Focus on International Baccalaureate: The Teaching Differences

Focus on International Baccalaureate: The Teaching Differences

The benefits of International Baccalaureate (IB) programs are unparalleled during primary and secondary education, as well as post-graduation. IB programs give students a unique learning experience they will carry with them throughout their educational careers and beyond.

According to the IB organization’s website, the programs are gaining momentum collectively. Their latest annual statistics bulletin, published in March 2019, showed an increase of 39 percent in global IB program participation.

So, what is it about IB teaching programs that is garnering so much attention in the educational world? To put it simply, it’s an educational curriculum that’s focused on individual thinking with global responsibility.

To understand its effectiveness, we must first understand its differences. In other words, how does IB teaching differ from traditional teaching methods?

The IB Program

The International Baccalaureate program is one that was founded in Switzerland half a century ago with the purpose of broadening global learning and responsibility. As such, the teachings have since expanded immensely and developed methods that promote this multicultural educational experience.

Since its creation, the IB program has grown exponentially and is now incorporated in thousands of educational facilities worldwide. It is also offered across four different educational program levels ranging from early childhood education up through adult career programs. Each level focuses on different aspects of multicultural learning, but the techniques share the same basis. They are also distinctly different from traditional teaching methods.

IB Teaching Differences

IB programs are focused on giving students the ability to expand their knowledge outside the four walls of their homes and classrooms. The teaching is based on global communities and critical thinking that impacts larger-scale communities. In other words, it is focused on tearing down the cultural divides that separate us with traditional learning.

The cornerstone of IB teaching lies with bilingualism and multilingualism. In order to break down cultural barriers, we must first be able to communicate with other cultures. For that reason, foreign language is an integral part of all IB programs.

IB learning is about so much more than bilingualism, however. Course offerings in foreign languages alone do not qualify an educational facility for IB learning credentials. The IB learning experience is about using those courses as one part of a multi-faceted teaching approach.

Multi-Faceted Teaching

According to the International Baccalaureate Organization’s website, there are specific criteria that define an IB program and differentiate it from standardized teaching. The teaching approach must include the following:

  • An emphasis on critical thinking and encouraging students to challenge their knowledge
  • Key teachings on procuring credible, quality research on all inquests
  • Encouraging students to think on a global scale – outside of local and national levels and agendas
  • Focus on developing multilingual skills to expand global communication opportunities

Overall, the difference between IB teaching and traditional standardized teaching approaches lies with the bigger picture. The focus of IB teaching is to give students a solid foundation for learning that will drive them in their educational careers for years to come. It is to give students a sense of purpose measured well beyond localized issues and test results. IB teaching instead, focuses on arming students with tools to break down international barriers, and the drive to actively participate in the world around them. It is a method that instills a feeling of multicultural connectivity and global responsibility – one which will follow them throughout their lives.

The Benefits of International Baccalaureate Education Programs

The Benefits of International Baccalaureate Education Programs

With unparalleled benefits, international baccalaureate educational programs are gaining in popularity across the country. By focusing curricula on a greater global cultural experience, children involved in these programs are exposed to “bigger picture” education. How? Let’s take a look.

According to the International Baccalaureate (IB) organization, programs focused on IB “strive to develop students who will build a better world through intercultural understanding and respect.” By incorporating international studies within the framework of daily curricula, IB schools teach children to consider larger scale imperatives.

What Is International Baccalaureate Education

The concept of IB programs lies with a focus on global thinking across all platforms and processes. While it certainly includes international language disciplines, IB studies root much deeper into the curricula than one area of discipline.

“The aim of all IB programs is to develop internationally minded people who, recognizing their common humanity and shared guardianship of the planet, help to create a better and more peaceful world.” – IBO.org.

With stress on crossing cultural borders through educational experience, IB programs create a unique, all-inclusive curriculum for students. It works by encouraging students to develop critical thinking skills that allow them to see issues on a global scale, rather than simply processing closed, local elements.

How It Works

Since IB programs are a deeper concept than simple course curriculum, they build a stronger understanding of international issues. These programs are more in-depth than studying cultural textbooks. They are a focus on meaningful cultural experiences and encourage interaction on a level far beyond the classroom.

This learning begins with language learning, as mentioned previously. The cornerstone of any IB program is to first be able to communicate effectively with others globally. This is done by teaching students in a bilingual or multi-lingual manner. Since communication is critical to accomplishing change on any level, it goes without saying that being able to communicate with a larger global population would open doors to greater changes.

Going Beyond the Languages

It’s true that foreign language learning is a crucial piece of all IB learning programs, but IB learning goes well beyond language coursework. Integrated within the curricula, IB programs must also include an interactive approach which encourages students to go beyond the textbook. These elements of the IB program are what make them stand out amongst traditional learning techniques.

