Preparing Kids for Summer Camp Safety

Preparing Kids for Summer Camp Safety

With the return of the warmer months, it’s officially that time of year for kids again: summer camp season. In previous years, this time of year inspired excitement, learning activities galore, and a chance to socialize with friends our little ones hadn’t seen in weeks. Now, with the health risks of a lingering pandemic, summer camp is inciting a new set of emotions for families. For some, it’s still filled with excitement as our children look forward to seeing friends after an extended time away – but it’s also filling many parents with dread and anxiety as things slowly open back up. There seems to be one burning question: how do we keep our kids safe, yet allow them the much-needed camp time? Let’s take a look at the best way to plan for summer camp safety this year.

Planning for Summer Camp Safety

As facilities begin to reinstate their public programs – including summer camp activities – there will undoubtedly be questions surrounding the safety of staff and children as things phase back to pre-pandemic “norms.” In order to ensure our families and friends maintain the highest level of health and safety, there are a few precautionary measures that need to be observed. The best way to make sure this happens is to check local and national guidelines and recommendations as well as speak directly with camp staff prior to enrollment. Summer camp safety depends entirely on the diligence of our community members to remain in the loop and practice safe public habits.

Prepare Children for Safe Public Interactions

By now you’ve likely mastered the list of safe public health practices like handwashing, no face-touching, social distancing, and mask-wearing. Knowing these practices and ensuring our children practice them as well can be two different beasts altogether, however. Prior to the start of camp, be sure to reiterate with your children the required safe health practices such as:

  • Distancing. Teach your children to avoid unnecessary close contact or touching of other campers and staff. Keeping the 6-feet rule will help stop any potential spread.
  • Personal Hygiene. Be sure kids are washing hands frequently and properly. They need to be aware of restroom facility locations and how/when to use them for washing as needed.
  • Movement and Etiquette. As difficult as it may be, make sure children are practicing critical health etiquette actions like coughing or sneezing in an elbow (not hands) or in a tissue. Also, make sure they are aware they should avoid touching their faces as much as possible.

Stay Informed and in Contact with Camp Officials

In addition to general health and safety guidelines, summer camp safety will also depend on several other actions and needed supplies. Check with camp officials to understand the full list of regulations for your child’s safety and to understand the protocols in place. You can also check to see if there are any additional supplies or support needed to ensure the safety of all campers this summer. Stay informed, stay vigilant, and help keep our campers happy and healthy!

Post-Pandemic: Tips to Keep Your Kids Safe as Parks and Public Spaces Open Back Up

Post-Pandemic: Tips to Keep Kids Safe as Parks and Public Spaces Open Back Up

With the weather warming up and things beginning to open publicly again following the global COVID-19 pandemic, many residents have found themselves antsy to get out of the house and return to some of their favorite activities outside. While physical activity is one of the best ways to help keep our bodies healthy – as well as our children’s bodies – rushing out to utilize shared spaces too soon or while unprepared to use them responsibly, can spell trouble for some. So, how do you keep kids safe as their favorite public places begin opening back up?

Returning to Pre-Pandemic Public Activities

As things begin opening back up, many parents will likely be wondering if it is safe to let their little ones return to their favorite public hang-out and what safety precautions they should be taking to ensure they stay healthy. With so many unknowns surrounding the pandemic, it’s not just understandable, but necessary, that parents know the risks and the best ways to safeguard their children as they begin returning to pre-pandemic “norms.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website, returning to your local public parks and recreational facilities can be an important part of maintaining physical health, as long as certain guidelines and precautions are followed in the process.

“Staying physically active is one of the best ways to keep your mind and body healthy. In many areas, people can visit parks, trails, and open spaces as a way to relieve stress, get some fresh air, and stay active… While these facilities and areas can offer health benefits, it is important that you follow (specified) steps to protect yourself and others from COVID-19,” the CDC explains.

How to Keep Kids Safe in Public after COVID-19

With our main concerns centered around the safety of our families, knowing how to shield our children from the dangers of the pandemic while opening back up to public interactions has been at the forefront of every parent’s mind lately. But just how do we allow our children to get back to their favorite public activities – safely?

