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Posts Tagged ‘bilingual’

The Pink Tower of Language

Wednesday, August 7th, 2013 6:49 pm | By Stephanie Woo
M on swings

M on swings

It’s been a month since you last heard from me. The main reason is because Mark and I decided to try life without a nanny. We lasted exactly 29 days. 

Now that we have a nanny again, I’m over-the-moon excited (and have extra appreciation for all nannies out there) because I feel like I can finally get back to the projects I’m passionate about and have a little more me-time. Granted Mark has been a god-send this past month, cooking, cleaning and taking care of the children, while I finished all the final details of my book and DVD. If you want to know more about my ‘second set of twins’ – which took much longer to birth than B and M! – visit www.RaisingYourTwins.com.

As some of you know, we’ve always hired Mandarin-speaking nannies because I want another person to speak Mandarin to B and M. However, our new nanny only speaks English, so I called my mom to ask her for some advice on how to keep up the Mandarin at home. 

Mom tells me a story about Renee, my 3-year old niece, who wanted a popsicle. Grandpa thought a whole popsicle was too much for her, so he said he needed to take a few bites before he could give it to her. He takes a big bite. “That’s too much!” she said nervously. He takes another bite. “Okay! That’s enough!” she says. As he took yet another bite, she exclaims, “No more! No more!”

In her moment of panic, she said the same thing in three different ways. The first way didn’t work, so she had another way of expressing herself to Grandpa, and when that failed, she came up with yet another. When a 3-year-old can say the same thing in so many different ways and all in the right context, it’s a good sign she lives in a rich language environment. 

B and M (now 2 years and 7 months) were on the swings a couple days later. As we were swinging, I started commenting on what was happening, “You’re going so high!” “Now, you’re not going as high anymore. You’re starting to slow down.” “Look, the swing stopped completely!” 

When they said, “Higher!” I’d say, “Is this high enough? Do you want to go even higher than this? Or is this too high?”

Whether something is ‘high enough,’ ‘too high’ or needs to be ‘higher’ are all subtleties in our language that young children can absorb. It’s a little like the ‘Pink Tower of Language.’ You have high on one end, low on the other end, and everything else in between. 

This point is especially important for children of bilingual parents. Children will likely pick up these subtleties in normal everyday interactions at some point, but when there is only one person speaking that language to the child, then they need to absorb all those subtleties from one person. If you are that person for your child, you need to vary your speech enough so that they have the chance to hear all those differences. 

I dropped the children off at camp this morning. As we are getting closer to school, B comments, “We’re not far now!” 10 seconds later, she adds, “We’re almost there!” As we pull up in front of her building, she says, “Now the school is right in front of us!” I love living with the magic of the Absorbent Mind. You give the child language, before you know it, they’ve absorbed it and it’s all coming out.  

Our Montessori School in Baltimore

Monday, February 11th, 2013 10:58 am | By Stephanie Woo

B and M with their Montessori guide, Mr. Man Fai

For the last 6 months, B and M have been attending the Federal Hill Montessori School here in Baltimore. Their guide, Man Fai, and I did our AMI 0-3 training together at The Montessori Institute.  The amount of work we had to do in order to graduate was extremely intense (the six albums I created during my training totaled almost 2000 pages). It’s a life-changing experience that creates a tight bond between all the participants. Knowing the kind of rigorous training Man Fai went through, I knew my children were in good hands.

B and M attend school Monday through Friday, from 830-1130am. For me, the schedule is just right. Three hours per day is the perfect amount of time to spend outside of the home at their age – they started at 20 months – and 5 days a week gives them enough consistency. One thing particularly appealing about the school for our family is that it is a bilingual school, where the guide speaks English and the assistant speaks Mandarin.

We will be leaving Baltimore at the end of this month. Looking back, I feel Man Fai was an excellent guide for my children. Even though I’m trained, I can still get lazy at home. For example, I never taught them how to use mats while doing work on the floor. Well, one day, M took out a floor mat, unrolled it, worked on it, rolled it back up by herself and then put it away. Whoa! Things like that don’t just happen by accident. I know she was taught well at school.

They also do activities at school that I haven’t thought of or haven’t created for our home environment. For example, one night last month, M ate dinner at the record speed of 3 minutes. She then spent the next 20 minutes scrubbing down the table and chairs with a scouring sponge. From the way she was scrubbing the sides of the table, I knew Man Fai had shown her the table-washing activity, something I haven’t put together at home.

Also, a couple weeks ago, Man Fai sent me this picture of Brooke’s rubber band art creation. As Man Fai wrote, “The board was clear when she got it, and this is the way it was when she walked away.” I love the parent communication I get from this school.

In case you’re looking for a Montessori school for your child, look first to see if there is an AMI-certified school in your area. You can do a search here: http://www.amiusa.org/school-locator-2/ If there isn’t an AMI-certified school, ask if the guide (there are no ‘teachers’ in a Montessori classroom, only ‘guides’ – a job title that says it all) is AMI-trained. AMI training is the most rigorous and comprehensive Montessori training available, started by Maria Montessori herself. Start there and you can always shoot me an email if you have any other questions regarding Montessori schools for your child. If you live in the Baltimore area, I definitely recommend Man Fai’s school.

Thank you, Man Fai, for a great six months. We are going to miss you and your school very  much!

VIDEO: Daisy Teaches B and M How to Make Rice

Thursday, October 11th, 2012 10:26 am | By Stephanie Woo

Since we cook rice at home 5-6 days a week, it was great for B and M to learn to make something they eat and experience so regularly. This video was taken over the summer in Denver, when Daisy, my cousin and Montessori teacher of 10 years, came to stay with us. B and M are 19 months here.

Nowadays, I just put the rice cooker at a height they can reach, let one child pour the rice (which I’ve pre-measured and placed in a bowl) and another child pour the water (also premeasured and placed in a pitcher). And then one person gets to close the lid and the other gets to press the ‘on’ button. If you give them the right set-up (rice cooker plugged in, pre-measured rice and water), they can learn to do this on their own without you!

Montessori says, don’t give children ‘pretend’ work because they like real work so much better (this surprised her, she thought it would be the other way around!).  Well, this work is easy, real and VERY practical.

P.S. Before this point, they’ve been primarily exposed to Chinese. Notice how much they love pronouncing those new English words. Children at this age just love and soak up language. More on language later.