Close Encounters of the Bookish Kind – Boekenbeurs 2014

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It’s this time of the year again: The Antwerp Book Fair, in other words Boekenbeurs, in its 2014 edition, becomes the center of Antwerp for 10 days. And who are we to complain? Now that he is 3 years old, our son is much more aware of the books and he had a great time selecting books and other things for himself. We couldn’t believe that he walked from one hall to another for about 2 hours, never saying he was tired :-)

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My impressions of 3P – Positive Parenting Program

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We participated in an interesting session at Onafhankelijk Ziekenfonds building a few days ago, together with about 25 parents: Triple P – Positive Parenting Program (see this website for material in English). I’m glad to have participated because the speaker was very well prepared, and talked about simple and very practical principles that can be applied to everyday situations with our child and his friends. She was very dynamic and lively, and she showed videos of her child to illustrate when and how some of those principles make sense. Moreover, even though the session was in Dutch, I was able to understand more than 90% of what she said and even took some notes.

What I realized was that most of the principles and examples made sense from the perspective of cognitive science and brain development. Of course, not everything can be applied to every child in every circumstance, and the speaker was well aware of that, she was not shy in answering difficult questions from the parents with kids at various ages. I definitely want to attend the next session and learn more about this. I know applying the lessons learned is easier said than done, but I know I’ll try harder as a parent.

Below is a set of photos taken during the session:

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Do we really want a data driven education system and are we ready to pay the price?

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finland-vs.-united-states-2009-pisa-results-from-ncee.orgWe are only a few months away from 2015 and even though my three-year-old son is yet to start the ‘serious’ part of his education, I cannot help but wonder what kind of a mental experience he will have during the next 15-20 years. According to the newspapers we are almost drowning in the world of abundant data, big data, so to say, but leaving aside the latest trends and buzzwords, are we really making the best use of our capabilities to enhance, deepen and widen the learning experience of our children?

For example, take this very interesting article from The Washington Post: “Homework: An unnecessary evil? … Surprising findings from new research“. The main point of the article, that there is no correlation between homework and grades, as well as test scores, flies very much agaist the traditional educational patterns, isn’t it? But then I would expect very careful, data driven analyses from people who would argue against the findings discussed in the article. Shall I get such a treatment? I doubt so, because as usual, relying on ‘common sense’ is almost always easier than the painstaking scientific approach and as we all come to expect, experimenting on humans, especially toying with the education practices of children is a very sensitive area, it is always the children that bear the real costs, good or bad. Having said that, I cannot keep myself from thinking that if so much computing power cannot help us with a scientific and data driven approach to enhancing education, then what will? More

What will be the future of education in Belgium?

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grafiekenHaving a 3-year-old son makes me think about the future of education in Belgium. I try to keep an informed perspective, though it is difficult to be an optimist after reading “Capital in the Twenty-First Century“. In this short blog entry, I wanted to take note of some recent facts, so that I might refer to them, maybe 15-20 years from now, when my son goes to university.

Fact 1: In 2014, there is an electrified debate regarding the raise in tuition fees for universities. For more information you can read “UGent valt verhoging inschrijvingsgeld aan” and “Wentel besparingen niet af op studenten“. Even though there is still visible and vocal opposition against putting students in a position where they will graduate with a lot of debt, the genie is already out of the bottle, and people who control the mainstream media continue to support discussions over this issue. More

Multilingual Families: Valuable online resources for families raising multi-lingual children

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Ton Koenraad, a former colleague of mine during PTVELL project, has recently informed me about a project whose website contains valuable resources for multilingual families. The project’s name is unsurprisingly “Multilingual Families”, and its website is located at http://www.multilingual-families.eu.

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As a father who is raising his child in a multi-lingual environment, such projects always draw my attention. For me, the most valuable and interesting parts of the project’s web site are “for parents” section, “self-access guide for parents“, and “29 activities to support multilingualism at home“.

I hope the project’s web site will also prove to be useful for other families that are trying to raise children in a multi-lingual environment.

How to listen to your baby’s heartbeat before birth: Pinard Horn, Zen, and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

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Baby listenerIt was about 3.5 years ago, I still had a few months before my son was born, and I wanted to listen to him, maybe catch a few heartbeats while he was moving in his mother’s womb. I had a simple plan. I visited a medical store in Antwerp’s Brederodestraat and started to look for a stethoscope. The following dialog took place between me and one of the saleswomen:

– Hello, may I help you?

– Yes, I want a stethoscope please.

– Which type?

– (Not prepared for the question and startled) Well, it doesn’t matter, you know.

– Hmm, are you a doctor?

– No.

– A medical intern?

– No.

– Then why do you want a stethoscope? What will you do with it?

– I just want to hear the sounds my child makes. He’s not born yet. Why don’t you just sell me a stethoscope? More

Book review: “Bilingual: Life and Reality”

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A brief and very nice read on one of the wonders of the human mind

When a retired bilingual professor who knows his field very well takes the reader on a short and friendly tour, the result is a pleasure in many aspBilingual_Cover1ects. For me, two major aspects of “Bilingual: Life and Reality” were its explaining and debunking of myths related to bilingualism (and never forgetting the fact that experiencing a new language means experiencing a new culture and way of thinking at the same time), as well as having a dedicated chapter on the bilingualism of children.

The readers who did not know much about bilingualism will gain a lot from this book without having forced to struggle with heavy academic linguistics terminology. Parents who are concerned about the bilingualism of their children will be relieved as Prof. Grosjean explains why many of the myths are problematic or plainly false.

From the beginning to the end, the personal tone of the book made me feel like as if I was in a conversation with an old friend who knew a lot about bilingualism and shared this, as well as his personal experiences, without never intimidating.

If you want a good, non-academic starter for all matters related bilingualism, this book is one of the few I can sincerely recommend.

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