What Should You Do If One Parent is Hesitant About Dual Immersion Programs?

by multilingualmania on April 6, 2011

in Dual Immersion, Parenting

Today I answered an “Ask an Expert” question over on Spanglishbaby for a mother who had a question about which type of school she should choose for her children. She had always assumed that her children would be placed in a Spanish-English Dual Immersion program, but her husband recently expressed interest in a Waldorf English program that had a Spanish as a foreign language component. She has quite a dilemma!

During my experiences in working with Dual Immersion programs, the dilemma sometimes arises where one parent may not necessarily be on board with the program. I have seen many students who initially enter into the program and are later exited because one parent prefers a different type of academic program.

When students exit the program beyond first grade, it often is difficult to place new students into the program who have not been exposed to Spanish. In order to prevent this from occurring, I recommend that you take the following steps to ensure that both parents are committed to choosing the Dual Immersion program for your child:

  • Have a formal discussion with your spouse or partner about your expectations about language development for your children. Before your children enter into the school system, discuss how you would like to cultivate proficiency in two languages. Do you want your children to be in a Dual Immersion setting?
  • If your spouse or partner is hesitant about the Dual Immersion program and is inclined to cultivate the target language in the home, have a conversation about the realities of building proficiency at home. Will you have the time, dedication and resources to be able to expose your children to the target language to an extent that will build high levels of proficiency in a language other than English? Or would it be easier to place your children in a bilingual program at school?
  • Ask your spouse or partner about the reasons behind their hesitations about the Dual Immersion program. It’s quite possible that your partner may have misconceptions about the program or bilingualism that may need to be addressed. Buy books about Dual Immersion and bilingualism, visit a Dual Immersion school and examine misconceptions that your partner may have.
  • If you are a single parent and your child’s “other parent” is still involved in their life, it’s also recommended that you have these discussions with your ex in order to prevent future disagreements about placement in a Dual Immersion setting.

School officials who are in charge of recruitment and administration of Dual Immersion programs should also take into consideration this dilemma when recruiting new students into the Dual Immersion program. I often ask parents who attend orientations if both parents are aware of the goals and long-term commitment of the program. I have honest and realistic conversations about the possible ramifications that may happen if both parents are not fully on board with the long-term commitment required for the Dual Immersion program.

As an advocate for Dual Immersion programs and other bilingual education programs, I wish I could recommend that everyone place their children in a bilingual education setting. However, I’ve experienced parent disputes on multiple occasions about disagreements about the educational setting for children so this dilemma can’t be taken lightly.

If one parent does not want to place their child in a Dual Immersion setting and you have exhausted all of your efforts to convince him or her otherwise, it would probably be better to place your child in another type of educational setting. Please don’t become discouraged that your child will never learn two or more languages. There are many other ways to cultivate biliteracy outside of a Dual Immersion setting!

Head on over to Spanglishbaby and check out my response to the question!

-Melanie

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