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.

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Speech Development: Keep Calm, Your Toddler Will Talk

Children learning to talk

Keep calm, you kid will talk.

I know it doesn’t feel that way. I know when faced with your kid’s precocious eighteen-month-old friend who is already stringing sentences together and using words with more syllables than you can manage after another-sleep deprived night, you will feel like you have failed.

This happens to all parents mono or multilingual, though those trying to raise multilingual kids are often actually subtly –or not so subtly– accused of bringing this on themselves. (Which, for the record, is supported by zero research. But who needs research these days?)

The nasty voices that never seem to go away will be haranguing you:

It’s your fault, you shouldn’t have gone back to work.

You should have spent more time describing every small detail like: watch mommy unscrew the cap on the tube of Preparation H – that’s hemorrhoid cream. Now squeeze the tube and apply a small amount to your index finger. See my index finger? And then gently rub…I’ll leave you wondering whether it’s for sagging eyes or sagging innards.

I shouldn’t have stuck her in front of Baby Einstein when I was showering, cooking, walking the dog –yes walking the dog but I assure you she was well strapped in.

You suck as a parent.

Did you really believe you could bring up a multilingual kid? It’s your fault, forget all the studies that say a kid will just develop speech when they are ready and listen to the uptight mother at the Pediatrician’s office who simply ‘knows’ your kid is still stuck on mama and bye-bye because you speak another language to her.

You should have read more, talked more, jumped up and down in a hoop while juggling pacifiers…

You are just innately stupid as you have long suspected and now that is manifesting itself in your offspring.

I am hoping your voices aren’t nearly as vitriolic as mine. I spent hours perusing websites, buying books on encouraging speech, learning sign language, and of course keeping a positive face in front of all of those wondering why my kid still barely uttered a few words.

And then it happened. She started talking. The floodgates opened and I sat, immersed in the tidal wave of words, elated –for about 48 hours before the  very awful thought crept into my mind”

My God, when is she ever going to stop? She is the Duracell bunny. She just keeps talking and talking and talking and talking and talking…

Careful what you wish for.

Keep calm, your kid will talk. And then they will never shut the f*%$ up.

This post was written for October’s Raising Multilingual Children Carnival, hosted by Discovering the World Through My Son’s Eyes. It will be going live Monday October 28th. Please check out all the wonderful submissions. Of course, had I been organized and realized this month had a specific topic, you’d also find my post there. Of course, you won’t.  Welcome to my world.

Swimming Against the Tide: Why I am homeschooling.

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 introducing their homeschools and styles.

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It seems like only yesterday I was pondering whether or not to homeschool my kids: what would it mean for us? Would I be patient enough? Could I, a non qualified teacher, teach them? Did we have a big enough support network? Would I ever get to pee alone again?

Wait, it was only yesterday and I am petrified.

My little family currently resides in Bangkok, Thailand. I am franco-american and lived in the UK for many years. My husband, aka el jeffe is Mexican and we have two daughters: Sweet Pea just five and little Plum, who will be three on September 1st.

I’ve just received the emails from the kindergarten and Pre-K schools confirming I’ve officially withdrawn my children. It felt so final that I broke into a cold sweat and nearly fainted. I wish I were exaggerating.

There are many reasons why I am choosing to homeschool but they aren’t the two main ones I typically read about. Most of the time you either hear about families for whom it is a faith-based decision or kids not thriving in school. I want a secular education for my kids – and that for me means they learn about all the major global religions. My two girls overall both love school and this is probably the hardest thing about pulling them out. It would be so much easier if, like me, they were hating the experience.

So why am I doing it? The main reason is totally selfish. I am suddenly incredibly aware of my mortality and I know my kids will only worship the ground I walk on for a few more years so I’d like to spend as much of that time as possible with them, harnessing that adoration, instead of only getting the rushing on either side of school. Traffic in Bangkok means I have to get them up at 6am and they are gone by 6.55.  By the time they get back in the afternoon, we have time for a tiny bit of tired play and the whole dinner, bath, book routine.  During these windows, I frequently feel like I am tap dancing in a minefield as their exhaustion makes them emotional explosive time bombs. Ultimately, I get the two slices of bread and none of the delicious filling.

bangkok traffic via scottygraham.blogspot.com

Another factor is the a question of value for money. Living in Bangkok, my only option is to send my kids to private school. These schools are extremely expensive catering generally to an élite expat crowd, bankrolled by their companies and the schools take full advantage of this including outrageous sign-up fees leaving us mere working mortals struggling to educate our children. Maybe if we were a monolingual family, I would have considered local Thai school but my kids are already growing up with English, French and Spanish and it just didn’t make sense to add Thai to that. Also the Thai educational approach is far from what I want for my kids.

