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How to raise a bilingual child even if you are not fully bilingual...

Rebecca began Spanish music classes with her baby, Ethan, at Mi Casa Es Tu Casa when he was just 6 weeks old.

Her husband is a native Spanish speaker, but she is not, by any means, and wasn't exactly sure how to raise a bilingual child if she, herself, didn't speak the language!

Spoiler alert: A year and a half later, Ethan's first words were in Spanish. He sings along to his favorite Mi Casa Es Tu Casa songs in Spanish, and Rebecca's own Spanish gets stronger every day.

As you read, you will sense that she is passionate about and fascinated with her baby's Spanish language learning.

We are so lucky to learn directly from her about how she is leveraging Mi Casa Es Tu Casa's in-person and at-home programs to raise a bilingual child!

Get out a pen and paper, you are going to want to take notes!

The Decision to be a Bilingual Family

Early on, we decided we wanted to be a bilingual family, and Mi Casa has been the best resource for supporting us on that journey. Going to Mi Casa classes gave us so many tools for learning Spanish and sign language, in addition to encouraging us as new parents.

We loved going to weekly classes and listening to the Mi Casa music throughout the week.

I joked with our teacher that we would love to come to in-person classes two or three times a week, and she recommended the At-Home Program. We loved the music and the in-person programming so much that we thought we’d give it a try. We’re so glad we did!

Now, we do the At-Home Program once a day at home while still attending in-person classes once a week.

One of my favorite aspects of the At-Home Program is that we can all participate at home together, my husband included. While he was able to go to a few in-person classes every once in a while, he can now attend every day. He’s been able to learn the signs and dances that go with the songs.

Our family has really bonded during this time together.

Ethan and I first started using the At-Home Program in the afternoon just the two of us.

However, I quickly realized that my husband wanted to participate as well.

Now, we all do class together before dinner. It’s a really nice way to all come together, to do something fun and educational, all without having to plan anything in advance. It’s become part of our nightly routine; we all look forward to gathering together to sing and dance and play.

Ethan's Spanish Language Explosion

When Ethan and I do the At-Home Program together, we both get so much out of it. Not only is it a fun way for us to bond each day, but I also get to practice my Spanish in an authentic way.

The lyrics for each song are on the screen, and this has helped me learn so many new words and phrases that I now use all the time.

Also, this daily exposure to the Mi Casa music has given me the confidence to sing many of the songs throughout our daily routine on my own. Sometimes I even make up my own lyrics! I have enjoyed finding books, toys, and real life objects to reinforce the vocabulary in the songs.

I see the impact of the Mi Casa music more and more each day as my toddler becomes more verbal. Some of his first words were “agua, ardilla, sol, and coqui”--all directly from Mi Casa songs. 

Example 1:

I picked up Ethan from daycare and he had a balloon. Unprompted, he held up his balloon to me, said “globo,” and started dancing with it. We had recently sung the “El Globito” as part of the At-Home Program and had been listening to it in the car on repeat.

Him making the connection to the real-life object in Spanish brings me so much joy! 

Example 2:

One the first songs Ethan started singing on his own was “Sale El Sol.” We had just sung the song during an At-Home class a few days before. He saw a picture of a sun in a book, raised his hands, and started singing “sol, sol, sol.” A few weeks later, we sang the song during an in person class and it was amazing to me how many of the words he was able to sing. During an audiation exercise where the adults intentionally don’t sing the words, he just kept on singing. 

Example 3:

One night when Ethan was first starting to talk, he kept saying the word “nino.” We couldn’t figure out what he meant until a few days later when we were doing the At-Home Program. The lullaby “Niño Lindo” came on and Ethan pointed and said “nino, nino, nino.”

Now at night Ethan asks for “nino” and we know he wants us to play “Niño Lindo” on repeat until he falls asleep. 

Example 4:

Ethan was listening to Mi Casa music in his room while playing. He ran into the kitchen where I was and started saying, “Sombrero” while pointing to his head. I followed him back to his room and the song “El Jazz de Sombrero” was playing. I quickly got him a hat and restarted the song so he could dance and sing along. 

Using Mi Casa Es Tu Casa Songs in Daily Life

We listen to the Mi Casa songs in the app and on Spotify throughout the day–whenever we’re in the car, during playtime, and before going to bed.

Different songs have become part of our daily routine.

During bath time, we always sing “Canción para Bañarse”.

Whenever we’re going somewhere, we sing “El Parque” and change the words of the lyrics to match where we’re going.

My husband plays “El Coqui” and “Niño Lindo” on the guitar as lullabies before bedtime every night.

“Hábitos” is our go-to any time we need to wash hands

One of my favorite routines from the in-person class and At-Home Program is the clean-up song “A guadar.” We started using it around the house any time we needed to clean up. Imagine our delight when Ethan started singing it himself while cleaning up! We use this song all day long and I love how much Ethan enjoys helping. Sometimes he dumps out all his instruments just so he can clean them up again!

Navigating screentime for babies and toddlers

At first, I was hesitant to join the At-Home Program because we hadn’t introduced any screen time for Ethan.

Eventually, I decided to give the At-Home Program a try when Ethan turned 18 months.

What I found is that the At-Home program feels less like “watching tv” and more like attending class virtually. Ethan recognizes the teachers, replies to the many opportunities for “call-and-response,” and engages with the routine just as he does in person.

We have baskets in our living room with his instruments and scarves, and he knows exactly when to get them out and when to clean up. My husband and I always participate with him, and singing and dancing together brings us all joy.

The At-Home Program is his only screen time, and we all look forward to it at the end of every day.

It’s been so fun to see him transfer the skills he’s learned during the At-Home Program to other parts of the day, whether it’s singing along to songs in the car, using sign language to identify words he now knows, or showcasing his dance moves in the in-person class. 

Now that I’ve tried the At-Home Program with my toddler, I can clearly imagine what it would be like to use it with a baby if we have another child. Many of the songs have the adult holding the child in their lap, not looking at the screen but at them. The videos are meant to guide the parent in what to do, and in many cases, the teachers give directions on what to do with a baby as well as what older children can do on their own while sitting beside you. I can tell the lessons were created with an entire family in mind

It is hard to be a bilingual family, to intentionally use Spanish every day in a predominantly English-speaking environment.

Oftentimes, we feel discouraged or feel that we are failing.

The one consistent success we can point to is that we are filling our home with music in Spanish as well as making core memories together in Spanish.

This is so encouraging to us and gives us the motivation to keep trying each and every day!

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