The answer to that question begins with taking some informative steps first. As with anything, doing a bit of research before sending kids on a long overdue outdoor adventure can help ensure the highest chances of keeping them safe during uncertain times. Just as you wouldn’t send your child unaccompanied into a strange home, following the same mindset for post-pandemic public activity will help.

Taking Informative Steps

If you’re considering opening the doors to the great outdoors for your children now that the public is beginning to open up again, information is going to be your best line of defense. Staying informed of the latest information in your area will allow you to make the best possible decisions for your family as well as ensure you’re kept abreast of any new developments and safety protocols. In other words, stay safe by staying informed. Here are some of the most important ways you can stay in the loop of the latest news and guidelines surrounding public activity and your family’s safety:

  • CDC Guidelines. Before heading out to any public location, whether with or without your children, it’s critical that you know and understand the most current CDC recommendations for safety in public. Checking what the current guidelines are will ensure you are able to take all necessary precautions as noted by health officials.
  • Local Guidelines. In addition to the CDC’s recommendations, many communities and local authorities are imposing additional safety protocols in order to keep residents as safe as possible as we transition back to pre-pandemic public life. Check these regulations as outlined by the State of New Jersey Department of Health, as well as checking any additional regulations in place in your communities by looking at city social and governmental pages.
  • Individual Guidelines. In addition to government regulations and requirements, many public places may be imposing certain guidelines of their own. Before venturing out to a particular park or recreational space, contact them in advance to understand and prepare your family with proper safety protocol before leaving the house.

Keeping Your Family Safe with General Health Practices

Overall, if you’re ever confused or in doubt about a particular safety precaution or public guideline, it’s always safest to err on the side of caution. In general, however, the CDC recommends some basic health practices be utilized at times in public in order to maintain the safety of our families as we phase back into an open public life. Keeping these health practices are the CDC’s most recommended way to stay safe during this time:

  • Stay Close to Home. The further we travel for outdoor activity, the greater our risk becomes for being exposed to more potentially contaminated surfaces or infected individuals. Visiting recreational areas closer to home limits our travel and potential contact with these risks.
  • Continue to Maintain a 6 Foot Distance from Others. As difficult as this may be in some public situations, maintaining a safe distance (6 feet, according to the CDC) will limit the risk of exposure to COVID-19. If maintaining social distance is difficult (children in playground spaces), try to stick to places that are less crowded or visit during less busy times of the day.
  • Utilize Face Coverings. While face masks are not recommended for children under 2, older children should be using them while out in public areas – especially if there is difficulty maintaining a 6-feet-apart distance. This is one of the best ways to protect against potential contaminants.
  • Handwashing and Sanitizing. Another important step is to make sure children are aware of the need to properly wash and/or sanitize their hands as well as keeping their hands away from their faces while they’re out. If this is particularly difficult, you may want to choose an activity that doesn’t involve potentially contaminated areas like playground equipment.

By following the recommended safety guidelines of our public health officials and local regulatory commissions, it’s possible to phase back into public life safely. Stay vigilant with the recommendations and any changing requirements in order to keep kids safe and healthy as we begin to come out of this pandemic.

Play-Based Learning Activities to do at Home

At Tessa, we highly encourage learning through play and open-ended activities.  While distance learning presents new obstacles, we are finding creative ways to use the everyday objects that we have at home to continue learning.  Here are some learning hacks that you can try with using some common household objects. 

Counting

Math lessons in school often involve different kinds of manipulatives- like counting blocks- to help students visualize different mathematical concepts.  But there are so many substitutes that you can use for counters, including but not limited to: legos, beads, buttons, cheerios, goldfish, bottle caps, pom poms, paper clips, and clothespins.  This works best with any repetitive object that children can easily move and visualize. 

Addition and Subtraction

For children who are practicing single-digit addition or subtraction you can use a deck of playing cards (uno cards also work).  You would need to remove any face cards, or non-numerical cards, and then you can shuffle and choose two (or more) cards to add together.   

