How Beautiful Mundo Fits into our Daily Lives and Homeschool
At the heart of learning any language is exposure. It's the key element, the most important ingredient. It's why immersion is so effective for language learning.
When we don't have the opportunity for complete immersion, the next best thing we can do is to be intentional about exposure and provide immersive experiences whenever we can. The goal of Beautiful Mundo is to provide a guide and serve as a resource for learning and practicing the Spanish language together. It is written to be a flexible collection of content. While there are underlying themes each week, the content is meant to be loosely connected and related. Some of it also serves as built-in review. This is intentional to give our children's brains the opportunity to draw connections between poems and music, or between stories and recipes or crafts, included in various weeks. From a scientific standpoint, the more our brains connect and relate the information we learn to other information we already know, the more we can remember and truly learn.
So how are these weekly collections of content meant to fit into our daily lives? However we want them to! Maybe you establish the routine of a Monday morning read-aloud in Spanish. Maybe you use snack time to read the poetry selections and afternoon playtime to introduce new songs and dance around together. For every family, Beautiful Mundo will fit in differently and that is why I wanted it to be so flexible from the start.
An Approach to Planning
I am a planner and checklist type of person. I love the sense of order and accomplishment one gets from planning out a week and checking things off one by one, right on schedule. Here's the thing though. After having four kids and taking on home education, I realized nothing EVER goes according to my plans. Sure I can plan out the perfectly balanced schedule and ensure that everything is covered, but 99% of the time I'm not able to check off every box each day. I find it better to take a less organized (but just as intentional) approach.
Meet the running checklist! Instead of suffering from relentless and repetitive feelings of failure, I have now adopted running checklists that I use for Beautiful Mundo (and to guide me through all of our other curriculums and studies as well). I need the organization of visually seeing what I am hoping to cover, without the pressure of assigning it to certain days, weeks, and times. Each checkbox represents an opportunity for language exposure and I have the freedom to check it off whenever I choose.
It's working for me right now, and it's made incorporating Beautiful Mundo into our lives quite enjoyable. Stress will undermine our learning efforts every time. We want our kids to both have fun learning Spanish and see us having fun with it too.
A picture is probably the best way to explain this practice to you. Here are a couple of checklists I had written for Beautiful Mundo in a notebook I like to keep handy. (I did rewrite these so you didn't have to sort through my checks and random notes I tend to add in.)
When I transition into learning time with my kids, its fairly quick and easy for me to reference these and decide what would be a good fit for the moment. We might not get everything done in the assigned week, but we always get to it eventually. I find that returning to an activity from a previous week is actually a great way to revisit vocabulary, bring up an important/interesting topic, or a favorite story again. Rather than look at a leftover checkbox as a sign of failure, I see them as an opportunity to save something for another time. A time when we will all enjoy it more because we won't be cramming it into an arbitrary 7 day timeframe. Some weeks we cover everything and then some, while others we don't. It's okay! It's a part of the journey we are on.
We do center our weeks on the literature selection, phonics instruction, music, and poetry (which I usually incorporate into the "Poetry Teatime" we hold weekly, Julie from Brave Writer style). If the above listed was the ice cream in the bowl... games, vocabulary, crafts, and recipes would be the whipped cream, sprinkles, and chocolate sauce on top, sweetening and enriching our learning experience as our daily lives and energy levels allow us too.
All the Books
We love literature-based learning in my house. In fact, most of the curriculum we use for just about every subject is centered around literature. We read books for English literature, for our English phonics program, for science, for nature, for history, and even for math sometimes. So what I am really saying is that we are constantly reading a LOT of books.
For Beautiful Mundo V1, the book of the week is always the first thing listed on my running checklists. It is automatically assigned this prestigious position because it is the most important to me. Listing it here says: if I do nothing else, I at least need to have read this story during the week.
Regardless of the language we are teaching our children, whether it's their native language, or a second or third language, reading books to them is arguably the most significant in predicting their future ability and understanding of a language. It's one of the best forms of language exposure available to us.
In order to avoid getting overwhelmed by the demand this places on me to constantly be reading aloud, I do a couple things to help take the pressure off.
I decide how many times I should read the story based upon how my kids are reacting to that particular book. If they absolutely love it and request it over and over, I may read it 5 or more times that week. If it isn't sparking their curiosity or drawing them in, I may only read it once or twice.
If I don't feel like I had the time or opportunity to do a book (or week of content) justice, I will simply extend it to the next week and wait to move on in the parent guide when I am ready. Quality is always more important than pace. No guilt necessary.
That said, I almost never say no when any of my kids ask me to read a book to them in Spanish. It is a minority language for us and I never want to skip or miss an opportunity for more exposure. Especially when they are seeking it from me. I've noticed that my kids often want to re-visit a book from an earlier week. Try to encourage this as much as possible!
My son is currently going through a months long obsession with Señorita Mariposa by Mister G. He picks it off the shelf over every other book. As much as I get tired of reading the same thing over and over, I remind myself how important it is to embrace this. This is a huge victory! They are referred to as "home run" books by some, or by others as "the book my kid won't stop asking me to read" (or "won't put down" if they are already reading on their own). They are the type of books that foster a love of reading in our children's hearts. Connecting with a language through books is powerful.
Even though we have a heavy literature-based load already on our shoulders for our studies in English, I often prioritize reading in Spanish whenever I can. If there are bilingual editions of the stories we were already planning to read in English, I try to incorporate those whenever possible. At the end of the day, our language learning success is all going to be determined by the exposure we were able to provide. There's no such thing as two much exposure to a minority language. I've said it before, but it's worth saying again. Our success will be the sum of all the small efforts we make day after day. "El éxito es la suma de pequeños esfuerzos." Take it one day at a time and do what you can, when you can.
A Note About the Vocabulary Guides
I don't believe the most effective way to teach my children to speak and understand Spanish is by sitting them down for lessons and running through vocabulary lists and flashcards.
The vocabulary guides in Beautiful Mundo aren't meant for kids at all. I use them to pick and choose phrases, vocabulary, and questions and answers that I want to introduce and emphasize during that week. You don't have to cover all of the vocabulary and suggested phrases in a single week either! It can be continually referenced as you build and grow in your ability to speak Spanish.
Do What Brings Joy
I do not have the one size fits all recipe for success, but I am happy to share how I approach language learning with Beautiful Mundo currently in my own home.
I should also say, we are constantly evolving and adapting our routines to fit with the different seasons we are in. My toddler recently stopped taking an afternoon nap, and everything shifted again. If there is one takeaway I would want you to have from this post, it is that it's okay to be flexible, to not get to everything, and to always be working to eliminate stressful plans and focus on just having fun together.
Sharing a language you love with your children is a uniquely special and rewarding gift. Learning a language with our children is meant to be a joy-filled journey. Don't let feelings of overwhelm take over, just adjust your approach and goals. The right strategy for your family might look different than mine; that's perfectly okay too.
I would love to hear about what is currently working for you and how you fit language learning into your homes. Please feel free to connect with me anytime!