Hi, I’m ‘Mam Samuel’ (or ‘Samuel’s mum’ in English) and I live in North Wales with my son Samuel (who has recently decided that he prefers to be called ‘Sam’). He started full time school last week and this blog is about my attempts to teach him to read, write and count in English at home.
Sam is being taught in Welsh at school and learning English at home, having studied Linguistics at university I understand the advantages of being bilingual and learning two (or more) languages at a young age. The advantages of being bilingual include: improved cognitive skills (ranging from working memory to the ability to switch between tasks), delay in cognitive damage (it can help delay the onset of dementia) and learning foreign languages (once a child learns more than one language, it’s fairly common for him or her to pick up another one with ease). I also believe it will give Sam a sense of identity and culture, living in Wales and having been born here. Plus, it will definitely open up more opportunities to him if we stay in the area, with everything from making friends to finding work in the (very distant) future.
I’m hoping that teaching Sam, English at home will help him both on an academic and personal level. I’m also excited that it will give us regular quality time together and give us a chance to have fun and try new things (yup, that’s right I said fun! I believe learning can be fun and doesn’t always have to take place behind a desk). I’m also hoping this can help improve mine and Sam’s relationship and bond (I’m sure I will go in to this in more detail at a later time but let’s just say things haven’t been easy). I’m also hoping that I might pick up some Welsh from Sam. I’ve lived here for almost 10 years and found it extremely difficult to learn the language despite investing a lot of time and effort in to lessons and study (see, it’s definitely better to learn a second language while your’re young. Or before puberty if you want to get all scientific).
But, where do I begin with teaching Sam English at home? I figured I should start with what he already knows.
Well, Sam can already speak English fluently (well, as fluently as any four year old can!) and it’s definitely his first language. It’s also my native language and the language that we use at home.
Spelling, reading and writing
He can recognise and write most of the English alphabet and knows phonics for most of the letters (he still gets some of the tricky letters, like ‘b’ and ‘d’ etc, confused when identifying them or writing them). He can confidently read and write two words, his name ‘Sam’ and (rather randomly) ‘zoo’.
Sam can recognise and read most of his numbers and name them in English. He can also count in English. He can name shapes, colours and mathematical terms in English.
Although, I have a degree in Linguistics and I am a qualified teacher (for adults!), I wasn’t really sure where to start. I will happily admit that although I love language and it fascinates me, it is not something that comes naturally to me. I couldn’t read or write until I was seven years old, I’m also almost definitely dyslexic (my dad has severe dyslexia and it was suggested several times during my post-compulsory education that I should be tested for the condition. The most prominent suggestion was when I wrote a whole essay about how first world war soldiers felt ‘quilty’ instead of ‘guilty’), I struggle with phonetics and syntax (grammar) and I find it extremely difficult to learn any additional languages. But he is in his first year of full time school and I am confident that I can confidently teach him English at this level at home. It’s also something that interests me and that I know I will enjoy planning and doing with Sam.
So, while Samuel has been at full time school this week I have been researching, reading and planning activities to help him learn and develop his English skills at home.