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

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

Sometimes you wake up early on a Sunday morning and the reason is…

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Well, the reason is not because some strange life forms invaded your home but rather an energetic and a very familiar life form has decided that bringing kitchen utensils to the living room and making as much noise as possible with them is a lot of fun, in and of itself:

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The adventures of a father and son in a strange supermarket

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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 😉

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