By placing interactive opportunities in front of students, the IB experience gets learners out of the classroom and into situations which promote cognitive expansion. It is a means of introducing students to a broader understanding of cultures and the collective good by allowing them to develop early critical thinking skills.

“These elements challenge the student to critically consider power and privilege, and to recognize that he or she holds this planet and its resources in trust for future generations… (it is) a focus on moving beyond awareness and understanding to engagement, action and bringing about meaningful change.” – IBO.org.

The International Difference

The difference between IB learning and traditional educational experiences lies within the method of developing independent thinking and actions. By immersing students in an international mindset, the difference goes well beyond traditional standardized learning.

Rather than a strict focus on textbook curricula, students are taught to think on a broader scale across all coursework. In other words, they are taught to think (and act) beyond the book. They also learn to think and act beyond localized cultures and issues as well, which is a skill that will be critical for future development.

The Benefits of IB Learning

International Baccalaureate programs offer a wide range of benefits to students. While some may be obvious – such as giving them a broader perspective on global and cultural issues – there are many more benefits to consider as well.

With bilingualism and multilingualism at the base of IB learning, students gain critical communication skills that will serve them throughout their lives and careers. By expanding their ability to communicate with other cultures, they are increasing their opportunities to make a greater impact across the globe.

Improved communication skills follow students into every aspect of life. In addition, the unique multi-cultural experiences they learn in school will allow them to not only pick up communication skills, but also critical thinking and learning skills in general.

“Students are able to take responsibility for their own learning and understand how knowledge itself is constructed… They are encouraged to try different approaches to learning and to take responsibility for their own educational progress.” – IBO.org.

This independent teaching and learning process gives students the means to apply their knowledge to real-life scenarios with greater cognitive reasoning and approach. In essence, it allows students to learn a better way to learn.

These crucial skills are assets that students will carry with them well beyond graduation. It will play a role in gaining them the best experiences with post-graduation training and education. In fact, according to the IBO.org, students who have access to International Baccalaureate programs during primary and secondary schooling have greater access to the world’s most prestigious universities after commencement.

University Appeal

Overall, students who attend facilities with IB programming tend to be highly attractive to top ranked universities. Why? These students offer universities a great deal of skill and development that is highly beneficial to higher education.

“IB students are more likely than their peers to complete their undergraduate degrees and pursue graduate work; and they are more likely to be engaged in various aspects of university life.” – IBO.org.

These students have such a success rate due to the independent thinking and community concern and involvement they picked up in their early years. Since IB programs encourage a look at the bigger picture and drive students to become engaged in their communities, these students are well-equipped for the academics and discipline needed to succeed during university studies.

Some of the greatest skills gained by IB students, according to IBO.org, include:

  • Independent research and thinking
  • Community involvement
  • Multicultural understanding and concern
  • Strong desire to engage and make a difference around them

A Lifetime of Learning

The scope of IB learning goes well beyond the primary and secondary years. Perhaps the greatest benefit of these programs is that they fully equip students for success throughout their lives. By opening eyes to other cultures, expanding communication, and encouraging independent thinking, IB learning is centered around instilling a greater sense of purpose and responsibility globally within our children.  

Language Spotlight Series: French - Boosting Your Child's Future Opportunities

Language Spotlight Series: French – Boosting Your Child’s Future Opportunities

For the final segment of our Language Spotlight Series, we are taking a look at the benefits of choosing French as a bilingual study program for early education. While we’ve thoroughly covered the immense benefits of bilingual learning in previous sections of the series, for this portion we will be focused solely on the advantages of introducing your little one to French.

If you’re considering enrolling your child into French lessons, you’re not alone. With over 220 million French-speaking individuals across the globe (according to diplomatic policy resources), it’s quite evident that French is much more than just a beautiful romance language.

Spotlight on French

Diplomatie.gouv.fr states France is “the world’s fifth biggest economy and a leading destination for foreign investment.” As such, learning the language of such an economic powerhouse is certainly a valuable skill to acquire – but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Here is a look at five of the most important benefits to adding French to your child’s educational curriculum:

1 – French Economic Investment

As mentioned previously, France is a major player in world economic development and investment as well as endless other areas. You may think of France as a place for delicious food and romance, (and you’d be right, for sure), but it’s much more than that. The companies and interests rooted in French industry are major players in the world economic picture, so it goes without saying that learning the language is a huge plus for future economic opportunities.

2 – Rich Cultural Experience

If you’re looking for your child to gain more than simply a linguistic advantage, few languages open more cultural doors than French. French culture is deeply rooted in the arts, cooking, and theater – all of which offer immensely enriching experiences for those who open themselves to it.

“French is the international language of cooking, fashion, theater, the visual arts, dance and architecture. A knowledge of French offers access to great works of literature in the original French, as well as films and songs.” – Diplomatie.gouv.fr.

