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How to Learn a Second Language in Your Homeschool

(Post two of The Adventure of Learning series).

Written by guest contributor Aaron Myers of The Everyday Language Learner.

As my kids rolled onto the floor in front of the laptop for another episode of one of their favorite cartoons, the Anne of Green Gables animated TV series, I considered the opportunities we have as homeschool parents.

We can take our time. We work to focus on our kids’ strengths, helping them fall in love with the gifts and abilities they’ve been given and develop them to their full potential.

Writing is a chance to express ideas, share thoughts, and tell stories. It is real communication with others, like their cousins with whom they’ve been creating a running mystery, each letter containing a new clue or a secret code. Reading is no longer homework, but something you do for fun, for hours at a time and in your favorite chair, on the floor, or even in your bed.

That’s the goal anyway.

Homeschooling is not always easy. At the end of some days my wife is exhausted from the work of getting the kids to buy in, to do their share and pull their weight. On some days the rewards feel far less than adequate to keep at it. But for us there is another reason for homeschooling and it goes back to what the kids are watching - Anne of Green Gables, the animated television series - dubbed in Turkish.

I have yet to meet anyone who didn’t think that learning another language was a good idea. I suspect that you too - if you don’t already - would like to know another language. And you would love for your kids to know it as well.

Whether you are an individual wanting to learn for yourself or a homeschool mom or dad wanting to add a foreign language to the curriculum, I have a message for you:

Now is the time to begin the language learning journey.

But It’s Hard

As adults we tend not to repeat experiences that were difficult or painful in our past. The unfortunate reality for most of us however is that the foreign language classrooms of our youth were both difficult and painful.

Why would we do that again? I wouldn’t.

But thankfully, we don’t need to. Schools too often treat languages like a frog on the dissecting table. But the place to learn about frogs, at least in the beginning, is out at the pond, in its natural surroundings.

Language is the same. We should experience language before we have it explained to us. We should get exposure before we analyze it. And in the case of learning another language, play should most definitely come before work - for us and especially for our kids.

But I’m Busy

You're a mom. A homemaker. A dad. A homeschooler. A writer. A photographer. A cross country skier. You’re making a living. You’re raising kids. You’re doing your level best to create a life that brings freedom and joy and growth to you and your family.

And the thought of adding “learn another language” to the list seems overwhelming and out of the question.

I want to encourage you - don’t add it to the list. Rather, think about incorporating the language into your life, into your existing activities. Think fun. Think play. Think purpose.

What does that look like you ask?

Here are some ideas to help you wrap your mind around it. Renee and her crew are on the journey to learn French so I’ll tailor the ideas to the Tougas family:

Why should you learn another language?

And more importantly, why should you learn another language with your kids?

Learning another language with your kids offers a rare opportunity for you and your children. When you learn with your children they will:

  • see you as a learner - a real learner working, struggling even, to learn a new language.
  • see you when the rubber meets the road; as a mentor, a model, and as a fellow learner.
  • be able to collaborate and interact with you in ways that other topics just don’t allow - topics that by their standards you are the expert in.
  • be empowered because you are choosing to be dis-empowered, to step down and learn beside them.

The opportunity to learn a new language and to include your kids on that journey is an amazing blessing. You will learn from them and them from you in ways that math and science just don’t allow.

A new dynamic is created, one in which you are no longer the teacher but rather a fellow learner. And in this we can be confident that we will be teaching the lessons of hard work, discipline, problem solving and lifelong learning to our kids because we are with them on the journey.

That is why you should learn another language with your kids.

But I Don’t Know How

There is perhaps no more pressing question for learning a new language than the question of ‘how’.

How do we learn it? And for homeschool moms, how do we teach it?

It's not as hard as you think. I'm going to show you some ideas in a video.

At The Everyday Language Learner my passion is to empower learners from all over the world to know both why and how to learn other languages. I write regular articles to that end but have also created a number of great resources to empower learners on the journey.

