La Loteria & Vocabulary Learning

I won the lottery. No seriously I did! Of course it was at the expense of my two girls 6 and 3.5, and my mother-in-law. Somehow the victory just wasn’t as sweet as I expected. And instead of money I got to eat a caramelo.

We’ve just come back from two months in San Miguel de Allende in Mexico. This trip was two-fold. First we wanted to introduce the girls, now of an age where they will remember the trip,  to their grandmother. Secondly, we desperately needed to jump-start their Spanish.

Living in Thailand, it has been difficult to get them the exposure they need. Their father, the only fluent person in our house, works insanely long hours. My Spanish had been stalled at an advanced beginner level since forever. Without loads of spanish-speaking people around, or access to telenovelas, I found it hard to motivate to learn and get past that present tense barrier. And of course the distance and cost meant we haven’t been able to get back as often as we’d like.

This trip was the moment for Mama and las niñas to finally really immerse ourselves in Español! The first thing I figured out is that they learned vocabulary best by playing games and doing every day projects and crafts vs. ‘learning’ the language.

Our Abuelita, who was beyond excited to see her nietas, was well prepared with various games including La Loteria. The girls loved playing the game, except when I won. Maybe my happy in-your-face dance was a bit too much when I shouted “Tabla llena!”.

Of course some of the cards were a little questionable: El Borracho? Ok well technically that applies to my father so it could come in handy. El Negrito? Is it just me or is using a diminutive here -well racist?.  But fear not, I was able to find other Loteria games that focused on the alphabet, numbers, baby items, you name it!

Loteria sheet Borracho y Negrito

Another big win were the mini Tortilla Makers. One was the traditional square wood shape and the other the round metal one. Both made small delicious tortillas de maiz.

Tortilla makers wood and metal

Kids know when you are trying to teach them something. One of my girls initially refused to speak to her teachers in Spanish at the local kindergarten they attended. On the other hand, she happily chatted with Anna, the young woman who came to clean the house. The girls love to do chores and the only way to help Anna was to speak Spanish.

This applied to me too! Learning as I made my way around the city or learned to cook new dishes was way more effective than sitting down reviewing conjugations. And it goes without saying that little shot of tequila also did wonders for my fluency.

 

This blog post was written for the August edition of  Multicultural Kids Blogs Carnival hosted by Multilingual Parenting. A huge thanks to Rita for hosting this month’s Carnival.  Please check out the many other wonderful contributors.

Advertisements

Language Learning Barriers: This Month’s Multilingual Blogging Carnival!

blogcarnival gif

Summer time and living is easy… or is it the lovin? I am not sure, I can say that the bloggin’ definitely hasn’t been easy, in fact it’s been non-existent.

Why’s that you wonder? Well for starters, I have been the equivalent of a single mum in Mexico for two months. That’s right, so desperate am I to get my kids to speak Spanish –and to finally master it myself– the girls and I took an epic* trip from Thailand to Mexico.

Once again, I plonk many eggs in the travel/immersion basket. Spanish has been my trilingual family’s Achilles heal. And this trip was meant to be our orthopedic surgery.

I’ll leave the analogy for just a bit. This post is my favorite yearly post when I get to host the multilingual carnival. It’s a small one this month – too many Pims or micheladas in my case – may be keeping bloggers occupied. But as I tell my girls, quality not quantity and the handful of posts we have are stellar. So sit back, get your specs on and enjoy the wealth of language learning advice below!

This month’s multilingual blogging carnival was inspired by the steep pyramid-like hill that is my Spanish journey; I asked contributors to share their biggest multilingual challenge and how they resolved it.

pricken All Rights MultilingualParenting

First off, one of my favorite experts Rita Rosenbeck from Multilingual Parenting. She shares her novel approach to breaking down her five-year-old’s resistance to Rita’s attempts at switching languages.

 

Ute from Expats Since Birth sent in a wonderful 2 part-post on how sometimes we need to change our path when faced with linguistic barriers. It’s short and sweet and gives me hope. Part 1 & Part 2 of Which Language to Choose.

Next up we have Leanna from Frenglish Learning. Leanna has a kid who thinks too much on her hands. I remember hearing about these before I was a parent. I couldn’t help but think that would be a great problem to have. Never tempt fate! I too was blessed with a perfectionist over thinker and it is tough! So how do you help a child who doesn’t want to say a word or sentence unless it is perfect? Leanna shares some wonderful ideas here

I am so grateful Sarah from Bilingual Baby for sharing a post about her own language learning. It’s a real gem from her first experience abroad studying French for a year in France. This post had me laughing out loud.