3 – It Opens Doors Linguistically

Another major benefit of studying French is the linguistic similarities it shares with other languages. While it’s certainly not an exact translation, there are many benefits to picking up the similarities between English and French. In other words, learning how the two languages have developed and share certain key components helps to understand other languages even more. In short, by picking up French, it helps students learn even more languages later in life with ease due to the ability to recognize those base components and transfer them to other cultures.

“The knowledge you gain about your own language equips you with a plethora of tools you can use to learn further languages, and if you choose to learn another romance language – Portuguese, Spanish or Italian, for example – then you’ll recognize a host of grammatical and lexical similarities.” – Babbel.com.

4 – International Connections

The United Nations recognizes French as both a “working language and an official language” (diplomatie.gouv.fr). As such, its presence can be found worldwide in organizations such as the Red Cross, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), global embassies, and even the Olympic committee. What does this mean for your child? Well, it means it’s opening up a world of fascinating opportunities in practically every avenue of adult life.

5 – The World’s Top Travel Destination

It’s hard to consider French language and culture without considering the immense travel and tourism attached to it. According to French statistics, “France is the world’s top tourist destination and attracts more than 87 million visitors a year” (diplomatie.gouv.fr).

By introducing French to your child, you’re opening doors to not only economic and career opportunities, but opportunities for travel, higher education, and culture as well. Speak with educators to discover even more benefits to adding French to your child’s curriculum!

Language Spotlight Series: Spanish - Giving Your Child a Career Advantage

Language Spotlight Series: Spanish – Giving Your Child a Career Advantage

More and more evidence has come to light in recent years in support of adding a second (or third) language to your child’s curriculum. While many parents may be apprehensive about introducing additional language learning to their child at a young age, research has shown early education is a fantastic time to begin bilingual teaching.

According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, studies have shown that the most important learning process of early education involves language and literacy development. These two skills, which are intertwined, form the basic foundation for all other learning processes your child will encounter the rest of their lives.

“The primary goal of early schooling is to establish the foundational skills upon which children will build their educational futures. The most important of these abilities are the language and literacy competence.” – The U.S. National Library of Medicine.

It goes without saying then, that a focus on language learning is the key to the best academic potential for children. In fact, adding dual language learning to their academia during early education years, serves to boost their comprehension skills even further, according to recent research by the National Institute of Health (NIH).

As the NIH reports, the Lindholm-Leary study, conducted in 2014, showed “…children in the bilingual program outperform(ed) the English-only instruction group in both English and Spanish test scores by the end of second grade.”

The research results leave us with compelling evidence in support of introducing bilingual learning at a young age. Which in turn, begs the question, “how do we choose which language is best?” Our Language Spotlight Series is going to take a look at two of the top ranked languages chosen for children around the world: Spanish and French. This month we will be focusing our articles on discovering the benefits of each language option, beginning with Spanish.

Spotlight on Spanish

According to international census results, conducted by Swedish educational group, Nationalencyklopedin.com, in 2010 there were 405 million Spanish speakers throughout the world. These census results showed there are nearly 50 million more people globally who speak Spanish than there are who speak English – and that was 9 years ago. The numbers are only increasing with each year.

What does this mean? Well, to put it simply, there are more opportunities for your child if they speak Spanish than there are if they speak English. Imagine the possibilities if they were bilingual and able to speak both.

“In the United States alone there are over 50 million people who speak Spanish as their native or second language. So even if you don’t fancy yourself a globetrotter, Spanish is probably the most useful language to learn…” – Babbel.com.

If you base your decision on numbers, Spanish is a likely front-runner for bilingual education options for your child, but it’s so much more than just a popular choice. Here are five of the top benefits to consider when choosing Spanish as a second language for your child’s early educational curriculum:

1 – Opportunities

When you choose a language that is the second most spoken language across the globe, you’re choosing so much more than just a language voted most likely to succeed or most popular in the annual polls. You’re choosing opportunities for your child.

With so many people speaking Spanish – both in the United States and around the world – learning the more common language seems a no-brainer. By learning to communicate with a larger base of the global population, you will be giving your child the tools to close gaps between cultures and open up lines of communication with endless individuals and multi-lingual opportunities.

“Spanish is the second most-spoken language in the world. The opportunities for Spanish speakers across the globe are endless!” – Leapfrog.com.

2 – Stronger Linguistic Core

Perhaps one of the greatest advantages to consider when signing your child up for Spanish language instruction, lies in the foundational work. While you may be afraid your child will be confused by using multiple languages in the early years, the contrary is actually true – particularly when learning Spanish.

English and Spanish share many commonalities in their core linguistics. In fact, both have strong Latin roots and have multiple words that are so similar they are basically the same (or literally, are the same) – and easily understood.

