Happy Halloween!

Our preparation for Halloween started more than a month ago with the skeleton craze (see a post about it). E. has really been excited about this holiday. She didn’t get the spooky part. She thought ghosts, skeletons and witches are funny and fell in love with the jack-o-lantern.

We, parents, did a lot of preparation for the big day, which was the 30th instead of the 31st October.

It all began in the nursery. A little costume party was organised in the afternoon and parents were invited. The kids had a short performance of singing and dancing in Hungarian and mostly in English. Songs like these:

Knock, knock trick or treat who are you?

Can you make a happy face?

E. knows them well enough as we’ve been watching nothing else but Halloween songs since she saw the Dem bones song:

E. knew exactly what she wanted to dress up as from the very beginning. What else than a skeleton. (I got her skeleton costume -pyjamas- from H&M).

As a part of the party the kids could have a look at how a pumpkin is carved into a jack-o-lantern.

Little helpers
Partying hard

The fun continued at home with our welcoming jack-o-door …

… and the MEC (Mums’ English Club) Halloween party.

 

Guests are arriving in costumes

 

We added face paint to maximise the scariness
MEC group

 

Mummies, oat-pumpkin biscuits and other snacks

Batman is playing with the balloon, Pumpkin and Spider are looking for some toys, Fairy wants her Mommy in the backround and Skeleton is just gazing into air. 
What a company!

The parties, the excitement, the food, the costumes, the decorations and the atmosphere were all great and memorable for both parents and their little ones. See you next year!

 

HAPPY HALLOWEEN EVERYONE!!!

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Helen Doron Baby Days II.

August has arrived so we have taken part in another few days at our Helen Doron Language School. Here is the summary of our 3 sessions:
Day1: Fruits
I was really happy as this is one of E.’s favourite topics. Her eyes sparkled when she saw a picture of an apple and a straberry in the teacher’s hand. She looked at me and glowed with delight. I felt she knew the whole session will be about fruits. So I wasn’t surprised at all when in the middle of the lesson she was brave enough to say apple, pear and nana (for banana). She says strawberry in Hungarian (she always chooses the easier word of the two languages – very smart). The activities we had:

  • matching half fruit
  •  matching fruit with their shapes
  •  sticking fruit on a big tree
  •  taking plastic fruits out of a pelican’s beak then put them back
  •  turning flashcards facing down
  •  fruit song ( I like bananas…)
And of course the usual revisions, like the Uppety song or the Waving song.
E. is waving to Rosie, the doll (on the 3rd day)

The teacher in me would have included the colours a little bit.

I was taken aback when the picture of an avocado came up. Well, we live in a different eating culture here in Hungary.

However, the main point is E. enjoyed herself a lot. I haven’t seen her this active yet. And the number of mums and kids was better than at the beginning of July (6 mums with 6 kids – too many).

Day2: Animals

 E. wasn’t in a good mood today. We had a rough night and she was clinging to me all day. It was the same at the lesson. She was much less active, which was a pitty. As I could see the other kids were a little bit less patient than they usually are. But again E. said quite a few animal names and the sounds they make, too. (hippo, doggy, miaow, hee-haw)

 

I liked the ‘Abracadabra’ game. It was about showing 3 animal pictures and the same animals in soft toys. Then the teacher covered the toys with a blanket and made one of the animals disappear as she lifted the blanket up. Then she asked which animal was missing and made the kids match the soft toys and the animal pictures. It could draw and keep children’s attention.

We also listened to some real animal sounds and had to find the picture of the animal we could hear. It was also good fun, though there was some technical glitch, which also happened when we were listening to the animal sound song.

Another great activity was a bowl of water with plastic animals in it. I was scared to see the bowl full of water but nobody got wet, luckily, and the kids took great pleasure in splashing a bit in water. (Not to mention how refreshing it was in this heat). It is also a nice activity from sensory point of view. One of the reasons why I like the Helen Doron Early English is the wonderful combination of several kind of development involved at the lessons.

We also revised a little bit of the fruits (matching Velcro-ed fruit with their shape and matching one type of fruit with two of its kind with a marker on a white board – E. was interested in the latter as we started to do a little bit of drawing together).