Click here to see all the Everyday Language Guides.

I want to give FIMBY readers a special discount. Use the coupon code FIMBY to get 20% off of any guide.

Also, The Ten Week Journey, offered through my blog, is a free email course I developed to help walk ordinary people into the extraordinary life of the independent language learner.

~~~

Renee here again. I invited Aaron to write this post because if you want to learn another language as a personal or homeschool goal, I'd like to help you reach that goal. And Aaron is the guy to go to for help.

Aaron is a language coach, writer, and the author of numerous language guides. There's a lot of stuff on his site (which might overwhelm you a bit, it did me) so I'm personally recommending his Fly First Class package because it includes so much for such a great price, and remember you get a FIMBY discount!

My own language learning journey was really helped along by reading The Everyday Language Learner Guide to Getting Started (which is included in the Fly First Class.)

Aaron's teaching helps you learn another language in a real life, interest-driven context. His guides are written for the adult learner but what he teaches can be applied in a homeschool setting. In fact, the homeschool setting is perfect for the Everyday Language Learner.

This post has affiliate links.

Resources: 

25 February 13

Comments

I think a lot more could have

I think a lot more could have been said as to WHY learning a second language is beneficial.

A couple CD's I like for French are "French Cafe" and "Quebec", both by Putumayo World Music. For those living in larger centres I'd consider participating in cultural events if they are open to the general public. I attended a university in Quebec and a French faculty in Alberta and both of these would have been good places to contact for ideas of upcoming local events to promote french language and culture. While we did enjoy French resources like Tintin and other movies and Garfield comics in French, the humor can go way over a person's head when they are just learning the language. Making learning fun is always a good idea but fun activities don't replace the perhaps more boring workbook style of learning (conjugations, vocab, etc.)for becoming more proficient in a language. Travel and summer camps for an immersion experience would be the ideal, in my opinion.

For adults I'd recommend watching the news, if possible, in the language they are learning. The reporters tend to use a more 'proper' form of the language (less slang, slightly slower speech, etc.) and this can be a great opportunity to get used to the cadence of the language. Simple children's books can be useful for both adult and child. Also, invest in some simple tools like a Bescherelle (lists of conjugated verbs in French) and English-French dictionary.

Aaron's purpose in this

Aaron's purpose in this article was to simply introduce the idea of everyday language learning in the homeschool environment, and in this case the why was more about why to learn this with your kids vs. why it's important to learn another language.
I agree with what you say about workbook style learning to become proficient in a second language. I don't think those are appropriate or inspiring activities for young kids though. My own studies involve workbook style learning but I wouldn't do that with Brienne or Laurent at this stage, because they are not motivated to do that.
The thing I like about Aaron's materials is that he teaches you how to identify your own learning needs and then how to build a second language curriculum around that (vs. buying a computer program because it's what everyone else is using). I'm passionate about the same kind of learning - identifying your own goals and needs, or your children's, and then building/seeking the education you need to meet those goals and needs. 

I meant no disrespect to the

I meant no disrespect to the author, just would have enjoyed a broader discussion (perhaps future articles?). Re-reading I see that this particular discussion is for total beginners in the learning process. I was thinking of my experience teaching my kids through the years: from early ages to adolescence.

I know you weren't (smile), I

I know you weren't (smile), I just wanted to clarify the intent of the post as an introduction to learning a second language, perhaps I titled it wrong? I hate titling posts. 
It's ironic that I kept my French-English dictionary and verb conjugation books from my high school french classes for years and years, and never used them again after I graduated (I moved those books many times). And now I need them again but Damien tells me there are apps for these things now. 

I figured there were apps -

I figured there were apps - so whichever way a person accesses them I think they're useful and we use ours regularly. I'm old school though - no smart phone or tablet for me so I still use the paper versions:)

Thanks for a post on language

