March 23, 2013
Belgium, causality relationship, Education, Family, Finland, Homework, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, Research, science, Secondary school, secondary school students, Student
According to recent news (see Flanders Today and Klasse Leraren), in some countries, such as Belgium, children are overloaded with homework:
Secondary schools are overloading students with homework, according to Lyle Muns, chairman of the Flemish secondary school students organisation. Muns feels excessive homework assignments are obliging many students to stay home too much, with too little time to develop essential social skills. Figures from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development show that Flemish 15-year-olds spend an average just over six hours a week on homework; their Finnish counterparts, for instance, spend 3.7 hours a week on assignments but achieve better results.
Personally, I have nothing against working and studying hard, as long as it involves intrinsic motivation strongly coupled with spiritual satisfaction, but I have also started to get the impression that kids these days, at least a representative sample I generally come across, are really busy; busier than adults, if I may say so!
Finland, in this case, stands as the ultimate example of the worn out cliché “work smarter, not harder”. Nevertheless, I think we need to think more about the correlation (and the causality relationship) between the amount of homework given to the kids and their long-term success, because, well, in the long-term that’s what counts, and not some temporary test scores that helps the feelings of teachers and parents.
March 3, 2013
Antwerp, Belgium, Education, Language, Montessori, Montessori education, Preschool education
Meld je aan – school pre-registration website
1 March 2013 was an exciting day for us because we completed the first step of our 1.5 year old son Arman’s pre-school registration. We were very much satisfied by the pre-registration website that the Flemish Ministry for Education prepared for parents: https://meldjeaan.antwerpen.be. They have even prepared a short video demonstrating the process, but I think having subtitles in a few different languages would be a very useful addition to this nice video.
The website requested that we select 5 different schools and now it is time to wait for about 1.5 months to see whether our first choice has enough places so that we can go and register Arman there. Among some schools that are at a convenient distance to us, we have also selected a Montessori school, and I’m curious about the experience, should Arman start attending there.
The surprising factor about the pre-registration web site was the questions they asked about the linguistic skills of our son, e.g. what language he used when speaking to his mother, what language with the father, what language with brothers and sisters, and what language when communicating with friends (apparently they forgot the valuable option of babbling ) It would be very nice if the Flemish Ministry for Education publish this data anonymously and keep the spirit of free, open, and high quality data that is one of the pillars of the information age in which we are living.
March 3, 2013
Grocery store, hanos, Marilyn Monroe, Supermarket
Well, Hanos is definitely a strange supermarket. In the sense that you don’t see models of Marilyn Monroe or copper distillers in your run-of-the-mill supermarkets. It can also play the role of huge and fantastic playground for a 1.5 year old toddler
February 27, 2013
Belgium, Family, Magazine, Parenting
We have recently received yet another issue of Brieven aan Jonge Ouders (Letters to Young Parents) magazine and I wanted to say thank you to the Gezinsbond (Family Bond) organization in Belgium for this nice and useful publication. We’ve received this magazine on a regular basis since our son was born in 2011, and it contains a lot of useful information for parents and every issue focuses on babies at the relevant age , e.g. the most recent issue is for 19-20 month old toddlers (see the photograph below). During the first few months we have even received another magazine (from the same organization) for grandparents, describing things that they can do with their grandchildren I truly appreciate the efforts of the editors and authors of this magazine.
January 19, 2013
Belgium, Education, Preschool education
One of the things I have learned about Belgium is that almost every child starts his or her preschool education at the age of 2.5, which means that our 1.5 year old kid has only 1 year left before he starts his preschool education. I was curious about the process and asked a lot of questions to my wife. She said that the ministry of education would send all the required documents and information for the process, so we started to wait for it enthusiastically. Finally the big day came and we have received our mail recently.
Booklets and letter for preschool registration
I must say that I’m impressed by the contents of the mail. The booklets sent to us are not only very well designed graphically, but also contain all the necessary information, describing all the steps required to start and complete the registration for our son. It gave me yet another opportunity to exercise my Dutch reading skills, and thanks to the authors’ use of plain language, I was able to understand almost all the instructions. All in all, the process seems to be simple and straightforward: We’re going to log into a web site, pick up the first few school names that we prefer (they have sent us a detailed list of all the schools via mail), submit our choice and then wait for a few weeks, at the end of which we will be informed about the school, and go there to physically register our son by signing the relevant documents, thereby completing the process.
My heartfelt thanks go to everyone involved in designing those informative booklets, so far I’m very much satisfied by the way the government institutions handled the communication for the first steps of our son’s education. I’m excited and eagerly looking forward to the day of starting the first step of registration.
January 19, 2013
Education, Funny, Technology
Amiga 500, Amstrad, China, Commodore 64, Games, Online game, Video game, Video game addiction
My son is only 1.5 years old, so I believe there is still some time for me to get concerned about the games he plays, but a recent news made me consider the relationship of children and online computer games: “Father Hires In-Game “Hitmen” To Deter Son From Playing“:
Sick and tired of his son playing video games and not listening to him, a father in China decided to take matters into his own hands… well, sort of. Instead of sending his son off to addiction camp or stripping him of internet and gaming rights, Mr. Feng (冯先生) chose to hire an online “hitman” to school his son.
Father Hires In-Game “Hitmen” To Deter Son From Playing
This may be an extreme or exaggerated example but it did not keep me from remembering my relationships with computer games in the past. The contrast is obvious: 20-25 years ago, back when I and my friends busy playing with computers such as Sinclair Spectrum 48K, Commodore 64, Amstrad or Amiga 500, the only social aspect of those games were close friends we already knew from school or the neighbourhood. There was no Internet, thus no online games. The other players were either the computer or your friends sitting next to you. Playing a realistic 3D combat game with someone who is a total stranger to you was unimaginable at all. And when we were bored with the games, we either sat down to create our own computer programs and games, or we read articles about programming, or how to hack the games.
It is very difficult for me to imagine what kind of technologies my son will be using in 2033, let alone the sort of games he will be playing. I can only hope that he grows to be not only a consumer of an alternate universe overloaded with not so original graphics, animations and sounds, but at least, also someone who can have a wider imagination to go beyond those, build his own universe and discover the complexity and beauty in wiser simplicities. I’ll try my best to make this happen; I really wouldn’t prefer to hire an online, digital ‘hitman’ character for a game
January 4, 2013
Children's literature, Cotsen Childrens Library, Library, Princeton University, Princeton University Library, Special collections
I have to admit that I’m a library geek, in the sense that a healthy dose of my future plans include visiting the most beautiful libraries in the world. In a book that I have started to read recently, Darwin Among The Machines: The Evolution Of Global Intelligence, I’ve learned about the Firestone Library of Princeton University, and this led me to discover a very special place: The Cotsen Children’s Library.
The Cotsen Children’s Library
The Cotsen Children’s Library is a very special library within the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections at Princeton University Library.
Our international research collection of illustrated children’s books, manuscripts, original artwork, prints, and educational toys from the 15th century to the present day is the benefaction of Lloyd E. Cotsen ’50.
The Cotsen Children’s Library also has a public face, serving as a resource for children, families, and educators in the greater Princeton area. Cotsen offers a variety of children’s programs that are open to the public and free of charge. Visitors are also invited to explore Bookscape, our whimsical children’s gallery. Like Cotsen’s programs, the gallery is open to the public and free of charge. Please bring your family to relax and read!
I really want to take our son there when he grows a little more. I don’t know if he’s going to like libraries as much as I do, but maybe we can get lost in one, just to find ourselves again, refreshed with new perspectives, questions and answers, just in time to start another journey in space-time.