Recommended Read: Bringing Up Bébé by Pamela Druckerman

In the weeks since its release, Bringing Up Bébé has been a topic of debate on both sides of the Atlantic. While some have been quick to label it as a parenting manual, or an affront against American parents everywhere, Bringing Up Bébé is really one mother’s account of navigating the new and mysterious world of parenthood, and having to do it in another country, proposing a culture shock all its own.  Bringing Up Bébé is an amusing, touching, and adventurous account of life as a new parent and the choices one must make in the best interest of one’s own child, family, and life.  Bringing Up Bébé highlights the  inner struggles we all face as parents, on both sides of the Atlantic. Through the author’s light and humor-filled look at her own trials and tribulations, we just might find a bit of ourselves – who we are today and who we’d like to be.

Rating: *****  (5 Stars)

Have you read Bringing Up Bébé? Share your comments!

Success = Integrity + Common Sense + Intelligence

20120512-092255.jpg

This article confirms what many have always known: common sense and integrity may just overshadow the value of intelligence alone, in work and life.

See article. What do you think?

Bilingual Babies: Expose now, benefit later

At birth, we are born with the ability to discriminate and repeat the sounds of any world language. As we begin to live and function within the language of our society, we slowly lose the need to produce these other sounds and the brain eventually reduces this ability. This is why we see many toys (such as Around the World See and Say), cartoons (Dora, Diego, & Ni Hao Kai Lan), and video series (such as Baby Einstein and the On Demand children’s programming) designed to introduce the sounds of other languages to children as early as possible with a goal of keeping this ability alive within the brain.

While American parents tend to be hesitant to introduce a second language before the child can actually speak English, research shows that benefits of doing so abound, including: increased academic abilities over multiple subject areas, easier recovery from brain injury, and delays in the onset of age-related dementia.  The brain is an amazing thing. Exposure now, will certainly provide benefits later.

Interested in getting your child started in becoming bilingual? While TV shows, videos, and online programs are a great place to start, and can provide a base of knowledge serving as a springboard for acquisition, research shows that human interaction is important.

Worried? Hesitant? Read this article in Science Daily

Is your child learning a language? Let us know how it’s going! Share your story by posting a comment!

Coming Soon: Easy ways to introduce foreign languages to children

Lessons Learned: Trapped in Kindergarten Chaos

My children are 10 and 6 and it’s only been during the course of this current school year that I’ve been able to be the “stay-at-home” mom that can pick the kids up from school, take them to their activities, and volunteer in the classroom. Nevermind that I work from my home, probably more than I worked when I commuting to an office, but my new work-from-home schedule does allow me the flexibility to me more involved with my two sons – something that I’m extremely thankful for.

Ok, so when I was the full-time office-bound mom whose kids were in school until 6:30pm, running the rat race, and enlisting family to take my kids to their activities, I used to dream about being able spend more time with my boys. One thing that I wanted to do was to chaperone field trips. I often thought about how much fun it would be for my younger son, Evan, to have his mommy on the trip laughing, learning, and having fun with him and his classmates. I also have to admit that, when I was a high school teacher about 10 years ago, my colleagues and I were absolutely convinced that elementary school teachers had a “cake” job teaching little ones. I mean, how hard could it be to make colorful bulletin boards, teach the ABCs and 123s, and get hugs all the time? Seriously! In fact, I had a friend who would always say “Elementary teachers teach ALL subjects!” which would make me think she was crazy. High school teachers specialize in one subject. They give exams. These grades matter for college admission. It must be the more difficult of the two jobs, right?

Well, this year, I have certainly gotten the answer to this question. Being a weekly volunteer in my son’s kindergarten class has allowed me to see all kinds of things: kids who refuse to speak, kids who throw fits over everything, kids who constantly have to go potty, kids who never stop talking, etc. Somewhere in there, the teacher is actually managing it all and they kids are actually learning. Controlled chaos. Every Wednesday, I show up to be library mom. I take the class, in two groups, to the library. Even though I’ve got those kids organized, walking single file, and listening it’s still like running the gauntlet. We have 15 minutes in which to get 8 kids the books they want and give them reading time in the library. The first time I did it, I worked up a sweat! After 8 months, I’m a pro! So, how tough could it be to chaperone a field trip? Lucky me, I found out! And it certainly wasn’t like the trips I used to run as a high school teacher.

