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Early Childhood Education/Five Year Old Stepson - Language Barrier


Hello Sue,

Thank you for taking the time to view my question.
My stepson is five years old.  He was born in Chicagoland, then went to Mexico with his mother from about 14 months just until about two weeks ago.  She only speaks Spanish, so that is all she taught him.

My concern is for this upcoming Kindergarten semester.  By the looks of it, he doesn't know the alphabet.  He can count to ten in Spanish but occasionally forgets a number here and there.  He is very bright and has already picked up "hi," "bye," and "blue."  Teaching him English is something my husband and I are working on as we are both bilingual, but not through any kind of structured method.

It is clear that he will need ESL through the local school district, which was expected.  My concern at this point is trying to find the best way to teach him the alphabet in such a way that it won't be forgotten.  Aside from the letter "X" and "O," maybe "I," I do not know if he can even identify letters when pointed out to him, I will have to try and see.  I also don't know if there are other skills that he should know before entering Kindergarten.

Should he learn reciting the alphabet and writing the letters at the same time?  Because Spanish is his first language, should I consider teaching the alphabet in Spanish first? (i.e. n~)

For a five year old, do you believe based on your experience that his knowledge thus far of the alphabet and numbers could be problematic?

He can't write his name (or even have an idea how to).  It is concerning to me that he turned five in May but has not been consistently "taught" the basics, either in a school setting or by his mother.  I do not want him to fall behind his peers more than being in ESL may put him (my husband voluntarily left ESL at a certain point during the beginning of high school and does feel it put him behind in writing and English).  We are both committed to helping him excel.  Any ideas would be very appreciated!



Hi Elmo,
I suggest you talk to the school your stepson will be attending.  If at all possible, talk to the kindergarten teacher.  It will be so stressful for him to have to learn letters, numbers, or anything else right now while adjusting to a move and new environment.   Anything that he learns under pressure between now and when school starts, will not be retained for long.

It might be a good idea for him to attend a pre-kindergarten or kindergarten readiness class for this year.  

Please talk to the school, I am sure they can help you.

Good luck.

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I will answer questions in the area of Child Development for children ages two to five. This includes social, emotional, cognitive & language development, large motor & fine motor skills, behavioral issues, potty training and parental concerns. I can give ideas for lesson plans and classroom activities. I will also help with daycare/preschool policies. I can also help with licensing requirements for preschools/daycare, however, I am only familiar with the licensing requirements for the state of Michigan.


I have been teaching in preschools for 25 years. My main experience has been with children two to five years of age. The last 16 years I have been the lead teacher for the pre-kindergarten program.


I have a B.S. degree and a teaching certificate in elementary education with a ZA endorsement (child development) from my graduate level classes.

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