Parenting and entrepreneuring: episode 3

I’ve decided that I’m going to change the name for what I call « my son taking care of himself while I work. » I’m going to call it: free play time.

Why? I think the name works better, it makes me feel better, and honestly? It’s really not so bad for him. Child specialists the world over toot the advantages of free play time for children. So why not call our Wednesday mornings that?

Our kiddo spends basically all of Wednesday morning playing on his own. At the moment, I’m pretty sure he’s drawing something. Maybe ten minutes ago he was playing with his toys, and before that, he got himself a banana to top up his breakfast. It’s 10am and he hasn’t even asked for TV or the tablet yet! I’m sure the time will come, but so far, I’m impressed.

So what’s the point of this post? Don’t feel guilty for letting your kids play alone! There is nothing wrong with your child spending time using his or her imagination and inventing games for him/herself. In fact, it’s good for them. It helps them become more autonomous, develops the imagination and shows them that they’re not the center of the universe.

To me, this last point is super important. My kid needs to understand that when I’m on a call, he has to be quiet, he can’t talk to me unless he’s « dying » and he needs to figure things out for himself. It may sound harsh, but he has to learn how to wait. Patience is a virtue, right?

I opened my business so that I could spend less time at work, make my own money (more than what I was making previously) and spend more time with my family. However, I didn’t open it to become a stay-at-home mom. There is nothing wrong with being a stay-at-home parent, but it’s a different ball game.

So, if you have to work, forget feeling guilty. Organize your day so you can set aside family time, but when it’s your work time, guilt has no place. Your company is important, your well-being is important, and your kids need to learn to respect that; it’ll serve them in the future.

Parenting and entrepreneuring: episode 2

It’s a quarter past 4pm, the baby-sitter will be back soon with our son, and we have nothing to eat, and I need to get to the cash machine to pay her.

The eternal question: what on earth is for dinner today?

Quesadillas? Why not… But what to put in them that our 4 year old will deign to swallow?! Urgh.

Of course, into the mix flies the Newsletter I haven’t written yet, and the fear that there is a typo I’ve missed in my publications today. I can’t afford typos, I’m an English teacher. But I’m human, and I always miss things! I have to read them 10 times to be sure, yet I still come back to work I’d done a long time ago and see mistakes.

Is this due to inattention? Sloppiness? Fatigue? A lack of time? Does it matter?

On Wednesdays (today) and on strike days (yesterday) my son has to fend for himself (only in the mornings on Wednesdays though, yay). It sounds awful, considering he’s only 4, but he’s pretty cool about it, so long as I can tolerate the noise emanating from his make believe universe. And he makes up some awesome stories! There he is, sometimes, building a spaceship that looks like a banana, or playing with his pirates when suddenly Ninjagos and superheroes come to save the day! But oh no! The cars are falling off the precipice and falling into the abyss of the floor! AAAAHHHH!

Okay, I don’t think he actually says all of those things, but it sounds like it, and the few phrases I catch from his adventures make them enviable!

On a more serious note. How do you organize yourselves? Particularly those of you homeschooling young kids? When do you work?! I’m so glad that tomorrow school picks up again. And so is my little guy. No more TV while mommy is in a class. No more Khan Academy while she’s in a meeting.

Yesterday, he came with me while I was giving a class at a local high school. He was so well behaved I bought him a chocolate ice cream right before lunch to say thank you!

Parenting and entrepreneuring: episode 1

A few days ago, I got a big exercise ball to use as a desk chair. I’ve heard they’re better for you than regular office chairs, and apart from struggling a bit with keeping my balance, I’m inclined to agree.

My 4 year old, however, thinks this is his new toy and tries, at various times of the day, to use it as a soccer ball, balance ball, and just generally enjoys rolling it around our (smallish) flat. This would be fine, I suppose, if my desk wasn’t a make-shift kitchen countertop resting on one trestle and a bookcase propped up with a few books I don’t read anymore. It isn’t wonderfully stable.

My home office.

That being said, I’m rather proud of my DIY desk and will include a picture of it here.

The home office in a smallish apartment is a challenge, particularly when you don’t actually have a room dedicated for work. My desk is in our front room, which doubles as an office, a dining room, a dance floor and a play area. The least that can be said about it is that it’s versatile!

These are not my biggest challenges though. One biggie is figuring out how to make sure that the noise from my apartment doesn’t seep into meetings with clients. I try to schedule meetings and classes during school hours, but this isn’t always possible. So, I have purchased a pair of headphones with a noise-cancelling mike. I have tested it out a few times and it seems to be doing the trick, even if my interlocutors can still hear the occasional screechy voice from a cartoon character on the TV, or my son’s screams of delight or anger when something, anything, happens.

