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  • Should We Make our Children Multi-lingual?

    Posted on October 5th, 2012 varana No comments

    Living in Canada, when I was moving up through the primary and secondary school system, I was required to learn and know two languages; English and French. Having spoken it since birth, English was my native language, so that part of my eduction obviously didn’t entail teaching me how to speak the language, but instead, it was all about teaching me to master it. I was taught grammar and comprehension and as I moved up through my education, my teachings became less mechanical and more literary. The other language I was expected to learn was French. Canada is a bilingual country, that is, it tries to act like a bilingual country, but in fact isn’t. Our country was ‘founded’ by English and French colonists.  I use the word ‘founded’ quite tentatively because I certainly don’t think that the indigenous people’s of Canada feel that they were ever ‘lost’, but you get my point. Our country was conquered by two distinct nations, and because of that, we are now bilingual.

    If you look at Canada on a map, you will notice that there are  ten provinces and two territories, and out of all of that geography, only one province in our country speaks French. There are of course French communities that are strewn across Canada, but they certainly are not a majority, and in fact, they don’t even represent half of the language groups that are spoken in this country. So keeping that in mind, one has to wonder why Canadian schools are still requiring students to take French up through high school as their second language. That of course isn’t the only option. Depending on where you are in the country, most schools will offer a similar buffet of language courses; French, Spanish, German, and perhaps Japanese. In Vancouver, if you go to school in the northern part of the city, many of the schools there will teach Farsi, a language spoken by the people’s of Iran. Why do we teach Farsi in a ‘Canadian’ school? Because the Iranian population in Vancouver has exploded and it quickly because a useful language. But why is it that our children don’t get a say in what language they learn until they’re in secondary school? And why are we waiting so long to teach our children languages? And the last question is, should we be making our children learn another language other than their own mother tongue?

    Firstly, the short answer to the first question is that there isn’t enough funding, there aren’t enough language teachers and the government has little or no interest in children learning languages that are not ‘governmental’. The answer to the second question is that there is little or no room in the outdated syllabus for children to take up a new language when they’re in primary school. Priority is given to maths and social studies, which are both vital parts of the curriculum, of course, but so is communication. Learning a language is like unlocking a box to a secret world. It’s like cracking a code and having access to a whole world of information that you were never able to access before. But because governments continue to dictate what our children should and should not be learning, they consistently underestimate the learning capacity of a child. Between the ages of eighteen months and seven years old is when a child is the most ‘absorbent’. They are able to easily learn and understand new concepts, their memories are the sharpest and they are able to pick up new forms of communication (mainly language) much easier than any other time in their lives.

    As for the last question, it would be controversial to just say outright, that yes, parents should be placing their children within an arms reach of learning a new language, but not everyone feels that way. Some parents feel that because English is the fastest growing language on earth, that it’s all their children will need. This is of course incredibly short-sighted and if the opportunity is there, you are doing your child the greatest service in the world. Being multilingual amidst globalization is one of the most important tools an individual can have when they step out into the world, so why not give them the gift?

  • ‘Truth Telling’ in the Public School System

    Posted on September 20th, 2012 varana No comments

    The current curriculum in the North American school system, whether we’re talking about the Canadian system or the American system, is in desperate need of an update. It is no secret that North American children are not performing at the same level of excellence as children from other nations. Students from the United Kingdom are superior in subjects like maths, science and literature, students from China and India are excelling in subjects like math and science, and in other places in the developing world, the story is much the same. Despite having high literacy rates and access to some of the best education the planet has to offer, a staggering number of North American students are stepping out into the world with a substandard education. So whose fault is it?

    On the west coast of British Columbia, high school and elementary school teachers have long been embattled with their provincial government because of a lack of age increases. The cost of living has soared, yet their salaries have not. They have also made claims that they are dealing with an increase in class size which is a factor that is directly effecting the progress of students from Kindergarten all the way up to their graduating year. Class sizes in Canada, on average in the elementary and secondary school levels hover around 35 to forty students. This pales in comparison to the class sizes of fifty plus students in places like the United States, or class sizes of up to 100 in developing nations. We certainly aren’t advocating that’s what’s good for the goose is good for the gander, but if students from similar backgrounds and larger class sizes are able to achieve at the highest levels, is there a direct correlation between a students progress and a teacher’s ability to teach? Possibly.

    The argument is that larger class sizes discourage students to participate in the discussion. Only the top students are interested in participating, and thus receive the lion’s share of a teacher’s attention. However, students who are either less interested, or perhaps, suffer from an undiagnosed learning disability are then left in the dust, with no hopes of moving on into a post-secondary career.

