A kid has to start the 1st grade

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I still remember the first days of excitement and challenges when he started preschool 3.5 years ago, just when he was about 2.5 years old. It was not easy at all, both for him and us. The time flied, he became six years old a few months ago, and he started the first grade on 1st of September, 2017.

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It is impossible to miss the behavioral changes after his experience with his new teacher and classroom (and luckily same old and good friends from his preschool days). He seems more exhausted in the evenings, talks much more about what they did during the school day, and more relaxed in a sense. He also started to speak a lot of Turkish, his weaker second language, and I appreciate all of his efforts. I can still hear the stress patterns as well as grammatical inheritance of Dutch in his Turkish, but compared to six months ago, his performance improved a lot and everyone else started to notice (check out “Multilingual children: when worlds and words collide” if you want to read about some entertaining examples). Another change, maybe more subtle started to become visible in his drawings: his focus is still on violent and very big dinosaurs and all sorts of Godzilla figures, but he started to draw other animals (still violently killing each other) but in more detail and with more complex compositions and patterns. One such pattern is, almost recursive and space-filling, if I may say so: almost the same dinosaur, repeated in smaller sizes and placed in the remaining empty spaces on the paper, filling it in intricate patterns. (I can remember what I drew when I was six: crude stick figures, the simplest house, a few clouds, and the simplest sun; he certainly didn’t get his drawing skills from me 🙂

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A kid has to start somewhere (before going full 3D printing)

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A few weeks before my son turned five, we were sitting at home, I enjoying some technical stuff on my laptop, he playing with his toys. You know when your kid is very silent, either something bad is happening, or, in rare cases, he’s up to something not so bad at all.

The cause of silence turned out to be the following representation of his favorite topic nowadays: dinosaurs.

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It reminded me of the days I had so much playing with similar material (though of definitely lower quality): Observing the physical universe around you, making generalizations, creating abstractions, forming concepts in your mind, then using those to create something physical, using your hands, guided by your brain. The joy, the pleasure, the satisfaction that follows it. Shaping a piece of elastic material, with not many constraints other than imposed by the molecular structure of it coupled with the one of your brain. More

Multilingual children: when worlds and words collide

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It is one thing reading academic papers and books about multilingual children, and a very different thing experiencing it yourself when having a conversation with your 4-year-old son.

For example, after a few years of exposure to Turkish and Dutch, he comes up with a sentence such as

Dinozor is nog büyüker dan kamyon.

Thinking about how he combines Dutch and Turkish grammar, it is not difficult at all to see how he arrives at such a funny-sounding but constrained-by-both-languages-therefore-predictable result:

Screen Shot 2016-04-08 at 22.06.03

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Playing the ancient game of Go with my son

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It was probably 1-1.5 years ago when my then-3-year-old son pointed at the Go board standing vertically at the topmost shelf of our library, and said something like “Dad, I want to play.” This was a curious moment for me because my son never saw me play Go before, and I doubt that he came across children playing Go in the cartoons he watched on TV or iPad; after all he was barely 3 years old! Therefore, I had no idea how he made a connection with an empty Go board standing very high up, almost touching the ceiling and the concept of ‘playing a game’. He also did not see me or his mother playing chess, or any other board game for that matter. (Interestingly enough, I think it was a few months before we lost the legendary player Go Seigen, and the year I watched the movie about his life, The Go Master.)

Our first try at a game of Go went as expected: His concentration did not last for more than 5-6 minutes, did not care for my warnings that he should only place one stone at a time, wait for me, wait for his turn, do not disturb the stones, etc. In other words, it was a very short experience, but a memorable one nevertheless. After that day, I have decided to never mention the game of Go again, just to see whether he’d be interested in the game again. A few months passed without his ever looking at the Go board, and he also never saw me playing Go. But one day, he pointed at that Go board again, and insisted that we ‘play’. Yet another brief experience with some frustration for both of us, together with some funny moments, ending with my saying “No! Slowly! Put the stones back in their bowls… according to their colors… please!” Then a few weeks without Go at all, and another brief, similar experience. I thought this was all there is to it, for at least few more years.

go

Fast forward to today: About 2 weeks ago, my son, now about 4.5 years old, pointed his finger at… Yes you guessed it. This time, I’ve decided to see if he was ready for the real thing; I wanted to stretch his limits, so I went for the full board, 19×19 game, a pseudo-game actually, where we placed the stones on the board, each of us waiting for his turn, and trying to make it as realistic as possible with my guidance. During some moves, I saw how excited he was, literally thrilled, shaking with enthusiasm as I was making comments such as “Aha! I see what you are planning there!”, “Hmm, I have to think for a while how to counter that!”. When my son looked at the almost full board, and asked “who won?”, I have realized that almost 45 minutes passed without any of us having realized! I still have no idea how he managed to stay concentrated for almost an hour (including putting stones back into their bowls, carrying the board back, etc.). The real surprise came the day after that, next evening he wanted to play Go again, but he said he wanted it to last shorter because it was almost dinner time. So we played on a 9×9 board, with the same enthusiasm. It lasted about 15 minutes. Next evening, another match. This continued without interruption every evening since then, up until we left home for some winter holidays. When we came back home, it was almost his bedtime but he did not want to go to sleep, because… “first, let’s play Go!”. More

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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The first step of our son’s pre-school registration and linguistic issues of children in Belgium

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Meld je aan - school pre-registration website

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.

Parents underestimate their children’s worry levels and overestimate their optimism

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Apparently, parents’ job does not get easier. Or maybe that’s the curse of evolution on modern life, what do you think?:  Parents underestimate their children’s worry levels and overestimate their optimism

It’s well-established that parents frequently overestimate their children’s intelligence and the amount of exercise they get. Now a team led by Kristin Lagattuta has uncovered evidence suggesting that parents have an unrealistically rosy impression of their kiddies’ emotional lives too. It’s a finding with important implications for clinicians and child researchers who often rely on parental reports of young children’s psychological wellbeing.

It’s previously been assumed that children younger than seven will struggle to answer questions about their emotions. Undeterred, Lagattuta and her colleagues simplified the language used in a popular measure of older children’s anxiety and they developed a pictorial scoring system that involved the children pointing to rectangles filled with different amounts of colour. Time was taken to ensure the child participants understood how to use the scale.

To read the rest of this interesting visit http://bps-research-digest.blogspot.be/2012/09/parents-underestimate-their-childrens.html.

Note to myself: I’d better take it seriously if our son seems psychologically uncomfortable (better be safe than sorry?).

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