluent and learn to read and write in the target language. Or, could your child take language classes online or in person?
You might also want to consider when your child will get language input in the target language. Some families choose to learn the target language together at certain times of the day, or on different days of the week. Perhaps a certain context would work best for your family.
It’s important to note here to keep your goals in mind as you plan for language input. As Naomi Steiner, M.D., and Susan L. Hayes say in their book, 7 Steps to Raising a Bilingual Child, “Keep in mind that the level of proficiency your child achieves is going to be directly tied to the amount of time he spends speaking and studying the language.”
Every family and individual is unique
After considering your goals and plans for your child’s language learning, keep this thought in your mindset: each family and each child is unique. And no two bilingual people are alike! We continue to learn and grow in language skills throughout life.
Maybe you’re a parent who speaks your native language as the minority language to your child. Perhaps you are a non-native speaker, like me, trying to gift a second language to your child. Maybe you’re giving your child the opportunity to attend a bilingual school – and you’re supporting their learning at home. Choose a plan that suits your family and situation.
“Parents are teachers, and home is a child’s first and most important classroom.”-Hillary Clinton
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, find your balance means think about your unique child and what activities or strategies will be most fun and engaging. What are they interested in? Which activities do they love? How are they motivated? Just like teachers differentiate their instruction, parents can tailor their language strategies to their kids. Many of my posts equip you with Spanish resources – books, songs, activities – and I encourage you to find the ones that most inspire your little ones. Because we want our kids to speak, understand, and love the language! Make it personal and positive!
Kids learn better and retain more of what they learn when they’re interested and engaged. So when it comes to kids and language input, the attractiveness of the activities is every bit as important as the sheer number of them.-Naomi Steiner, M.D., & Susan L. Hayes in “7 Steps to Raising a Bilingual Child”
Find Your Balance
Everday life can often feel like a juggling act. However, setting goals, planning language strategies, and finding the right balance of input and engaging activities (for you and your kids) will make your bilingual parenting journey meaningful and successful. I hope that my blog can be your partner on the journey – providing you with ideas and inspiration!
FIND YOUR BALANCE…
…define your goals.
…plan a balance of language input to meet your goals.
…find what works best for your family.
…find what works best for your unique child.