“Studying Spanish increases children’s understanding of the English language and how different languages evolve, which can also help with learning English vocabulary.” – Leapfrog.com.

Going back to the study findings listed above from the U.S. National Library of Medicine, language and linguistic learning is the most critical piece of your child’s early education. By extension then, choosing a course of study that helps boost your child’s ability to understand and develop these foundational linguistic skills makes perfect sense.

3 – Ease of Understanding

In a related benefit, since Spanish and English share so many commonalities, it also makes it a fairly simple language for young minds to pick up. There are literally thousands of words in the Spanish language that share a base with English words. Actually, there are several thousand that share an exact same spelling and meaning in both languages.

Words like capital, editorial, federal, hospital, manual, normal, and thousands more share the same meaning and spelling, just to give an example. English and Spanish are highly relatable and easily understood, so it goes without saying that the earlier you begin bilingual studies, the easier it is to pick up. With so many similarities, children will be able to pick up Spanish as a second language in no time.

4 – Breaking Barriers

Because learning a second language is more than just opening opportunities, it’s important to consider the bilateral advantages. While your child will certainly be picking up fantastic core linguistic lessons and opening doors to communicating with a larger portion of the global population, there is more to the picture.

According to Babbel Magazine, there are actually more Spanish speaking individuals in the United States than there are in Spain. The Spanish-speaking population in the United States is second in size only to that of Mexico – giving an even greater opportunity for immersion learning.

With a language as vastly used as Spanish, becoming fluent does more than just open communication lines – it breaks down communication barriers. When the language barriers are taken down, cultural learning and enrichment are open and available for even greater impacts on our children.

“Dual language programs show students a broader world-view, whatever the native language of the student, and lead to greater opportunities for collaborative learning.” – Huffington Post.

5 – Increased Fluency

When you consider all of the factors above, it makes sense to deduce that Spanish as a second language comes with an increased chance for fluency later in life when introduced at an early age. Combining the fact that the two languages share so many similarities, with the fact that they increase linguistic foundations overall, it’s easy to understand how your child will be building a strong potential for continuing their learning later in life.

“It generally takes five to seven years to be proficient in a second language… In other words, U.S. students should be introduced to a second language at a young age in order to be fluent by adulthood.” – Huffington Post.

Overall, when choosing a second language for early childhood education, a vast majority of parents have chosen Spanish for a multitude of reasons. With the increasing Spanish-speaking population and wide-spread use of Spanish across the globe, it’s certainly the most popular choice. It also shares a root in Latin-based linguistics, giving it so many similarities to English and making it an easy-learn for young minds.

Whatever your reason, introducing Spanish to early education students has unparalleled benefits across the board. Speak with bilingual educational professionals near you to learn even more advantages to Spanish instruction!

Language Spotlight Series: How to Choose a Second Language for Your Child

Language Spotlight Series: How to Choose a Second Language for Your Child

Language Spotlight Series: How to Choose a Second Language for Your Child

So, you’ve done your research and you’ve seen the benefits of bilingual education for children… now what? If you’re not already a bilingual household, deciding which second language your child should begin learning can be a difficult decision.

Chances are, you have decided to expand your child’s language learning because you’ve seen the immeasurable benefits that come along with it. And because of this, you now want to ensure your child is not only getting the best bilingual education, but firstly, chooses the right bilingual education option.

Understanding that there really is no “wrong” choice here, deciding which language to introduce to your child boils down to essentially what’s right for them. As such, there are a plethora of options and factors to consider before making a final decision. When you’re trying to choose which language is best for your child to begin learning, you’ll want to weigh the following:

Common Languages

One of the biggest considerations is to take a look at what languages are the most common and the most widely-used. While there’s (unfortunately) no way to predict what career path your child will follow when they become adults, you can try to equip them with the broadest set of language skills, or you can choose a more specific and isolated language.

According to USNews.com, “the three most commonly spoken (foreign) languages are Mandarin (898 million), Spanish (437 million), and Arabic (295 million).” Based on this alone, you may choose to select a language that is widely used across the globe to give them a greater opportunity to utilize their language knowledge later in life.

What if, however, you live in an area dense in French or Chinese culture and an education in those languages would be highly useful locally? In these cases, you may choose to select a language that may not be one of the most widely used but would give your child a huge communication benefit in your own community.

Marketability

If your main concern for teaching your child a second language is to give them a leg-up on the job market competition upon college graduation, then you need to take a look at marketability demands. What does this mean? Essentially, it’s researching what languages are behind the most successful career trends and basing your decision on what would give your child the greatest “marketability” later in life.

It’s no surprise that learning a second language improves a child’s prospects for their career advancements. That in mind, teaching them the most in-demand languages can help them even more, according to Readers Digest at RD.com.

