Tuesday, October 22, 2013

4 months

Already? It doesn't seem possible that the time is flying by so fast. JL is no longer a newborn, but an active infant. She's alert and aware of what's going on around her, especially of her siblings. She just loves to watch them! JT is best at making her laugh, though she has also laughed for Papi and Ita. She smiles easily, which is fun, and almost seems to recognize when strangers are complimenting her, gifting them with a cute grin.

Matching U of I hats from one of Grandma's friends

She spent a good while staring at this burp rag and then chewing on it

Siblings can be so cruel (but isn't it cute?)

laughing at Papi

JL really likes "talking" to this little monkey

Hanging out with [some of] the H family

Sisters! (and JL in her new Bumbo seat, which she LOVES)

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Impromptu Field Trip

Our friends are on Fall Break at their school, so we took the opportunity to hang out. They were headed to the apple orchard, and since we hadn't gone this year, we decided to tag along. Of course, we decided this morning, the day of the excursion. :)  The plan was to leave at 9:30, but Mrs. S and I are so much alike, that when she called at 10:15 to say they were just then getting coats and shoes on, I could happily report that we were putting on seat-belts in the car. :) It took longer than I expected to get there, but the kids were good, and JL didn't even need to nurse until we arrived.

Mrs. S keeping JL warm

I love the look on JMC's face here. It's almost like he's thinking, "really, 50 cents to feed a bunch of greedy goats?"

JA, teaching like usual. :) This is a chart of rocks & fossils. I didn't even know she had studied these before!

 I spent a lot of the day following JMC around, with JL in my arms or in the stroller. He had a great time keeping my attention, showing me all of the things he can do, like climb on fence, drive a school bus, etc. Every so often, he'd run over to the big kids and join in their fun, and then he'd come back to the bus or the train.

She took a nap!

JA took a break from playing with her friends and spent some time with JMC. I know he really appreciated that.

JT ran non-stop the entire time we were there. The few pictures I have of him are action shots, or I had to ask him to stand still.

JT wanted this exact picture.

"JT has the one that works!"  :(

JMC and A played well together, too. Here they are "driving" the fire engine.

And there was mini-golf! JMC played 3 rounds.

I refused to pay so she could keep feeding the little white goat.

JT didn't want to go home

Thank you, Mrs. S., for the apple cider donuts!

JMC climbing up to look at the indoor pond, and JT's arm (he was flapping, trying to entertain JL.)

Our group had 3rd, 2nd, 1st, and kindergarten. The enjoyed reading all of the signs.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

FAQ - Bilingualism

Did Papi teach you Spanish?
No. I began studying Spanish in 8th grade; walking up to the high school with some classmates to join in the Spanish 1 class. By senior year, I was in Spanish 5, aka AP Spanish. After high school, I went on 4 mission trips to the Dominican Republic over the span of 2 years. That time added up to nearly 3 months in the DR. I had plenty of time to practice my Spanish there. :) I only took 1 semester of Spanish in college, but after graduation, I was hired to be an ESL/bilingual teacher at a local elementary school. I did parent/teacher conferences in Spanish, and before long, took and passed the state's Spanish language fluency exam. Then, I was given a temporary bilingual endorsement while I took 6 courses in bilingual education and ESL teaching methods. The last 5 years I taught, I was teaching between 60-70% of the school day in Spanish to Spanish speaking 3rd and 4th graders. I met Papi while teaching ESL and taking those bilingual endorsement courses.

Why raise your kids bilingually?
I have wanted to raise my children bilingually since I was in high school. Though I didn't understand the logistics of it, I knew that language learning is easier for children than for teens and adults. I was in the midst of trying to learn Spanish, and kept thinking how much easier it would have been if I had begun at a younger age. I didn't know if my future husband would know Spanish or not, but I was determined to pass the results of my studies along to my children.

When Papi and I got married, I was studying all about bilingual education, and the research that goes along with the topic. Papi, having grown up bilingually since the age of 7, also wanted to pass along the Spanish language to our children. The research we read only confirmed this more.

Why Spanish?
It's the only other language I know. Spanish was a natural for me from the first class I took. It wasn't exceptionally easy, and I didn't always get the best grades, but it just made sense, and I was able to communicate with so many more people. Then, with Papi being a Spanish-speaker as well, it just made sense for our family to be bilingual.

