In this episode of The Preschool Podcast we discuss the benefits of language immersion in early childhood education with Natalie Standridge, founder and CEO of Casa de Corazón, an intercultural Spanish immersion early childhood development program that serves children ages birth to pre-k in the Minnesota and Wisconsin area, and is expanding nationally through franchising.
Natalie explains that from birth to about pre-k are the best years for children to learn a second language as this is when it will be retained the most. Their program at Casa de Corazón is designed to foster this language development as well as provide children and their families with dual-language learning in the early learning years.
Benefits to Young Children from Multiple Language Exposure
Natalie explains that there are so many benefits in learning multiple languages. Research has concluded that the following benefits may be true for children who are taught more than one language in their most formative years:
- Increased analytics language orientation
- Perform higher on standardized tests
- Easier for children to learn a third language or additional languages
- Higher self-esteem
- Increased social-emotional skills
- Increased creativity and problem-solving skills
Casa de Corazón centers use an accredited Spanish-immersion curriculum and employ educators that are fluent in Spanish. Children will learn a second language best when they are completely immersed in a community of speakers who are fluent in that language. At Casa de Corazón all of their employees speak Spanish to the children to help expose them to the language and their cultures.
More than half of the world’s population is bilingual. In our increasingly global society, educated parents are choosing to enroll their children in bilingual programs more and more.Natalie Standridge. The Preschool Podcast
Families who may be hesitant in enrolling their child in a bilingual education program due to lack of knowing a second language will be happy to know that when children are fully immersed in a stable community, speaking a language other than their language spoken at home will still develop the necessary skills to speak the desired second language. This is because when there is a stable community at home speaking one language and a stable community elsewhere in their life, like at school, for example, children can still understand and learn both languages.
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The highest indicator of child cognitive success at the preschool level is actually the emotional connection and the attachment between the child and his or her or their care provider. And so that relationship with the teacher is so, so important.
Natalie, welcome to the Preschool Podcast!
Thank you, thanks for having me!
We are delighted to have on the show with us today Natalie Standridge. She is the founder and CEO of Casa de Corazón. And we’re going to be talking to her today about the benefits of language immersion in early-childhood education. Natalie, great to have you. Tell us a bit about yourself and Casa [de Corazón].
Such a great opportunity, thanks for letting me tell you about that. So, I am the founder and CEO of the Casa de Corazón, which is an intercultural Spanish immersion early-childhood development program. We serve children from birth through pre-K in multiple centers in Minnesota and Wisconsin.
And the purpose of our program is to expose children to Spanish as a second language from birth through pre-K [pre-kindergarten], which are the best time in a child’s life to learn a second language. Children’s brains are hard wired to learn language in those first five years of life. And so our program is set up to really foster that language development and also provide children and their families with the benefits of dual language learning in the early years, which are multifold.
And so there are some other focuses of our program that have to do with social-emotional intelligence, philanthropy, community involvement, environmentalism. And last but not least, we serve the children organic and local, made-from-scratch foods throughout the day that they’re enrolled with us.
Very cool, very awesome. And at HiMama, we’re a Certified B Corporation. And a lot of these things you’ve listed align very much to those elements, in terms of community and the environment and considering all the stakeholders and impacts that we have. So, that’s really cool to hear.
And on this topic of dual language learning, it’s actually perfect timing for me because my partner and I, we were chatting about this the other day because we have to make a decision: Should we put our children into a dual language program here in Canada? And it’s one of those things lots of folks talk about there’s certain benefits. Can you tell us a little bit more about what are those benefits to young children, in terms of that exposure to multiple languages at an early age?
Absolutely. Well, first of all, congratulations on being a Certified B Corporation. I really respect that and I think that’s amazing for you and your community. It really means a lot to have that certification.
And yeah, to answer your question, there are so many benefits to learning multiple languages or more than one language for children in their early years. More than half the world’s population is bilingual or multilingual. And in our increasingly global society, I think educated parents are choosing this more and more for their children.
In most developed countries of the world there is bilingualism that is fostered from birth. And so we being here based in the United States are part of the movement toward that. I know that where you are, it is already quite common for children to be raised in bilingual schools.