Fruit activity – sorry, taken with a mobile

After that the kids chose a toy animal from a big bag (E. said: ‘choseone’ as if it were one word) they had to lift it up and put it down, then turn it round while we were listening to the Uppety song.

All in all, it was a good day with plenty of varied activities, nice hand puppets, real-life animal sounds, some sensory game and great deal of moving around. I just wish E.’d had a better mood.
We finished on time and we could get home to our weekly Mums’ English Club.

Day 3: Actions

This day was all about moving around. It was lovely, though towards the end the kids got a little carried away. But let’s start with the beginning.

The group shrank a little, there were only 4 mums with their kids. We were banging drums, the door, the chair (E. sometimes hit her head a bit) with the drumsticks.

E. is picking drumsticks for banging

The children were swinging in a blanket one by one, walking around slowly and quickly, turning around, clapping hands, touching face, stacking building blocks, pouring water, and most important of all, blowing bubbles among others. What else would a little explorer wish to do? All the activities were engaging and great fun for the kids. This time I managed to take some nicer photos. Have a look. The pics speak for themselves.

Pouring water from a cup to a bowl

 

“Stacking, stacking, stacking it up”

 

I’ll try it

The lesson fell apart a bit by the lesson. One child was eating, the other one was whining (wanted more bubbles), the third one was taking the pictures off the wall, instead of indulging themselves in the Waving song – Whatever! It was a great day. They all got really excited because there were a lot impulses.

Every time I am amazed how brave E. is to say English words, more and more every day. She likes taking part in these sessions. She said purple, bubble, water, more, try it and shouted in the middle of the lesson: ORANGE ORANGE ORANGE. This must be the sign of her being entertained and feeling relaxed 🙂 Well, I’ve already reached my main aim, then.

Helen Doron Early English – First Impressions

Putting aside my scepticism, few weeks ago we took part in a mock lesson at the Helen Doron school nearby. The teacher, Zs., was really kind, gave us all the information we needed (about the course booklets, CDs, prices, summer programmes, the course itself). She was well-prepared for the lesson (even had a little piece of paper with the lesson plan, CD track numbers etc., which E. wanted to steal). She’s got a relatively strong Hungarian accent. I would be happier with a native speaker, but you can’t have it all.

The lesson was only 20 minutes long. The usual lesson is 45 minutes otherwise. We have already known one of the songs which is also available online and E. recognised it showing it with a wide smile and arm flapping when it started:

In the past I had already visited a lesson in another school, where the teacher was nice as well and the lesson could have gone well, however the parents present were a pain in the neck. So this time I was worried about the other moms. Luckily, the whole session was a pleasant surprise. Three mommies were there with their little ones and after we’d chatted a bit, it turned out they also think in the same way as I do. They want some useful activities for their kids. None of them was smarty, bossy or pushy as for the language learning. (At the previous place moms corrected the teacher, talked in Hungarian with their kids during the lesson, bombarded the teacher with their idiotic questions after the lesson. None of these happened here.)
So we went home cheerfully. I discussed the details with D. and we decided to go for it.

The course has just started we are at the very beginning. It’s hard to draw any conclusion, but so far so good. We are enjoying it. I found the CD material quite entertaining, nicely put together and only about 10 minutes long. According to the instructions, E. needs to listen to it twice a day. We manage to do that. We have a long list of songs she listens to while I’m doing housework, so I included the Helen Doron tracks into our morning routine.

The school premises are basic, though. The classrooms are okay, they are well-equipped. Still, I think the flashcard, pictures should be re-laminated every now and then.

The prices are reasonable. If we do not calculate the booklets and CDs, on a monthly basis it costs as if you were going to a costly playhouse once or twice a week.

Of course, hiring a native nanny at the same fee would be the best, but I want E. to be in another surroundings, meeting other people, kids.

In the back of my mind it is also there that some moms might be interested in MEC. I’ll give them a flyer soon.

I’ll be back posting on Helen Doron Early English more, when I have more to talk about.

Helpers

To reach our goals I am not enough as the only English speaker in E.’s life.
First, I tried to find native playmates for E., but she was too little for them. But I’ll try it again when she starts being interested in playing with others, as now, at the age of 11 months, she just plays NEXT TO another child, but not WITH them.


B. is reading with E. (who is 7 months old here)

I arranged  with my best friend, B., who is an English teacher as well, to talk to E. in English only. So every Friday when she has no lessons or other programmes she comes over and plays, chats, reads out to E. It’s real fun as I can be with my friend and E. is also entertained IN ENGLISH. There are other family occasions where B. is also present (name days, birthdays, Easter etc), and even at these times when Hungarian is the major language used, B. speaks English to E. Sometimes it’s a bit chaotic and quite challenging for B. to share her attention between two languages, but we have succeeded so far. (By the way, B. speaks four languages at a near-native level: Hungarian, Romanian, English and German). Nice example for E.



Another helper of ours is A., our British nanny. A. comes once a week (on Thursdays) for 2 hours to play with E. She loves A., smiles at her as soon as she arrives, screams and babbles a lot while A. is at our place. I may claim that E. “talks” to A. the most compared to how rarely they meet. A.’s main task is to talk, talk and talk to E. Another reason why it is so useful for her to be present in our life is that I can brush up my English. If I don’t know the exact, or natural expression for some object, activites, baby language, A. is here to help me out. In the future I would like A. to come more frequently or come out with us to the playground or to the zoo. If I go back to work (which will be soon even if it’ll be only part-time) I would be happier if an English speaker took care of E. while I’m away. If she has time for us as she is quite popular with moms. A. could be a kind of replacement for me.  I know this idea won’t be very welcomed by the Grandmas.


A. is talking to E. (10,5 moths old) about animal flashcards

At the Helen Doron Early English class, our teacher, Zs., is also a kind of helper. She provides us with another occasion to practise and learn English out of our home. E. can see that other people also use this form of communication. And it is also important that she is with other kids, too.

The same applies to MEC (Mums’ English Club), except for the fact that it takes place in our home, in E.’s comfort zone.

My plan for the near future (as soon as E. can walk) is to find a playhouse where native or non-Hungarian mommies go with their little one.

Weekly-daily schedule

Our daily schedule concerning English has developed slowly. E. is 11 months old and for a month now we’ve had a more or less fixed weekly agenda. Here it is:

60% is in Hungarian and 40% is in English – I wish we could keep this balance

We’ve just started Helen Doron English (in a later post I’ll write about our experience), but it definitely increases the time spent on English and we are not at home using the minor language at last. Tuesdays and Thursdays are clearly dedicated to English. Mondays and Wednesdays are the Hungarian days. Still, on these days we have 2 or 3 hours of English input. (What is not in the chart is the 20-30 minutes when D. takes the dog out for a walk in the evening. E. and I change into English and lay the table, put away the toys or watch some videos or books in English while they’re away.)

Fridays are changeable, but in general half of the day goes in Hungarian, the other half in English. Before our Hungarian playmate comes to visit us, we go out for a walk together or to the market and then we use Hungarian as English would be unnatural.

My only problem is the weekends. As the whole family is together, it’s really difficult to find time and natural situations when we can use English. At weekends 1 hour of English per day is “forced” into our programme (singing, video watching, reading out) but not real communicative interactions. I’ll try to find out something for the weekends. If you have any suggestions, just feel free to share it with me.

In the table above you can’t see food time (which is in the given language according to which day it is) and daily sleeping time, however the latter takes away 2-3 hours per day.

At the beginning of January we took up baby swimming on Saturday mornings. I found a course at Budapest Moms (you can find the group’s facebook page here), which was held in two languages. The tutor is Hungarian and in the water one of the moms do the interpreting. As the swimming pool echoes a lot it is hard to hear the Hungarian words, not to mention the English ones, however, we met a lot of non-Hungarian families (Russians, French, Dutch, Canadians etc). As for the English language, it doesn’t make a big difference whether we take part in this swimming course or another, but the trainer is really professional and the pool is clean, the water is warm. So all in all we, and most important of all, E. enjoy it. It’s a good family programme for the weekend. The course is finished in a week, now we are thinking of continuing it, but not sure. Good weather has arrived, we might want to spend time outside instead.

I’m a little worried about being able to keep this schedule. One thing is permanent in a baby’s life that nothing is permanent. As I’m planning to work part-time soon, probably in a month or two our agenda needs to be revised.