The field trip was a beach combing trip to a local state park. There, the kids would learn about wildlife, sea life, and get to examine sea life in its own habitat with little microscopes. I would accompany 4 kindergarten classes with at least 10 other moms and each of us would be assigned a small group of kids for the day. My group consisted of my own son and one other little boy from the same class. Easy peasy. One would think that, over the course of 10-15 years, school busses would have become more modern and comfortable. Well, one would be wrong. Even though there were more participants than the bus could hold, the school district would only provide one bus for this trip. This meant that three people would be squeezed into each seat, adults included. The bus comes equipped with an air conditioner, but because of tight budgets, the driver isn’t allowed to put it on until the bus is fully loaded. During the 15 minutes it takes to load 70 small children and chaperones in 85-90 degree heat, the bus can become unbearably hot. Ours certainly did. I was unlucky enough to be one of the first to load. In minutes, the bus became hot, sweaty, and smelly. Kids were whining…loudly and I kept wondering what I had gotten myself into. The torpedo on wheels (I swear the driver was speeding) soon became a sweaty, noisy, cramped torture chamber and knowing that we would be going over a few bridges, I started looking at the windows and ceiling for escape routes in the event of an emergency. I determined that, in the event of an emergency, we would be totally up a creek without any paddles. We were packed like a can of sardines. So, to get my mind off of the thought of catastrophe and my sweaty behind (let’s just say that vinyl seats are not my friend) I started asking my son and his classmate Billy what they wanted to see on the trip. That’s when I realized that little Billy was one of the non talkers. No matter what I said or asked, Billy would not respond. He would not talk or even shake his head. Meanwhile, I couldn’t shut my own kid up, so Evan made up for both of them.

Despite the fact that Billy decided to be non verbal for the day (he does talk to kids, just not adults… maybe he’s on to something) we had fun combing the beach, looking at seaweed, starfish, seagrass and learning about the ecosystem. It took all of the teachers and moms (and 1 dad) to keep the kids moving in the right direction and doing what they were supposed to do, and the bus rides were chaotic and torturous in both directions. By the time we rolled in to the school, I was exhausted and a little stressed out from the heat, noise, and general chaos. I kept thinking that I couldn’t wait to get home to take a shower and a nap. Meanwhile, the teachers and students still had another 1.5 hours of school left. I decided that these teachers must be super women and that the job of the elementary teacher is fundamentally different and more difficult than any other in the K-12 system.

It’s funny how we tend to romanticize past or future experiences. I had always envied the moms and dads who could participate in school events and felt guilty that I couldn’t. When we are imagining how something might be (or how it was), it’s generally all hearts, flowers, and rose-colored glasses. I certainly never considered the craziness, discomfort, and insecurity of the bus ride and how it would affect my overall experience as a parent chaperone. The trip itself also enlightened me as to how difficult it is to be a teacher these days and how important parental involvement is. What made it all worth it was hearing my son say, “Mommy, I’m so happy you came with me today. I love special time with you, mommy”.

When I returned home, I did take that nap. In fact, it’s the next day and I’m still in my jammies. Luckily, I have a good six months before the next field trip. That should give me just enough time to recover from this one.

“I wike it awot!” When Speech Errors Worry Parents

As children learn to speak, parents often worry when children have trouble making certain sounds. For the more difficult sounds, children will often substitute one consonant for another, such as: “ffff” for “th”, or “da” for “the”, or “wa” for “la”. You may hear your child say, “movie feater” or “I wike dat” instead of “movie theater” and “I like that”.   When children keep mispronouncing sounds as they head toward kindergarten, inevitably parents become more and more worried. Believe it or not, many of these issues can be corrected at home before involving a speech therapist.

As a linguist and a researcher, I am well-versed in many aspects language acquisition and development. So, one would think that when I realized that my son was having speech development issues, I would have approached the issue in a very sensible, academic manner. Absolutely not! Like any parent, I worried, became more stressed out over it the longer it went on, and even  started obsessing about the many ways my son would be made fun of at school. I was surprised at just how much that worrying mommy side of me was overtaking the linguist. Once I realized how ridiculous my worry was, I began to work to correct my son’s speech issues in a very systematic way.