“Proficiency in a second language opens the door to new markets for businesses and allows them to create new relationships with prospective partners,” they explain.

What’s trending? Well, if you go by RD, they suggest introducing your child to either French, German or Mandarin as a second language. Those three are the top choices for what is expected to give the greatest growth opportunities in the foreseeable future.

Cultural Aspects

On the flip side, you may not be looking to groom your child to be the next CEO of a multi-national corporation. Perhaps your reason for adding a second language is closer to home.

Many parents choose to incorporate a language that has cultural or familial meaning to them. Some households may even have the added benefit of teaching through immersion language learning if they are already a multilingual home. The beauty of learning a second language is that it’s highly versatile and multifaceted. Being a melting pot of nationalities and heritages, many in the U.S. choose to embrace their cultural beliefs and extend the teachings to new generations.

While adding a second language certainly gives children an advantage they can carry over into the career world, it isn’t the only reason parents choose to incorporate bilingualism. No matter what your reasoning may be, your child will surely benefit from (and have fun learning) whatever second (or third!) language is chosen!

Language Spotlight Series: The Importance of Bilingualism in Early Childhood Education

Language Spotlight Series: The Importance of Bilingualism in Early Childhood Education

Language Spotlight Series: The Importance of Bilingualism in Early Childhood Education

Parents often seek advice from pediatricians and early education professionals on what their children should be learning. By now it’s pretty much common knowledge that reading to young ones is a fundamental tool, as is having frequent conversations with them. These key components teach children the basics for language and communication foundations that will stay with them for the rest of their lives. We know this, right?

If communication and language development is such a critical part of a learning foundation, then many have considered expanding that learning base by adding additional languages. Bilingual education – the act of learning two or more languages simultaneously – is growing in popularity across the globe in recent decades because of this theory.

Considering the fact that 21 percent of young children are already immersed in a second language at home (Hanen.org), it’s easy to understand why multiple languages are being introduced earlier and earlier in schools. In addition, a growing number of the general population speak a language other than English, so learning to be bilingual is becoming more of the “norm” today than ever before.

While some have been hesitant to add a second language to their young child’s educational repertoire, others are discovering how highly beneficial it can be. According to the U.S. Department of Education, “Learning more than one language is an asset to individuals, families, and our entire society.” In fact, many researchers are encouraging parents to consider adding a bilingual approach to their child’s education for numerous reasons.

When it comes to considering a second language, one misconception is that it may confuse a growing child during the early education stage. It’s easy to understand the basis for these concerns, but researchers have now been able to prove they’re not only incorrect, but the exact opposite is true: bilingual children learn better and faster than other children. (The Hanen Centre)

“Bilingual children are better able to focus their attention on relevant information and ignore distractions” – Hanen.org.

The U.S. Department of Education notes several key benefits to teaching children multiple languages during early childhood. To understand the benefits easier, they broke them down into four basic categories: Cognitive Development, Social-Emotional Development, Learning, and Long-Term Success – all of which, contain major benefits for bilingual children.

Cognitive Development

Perhaps the greatest (and most immediate) benefit parents can witness in children learning a second language involves cognitive development. In fact, the Department of Education states children who begin learning second languages before the age of six will “have an easier time understanding math concepts and solving word problems; developing strong thinking skills; using logic; focusing, remembering, and making decisions; thinking about language; and learning other languages.”

According to their research, becoming bilingual serves as a means to sharpen (not confuse) young minds. Essentially, it helps children form a basis for processing more complex tasks and learning processes throughout the rest of their life. Bilingualism builds a solid (and organized) foundation of cognitive development when introduced during early childhood education.

Social-Emotional Development

Since over one-fifth of the population in the United States consists of multilingual families already, broadening this language experience during school hours only serves to enrich family and community ties. By enveloping the multilingual and multicultural approach outside of family doors, communities grow tighter bonds and understanding with one another.

“Being bilingual supports children in maintaining strong ties with their family, culture, and community. Bilingual children are also able to make new friends and create strong relationships using their second language,” according to the U.S. Department of Education. By bridging the communication gap between languages, bilingual children are able to understand and connect with more individuals, building even stronger friendships within their schools and communities.

In addition to building community relations, research has also shown that bilingual children learn better focus and self-control at critical developmental stages. This crucial skill plays out with overall improved communication experiences with others and again, allows them to build better relationships than students who learn a single language.

Bilingualism and Learning

For most parents, one of the biggest concerns during the early education phase is kindergarten readiness. There is a lot of question surrounding how to help children be prepared to not only attend kindergarten but excel in it.

One of the best ways you can ensure your child will get the most out of their early childhood experiences is to introduce a second language early on, research shows. In fact, the benefits of bilingualism on the learning process of children are something they will carry with them for the rest of their life.