Thanks for a post on language learning. I think this is SO important, and I can't emphasize enough how much I desire my own kids to learn French as well. I was a French minor in college, went to France and stayed with a family, and took it since 9th grade (wish it was earlier) and know the value. I am not fluent, as I have not stayed in a Francophone country for long enough, but could easily get around if the need arose. Now that my husband and I moved back to the Pacific Northwest (Washington for a year for dealing with citizenship items, then BC early next year), and will be crossing the border frequently, I love that so much is in French, so it IS around us everyday. I have found an excellent resource for my (young) children called Tonton La Tortue, which a lady in England does a weekly puppet show via youtube with her tortoise TonTon, all in French. This has been a really fun way to engage my kids, as we can watch them over and over, and then I have included puppetry in our 'french lessons' (however informal, mostly numbers, letters, songs, etc.) and we listen to French cds all the time in the car. I hope I am laying enough of a foundation, but I know to truly learn a language well one must speak it a lot, and I am very irregular at that, though I have tried in the past. We have a few storybooks in French, though they were very hard for me to get in the midwest. Now that we are living so close to Canada, I hope to run across many more (though the Eastern provinces, I'm sure, have an advantage :)
I love the tips for learning, like tutorials in French, etc. and the advice about humbling oneself as a learning companion, not a teacher. That frame of mind is definitely something I needed to hear. I can see how this is an important step to take for myself to 're-learn' the language along with helping my kids.

*TonTon (for preschoolers, young elementary: http://thelanguagetortoise.com/french-resources-for-preschoolers)

Sarah M

Thank you for this link

Thank you for this link Sarah. I have not been active in learning french with B & L. My focus is on Celine right now. When our lessons are done at the end of March I will be revisiting Aaron's tools to figure out how to bring more french language learning into our home. 

Love this! I'm fluent in

Love this! I'm fluent in French and am trying to teach my children. It is actually harder than I thought, but there are still many ways to incorporate it. We learn songs in French, we learn poems in French (slowly!), and each day I read them a picture book in French. My kids don't watch much on screen, but they do get to watch Muzzy, and Franklin dvds in French.

Thanks for this post. It was much needed inspiration as sometimes I slack off because I don't see a lot of progress.

When our older kids were 9

When our older kids were 9 and 6, we entered a situation which would require us to speak Spanish. We studied Spanish INTENSIVELY at home, often spending 2 hours a day working on Spanish. We enjoyed the BBCs Muzzy program, and really think that the Rosetta Stone program, although expensive, was very valuable in helping us learn the language. Along with our constant exposure to native speakers, we were able to speak fairly fluently in less than a year.

Now my younger two are resistant to the idea of learning Spanish, and one wants to learn Mandarin Chinese. I would really rather she learn Spanish -- in our area it would really help with a career, since it is possible to speak Spanish daily where we live. Mandarin -- not so much locally. And I really have no interest in learning another language that I don't see a use for, because I know without conversing with fluent speakers, language learning can only proceed to a certain level. I'm not sure how to assist her, and not sure if I want to just leave it for her to do by herself in a few years (she's 10.) Any ideas?

We've experienced something

We've experienced something similar in that we are a French/English household (though I only learned French as a young adult and my abilities have deteriorated over the years) but my middle daugther initially wanted to learn any language BUT French. My husband and I have let our kids know that learning French isn't up for discussion. It is part of our family culture not to mention that it is the only way for my kids to ever be able to converse with their extended family in West-Africa. I've told my kids that I'd happily support them in learning other languages too but only AFTER they have a foundation for French.

My son, whose French is decent, recognizes that being bilingual (he's not actually bilingual yet) will help him in his future career in the field of animation (then he could get work from Quebec or France) and my middle daughter who dreams of travel would certainly benefit from knowing more than one language.

Jen, I'm not sure what

Jen, I'm not sure what Aaron's advice is on this. I'm curious though as he knows three languages, in varying degrees of fluency, and has lived overseas for a time with his family and of course they homeschool. But I can tell you our approach to second language learning. 
