From “agenda” to “relationship”: an update to my bilingual parenting journey

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(Photo courtesy of Futureatlas.com, Flickr Creative Commons)

Last year I wrote about my then two-year old daughter’s language development in Spanish. My husband, D., a native of Spain, and I are raising our two children bilingually: our family’s language policy is Spanish at home/among us four and English with everyone else.

With the arrival of my daughter E. three years ago, I began my bilingual parenting journey with what some might call a “hard core” approach: use only Spanish with my children, all the time. Never English. No translating. Promote, promote, promote the minority language.

As a trained linguist, I can cite all of the research supporting bilingualism. I recognize the advantages of a family language policy that supports the minority language.

And, while I’ll be the first to raise my hand with an emphatic YES! to the benefits of being bilingual, I have to admit that my initial approach to raising bilingual children rested on nothing less than fear and control.

Constantly running through my mind were thoughts like, One day she’ll realize that English is the majority language and hate Spanish!, or, She’ll probably refuse to speak the minority language to me when she’s older, or, What if she never becomes fluent in Spanish?, or, I will never use one word of English in front of her so that she is never tempted to speak it with me.

Fear and control.

I bought book after book for E. in Spanish, I devoured all the parent “how-to” books on raising bilingual children, I joined Facebook groups, I made sure to FaceTime daily with our relatives in Spain. I even started a blog on bilingual parenting!

Fast forward three years later to today. Continue reading

E.’s Language Development at Two Years

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Part of raising a bilingual child is fielding questions of curiosity (which is totally fine) like, “So is your daughter bilingual?” or “How’s her English?” or “What language does she understand?” Although I’m still working on my elevator speech-style answer of 10 seconds or less, and although this post is not meant to be a defense of our choice to parent only in the minority language, Spanish, I did want to write a more personal, or narrative, style post to give you a snapshot of her current language(s) use. Continue reading

More books! {Selecting Montessori-inspired toddler books in Spanish}

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(Photo via Flickr CC)

Our little family of three recently came back from a month-long trip to España, my husband’s home country. Friends in the States often ask us, “what are you allowed to bring back?” or comment, “I bet you did a lot of great shopping!”

On past trips, D. and I have brought home wine, vermouth, and other alcoholic drinks that are much cheaper in Spain than in the States; we’ve also saved room for chuches (Spanish gummy candy that I’m addicted to), and sometimes vacuum-sealed cheese. This time, however, being E.’s first trip there, I held off on the candy and cheese (oh, don’t worry, we saved room for el vino!), and instead made room for books in Spanish for E. Continue reading

“Is she a good eater?” (Enjoying food with a toddler)

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As the mother of a toddler, I am often asked about my 21-month old daughter’s eating habits. In fact, on our recent trip to Spain, it was the topic of many conversations with friends and family (perhaps because food is such an integral part of the Spanish culture?)

¿Cóme bien? (Is she a good eater?)

¿Lo come todo? (Does she eat everything?)

¿Cómo consigues que coma las verduras? (How do you get her to eat vegetables?)

These questions – all from a place of good intentions and honest curiosity – have left me wondering, how do we define “good (or “bad”) eaters? and, I certainly don’t eat everything!, and I don’t! I can’t make her do anything!

So, for those of you curious how D. and I maneuver the tricky culinary adventures of eating with a toddler, I thought I’d share what I have learned from more seasoned parents, as well as from my own reading into RIE parenting and Montessori. Continue reading

Final Thoughts from our Trip to España

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We made it back to the other side of “El Charco” just a few days ago. It’s taking us a bit longer to break free from the jet lag and adjust to the six-hour time difference (i.e., days starting at 4am).

Despite the cansancio and despite D.’s and my sadness at no longer having total access to jamón serrano, we’re still running high on fond memories of our month-long trip to Spain.

There’s so much to say, so many thoughts, that I thought I’d just put them all down together, potpourri style, in one blog post. Continue reading

Our 2 weeks with Waldorf {Summary of my daughter’s schooling in Spain}

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Many of my friends and family were shocked when I told them that E. – with me – would be attending a Spanish preschool for two weeks during our trip to Madrid.

“But, what kind of vacation is that for a child?!!”

“Wow! How did you make that happen?”

“Aren’t children supposed to…play??”

I’d laugh and remind them although rest and relaxation would be a welcome afterthought, the two main goals of our month-long trip were time spent with family and friends, and language immersion.

And, what better way for a 20-month old to absorb and use the language than with other native speakers her age through play? Hence: preschool! Continue reading

Spain with a toddler – adjusting my expectations

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No sé por qué, pero me siento rara, un poco depre, I told D. the other evening at the dinner table.

¿Por qué? He asked.

(It was the dumbest of answers.) Pues, porque no hemos podido ir a comer un menú del día en toda la semana.

(But, it was also the most telling of reasons: This – our first time in Spain with a child – trip hasn’t aligned with my previous expectations. Continue reading