“Because they are able to switch between languages, they develop more flexible approaches to thinking through problems,” explains the Department of Education. This translates to being able to focus on key elements more easily. It essentially helps children learn how to intake only the important facts while weeding out the information that is otherwise irrelevant. By doing this, it allows children to fine-tune their learning abilities for everything else to come. It’s not difficult to imagine how this skill will be critical to have throughout their lives.

Long-Term Success

If you want to grasp the kind of impact a bilingual education will have on your child, look at current demographics. According to statistics, 50-65 percent of all adults across the globe now speak a language other than English. By those statistics alone, those who speak only English are already in the minority.

What does this mean for your child? Well, being in the language-minority will most certainly limit the opportunities available to your child as they reach adulthood. By limiting their ability to communicate on a multilingual basis, it is simultaneously limiting their qualifications for future successes.

“Globally, bilingual and biliterate adults have more job opportunities than monolingual adults. (They) have the opportunity to participate in the global community in more ways, get information from more places, and learn more about people from other cultures,” explains the Department of Education.

Overall, more and more researchers are proving that introducing additional languages at an early age has an immensely positive impact on children. In addition to an increase in their ability to focus, higher cognitive function, and improved social and cultural relations, bilingualism has also been linked to several other benefits. Some of which include staving off degenerative cognitive diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Dementia, and a higher annual salary bracket as a result of superior career qualifications.

“Recent brain studies have shown that bilingual people’s brains function better and for longer after developing (Alzheimer’s)… On average, the disease is delayed by four years compared to monolinguals” – Michigan State University News.

This cognitive advantage (as well as the rest of them mentioned above) all boil down to the flexibility and focus that is generated when individuals are immersed in the bilingual world. When bilingual learning begins during the early education years, it has the added benefit of improving their learning potential in multifaceted ways. While adults will still see many of these benefits if picking up a second language later in life, research has shown children stand to benefit the most by becoming bilingual.

If you’re interested in incorporating bilingual learning into your child’s early educational experience, check out these Different Types of Preschool Bilingual Learning for more information.

Will Technology Ruin Your Child's Development?

Will Technology Ruin Your Child’s Development?

Whether it’s screen time or surfing the web, the majority of parents today have questioned the effects of technology on their children. Many have been left feeling rather confused with the immense amount of data on both sides of the debate. Is the internet going to melt the brains of our kiddos by destroying their ability to focus? Or is it going to open up endless possibilities and prepare them for an ultra-successful future?

Since technology led by the internet age is still, in essence, in its own childhood phase, we have limited resources for determining the full effect on developing minds. We don’t have the ability to examine historical patterns nor do we know how fast things will continue to expand. Nevertheless, there is plenty of data out there to help parents make a fully-educated decision.

The fact is, technology is empirically unavoidable today. There are technological devices and influences in virtually every aspect of our lives, and our children are no exception. Technology influences extend much further than video games and cell phones anymore. In fact, many classrooms are well-equipped with laptops, tablets, whiteboards and other devices to supplement their learning experience.

So how do we determine if these devices are helping – or hurting – the development of our children? According to the US National Library of Medicine’s National Institution of Health (NIH), technology has offered us a wide array of both productive and counter-productive outcomes in terms of the effects on developing minds.

In layman’s terms? Technology is both good and bad for our kids and basically, it’s up to us to weed them out. Before you get discouraged, there are methods that will help you sift through the digital drudge, as well as research to back up which methods are helpful and which ones are – well – not so much.

Technology Brain Food

As the NIH explains, if you think of technology’s effects on your child’s development in terms of “nutrition”, it can help you to gain a better perspective on how to sort it out. We know our children need well-balanced daily meals in order to grow physically healthy and strong, right? You wouldn’t feed your kiddos junk food and sweets every day and expect them to be fit as a fiddle. By the same token, technology is full of “nutritious” and “junk food” influences that will affect your child’s cognitive development.

The Junk Food

“Technology conditions the brain to pay attention to information very differently than reading,” says Dr. Jim Taylor, psychologist and professor at the University of San Francisco. According to his article in Psychology Today, the key to weeding out the “junk food” technology lies in monitoring methods that do not require a deep focus. What does this mean? In comparison with reading, surfing the internet for research is basically giving developing minds too much information too fast. In other words, it keeps kids from focusing on one specific concept. Doing so causes an undeveloped sense of understanding children could otherwise grasp from concentrating on a book.

Anything requiring little to no thought to complete (internet surfing, non-educational video games and television programs, etc.) will have a negative impact on the way brain connections are made. In fact, according to Taylor, influences such as the internet will adversely affect the way our children learn. These mediums bypass the need to focus and leave children “only able to focus fleetingly.”

The Vitamins and Minerals

On the flip side, there are many ways in which technology mediums have a profoundly positive impact on developing minds. These ways, which we’ll call the “vitamins and minerals” of technology, have the ability to improve overall development.

