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Category Archives: EDUCATION

“To have a second language is to possess a second soul” (Charlemagne)

Already mentioned here my [random] thoughts on the whole bi/multilingual culture {Comments and extra thoughts on being a multilingual parent…}, and its obvious benefits, not only to the growing child, but also for the society that child is part of… Recently, CNN brought out an interesting/challenging/poking discussion on a study about ‘lifelong bilinguals’ {Study: Bilinguals Have Faster Brains} and the development of their brains… also, worth to check it out [I clearly did, it’s part of who I’m… that said, I had no other option but to join the discussion forum with my 2 cents growing up as a nomad child, and now a ‘trailing spouse’ and mother to 3 TCKs].

I’m always on the lookout for interesting resources for supporting our toddlers’ learning, I stumbled upon this very interesting article from Multilingual Living, which I’m sharing below.

A very good resource for parents of TCKs, homeschooling parents, or any parent concerned about improving their children’s learning skills, without loosing track of reality.  From our “tentative trilingual home” to yours

Good reading!

Benefits of Multilingualism

By Michał B. Paradowski
Institute of Applied Linguistics,
 University of Warsaw

The advantages that multilinguals exhibit over monolinguals are not restricted to linguistic knowledge only, but extend outside the area of language. The substantial long-lived cognitive, social, personal, academic, and professional benefits of enrichment bilingual contexts have been well documented. Children and older persons learning foreign languages have been demonstrated to:

  • have a keener awareness and sharper perception of language. Foreign language learning “enhances children’s understanding of how language itself works and their ability to manipulate language in the service of thinking and problem solving”; 
  • be more capable of separating meaning from form;
  • learn more rapidly in their native language (L1), regardless of race, gender, or academic level;
  • be more efficient communicators in the L1;
  • be consistently better able to deal with distractions, which may help offset age-related declines in mental dexterity;
  • develop a markedly better language proficiency in, sensitivity to, and understanding of their mother tongue;
  • develop a greater vocabulary size over age, including that in their L1;
  • have a better ear for listening and sharper memories;
  • be better language learners in institutionalized learning contexts because of more developed language-learning capacities owing to the more complex linguistic knowledge and higher language awareness;
  • have increased ability to apply more reading strategies effectively due to their greater experience in language learning and reading in two—or more—different languages;
  • develop not only better verbal, but also spatial abilities;
  • parcel up and categorize meanings in different ways;
  • display generally greater cognitive flexibility, better problem solving and higher-order thinking skills;
  • a person who speaks multiple languages has a stereoscopic vision of the world from two or more perspectives, enabling them to be more flexible in their thinking, learn reading more easily. Multilinguals, therefore, are not restricted to a single world-view, but also have a better understanding that other outlooks are possible. Indeed, this has always been seen as one of the main educational advantages of language teaching”; 
  • multilinguals can expand their personal horizons and—being simultaneously insiders and outsiders—see their own culture from a new perspective not available to monoglots, enabling the comparison, contrast, and understanding of cultural concepts;
  • be better problem-solvers gaining multiple perspectives on issues at hand;
  • have improved critical thinking abilities;
  • better understand and appreciate people of other countries, thereby lessening racism, xenophobia, and intolerance, as the learning of a new language usually brings with it a revelation of a new culture;
  • learn further languages more quickly and efficiently than their hitherto monolingual peers;
  • to say nothing of the social and employment advantages of being bilingual {Study: Bilinguals Have Faster Brains}– offering the student the ability to communicate with people s/he would otherwise not have the chance to interact with, and increasing job opportunities in many careers {The Value In Being Bilingual or Multilingual}.
 
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Posted by on October 4, 2016 in EDUCATION, LANGUAGE, resources, TCKs

 

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Thoughts on being a better – more effective? – parent…

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Well, does it really exist? Is there a place in the ‘Matrix’, offering parents the comfort they so-desperately seek, when it comes to the betterment of their children?

In the endless search for answers, and like any other parent [of multiple children, in my case], any free time my weekend is able to provide, is quickly filled up with interesting/intriguing/questioning op-pieces. From other parents, from seasoned educators/teachers, from child/teen psychologists.. you name it!

