A kid has to follow the footprints of Einstein

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This summer we had a short holiday in one of the loveliest coastal regions of Belgium: De Haan. One of the interesting facts of that place is its connection with Einstein. Back in 1933, the famous scientist came to De Haan and live in villa “Savoyarde” for six months, after leaving Nazi Germany. We took the kids there to visit the places where Einstein lived, and visited the sculpture in the nearby park to commemorate this part of history.

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This also brought back a lot of memories, because during this summer holiday of 2019, I read an interesting book about Soviet Russia, translated into Turkish by a dear friend of mine. That same friend of mine gave me a book back in 2006, and it was about Einstein. Coincidentally, the sculpture of Einstein in De Haan was placed in the park in 2006! Of course, 13 years ago I didn’t know anything about De Haan, and neither could I imagine being a father of two sons and taking them there, telling my 8-year-old some stories about Einstein.

As our time perception continues to be shaped by the experiences we live, people we come across, books we read, places we visit and art we experience, I wonder what kind of stories I’ll be sharing with my kids 13 years from now. But one thing for sure, I want to continue to follow the footprints of Einstein, and explore the history of science together with my children, enriching our collective memories.

A kid has to start programming

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Our older son is now 7.5 years old, and he expressed his interest in learning how to program. We had a Dutch translation of Scratch programming book for children, but before starting with the book, I made him program me. That is, I told him that “now I’m the robot, and I can only follow the instructions that you’ll issue, and I can do them exactly as you say, in the order you say, and nothing else. Now make this robot pick that toy from your brothers bed’s corner.” For both of us, it turned out to be a funny, as well as challenging exercise. In only a few minutes, he quickly realized how many things he takes for granted, and how even a seemingly super simple and straightforward task is composed of many intricate details. He also saw how things can go wrong, because he had to “debug” his robot-dad. He became also a little frustrated when I insisted doing exactly as he said without any interpretation. “Welcome to my world son!” was a natural reaction from me.

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Achtung Baby: An American Mom on the German Art of Raising Self-Reliant Children

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It’s been a while since I’ve read and reviewed a parenting book, therefore, when my brother’s wife recommended a parenting book with a catchy and interesting title, I took note of it. I decided to read “Achtung Baby: An American Mom on the German Art of Raising Self-Reliant Children” in Germany, during our trip to Schwarzwald (Black Forest), enjoying the perfect weather and scenery, while sipping my drink at the pool, German kids running around me (with a few Swiss, French and British kids added to the mix).

As a father of a 7-year-old & a 10-month-old living in Belgium, and frequently making trips to Germany and the Netherlands, I found the book more informative on what happened to USA in the recent years, rather than how Germans, particularly Berliners, raised their kids. I found the book not only very readable, but also it provided me with the perfect contrasts between Europe and USA. A striking theme of the book was the irony of the “freedom rhetoric” of USA, and how at the same time children were so much controlled by their parents, coupled with “parent’s rights”, and not much about children’s rights (the Wikipedia article titled “U.S. ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child” sheds more light on it). Another striking point was how happy the author, a mother of two children, felt because of the social safety net provided for families, as well as the ability to take 2 weeks of uninterrupted vacations with her family (that she found ‘luxurious’).

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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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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.

Brieven aan Jonge Ouders (Letters to Young Parents) Magazine

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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.

Jonge Ouders

Jonge Ouders

 

Libraries to visit: Cotsen Children’s Library

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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

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.

De Olifant in het Bad: Een interactieve iPad boek voor kinderen

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De olifant in het bad is een interactief boek voor kinderen tussen 1 en 10 jaar oud. Het verhaal gaat over een meisje, Zara en een olifant. Zara hoort een gedruppel in het huis. Vanwaar zou dit toch komen? Is er een olifant in het bad misschien?

Laat je kind ermee spelen! Belletjes ploffen, de bal gooien, verschillende gereedschappen gebruiken om het bad te herstellen, de olifant meehelpen… Ontdek het verborgen object op elke pagina. Vind je het haar van Zara niet leuk? Verander het dan maar… Je kan zelfs de zon verplaatsen.

Het originele versie van het boek is in het Engels. Het is vertaald en verteld door Tanya Gezgen zodat Nederlandstalige kinderen er ook veel plezier aan kunnen beleven.

Zara: de beste vriend van de olifant

Zara: de beste vriend van de olifant

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How to raise your children bilingually: The Bilingual Family: A Handbook for Parents

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The Bilingual Family

The Bilingual Family

Whether you moved to a different country and your child faces linguistic challenges, or there is more than one language spoken at home due to different origins of you and your partner, and you are curious (or anxious) about the proper language methods to apply when raising your child, The Bilingual Family: A Handbook for Parents, Second Edition is definitely a very rich source of information and guidance. Particularly in my case, I really want my son to have a native level command of both of the languages spoken by me and my wife. As a person who experienced a lack of communication with his grandmother and grandfather (on his mother’s side), I wish that my child does not experience the same.

I’m happy to read a very humane account of bilingualism that puts the concerns of parents and children at the center, yet being based on solid scientific research and written by specialist linguists who have also raised bilingual children. The book does not only serve as a guide, but also is an antidote against a lot of myths surrounding bilingualism.

The 18 different case studies that draw from the experience of very different families and languages, each with different combinations and attitudes regarding language use is one of the most lively parts of the book; the actual conversations of children will certainly make you smile (sometimes laugh out loudly). Moreover, the last section, where many important and critical concepts are listed alphabetically and discussed in detail will serve as a brief but very valuable guide, at least for me and our family.

The Parents We Mean To Be: How Well-Intentioned Adults Undermine Children’s Moral and Emotional Development

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The Parents We Mean To Be: How Well-Intentioned Adults Undermine Children's Moral and Emotional Development

The Parents We Mean To Be: How Well-Intentioned Adults Undermine Children's Moral and Emotional Development

The Parents We Mean To Be: How Well-Intentioned Adults Undermine Children’s Moral and Emotional Development gave me enough food for thought on the topic of morality and children. I’ve just become a father and I also happen to see many kids from various ages in my extended family. My thoughts and feelings after observing the younger ones and teens, how they react to their peers, elders and to the world in general is neither very optimistic nor really pessimistic but I must confess that I generally tend to be a little pessimist. Sometimes I feel like I will not have much say when my son will be a teenager, all that peer pressure and other parameters that will be more or less out of my control. But on the other hand, I also observe the parents and see how their behavioral patterns affect the children, e.g. their attitude towards sports activities, how they value sports and what kind of ethical standards they adhere to.

Richard Weissbourd draws a pretty broad and sincere picture about the current situation of parenting in USA, as well as major problems and attitudes towards children. Some parts of the book may run the risk of sounding a little alien to the people outside of USA, but in this highly connected world of ours I don’t think we can deny the influence of culture from the other side of Atlantic. One of the striking points of the book is how Weissbourd describes the changes of attitude in immigrant children: in the beginning they are very nice, polite, hard-working and respectful (according to their teachers) but after a few years of interacting with their peers in USA they undergo a dramatic change of attitude towards their teachers, school life, and moral values; which is generally perceived as very negative by the very same teachers.

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