How We Tackled Learning Another Language at Home
© Beverley Paine, November 2007
First of all I'd pick a country that we're all interested in (or that I'm interested in). In our case it was Indonesia as it's Australia's most populous nearest neighbour, and has a fascinating culture very different to our own. Once we had begun studying the language we noticed that there are many similarities between the languages of the whole area, and even found words in English that have Indonesian origins, thanks primarily to the Dutch historical involvement in the islands.
As children learn most effectively through a range of activities, especially those that stimulate many of the senses at the same time, we focussed on collecting resources that would introduce the children to Indonesian culture and language in an interesting way.
This included cloth and material made in Indonesia - bringing traditional patterns and colours into our daily lives with drapes, table clothes, cushion covers, dolls' clothes, dress ups. Shadow puppets - we were lucky to be given an ornate set from Bali, as well as making our own. We borrowed a book on myths and legends from all over the world from the library. Picked up holiday brochures and information. Bought a study guide with tapes to learning Indonesian. Obtained from an ex-primary school Indonesian teacher a song book with tapes, and a had several of the songs translated into English by a uni-student friend. At the city library we found some novels in Indonesian, and our friend brought back an assortment of objects like tickets, time tables, menus, and a newspaper, when his family went to Indonesia for a few months. We also took advantage of any performances at the Festival of Arts and elsewhere by visiting Indonesian performances, artists and musicians.
Learning the songs was a highlight for the children as well as me. It's so much easier singing in a different language than learning how to communicate: picking up the pronunciation seemed easier too. The songs were children's songs and reflected the cultural difference and that was always a good starting point for discussions. One song sang about chopping off a duck's head before plucking it for the pot - a very cheerful tune!
I made several games that helped to reinforce learning. One was a trivia game. The children helped to gather information for the questions, design the board, test the game and colour and find pictures to decorate the board. I also made learning aids - the kind of thing I'd use for helping my children learn English, like flash cards, etc. We also played games like Scrabble using Indonesian words.
Ours was a 'looking in from the outside' look at Indonesian culture and language. Our travelling friends really immersed themselves and it was obvious that their children would never forget what they had learned. For us it was an interesting continuous 'unit study' that helped to broadened the children's perspective on how people live elsewhere in the world.
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We began educating our three children in 1985, when our eldest was aged five years. In truth, we had helped them learn what they need to learn as they grew and explored and discovered this amazing world since the moment they were born. I am a passionate advocate of allowing children to learn unhindered by unnecessary stress and competition, meeting developmental needs in ways that suit their individual learning styles and preferences. Ours was a homeschooling, unschooling and natural learning family! There are hundreds of articles on this site to help you build confidence as a home educating family. I hope that your home educating adventure is as satisfying as ours was!
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