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Expert Tips: Learning at Home

Educational Planning for Surviving and Thriving at Home with Young Kids

Siury Pulgar, Chief Education Strategist, MamaLingua

MamaLingua’s Chief Education Strategist, Siury Pulgar, holds a master’s degree in international education policy from Harvard University. A curriculum design expert and veteran homeschooler, Siury is also a native Spanish speaker. She lives in California with her husband and their two bilingual daughters.

In these trying times amidst the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic, many of us have become homeschoolers overnight. In a recent conversation here at MamaLingua about adjusting to a new norm, we found these tips from our very own Chief Education Strategist and veteran homeschooler Siury Pulgar to be helpful in our own lives as we try to balance the roles of mother, teacher and entrepreneur. We put them all together, along with learning resources, in this pdf download in the hope they'll help you, too.

Expert Tips: Learning at Home

1. Call a family meeting. We tend to cooperate best when we understand what’s happening and what’s expected from us. If your children’s school is closed, this is a good moment to reassure your kids that home is the safest place for them right now and to explain that you’ll be setting up a daily schedule for learning from home.

2. Keep it simple and be flexible. Homeschooling can be exciting and fun, but it’s also challenging. Have a Plan B for when the kids are showing signs of being tired or bored, and be willing to change the order of your planned activities. Taking breaks to move or listen to music can also help you and your kids stay focused.

3. Create an agenda that fits your family’s needs. This is a must-have for the more structured household, but it also helps those who are more relaxed. Having a visual guide helps everyone stay on the same page, and older kids can help make daily and weekly agendas.

4. Plan for fun; add the learning. These are already stressful times, so try to engage your kids in the things they most love and incorporate learning. Make cookies and incorporate Spanish vocabulary. Turn baking into a science lesson by discussing units of measure, fractions, weight, states of matter, and the chemistry behind your ingredients. You’ll be surprised by how many opportunities you have to incorporate learning into fun projects and activities your kids already enjoy. You’ll enjoy the process more, too.

5. Practice rotations. If you have more than one child, find activities for your other children to do independently while you work with each child one-on-one. If you yourself are working from home, trade off work periods with one-on-one time with your kids.

6. Model resiliency. Frustrated kids? Projects that didn’t go as planned? This is a good time to model how to get over these setbacks and move on.

7. Breathe. Even if some of your days are dominated by reading, board games and building with Legos, you’re doing your job as a parent by keeping your kids safe and stimulated. While your kids are taking a play break, take a few moments to yourself to breathe and reset.

Expert Tips: Bilingual Learning at Home

1. Create your Spanish Sanctuary. Choose a dedicated place and time in your home where you practice Spanish together, such as breakfast or bathtime.

2. Learn new words every day. Set a goal to learn new vocabulary and phrases every day. The MamaLingua English-Spanish app is great for this.

3. Use music. Listen to songs in Spanish and try to write down as many words as you can pick out. Whoever wins gets to pick the next song. Spotify works great here (and you can check out the MamaLingua playlists).

4. Throw a fiesta. Can’t go outside? No hay problema! Blast some Spanish rhythms and get the family moving. Break out instruments or dress-up items. Play limbo or musical chairs to make it extra fun. Nathalia Musica is awesome for this activity.

5. Play bingo. Use the vocabulary words your family already knows, like colors, numbers, food items and parts of the body. You can even customize your own bingo cards.

6. Write letters. Write to a friend or family member who is also learning Spanish. Challenge them to write you back with new vocabulary words.

7. Keep a journal. Writing practice can be easy when there’s freedom to be creative and plenty of time. This is a good opportunity to practice phrases like me gusta, no me gusta (I like, I don’t like) and  emotions (me siento frustrado, enojado, triste, asustado). The MamaLingua emotions magnets are all about feelings.

8. Read, listen and watch. There are some great digital resources for Spanish ebooks and audiobooks, such as The Spanish Experiment, Fabulingua, Canticos, Maguaré, Epic! and The Fable Cottage.

Later this year, be on the lookout for MamaLingua Go!, for real-world, bilingual learning at home and on the Go!

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