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Spanish Immersion Camp – and a Summer Vacation in Mexico

I'm often asked what Spanish immersion camps I recommend for kids. I recently learned about the perfect combo – a Spanish immersion camp for kids combined with a beach vacation for adults in Cancun, Mexico. Sign me up!

Spanish Camps for Kids, Anyone?

The first question I always get asked after a parent presentation is, “What camps do you recommend for kids?” I always respond the same way. “If you can, choose a camp in a Spanish-speaking country!” There’s simply no better environment for learning the language. As an added bonus, the experience provides a child with the understanding that there’s a world out there that takes place entirely in Spanish.

Of course, the follow up question is always, “Where should we go?” This is usually where I get stuck. Until now. Kathy Galloway, a passionate mom raising bilingual kids and creator of the Dual Language Family blog, has created a turnkey solution for families looking for an experience abroad this summer.

Kathy is a native Spanish speaker, dominant in English, and married to an English speaker. She and her husband primarily speak English at home, so Kathy is always looking for ways to increase Spanish exposure for her kids so they can continue practicing it in the real world.

Kathy knew there were a lot of parents raising bilingual kids who also wanted to find more ways to encourage language development. In her quest, she organized an immersion summer vacation in Cancun, Mexico, for parents and their kids, designed for kiddos who already have working knowledge of Spanish. Kids spend their days in Spanish-immersion camp, while parents get time on their own.

Although I speak Spanish, one of my biggest challenges planning my trip to San Miguel de Allende a few summers ago was finding a great camp before I arrived. Having something prearranged is ideal. I also appreciate that Kathy is focused on serving children who are already receiving a bilingual education – whether in school or at home. (I always shy away from "Spanish camps for all," because I know it wouldn’t be the right fit for my kids, who already have a solid Spanish foundation.)

The best part, though, is that Kathy designed the trip for the whole family to be close together in an all-inclusive resort where everyone can feel safe and enjoy a true vacation. This week, we asked Kathy to tell us more about Dual Language Family and the upcoming trip. (And she extended a trip discount for MamaLingua readers. Check it out!)

An Interview with Kathy Galloway

Tell us about the Dual Language Family. What inspired you to start the blog?

My husband and I have two daughters in Spanish-English dual language programs – our youngest is in fourth grade and our oldest is in the last phase of her program in middle school.

It’s been a great experience for all of us, but over the last seven years, I’ve found it increasingly difficult to support my girls in their language learning. Although I’m a native Spanish speaker, English is my dominant language and our home is overwhelmingly English-speaking. English is so dominant in our lives that it’s been hard to find ways to keep them engaged in Spanish outside of the classroom.

I’ve also heard this same issue expressed by so many English-speaking parents of kids in dual language programs. For them, it’s particularly difficult as children pass the early phases of learning, when they begin to embrace the language and conversation starts to flow. How do you encourage and support conversation, when you don’t speak the language yourself?

That idea inspired me to start Dual Language Family – a community for families raising Spanish learners who are looking for ways to give their kiddos more access to the language and speed their path to bilingualism, biliteracy, and biculturalism.

In your experience, what are parents looking for in raising bilingual kids?

My blog was created for parents whose kids already have a foundation in Spanish – parents who are struggling to support the language outside of the classroom. There are lots of resources out there for kids who are at the beginning of their Spanish learning path. But a child in a Spanish immersion program needs more than just books and vocabulary flashcards. We need opportunities for our children to live the language, not just study it.

Our kids need ways to put what they’re learning into real-world practice: listening to native speakers in different accents, learning everyday vocabulary and slang, engaging in casual conversation with peers, etc. These kinds of experiences give our kiddos ownership of the language in a very personal way. It’s one thing to learn a subject at school, but it’s a very different thing to live it – like while having fun with friends on the weekend!

You’ve organized a camp in Cancun at an all-inclusive resort. Tell us more about it!

We’re so excited about this trip! We’re bringing our vision to life: kids living the language!

Our Spanish Immersion Vacation is my idea of a real vacation: six days in Cancun, with a Spanish-only camp for kids (ages 6 - 12) and a luxurious vacation for parents. It’s a great opportunity for the kids to go deeper with their language, for parents to get in some real relaxation time, and for everyone to head home feeling like they had a truly amazing vacation as a family.

The camp runs from June 23 - 28, 2019, and our host hotel is the Paradisus Cancun.

What does the camp curriculum look like? Will the kids be immersed in Spanish and in the culture?

The camp is for kids in Spanish immersion programs and/or those who already have a foundation in Spanish. It’s designed to give these kids an opportunity to have fun with the language and encourage them to make it their own because it’s a break from “school” Spanish.

The camp runs from 9am to 3pm Monday through Thursday, and includes some pretty awesome activities, including a Mexican music class taught by a local music school, an art class with a local artist, a field trip to a local school, an excursion to the Mayan jungle, and daily beach or pool time.

All of the camp activities take place in Spanish, and we’ve also organized a pre-trip Read-a-Thon to encourage kids to read in Spanish before the trip, with proceeds benefiting the local school.

So, what will parents be doing while their kids are in camp?

Some say this is the best part! Parents get to actually enjoy their vacation. While the kids are at camp, parents can do whatever they wish – spend time on the beach or at the pool, get in a round of golf, or enjoy the resort’s spa. (We all get a 15 percent spa discount!)

At any point during our trip, parents will be able to find us either by looking at the daily agenda or contacting one of the teachers directly. We’ve tried to make it as worry-free as possible for parents!

What’s included in the vacation package?

The package includes accommodation for six days (five nights) at Paradisus Cancun, which is all-inclusive. (So that means alcohol is covered, too.) It covers cover camp enrollment for one kiddo and all related camp activities. (Airfare, ground transportation and trip insurance aren’t included.)

Package prices vary based on the room type chosen (Ocean view, anyone?), and if you add on any additional campers. As an example, a family of four, with two adults and two campers, is $2,873 with the MamaLingua discount.

What about kid safety? Are the teachers CPR certified? Is Cancun considered a safe city?

That’s an important question. (I’ve been referred to as a helicopter mom more than once, so kid safety is super important to me.) While Cancun is still considered very safe for tourists, we designed our camp to be almost exclusively on the resort to minimize risk. We’ll only leave the property one day, in the company of parents. For our field trip, we’re contracting with a very well-known, reputable tour operator.

We’re taking a number of precautions on the resort property, too. All campers have to complete a full registration, notifying us of any allergy, medical or other needs, as well as swimming skills. (No child will be allowed in water deeper than their chest, and non-swimmers won’t be allowed in water deeper than their waist.) Plus, each day, parents will sign their kids in and out, and receive a detailed daily agenda so they can find us at any time.

Our educational director has more than 10 years as an educator with the Texas public school system, and is very familiar with protocols and procedures for child safety, including CPR.

Where can people sign up?!

You can learn more at www.DualLanguageFamily.com/mamalingua. There you'll also find a special discount code just for the MamaLingua community: 25 percent off any package, valid until March 10, 2019.

I’m also happy to answer any more questions your readers might have. They can reach me directly at kathy@duallanguagefamily.com. We’ll be planning other trips and events in the future, so they can subscribe to our email newsletter, too!

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