Thursday, 29 September 2011

The post I wrote about Ernest's early language development has been included in September's Blogging Carnival on Bilingualism. Each month one member of the carnival plays host, sharing links to posts that other blogging-parents-of-bilingual-children have written about their experiences raising bi/multilingual children.  This months carnival is being hosted by Jan at Babelkid so go over and have a look at the other posts too.

You can sign up to recieve notification about submitions for the carnival here.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

I ♥ free food.

Last Monday when I took Lily to school I was greeted by my dear friend Päivi, with a bag of delicious treats. This summer she has rented a garden and has been growing (among other things) various salad leaves, peas and beans (which is what my gift bag contained. As I cycled home through the forest I couldn't resist stopping for some blueberries...the season is almost over and I had a spare bag so really I had to. Sometime later I emerged from the forest with about 700g of blueberries and continued on my way home. By this point I was obsessed, I HAD to pick some rhubarb (1kg) from in front of my balcony before going inside and on my way to university an hour later I had to stop to gather some lingonberries (aprox 600g). 

I am starting to gather various contacts for getting free food/food where I know its story. This weekend my whole family went north to help harvesting Sari’s grandparents’ potatoes, for our help we got some of the delicious potatoes . 

Also, the father of some of Gábor’s Hungarian students is a full time software engineer/part time wheat farmer; his grain has been harvested ready to be milled in the winter. After telling him about how Gábor has been baking our bread since being back in Finland he has offered us flour once it is milled.

I have been re-watching River Cottage (season 2) with Ernest recently; he likes to watch the animals and I like to dream of days that might be. Days when all our food will be grown ourselves, collected from the wild or bartered with friends.

"Homework is more important than playing with your friends!"... umm... are you sure about that?

One of the problems with studying education is that you start to for some serious opinions (and arguments) about what the purpose of school is and what school should be. It becomes impossible to find a school that matches exactly with your educational philosophy. One of the things that we like about Waldorf-Steiner education is the importance it gives to play and imagination; play and imagination are intrinsic to a child’s development (yes, we went with the Steiner school – the story of that will come soon).

When I had heard the Lily's teacher had told her today that doing her homework was more important then playing with her friends I got seriously pissed off. Personally, I don't agree with homework (I will discuss exactly why in some other post sometime) but wither you are with giving homework or not, the question of which is more important, homework or play, is a separate issue entirely. Her homework was to write out a line each of the letters "d", "e" and "f"; repetition of work already done in school. If we compare only the "learning experience" of playing with her friends, there is a (as far as I am concerned) a clear winner when it comes to "importance".

Last week Lily spent an afternoon playing at her friend Milla's home.  Milla is an old friend of Lily's from daycare; she’s a shy, quiet girl and when they play together Lily tends to take the lead. Lily didn’t speak a word of Finnish (despite understanding almost everything after only a few months) which meant that whenever she was playing she always just joined in or followed along.  She rarely challenged the “rules of the game” or initiated play. “Following” remained Lily’s way of playing even once she started to speak Finnish and when we were in Hungary so playing with Milla helps her to develop initiative, it makes her feel comfortable and learn how to express her wishes and ideas.

Aside from character development, taking the lead means that she is generating speech in Finnish, and a lot of it.  While Steiner school (in theory) puts an emphasis on play, the classroom activities are mainly teacher led – listening, which is a whole different cognitive process to speech production.  Lily didn’t use Finnish at all last year (and forgot almost all of the language) and we don’t use Finnish at home so she is kind of “playing catch-up” with the other kids in terms of vocabulary and complexity of language use.  Any chance for her to be in an environment where she is using Finnish will be of a huge benefit to her when it comes to being in a Finnish classroom.

It isn’t even just the Finnish language that Lily gains from being in a Finnish home but also Finnish norms. In any culture (and its institutions) there are certain things that are just done or just are, that need no explanation. However when you are not fully living within that culture sometimes these things just don’t make sense and do need to be explained. Spending time in more “typically Finnish” environments help Lily (and us) to understand why some things in her school are as they are.

This is only one afternoon with one friend. How about when she plays in the playground in front of our apartment? The 3 kids she plays with most are all native German speakers with limited Finnish and/or English – Did I mention that German is one of the languages they are learning in school? Where do you think she will learn more German? School or the playground?

What about what others can lean through Lily. Also last week we had one of the neighbours’ kids at our place for the whole afternoon. The child’s father is a supporters of Perussuomalaiset (True Finns (or The Finns – they recently changed their English name)), a far right/ anti-immigration party, yet the child is now playing in the home of immigrants, building a friendship with an immigrant child. And through Lily we are making connections with the whole family. We are making an effort to try to understand their perspective and we are challenging their perceptions of “the immigrant” or “the other”.

So what do you thing Lily learns more from? Which is more important?

But then all this rant of mine is irrelevant. It doesn’t matter what she learns or which teaches her more. Frankly the simple argument is. She is a child. There is nothing more important for children than play.

Thursday, 8 September 2011


I am on a serious winning streak apparently. This morning I got an email from jojoebi at A Bit of This & A Bit of That telling me I had won the book "Playful Learning" by Mariah Brueh in the blog tour giveaway. I had come across the Playful Learning blog when a crafty blog I read advertised a photo/visual journal course for kids. Although I couldn't do the course with Lily (lack of funds again...sometimes I really hate being poor), the stuff Mariah does looked interesting and when her book came out I followed along on the blog tour. The prize not only included the book but also a place on her Playful Learning Spaces eCourse.So  I will be doing a course with her after all.

Thank you Mariah and Jojoebi for the prizes.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

I won...twice

Not quite the lottery but still, I never won anything then I won twice in one week.

There is is a really nice quarterly, online magazine called Nuno which  is loaded with with patterns and instructions for sewing, knitting and other crafty projects, but the reason I like it so  much is that all the projects use recycled materials. I discovered the magazine a few months ago but our finances have been so tight (particularly for the last year) that I couldn't even justify (to myself) spending the $5 that the magazine costs. Instead I read accompanying blog; checking out the sneak peeks and taking advantage of the occasional free tutorial...and of course, entering a give away when it came along. The most recent of which was for theses Matchbox Dioramas, which was my first win of the week.

Image from Painted Desert by Nuno

Each box was filled with little hand carved beads (which Lily loves) and have now found a happy place to live on a shelf next to Lily's wooden 3D pyramid seemed like a fitting place for them.

Picture from this Nuno blog post
As if original (and featured) art work was not exiting enough, later the same week, in a give away from Sew, Mama, Sew! I won the actual magazine. Woo hoo, finally I can have a look at the whole thing. I guess most people will be getting upcycled gifts from me this winter. Here is a peek inside the magazine at some of the things my dear friends and family can look forward to receiving.

What a great distraction to receive right at the start of the school year.
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