Perhaps the most important aspect to consider is to keep in mind that their futures will be filled with technology. This generation is one that will be engulfed in technology in pretty much every aspect of life, so including it from the beginning is giving them the tools they’ll need for a future filled with technological advancements. Think of digital learning tools as preparing your kids for their digital-filled futures.

According to the NIH, content is the most important thing to consider when filtering the vitamins from the junk food. Content, more than the type of device, is the key to finding what your children will benefit from the most. Ensuring whatever outlet they use (tablets, laptops, mobile phones, and yes, even video games), is used wisely, is the key to keeping their cognitive development healthy. Using nourishing content such as educational games, read-along programs, and digital media like interactive whiteboards to promote a learning experience is the difference between a nutritional digital experience and a junk food one.

The Best Historical Sites to Show Children in Hoboken

by Tori Galatro

Hoboken has a rich history. It contains stories about Lenni Lenape Native Americans, Dutch settlers, baseball, land and water transportation, immigration, diversity, and booms and busts of growth and development. There’s something that every age group will find interesting, including children. The City of Hoboken has put a strong emphasis on historical preservation, and a lot of resources are devoted to keeping these treasures intact and accessible to the public. Families have a lot to discover in Hoboken.

The Hoboken Historical Museum

The Hoboken Historical Museum is a great first stop on a historical tour of Hoboken. The museum has a strong emphasis on their children and family guests, featuring storytime, childrens’ nights at the museum, family fun days, holiday concerts, and summer and day camps. The museum is open six days a week and totally free for children. There are rotating exhibits as well as permanent ones, featuring everything from old photographs, to artifacts, to local art.

The Fire Department Museum

The Fire Department Museum is also owned by the Hoboken Historical Museum, and is also free for children. Open Saturday and Sundays from noon to five, children love looking at the old fire trucks and getting a chance to meet some of the firefighter veterans and their dogs. There’s a historical shiny red Ahrens Fox fire engine that children can sit in and ring a big brass bell. The Museum caters to young visitors, and offers storytime and other family-friendly activities.

The Historic Walking Tour

The nice thing about Hoboken history is that so much of it can be explored on foot, simply walking from place to place. This is ideal for children to let out some energy and explore whatever strikes them. You don’t need to worry about your children being noisy and running around when everything is outside!

A guide is available to The Historic Walking Tour on the Hoboken Historical Museum website, and you can adapt your own tour according to what you think your children will find most fun. The tour includes buildings, parks, and monuments.

Children will most likely find the visually stunning sites to be most interesting. This includes an old firehouse, steeples, buildings that look like castles, large brass monuments of historical figures, cathedrals, and the train station terminal. Elysian Park is a stop on the tour, where the first recorded baseball game was played. Daring children will want to peer into Sybil’s Cave, where a body was once found in the 1800s, and which inspired an Edgar Allen Poe story. But don’t fear. The entrance to the cave is completely safe for children. The tour also includes Castle Park, which is the highest point in Hoboken, and offers a breathtaking view of Manhattan. Children love to identify the distant buildings like the Freedom Tower and the Empire State Building.

Hoboken has a great history of land and water transportation, so just pointing out the fire trucks, trains, and boats is enough to inspire many young children. There are also so many opportunities to point out historical landmarks while you’re out doing errands, or going on a walk, that aren’t so commonplace in many other cities in the U.S. It’s one of the things that makes Hoboken a great place to live.

The Long-Term Benefits of a Great Preschool

Traditionally, parents and even many educators have often thought of preschool as mainly a place to send kids to socialize, have fun, and get acclimated to a regular schedule. However, more and more research suggests that preschool actually has a profound effect on children’s intellectual and emotional development.

The Surprising Impact of Preschool

Here are some key findings on how preschool plays such an important role in children’s development.

  • According to author and journalist Suzanne Bouffard, preschool may be the most important educational experience of a child’s life. In her book, The Most Important Year, preschool is when children learn critical thinking and problem-solving skills. In addition to getting introduced to some key academic areas such as reading and math, kids learn social skills such as sharing and cooperating.
  • One of the best-known studies of the long-term advantages of preschool is the Perry Preschool Study, which followed children from the age of 3 all the way to age 40. It turned out that those who participated in a quality preschool program were more likely to graduate high school, hold jobs and had higher earnings than those who didn’t attend the program.
  • Pew Charitable Trusts report that children who attend quality pre-K programs are less likely to be held back a grade and more likely to graduate from high school. Their research also points to the problem of kids getting left behind due to a poor start. Once a child is held back, it’s hard for him or her to catch up. Attending preschool reduces the risks of children getting stuck in such a downward spiral.
  • There’s even evidence that preschools can help to reduce crime. A study conducted in Chicago public schools found that kids who participated in a preschool program were less likely to commit crimes later in life.

