How to register your toddler to preschool in Belgium: RTFM ;-)

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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

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.

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Can kids learn to read at a very young age without you teaching them?

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I’m surprised at and thrilled by a very interesting article in the July-August 2012 issue of American Scientist. In his article, Prof. Dominic W. Massaro claims that it is possible for children to learn reading at a very young age, without explicit instruction. According to Massaro, with the help of latest advancements in cognitive science, computer science and mobile technology, the children can be immersed in an augmented environment in which they can acquire literacy intuitively. The full text of the article, “Acquiring Literacy Naturally” is currently available at http://mambo.ucsc.edu/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/2012-07MassaroFinal2.pdf.

Some highlights that really drew my attention:

“Notwithstanding the intuitive primacy of spoken language, I propose that once an appropriate form of written text is meaningfully associated with children’s experience early in life, reading will be learned inductively with ease and with no significant negative consequences. As described by John Shea in this magazine, “there are no known populations of Homo sapiens with biologically constrained capacities for behavioral variability” (March–April 2011). I envision a physical system, called Technology Assisted Reading Acquisition (TARA), to provide the opportunity to test this hypothesis. TARA exploits recent developments in behavioral and brain science and technology, which are rapidly evolving to make natural reading acquisition possible before formal schooling begins. In one instantiation (Figure 3), TARA would automatically recognize a caregiver’s speech and display a child-appropriate written transcription.”

Technology Assisted Reading Acquisition (TARA) implemented on a digital tablet automatically recognizes an adult’s utterance using automated speech-to-text recognition. In these examples, the adult’s comments are recognized and the digital tablet displays some of the words in high definition to the child. (Photographs courtesy of the author.)

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Ready for the adventure with your kids? Time for a Space Odyssey at Belgium!

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Thanks to a recent article by Emma Beddington at The Bulletin (“A Space Odyssey“), I learned about the European Space Centre at Belgium. A place for the whole family to spend the weekend and explore space related activities and get a taste of the training that astronauts undergo.

European Space Center @ Belgium

And if you are looking to continue the adventure, but in a bigger place, do not forget other options, too. 😉

Programming for Kids – Action Time!

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See the event page: http://www.bejug.org/confluenceBeJUG/display/BeJUG/Programming+for+Kids

Read the slides: http://www.slideshare.net/stephanj/programming-4-kids-11811980

Join the discussion, suggest ideas, and learn how to teach programming to the kids: https://groups.google.com/forum/?fromgroups&hl=en#!forum/devoxx4kids

Watch the videos:

 

NAO Introducing a “Programming For Kids” workshop

Annie Murphy Paul: What we learn before we’re born

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When does learning begin? Answer: Before we are born. Science writer Annie Murphy Paul talks through new research that shows how much we learn in the womb — from the lilt of our native language to our soon-to-be-favorite foods.

Annie Murphy Paul: What we learn before we're born

Annie Murphy Paul: What we learn before we're born

Montessori in a TED talk

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Will Right on games and Montessori education

Will Right on games and Montessori education

I’ve just discovered game designer Will Wright‘s TED talk in which he also mentions Montessori. He’s the creator of SimCity, The Sims and other games:

When I was a kid, I actually attended Montessori school up to sixth grade in Atlanta, Georgia. And at the time, I didn’t think much about it, but then later, I kind of realized that that was kind of the high point of my education. From that point on, everything else was pretty much downhill.

People call me a game designer, but I really think of these things more as toys. But I started getting very interested in Maria Montessori and her methods, and the kind of way she went about things, and the way she thought it very valuable for kids to kind of discover things on their own, rather than being taught these things, just kind of overtly. And she would design these toys, where kids in playing with the toys would actually come to understand these deep principles of life and nature through play. And since they discovered those things, it really stuck with them so much more, and also they would experience their own failures; there was a failure-based aspect to learning there. It was very important.

You can watch the full video at http://www.ted.com/talks/will_wright_makes_toys_that_make_worlds.html.

There is humanity and beauty in this madness: Montessori Madness! A Parent to Parent Argument for Montessori Education

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Montessori Madness

Montessori Madness

This is the second book in my path of learning Montessori method for educating children, but I would suggest it as the first Montessori book to almost everyone. Unlike my first book (which is another gem I highly appreciate and value in its own category), this one is much shorter and includes just a few references to other works; this is basically a book written by a parent for other parents.  A very personal book which tells the story of a father who really deeply cared about the education of his children and his amazing discoveries. Trevor Eissler does not shy away from giving accounts of his own childhood in which there were some difficult moments; his sharp analysis of what kind of education leads to those difficulties is at least as valuable as a scientific psychological research for me. Maybe that’s because I’m also about to become a father and I’m also obsessed about the process a child lives throughout his first years.
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