Coronavirus: Homeschooling in a language you don't speak

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Image copyright Family photo
Image caption Riley, eight, and Harley, five, do school work at home - their mum does not speak Welsh

Until a few weeks ago, non-Welsh speaking parents who had chosen Welsh-medium education assumed their children would spend about 30 hours a week immersed in the language - at school.

Now attempting to "home school" in a language they don't speak, they face an extra layer of challenge.

In Cardiff, for example, about 63% of pupils in Welsh-medium schools come from homes where no Welsh is spoken.

On top of anxiety about coronavirus and general concern about education , some parents are worried their children's Welsh language skills will suffer.

Debbie from Cardiff is one of them. She is learning Welsh, but feels she does not know enough to help her two young sons, Riley, eight, and Harley five, with their school work.

"I can only help them in English and I'm worried they'll fall behind with their Welsh language skills, compared to the kids who get Welsh at home every day," she said.

She said the boys had been watching a lot of Cyw children's programmes on S4C and playing games on Duolingo and other apps. But she wishes they could do more.

Ceri Anwen James, assistant headteacher at Ysgol Gyfun Bro Edern, in Penylan, Cardiff, said: "We know that the vast majority of our parents don't speak Welsh.

"When they made the decision, many moons ago, to educate their child through the medium of Welsh, they hardly thought that one day their child would be educated in Welsh from their kitchen or lounge, due to a pandemic lockdown, with them having to navigate the intricacies of a Welsh-medium curriculum."

She said the school had tried to keep tasks as straightforward as possible and given pupils plenty of links and activities to stay in touch with the Welsh language.

"It's essential that they have as much contact as possible with the Welsh language while they are away from school," he said.

To help parents like Debbie, a number of Welsh-speaking parents and others have come forward to help by developing new content to ensure children can have fun at home, as well as do their school work in Welsh.

Image copyright Mei Gwynedd/Youtube
Image caption Mei Gwynedd hosts new ukulele lessons for kids

Ukulele lessons

Cardiff-based musician Mei Gwynedd has started ukulele lessons on his YouTube channel every Tuesday and Thursday morning.

"I think music should be available for everyone," he said, adding that he's trying to secure funding to provide subtitles to help non-Welsh speaking families follow along as well.

Illustration

Cartoonist Huw Aaron provides daily videos to help kids get creative every weekday on YouTube. He said he was motivated partly by his worry about how the lockdown could affect non-Welsh-speaking families.

"If there's no fun, interesting content for kids in Welsh, they might not hear the language much at all for.... months?"

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"I hope that five or 10 minutes of following simple instructions on how to illustrate a monkey or robots might be helpful to families with long empty days ahead of them for who knows how long."

Keeping fit

Joe Wicks might be calling himself the UK's PE teacher, but Rae Carpenter from Ffit Cymru on S4C is trying to challenge him. She's doing daily sessions at 09:00 BST.

Image copyright Ffit Cymru

For children who prefer to exercise in the afternoon, Lleucu Ifans posts her Facebook videos at 13:00 BST.

"If anything positive comes out of this, it's that kids will have sport as part of their daily life," she said.

"I just want to keep everyone moving, not just children."

Welsh lessons for families

Aran Jones from Say Something in Welsh spotted the need to help parents early on during the coronavirus crisis, and started new daily lessons to help families learn Welsh together called Bedtime Welsh.

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"We have two-minute lessons on the phone, and videos on our YouTube channel. We're keeping it quite short and hope families have fun doing it," he said.

"We have at least 300 involved on our Slack group at the moment. Anyone's free to join in."

Mr Jones has since started a new venture to help teach the Welsh national anthem by asking famous faces to take part in the video lessons.

S4C and BBC

Image copyright S4C
Image caption "Ysgol Cyw" is a collection of S4C's new resources for kids

S4C has gathered all of its educational children's programmes together to create Ysgol Cyw so that parents can be assured their children are watching educational programmes at home.

The BBC has a variety of educational material available in Welsh too, including Bitesize. From 20 April onwards, a daily service called Bitesize Dyddiol will be available including short films and animations for pupils aged 3-14 years.

Image caption CBeebies Cymraeg includes Welsh language games and jigsaws featuring characters including the Teletubbies and the GoJetters.