Categorization

At home you can also practice grouping objects based on similarities and differences.  If you use a muffin or ice cube tray, along with a variety of small objects (this could even be some of the manipulatives listed above) students can form groups based on objects that have similar properties (shape, size, color, etc). 

Writing

There are other fun alternatives to writing on tablets or on paper.  Using dry erase markers, kids can write on glass doors, windows, or other glass surfaces- while being able to stand, sit, and move around.  Another method is to spread shaving cream on a tray or other flat surface that children can write in with their fingers. You can also combine these two methods and write in shaving cream on windows!

With some creative problem solving there are still plenty of ways to continue learning at home, while encouraging children to play and explore.  We hope that everyone has a relaxing, fun, and safe spring break and we look forward to seeing you again next week!

The Challenges of Distance Teaching Young Learners

Years ago, before I considered entering the field of education I always thought that teaching mostly consisted of planning lessons, standing in front of students, keeping the students’ behavior in line, and assessing the students. What I quickly learned once I became a teacher (back in 2002, for the record) is that what I have described is only about 20% of the job. In every school I have worked in, teachers are asked to do a lot—sometimes more than is possible! 

From the bottom of my heart, our teachers at Tessa International School have been doing twice of the above by providing distance learning to our families for the past few weeks.

Many parents naturally think that once the technology part is learned on the part of the teachers or that online teaching is ‘easy sailing.’ I just wanted to dispel this belief by sharing some of the unique challenges to teaching online that I have seen over the past three weeks.

1. Assessment

Teachers are assessing children live. They can’t depend on students to work for hours over many days on a particular skill and then assess it at a later point like they can in the classroom. They have to hope that the parents at home are helping, but they can’t depend on this in every case. In the end, teachers have few opportunities each week to assess students and are very limited in what they can assess by looking at them through a camera.

2. Keeping students interested and focused

Keeping students engaged is a regular challenge for teachers, but much more difficult when teachers are limited to a rectangular screen. I’ve seen teachers try funny voices, wear costumes, change backdrops, and use puppets. They do a great job! Let’s never forget that our youngest learners are two and a half…most young learners get distracted very easily…especially when there are many things to distract them in their homes! 

In the classroom it is often fairly easy to have students focus. In students’ homes, it’s virtually impossible to control distractions that are happening in people’s homes. 

3. Limited space

Besides needing to have everything ready for a lesson within a few feet, teachers literally only have the area of your child’s tablet or computer monitor to engage your students.

4. Lack of materials

Just as many parents may not have basic school materials at home (such as rulers, glue, construction paper), it is just as true for our teachers. Naturally, we can supply whatever teachers need, but sometimes teachers need something unexpected and ‘on the fly.’ All of this means that teachers have to plan even more carefully. You can’t take anything for granted…for instance, that a child at home will have a whiteboard and a whiteboard marker. Or clothespins.  

5. Missing context, interactions, and connections

Online classes are very limited in time and space. Teachers do their best to connect with students, but there is a long gap of time between students seeing each other and the teacher each day. It’s a bit like watching a movie for bursts of 20 minutes instead of having a live person in front of you. Maintaining teacher-student relationships isn’t impossible in this online environment, but it isn’t easy. 

6. Collaboration

Teachers at Tessa meet with the PYP Coordinator and each other regularly. It is much more challenging in this environment. Still, as a staff we meet once a week and Ms. Pooja and the teachers are meeting and working on Unit Planners. 

7. Direct instruction is essentially the opposite of the PYP

Worksheets and direct instruction is de-emphasized in the Primary Years Program. Collaboration, choice, and voice, are essential. These are all drastically scaled down in the online learning environment. 

8. Screen time.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, screen time for 2-5 year olds should be:  1 hour, broken into sessions of a maximum of 30 minutes. This makes everything even more challenging.