Our final post isn’t about linguistic hurdle but more a top tip on how to minimize future hurdles. Galina from  Trilingual Children shares a post on the importance of speaking to your baby in the languages you want them to acquire. This isn’t to say kids can’t learn languages later but you have an incredible and helpful foundation if you’ve started from day one.

I’ve included it because it really supports the experience we had during this trip. So back to my Spanish Mountain…or steep pyramid. I am now sitting in a LAX airport hotel waiting for my delayed plane to take us back to Thailand and have a bit of time to reflect on our two months in Mexico.

Even though we knew the importance of early exposure, we didn’t manage to sustain it for both kids. J and I were really good about only speaking Spanish and French respectively with sweet P our first daughter. When Little C came along, we were living abroad and J was working much longer hours and French was spoken much less and Spanish nearly non-existent.

Both girls had similar apparent levels of Spanish when we arrived but P started speaking Spanish in a couple of days while C continued to resist, struggle to understand, and essentially revolt every time we dropped her off at school.

I’ll write a post with more details later, but I just wanted to share that even taking into account age and personalities that could affect language learning, it was clear the strong foundations Sweet P received as a baby were a huge advantage and catapulted her to a level of fluency far beyond her sister.

In any event, the trip was an incredible gift. Not only did it permit us deep immersion in a Spanish-speaking environment, it really allowed the girls to know, understand, and connect with their Mexican heritage and their Abuelita!

All Rights Reserved

All Rights Reserved

Thank you again for joining me on this summer time light Carnival. Please don’t forget to put it in your calendar and check out next month’s carnival hosted by Head of the Heard!

For more information on the carnival to host or subscribe please check out The Piri-Piri Lexicon’s carnival page.

*Unless you are Kiwi/Ozzi or from some far-fetched Pacifique isles, in which case my trip was just another day in the park.

Hilarious Homeschooling: Boobs, Gravity, & Peeing in Space.

children's drawing planet earth and family in space

© Miss P, 5.97 years-old.

There are things that we say, when we think our kids aren’t listening, that come back to haunt us mostly, and occasionally lead to great teachable moments.

This morning, I was laying in bed, when my baby (3.5 years) crawls in, pulls up my t-shirt and starts laughing exclaiming I am not wearing my ‘boob thing’!

Then my nearly six-year-old –and yes I am cherishing every last second of her being five– comes over and declares:

Maman, I heard you once talking on the phone, or iPad, or computer, and you said that if you wore a boob thing your boobs would fall but if you didn’t they could stay up by themselves.

For starters, I am not scientifically illiterate as that statement would suggest. Like all political discourse these days, my words were taken out of context!  What P had overheard was me telling a friend how I couldn’t believe my naïveté, many moons ago, when a hippy friend of mine persuaded me that boobs are muscle and if you don’t work the muscle, etc… You get the picture. How I bought this, despite my stack of National Geographic mags in the corner of my room, is beyond me. Anyhow, running for the bus on a daily basis quickly let me back to my senses before too much ‘damage’ was done.

And here’s where my ninja thinking kicked in. I realised what a great opportunity I had to explain gravity! Because really, what better way to talk about gravity than pairing it with sagging boobs.

 

The rest goes something like this:

paint by number empty paint pots on floorMe, reaching over for one of the many pieces of hoarded tat my kids stuff into my bedside table:

“Watch this empty paint by numbers paint container fall to the floor. See that? If we were in outer-space it would just float away! Instead G-R-A-V-I-T-Y makes it fall to the floor”

I pause, feeling like there is some connection to be made to a previous conversation that had not gone so well.

“Remember when you asked me why we don’t fall off the planet? Gravity is what keeps us there!

My imaginative kid then usually likes to put her own spin on it

“Yes! that’s right, the air, like water but invisible keeps us on the planet!”

Me: Um, not exactly. Remember the… er can’t remember their name in English… you know –les aiments– that pull metal pieces to them?”

P: You mean magnets?

Me: Yes! (sigh when I  realize our entire conversation has been in English and not in French) well it’s sort of the same, the force called gravity pulls us towards earth so we don’t fall off!

Then, I know there is always a sure-fire way to really drive a point home in our household.

Me: So what do you think happens when we go peepee in space?

P: It floats away!

And so the conversation continues with plans for a family vacation in space and how we will handle the possibility of two people pooping while someone needs to peepee if there are only two toilets on the rocket. I am briefly tempted to mention that reading is probably a required skill before boarding a spaceship but I’ve killed the learning moment countless times beating that poor horse. For once, I apply the lesson I repeatedly learn, and suggest she goes make a picture of outer-space.

Et voilà! I’ve not only given my first physics lesson, while sipping tea in bed, I’ve also just bought myself time to write a blog post about it.

****

Afterthoughts on homeschooling/un-schooling and my ongoing neuroses.

