I don't live in my home country, meaning that at home we speak a different language. What do you think about homeschooling in this situation? I am a bit unsure of what is the right thing to do - how do I teach my child a language/tradition that is not my own? -Sonya
Your question brought back fond memories of learning Russian with my older daughter when she was a toddler. The speed and ease with which she grasped that foreign language seemed a miracle, and learning with her was a delight. She is now 17 years old and still happily remembers a fair amount of what we learned together.
Language development is concentrated in the early years, and a child’s particular exposure to linguistic elements builds neural pathways in the brain. Children raised in a bilingual environment receive a great gift that provides significant advantages. They continue to hear the sounds of both languages and speak each with the fluency of a native speaker, obtain a more thorough understanding of language, and gain more practice in language processing. Research shows that much of this advantage is lost within two or thee years of school enrollment, but homeschooling alleviates that problem. With parents central in their lives, homeschooled children continue to receive support in the mother language, and thereby better retain true bilingualism.
It seems your chief worry is that you won’t be able to teach your child the second language, that of the country in which you reside. Homeschooling provides unique advantages to a family living in another land. The freedom offered by this educational lifestyle permits the luxury of exploring the resident culture, language, history and landscape in whichever manner suits the family’s needs and interests. Your children will be exposed to these elements through your friends and theirs, through interactions at the market, post office, restaurant, and rail station.
As your children grow, you will find that learning in another culture is as natural as any other learning. You do what feels right, use your resources, and learn together, learning and teaching each other, like you would learn anything else in the grand adventure of life that exists outside of school.
Shay Seaborne is Vice President of The Organization of Virginia Homeschoolers, founder of the VaEclectic homeschool discussion list and Skipper of Sea Scout Ship 7916. She lives in Woodbridge, Virginia, where she writes, homeschools two teenagers, rides her bicycle and sails whenever she has the chance, and frequently questions experts of many kinds.