Can we make homework fun when teaching a 2nd language?

Stories, games, music, conversations are all great ways to expose children to a 2nd language. Kids learn without really realizing that they learn. They are soaking things in and having fun. They slowly develop understanding and fluency in the 2nd language.

And what about homework? Isn’t it a necessary medicine to help children learn a 2nd language? Time is obviously limited. Who has time to spend an hour with their child going over a German grammar lesson? Or who has the patience to do a spelling test with their angel who easily can turn into a little devil if he or she hears the words “devoirs” (homework in French).

We believe however that a structured homework method helps keep the focus and results in incremental progress every week. It also gives us confidence that we cover different aspects of what children should learn when studying a 2nd language.
So here are a few things we do to keep our kids engaged, with the limited time we have on our hands.

Finding the right homework method

We follow the school text books from Spain and France and we do what Spanish and French children do. Obviously, being French and Spanish, we are able to help, and we have our family sending us the appropriate books ("Santillana" method in Spanish, "Tout Savoir en Maternelle" from Hatier in French). For Chinese, we use a great “Chinese as a Second Language” method: Better Chinese.

Letting the little ones choose

Our homework in French is less structured with Pablo. He is 4-years old and does not have to go from lesson 1 to 2, 3, 4 and so on. The book has different topics. So we let him choose a page he feels like doing.

Doing it 10-minutes at a time

After a day of work, and after kids have done their regular homework, with the few chores or cooking that needs to be done, it is challenging to do homework for language #2. We use a low-pressure approach: one exercise, or one page of the book, 10 minutes. Although time is short, the satisfaction of getting it done feels great.

Doing  it together

Also Pablo and Elena have 3 years difference, we all sit around the kitchen table. We do not do any chores during that time. It is “family time”. I tried to do 2 things at the same time (cooking + homework for example), but the kids would easily get defocused.

Doing it first thing in the morning on week-ends (or at least trying to…)

Kids focus better in the morning, and when we can get a page of our homework book done in the morning right after breakfast, we feel better as parents the rest of the day.

Creating a fun routine

We created with Elena and Pablo a routine we call “Aperitif en Francais”. They are more motivated to do a page of their French book with some baby carrots and a few almonds. So when I come back from work, we sit-down for 10 minutes with a light snack (I am usually hungry!) and we do a page of French.

Giving stars

Giving stars works with both our children. When an exercise is done right, they get a star. It motivates them to stay focus and to do the exercise right.

If you have other tips or tricks to help your child with homework in a 2nd language, please share it with us and leave your comments here below.