In short, our teachers are trying to emulate what we do in the classroom, a Herculean task, with some major limitations. We thank all of our teachers (and our parents who are helping) do the absolute best that they can.  A special thanks to Maritza Meza for some information for this blog 

5 Tips for Talking to Your Child About Coronavirus

5 Tips for Talking to Your Child About Coronavirus

With social distancing becoming the new temporary norm for families across the country, many parents have been searching for ways to explain the pandemic to their little ones in a way that will help them understand things better. Suddenly changing your routines can cause quite a bit of confusion and chaos in an otherwise well-oiled family schedule, but with so much riding on our ability to put our collective health and safety first, it’s important to find effective ways to help children understand not only why we are practicing social distancing, but also, how they can help stop the spread. If you’re looking for ways to help your child comprehend the changes brought about by COVID-19, here are a few tips to help:

1 – Do a Little Research

If you haven’t already, the best thing you can do before speaking to your children about the COVID-19 pandemic is to make sure you have the most accurate and up-to-date information about it first. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has an online link to inform the public about the outbreak and how they can help their families navigate through it.

2 – Explain the Facts and be Honest

Once you’ve done your research, talk to your children about what’s going on. Explain to them what COVID-19 is, how it affects the population, what happens if someone gets sick with the virus, and why we are trying to stop it from spreading. Children will be picking up all kinds of information from sources we may not realize (television, online videos, etc.), so make sure they get the facts from you first. Let them know there are many rumors out there, and you are there to answer any questions they may have.

3 – Avoid the Stigma

Try to avoid using any kind of negative connotations or accusatory tones, and simply let children know (at an age-appropriate level) that there is a virus that can cause sickness going around and we need their help to protect others. Sticking to the facts and not playing the blame-game when speaking with children will help them grasp their role in the community responsibilities of social distancing right now.

4 – Focus on Staying Calm

Since so much about this pandemic is different from our usual routines and involves many unknown aspects, it can surely be a scary time for some – especially children who don’t understand what’s going on. It’s important to speak with your kids and explain to them what’s going on, but it’s also important to be calm and patient with them when discussing the virus as well. Children can pick up on uncertainty in our tone and mannerisms, so do your best to be encouraging and calm when you speak with them.

5 – Empower Them with Responsibilities

One of the greatest ways to help children grasp the importance of social distancing and efforts to halt the spread of the virus is to empower them with a sense of responsibility. Explain to your child that they are helping to keep others healthy and break the spread of disease by practicing basic actions every day. Stress the importance of (proper) handwashing, coughing and sneezing into their elbows, distancing themselves from others who cough or sneeze, and to try and limit how much they touch their faces. Giving kids the power of knowledge and a sense of responsibility to help stop the spread of germs is the best way to explain the current social distancing situation.

The Effects of Early Educational Bilingualism on Cognitive Development

The Effects of Early Educational Bilingualism on Cognitive Development

When it comes to the topic of bilingualism in early childhood education, many parents often find themselves questioning when – and if – to introduce a second language to their children. The question being, whether or not the additional language studies would serve to benefit or inhibit their child’s cognitive developmental process. For some, the subject may be less of a choice and more of a necessity or way of life (think homes with bilingual family members already), but for many, the decision can bring many questions as far as how bilingualism will affect the cognitive development of their little one.

With decades of research devoted to studying these effects, scholars and researchers have been focused on the correlation between multiple language learning and developmental processes for quite some time now. In fact, many of these studies may seem a bit contradictory to others, making the outcomes somewhat confusing and raising even more questions for concerned parents. The truth is, however, as with all studies, new findings are possible every day and are revised to reflect the most recent and relevant information based on the latest comprehensive research. In other words, the more it’s studied, the clearer the picture becomes. So, what does this mean in terms of the effects of bilingualism on cognitive development?

Bilingualism and Cognitive Development

The number one concern for most parents considering a bilingual educational tract for their child is whether or not introducing a second language at a young age will cause confusion during a critical language learning time. Since understanding communication skills is critical to the successful development of virtually all other cognitive learning processes throughout their lives, it’s easy to grasp the basis for parental concerns for something that could potentially inhibit language mastery. The question becomes then, are these concerns for cognitive delays warranted, or are they part of some outdated research findings?

In order to answer that question, we must first take a look at the full picture. That is, we need to understand that there have been multiple studies done on the topic over the years, which inevitably leads to different findings. The key is to examine the most recent and comprehensive studies available in order to ensure you’re not looking at older information that has since been rendered essentially irrelevant. It’s also important to consider all contributing factors involved with the success rates of bilingual children such as parental involvement and cultural influences on the overall cognitive development process.  