But it’s really not just about language. The research is now showing that children who are exposed to more than one language in early childhood have increased analytical orientation to language in general; they score higher on standardized tests in other subjects like math and logic; they make permanent connections in the brain that make it easier for them to return to the second language later in life or learn a third or additional languages.
They also have increased, higher self-esteem, social-emotional skills, creativity, problem-solving skills… I mean, I could really go on and on about all of the developmental and brain benefits to bilingualism in the early years. But there are also benefits in older adulthood. Like, it has shown a decrease in the onset of Alzheimer’s in older age when people are bilingual as young children.
And so, I mean, these benefits are just really amazing. And the research is actually documenting it now, which wasn’t the case when I started doing this nearly 20 years ago. And so it’s a very exciting time to be part of it. And I think a lot of parents are becoming aware of those benefits and wanting to just provide their children with the best. And this is a big part of it, in my opinion.
Yeah, it’s very cool because there’s kind of this element of there’s the very specific practical benefits, of course, of knowing multiple languages. But all these more qualitative pieces that maybe are a little bit harder to pinpoint, even though there is more data and research behind it, but these brain connections and the creativity and problem solving that that comes from thinking in multiple languages is really, really fascinating as well.
Maybe let’s start with learning a bit more about how you’re incorporating dual language learning at Casa. And then maybe from there, how do we translate that to the home?
Yeah, great question. So, we are using an accredited Spanish immersion curriculum. It is called the Creative Curriculum and it is accredited through the National Association for the Education of Young Children, which is the national accreditor here in the United States for early-childhood education programs.
Being accredited means that we are in the top seven percent, in terms of quality of early childhood ed. [education] programs. And having that accredited curriculum means that we are meeting the social and emotional and cognitive developmental goals for children leading into kindergarten. And also we are doing that in the Spanish language.
And so the way we do this is by employing teachers who are fluent in Spanish. So, the best way for children to learn a second language is to be surrounded by a stable community of speakers who are fluent in the language.
And so we employ teachers who are fluent in Spanish that may be of that heritage, people who may be international teachers that are coming here with an early-childhood ed. degree from a Spanish speaking country to work with us for a limited period of time on a work visa and expose the children not only to the language but to their cultures, which is a really unique byproduct of having a Spanish immersion program, is that these children are being exposed to other cultures, as well.
And in terms of the second part of your question, tying it in at home: How language development works if children are being raised bilingually is that the best way to do it is to have, like I said, a stable community speaking the language, but then a stable community speaking the second language. And so for a lot of our enrolled children, English is the language at home – that’s their stable community. Spanish is the language at school and that’s their stable community of Spanish.
And so actually, the answer to your question is parents don’t have to really do anything if they choose this kind of model for their children because they are doing it by giving them that setting while they’re in school or daycare during the day. And then they just speak their native language, if it’s English. Or we’ve had people who their native language is Japanese or Portuguese or something else at home and then they’re modeling that at home.
But definitely if parents want to, I would say, use audio that is in the native speaker’s language. And so if the parents are not a native speaker of the second language that the child is learning, use music from Spanish speaking countries; use audio books that are in Spanish read by native Spanish speakers or people who are fluent and have the right pronunciation in the language.
And so one of the ways that we at Casa provide this opportunity for our enrolled families is we have a mobile app where families can, among other things like seeing the calendar and the menu of the awesome food and all that, they can stream audio at home. So, over a thousand native Spanish songs and audio books that they can listen to at home with their children. And it’s the same music that the kids are listening to at school.
And so it creates that connection with the kids’ school community and the songs that they like and enjoy dancing to that they can do at home, as well. So, I think that’s a really cool way to tie in supporting the language at home if the parents don’t speak it.
We talked about a lot of the reasons why the dual language learning is beneficial. And you mentioned the culture exposure immersion as well, which is also something that I think is really great about it. Based on some of your conversations with the parents that are enrolling their children at Casa, what are the top reasons that they cite for wanting to be part of this dual language program?
Yeah, so it is two. The top two reasons are the Spanish immersion, so knowing that they’re raising their kids bilingually and all of the benefits that we just talked about of doing that in early childhood.
And the other one is the loving teachers. Digging a little deeper into that cultural piece, I do believe that in Spanish-speaking and Latin American countries, there is a very loving approach to child rearing and to child education. And that is just inherently brought in by the type of people that we employ where the teachers are just gushing over these kids.
