Struggling to find time to teach your kids a foreign language? Try something radical.
In my family, we believe that foreign language instruction and music training are extremely important, as artistic and practical pursuits, as well as for brain development. My children take violin and piano lessons, we use Rosetta stone for French, my husband speaks Greek to them, and we are planning on starting Spanish soon. My kids also watch a lot of TV, lest you think we are some sort of uber parents…it all balances out.
The difficulty with languages and music is that they are not disciplines you can easily fake- you get out what you put in. My 8 year old practices violin an hour a day, piano 15 minutes a day, and French 20 minutes a day. My 7 year old practices violin 30 minutes a day, piano 10 minutes a day and (inconsistently) French 20 minutes a day. The challenge, of course, is fitting this in either before or after school, in addition to their extracurricular interests (dance for my daughter and soccer for my son), homework, chores, time together as a family, hanging out with friends, and the ever-elusive “unstructured free play”. Exhausting- and we already set limits on how many activities our kids can do (they are actually less busy than a lot of their friends).
Not Enough Time!
When we added up all of the time requirements on our young kids (and on me, enforcing these schedules), we realized that mathematically, it just didn’t work. There truly aren’t enough hours in the day for the things we think are important. So, we are considering something many people would consider radical: homeschooling.
Create Your Own Schedule through Homeschooling
Our goal is not to make UN translators or professional musicians out of our children, but to instill in them the disciplines of hard work, determination and mastery, qualities often hard to develop in a traditional school environment, where much of the focus is on acquiring superficial knowledge, with the primary goal of succeeding on standardized tests.
Having time for music and languages is only a part of our rationale for considering homeschooling. Taking my children’s individual learning styles into account, as well as our wish for them to discover early on what they are passionate about, what they are good at, and what gives them fulfillment, educating them at home, as well as with the help of mentors we find along the way, is an extremely intriguing option.
Without the requirements of a traditional school day, and all of the externalities that go along with it (getting to and from school, the never-ending after-school snack, and homework) here is a sample schedule of what my rising 4th grader’s day could look like next year :
8:00am-9:45am music practice
9:45am-10:00am mini-recess break (yoga, go for a quick run, look at the birds out the window, whatever)
11:15am-12:30pm Language Arts (reading, writing, grammar, spelling)
12:30pm-1:30pm Lunch and play break (my daughter can make her own lunch and even have time to go for a swim at the YMCA across the street)
1:30pm-2:15pm Foreign language instruction
2:30pm-3:30pm SPECIALS (rotating through Art, History, Geography and Science, with one free day)
From what I hear, this is a really packed schedule (apparently, kids only spend about 3 and a half hours learning on any given day at traditional school, so I may be aiming way too high here). But built into this sample schedule is time for a weekly field trip to a museum, musical, play, different town, you name it. Wherever my kids interests take us. And then we can build on those interests in following weeks, or veer in a different direction entirely.
Given that so many programs have been reduced or eliminated in traditional schools to make room for testing and teaching to the test, such as recess, PE, music, arts, even class birthday celebrations, I love the idea of adding fun and creativity back into my kids schedules. And after 3:30, they are free to play, help around the house (because I’m sure they can’t wait to do more of that), and further pursue the activities they are interested in.
Think we’re crazy? Curious about how it will go? I’ll be updating you all on a weekly basis about how we are incorporating foreign language into our homeschooling adventure on The Language Playground, so make sure to come back and check us out!