1. Tell me about yourself and what you are passionate about.
I’m Kayla. I’m married to my wonderful husband, Fabian, and we are raising 2 girls in Minnesota. I am passionate about the Bible and bilingualism. Those are two things I could talk about all day. I really have a heart for helping families teach little ones the Bible in a way that they learn best. This is through play! And because we are a bilingual family, these two things often intersect.
2. I think one of the hardest things I hear from parents trying to raise bilingual families, is how to create an environment rich in both languages. How do you make this happen in your family?
In our home, we practice a modified OPOL model, where my husband speaks all Spanish to our little ones, and I speak mostly Spanish. I give myself grace because Spanish is not my Native language and some days my brain just can’t speak Spanish. That sounds silly, but I think other 2nd language-learning bilinguals get that. Sometimes your brain just won’t do the second language, but for the most part, we all speak Spanish in the home, all the time. When reading about the different methods for raising bilingual children, the key is to simply have consistent quality exposure. So that means face-to-face conversations with people that are fluent (preferably natives speakers) in the target language. Since we live in the U.S. we are constantly surrounded by English and it is HARD to raise a bilingual child in the U.S, so we prioritize Spanish (our minority language) by speaking mostly Spanish in the home, watching only Spanish movies, reading a majority of Spanish books (we only own Spanish books), and listening to majority Spanish music.
3. Do your children gravitate to one language or the other? How do you make sure they are engaged in both?
It really depends on the season. My kids are still little and their language is still developing. I’ve noticed they tend to have a language explosion in one language, and will only speak Spanish for a few weeks and will gain a bunch of vocabulary in Spanish, and then a month later they will have another language explosion, but in English and will only speak English for a few weeks. When it seems they are speaking more English I really focus on pushing more Spanish input. I get more strict with myself on only speaking Spanish at home, we cut out all English media and make sure we hang out with Spanish-speaking friends. Again, because we live in the United States they are learning English, it’s everywhere! So we don’t worry about their English, we prioritize their Spanish skills.
4. On your website, you have a comment about never forcing learning on children, and how you “just set the invitation and let them take the lead.” This is so important! Can you speak more on this, and how you put it to practice?
If I set up an activity I don’t really force them to do it. Generally, they want to engage and play, but I really try to focus less on making things look Pinterest-perfect and more on the process. We do have some guidelines, like “if you throw the sensory bin rice across the room, we will be done with the sensory bin for the day. But I never force them to do an activity, and really don’t focus on perfection. At this stage in the game, I focus on creating a positive experience and on the connection. In the end, they may not remember much about the story, but they will remember that we were together, playing, and will begin to realize that the Bible is for them. It’s not some big book with just rules, and Christ didn’t come just for the Big people. He came to be with them because he loves them. I truly believe that the way we love our children is their first taste of how God loves them, and we’re not going to do that perfectly. We all fail, and there’s grace, and we have to trust God with that, and trust that our littles will give us grace for our mistakes as we’ve all had to learn to give grace for our parents’ mistakes. I think when we build a connection and show love to our children, it is building a foundation for them to understand the Gospel.
5. One of your goals is to instill a love for Jesus and God in your children. You share so many creative activity ideas for children on your website and social media. What do you recommend to parents in regards to sharing a love of God in your family?
I think I mentioned this above, but taking the time to just be with our children, on their level, and show them the Bible on their level when we can. That will look different for every family. You have to do what works best for you, but I think that if we show our children the Gospel, a love for the things of God will naturally arise. The Gospel is this: that God took on flesh and dwelt among us. He doesn’t hold us to some unattainable standard of holiness to be in relationship with him. He doesn’t say “jump this high”, or read so much scripture, or say so many prayers to earn my love. Instead, he came down to our level so that we may know him, and be in a relationship with him. When we sit with our children on their level, without expectation, just offering relationship, we are living the Gospel. When we bring the Bible to their level and show them that this is something for them, we are showing them the Gospel of Christ.
6. You speak about how some people think that the bible is not for young children. I love your response to that. Could you summarize that briefly?
Well, I think it’s Biblical to teach the Bible to young children. Deuteronomy 11:19 talks about this. I also think teaching the Bible to young children communicates that the Bible is for them, and really that they can know God.
7. One of your goals is to raise “global citizens”. What does this mean to you, and why is it important?
We believe that all people are created in the image of God. I want to be a person (and raise littles) that see the worth of every person, and when there are injustices, I want to be a part of making things right. I’ll be the first to admit I don’t always do this perfectly. It really is a journey, but I’m on the journey and hope to propel my girls to go a little further.
8. Thank you so much for your time! To close, can you share your most valuable piece of advice for parents?
I’d say, you do you. Trust your gut and know your family’s priorities, and commit to not making someone else’s priorities your priorities. No one is doing it all, so decide what is important to your family, and set boundaries around that.