    We could debate for hours over whether teachers should receive a higher wage because they have to deal with larger class sizes. Teachers all over the world are dealing with far worse conditions but work for much less. This of course is not a valid argument, because in the industrial world, we talk about things like relative poverty and relative wealth. But is there such thing as relative education, because it would certainly appear that way.

    Young adults are stepping out into the world with just enough information to get by. To be more precise, they’re stepping out into the world with just enough information to function within the constructs of their own society, and if they want to live in a North American, highly ‘Westernized’ bubble, perhaps that is sufficient. However, if a young adult wants to shed the comforts of narrow-minded domesticity, they might not be extracting the tools they need from the current education they are receiving at the secondary level. It’s time for a change.

    The North American syllabus(es) are about as archaic as time is old. Old ideas simply breed new prejudices, in whatever subject matter you happen to be studying. Even maths and sciences, both of which are considered to be, well, static, they too have evolved. So whose job is it to initiate change? Is it the students who are being educated? No. Is it the teachers? Partially? Is it the parents? Absolutely. Educational reform is a community effort, not a movement that should be led by one group of individuals.

  • Why Isn’t Home Economics Important?

    Posted on July 7th, 2012 varana No comments

    I come from a funny generation, and I don’t mean funny in a comedy sense, I mean funny as in, my generation lacks a specific skill set. I went through a high school system where the emphasis was placed on subjects like English, History, Literature, and Math’s and Sciences. Actually, if I’m being very honest, there was little emphasis place on the importance of Math and Science, it was just a required subject, so there was no wiggle room to argue about it. In spite of the fact that it was mandatory, my generation is brimming with individuals who can’t do their basic multiplication tables. It was this whole idea that as long as students took the required subjects, and made decent enough grades to get them into university, nothing else mattered. Upon graduation, we became someone else’s problem.

    What my generation also experienced, was the decline, and than out and out disappearance of programs like art and home economics. Now, I can’t say that I really missed the art classes, because I was absolutely useless at it. I had the imagination of a chimpanzee (of whom, I’m sure has more imagination than me anyway), but because I never took it, I never really developed the creative side of my brain, so when it came time to finding creative solutions to problems, I struggled. Everything was so black and white to me, that I often found it difficult to find or appreciate the grey areas. As for home economics, it was an elective, and it was not something that was encouraged. I had the choice between drafting and shop class, or home economics, and my parents pretty made the choice for me. “What do you need to learn how to sew for?” my mother would say, “it’s not like you’re going to become a fashion designer.” While she may have had a point about the fashion design, I think she missed the mark on the importance of having a skill like sewing, not to mention, the importance of all of the other skills that I would have acquired in the duration of the course.

    Back in the 1950′s, home economics was a class that was only ever taught to women. It was the post war period, and women no longer had to work in factories to contribute to the war effort. The husbands had come home from the war, they wanted to start having families, and a woman’s place was inside the home. home economics was the type of course that taught women all the skills she needed to be the perfect wife. She was taught how to cook, how to set a table, how to entertain guests, how to darn her husbands socks, how to sew her own clothes, and on top of everything else, it taught her how to be a lady. It was basically a miniature finishing school. And I think that nowadays, when parents think of a Home EC class, they don’t see the value in it.

    Times have changed, significantly. And we know that women are no longer interested, for the most part, in playing the Stepford Wife role. But that fact aside, home economics classes today, often have as many boys as girls in their classes, and subject matter is far more broad than it used to be. Teaching our children to cook teaches them independence, and unless you want to be waiting on your grown child, hand and foot for the rest of their lives, than why would you want to oppose that? And what the heck is wrong with learning how to make your own clothing? Do you have any idea how much money North Americans spend on clothing every year? It’s ludicrous! There’s nothing wrong learning life skills in a classroom setting!

  • I Think I Can

    Posted on May 28th, 2012 varana No comments

    Hello all! Welcome back to our blog! We’re going to switch gears a little bit and stray away from the earlier topics and talk about the art of learning. I know, you’re probably scratching your heads. What the heck is the art of learning? Well, it’s just that. It seems that the learning revolution is finally upon us, where educational institutions are finally starting to realize that the way one human brain intakes information and processes it in such a way that the information is absorbed and understood, is completely different from the next brain. There is a standardized method of teaching in schools across North America, and it has left millions upon millions of children behind, all because they weren’t learning in the prescribed way. I’m going to tell you a little story, about a child who didn’t work to their potential, and not because they were lazy, but because they lacked the tools.