Freeing up these financial resources allows me to organize a whole host of educational trips and activities including extended stays with Abuela in Mexico and their Papoo and Yaya in France and the US. It kills me that my mother in law hasn’t seen my eldest since she was 8 months old and has never met our second girl.

As far as approaches – well it is a little too early to say what we will end up doing but my plan at this point is loosely following a waldorf-based curriculum called Oak Meadow but without signing up for the teacher support at this stage. To this, I’d like to incorporate aspects of the Well Trained Mind approach. I am big on the classics and laying foundations. As far as maths go, I am hesitating between Singapore math and Montessori math. I am in Asia and hear so many good things about the former but from what I can tell so far SM and MM are actually very similar in their approaches so it may just be a case of which materials are easier for me to source. Of course all of these are ideas and only time will tell what ends up working for us.

Jumping into the deep end.

I mentioned earlier, I am petrified but ready to jump into the deep end. The courage I’ve found has come less from within but in the knowledge of the incredible support group I’ve been able to find here in Bangkok. Homeschooling is not common here but I’ve been fortunate to find a small group of families with kids of similar ages who are already homeschoolers or starting out like me.

And as I sat there, nauseous and nervous, having just read the withdrawal emails, my daughter, unbeknownst to her, shared an experience that sealed the deal. She was a little upset, wanting to draw a fish but insisting she didn’t know how. When I tried to encourage her, she explained to me that a teacher had told her that she hadn’t drawn her fish right.

Who tells a 4-year-old that their fish isn’t right? Apart from the millions of different types of fish and sea creatures I am pretty sure the teacher isn’t familiar with, WHO tells a FOUR-year-old  their fish ISN’T RIGHT?

Talk about killing creativity and sowing the seeds of insecurity and doubt. No way, you are not getting my money or more importantly, my child.

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Visit The Squishable Baby to see how you can participate in the next Homeschool Blogging Carnival. hmschool blogging button

 

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

 

Raising Multilingual Children Carnival: Lessons Learned

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Nearly five years ago to the day, I sat, enormous and excited, waiting for the arrival of our new baby. Like so many of us, I had all these grand ideas and plans of what kind of mother I was going to be. I can assure you that in all of my scenarios, I was way more patient and crafty than I turned out in the end. I am much more likely to inadvertently teach my kids what happens if you leave eggs to boil for an hour –they explode and you warp all but the best quality pan than how to make papier-mâché or fireworks in a jar. However, the one thing I did stick to was the dream of raising multilingual kids.

I couldn’t have done it without an amazingly supportive community. At the time, it was pretty slim pickings, especially if you were looking for information on 3+ languages. I am particularly grateful to two people who were a huge support early on, before our wonderful multilingual world blossomed across the branches of the interwebs.

The first is Corey Heller, the founder of Multilingual Living. Before finding her site, I started to believe I was totally alone out there trying to raise trilingual kids. Or at least, I was the only one struggling with it. I can’t begin to explain the relief I felt once I started perusing her wonderful site.

The second is Letizia Quaranta from Bilingue per Gioco. She is the founder of the original Bilingual Carnival through which so many of us first met. I credit her work as a significant force in creating today’s significant and diverse community. Thanks to Letizia’s encouragement, I went from passive viewer of others’ stories to an active voice of my own. I, along with many others, was very sorry to see her Carnival slow down and eventually fade away. I know this happened only because she has moved on to bigger and better things; we are grateful for the foundations she put down and hope we can do all her hard work justice.

This incredible group of multilingual bloggers provides a rich and varied source of ideas, stories, and on occasion, a well deserved venting. Our inaugural carnival’s theme is looking back. As that dream-inducing bump is about to turn five in a couple of weeks, I thought it would be nice to have everyone look back at their experiences so far and share what they have learned so here we go!

I’ve broken it down in two sections. The first is a series of posts that are focused on resources out there. If there is one thing a seasoned parent has is a fantastic arsenal of tools and tips that can often be applicable across different languages. The second, to quote the charming Sinatra, is about our regrets and what we would do differently if we had the opportunity to start over.

Resources, tools and tips:

All Done Monkey  looks back and shares what they would have done differently. In her case, it would have been to focus on the minority language using a wide array of resources.

