When at Home: Foreign Language

When at home: Foreign Language Audio learning

Ah, summer is almost gone! Yes, we travel a lot, but in reality school season has set in and there’s nothing we can do about it! My little boy is at home with me, and he is constantly asking me, “A donde bas?” “A donde bas usted?” He just naturally expects to be on the road, going somewhere! He’s learning some Spanish phrases because I finally figured out the best way to incorporate foreign language into our home is to listen to interactive audio CDs. I always had musical CDs in Spanish when they were babies, but now I really felt comfortable putting on the Pimsleur Approach Spanish. The best time to play it I find, is when I’m making meals, because that can get so boring and time-consuming– especially for a preschooler. Pimsleur can be expensive, but here is the version I use available on Amazon: Pimsleur Approach Spanish 1. I’m at level two, but that’s O.K. Sometimes I put on what the kids need and sometimes I put on my what I need. During meal prep, while he’s playing or while I’m doing puzzles with him;during dinner prep while my daughter can hear it too, and of course, on the open road!

I love that it’s interactive and that my mind is trying to get the answer before they say it on the CD. It is designed to just listen and repeat. It’s also designed to constantly refresh vocabulary just at the scientifically proven moment that your mind starts to lose its retention. The more times you hear a word, the longer you can remember it; each time gets incrementally longer and the Pimsleur designers have that all figured out! Here is an Amazon page showing the different varieties of Pimsleur studies that are available: Shop my Amazon links

I really believe in giving them potential to become fluent in another language while they are young. For a long time I obsessed about just doing one language, but through thrift stores and garage sales I have gradually acquired Chinese, French, Italian and other languages– there’s nothing wrong with giving them a sampling of multiple languages, and if you have babies still, it has been proven that they can learn to speak without an accent if you introduce it before the age of 16 months! I love the idea of learning it on the go– because my kids and I are too busy to be able to sit down and focus in front of workbooks right now.

When it comes to books, you may like the Usborne First Thousand Words books– each book has the same cute pictures and themes but they come in different languages. Help them learn their first thousand words easily and reinforce what you are doing audibly with Pimsleur. Here is my Usborne link: First Thousand Words

On my children’s book:

When I decided to blog a book, I knew I would never complete it without the pressure keep writing– which comes from having to post two to three times per week. Just read this quote from “The Weekend Book Proposal” by Ryan G. Van Cleave: “Ideas are cheap. A good idea handled poorly in writing isn’t publishable. A boring idea handled wonderfully in writing might well be publishable. It might even be a bestseller. Until you develop your idea on the page, you’ll never know if it’ll work or not as a written text.” That is my reason to keep blogging: to figure out whether it will work or not! Thanks for being patient and supportive of my blog as I figure it all out!

Learning Together on the Go: Part 2

by Wendy Kullman

washington&moscow-339

Devise a strategy not to use your “devices” on the trip! How do you feel after a day of working on the computer? Why subject your child to that?

Normally family schedules make it hard to sit down and tutor your kids, but car rides are a great time to make up for that!  A family vacation, or any trip together can be seen as a time for developing deeper family relationships. Make it happen!

Here are some strategies that I hope will accomplish both learning and togetherness– MISC. as in miscellaneous (with lots of m’s): Manipulatives, Math, Music, Manners, Memories, Imaginative play, Stories, Cards.

Manipulatives:

Here are some fun, non-messy hands-on activities your children can be doing while you’re on the road:

Travel Tangoes: These are magnets shapes that can be made into all different animals or other patterns. They come with only a small number of peices (only about 6 per set) and a magnetic board with flaps that show different patterns to create. The answers are on the back of each flap. These have kept our children entertained quietly in the car, and we have also brought them to a wedding reception and a concert. We were able to interact quietly, helping our kids, while stimulating our brains and theirs! Really works well for all ages! (Except children who are young enough to put them in mouth.)

Magnet letters: bring your refrigerator magnet letters and an old square shaped cookie tin. Keep the letters in the tin, and children can use them to practice sounds with you or write messages with them. Not good for children under three of course.

Learning Palette: This manipulative “toy” by Usborne  is the FUN, HANDS ON, SELF-CORRECTING learning game that teaches essential grade-appropriate skills without batteries or electricity. Covering addition all the way to algebra, it meets the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) standards. Each card is self-correcting. You can buy sets for reading or math skills. You really have to see it to believe it– click here for demonstration!

Interactive Math:

When I was growing up, my uncle would always quiz my cousin and I on math facts in the car. I was always inclined to write down the problems, but now with the Singapore method used in many schools, children can learn to solve problems in their head much more reliably. We always did counting with our two year old in the car– it was a good time to work on memorization of any kind. Normally family schedules make it hard to sit down and tutor your kids, but car rides are a great time to make up for that! Flashcards can help too.