Second languages are not a required part of our homeschool experience simply because second languages are good to know or get you into college. Before moving to Quebec my feeling was that if our children wanted to learn a second language it would be up to them in their high school years and beyond. I don't subscribe to the "window" theory that if you miss the window of opportunity to learn something when you're young you're screwed for life. Yes, young children learn languages easier. So what.  You can learn a second language any time you want, I do not carry the burden that it is something I must teach my kids to give them a well rounded education - a notion I reject anyway.
A second language is above and beyond what I feel obliged to provide them as a basic education (it's not one of our core values or even second layer core values). Learning a second language is hard work and if I wasn't up to the task myself (which I wasn't before moving here) I didn't feel I could require it of my kids.
So that was my feeling before living in a French culture - I was not opposed to second language learning but neither was I placing that responsibility on myself.
However, now that we live in a French culture, learning the language has moved to "requirement" stage. Not so much that I am requiring my children or myself to become amazingly good speakers but that we try. That we make an honest effort - which looks different for my younger kids than for Celine.  
As long as we live in Quebec learning the language will be a part of our studies - in some manner. I am learning too and this is what I appreciated about Aaron's article. When you learn with your kids you really understand what it feels like and the teaching and learning of a second language becomes not something you do to your kids but something you do with your kids. 
So, as for Mandarin vs. Spanish. I would let my kids learn any language they wanted but I might not learn with them, if learning that language wasn't my goal also. In which case it would my children's own study - which is more suitable for high school aged students who can take ownership of their learning under the direction of a mentor or teacher (which doesn't have to be you).
I like what Kika contributed here also. In her family, French is very important, it's their family culture so it makes sense that is important in their homeschool. 

Thank you, Renee. That is

Thank you, Renee. That is exactly what I needed to hear. It's so hard for me not to feel ownership of each pursuit my kids choose. I agree, my daughter could pursue this on her own, and her motivation surely would show in how she continues her study.

Thanks again for the great

Thanks again for the great link. This has inspired me to get back to speaking German (although rusty) to my girls and begin again. Their papa is in fact German but hardly ever speaks it. I spoke to my eldest mostly in German for her first 2 years but then started speaking English to her (the sentences were getting a little more complicated for my scratchy German) and once I did that her German and mine fossilised :( I have always felt disappointed that my husband hasn't spoken more to the girls in his first language ; it is such a gift that could have easily been given. But Aoron's website has enthused me to have a bit of fun and just begin speaking it again in our everyday lives and take it from there.

Hi, I found your blog by

Hi,

I found your blog by accident (looking for tips to keep my kids' stuff organised!) and I am really impressed. I am a homeschooling mum in the UK, and wanted to add my two cents to this post on language learning.

My family is "two and a half" lingual :) Kids (9 and 4.5) are fully bilingual, while they understand most basic things in Dad's language, but do not speak it.
To us, this is just the starting point. I am now learning Traditional Chinese Medicine in a Masters programme, which requires me to learn some Mandarin Chinese and spend a few months in China on a clinical placement. So, we are now studying Chinese together, that is me and my two sons. In practice, I study with the nine yr old, while the 4 yr old hangs out around us and then... repeats random words with a perfect accent! I find that my kids learn differently than I do, they do not memorise stuff, but then suddenly take something for granted, e.g. "Wan'an" becomes the obvious thing to say before bedtime.

And just for the fun of it, I would put Spanish words and phrases with our Spanish holiday photos, in the hope that if they look at them enough, they will just naturally assimilate them too, without even noticing the learning process.

And while sometimes I feel our Chinese progress is slow, yesterday my 9 yr old said all of a sudden, raising his head from his book: "The inspector will be really impressed. After all, learning a foreign language is one of the most important things you can learn". It felt so good to hear that from him - SOME lesson is being learned, I thought ;)

Good luck to everyone!

Iga.

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