Food for Thought- When Judging your Child’s Biliteracy Skills…

The good side to the quarantine is the huge minority language (ml) boost for my children, as they are living completely immersed 24/7 in Spanish and English.  Not only are they stuck at home in our mls, but I also try to take some days off work here and there to give them my full attention. It enables me to give them a little extra minority language homework. The tiny downside is that I struggle to have more retrospect and be able to write on our trilingual adventure. I hope you shall forgive me for not posting as regularly, but sometimes inspiration fails me. 🙂

Though at the beginning of the quarantine I was hoping to be able to get my eldest working on her written ml skills daily, I soon realised it would not be possible given the massive load of school-work her teacher emailed daily. So I very quickly resumed our usual ml homework timetable of week-ends and Wednesdays (English in the morning, Spanish in the afternoon). 

Somehow, during this lockdown, we have left the activity books aside and did more practical work such as dictations and creative writing.

Last week, for instance, I had my eldest, who is 7 1/2, do an English dictation, which was the summary at the back of Mary Osborne Pope’s Magic Treehouse Valley of the Dinosaur.  She made 4 mistakes.

That same afternoon, I had her do a Spanish dictation. The text was the summary at the back of the novel “Isadora Moon va al colegio”. She only made 3 mistakes (N.B: I do not count the accents mistakes as she is still too young to learn about them).

Spanish dictation

Last Monday, I sneaked some ml homework and had my eldest take one of the English Live Spellathons (they are wonderful as they only take about 10 minutes!). She scored 14 out of 20.

Then on Wednesday, I asked her to try and write her first own little story in Spanish, after having been inspired by English Live!’s “Structuring Stories” video.  My eldest stunned me producing a long (by her writing standards) piece, neatly written.  She did make some spelling and punctuation mistakes, but the care with which she had written it shone through.

This morning, my eldest took today’s Spellathon live and only did 4 mistakes out of 15 words.

On the spur of the moment, I felt happy with these results. Reflecting on our ml homework and her results globally, there are good days and not-so-good days when I am less satisfied.  Guilt sometimes assails me and makes me wonder if I am not being too demanding with my daughter.  

This reflection led me to realise how much more proud I should be of her results globally (not just the good days ones) because my daughter is not schooled in her minority languages.  Whilst her results might be average for a child raised in the UK or Spain, where they are bathed and educated in these languages all day long, my eldest is only immersed half of her waking hours and only writes in them 3 times a week.  

This wise thought I owe to one of my blogging friends, Raquel from SpanglishEasy.com who one day made me realise that at the time my daughter’s reading level was standard for the UK but given she is not living there and is learning 3 languages, this level was in fact very good.  This she told me a couple of years ago, but we sometimes need to mature these good pieces of advice to fully digest and savour them. Needless to say that reconsidering these global results in the light of this reflection, I am delighted with these results and efforts.

So this is the thing I would like to share with you and would like you to take away from today’s post.  When judging your child’s biliteracy skills and your own level of demands, do both of you justice: what might just seem average should be put into perspective of the linguistic challenges faced by your bilingual child.  You need to bear in mind your child’s personal circumstances. Adjust your expectations to these to be fair to your child, whilst still driving him/her down the road of biliteracy at an adequate pace. Your child might never reach the same level of excellence in the ml as an ml peer, however that ml peer is unlikely to be bilingual. 🙂

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