I was planning on staying for one year when I first arrived to the US as
an au-pair. Well, it’s now been 11 years and I never returned to
Colombia. I met my husband during that first year as an au-pair, got
married and we now have 3 children. Being an immigrant hasn’t been easy,
it was a struggle for me to learn English.
My husband is Greek and in the beginning, it was hard to communicate.
He did not speak Spanish and I spoke very little English (and no Greek,
of course!) I learned English day after day, through real-life events.
He was also learning Spanish but from this experience, I felt the need
to create an easier and better way to teach Spanish. So I wrote my own text books.
I created Buenos Amigos Spanish “The real-life way to learn Spanish”,
to teach Spanish to adults and children. It was very rewarding to
witness my students improve using the text and activities I had created.
My students were very enthusiastic and looked forward to my classes. It
was fun for them and also for me!
After I became pregnant with my baby girl, driving all over the city
teaching classes got harder. As an Au-pair, I had been involved with
babysitters and nannies and had seen things I did not want for my child.
So I decided to put my Montessori education to good use. My volunteer
time at a Children’s Hospital and at Fundación Luz y Vida in Bogotá (for
special needs children), along with 300 hours in Early Childhood
Education gave me the confidence to finally tell my husband:
“We are opening a home daycare!”
You should have seen my husband’s eyes when I told him! His family
was hesitant. They knew many people who had opened a daycare and had to
close it soon after. I quickly proved them wrong. Buenos Amigos Daycare
would be different. I would make it a second home for the children who
attended. I would care and teach every single child that came through
our doors as if it was my own.
In my Spanish daycare and preschool, they would experience “The real-life way to learn Spanish”.
I wasn’t happy with any Spanish immersion preschool curriculum I
found. I tried working with one of them for a couple of years but spent a
lot of time improving it. Eventually, I decided to create my own
curriculum for my Spanish immersion preschool. We focus on learning one
letter per month and all the activities are related to that letter, in
both Spanish and English.
The 1st week, we work on language, writing skills, we learn new words and read a lot. The 2nd
week, we practice math, make crafts involving numbers, and create
didactic activities that help children solve simple math problems. The 3rd week, we focus on science. We experiment, grow plants, observe metamorphosis, learn about nature and healthy habits. The 4th and 5th weeks, we learn about diversity and social relations.
We choose a country and learn about the culture, listen to its music,
cook local recipes, practice coloring, learn the flags and geographic
locations. Families’ assistance with these activities is required so
that parents remain involved even when their child is in preschool, and
they sure do a good job!
We also have field trips, daily circle time and monthly music class.
Everything revolves around that one letter of the month. Seems like a
lot, but children’s brains are like sponges and it’s never enough! All
of the activities at our Spanish daycare are, of course, in Spanish.
I use all the didactic materials I can find to make the time at
daycare as fun as possible. We have lots of toys, puppets, instruments,
and kids-size household items. Toddlers and preschoolers help with daily
chores like sweeping, cleaning, washing dishes, etc.
This is “The real-life way to learn Spanish”.
I continue to further my training in early education and demand the
same from my staff. We’re a Spanish daycare but most of our students are
not Spanish speaking. Neither are their parents. We have worked with
children from China, South Africa, Korea, Japan, India, Greece and
Choosing a bilingual preschool
is a great way to expose children to more than one language. Bilingual
children are better at multitasking and problem-solving. They
also perform better in school and tend to score higher on standardized
tests. Besides building brainpower, learning a new language promotes
cross-cultural understanding and openness to diversity.
Buenos Amigos Daycare is approaching its 9th Anniversary.
Like any business, we’ve faced many difficulties opening our Spanish
immersion preschool, but we continue to grow. I have been able to stay
at home with my three kids but most importantly, we have provided a safe
and happy environment to all the “niños”.
We offer infant daycare and babies who joined us as young as 8 weeks
old have left for kindergarten well prepared. Not only learning basic
skills but also Spanish… and a little Greek!
By Maria Sideris
Owner of Buenos Amigos Daycare in Silver Spring, MD