My biggest fear for my children is that they will grow up and not be able to speak Spanish. This fear is so deep rooted that I worry about it constantly, and I’m not a worrier. To be fair, my worry is evidence-based, after years of observing friends raising bilingual kids, and spending 15 years in bilingual classrooms, I know that achieving true bilingualism takes a lot of diligence and effort on everyone’s part. (Multilingual Parenting has some great tips here). So when my daughter started preschool and after only a month has decided she doesn’t want to speak Spanish… well let’s just say that I have been beside myself.
I’ll start by sharing that my newly-minted three year old does not technically need to be in school. She is fine socially and emotionally, has above average communication skills in both languages, and is generally incredibly happy to stay home with Mami and Little Sister. But seven months after leaving my 15 year career as a high school Spanish teacher to stay home full-time, I was the one who needed Big Sister to go to school. While I love to be home with my girls, and wouldn’t have it any other way, between being a wife, a mother, and a household manager, I wasn’t getting any time to “do me.” The whole household was suffering a bit because, as the saying goes “When Momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.”
I had a few tough weeks and talked with the amazing moms in my book club who, apart from having lots of kids between them, have all raised incredibly engaged and intelligent children. Everyone said that I definitely needed to find time and an outlet for myself, and that school could be good for Big Sister. Over and over, I kept pushing back because I did not want her exposed to any more English. Between music, television, my family her friends, and my (admitted) occasional laziness at speaking Spanish to my girls, I was terrified of the impact school would have on her language development.
Still, we made the decision to send her to school, and keep Little Sister home. This way, I could cook, clean, and blog while Little Sister took her morning nap, pick Big Sister up from school, and be 100% present when she is home. I think sometimes that I’m like a lot of other mothers in that my standards for motherhood are impossibly high, and that Big Sister probably wouldn’t even need to go to school if I just allowed some more screen time and let her be bored a little more often. We can always second guess ourselves, but she now goes to school two mornings a week from 8:30-noon.
And boy does she love school. She loves her teacher, who is an incredibly patient and creative mom of two who fully engages the kids in creative and age-appropriate ways. Her classroom is full of amazing and stimulating centers through which the kids move at their own pace. Big Sister comes home and acts just like Teacher Diana. She reads, she disciplines, she dances, and she cracks jokes… all in English. And she no longer wants to speak Spanish, even when I ask her to do so. And my heart is broken.
Post update: Find out how we started to solve the problem here!
Do you have any experience with this? How do we re-cultivate her love for Spanish? We’d love your comments!
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