In a nutshell, and as many may already have imagined, there’s no magic formula.

Sorry, folks, but my brief weekend-long motherly non-scientific research led me to the already-known venue: All parents offer the same things to their children: emotional and physical safety, some level of connection, boundaries and patience. Tons of it – before they [the parents!], unfortunately, and without any warning signs – they lose it!😦

Parents are not perfect, nor are they effective all of the time. Parents keep on going, despite their continuous mistakes or doubts.

So… what have I learned from my without being interrupted by my children ‘weekend research’?

I have learned I need to cultivate a family value system. hopefully, that’s what my husband and I have set as the foundation for our growing family. Pretty tough, though. One may lay out a great life plan, completely filled with values to abide by… and see all dismantling in front of their own eyes…

I have learned it is crucial to prioritize th care my spouse and I offer each other. While managing our children’s expectations, and what we exactly would request from them. Children should understand that we, as parents, bear our problems with hope, honest acknowledgment of hard times, and a crazy [and hopeless!] case of lack of self-mercy!

I have learned I need to keep working on creating constant [yet accommodating] routines and boundaries. Children like and need routine. As parents, we should not aim for the tightly maintained routine, which could only create unnecessary disagreements and discomfort among all parts involved.

I have learned not to take any particular behavior [i.e. my youngest child, the soon-to-be teen boy, the middle-child who firmly believes she’s Broadway-material, and would become quite sensitive if told otherwise] as a personal attack. Not even the resulting-behavior from my husband should be understood as such. Leaning a bit on the science side, it is probably a chain-reaction – misunderstood behavior generates unfortunate [physical, verbal, emotional] responses, which could translate into not-well-thought-of actions, and uncalled for [and sometimes, hurtful] comments and reactions.

And finally,I have learned the most important task and responsibility while parenting [single kids, multiple kids] is the constant attempt to CONNECT. We need to connect with our children. In any and all levels possible. Again, this probably is the most difficult advice. But a good one, indeed – and it has become my September mantra: I’ll try to better connect with my children, and consequently, with my husband. At least, for the upcoming month of September. Let’s see how it goes.

Stay tuned!🙂

 

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A great Washington Post Read: ‘A tale of two temperaments: Same Parents, Different Kids’

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This morning, I stumbled upon this short op-piece from the Washington Post. Easy, quick, enjoyable read – and it represents exactly what I sometimes feel regarding raising our 3 children: they all came from the very same set of parents, we’ve offered them the same opportunities, require the same level of respect and responsibility [okay, maybe a bit weighted to each one’s age, but you get my point!], and yet, the results from each one’s behavioral expressions are [and maybe, should be!] completely different.

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Who knows? Maybe that’s what makes each and every one of them special in their own way. Unique, challenging, intriguing. And obviously, lovely and wonderful – like any other Mother Goose would refer to her offspring!

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Here’s the op-piece I am referring to:
[and my deepest appreciation for the Washington Post for having it out there!]

 

On Parenting

A tale of two temperaments: Same parents, different kids
By Deborah Farmer Kris

May 20 at 7:00 AM

When my daughter got home from school yesterday, she made a cozy nest of pillows, pulled out her crayons and started to draw.

“Mommy,” she complained, “the music is too loud. I need to focus.”

To which her little brother predictably replied, “I want too loud! I like too loud! TOO LOUD PLEASE!”

My husband and I are raising two curious, caring kids — who happen to have fundamentally different temperaments.

Thankfully, temperament and character are not synonyms. No matter our personality, most of us can learn to be kind, responsible, and hard-working. But one’s basic temperament — particularly our response to stimuli — seems rooted in biology.

Think of the seven dwarfs. Doc is an extrovert, Bashful is an introvert, and Grumpy is a natural skeptic — but they all choose to work hard, respect each other and protect strangers in distress. Seven decent people with different approaches to life.

That said, it must have been a challenge to be the dwarfs’ mother.

