Teaching My Baby To Read

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Pio Peep: Review

Pio Peep!  Rimas tradicionales en espanol by Alma Flor Ada & Isabel Campoy is a book with CD that we have back from the days when I was trying to teach a two year old Bruce Spanish.  This is a very pretty book, but not one that I would recommend purchasing if you are serious about teaching your children Spanish.

My main problem with this book is the way the authors have chosen to translate the Spanish nursery rhymes into English.  They are very upfront about their decisions, as explained on page 7: “To preserve the charm of the original rhymes, the English version is not a translation but a poetic re-creation.  In some instances, the details are different, but the re-creation remains true to the essence of the original”.  Meaning of course, that you can’t listen to the English versions of the songs and poems as a way to learn what the Spanish versions mean.

On the plus side, the Spanish songs and poems they chose are classics such as  “Cinco lobitos” and “Tengo una muneca”.  But still, I’d save your money on this book and choose something else.

Teach My Two Year Old Spanish?

Notice the question mark.  Any of you familiar with my blog know that I have an unsuccessful, hubris-filled, and expensive history with teaching Spanish to Bruce(6) when he was 2-4 years old.  So now it is with a good deal of hesitancy that I embark on attempting to teach Jenna(26m) Spanish too.  I have had about two years to reflect upon what went wrong with Bruce’s Spanish experience, and these are the lessons I’ve learned:

  • Keep things fun.  I thought I was keeping things fun, but Bruce’s separation anxiety at his uber-expensive Spanish immersion preschool probably had a big impact on his declining enthusiasm for Spanish, even though he enjoyed participating in class once I could pry his arms off my knees and scoot him into the classroom.  For him, Spanish went from a secret language he had with mommy, to something that forced him to be separated from mommy.  No wonder he blamed Spanish.
  •  Spanish is not like piano lessons.  My mom’s a piano teacher, so of course piano lessons were not optional in our household.  I studied piano for about ten years, and also learned to play the organ in college.  I still love to play piano.  My sister stuck with piano for many years too, (under duress), and does not willingly play piano.  But she probably could still sit down a play something if you gave her some music to read.  I thought it would work like this with Spanish.  I could force Bruce to stick with it, and he would learn to love Spanish and thank me later.  But this is not what ended up happening because Bruce doesn’t remember almost any Spanish, even though at one point he was seriously on track to becoming bilingual.
  • Don’t spend a lot of money.  All in all our family spend almost $2,000 trying to teach Bruce Spanish at a young age.  Most of this went to the $900 yearly tuition for his 75 minute weekly Spanish class.  In retrospect, yes I am crazy!  I wish I had put all of that money into Bruce’s 529 instead.  At least then I could blame the market crashes for the money’s disappearance.  🙂

So now the question remains, what to do with Jenna? Should I even bother trying to teach her Spanish?  I think the answer is yes, because each child is dramatically different.  Just because something didn’t work for Bruce doesn’t mean it won’t work for Jenna.  But this time I’m going to apply some sense and simplicity into our program, and keep things as fun as possible.  Here’s my current plan:

  • Child directed.  If Jenna doesn’t want to do any Spanish that day we aren’t doing any, period.
  • Twenty minutes a day.  Or maybe thirty, but certainly no more.
  • The library is my friend.  I’m going to hunt down and put on hold every single Spanish for kids item I can find.  I did this with Bruce too, but hopefully there have been more things published since then.
  • Vme, Muzzy, books, CDs and games.  Not an expensive Spanish class!

Deep breath.  I hope this works.

Speak Spanish with Dora & Diego! Vamanos! Let’s Go!: Review

Jenna(26m) and I have been listening to Speak Spanish with Dora & Diego! Vamanos!  Let’s Go! for a few weeks now.  This is a new product in our household, purchased especially for Jenna.  I did not use this with Bruce when he was little and I tried to teach him Spanish.  The Dora and Diego set is created in association with Pimsleur and includes two books, two CDs, and a parent guide.  There are actually four stories in all, because the books each have two stories in them.

We have used this set in several ways so far.  Jenna and I have sat down and read the books together and we have also sat down in front of the CD player and listened to the CD with me helping Jenna point to the pictures in the book.   The easiest (for me) way to use this set is to play the CD in the car and hand the book back to Jenna in her car seat.  I’m not sure how effective this is, but she’s a captive audience in her car seat and doesn’t complain when I turn on the CD!

How effective is this program?   Hmmm….  I wish I could answer that, but I honestly don’t know.  It’s a lot better than Pio Peep, but on par with Play and Learn Spanish, both of which I’ll review later.  It’s definitely worth checking out if your local library has it, but I’m not sure if it was worth purchasing just yet.  I’ll update this review in about six months and let you know!

In the Car Curriculum

It is still the middle of summer but I am already thinking about our commute time this fall when we drive Bruce (6) to his new school. This is really karma for me, because my own mother drove me to school thirty minutes each way for seven years. Luckily, Bruce’s commute is only fifteen minutes each way. Our state offers free school buses and the environmentalist in me knows I should choose to put Bruce on the bus. But if he took the school bus each day he would not get home until 4:30, and then still be faced with homework, which reportedly will take up to an hour to complete as a first grader.

As an educator, I believe in giving children free time to play around in the backyard, goof off, and generally be a kid. So that’s why I am strongly considering driving Bruce to school. But that doesn’t mean I want the thirty minutes he spends in the car each day, or the hour Jenna (2) will be spending, to be wasted time. I am going to purposefully plan to utilize this time effectively by creating an “In the Car Curriculum”.   I am going to try to tie this as closely as I can to my SLE inspired reading list, which Bruce and I are already working on.  A lot of these CDs we already own, but some I will need to purchase, and some I will check out from the library.

None of these CDs are meant to take the place of meaningful conversation with my children, and we won’t be listening to them every day. If I sense that either one of my kids would like to talk or has something they would like to share, of course I will turn off the CDs at once. But if you think about it, every time you ride in the car you are probably listening to some sort of background noise already, usually the radio. This is what I plan for us to listen to instead.

The genesis for this idea comes from the classic book, Cheaper by the Dozen, in which the author’s father has his children listen to language tapes while taking a bath. Incidentally, Cheaper by the Dozen is based on a true story about the man who invented the QWERT keyboard among other things.

When Bruce and Jenna are in the Car Together:

When only Jenna is in the Car:

As you can tell, I am a big fan of the Jim Weiss audio book series. Our whole family loves his narration and storytelling. We have listed to his “Arabian Nights”, “Shakespeare”, “American Tall Tales”, and “Abraham Lincoln” CDs over and over again. They will not bore you to tears I promise!!! I am very excited to add some new titles to our collection. 

I would also like to point out that we will be listening to Story of the World Volume 1 by Susan Wise Bauer with the understanding that it is in the genre of historical fiction, and not verifiable fact.  The negative reviews on Amazon.com regarding historical inaccuracies concern me, but I still want to see what it is all about because I respect Susan Wise Bauer as an author and a home educator.

Muzzy, a review

You might have seen the advertisements for the BBC for children language program called Muzzy.  It’s really expensive, but (they claim) worth the price.  Well, I don’t know if it’s worth the price or not, but it really is quite good.  At least it was a great refresher for myself, as I sat there next to Bruce for hours and hours of his 2, 3, and 4 year old life watching Muzzy Espanol 1 and 2.  Whether or not this was a worthwhile use of Bruce’s time is debatable.

But here’s my secret.  I got both Muzzy sets for just $100.  Our library system happened to have Muzzy 1 on DVD, and I bought set 2 on Ebay.  So for just $100, I’d say this program is totally worth it!