There’s little doubt that preschool can make a substantial difference in children’s lives and that the benefits continue all the way into adulthood.

Choosing the Right Preschool

Quite a bit of the research on the benefits of attending preschool specifies that the program must be of a certain quality. The Perry Preschool Study, for example, looked at children who attended a “high-quality preschool program.” The Pew Charitable Trusts research makes a similar qualification, saying “high-quality pre-k increases a child’s chances of succeeding in school and in life.” Thus, the advantages of these programs aren’t necessarily gained by sending kids to any preschool. But how do you evaluate the quality and choose the right one? There are several criteria you can apply.

  • Be clear about what you want from the preschool. Some parents are mainly interested in providing their children with a social experience. Others want them to get a solid head start on reading and academic subjects. When looking at preschools, make sure you select one that matches your needs.
  • Recommendations. Ask other parents whose children attend or have attended a preschool and whether they’d recommend it. When researching preschools, see if they publish any testimonials.
  • Consider the school’s approach or educational philosophy. Some schools are faith-based. Others follow a system such as Waldorf or Montessori. Research the alternatives and find a school whose approach is in alignment with your ideas.
  • Visit the school. It’s always best to visit a school in person. Call a preschool that you’re considering and make an appointment to visit. You can also see if they have any special events where you can meet some of the staff and teachers.

Sending your child to the right preschool can be one of the most important decisions you can make as a parent. Children are ready to absorb all kinds of knowledge and life skills that can be fostered in a preschool environment. Before choosing a preschool, however, make sure you do plenty of research so you find one that’s the ideal match for you and your child.

Tessa International School is a top preschool in Hoboken, NJ, and considers its program to be as high-quality and enriching as they come for young children who deserve the best start. Tessa prepares children to become leaders of the 21st century. For more information, contact us.

Bilingualism Can Help Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

If you’re a parent who has a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), then you’re familiar with how tough it can be for some children to unconsciously shift their attention between tasks. Shifting attention from one task to another is known as task switching or set-shifting and is an executive function that involves specific parts of the brain, like the prefrontal cortex. This brain structure also plays a role in the development of ASD. Recent research suggests that learning a second language may boost cognitive flexibility in areas like this and benefit those with ASD.

What is the Prefrontal Cortex?

The prefrontal cortex is part of the cortex that covers the front part of the frontal lobe. This is an area in the brain that helps you shift your focus and attention, unconsciously, and is also a brain structure that’s involved in ASD’s development. Automatically switching from one task to another without breaking concentration or re-focusing on the new task can be a tad difficult for some children with ASD. New research recently published in Child Development reports that being bilingual may possibly help children with ASD improve their ability to do just that—unconsciously shift their attention between tasks.

Being Bilingual May Increase Cognitive Flexibility

Being bilingual, and having the ability to switch between languages, may help increase cognitive flexibility, especially in children or adults with ASD. Over the past decade scholars and researchers have significantly debated whether having the ability to speak two languages improves executive functions. In fact, the term “bilingual advantage” was eventually coined because so many within the field believed that being bilingual clearly improved the executive system. With advances in technology, brain imaging studies have plainly demonstrated that bilinguals suppress their desire to use certain words from one language, in order to use words and grammar from another. In other words, speaking two languages is a workout for your brain.

Speaking Two Languages May Train the Brain Differently

Bilinguals learn a range of social tasks, such as verbal or non-verbal communication and how to read people. Some researchers think that bilingualism may even enhance some executive functions, like conflict resolution and working in a group, because switching between two languages helps the speaker see the world in different contexts.

Being Bilingual May Help Build Brain Muscle

It seems research is suggesting that speaking two languages may help flex some brain muscles and enable the brain to switch focus from one task to another without even breaking a sweat! So you can imagine, then, why so many within the field are focusing on these new research findings and why they desire to repeat studies with a larger sample size: it has huge implications for those with ASD.

Bilingualism May Even Offer Brain Protection  

Another benefit of being bilingual is that it may help protect the brain from dementia, stroke and brain injury. The thought process is similar: bilingualism boosts cognitive reserve. When executive function begins to decline, like in dementia, being bilingual seems to offer some cognitive protection by keeping parts of the brain fit. In other words, these brain structures may not age as quickly in people who are bilingual because these areas of the brain are more resilient. Whether you have ASD or not, it seems learning a second language can benefit your overall brain health. Just like briskly walking thirty minutes every day helps your heart to stay healthy, being bilingual is a way to stay cognitively fit.  

Being Bilingual Offers Those with ASD an Advantage

It’s evident that current findings may affect families when making educational decisions for their child with ASD. This research is only the beginning; hopefully, families who have a child with ASD will see more rigorous studies from scholars and scientists in the future.