Our daughter was only a few weeks old when I began to notice her heightened sensitivity to sound — a reaction that some research links to later introversion. Shutting cabinet doors would startle her awake, and the blender terrified her. Her first full sentence was, “What’s that sound?”

At her first toddler tumbling class, she spent 15 minutes clutching my skirt. Then she mimicked the actions of the students from the safety of the back wall. Finally — after sizing up her teacher, her peers, and the relative safety of the activity — she happily joined the group for the last five minutes.

This is how she has approached almost every novel situation since infancy: observing before engaging. I got pretty good at helping her navigate new experiences in ways that stimulated her without being overwhelming. And then came child No. 2.

On my son’s first beach trip, as I was coaxing his sister to dip her feet in the water, he threw open his arms and toddled headlong into the waves. That’s his basic approach to life: dive in — and then scream for help if necessary.

Sometimes it has felt like whiplash parenting — pulling the toddler off a playground ladder while encouraging the preschooler to take “one more step” up the climbing wall. She perches watchfully while I vacuum; he tries to climb on and go for a ride.

We have a lot of shorthand for different temperaments. I often hear kids described as shy or bossy — or all-boy or all-girl. But these labels are laden with cultural baggage, and they put a box around children who are just beginning to explore who they are.

Every temperament brings with it strengths and possibilities. In Susan Cain’s essay, “Don’t Call Introverted Children ‘Shy,’ ” she writes that some children are “born with a careful, sensitive temperament that predisposes them to look before they leap. And this can pay off handsomely as they grow, in the form of strong academics, enhanced creativity and even a unique brand of leadership and empathy. . . . [T]hese kids are not antisocial. They’re simply sensitive to their environments.”

I am trying to create an environment that will allow both my kids to thrive — one that gives them the space to be themselves and the tools to “work it out” together. Sometimes my strategies work better with one than the other.

But I wonder if, in the end, their differences can be a source of strength. Perhaps their close relationship will give them a measure of empathy toward those who respond to the ebbs of life a little differently than they do.

On a recent visit to a small creek, my son persuaded his sister to wade into the water — and she got him to stop throwing rocks long enough to watch a heron catch a fish. And I thought of Cain’s comment that the best scenario “is when those two toddlers — the one who hands you the toy with the smile and the other who checks you out so carefully — grow up to run the world together.” Or as the Seven Dwarfs illustrate: No matter our temperament, we can find a way to live together and whistle while we work.

Deborah Farmer Kris is an educator, writer, researcher and the mother of two young children.
By Deborah Farmer Kris

May 20 at 7:00 AM

 

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Snapshots of an expat life in Brazil: working with Science and Public Health

CWB_lab2CWB_labCWB_lab3CWB_lab5CWB_lab7

CWB_lab6

#test4hiv

 

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“Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time” Book Review by Brigid Schulte

A couple of weeks back, during my ‘usual morning routine at work’,  I stumbled upon a book review published on the Washington Post, under the ‘Parenting’ section, and found it so clear, so engaging, that I felt like ordering the book right then!

The review was written by Jennifer Howard, and today I received the ‘okay’ from the Washington Post editors to have it shared here – for the ones who didn’t have the same opportunity read it over there😮 here is the link, and below, the full review. Enjoy as much as I did!

 


‘Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time’ by Brigid Schulte

By Jennifer Howard, Published: March 21
When did we get so busy? For many of us, life unspools as a never-ending to-do list. Wake up, pack lunches, get the kids to school, get ourselves to our jobs, work all day, collect the kids, make dinner, supervise homework, do the laundry, walk the dog, pay the bills, answer e-mail, crawl into bed for a few fitful hours of sleep, wake up already exhausted, then do it all over again. Weekends, which ought to be oases of leisure, have their own hectic rhythms: errands, chores, sports events, grocery shopping, exercise. Dispatch one task and six more take its place, a regenerating zombie army of obligations.

This brain-eating assault of to-dos leaves its victims wrung out, joyless, too tired to stop and smell the roses (which probably need pruning and mulching anyway — add that to the list). But “this is how it feels to live my life: scattered, fragmented, and exhausting,” Brigid Schulte writes early in “Overwhelmed,” her unexpectedly liberating investigation into the plague of busyness that afflicts us. “I am always doing more than one thing at a time and feel I never do any one particularly well. I am always behind and always late, with one more thing and one more thing and one more thing to do before rushing out the door.