The Educator’s Spin on It sent in a wonderful post giving guidance on how to go about finding relevant resources for your language and a double bonus to you if you are on the hunt for Russian materials!

Babel Kid’s post touches on a subject that I’ve struggled with so much and that is dealing with books and the often mediocre translations of our children’s favorite stories. Definitely something to think about as you build your child’s library.

LadydeeLG shares the amazing moment when you first experience your child code-switching appropriately as well as a host of fabulous resources for anyone needing Spanish support. (Me, me, meeeeeeee!)

And on the topic of resources and planning, Perogies and Gyoza shares with us their after school planning for the year, providing ideas for English curriculum resources as well as thoughts on how to match up thematically to what your kids are learning in their local schools.

***Interlude***

Here’s a post to remind you why you should/have undertaken this journey and why you should stick to it to avoid any regrets down the line…

Bilingual Monkeys‘ an adorable letter from a newborn to its parents telling them of its dream of being bilingual. A nice reminder too, that even though our kids will likely hit linguistic rebellious phases, later on, they will always be grateful for the gift of language you have given them.

“Regrets, I’ve had a few”

Project Procrastinot (which should be my motto given how late this carnival is going up) shares her own regret that her parents didn’t put more effort into creating a bilingual household while also acknowledging how tough it is to do so and a nice reminder that we are not alone ‘wandering the bilingual realm’ striving to do better.

The Head of the Heard’s Having Peppa Pig For Lunch is a hilarious reminder of how easy it is to make mistakes and the consequences that follow. And I say to Heard Head: you are not alone in having made the screen/table misjudgment! It is also a wonderful story of how to keep families close together despite being thousands of miles apart.

Mistakes, expectations, they are all par for the course. European Mama shares her top 10 multilingual parenting ideas that went out the window. So many of these resonated with me – particularly #9. But in the end, we get there and it’s important to remember to enjoy the journey instead of obsessing on the destination. It’s split in two parts: part 1 and part 2

MotherTongues looks back at the challenges and barriers they faced from outsiders on raising their kids bilingual and then trilingual (English/Afrikaans/Spanish). A reminder of the courage and determination it takes to ignore the naysayers and opt out of the easy path.

Busy as a Bee in Paris looks over the progress her trilingual kids are making and shows us how despite similar environments, different kids respond differently to languages. I also love reading about non-OPOL families as a nice reminder that there are different and effective ways to approach multilingual parenting.

Discovering the World Through my Son’s Eyes  shares her one regret and the inspiring steps she took to make up for it. You will see the results she is now reaping!

Expats Since Birth tackles the fascinating topic of siblings in: Bilingual Siblings and their Language Preferences. I had no idea there was a book written on this topic that can help figure out where your family sits in the multilingual spectrum.

Third Culture Mama’s Hindsight is 20/20 had me shouting Yes Yes Yes and that was by around line 4:

But just like breastfeeding books have never met your baby and your breasts…

Point 1 is something I think doesn’t get nearly enough air/blog time. I am left thinking how lucky she is to have figured this out when her wee one is 13months. Let’s just say it took me a lot longer…’nuff said.

In Culture Parent’s editor shares her own story on Why OPOL Doesn’t Always Work and the importance of the overall time spent in languages as well as the importance of widening the exposure and opportunities as much as possible.

PiriPiri Lexicon’s From Linguist to Mum: Looking Back is a fascinating read. It’s an insightful piece from a former researcher who studied bilinguals’ language acquisition and how, when faced with reality, the theories don’t always hold up.

Closing thoughts: My hope is that this first carnival will serve as a strong reminder that there isn’t one ‘right’ way to raise multilingual kids and that different approaches will be needed depending on your languages, your community, your place of residence, and simply each individual’s child inherent and unique linguistic evolution. It’s a reminder that we all make mistakes and have regrets but that nothing is irreparable and we are so lucky to have a strong community to share and support each other.

A final word of thanks: I want to take this opportunity to thank Annabelle from PiriPiri Lexicon for her endless enthusiasm and energy in making this new multilingual carnival a reality. I am so grateful and thrilled to be a part of this and for the honour of hosting the inaugural carnival. For more information or to sign up as a host, please visit the carnival page.

Thank you all for participating. Thank you all for reading. And thanking you all in advance for sharing widely! This is multilingual mama singing out. I think I’ve just made the April 29th deadline somewhere over the Pacific, a little too close to an international date line…