This year is my youngest daughter’s first year at nursery school. Like her eldest, she does not have school on Wednesdays. Wednesday is my day off work, as I work part-time (see “Minority language parent – 6 reasons to consider going part-time at work”) to care for my girls. Last year, she was with a childminder that looked after her 5 days a week, so I had the whole Wednesday to look after my eldest, which I made the most of to work on her minority language (ml) literacy skills. This year is proving a challenge as my youngest is now with us for the morning session. She requests a lot of -if not exclusive- attention and has been hindering all my efforts since the start of the school year last month. I realised that having 2 kids and 2 minority languages, I need to be more organised. Over the last couple of months, I have finally found an organisation that works for us regarding the languages: I split the homework session in 2 with English at 10am, and Spanish at 2pm. The afternoon session goes alright, as my youngest naps at this time. However, the morning session has so far proved a little trying, as my youngest is about and requests attention.
Two weeks ago, I thought on-the-go of having my youngest do some little ml activities to entertain her and had her do letter puzzles and tracing letters with chickpeas. This helped, though she ran off after a while and came back asking to play together; but at least by then my eldest had done most of her ml activities.
Last week, however, I planned a little more ahead and printed some activities for her age (see “Minority Language Homework Ideas” for inspiration), such as a simple maze, a worksheet on letter A to get her started with the alphabet letters (visit ThisReadingMama.com for tons of great free printables), a tracing worksheet found randomly using Google. As soon as my eldest sat down to do her ml homework, my youngest began requesting attention, so I offered she sat at the dinner table with us and do some “activities” (that’s how I call our ml homework) with us. Her eyes sparkled with eagerness as she nodded in consent. The worksheets were a success and were done in no time. She wanted to do some more, so I grabbed a tracing workbook she has but had so far never been keen on… and it was an even bigger hit! She did about 7-8 pages of it and stopped only when I told I had to make an important call!
The fact that she was included in our ml activity ritual, that she was asked to sit with us and that school has triggered her interest for learning really did the trick. My youngest suddenly felt like a big child, and no longer excluded from our ritual under the pretence that she is too young.
My eldest was pleased to see her little sister was treated the same as her with ml homework, when so far she envied her for getting away with it. The only problem was that she got nosy and kept looking and commenting on what her little sister was doing! Eventually, I had to separate them as the eldest got too distracted and did not get on with her own work.
Nevertheless, this tasted like a great victory for me as I managed to handle both kids’ and the ml homework simultaneously. I actually took this picture as a souvenir of this great moment for me as a bilingual mum 🙂
The lesson learnt from this is that if they can’t beat you let them join you! You could be in for a pleasant surprise AND it is an excellent opportunity to get them used to sitting down and doing ml homework. It does not have to be actual homework, but just getting them used to sitting down at a table,staying quiet and working on something (for the younger kids, get them started with simple colouring ins, cutting paper, letter puzzles, etc…). In the long run, this might help to engage them in their future ml homework ritual.