I mean, loving them and taking care of them, hugging them when they arrive in the morning and meeting all of their needs. But also engaging with them in a very authentically emotional way. I think that this is a very relationship-based industry and that is important. But when a parent comes to me and says, “Gosh, I don’t feel guilty going to work anymore because I know that these teachers love my children as if they were their own,” that is very meaningful from an emotional perspective.
But also from a child development perspective because it is proven that the highest indicator of child cognitive success at the preschool level is actually the emotional connection and the attachment between the child and his or her or their care provider. And so that relationship with the teacher is so, so important.
Yeah, that’s cool. And it makes a lot of sense. Now, I understand there’s a lot of demand and interest in dual language learning programs to the point where you’re considering or offering a franchise opportunity. So, opportunities for other folks who really buy into this mission and what you’re doing. Can you talk a little bit about that? And if folks are interested in learning more about that maybe you could also share how they could get in touch with you or learn more.
Yes, absolutely. So we’ve been franchising for a few years and we’ve doubled our locations over those years. We’ve opened one per year in 2018, 2019 and 2020. And so half of our locations are franchise locations. And I just love the franchise model because it’s a way for me to mentor people who want to be in business for themselves but not by themselves. And maybe not start something from scratch but be a part of something that’s already existing and making a difference in communities.
And so this is just a fabulous opportunity for entrepreneurial-minded individuals who want to do something meaningful and may have kids or may know kids that they want to impact in the community where they are. And so, yeah, I would love to speak with anyone who’s even just curious, as we are a no-pressure franchise system. We’re not trying to grow to 600 units in two years or anything like that. We are just trying to provide a system that is sustainable and fully support our franchisees to do what they love in their community and be successful at it and provide this for more families.
So, a really fun way to just sort of get a peek at what we’re doing would be to follow us on social media. So, you can follow @CasaEarlyLearning on Instagram, Casa de Corazón on Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube. Tons of fun videos that really highlight what we’re doing there. Or follow me personally, Natalie Standridge on Instagram, Facebook or LinkedIn.
Awesome. And I really like that, “Be in business for yourself but not by yourself.” Makes a lot of sense, if you’re entrepreneurial and you want to do something more on your own but you’re not sure where or how to start. Sounds like a great, great opportunity. Before we wrap up here, Natalie, we always like to ask our guests to share with our audience a professional development source you’re enjoying or you think would be valuable for our audience to check out. Anything that comes to mind?
Yeah, so I guess I’m kind of a podcast junkie. So, I’m going to recommend a few different podcasts here. My absolute favorite is A Bit Of Optimism with Simon Sinek. This is just a fabulous podcast about leadership in general and sometimes just about life.
Tilted: A Lean In Podcast is about life as a driven career woman, very appropriate for any gender. But also, I think, as women, it’s become increasingly difficult over the past 18 months to balance life and work. And so it’s relevant for that reason and it’s also relevant in a female-dominated industry, which is early-childhood education.
And then last but not least, I’m listening to the EOS leader, which is about the “entrepreneurial operating system”. It’s not really about that – it’s about leadership but it highlights the entrepreneurial operating system, which is a fabulous mechanism for running a business. My business is run on EOS and it’s just a really amazing tool for getting traction.
Speaking of traction, anything in what they call the Traction Library, which is a group of books, the principal one being called Traction by Gino Wickman. It’s just an amazing tool for operating any business of small to medium size.
Oh, some really good recommendations there. I’ve read Traction myself. And I am aware of the EOS system and I know some folks who follow that as well, which is great for getting your operating system in order so you can focus on planning and being better without putting out fires constantly, which I’m sure lots of our listeners can relate to.
Wonderful. Thanks so much for sharing those, Natalie. Finally, before we wrap up, if our listeners want to learn more about Casa de Corazón, where can they go to get more information, in addition to these great social media sources that you’ve mentioned earlier?
Yeah, please take a peek at our website, which is www.CasaEarlyLearning.com.
www.CasaEarlyLearning.com, feel free to reach out to Natalie there. It’s been so great having you on the Preschool Podcast. And thanks so much for sharing some of the stuff that you’re doing on dual language learning and for your passion on getting that out into the world and having more children exposed to this opportunity. Been great having you on the show!
Thank you, Ron. Thanks for the conversation!