Music:

You don’t want to be singing “Old Mac Donald” over and over again. Nor is resorting to the radio a good idea. So plan ahead! Go to your library and check out a bunch of children’s CDs, classical music, and songs you all can learn from. I always enjoy getting foreign language CDs designed for learning, because we can all practice together, and sing together!

My advice is to intersperse music with other interactive games and learning activities, so that you’re not relying on music and get some peace and quiet. There are times when children just need to let it out, so use those times to introduce new music!

If your child plays an instrument, make them practice at intervals during the trip. We take my daughter’s violin and have her play for relatives; but we’ve also had her play at an outdoor picnic area at a rest stop, and at the oil change place while waiting. These kind of situations challenge the child to recall and utilize their skills in interesting situations. It’s refreshing to hear music in these otherwise boring places, and we always get applause!

More M’s to follow!

Birthday Book Bash: Travel and Camping Theme

IMG_1180 IMG_1186

Our birthday book bash was great fun! Thanks to all those who came out to celebrate our son’s birthday! Our little guy was so excited about his party, it took a while for him to fall asleep afterwards! He kept hugging me and thanking me for the great party! Although shy at first, he warmed up to all his friends and was thrilled about all the beautiful books! I will give some tips about camping with kids in this blog series. But first, I thought I would share a few birthday party ideas we tried.

How to Incorporate Books Into Your Child’s Party:

1. Put books on your wishlist to show you are seriously fun!

2. Scope out your spot. We picked a great outdoor location ahead of time. A beautiful park with big shade trees over us, a playground nearby, bathrooms nearby. The park wanted to charge us $230 to rent a picnic shelter (which is usually full of flies and bugs.) No thanks! Natural shade from the oak  trees was exactly what we needed! Besides, no one can gather around to hear good books at a shelter with rows of tables.

3. Bring picnic blankets, a tarp, and ask adults to bring chairs. In case it rains before you arrive, you don’t really want to sit on wet ground. We thought it best to bring a tarp and put the picnic blankets on top. (We also planned a back up indoor location.)

4. We read books that had to do with camping, outdoors, and adventure. The What If Monster story from Usborne, and the Shine a Light Books by Usborne– which have to do with learning about nature- we read inside our tent.

5. For older kids, you could do a variation on the learning theme, using books about wilderness survival and outdoor skills; even having one of the dads– or moms– demonstrate some outdoor skills.

6. We ate a s’more cake! Marshmallows were toasted on a propane camp stove. Read on for more information!

Which Usborne Books to Choose:

So at our party we read some great Usborne books! In the What If Monster story they pass around a little green What If monster. The book goes through all the bad scenarios that could happen. Each time the kids hear “what if” they pass the monster to the next person. Then the child in the story begins to change his thinking to good thoughts– What if I am successful? What if I meet my very best friend? The child who ends up with the monster at the end of the story wins a prize! What If’s can be a good thing– it just depends on your thinking! What a great concept for a real camping trip! Animally was another cute story we read. My son loved the pirate story

Why Make a S’more Cake?

Other than being just plain fun, it’s easy, cheap, and it all gets eaten! Think about it– you buy a really beautiful cake from Jewel or somewhere. It’s good for two minutes and then you have little paper plates with gobs of icing stuck to cake left over everywhere and you throw half the cake away. Adults don’t want to eat it for fear of gaining weight. Most kids are smart enough to know the icing is bad for them– they leave it behind. Our family can’t tolerate sugar very well and the kids are gluten intolerant. But we decided to have a little fun with s’mores. I arranged the Chocolate (which of course was left on ice until the right time), graham crackers, gluten-free snicker doodles, and marshmallows on a large tray in sections. The compartment in the middle of the tray had a bunch of marshmallows, and we stuck the four candles in the top marshmallows! It created a lot of excitement!

Safety tip:

A campfire was out of the question as this was in a public park. A big BBQ grill wouldn’t be worth the effort, and too hard for kids to reach. So we just brought a little propane camp stove and placed it on the picnic table. We formed three lines of kids and had adults to supervise while they toasted marshmallows. We had a hibachi charcoal grill too, but it took too long. The propane stove was easy to set up, and cooked the marshmallows quickly!

Flash Light Books:

After the s’more cake, kids came back to read the Shine a Light Books from Usborne. I only wish I had gone to the effort to set up a bigger tent. But the books work even in sunlight, just hold the flashlight close! Camping and good books just go together!