We Are a Military Family Raising and Homeschooling Bilingual Children—And This Is Why
If you visit Catalina Burton's beautiful Instagram page or eye-opening blog, Raising Bilingual Children, you'll immediately notice that her family approaches learning in a special way—think four-week trips to South America, a homeschooling room filled with English and Spanish books, and post-nap poetry time.
This is her story as a bilingual mother of a 5-year-old and 2-year-old, and her advice for parents considering raising multilingual kids.
Hello, Malty community! My name is Catalina, and we are a bilingual family of four.
I grew up in Santiago, Chile, but moved to the United States for an international program when I was 20 years old. Just a few months after arriving in the Washington D.C. area, I met my now-husband, who had just returned from a church mission in Spain. We married almost nine years ago, and when we had our first child, we knew we wanted our kids to know their Latin culture. We also recognized the importance of being bilingual in this world, so since the very first day, we have been speaking to our children in both languages—with about 90% of what we speak at home being Spanish.
We decided to homeschool a year and a half ago, when our daughter was ready to start preschool. Because she is a November baby, she’d have to wait a whole year to start—so we decided to start teaching her bilingually at home! It was such a wonderful experience for our family that we didn’t stop. We loved the benefits: We could teach her as quickly or as slowly as she needed, we could choose the right bilingual curriculum for our family, and we could see our children spend time together, which meant everything to me. My husband is a medical officer in the United States Army, so homeschooling not only gave us a great education for our daughter, but also the freedom to travel and learn new things together, all while teaching our children the way that we want to as parents.
Of course, there are also some challenges. For instance, bilingual resources are very scarce, and I’m always on the hunt for great Spanish options (I have been lucky to find a few good ones online!). If you are considering homeschooling, do your research, pray about it, talk to your spouse, and find someone who is already doing it and ask questions to find out if it's the right fit for your family.
And if you are considering teaching your kids a second language, go for it! You will never look back and say that teaching a second language was wasted time. Expose your children to that language as much as possible by speaking to them in it or connecting them with a native speaker. Also, read, read, read—this is huge! Books, especially those that are in a second language, open so many doors for children. And finally, be persistent and consistent every day. Learning a new language takes work and dedication, but it is certainly possible!
Personally, I like to remember this quote: “You can’t make your child speak a language. However you can set the stage so they will want to speak it” – The Bilingual Edge