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Six ways to help your young children learn another language

Back when most parents in the United States were in school, they took “Foreign Languages.” Most students stuck with them for three or four years, but few became fluent. Most got stuck in the thorns of conjugations and grammar confusion.

Not so today. Multilingualism is an increasingly necessary skill set in our globalized world. And it starts early. Second language proficiency is a life-long learning experience that begins on average during the ages of six and nine years old around the world .

Contrary to common misconceptions, research shows that a child’s brain can discern and negotiate up to three different languages from birth to the age of three. Research says that at that age the child’s brain shifts into a mode that imprints one of those as the first-language and the other as the second. So, the earlier you begin language exposure at home, the stronger your child’s disposition to become bilingual will be.

So, how can parents support world language acquisition at home? Some refer to their own limited exposure to foreign languages during their school years while other parents might draw upon their heritage language speaker experience to approach language learning. Regardless of your exposure to language or experience teaching your child a world language, it is something you can do and feel empowered to endeavor.

Although it can seem as a challenging task for many parents, I offer a series of practical approaches that should make the process genuine, attainable, and fun for the whole family.

How to Recognize a Successful Math Program

No other subject seems to create as much anxiety as math. You may not like history or English, but few of us ever say “I couldn’t do English” or “I didn’t have a history mind.”  As math students, we all have stories about teachers who failed us and teachers who inspired us. Mrs. Spencer and Mrs. Kelso encouraged me to stretch beyond my peers and take math with the grades ahead of me. On the other hand, Mrs. Culp didn’t see any need (or feel any responsibility) for me to succeed in Algebra II. As parents we bring our own experiences — good and not so good — with us when we approach our own children’s relationship with math. Our children will have their own experiences; our task is to provide the best program with the most qualified teachers possible in which they will thrive.

The Teen in Trouble: When to Defend and When to Support

Our teenagers rarely need us to defend them, but they always need us to support them. Parents sometimes assume that supporting their child means defending them. I would assert that defending your child may be a short-term remedy, but it does not provide the sustainable and effective support that teenagers both crave and require in order to become accountable adults. What situations require defense and how to circumvent our desires to stand in between our child and a difficult situation?  


The Art of Not Reacting to Your Teen’s Reactions

So, you just told your child they can’t do something. Maybe you said no to a concert, a movie date with a young driver, or a gathering with no adult supervision. What happens next? Does your child storm out of the room fuming under their breath? Sulk for an entire evening? Slam his door on the way into his room?

All of these possibilities are disruptive and unsettling to a parent. However, they are totally normal reactions when teenagers don’t get their way. One of the mistakes parents make is to call their teenager on how they “react” to being told no. Teenagers, like all of us, do not like to be denied something they want. Most are not mature or self-aware enough to thank their parent for making the tough decisions.

If you have a teenager that defies you, then that is something to be very concerned about. But, if you simply have a teenager who feels angry at you, and as a result may say a throw-away comment, or spend an evening showing just how much they disapprove of your decision, then you have a teen who is acting well within the parameters of normal behavior. 


How to Get Your Teens to Talk

We all want our teenagers to open up and talk to us, but it is often easier in concept than in execution. After spending my career working with teenagers, raising my own, and in my current role as the Dean of Students at a top independent school, I have a couple of insights that might help.


Outside the Bubble: Keeping Your Food-Allergic Children Safe When You Send Them to School

As an Early Childhood educator and mother of two energetic boys in preschool and 7th grade, I have spent a lot of time over the past 15 years talking to parents about their hopes and dreams (and even fears) for their young children as they try to find the perfect school in which to grow them into life-long learners.  Among the top five things that they list as the most important factors in choosing the right fit, are that their child will be known and that they will be loved. It should come as no surprise in today’s world that also making the list is that their child be safe. This takes on a whole new meaning for parents of a child with allergies.

Children spend 40 hours or more a week outside of the protective bubble of their home during the school year; hours when their parents have to trust that they are being cared for by teachers and professionals who have not only their child’s education in mind, but also their health and safety. As a mother myself, I can imagine how nerve wracking this must be for a parent of a child with life-threatening allergies. According to, more than three million children in the United States have food-related allergies. With that in mind, here are some tips to help you lessen the worry by creating a knowledgeable, caring community for your child at school:


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