Sound production is all about exercising the oral muscles to get everything moving in the right direction. Sound production generally involves placement of the lips, tongue, and air flow. Children initially learn to speak by imitating what they hear. Through trial and error, they eventually begin to produce correct sounds. However, when a child mispronounces a sound – usually a consonant, it’s almost always because the tongue or lips are doing the wrong thing. The key is to retrain the oral muscles to the right thing.

Did I sit my son down in a classroom-like setting to work on his issues? No. Did I even point out to my son that he had issues, or was doing anything wrong? Absolutely not! I’m quite certain that he didn’t even realize that my home-based speech therapy was anything more than a game. It’s seems almost too simple because no special skills are required. As parents, all we have to do is listen and take a moment to focus two minutes of attention on the mispronounced sound, right at the time when the child produces it. It doesn’t matter whether you are shopping, playing, or hanging out at home. You can do it in the car, wherever and whenever you hear your child produce the particular sound needing correction.

Here are some helpful tips for helping your child produce the correct sounds:

  • Observe and take note of the sounds with which your child is having trouble.
  • Decide which sound you will work on first. Focus on one sound at a time. Once the child is correctly producing a sound on his or her own, then move on to the next one.
  • When the child produces the targeted sound incorrectly, very casually have him/her repeat the word after you. Then, show the child where your tongue is placed, how the lips are shaped, etc.
  • Model the sound for your child. Have the child repeat it.
  • Now, use the sound in the same word your child used. Have them repeat it.
  • Do this every time your child produces that sound
  • Be happy, use rising intonation, give praise to the child for trying.

For example, consider this 30-60 second conversation:

Child: I wike candy.

Parent: You like candy?

Child: Uh huh, I wike candy awot!

Parent: Can you do this? La-La-La (opening mouth and exaggerating the placement of the tongue each time)

Child: Wa-Wa-Wa

Parent: Nice try! See my tongue? Can you stick your out like mine and touch your teeth? Say La-La-La

Child: La-La (it takes child considerable effort at first)

Parent: Great job! Isn’t this fun? La-La-La

Child: La-La-La

Parent : La-La-Like

Child : La-La-Like

Parent : Yay !! Can you say “I like it” ?

Child: I wike it

Parent: La-La-Like, I La-La-Like it

Child : I La-La-Like it !

Parent: I like it

Child: I like it!

Parent: A La-La-Lot

Child: La-La-Lot

Parent : A-lot

Child : A –lot

  • Draw fun attention to the sound every time your child uses it, until the child self corrects and eventually produces it correctly. You will be amazed at the process and the improvements you witness.
  • When the child produces the sound correctly, give praise every time he or she does it, even if you’ve already moved on to focusing on another sound.

Over the course of about 6 months, my son’s speech completely turned itself around and all of the speech issues I mentioned earlier have disappeared. Our last conquest is the “R” which tends to be the most difficult. We are working on it and making it fun. We’ll see what happens!

If your child doesn’t show improvement, or becomes resistant to your efforts, it’s a good idea to consult a speech professional, such as a speech-language pathologist. Most schools offer speech services free of charge, so check with your school or school district.

Here are some helpful links:

What are your experiences with child speech? Please feel free to share!

Who am I today?

Welcome to my blog! Rarely do our lives travel in the straight line we envisioned when we were, oh, let’s say…. much younger and just a tad more naive. After many twists and turns, and some interestingly unexpected life and professional experiences, I find myself asking “Who am I today?” on a regular basis. At any given moment, I can be any of the following: writer, editor, academic, researcher, educator, program developer, policy consultant, linguist, traveler, mother, wife and more.

Life comes with twists, turns and lots of unexpected events! Just who am I today? Join me as I figure it out. ~Nicole

Travel to Amelia Island, Florida: A magical place for all

Image

Have you ever traveled to Amelia Island, Florida? No? Well, you should consider a trip! I had the unique opportunity to visit this magical place and write about it in Neapolitan Family Magazine.  Check out the article here or roll your cursor over Travel in the top navigation bar.