Previous Studies and Findings

Many of the earliest studies are what are behind the apprehension of today’s parents who are considering bilingualism for their children. Studies from decades past had showed a potentially slower learning rate for children who were learning two languages simultaneously – a rate which they attributed to the “confusion” of studying dual communication processes. It was believed that children were showing signs of inhibited learning because they were using both languages simultaneously – or “mixing up” the language of choice.

What these previous studies failed to do, however, was take into consideration the familial and socio-economic factors that helped determine a child’s overall understanding of communication. They also didn’t fully grasp the degree of focus and ability these children were exhibiting by simultaneously mastering the concepts of not just communication, but compartmentalization and empathy as well. Essentially, in the earliest studies, what was once viewed as confusion has later become better understood as a heightened sense of cognitive development and overall communication mastery by young children.

Recent Studies and Findings

In contradiction to earlier research, the latest studies today have shown immense cognitive development benefits in bilingual children. Not only has the theory of confusion been discredited, but researchers have found that children who are introduced to a second (or third) language during early childhood educational stages have a much higher level of overall learning comprehension as well as a more developed sense of values and problem-solving abilities than their monolingual counterparts.

“Research has shown that, contrary to what many people once believed, bilingualism does not trigger confusion, has no inherent negative impact on children’s development and even has some socio-cognitive advantages,” explains the Encyclopedia on Early Childhood Development (EECD). These advantages come in the form of a more developed level of intellectual focus, higher overall test scores, greater problem-solving skills, a heightened understanding of non-verbal context, and more flexible cognitive abilities in general. In other words, recent studies have shown that bilingualism, when introduced in early childhood, not only has no negative associations with cognitive development, but also comes with a large number of invaluable benefits instead.

Overall Benefits to Developmental Process

Since the brain function of a child learning dual languages requires that child to not only communicate, but correctly choose which language to communicate with, it forces bilingual children to fine-tune their ability to focus and concentrate. It also requires a sense of compartmentalization – a skill which will be crucial in later development. Essentially, young children who study multiple languages are getting a more well-rounded cognitive development than single language children because they are inherently learning multiple lessons at once.

“…Bilingual children show some advantages in understanding the beliefs of others and the communication needs of their conversational partners, picking out the important variables to solve a problem and entertaining two possible interpretations of the same stimulus at once,” writes the EECD.

It is important to remember, however, that these findings are largely dependent upon the outside factors involved in your child’s bilingual learning process. In order for your child to be truly bilingual (and not just a second language learner), requires a great deal of immersion studying and being surrounded by both languages – not just in the classroom. In order for young children to gain the greatest benefits from studying multiple languages, their learning process must be continued at home and on a regular basis, as well as during in-class studies.

What to do When Your Child Is Being Bullied

What to do When Your Child Is Being Bullied

With the majority of schools today participating in at least some form of anti-bullying policies, most parents have been made aware of the movement to stomp out the aggressive behavior. While we may be more actively approaching bully behavior today, many may still be uncertain of what to do when your child is being bullied.

Classic Bullying Behavior

When we think of classic bullying behavior, we usually envision things like stolen lunch money or toys, bruises or other signs of fighting, or clothing being ripped or destroyed. These things are considered aggressive bullying and usually fairly easy to spot. Unfortunately, bullying goes unnoticed often times because it rarely fits into this category.

Less Obvious Bullying Behavior

Bullying is usually thought of as mean-spirited behavior that is manifested through physical and verbal means. The truth is, however, bullying behavior can take on many different forms – it isn’t always taunting, teasing, or physically fighting.

While it’s certainly true that scenarios involving pushing, picking, yelling, and teasing are examples of classic bully behavior, there are other, less obvious forms of bullying as well. Often times, kids can experience the effects of bullying by way of being ignored by their peers, being left out of games and functions, and even things like whispering, and note passing.

“More often than not… bullying is difficult to spot. Most kids don’t come home from school saying, ‘I’m being bullied every day by these three kids and I’m really scared and unhappy,’” explains PBS.org.

Are There Signs Your Child Is Being Bullied?

Knowing that the signs of bullying aren’t always easy to identify, one of the best things a parent can do to help their child is to know what behavior warrants anti-bullying tactics. This may seem easier said than done, but by understanding warning signs in your child, you can help stop bullying in its tracks.

So, just what are these warning signs? Similar to the signs of bullying, there are more obvious signs your child is being bullied, as well as less obvious signs. Paying attention to your child’s behavior versus what they are verbally communicating is key to getting through a rough time.

Most Obvious Signs

The most obvious signs a child is dealing with a bully at school (or on the bus, playground, or even neighborhood after hours) are usually physical signs. Aggressive bullying is often the culprit of these type of signs and can include things like a disheveled appearance when they should otherwise be presentable, physical scars and bruises or bleeding, and complaints of aches and pains with no rational explanation for them.

Since kids don’t usually tell you when they’ve had an altercation with another child, it’s usually up to the parents to pay attention to their physical appearance. This can also include their attitude – a sudden change in attitude that involves crankiness or irritability can often point toward a bullying scenario as well.

Less Obvious Signs

If your child isn’t coming home with bruises or torn clothing, but you still feel like something is “off” with them, don’t discount bullying yet. As we mentioned earlier, there are many forms bullying can take and, as such, there are many forms their reactions can take.

Some of the less obvious signs your child is dealing with a bully can include being withdrawn, a loss of interest in things they previously loved to do, and seeming sad or depressed upon coming home. Other signs to watch out for include a change in their appetite – usually a loss of interest in eating altogether, trouble sleeping (night terrors and bad dreams included), and frequent ailments like headaches or stomach aches.

Major Red Flags

There are a wide range of signs and symptoms of bullying – all of which need addressed as soon as possible – but some may require much more immediate attention. Depending upon the individual situation, children will handle a bullying experience in their own way; however, certain behaviors should always be taken seriously as soon as they surface.

If your child’s school performance begins to change – this is a huge red flag that something is off with them, usually relating to a person or situation at school. Other major red flags that should be addressed immediately include visible signs of fear or panic when they are faced with a task (anxiety over riding the bus or fear for going to class, for example), or any form of discussion involving loss of life or suicide. Noticing any of these behaviors warrants direct and swift attention by parents and teachers.

What to do When Your Child Is Being Bullied

If you’ve noticed your child experiencing any of the above-mentioned signs of being bullied, you’re likely wondering what you can do to help them put a stop to the situation. For a parent, watching their child go through a bullying situation can be one of the most heartbreaking and difficult things to witness. Often times parents wind up feeling helpless or can end up taking steps that may make things worse for their child by accident. So how do you know what to do?

In many cases, schools and other childhood educational and care facilities will have their own form of anti-bullying policies already in place. A look through their school handbook or a discussion with their direct-care professionals can help lead you on the right path for helping your child. Outside of this, there are certain things parents can do to ensure they are taking the right steps to combat their child’s bullying experience.

Anti-Bullying Behavior at Home

There are several things parents can do at home, outside of an anti-bullying policy at school, that will help children get through being bullied. For starters, the most important thing is for parents to be vigilant about monitoring their children’s behaviors so they can quickly spot any of the signs of bullying.

Other steps parents can take to be proactive about bullying:

  • Talk to your child: ask them how things are going, share with them what you’ve noticed and gauge their response.
  • Ask, don’t assume: we may be tempted to ask them what they did to warrant a certain behavior, this can lead them to believe the bullying is warranted.
  • Talk with others in their lives: speak with others who are near your child during the bullying situations and have them help determine a “safe” person they can go to when they feel bullied.

Overall, the best thing you can do for your child if you suspect they are the victim of bullying, is to be their ally. Know what to watch for, make sure you reiterate with them that you are always there, and equip them with the tools to overcome the situation by giving them a safe space or a safe person to go to when needed.

Why Learn a Second (or Third) Language at Tessa?

The first question: Why learn a second (or third language)?

In the world, bilingualism is more the norm than the exception, as 75% of the world is actually bilingual (Baker, 2000) and it is on the rise. With more and more people relocating to foreign countries it is very common to have two or more languages spoken within a home.

The second question: When to learn a second language?

There is no “correct” age to learn a foreign language, as Edinburgh University researchers point out that “millions of people across the world acquire their second language later in life: in school, university, or work, or through migration or marriage.”  Knowing another language is advantageous, regardless of when you learn it. Even more encouraging is that bilingual benefits still hold for those of us who do not learn our second languages as children. However, the earlier one starts, the more beneficial it is to learn a second language. As a matter of fact,  babies can differentiate all the sounds of language before 10 -12 months, then they start to lose this capacity according to the sounds they find useful (their own language). Therefore, it’s good to expose babies to many different languages so they retain this ability.

The third question: What are the advantages of learning a second language?

1.Access to a larger world: When you learn a language you also learn the culture. Being able to speak two languages means you are able to speak to people in a different cultural and linguistic contexts. Bilinguals can use the right language with the social codes that go with the language. In other words you are able to step into another culture and better understand the subtleties of the human condition.

2.Better ability to focus : Bilinguals find it easier to focus and can avoid distractions (Dr. Judy Willis, 2012). Indeed, the part of the brain called the executive function, which is used for staying focused has proven to be stronger in bilinguals. Every time a bilingual speaks, both languages are actually active, and the brain has to work to suppress one language while the other is being used. That mechanism employs the executive function of the brain more regularly in bilinguals, which makes it become more efficient.

3.Better at multitasking : Studies have shown that people who are bilingual are better at tasks that require multitasking and focusing attention than monolinguals. Brain scans show that these bilinguals show more gray matter in the regions of their brain that are involved in executive function. The hypothesis is that the effort to constantly choose the right language at the right time provides a “mental gymnastics” for bilinguals which gives them extra practice in focusing their attention. Research even shows that learning a language helps delay Alzheimer’s disease (Dr. Ellen Bialystok).

4. Higher standardized tests and academic performance: Another one of the many benefits of learning a second language at an early age is improved test scores. Students who study foreign languages perform better on standardized tests such as the American College Test (ACT) and the SAT verbal sections. In fact, students test scores improve with the length of time they have spent learning a second language. Exercising one’s brain leads to improved planning, problem-solving, and concentrating. This brain exercise leads to improved planning, problem-solving, concentrating, and multitasking, as well as divergent and creative thinking.

5.Linguistic facilities: Being bilingual helps you learn another language. As you are constantly switching from one language to another you become accustomed to expressing yourself in a different way. Moreover, you have been exposed to two sets of sound patterns rather than one. This gives you more chances to encounter known sounds in the new language. All this combined makes learning an additional language easier.

6.Deep understanding of the concept of “language”: Bilinguals have a deeper appreciation of what is a language. They know that there is more than one way to label a word and that a word can have different connotations. As Professor Clyne says: “They [Bilinguals] have a better sense of the arbitrary nature of words, and the difference between form and meaning.”

7.Lifetime benefits:  Learn a foreign language as a child and you have a lifetime to benefit from cross-cultural friendships, broader career opportunities, exciting travel adventures and deeper insights into how others see the world.

So, to answer the question: why learn a second (or third) language at Tessa? Tessa International School, a thriving international school in Hoboken, NJ, teaches through the languages of Spanish and French in the IB-PYP model, starting at the age of 2.5. And in 2020-2021 Tessa will be offering a Mandarin track as well! Bilingualism. Excellence. Happiness. That’s the Tessa Advantage.

Teach Them Young: International Language in Early Education

Teach Them Young: International Language in Early Education

When it comes to language learning, most educational professionals agree that it’s never too early to begin bilingual teachings. While you may think introducing a second (or third) language to your child as they are still mastering their primary language could be confusing, the opposite is actually true. In fact, studies have found that there is no better time to begin bilingualism than during early childhood development stages.

“Between the ages of 0-3, the brains of young children are uniquely suited to learn a second language as the brain is in its most flexible stage,” according to researchers at Michigan State University.

In fact, researchers have found that children begin picking up multiple languages and discerning between them within the first few months of life. It is something that is learned with the same level of ease as any other major milestone during the early years.

International Language Learning

International language learning, or bilingualism, is the process of absorption and comprehension of different languages simultaneously. Since language learning forms the basis for all other learning avenues throughout life, it makes sense to consider the benefits of expanding the language learning process.

In layman’s terms, we use language to communicate every imperative process. Whether it be conveying our feelings or teaching any range of subjects, we use language to progress through life. For this reason, language learning is considered one of the most important areas of a child’s education. By extension, learning additional languages only serves to further this core educational commodity. In short, the more proficient a child is with their language skills, the easier it will be for them to excel in other areas as well.

Learning Bilingualism Early

Knowing that bilingualism is the key to unlocking learning potential throughout your child’s education is only the first part of the equation. Many parents question when to begin teaching their children, afraid an early introduction will lead to confusion.

According to researchers at Michigan State University, however, the earlier you introduce children to a second language, the better off they will be. In fact, it has been shown that children are able to pick up bilingualism much faster than adolescents and adults. Yes, kids will learn faster (and more efficiently) than anyone else when it comes to bilingualism.

“As adults, we have to consider grammar rules and practice, but young children absorb sounds, structures, intonation patterns and the rules of a second language very easily. Up until the age of 8, young learners benefit from flexible ear and speech muscles that can detect differences between the sounds of a second language.” – www.canr.msu.edu.

Cognitive Flexibility

It is this flexibility during the early education years that makes children excellent bilingual sponges. Their ability to pick up on the subtleties of different languages are unparalleled at any other age.

Beyond their ability to learn international language much quicker than their older counterparts, the benefits of childhood bilingualism are astounding. By pushing children’s language limits, we are essentially giving them critical tools to help with virtually every aspect of cognitive reasoning later in life.

Learning Control

Essentially, when children learn second or third languages at an early age, they are also learning so many other valuable skills. What once was feared as confusion, researchers now say that children’s minds are being “tested” when bilingual children communicate. They are faced with two separate ways to verbalize what they want to say and must concentrate on which language is appropriate for their situation.

While this may seem trivial – or even confusing – in early childhood, the cognitive functions required for mastering this involve learning a high level of focus and control. Bilingualism teaches children to think before they speak; to choose their words carefully. These are skills that are critical to flexible thinking and learning all through their lives.

Object Permanence

Another critical aspect to international language learning in early childhood lies with object permanence. It may seem like a simple lesson, but while young children are learning about their surroundings and how to communicate, they also learn about physical attributes of their environments.

Part of this learning is object permanence – the knowledge that something doesn’t just “disappear” simply because it is out of sight. With bilingualism, children pick up this concept on a deeper level by understanding that the same object may have many different names, even though the object remains constant.

Cognitive Development Benefits

In addition to aiding in core learning milestones like object permanence, bilingualism in the early years also helps children’s cognitive development grow exponentially. The intricacies of mastering a second language help to sharpen the mind with things like problem solving and decoding puzzles.

“Bilingual children are also more adept at solving certain kinds of mental puzzles… the bilingual experience improves the brain’s command center, thus giving it the ability to plan, solve problems and perform other mentally demanding tasks.” – Michigan State University.

Additional Benefits of International Language Learning

According to research done by psychologists Ellen Bialystok and Michelle Martin-Rhee (as reported by Michigan State University), international language learning in the earliest years unlocks numerous skills in cognitive development. These skills are some of the greatest attributes your child will carry with them and will aid them in improving every aspect of their education along the way.

In fact, MSU states, the improved performance of bilingual children has been directly linked to the “workout our brain receives while switching back and forth between one language and another when deciding how to communicate.” This cognitive workout has even been linked to lower rates of mental illnesses such as dementia and Alzheimer’s later in life.

Overall, the problem-solving skills that are mastered with bilingualism are a highly invaluable asset that will aid children throughout their learning careers. Combining the ability to focus on a task at hand with the ability to sort out pieces of a puzzle (both figuratively and literally), bilingualism is one of the greatest learning tools you can give your 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!