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Spring Cleaning at Bilingual Monkeys (with Timely Info for Spring 2015)

Cherry blossoms in Hiroshima
The cherry blossoms were beautiful this year, perfect for a few strolls and picnics.

Today I’d like to do some spring cleaning. It was a busy winter and I think it’s time to report on a variety of things related to my recent efforts. Please read on, as I bet you’ll find some useful bits of information. (I’ll also sprinkle in fun photos and a video clip from the past few months!)

Update on my New Year’s resolutions

I made six resolutions for 2015. If you’re curious to see them all, just refer to my New Year’s post. Here, I’ll offer an update on three of them…

Get my kids reading and writing more in the minority language

There are two ongoing challenges for me when it comes to advancing my children’s reading and writing ability: a lack of time for these activities in the minority language, and the fact that my daughter isn’t a natural bookworm.

Still, we continue to make solid progress with a combination of these daily efforts:

1. Homework routine
As I’ve described in detail at this blog, our daily homework routine includes both reading and writing tasks. The amount of work is limited, to fit realistically into our day, but the routine is persistent—very, very persistent—and this pays off significantly over time.
Secrets of a Successful Homework Routine, Part 1
Secrets of a Successful Homework Routine, Part 2

This doesn’t mean my kids never resist doing homework. In fact, below is a recent video of my daughter doing her “No More Homework Dance.” But, as I explain in Why I’m Like This Rumbling Volcano (And Why You Should Be, Too), because I’m very firm about sustaining this routine, the homework is completed and checked every day.

2. Comic books
I continue to add new comic books and graphic novels to our growing collection and these encourage independent reading during free time or at bed time. Their favorites lately are big volumes of Calvin & Hobbes comic strips. (If you don’t know Calvin & Hobbes, definitely take a look at these books. This comic strip is one of the best, and funniest, ever made.)
How Comic Books Can Give Your Kids Bilingual Super Powers
Recommended Resources: Captivating Comic Books for English Learners

3. Captive reading
Captive reading has long been my most important “secret weapon” in this never-ending quest to get my kids reading more on their own. These days, I’m posting nonfiction texts on the bathroom door to also enrich their background knowledge of the world. For example, to broaden their understanding of American culture, I’ve been photocopying passages from a reading book about the United States.
What is Captive Reading and How Will It Help My Bilingual Child?
My Favorite Way to Get a Bilingual Child Reading More in Minority Language

Jumping for joy at Hiroshima Bay
During a warm day in winter, we went for a walk (and a joyful jump) by Hiroshima Bay.

Because I’ve taught school-age children for many years, I have a good sense of literacy levels for each grade. At the same time, my brother, who lives in the U.S. and has a 10-year-old son—the same age as Lulu—recently shared with me some examples of his son’s work from school.

Despite the fact she isn’t exactly an eager reader, I’m pleased that Lulu’s progress in the minority language continues to parallel the grade level of her monolingual peers. Along with comic books, I’ve had some success getting her to read independently with nonfiction material that’s targeted to her interests, like the books I mentioned a few months ago in Big Breakthrough with My Bilingual Daughter?. However, if she doesn’t become a more active reader through the teen years—and receives no formal schooling in English—maintaining this same “parallel progress” will likely be difficult.

Meanwhile, Roy, who just turned 8, is now nearly at the same reading level as his sister. I attribute this mainly to the fact that, by nature, he’s more inclined to pick up a book and quietly read when he has free time. As with Lulu, I try to stoke this desire, too, by supplying him with books that I think will appeal to him, like The Guinness Books of World Records, and keeping these books persistently in view to attract his interest.

Support my kids in learning Spanish, and study Spanish myself

My kids began learning Spanish last fall and they’re doing pretty well. A woman from Spain, who now lives in Hiroshima, comes to our house twice a month to give a lively lesson, and I’ve also been assigning daily pages in a workbook.

When it comes to my own Spanish, though, I’m afraid I haven’t made much progress at all! Although I’m pretty disciplined about other things, this discipline hasn’t yet extended to studying Spanish. I have a couple of helpful books, but I haven’t spent any regular time with them. Lately, though, I’ve felt a bit frustrated with myself because I think my lack of progress is hindering my own children’s learning. Because I don’t have much ability, I’m unable to support them as effectively as I know I could.

I need to make this a higher priority, and a regular part of my daily routine…or lower my expectations for the pace of their language development.

Finish and share my book Maximize Your Child’s Bilingual Ability

I’m now bringing together my thoughts on raising bilingual children in a book titled Maximize Your Child’s Bilingual Ability. My goal for this book is to provide ideas that will not only help parents achieve success, but maximize that success. After all, language ability is a continuum and progress has no real end. The question is: How far can you and your child go? I’m confident that this book will help propel parents and children farther on their journey.

At this point, I’ve written about three-quarters of the book…but I wasn’t able to concentrate on it for the past two weeks because my kids were home for the spring break between the old and new school years. (In Japan, the school year ends in March and begins in April.) As much as I love my kids, their constant squabbling is an unending distraction!

Fighting under the cherry blossoms
Here they are, fighting under the big cherry tree not far from our house. (At least they were fighting in the minority language.)