My dream is for a world where it’s ok to hear the sound of children in the background during work hours. I love having my kiddo around during the day, even if he makes it a little harder to concentrate. And then, when I think about, he doesn’t make it too much harder to concentrate, he just reminds me that I need to take breaks. He reminds me that my mind is fresher after I come back from a walk, or a card game, or a few minutes spent swinging on the hammock.

Modern society has taught us that we must sit on our butts all day, in the office and work work work! That this is productivity. But it isn’t, is it? Who among you is capable or sitting for 4 straight hours and actually get good work done? Then take a quick break and sit for 4 more hours. We’re not designed to do this. Our brains, just as our bodies, need action, diversity and challenge. Sitting like brainless zombies in front of a computer because we have to won’t make us more productive. Having our children around will not (necessarily) make us less productive.

I have noticed that I get as much work done in a 4 or 5 hour day as I do in a 6 or 7 hour day. My mind is fresh, ready to take on new challenges.

This is why I chose to be an entrepreneur, to risk it, to take on the challenge, to put myself out there and change the way I work and organize my life. It isn’t easy, it is stressful, but it’s rewarding and challenging and fun!

What are your current challenges?

Activities for parents who don’t normally homeschool

My son is 4, and with the new lockdown in France, we need to figure out a way to move forward without excessive screen time but also allowing me to get some work done.

Father and son making pizza dough!

Here are some ideas that work for us, most of the time.

  1. His teacher left us a booklet of homework to do. Now, since I’m not her, and I don’t really know the best way to show a kindergartener how to complete his exercises, we do them together. Kind of. The instructions are, of course, all in French, but since he can’t read yet, I translate them to English. Bonus: he hones his English skills at the same time. This really helped during the first lockdown when French was taking over! So we work together, and I set him a loose schedule. That means that we set a goal for the number of pages we’re going to complete that day, and what activities or breaks we’ll have in between. I let him choose which pages he wants to work on.
  2. We bake! This will make all of us fat, well, only myself and my husband, but it means that our son gets to create something with me, and learn at the same time.
  3. We read a lot. I have a total weak spot for books; I buy them for myself often, and for my son, excessively. So we sit down with a bunch of books and read them, one after another, sometimes for up to an hour! Also, here I mean books in any form, Kindle and Scribd are definitely a part of that!
  4. We go outside in the parking lot in front of our building and my kid gets to ride his bike. Sometimes there are other kids from the résidence as well, often, he just goes up and down. This doesn’t have to last very long, but it gets fresh air into both our lungs and stretches out our legs.
  5. We walk the dog together and look for sticks, rocks, insects, and really try to pay attention to the world around us. Often, we bring a ball or a Frisbee, and again, we can stretch out our legs this way.

In between these activities, it’s mommy’s time to work and my son gets his free time to play. No television, just his toys and the imaginary worlds he constructs around him. That’s not to say he never watches TV, but that’s the easy solution!

Don’t get me wrong, getting to this stage of autonomy with him was not easy. We had to get through moments when I simply needed to tell him that I didn’t have time, that I had to work, and that I would not play with him. It was heart wrenching, but he eventually developed a stellar imagination and now, at 4 years old, he can play independently for even an hour, sometimes more.

I know that these aren’t magical tips, but by incorporating them, or other activities like painting glass jars for flowers, or making necklaces from beads, or going on a quick treasure hunt for special leaves in the garden, we can make the day flow more easily. Our kids will feel like they are spending time with us, and we’ll be able to get some work done, albeit in a somewhat choppy way.

7 Books for Young English Learners

Since I’ve already written a post about what to read to your young kids, here’s another about some things you can give your (slightly) older kids.

So here is a list of 7 books that we either have, or that have been recommended to us.

All Right Already, and others by Jory John and Benji Davies.

I like this series, with Bear and Duck because of its simple drawings and witty turn of phrase. They really make for a great introduction to autonomous reading.

I also think these books are really fun for young English learners because the language is still quite simple, while the comic book style illustrations will help your child follow the story without too much trouble. I wouldn’t recommend it for kids who don’t have any notions at all of English, but certainly for those who are exposed to it regularly.

This brings me to my next series.

I Really Like Slop, an Elephant and Piggie book by Mo Willems

Ok, I know, I know, I’ve already put this on a previous list for young children, but these are also fab for early readers. They are funny, and easy to follow, even for children who are still learning English.

There Must be More than That by Shinsuke Yoshitake

This book is a little more difficult for English learners, but you could definitely read it with your middle schooler who has much more English in school. It’s a book that I would absolutely read with my grade 6 and 7 students (6ème and 5ème).

I love it because it’s a realistic but hopeful account of how kids might interpret the information they see and hear in the grown-up world. I love the style of drawings and I love how it creates a world of possibilities for young imaginations.

