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Copywork and narration in multilingual households

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My dd is just beginning to write out words and I have combined her phonics instruction and handwriting together this way. However, I have started thinking about adding copy work in Spanish as well when we practice reading in Spanish.


She will also summarize the stories we read together, but only in English. I don't know if I should start asking some leading questions when we read stories in Spanish or if that is not worth pursuing.


If you work in two (or more) languages how do you break up the work? Any thoughts would be appreciated.

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Your DD is still very, very young. :) It is not necessary to do formal academics in both languages right now, you can build up her Spanish skills little by little through everyday interaction and reading to her, and then when she's school age to split some school work fully in Spanish or do it all in English but with supplements in Spanish (articles, additional resources, etc.). At that age, I go more with a child-led approach rather than pushing things.


However, if your question was a broader one, meaning how to incorporate 2+ languages in school work in general...


There are a few options I can think of:


1) Homeschool bilingually, all areas.

This means that you have materials in both languages, do assignments in both languages, learn all of the technical vocabulary in both languages, and shift languages according to the scheme agreed upon in advance (e.g. one week English, one week Spanish). This also means, sometimes, spending double as much time for the same material. You also do separate English language arts and Spanish language arts.


2) Homeschool bilingually by splitting areas.

This means that you do your English language arts and your Spanish language arts and the rest of the curriculum is split: some areas are studied exclusively in English (e.g. Math, Geography and History) while some areas are studied exclusively in Spanish (e.g. Music/Art Appreciation and Science). For the English-areas you have English materials and for the Spanish-areas Spanish materials; you test English areas and do assignments in English and Spanish areas are done fully in Spanish. This way you prevent doubling things, but still maintain bilingual homeschooling.

It is also advised to switch the areas every year or every few years (e.g. if Math was done only in English, switch it to Spanish for a year or two, etc.) in order to maintain balanced bilingualism and prevent that your child knows some areas only in English and cannot converse about them in Spanish and vice-versa.


3) Homeschool in one language with supplements in another

This means that you do English and Spanish language arts, but the rest of the schooling is done, for official purposes, assignments, tests and main materials, in English... However, you assure somehow balanced Spanish knowledge by supplementing your anglophone materials with the ones in Spanish - so, while your child might do Science from English textbooks, from time to time you add a book or an article or an activity in Spanish, even if it's understood that the main language of instruction is English. This will produce lower level of competence in Spanish on the long run, but your child will still be bilingual (especially given that Spanish language arts are there, it's assumed they have some additional conversational practice, etc.). This is the way expats often assure the level of native language of their kids - in order not to overburden them, they leave the language of instruction to be the main one, but they add their own language arts and supplement school work, often informally, with some stuff in the other language.


So, copywork and narrations would certainly be there as a part of Spanish language arts, but you might wish to decide in advance how much bilingually you're willing to actually homeschool when you hit content areas seriously. :) There are several approaches, as you see.


Personally, I mixed all three until I figured out which amount of what suits each child. :lol: I started with the first approach (English & Italian), then moved to third (Italian as the language of instruction), and ended up somewhere in-between second and third (while added Hebrew as an active school language too).

My eldest, 8th grader, does all of the standard things in Italian, sometimes supplemented by anglophone materials, plus English language arts and literature, and all of Judaics in Hebrew and using Hebrew as a supplement language too for other areas.

My middle, 7th grader, goes through the standard Italian curriculum, but pretty much does all of her math/sciences in English and by anglophone materials, with English language arts and literature, uses Hebrew only for Judaics and only partially, since her command of the language isn't as strong to use Israeli textbooks for other subjects too, so even her Judaics are often in English/Italian.

In practice it's not so rigid, of course there's a lot of overlapping and informal learning and using all three for plethora of things, but if I were to draw the lines somewhere, this would be the approximation.

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Thanks so much for your reply. We certainly do not do very much now and only when she asks (or begs) to do something. My question was mainly what to do in the future since I will need to stock up on books whenever I have the opportunity. :)


We are currently planning on splitting our time in both the US and Colombia in about 5 years so i do need my children to be literate in both languages. I think that for now I am gravitating towards your second option and I am so glad that you mentioned that we should alternate which subjects are taught in English. How do you go about scheduling your language work? Is it better to keep all English instruction during one time and then switch to the next language (eg. Morning vs. Afternoon) or does it make no difference?

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I used to ask for narration in the other language. If the text was English, he would narrate in French, if the text was French he would narrate in English.

I did it this way because he had a tremendous memory and could quote me the text verbatim, even after a full day. By forcing him to switch languages, he had to come up with his own words.


I did not do the same for my daughter. She always narrates in French. Mind you, most of her texts are in English, but not all.

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