Teaching academic content in both a native and a second language is bilingual homeschooling education. While that may be a straightforward definition, you'll soon discover that it's a little more complicated than that!
Bilingual homeschooling education began in the United States in the nineteenth century, when communities began to teach European immigrant children. Teachers usually gave lessons in languages other than English, such as German, Dutch, French, and Spanish.
This educational system is controversial, even though it is not new. Both supporters and opponents make compelling arguments for why it should or should not be passed.
During this debate, I've done enough personal and academic research to know that I strongly believe in bilingual homeschooling education. Allow me to share what I've learned from both sides and explain why I think differently.
What Does It Mean to Be Bilingually Educated?
In bilingual education, there are a variety of program models to choose from. Traditional English Language Learner (ELL) programs focus on assisting students in making the transition from their native language to English.
Dual-language or two-way immersion programs, on the other hand, are currently popular in public schools. They teach English natives and ELLs in both English and a target language in various subjects.
Early exit or transitional bilingual education used to entail a heavy use of the child's native language when they first started school, followed by the use of the school language exclusively, usually in English-only classrooms. The goal was for the student to assimilate as quickly as possible. On the other hand, bilingual maintenance education incorporates the school language into some subject areas while incorporating the target language into others.
Bilingual Homeschooling Education in My Opinion
Bilingual homeschooling education, in my opinion, is vital. I completed an emergency teacher certification program in 2006 and spent nine years as a bilingual classroom teacher in Austin, Texas, and Guatemala. I'm also the proud bilingual mother of a bilingual 7-year-old daughter!
Bilingual homeschooling education, in my opinion, is complex, complicated, and necessary.
Every class I taught as a teacher included a diverse group of students with varying levels of bilingualism and biliteracy, including native English speakers and native Spanish speakers with limited English skills. It made it difficult for me to reach each student at their level, especially when I was the only teacher in a classroom of 20 or more students.
Thankfully, my daughter's skills in Spanish and English have flourished as she learns to read and write in both languages during her education, which has been a mix of homeschooling and Waldorf-style education in school settings with much smaller class sizes.
A Summary of the Current Debate on Bilingual Education
Bilingualism in children and bilingual education have received positive and negative press. However, myths and misconceptions are frequently the sources of criticism rather than scientific findings. Some people believe that children should not be exposed to two languages because it is harmful and confusing to them.
A movement in the United States twenty years ago promoted the idea of an "English first" education. As a result, California enacted Proposition 227 in 1998, and several other states followed suit. The rule drastically reduced the number of time ELLs spent in bilingual environments. California voters passed Proposition 58 in 2016, effectively overturning that decision. Many researchers now strongly support dual-language classrooms.
Bilingual Homeschooling education has four advantages.
It improves cognitive skills.
The human brain is a complex system, and there is still much to learn about how it functions. On the other hand, many scientists believe that learning a second language improves mental abilities. Bilingual homeschooling education may enhance our overall learning capacity, especially if it begins at a young age when the human brain is still developing.
Bilinguals are better at focusing their attention in the face of distractions. They are also more adept at switching from one task to the next. "Bilingualism has positive effects at both ends of the age spectrum," according to a 2012 study. "Bilingual children as young as seven months can better adjust to environmental changes, while bilingual seniors can experience less cognitive decline."
It improves social and emotional abilities.
Young bilingual children learn to read social cues to determine which language to use depending on who they are speaking to and where they are speaking. As a result, bilingual children as young as three years old have shown an advantage in perspective-taking and theory of mind tests.
Children with a more extensive bilingual receptive vocabulary and who spoke both languages frequently over a long time had better social-emotional and behavioral skills, according to the findings of this 2018 study.
Improves academic success and school engagement
Wayne Thomas and Virginia Collier, emeritus professors at George Mason University in Virginia, have collected evidence on the benefits of bilingual homeschooling education for the past 30 years. They discovered that dual-language students earn higher test scores and appear happier in school than students in English-only classrooms or one-way immersion in studies spanning six states and 37 districts. In addition, attendance has improved, behavioral issues have decreased, and parental involvement has increased.
Encourages integration and diversity
US public school classrooms are becoming more racially and economically segregated. Dual-language programs, on the other hand, are frequently an exception. They tend to be more ethnically and socioeconomically balanced because they are made up of native English speakers deliberately mixed in with immigrants. And some evidence suggests that this educational method can help children from all walks of life become more comfortable with diversity and different cultures.
4 Drawbacks of Bilingual Education
Inconsistent Programs Over Time
Some school districts do not provide bilingual education as an option, and those that do often only offer it in elementary and middle school, not high school. Some students may lose their second language abilities due to this inconsistency. Bilingual education must be continued throughout a student's academic career—and throughout their lives—to be effective.
Learning Challenges Can Be Caused by Target-Language Content
Bilingual education programs in many districts teach half of the subjects in English and the other half in Spanish. Learning specific content in a second language can be challenging for younger children. For example, if math is taught in Spanish and a student struggles with fractions while also struggling with Spanish grammar and vocabulary, their education will suffer.
Furthermore, students who have difficulty with the target language may become overwhelmed by the need to learn it rather than engage in other activities. These students may miss out on participation in extracurricular activities, sports teams, and other school organizations.
Its effectiveness in grades K-3 is unknown.
"Evaluations conducted in the early years of a programme (Grades K-3) typically reveal that students in bilingual education scored below grade level (and sometimes very low) and performed either lower than or equivalent to their comparison group peers," researchers concluded in a significant meta-analysis funded by the US Department of Education that looked at bilingual and two-way programs compared to English-only programs for English learners.
Programs Face a Staffing Shortage
Effective bilingual education is immersive, which means that teachers and teaching assistants are bilingual in both languages they teach. They must also have professional pedagogy and classroom management training. Some school districts struggle to find a sufficient number of experienced bilingual teachers.
Final Few Words on Bilingual Education
Bilingual education is a beautiful aspect of lifelong learning that is well worth the effort. Bilingual education, like anything else, has advantages and disadvantages. However, in my experience as a teacher and with my daughter's bilingual learning journey, the benefits outweigh the disadvantages.