Tiny Titans by by Art Baltazar and Franco Aureliani

This series was recommended to me. I’ve included it on the list because I think comic books and graphic novels can be great introductions for reluctant readers and young English learners. As with the previous book, these ones will be for middle school aged kids who already know the basics of English. Best practice will be to read them with your kids so that they don’t feel like a chore, unless of course you’ve got avid readers!

These next titles are also recommendations from other parents and readers’ circles

Scooby-doo Team Up! By Sholly Fisch

Hilda and the Black Hound by Luke Pearson

Fairy Tale Comics by Chris Duffy

Once again, these could be great introductions to the world of reading in English. They may be for elementary aged children, but the stories, illustrations and the fact that they are graphic novels and comics will take away from the idea that they’re « little kids’ books ».

While my own son is still too young to read these, I’m really looking forward to the day when he’ll begin asking me for more things to read on his own, or with me!

Review: Khan Academy Kids

During the first lockdown, I discovered Khan Academy Kids. I already knew about Khan Academy, the website which became famous for helping students all over the world with their math and science homework. I also knew of their English as a second language section, because I had used it with my middle school students. Well, their kids app is just great! 

Even though I tend to think that young children should generally steer clear of tablet use, my husband and I really had very little choice of activities for our son, then 3, if we wanted to get any work done at all. 

Here is why I like the app:

  • It evolves with your child. When you first download it, you are asked to enter your child’s age. As they grow, the activities become more challenging. 
  • Interesting and fun activities that children enjoy: drawing, searching, tracing, songs, books, sorting, etc. 
  • It’s varied: your child won’t do exactly the same thing twice in one session. 
  • The library: although I’ve read better books, my son seems to love their selection. They’re also educational, teaching kids about the natural world, cities, and other general topics. 

All in all, if you’re looking for something to help your kids learn English and occupy them with something educational, then try this app. 

Glossary

lockdown the period of time when we all have to stay home
famous something many people know about
middle school students kids from about 11-14 years old
tend to to have a tendency to do something; have a habit of
evolves adapts
tracing to draw along a line that has already been drawn/printed
sorting separating things into boxes, for example: sort the trash = separate the glass from the plastic and the garbage, etc. 

Immersion en anglais à travers les séries

Personne ne veut que son enfant passe trop de temps devant les écrans, mais si on est réaliste, on admet que nos enfants regardent quand même des dessins animés. Alors, pourquoi ne pas en profiter pour qu’il apprennent en même temps ? 

C’est bien connu que les personnes dans les pays scandinaves, tel la Norvège, parlent très bien anglais. Alors voyons pourquoi. 

Il y a, bien sûr, des raisons linguistiques et économiques pour ces compétences. Les pays scandinaves ont des petites populations; ils ont besoin de parler l’anglais professionnellement pour pouvoir communiquer avec des étrangers. Les langues scandinaves sont aussi plus rapprochées linguistiquement de l’anglais que les langues latines. 

Aujourd’hui, cependant, je vais vous parler des médias. En Norvège, ou en Suède, les séries et les films ne sont généralement pas doublés. Si la version originale est en anglais, elle reste en anglais. Grâce à ça, les scandinaves ont l’anglais tout autour d’eux, alors qu’en France, regarder une série ou bien un film en VO n’est pas toujours possible. Ça change, bien-sûr, mais pour moi, on pourrait vraiment faire mieux. Je connais très peu de français qui regardent leurs médias en VO, même ceux qui parlent anglais ! 

C’est important, pour l’apprentissage d’une langue, de l’entendre. Si le seul endroit où l’on rencontre une nouvelle langue est dans un livre de grammaire, ou dans un cours à l’école où il y a tellement d’enfants que même si l’enseignant est bon, il y a peu de chance qu’il arrive à aider tous les élèves; alors c’est certain que l’on n’apprendra pas. 

Alors, mettez les séries en VO ! Mettez les films et les jeux en VO. Si vous souhaitez que votre enfant parle bien anglais, mettez lui ses dessins animés en anglais. Il n’est pas important ce que vous lui mettez, tant que c’est en anglais, mais voici quelques séries bien aimées de mon fils de 4 ans: Paw Patrol ; Peppa Pig ; Mickey Mouse Club House (génial pour l’apprentissage car en plus d’être en anglais, c’est une série où les enfants apprennent plein de choses) ; Mickey Mouse Roadster Racers ; Curious George et Llama Llama.

Ce n’est pas une liste exhaustive, mais elle est déjà pas mal. Je recommande vivement Mickey Mouse Club House pour les plus jeunes, car c’est vraiment basé sur l’apprentissage des plus petits. 