She could be describing my days and probably yours, especially if you’re a working parent in the overcommitted middle part of life. Schulte, a longtime reporter for The Washington Post and the mother of two school-age kids, has a word for this shared unpleasantness: the Overwhelm. She takes her own harried-working-mom life as the jumping-off point for her research on where the Overwhelm comes from and what we can do about it.

Busyness has become so much the assumed default of many lives that it feels as elemental and uncontrollable as weather. So Schulte’s shocked when John Robinson, a University of Maryland sociologist known as Father Time, tells her that women have at least 30 hours of leisure a week, according to his time-use studies. She can’t reconcile that statistic with how her hours seem shredded into “time confetti — one big, chaotic burst of exploding slivers, bits, and scraps.” Nor does she believe it when Robinson tells her that we feel busy in part because we decide to feel busy.

Schulte quickly moves on to other researchers’ explorations of workplace culture, gender roles and time management, finding both reassurance and confirmation that she’s not making up the Overwhelm. She learns that the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain that “acts like a patient yet controlling kindergarten teacher,” shrinks under the neurochemical onslaught of constant stress. That lets the amygdala, “the seat of negative emotions like fear, aggression, and anxiety,” take over. Anyone who has ever yelled at her kids while searching frantically for the car keys 10 minutes after the family should have left the house understands this.

If the neuroscience Schulte reports is right, feeling busy all the time shrinks the better part of our brains. But busyness also delivers cultural rewards. We feel important when we’re always booked, according to researchers such as Ann Burnett, who has studied thousands of the holiday letters people send to trumpet the year’s accomplishments.

Burnett’s collection of letters, which date back to the 1960s, make up “an archive of the rise of busyness” as something to aspire to. As Burnett tells Schulte: “People are competing about being busy. It’s about showing status. That if you’re busy, you’re important. You’re leading a full and worthy life.” The more you do, the more you matter, or so the reigning cultural script goes.

That script dictates how many offices and homes run. At work, the cult of the always-available “ideal worker” still “holds immense power,” Schulte writes, even as more people telecommute and work flexible hours. The technology that untethers workers from cubicles also makes it very hard to not be on call at all times. (I’d have liked to see Shulte spend more time on how technology fuels the cult of busyness.)

Those who escape the “time cages” of traditional workplaces confront what Schulte calls “a stalled gender revolution” at home, with consequences especially burdensome for women. She cites work by psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi on how women’s time is “contaminated” by “keeping in mind at all times all the moving parts of kids, house, work, errands, and family calendar.”

Only in Denmark does Schulte find a culture that appears to balance work, home and play in a truly egalitarian way. Because “Overwhelmed” sticks closest to the experience of working American parents, she goes after the shameful lack of affordable child care in this country. She even interviews Pat Buchanan, who in the 1970s helped sabotage a bill that would have created universal child care.

While that’s a useful bit of policy history to contemplate, and one that still affects us today, the most engaging sections of “Overwhelmed” stick to the here and now and how we let the cult of busyness lay waste to our hours. “Contaminated” time eats away at leisure, according to researcher Ben Hunnicutt, and by “leisure” he does not mean hours spent parked on the sofa in front of the telly. Leisure, to Hunnicutt, means experiencing “the miracle of now” or “simply being open to the wonder and marvel of the present” — the sense of being alive, which no to-do list will ever capture.

Although it illuminates a painfully familiar experience, “Overwhelmed” doesn’t speak for or about everyone. It lingers most on the conditions under which middle-class mothers and fathers labor, but the Overwhelm afflicts the child-free, too. The working poor are stretched even thinner. And how workers in China or Indonesia or India or South Africa feel about the balance of their lives is understandably beyond Schulte’s scope, although Europeans make a few appearances.

