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Friday, February 27, 2009

Ten Things To Know About French Immersion

My daughter is currently in French Immersion and my son is scheduled to start in September, so I thought I'd share some of what I've learned.

1) There are many benefits to French Immersion: children learn a second language; they develop a great ability to learn other languages as well; they have better career options for their futures; research has show they develop better problem solving skills and creativity; they become more flexible thinkers with superior listening skills, to name a few.

2) It is designed for kids who don't speak French at home, although frankly, knowing a bit of French does help. Even if you don't know any, if you are willing to learn the language along with your child, it'll make things much easier.

3) When the children first start Kindergarten, the French is introduced gradually. By the time they are in Grade 1, no English is spoken in the classroom (unless there is a comprehension issue - then English will be used briefly to clarify).

4) No English reading or grammar is taught until Grade 3, so it is recommended that your child be read to in English at home. When English is introduced, there is a "catch up" period, but by the time elementary school is finished, FE kids have the same, if not better, English skills as the English kids.

5) It's not for every child. It is the school's objective to provide your child with an education, so if he/she is not happy in French, you may be advised to switch back to English. This is in no way a negative reflection on the intelligence of any child - some kids just have other talents. Take a friend of mine, for example - her daughter is a gifted athlete, competing provincially at the age of six. She struggled in French Kindergarten, but once she switched to English for grade 1, she flourished academically.

6) Many kids will excel at both languages simultaneously. My 6 year old daughter, for example, is comfortable in the phonetics of both languages. She can tell you the pronunciation of individual letters and letter combinations for French and English. She can also look at the spelling of a word and tell you how it would sound in English as well as how it would sound in French.

7) It's FUN, and a self esteem boost. My daughter is constantly singing songs in French that she's learned in school, as well as voluntarily choosing the French versions of websites or DVDs. She also likes to correct my pronunciation (hers is already better - I have some core French learned back in high school, but because she's learning French with younger ears, her phonics are better than mine).

8) When determining if a child is a good candidate for French Immersion, two factors are considered. Are they comfortable with English (i.e. "how the first language goes, so goes the second"), and are they socially confident (if they can't understand something that is said, are they secure enough to try and figure it out and communicate somehow?).

9) While late immersion (near the end of the primary years) will still give kids an excellent grasp of the language, the earlier they start (i.e. Kindergarten), the better their fluency and pronunciation will be.

10) French Immersion follows the same curriculum as the English program. The same subject matter is taught, but in French as opposed to English.

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Monday, February 9, 2009

10 Things To NOT Feed Your Dog

I made French Toast the other day and gave my dog the left over batter to drink. For anyone who's never made French Toast, the batter consists of raw egg, milk, cinnamon and nutmeg.

AFTER he eagerly lapped it up, I thought, hmmm - maybe I better check about those spices...

Luckily for us, he had only a small amount, and at 75 pounds is a large breed. Here are some of the dietary no-nos for dogs that I encountered on my web search:

1) Nutmeg (oops). Apparently this can cause seizures and death (who knew? Geez. BAD dog mommy).

2) Chocolate - contains Theobromine, which can cause, among other things, diarrhea. I have personal experience with this one: ten liquid pools of the stuff on our carpet after our dog got into some Christmas fudge my mom sent one year.

3) Grapes and raisins - there's an unknown compound in the "fleshy" part of the grape, which can damage your dog's kidneys.

4) Macadamia nuts - Lethargy, vomiting. I also read that Walnuts can contain fungus that are bad for dogs - after reading that, I'm not so sure I want to eat them either.

5) Mushroom - the toxin varies with mushroom species, and can result in everything from hallucinations to death. (This is where a funnier blogger would insert a mushroom = hallucinations wisecrack).

6) Onion & garlic - fresh and dried. Cats appear to be more sensitive than dogs, and garlic appears to be less toxic. Supposedly they can cause hemolytic anemia. We're also advised to avoid baby food, which sometimes contains onion powder.

7) Cat food - too high in protein and fat. Hmmm. I guess our dog better stop snacking from the cat dishes.

8) Green sprouts on raw potatoes can be toxic. This is true for humans as well, so unless your dog will be grazing on the potato greens in your garden, there's little chance of exposure here. Supposedly cooked white potatoes are fine for dogs. Good thing, 'cause ours gets a fair amount of this leftover.

9) Xylitol (artificial sweetener) - can cause a liver reaction that can lead to liver failure in a few days. This supposedly is really dangerous. (Another good reason to eat the sweets yourself instead of sharing, if you ask me ;)

10) Milk & other dairy - adult dogs are lactose intolerant, and can get diarrhea. (I guess the French Toast batter was a really bad idea! Now I know for next time).

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Friday, January 9, 2009

10 Ways To Get Your Kids Some Exercise While At Home

Ewwww... winter slush!!! Who wants to go outside anyway. Stuck in the house with restless kids? Here are some ideas to get them moving and work off some energy:

1) Laundry: our laundry room is downstairs and my four year old is always eager to help carry items upstairs. As I fold most of the clothes, I give him one item at a time to bring upstairs and put away. He loves it and keeps coming back down for more.

2) If your child is old enough to follow instructions and can be trusted with a spray bottle, fill one with water only and have him or her wash the walls. My daughter enjoys this one. There is enough reaching, bending and squatting with this task to provide a bit of a workout.

3) One word: Wii!!! We don't have one yet, but it's on our list.

4) Two words: Smart Cycle!!! We have this and love it. For the uninitiated, it's an exercise bike with game cartridges that plugs into the TV. They "race" and play other games, having a grand old time as they furiously pedal away.

5) Create a "running zone". For us it's the hallway by the bedrooms. If it's clear of toys and other obstructions, it's a safe place for them to run their sillies out. They are allowed to run there, but not anywhere else in the house.

6) Make putting away toys a game, such as a race. Require that they take the toys to a different room, such as from the living room to their bedrooms, so that there's walking involved. One of the rules of the game can be that they can only carry one toy at a time, to increase the number of trips they have to make.

7) Do some exercise yourself and make room for them to participate with you. I have an exercise video that my kids love to follow along to, with or without me!

8) Encourage them to play hide and seek - it's more active than computer games or watching TV.

9) Silly dancing: clear enough room on the floor and play one of their music Cd's, and see who can be the silliest dancer.

10) If they really want to watch TV, encourage them to watch "get up and move" shows such as "Bo On The Go" or "Yo Gabba Gabba"
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