Donc voilà, j’espère que je ne vous ai pas trop ennuyé ! Si vous avez des questions, n’hésitez pas à nous écrire ou laissez un commentaire ci- dessous.

Bonne journée et bon week-end à tous !  

P.S. Cet article est écrit avec l’anglais à l’esprit, mais vous pouvez tout à fait transférer ces idées à n’importe quel autre langue !

initiation à l’anglais pour les jeunes enfants: les livres

Bonjour à tous et a toutes, 

Nombreux d’entre vous m’ont demandé de vous faire des recommandations de livres et de séries télé pour initier vos jeunes enfants à l’anglais.

Cela peut être tentant de dépenser de l’argent pour une après-midi en anglais, une fois par semaine pour vos jeunes enfants, mais en réalité, ce type de prestation n’est utile que si l’enfant est exposé à la langue plus d’une fois par semaine. C’est pareil pour tout le monde: on ne peut pas bien apprendre à jouer de la guitare si l’on pratique qu’une fois par semaine pendant deux heures; dans l’idéal, il faut en faire un peu tous les jours.

Alors, voyons comment vous pouvez faire, un peu tous les jours, en anglais avec votre petit(e).

Commençons par les livres. 

12 mois à 2/3 ans

Si votre enfant est vraiment tout petit, (moins de deux ans) j’adore la série de livres de Julia Donaldson et Axel Scheffler: Postman Bear, Rabbit’s Nap, Fox’s Socks et Hide and Seek Pig. J’avais acheté Fox’s Socks complètement par hasard quand mon fils avait un an, et il l’a tellement adoré que je les ai tous pris. Vous pouvez les acheter en cartonné avec des petites fenêtres à ouvrir pour trouver les différents objets perdus. 

Quand l’enfant est si jeune, le fait de ne pas “comprendre” ce que vous lui lisez ne le dérangera pas trop, il regardera les images, et petit à petit il commencera à comprendre et à vous poser des questions. 

Je ne parle qu’en anglais avec mon fils depuis sa naissance, pour moi c’est normal puisque je suis anglophone, mais vous pouvez aussi initier votre petit choux à une langue étrangère pour qu’il se sente à l’aise. 

2 à 5 ans

Voici une liste de livres simples, avec de super dessins:

Calm Down Boris! Par Sam Lloyd – celui là est cartonné et avec une marionnette. Il s’agit d’un petit monstre qui adore donner des bisous. Mon fils l’adore et on est toujours obligé de le lire plusieurs fois de suite. 

Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus par Mo Willems – une histoire hilarante où le pigeon veut absolument conduire le bus, mais le conducteur a confié la responsabilité de ne pas le laisser faire, à votre enfant. En plus, il y a toute une série! 

Avec la série du dessus, il y a, du même auteur, les histoires d’Elephant and Piggie, qui sont tout aussi drôles. 

Pete the Cat par Eric Litwin et James Dean – ces livres sont super, je crois, pour initier les enfants à l’anglais car l’histoire est vraiment très facile, avec des petites chansons et des mots à répétition. En plus, il existe une série télévisée du même nom. 

ABC and 123: A Sesame Street Treasury of Words and Numbers édité par Random House. De supers dessins, avec des mots à côté; mon petit adore parcourir ce bouquin tout seul ou avec moi. C’est vraiment bien pour l’alphabet, les chiffres et le vocabulaire. 

Goodnight Moon par Margaret Wise Brown et Clement Hurd – je ne vais même pas essayer de compter le nombre de fois que nous avons lu celui-là! Pour résumer, on dit bonne nuit à tous les objets dans la chambre du petit lapin. 

Brown Bear, Brown Bear  de Eric Carle, ainsi que tous les autres livres de la série, y compris From Head to Toe et The Very Hungry Caterpillar. De très jolis dessins et des histoires très simples qui plaisent à tout le monde. J’ai récemment donné nos livres de cette série à la directrice de l’école maternelle de mon fils, car ils sont vraiment super pour commencer avec l’anglais. 

Voilà la liste de mes livres préférés pour commencer l’anglais avec votre enfant. Pour les plus grands, il va falloir que je fasse davantage de recherches, car pour l’instant, mon petit n’a que 4 ans et nous découvrons ensemble le monde de la littérature de jeunesse. Mais promis, je ne manquerai pas de poster un billet pour eux aussi ! 

Quant aux séries télé, je vais vous faire un autre article dessus. Mais entre-temps, mettez ce que vous voulez, mais en anglais. Jusqu’à l’âge de 4 ans, on va dire, cela ne devrait pas déranger votre enfant de ne pas tout comprendre, et vous allez voir, dans quelques mois, si il regarde des séries uniquement en anglais, il commencera à vraiment comprendre et à parler.