Most American students don't begin to learn a foreign language until they're in middle school. Spanish teacher Linda Horan, however, advocates starting foreign language instruction much earlier. In fact, her youngest student is just nine months old.
Before moving from Binghamton to Baldwinsville a year ago, Horan spent several years teaching Spanish at the elementary, middle, high school and community college levels before having her own children. It was then that she decided to start her own program that allowed her the flexibility of schedule and curriculum she desired. Thus was born Spanish Lessons for Little Ones.
"I wanted something that I could have a say in the design of it," Horan said. "So I came up with the idea of giving lessons. I've been doing it since last spring, but it's really picked up this past fall."
Since beginning the program, the New York State certified teacher has worked with children as young as six months old up to her oldest current pupil, an adult learner in her 30's. The biggest bulk of her students are 2 to 5 years old.
"The purpose for the younger students is to expose them to the Spanish language in a fun and engaging way and to try and do it with fun materials," she said, giving examples of the latter including play food, dolls and other appropriate toys such as Mr. Potato Head, which she uses to teach the names of body parts.
Horan also relies on dance, poetry, art, crafts, music, rhymes and "lots of great resources in the library" to cover a wide variety of different topics including weather, food, animals and geography. Her instruction favors an interdisciplinary approach allowing her to integrate math, language arts, science, social studies and the arts.
"I always try to make it fun and hands-on," she said. "I try to do a variety of activities so that I'm not doing the same thing every week."