1. I am pretty sure there is no way I could have engineered a moment so perfectly to get this conversation going. These are the times where I really think un-schooling  and child-led education is the way to go. Sadly, all too often, I  doubt myself and worry that most of my friends’ kids are already reading or nearly there and mine just has no interest. To push or not to push remains an internal argument I have regularly.

2. The other day we were doing a wonderful activity on our place in the world. (Activity featured on what is currently my favorite educational website: kids world citizen) and P had her usual ‘I CANT’ meltdown when it came to coloring the final paper plate to represent planet earth. I tried to give her tips but refused to do it for her and she walked away in tears, refusing to finish.

So imagine my surprise when she hands me the picture (above) she did of space including planet earth. She described it to me, regurgitating the tips I had given her about drawing. Sometimes I guess we just need to give them a little time and some space. (total accidental pun-ilicious moment!)

Multiculturalism: The Foundation of Our Homeschooling Education.

beeswax 'bandera': the eagle, snake in beak, on the nopal on lake Texcoco

Creative Commons. Image by C Newlin de Rojas

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Homeschool Blogging Carnival hosted by Lisa at The Squishable Baby and Keisha at Unschooling Momma. This month our participants are talking about Multiculturalism.

***
I think many homeschoolers will agree with me that learning should be a pervasive part of life and not something that happens between the hours of eight and three. I feel the same way about multiculturalism.

As as a Mexican-Franco-American family living in South East Asia, multiculturalism is not something we have to remember to work into our schooling. It’s woven into every aspect of our life. From the guards the girls greet with Wais every morning to the Amharic they hear when we visit two of their playmates. Expats typically get to meet a fairly diverse group of people if they are open to it —and sometimes even if they aren’t!

That said, living nestled in a multicultural environment can pose its own challenges. For starters, cultural heritage is a wonderful place to begin introducing kids to different cultures. But between our multiple moves and birthplaces, they are a little confused about where they come from. One of my daughters will tell you she is from Singapore. It’s true she was born in Singapore but 18 months was hardly long enough for it to have a huge cultural impact on her. Whereas my 6-year-old, who was born in Brooklyn and lived in Singapore from 2.5 to 4, still sings Oh Singapura and bemoans the loss of chicken-rice hawkers. She would probably happily swap passports if given the chance.

My time with them at home as both their mother and educator also translates into my cultures playing a dominant role. The girls are half Mexican but culturally you wouldn’t know it. Living on the other side of the world where Mexican expats are as rare as helmet-wearing Thai cyclists translates into a lack of opportunities to really embrace their Mexican roots. This would have been a different story had we stayed in Brooklyn. This saddens me but I try to remember that it’s more than just our cultural heritage that’s important.

What we need is a deeper understanding and acceptance of others around the world. That’s the true key to gifting them a ‘rich’ future. Cultural literacy should not just be a nice add-on a couple of times of year. I love that people are embracing world holidays and their favorite cultural snapshots but learning about Mexico or Sweden needs to be more than a lesson about Cinco de Mayo & pickled herring, respectively. Multiculturalism needs to be part of the engine of our children’s education, not just an enjoyable accessory like seat-warmers for those stuck in Nova Scotia!

I was reminded of this last night when a caucasian friend of mine who has adopted a gorgeous brood of ethnically diverse children and lives in the US shared a disheartening story. Today, her six-year-old African-American son was told by his supposed best friend —who is ethnically Chinese— that his mother doesn’t talk to brown people. Her son was understandably deeply upset by this. What’s more astonishing is that these two boys go to a school that is in fact incredibly diverse. There are only 2 white US-born kids in the class and their teacher is African-American. (That’s going to make for an awkward parent-teacher night when it rolls around.)

Sadly prejudice runs deep and is usually the offshoot of ignorance and fear. It’s also still pervasive and can affect kids by osmosis. If we want to change this, we need to expose our children as early as possible. With this in mind, I’ve decided to radically shift our approach and embed multiculturalism at every level. As homeschoolers, we are privileged to have the flexibility to place multiculturalism as a pillar in our children’s educational foundations. Please join me and let us be at the forefront of this movement!

 

p.s. I will be writing a lot more about this and I hope to create a repository for resources. One of the latest things out is The Global Education Toolkit. It looks amazing. I haven’t got my hands on a copy yet but I’ll definitely be reviewing and likely implementing lots of ideas from it. Please share any relevant links and Pinterest boards too!
 

 

***

Visit The Squishable Baby to see how you can participate in the next Homeschool Blogging Carnival where we will be talking about Homeschool Mythsconceptions . hmschool blogging button

 

Please take the time to read the submissions by other Carnival participants: