The Cultured Seed

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¿Que que, por qué? November 8, 2010

Filed under: Culture — theculturedseed @ 2:50 am
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Over the last month Arya has really excelled in her ability to express herself. She is “fake reading” books using her own made-up storyline, she can clearly articulate concerns and preferences using full sentences, and embarrassingly enough she remembers the lyrics to almost any song she hears on the radio – even if it is only her first time hearing it. (Darn that Drake!) Clearly her brilliant little brain is clicking away faster everyday, especially when it comes to language development.

Based on my own language background, exposing my children to multiple languages from an early age would be a given. Yet, despite my attempts speak with Arya in Spanish, Italian and French at home I find that as she progresses with her own English language development I simply forget to do it! Even though her first few words included “leche” and “agua” she now looks at me with that quizzical little look when I throw in a sentence or two in another language – like “Oh, funny Mommy with those funny words.” I know I have to find a better way to integrate this into her daily life if I really want her to be proficient in another language.

I come from a bilingual household and have experienced dual language learning in various stages of my education. Thus, I have always been an advocate for this type of exposure and can personally attest to the benefits. As I look at the issue with my new-parent goggles on, it is disconcerting for me to see the lack of regard shown for bilingual education across the nation; not to mention the shambles that have been left of it in our local school district here in Los Angeles. When I think about the educational systems in Europe, Asia and even Latin America, which have mandatory requirements for proficiency in multiple languages, I cringe to think that our children in the US are not being equipped to face the world with the same tools.

While I won’t allow this to be the reality for my kids, not everyone knows a second language or can afford private language education for their children. Thus, they must rely on the public school system or community programs to provide some options. However, there are still too many parents that are uninformed about the benefits, making bilingualism a non-priority and furthering ethnocentric perspectives that create inter-cultural discord. This limits the opportunities to enrich our own lives and our communities.  Ultimately, the monolingual culture that is prevalent across the US will put our children at a global disadvantage unless we raise awareness and demand better options for multilingual and multicultural exploration.

Years of research have shown the cognitive and overall life benefits of bilingualism. These include an increased ability to problem solve, to think creatively and be cognitively flexible, higher self-esteem, and enhanced socio-cultural sensitivity. In addition it opens many doors in terms of the variety of employment options available.

I was excited to read a recently published article in Education Week regarding the advancements being made around neurological research tied to bilingual education. Using new techniques and technologies in neuroscience, researchers are finding that some of the long-held beliefs about learning another language are proving to be untrue. For instance, it was believed that the window for learning a new language shrinks rapidly after age 7, and closes almost entirely after puberty. Interdisciplinary research now suggests that the time frame may be more flexible than first thought and students who learn additional languages become more adaptable in other types of learning as well.

Further, in brain mapping studies conducted with infants born to native-English-speaking parents, researchers found that those who were presented with live interactive exposure to another language via a language tutor, progressed more rapidly in recognizing dual language sounds. This live interaction was notably more effective than simply exposing the babies to video or audio recordings. Patricia K. Kuhl, a co-director of the University of Washington’s Institute for Learning and Brain Sciences, has been intimately involved in this research and states that “Babies start out as citizens of the world; they can discriminate the sounds of any language.” If you look at language acquisition at the basic level it makes total sense. I would add that as parents, we just have to expose them. So why wouldn’t we give them this gift of multilingualism as early as possible then and sustain it for a lifetime? Just think about how much richer our worlds would be.

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For the full article on multilingualism visit Edweek.org:

Science Grows on Acquiring New Language

October 22, 2010  by Sarah D. Sparks

An emerging body of research dispels old myths about language learning and makes a case for multilingualism.

http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2010/10/22/09window_ep.h30.html?tkn=WWNFeYw0xiUKcWaZfauTKfRVtmSPFAniB5l3&intc=es

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Regenerating the Soul June 23, 2010

Filed under: Culture — theculturedseed @ 12:18 am
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A Page from My Diary – Belize, June 21 2010

 

As I step off of the plane I am instantly hit with a heat that I know only too well. This reminds me of “my country”, Costa Rica, just a few skips to the  south. In our little transport we pass houses typical of the Caribbean – brick and wooden buildings painted over in candy colored hues. Only here would teal, electric orange and lime green houses be coveted. We pass stretches of greenery and I think to myself, “hmm, this place looks like Guanacaste”. Shortly thereafter we pass the Guanacaste National Park and I chuckle. I would know those trees anywhere, you see, because they are “my trees”.

I briefly remember back to the anxiety that I felt on the plane; a mixture of guilt for having left behind my family and job and excitement for the journey that lies ahead. I realize that this is only a memory and the anxiety has vanished, melted away like the remnants of my makeup which is fighting a loosing battle to the heat. Just then, I remember why I am here – to hear myself again. To listen to that part of me that gets drowned out by all of the beliefs, paradigms, constraints, expectations and day to day demands. The ones that I have held for so long and no longer serve me. I am here to unlearn what I have learned and still take the 30 years of knowledge that I have gained and drop it into a bucket called wisdom, while detaching from expectation and past conditioning in order to truly move forward.

I am here to be reborn. Sometimes it is possible to make small adjustments and sometimes you have to burn it all to the ground in order to rise like the Phoenix. Hey, sometimes it “be’s” like that. I guess I learned a thing or two from the Scorpio’s in my life. I find it ironic that I would be carrying my second child right now (also a Scorpio) in the midst of my own rebirth. I almost feel forced into catharsis, despite my rational self, it’s like I have no choice. Arya has already taught me so much about myself, about who I want to be for her and for me. Pretty naïve of me to think that Edan wouldn’t do the same. These are some powerfully catalytic kids. I can’t wait to see the global change that they will bring.

For me, right now, it is clear – change or lay down and die. It sounds dire and in a way it is. So I choose life. My life, by my design. I choose me, for me and for us, and in the midst of this natural splendor I feel grateful for being in the drivers seat again.

 

When Gods Collide March 30, 2010

Filed under: Culture — theculturedseed @ 1:44 am
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When I think back to my childhood experience with religion I have a smattering of vague memories, but probably not what you would expect to recall when you think of spirituality and praising the divine. My most vivid physical memory is that of kneeling and standing and kneeling and standing. My mother was raised Catholic and if you haven’t been to Catholic church they do their fair share of this during Mass. My fathers side of the family was raised Christian and I had Aunt’s and Uncle’s that frequented church, so we sometimes tagged along with our cousin’s, mostly looking forward to the Rite Aid ice cream we would get afterwards rather than the sermon. I share this not to belittle religiosity, but to simply make the point that as a child I never really felt connected to one religion or another and frankly understood very little about connecting with the Source, God, Jesus, Higher Power, Jehova, Universe, Allah whatever you want to call her/him/it. All I have to say is thank goodness for spiritual evolution.

Now as a parent, I have had to review my own personal experience and make choices about how I will choose to introduce my kid to religion or spirituality. For some parents this choice is very simple – you were born into it, or through investigation you become clear on what you believe and you impart these beliefs onto your children. Some spiritual centers even have specific programs to help you along your way. I know mine is now offering Inspired Parenting playgroups where you can get support and build relationships with other parents of same spiritual mind. But sometimes there are curve balls that make it, well… not so straightforward. What about those couples with mixed faith marriages? I have several friends that have married outside of their faith, which presents another level of conversation. Two of my best friends are respectively a Jew married to a Gentile and a Buddhist married to a Muslim, with grandparents that want to celebrate Christmas regardless. It sounds messy, but mostly it works. I think because they have committed to being tolerant despite their religious differences.

Both of my parents have been open to exploring religion and spirituality from many angles and my siblings and I have been privy to this since childhood. This even trickled into their style as disciplinarians. My Dad, being a former Yogi and Black Belt in Karate, used to make us sit in Lotus as punishment as young kids. Do you have any idea the torture it is to make a 6 year old sit still for more than 5 minutes! Far worse than a beating. Sorry, I digress. In doing their own investigations, they have openly shared with us their realizations around the universal truths and a need to respect others choices for their own beliefs regardless of what we choose for ourselves. This is just one way to go about it, but can you imagine if it was a common practice around the globe to respect others religious practices? How many centuries of bloodshed could have been (and could be!) avoided? Oy vey.

This week we celebrate Passover and Easter and sometimes it is easy to get caught up in the commercialism of holidays. If you celebrate either with your kids of course make it fun, but also take the opportunity to look past the Matzo and Egg Hunts and share with your children the history behind the holiday and how this heritage has helped to shape their current reality. If your feeling a bit courageous, you can even take it a step further and teach them a little about what happens on the other side of the fence. It will only make for more open minds and greater respect for the choices that you make as a family with regards to your own beliefs. Shalom and God Bless.

 

Showing Compassion in a Big Way March 16, 2010

Filed under: Culture — theculturedseed @ 3:54 am
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A few weeks back I had the pleasure of hearing the Dalai Lama speak live on the subject of compassion at a Whole Child International event. He was so lovely to watch because he was just so down-to-earth and cool. The first thing he did was cross his legs and explain that he needed to sit right for his brain to work. Ahhhhaaa, maybe I should try that. Then he proceeded to share with us that despite being flown all the way over here for this big event, he hadn’t prepared anything – he never does – but his intent was just to speak with us as if we were old friends sitting across from each other on the couch.  I like that.

Dalai Lama for Whole Child International

His holiness started by stating that the future of humanity rests with people and begins with the notion of Self; basically, change starts at home. Nothing happens outside of us and we are all interconnected, whether we like it or not. He said that if we, as individuals, are peaceful and compassionate then this will trickle into the reality of our families, our communities and the world. He spoke on the need to nurture and cultivate our children from a young age and how critical this love is to their survival as well as the future of our planet. He issued a call to action for all of us to practice compassion in our daily lives and be guided by the knowing that the destruction of your neighbor is the destruction of yourself. His belief is that this could be a century of disarmament, non-violence and peace, but we must work to set the tone for this now as individuals, and this in turn will filter into the collective.

As I continue to walk down this journey called The Cultured Seed, I am continuously inspired by people around me that are doing amazing things. The week after seeing the Dalai Lama I also stumbled across a movement called Sister Giant, which has asked American Women to stand up against world poverty. We all know that there are children around the world that are abandoned or neglected, but did you know that 17,000 children starve to death around the world every single day? That is one child every five second. And not because they were in a deathly accident or had some life threatening illness, it is just because no one fed them. No one cared enough to feed them. Wow.

I really get that it is not just about my kid. It is about a world of children who may not have access to the love and cultivation that our babes are privileged to have in their present realities. Therefore, I have committed to taking a stand for unconditional love for all children. Ultimately, I want my work to extend beyond the borders of my “nuclear world” here in LA to create the possibility for all kids to be cultivated and nurtured around the globe. Our futures depend on it. The first step will be a family friendly festival to raise awareness sometime during the summer. It will be a fun hands-on-experience of what The Cultured Seed is about, but it will also make a difference. If you want to join the dream-team planning committee or have resources to share, drop me a line at rebecca@thecultureseed.com. The rest of you, stay tuned, because you will want to be a participant anyway (smile). In the mean time, spread some love.