This post was originally featured on the CareLuLu Parents blog
I was planning on staying for one year when I first arrived to the US as an au-pair. Well, it’s now been 11 years and I never returned to Colombia. I met my husband during that first year as an au-pair, got married and we now have 3 children. Being an immigrant hasn’t been easy, it was a struggle for me to learn English.
My husband is Greek and in the beginning, it was hard to communicate. He did not speak Spanish and I spoke very little English (and no Greek, of course!) I learned English day after day, through real-life events. He was also learning Spanish but from this experience, I felt the need to create an easier and better way to teach Spanish.
So I wrote my own text books.
I created Buenos Amigos Spanish “The real-life way to learn Spanish”, to teach Spanish to adults and children. It was very rewarding to witness my students improve using the text and activities I had created. My students were very enthusiastic and looked forward to my classes. It was fun for them and also for me!
After I became pregnant with a baby girl, driving all over the city teaching classes got harder. As an Au-pair, I had been involved with babysitters and nannies and had seen things I did not want for my child. So I decided to put my Montessori education to good use. My volunteer time at a Children’s Hospital and at Fundación Luz y Vida in Bogotá (for special needs children), along with 300 hours in Early Childhood Education gave me the confidence to finally tell my husband:
“We are opening a home daycare!”
You should have seen my husband’s eyes when I told him! His family was hesitant. They knew many people who had opened a daycare and had to close it soon after. I quickly proved them wrong. Buenos Amigos Daycare would be different. I would make it a second home for the children who attended. I would care and teach every single child that came through our doors as if it was my own.
In my Spanish daycare and preschool, they would experience “The real-life way to learn Spanish”.
I wasn’t happy with any Spanish immersion preschool curriculum I found. I tried working with one of them for a couple of years but spent a lot of time improving it. Eventually, I decided to create my own curriculum for my Spanish immersion preschool. We focus on learning one letter per month and all the activities are related to that letter, in both Spanish and English.
The 1st week, we work on language, writing skills, we learn new words and read a lot. The 2nd week, we practice math, make crafts involving numbers, and create didactic activities that help children solve simple math problems. The 3rd week, we focus on science. We experiment, grow plants, observe metamorphosis, learn about nature and healthy habits. The 4th and 5th weeks, we learn about diversity and social relations.
We choose a country and learn about the culture, listen to its music, cook local recipes, practice coloring, learn the flags and geographic locations. Families’ assistance with these activities is required so that parents remain involved even when their child is in preschool, and they sure do a good job!
We also have field trips, daily circle time and monthly music class. Everything revolves around that one letter of the month. Seems like a lot, but children’s brains are like sponges and it’s never enough! All of the activities at our Spanish daycare are, of course, in Spanish.
I use all the didactic materials I can find to make the time at daycare as fun as possible. We have lots of toys, puppets, instruments, and kids-size household items. Toddlers and preschoolers help with daily chores like sweeping, cleaning, washing dishes, etc.
This is “The real-life way to learn Spanish”.
I continue to further my training in early education and demand the same from my staff. We’re a Spanish daycare but most of our students are not Spanish speaking. Neither are their parents. We have worked with children from China, South Africa, Korea, Japan, India, Greece and France.
Choosing a bilingual preschool is a great way to expose children to more than one language. Bilingual children are better at multitasking and problem-solving. They also perform better in school and tend to score higher on standardized tests. Besides building brainpower, learning a new language promotes cross-cultural understanding and openness to diversity.
Buenos Amigos Daycare is approaching its 9th Anniversary. Like any business, we’ve faced many difficulties opening our Spanish immersion preschool, but we continue to grow. I have been able to stay at home with my three kids but most importantly, we have provided a safe and happy environment to all the “niños”.
We offer infant daycare and babies who joined us as young as 8 weeks old have left for kindergarten well prepared. Not only learning basic skills but also Spanish… and a little Greek!
Owner of Buenos Amigos Daycare in Silver Spring, MD