Raising kids bilingual is hard work, but when you also want them to be biliterate, let’s face it: you are making it even harder for yourself!🤦🏻♀️
Biliteracy involves some homeschooling and in a busy parent’s life, this is not only complicated to fit in but even more so to prepare.
My social media followers are often amazed at the regularity with which we have minority language (ml) activity time, the effort I put into them and how I find the time being a working mum. They would be very surprised if they knew that half of the time I do not prepare the activities in advance! I sometimes plan them over breakfast, just an hour before our ml activity time!
So in today’s post, I would like to share with you my tips to improvise some last minute ml homework when you have not had time to organise anything.
- Have a structure in your head for your weekly ml activities – Believe it or not but in fact a very small amount of thinking can actually take you a long way. If you have missed my post on this, I suggest you take a look at “Structuring Minority Language Homework”. Just having your topics organised in your mind will help you not to feel overwhelmed by the lack of time, and to concentrate on the “right” activities for that day you are in a rush.
- Do your thinking whilst doing something else – I have a nasty habit of multitasking, and that includes the thinking and planning of our minority language activities! 😀 I tend to do that in bed, over my breakfast, in my shower or over my after-lunch coffee. So as you see, this does not take any extra time on my schedule. 😉
- A quick homework is better than a long boring one, or no homework at all! – Do not give up just because you had no time to prepare anything. A little goes a long way. My target is a 30-minute activity maximum on our 3 days off school. But if I have not had time to prepare anything, whatever I can get my girls do is better than nothing because it will add on the knowledge we have built so far. We always aim at teaching new things to build their ml knowledge, and spend little time revising, unlike what they do in the Majority Language (ML) schooling system. If you have no time to prepare a new topic, doing a revision activity is in fact very valuable. It is not a lost opportunity to learn something new, it is in fact an opportunity to strengthen what you have learnt so far! It can also be an opportunity to concentrate on your child’s weakness in the ml.
- Have your go to books – It’s all about having key resources. You do not need hundreds of exercise books, worksheets or fancy ideas. What you need is your “reference” exercise book and inspirational resources; with the occasional worksheets when you have time to supplement your house curriculum and bring a touch of novelty from time to time. These go to books will obviously need to match the topics you choose to cover in your weekly planning. In our case where we cover creative writing, grammar and spelling, my personal recommendations are to have:
- a book on creative writing – My bilingual education guru, Adam Beck, recommended “Games for Writing” by Peggy Kaye to me. This book is jam packed with creative writing ideas by class level and has got my daughters writing without dragging their feet. In order to be able to use it at the last minute, I just bookmarked some of the most appropriate ideas beforehand, over coffee or in bed (multitasking again!). You do not need to read it from cover to cover before using it. A little browsing goes a long way, and you can leave the cover to cover reading for another day! 😉
- a grammar exercise and accompanying text book – for instance to work on English, I use the CGP books and for Spanish Vacaciones Santillana Repasar Ortografía y Gramática.
- books on biliteracy – I have had the honour to beta-read 2 amazing books of these and had the chance to use them with my girls. These are books written by multilingual parents and teachers, packed with a very wide variety of playful ideas to work on the various aspects of literacy (reading, sentence construction, spelling,…) and speech. Here are their titles:
- The Toolbox for Multilingual Families by Dr. Ute Limacher-Riebold and Ana Elisa Miranda.
- The Parents’ Guide to Raising Multi-literate Children by Yoshito Darmon-Shimamori – I strongly recommend you also follow its author’s Instagram account @multilingual_dad to get as many of his inspiring ideas.
- Repeat successes – Your kid enjoyed the latest activity you did together? Then why make your life complicated setting up a new activity if you have no time to? Repeat your latest success and look up a new activity for next time. Caution! I am not suggesting to do the same activity time after time, simply saying that if you do not have the time to prepare or think of something new, do not beat yourself up about it and repeat your latest success. Just make sure to make a little time after that to prepare something else for the following ml activity time! 😉 You need to have a wide variety of activities up your sleeve to keep your child’s attention.
- Keep a folder with worksheets printed in advance – This is a real life saviour! My little one used to take me aback asking for worksheets out of the blue or when she was done with her activity. She happens to be crazy about worksheets. To anticipate, I decided to keep a folder for her with a wide variety of worksheets. It has proved to be very handy in 3 ways:
- it is ever so handy when I have had no time to prepare anything in advance
- my little one is now so used to it that she now goes and picks one on her own when I am busy with her sister,
- it makes her more eager to learn as she gets to choose what she works on – and to be honest I do not really mind her choosing since I make sure to print worksheets that cover my target topics.
If you find printing difficult because you have no time to spend searching loads of worksheets to print in one go, I suggest you create a folder on your computer’s desktop where you download them as you come across them. Once you have downloaded a small dozen, print them in one shot. Extra tip: make sure to have a variety of worksheets, children get bored quickly even if they enjoyed the first worksheet of a given kind (cut & paste, label, fill the blanks, link, colour in…). The key word is variety.
- Keep an element of surprise – To grab your child’s attention you need to get them curious. To do that, just avoid spoiling it by telling them beforehand what you are going to do. It also avoids disappointment if in the end you are unable to prepare the activity you had in mind.
- Routine – What keeps me going even when I am not ready and must improvise? Our routine. I seldom skip it. It makes me feel accountable to myself, it disciplines my daughters and makes our ml homework a predictable feature of their home time. So not being prepared is not an excuse for me. I will always find something for them to do, whether it is some revision or a mere dictation.
Now, these tips are handy for the occasional improvised ml homework. But to be able to provide quality ml homework and improve the level of your last minute improvised activities, do make sure to make some regular time to prepare and look up ressources. My tip in this respect is to dedicate a given time a week (e.g: Thursday evenings when the kids are in bed) to sit down and browse the internet for worksheets to download, your go to books to bookmark the ideas that interest you, and make the resources that you will need (and can reuse for a last minute improvised ml activity). You would be surprised how far this can take you.