The question raised by “Father Time” John Robinson nags at this book like a forgotten homework assignment. The further I read, the more I began to wonder how much of the Overwhelm is at least partly self-inflicted and to see opportunities to reclaim time. Like Jacob Marley’s ghost, we’ve forged chains of obligation that we drag around with us. But if we made those chains, we can loosen them too, as Schulte has tried to do, with some success. In an appendix, “Do One Thing,” she offers useful starting points, such as learning not to give your time away and setting clear expectations about what really needs to be accomplished. Not every to-do item is created equal.

Do our employers really expect us to be on call 24/7, tethered to our smartphones as if they were oxygen tanks? Just because we can check e-mail at all hours, should we? Do our offspring really need to be hauled around to every soccer game and music lesson? Does every last piece of laundry have to be folded and put away before we can sit down with a cup of coffee, stare out the window and daydream? As a neighbor said to me not long ago, your work e-mail can wait. Your life can’t.

Jennifer Howard , a fiction writer and journalist, is a senior reporter for the Chronicle of Higher Education.

 
 

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The endless challenges of raising multilingual kids…

Dialects of Portuguese in Brazil

Dialects of Portuguese in Brazil (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

 

This is another example of my many moments of introspective thoughts… This is one of those days when I try to understand [and accept!] the decisions we’ve made for our lifestyle, the way we’re raising our children, the kind of education parameters we [husband and I] need to make available to them… As part of the educational tools my children need to be exposed to, are, for sure, the language/communication/social expression tools.

I’ve already mentioned here my [random] thoughts on the whole bi/multilingual culture {Comments and extra thoughts on being a multilingual parent…}, and its obvious benefits, not only to the growing child, but also for the society that child is part of…

My children are surely enjoying their school break – another 2 full weeks to go, and they’ll be back at a familiar environment – an international school, surrounded by Spanish speaking classmates, and other expats, mainly from neighboring South American countries, a few European reps, and the well-known US-American crowd.

All fun and games, until it came to reinforce the endless/continuous need for them [my kids] to keep speaking Portuguese at home. Since I spend several hours at work, I’m not with them to ‘remind’ my lovies the importance of keeping up with ‘mommy’s language’…

KeyboardLayout-Portuguese-Brazil

KeyboardLayout-Portuguese-Brazil (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

They speak to the nanny in Spanish, to other American kids in English. The TV is mostly in English, with a few Spanish options. I’m their only link to Portuguese, right now – and I feel it’s my duty to stress the rule of  ‘if mom is home, you should only talk to her in Portuguese, as well as, to each other”.

Guess what’s happening? The rule is definitely off. We [parents] had it all planned out: our kick-off was the One Parent One Language (OPOL) method, where one parent speaks the minority language, which would be, in my case, Portuguese. My husband would have the kids started in Spanish [his father’s mother tongue], and gradually move on to English [husband’s mother’s tongue], as school moved on and our children required a deeper knowledge of English… We knew their/kids’ brains are hard-wired for language acquisition and children up to three years old easily process both languages.

Our 3 children had an early ‘linguistic’ start. They’re now 8; 6 and 3 years old – and were introduced to different languages as early as their birthdate. Soon, our family will be transitioning from our current Spanish-speaking setting, to a Brazilian Portuguese scenario… how would my kids [re]adapt? What would be the social, emotional, psychological impacts this imminent move may bring? Only time will tell us…

José Saramago

José Saramago (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Right now, it seems not to be working. Maybe, it’s because we’re tired at the end of the day? Or because the kids see me talking to their dad in English; and to their day-time nanny in Spanish, they believe it’s okay to leave Saramago‘s language aside, and completely pretend they don’t know Portuguese [??].

So here I am, asking for suggestions [??], trying to figure out an easy [and painless] way out… ,

I’m always on the lookout for interesting resources for supporting our toddlers’ learning, I stumbled upon this very interesting article from Multilingual Living, which I’ve shared here before.

From our “tentative trilingual home” to yours… Thank you for reading… and for any suggestions that come our way!😮

 
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Posted by on March 23, 2014 in EDUCATION, LANGUAGE, resources, TCKs

 

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Gallery

Talent Show: “Thriller, by our Five-Year-Olds”.

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