Anyway, if you’d like “inside information” on my new book as I get closer to completing it—and have the chance to win a free preview copy, too—just subscribe to this special email list. (Note: This list is separate from my newsletter list and needs an additional subscription.)

Sorry, this list is now closed.
Click to subscribe to my list for Maximize Your Child’s Bilingual Ability.

Popular posts you may have missed

Roy trains wild deer at Miyajima.
For many more photos (and video) from a memorable visit to the island of Miyajima, see “How Many Steps Is the Bilingual Journey?”.

Since January, I’ve written a number of posts that have proven popular with readers. If you missed any of these articles, here’s a chance to catch up!

The Magical Ingredient for Motivating Your Bilingual Child
How can you kindle more motivation in your children for the tasks you give them?

VIDEO: With Bilingual Kids, There’s a Madness to My Method
Maximize your children’s engagement in the minority language by matching their madness for play.

INFOGRAPHIC: 10 Things I Love About Bilingual Kids
A fun infographic for Valentine’s Day (and every day)!

The High and Lows of Another Week Raising Bilingual Kids
Four stories from one week in my bilingual journey, to offer insight into my struggles and successes, and inspiration for your own efforts.

Do This One Simple Thing and I Guarantee You Greater Success On Your Bilingual Journey
What simple action, made into a regular habit, can have a powerful impact on your daily efforts and your children’s bilingual development?

How Many Steps is the Bilingual Journey? (With Revealing Photos and Video!)
The bilingual journey is thousands of steps, uphill, but they only need to be taken one at a time.

WARNING: Do Not, Under Any Circumstances, Read This Blog Post About Raising Bilingual Children
You mustn’t read this blog post! It’s much too dangerous! It contains dreadful secrets you don’t want to know!

Developments at The Bilingual Zoo

I opened this forum last July, and I’ve been happy to see it grow into a lively, supportive community for “keepers” of bilingual kids. Although anyone can read and benefit from the information found on the forum boards, only members can actively make posts. But becoming a member is free—just register for an account to get started. (While the forum is free for members and visitors alike, a small annual donation to sustain and enhance the site is encouraged and appreciated.)

In fact, I’ve been working behind the scenes over the past couple of months to make some of those enhancements. In my post next week I’ll share much more about the growth of The Bilingual Zoo.

In the meantime, please stop by and say hello…

The Bilingual Zoo: A community for keepers of bilingual kids

Struggles with social media

I admit, I have mixed feelings about social media. I know it’s important for sharing information, and reaching more people, but I just don’t have much time or energy for it. I maintain an active Facebook page and Twitter account for Bilingual Monkeys, sharing posts from this blog and threads at The Bilingual Zoo, but I’m unable to do much more than that. (I don’t even use my personal Facebook page.)

Sometimes I feel badly about this, because I wish I could interact more personally at these platforms, and I wish I was better about sharing other people’s posts, too…but I’m afraid I struggle to keep up. To me, social media is like this big, gushing river and I’m in there flailing around, trying to hold my head above water. So if you’d like me to share something on Facebook or Twitter, just let me know. I’m always happy to do it, but I need a direct nudge!

My Facebook page:

My Twitter page:

The new school year has begun

Little monkey transforms into little monster.
And not a moment too soon!

As I mentioned, my kids were on vacation for the past couple of weeks. We had plenty of fun, but I also wanted them to stay productive. (Even if I couldn’t be as productive during this time!) So every morning, after I read to them at breakfast, I would make their “to-do list” for that day. I describe this little tactic fully in How to Get Your Kids to Do Exactly What You Want, but I have to tell you that it continues to work wonders with my kids. The list provides structure for their day, helping them stay focused on their tasks. It’s a simple idea, but it’s had a hugely positive impact on their behavior and their efforts. And it makes life much easier for my wife and me, too, since we no longer have to continually nag them to complete homework or household chores.

This week, though, they returned to school. Lulu is now in 5th grade and Roy is in 3rd grade. At this blog I’ve written a lot about how schooling in Japanese, our majority language, has affected our bilingual journey. If schooling in the majority language is part of your journey, too, I highly recommend a close look at these articles…
Do Your Bilingual Children Go to School in the Majority Language?
Help! My Bilingual Children Are Losing Their Ability in the Minority Language!
Watch Out for the Tough “Second Stage” of Bilingual Development
Why I Don’t Want My Kids to Do Well in School

Bilingual Monkeys live!

I’ll be giving a two-hour presentation about raising bilingual children on Sunday afternoon, April 19 in downtown Hiroshima. If you live anywhere nearby, I’d be happy to see you there! For all the details, visit this page at Hiroshima JALT, the organizer of my talk.

How about you? What’s the latest news from your bilingual journey?

Comments, please!

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Welcome to Bilingual Monkeys!

I’m Adam Beck, the founder of this blog and The Bilingual Zoo, a lively worldwide forum for parents raising bilingual or multilingual kids. I’m also the author of the popular books Maximize Your Child’s Bilingual Ability and Bilingual Success Stories Around the World. I’ve been an educator and writer in this field for 25 years as well as the parent of two bilingual children, now 19 and 16. I hope my work can help empower the success of your bilingual journey.

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