Why don't you speak English to your kids?
The key to raising children bilingually is to find a balance between the languages. This also works if you want to teach more than 2 languages. This balance is different for each family depending on many factors, including the languages spoken by the parents, languages spoken by the extended family and frequency of visiting them, the predominant language of the community, languages of church and school, etc. For us, just about everyone our family sees on a regular basis, and everywhere we go, is in English. Church, friends, home school group, even extended family (on both sides, for the most part) is in English. Even though we only speak Spanish to the kids (and that is lessening up a bit as they grow older), they are still receiving quite a bit of English on a regular basis.

Do your kids know English?
Yes! Though each child's timeline has been slightly different, they have all been more or less fluent in both languages by 3 years old. By 5 years old, they are on par with their peers for language development in each language. For example, they speak and understand English as well as any other English-speaking 5 year old, and Spanish as well as any other Spanish-speaking 5 year old. When I add in literacy as well, I have found that though they learn Spanish literacy first, by the time they are in first grade, they are above grade level in both languages for reading, and at grade level in writing. Papi and I are very much ok with a slow start when the results are so magnificent in the long run. (And really, we're only up to 3rd grade right now, and already seeing the advantages of bilingualism.)

What if they have an accent?
Everyone has a accent. It's just that you only notice it if someone's accent is different than yours. If you travel to any other part of the country, or especially any other English-speaking country, you will notice right away the accents of those around you, and they will surely notice yours. So, will they have an accent? Yes, and that's normal. Now, what if they have a Spanish accent? Well, that is also more normal than you may think. There are more people who speak English as their 2nd language in the world than the number of people who speak English as their 1st language. So, in all actuality, I am the odd one, not my children, having learned English first and speaking with a distinctly American accent.

Of course, having begun to learn both languages from the beginning, at the same time, it is also quite possible that they won't have a Spanish accent. Studies show that when children begin to learn a language before beginning puberty, they are more likely to pick up the nuances of the languages, and much less likely to sound like a second language learner. That definitely says something about our school system's approach of waiting until high school to teach foreign languages...

Why not Italian?
Being of Italian descent, I would love to teach my children Italian, but the language was not passed on through the generations of my family. Italian wasn't an option for foreign language at my high school, so I couldn't learn the language at school either. I suppose I could learn it know, but it would take time I just don't have to devote to language learning at this point in my life. Plus, I can think of only 2 people with whom I could communicate in Italian, and neither of them live close to me. I see them once per year each, at most.

Will they learn a foreign language in high school?
Probably. Since the age of 3, JA has wanted to  learn a 3rd language. First she wanted to learn French, and then she wanted to learn Hindi. I am holding her off from a 3rd language until at least junior high, to best ensure she has a strong base in both English and Spanish first. I plan to follow a similar timeline for the other children as well. What language will they learn? I don't know. That will be determined by their individual interests, as well as availability of resources. If any of them choose not to study a 3rd language, that will be ok, too. We can always study more thoroughly Spanish and English vocabulary, grammar, and literature.

JA's Birthday Weekend

JA's 9th birthday was the day before a field trip to the Shedd Aquarium. Since Papi always takes our birthday off work, and would join us for the field trip, we had a mini vacation for her birthday. We had a birthday pancakes in the morning, and headed out by noon. We took our time driving to Chicago stopping by a park and a pet store to let the kids play while JL nursed. We made it to our hotel, checked in, and headed out again to Pollo Campero. If there's one near you, you really should try it. Basically, it's Guatemalan fried chicken, and it's delicious. Anyway, the closest one to us is in Chicago, so it's a special treat, and exactly what JA wanted for her birthday dinner. Then, we stopped by Baker's Square and picked up a pumpkin pie for dessert.

See that pink earring? JA got her ears pierced for her birthday!

The next day we spent at the Shedd Aquarium with out home school group. It was absolutely beautiful and we all enjoyed seeing the animals. The only negative to the entire day was that I took a wrong turn getting out of the city, and then we got incorrect directions from 2 different people. Add to that the 2 stops for JL to nurse, and it took us 4 hours just to get out of the city, a total of 5 1/2 hours to get to my parents' house. :( The kids were great though, much less annoyed by the traffic and wrong turns than Papi and I were.

We spent the rest of the weekend at Grandma and Grandpa's house. Papi went golfing with Uncle A, the kids and I visited Great-Grandma R, and Uncle A took JA shopping. The kids helped Grandma pick tomatoes from her garden, we carved pumpkins, and Grandma and I headed to the mall with only JL to accompany us. We came home on Sunday, stopping by IKEA for lunch (and staying for 3 1/2 hours!) getting home in time for dinner.
Foosball fun at Grandma & Grandpa's

peeling pepitas (pumpkin seeds)

Grandpa gave JA a CD player, headphones, and about 10 classical music CDs.