3 Ways to Teach Kids a New Language

Teach Kids a New LanguageI still remember the big day in 6th grade that we got to choose the foreign language that we’d start learning: Spanish, French, or German. (I picked Spanish.) Many schools in the U.S. still don’t begin to teach kids a new language until middle school, while most European countries, for example, start instruction of a second language when kids are six to nine years old. Here are a few reasons why it’s beneficial to start language learning sooner rather than later:

  • “The ability to hear different phonetic pronunciations is sharpest before age 3, and we lose the capacity to hear and produce certain sounds if we aren’t exposed to them early on.” [Parents]
  • “After the teen years, the brain changes and makes it extremely challenging (if possible at all) for an adult to learn a foreign language.” [Parent.co]
  • “While new language learning is easiest by age 7, the ability markedly declines after puberty.” [NBC News]

Over at Corporette, we recently talked about ways to learn a foreign language as an adult, so we thought it was a good idea to talk about language-learning for kids, too. If you or your partner don’t speak a second language and neither do your parents/in-laws, here are a few ways to teach kids a new language:
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School Break Camps: Open Thread

School Break CampsDo your kids go to school break camps during winter and spring school vacations? With day care, you usually don’t have to worry — just send them to your regular provider. But parents of school-age kids need to find an alternative child care situation.

Good sources for information about school break camps include local parent magazines and websites, and local parent email lists/groups. Last month I asked about camps in a Facebook group for parents who live in my town and got some great ideas. (They included unexpected options from a chess center and aerial arts studio!) Depending on where you live, you might find school break camps from providers like these:

  • Cultural attractions: Check museums, art galleries, zoos, and other institutions. (Think outside the box: Even our local animal shelter offers break camps!)
  • Kid-oriented businesses: Good bets include martial arts centers, dance studios, climbing gyms, or places like The Little Gym.
  • STEM & arts centers: Your kids could spend a week enjoying photography, creative writing, robotics, Lego building, or Minecraft.
  • Grocery stores: Larger stores may offer kids’ cooking classes during breaks.
  • Libraries and bookstores 
  • Gyms/pools/YMCA 
  • Community centers/rec centers
  • Academic/tutoring businesses 

So, let’s talk about what you do during school vacations! Do you ask family for help or hire a babysitter? Do you ask your nanny to work extra hours? Do you enroll your kids in camp? Do you take time off, or go on a family vacation? Also, how do you find out about camps? When you’ve chosen a school break camp, does it usually fit your work schedule? (Or does it seem geared toward families with a stay-at-home parent?) When do you think kids are old enough to stay at home while you’re at work?

Pictured at top: Lego Club — 2012, originally uploaded to Flickr by Clearwater Public Library System Photos

Your Kids’ Activities, Overscheduling, and Working Parents

overscheduling-kids-activitiesA while back, some readers were discussing the difficulty of scheduling your kids’ extracurricular activities — and homework, and family time — without overscheduling your kids, all while navigating hours/timeslots that may or may not be favorable to working moms. As one woman noted:

Kat, could we do a discussion on overparenting/overscheduling when a working mom? My kids are getting to the age where I want them to experience soccer and piano and whatnot. But they’re in school all day, so my only hope is scheduling their weeknights and weekends. Then we’re running from activity to activity with no downtime for just play or boredom. I feel like I’m trapped as a working mom. If my spouse or I stayed at home, or if I could afford private nannies, I could maybe schedule this better. Or I could schedule some of those summer camps that run only from 9-2 on alternating Tuesdays and Fridays. Or heck I could let them run the neighborhood with the rest of the kids that are home all summer. But as it is, our limited time as a family is dominated by homework and/or extracurriculars. Is this only me? Is it this bad for SAH parents too? What is the solution? No extracurriculars, and telling teachers too bad but we’ll only spend an hour a night on homework until they’re in high school?

This is such an amazing question — and I’m only starting to feel the pain, so I’m curious what other people have to say. First, as some other readers noted:

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