    I was an exceptional student in most respects. I was reading at an adult level when I was in grade 4. By the age of eleven, I was reading the War and Peace, and studying Greek mythology. I was even enrolled in something called the “Challenge Program”. Two days I week I went to the local university and took subjects like history and literature. I was even on the junior debate team. But the second that I sat down to do my math homework, I would literally have heart palpitations. I would sit in class and I would watch helplessly as the teacher wrote furiously across the chalkboard, and nothing ever made sense. I would pepper both the teacher and my classmates with questions, ask them to explain things to me more simply, but nothing ever stuck.

    Unfortunately, my disability followed me to high school. My parents were very aware of my struggle with the subject, but because my own parents weren’t comfortable with math themselves, they didn’t really know how to help me, so they enlisted the help of tutors. I didn’t just have a math tutor, I had an army of them. I took an extra hour of my teacher’s time, each day for five years. And every year, my report gleamed with straight A’s with the exception of that one math grade that always cast a dark, ugly shadow across the rest of my report. And almost every summer, I spent six weeks struggling my way through summer school. And while everyone else in high school was wondering how to become a veterinarian, or how to be a nurse, I was wondering how on earth, any school in the country was going to accept a high school student that couldn’t pass math.

    It destroyed my confident as a student as the years wore on. Classes that I was excelling in, I was starting to let slip, because I was so unhappy and felt so defeated. I was beginning to feel like I had a severe learning disability, and math just wasn’t something I would ever be capable of mastering it. What I didn’t realize until much later in life, is that not only do girls tend to struggle more at math than boys do, most people struggle with math, and it’s because we’ve all been taught in the exact same manner. We are all capable of mastering maths and sciences, there are incredible teaching methods out there that are designed to circumnavigate old teaching habits and bring about fresh ideas to open minds. I’m actually reading a book right now called the Myth of Ability, and I can’t imagine a more relevant theme for my struggle. We can learn anything, we just need top stop doubting ourselves and seek out individuals with cutting edge teaching techniques.

  • Have Mat, Will Travel

    Posted on April 14th, 2012 varana No comments

    Hey there gypsy yogis! Welcome to the Travel Mat. It’s part travel blog, part yoga blog. In total, it’s going to be totally awesome. I suppose you’re just dying to know a little bit more about the person who came up with this completely amazing blog idea. It’s me! My name is Corinne and I’m a yogi, traveler and outdoor enthusiast. I wake up every morning, pat myself on the back for following my dreams and then I hit my mat. Where does this morning ritual take place? Well, right now it’s Denver. This summer, it will be mainly at an organic farm on the Western slope. And then? Well, who knows?

    I love to travel and I love doing yoga in all of the new environments I find myself in. I find that it keeps my awareness up while I travel and that it makes every practice that much more meaningful. I also love finding new teachers and meeting new yogis along the way. So let’s do a brief overview of the past six months:

    In December, I randomly ended up here…

    Panama

    I did yoga and meditated on that beach by myself for a week. From that trip, I learned that you just have to take the leap and the net will be there to catch you. It was the first time I’d ever traveled abroad alone and I really began to find my independence and strength there in both my practice and in my travels. After that, I knew I could teach myself and that I could travel on my own. That realization was a great gift that has shaped my life.

    After that, I landed here…

    Chicago

    I got the call to house sit for a couple of Aussies while they were away for a month. In Chicago, I discovered a type of yoga called Forrest Yoga. It completely changed my life. It’s an incredible style of hatha yoga that’s challenging, healing and invigorating. While in Chicago, I set the intention to become a yoga teacher and to complete my first novel by the end of the year.

    And now, I’m here…

    Denver!

    I’ve done more yoga in this city than in any other. That roof saw more yoga action than most studios. I came to Denver to get my RYT 200 and a few weeks ago, I did just that. And I did it with the amazing and inspiring Ana Forrest. Now that it’s over, those mountains are calling to be crossed. Time to pack up the mat and move along.

    Where has your mat been lately?

  • Respect Yourself

    Posted on March 21st, 2012 varana No comments

    Don’t rely on someone else for your happiness and self worth. Only you can be responsible for that. If you can’t love and respect yourself – no one else will be able to make that happen. Accept who you are – completely; the good and the bad – and make changes as YOU see fit – not because you think someone else wants you to be different.” Stacey Charter

    Don’t go for second best, baby, put your lover to the test.” Madonna

    Let me preface this week’s post by saying, been there – done that – got the t-shirt. I’ve noticed among some of my daughter’s friends a trend that is very disturbing to me. Young women think they have to have sex with a young man in order to keep him or capture his attention. On the flip side some young men think they prove their self worth by how many women they can sleep with. They go through women faster than a drunk goes through six packs. This is pitiful.

    http://farm4.staticflickr.com/3594/3577925661_eca5ee9115_m.jpgYoung women, stop putting out thinking it is the only way to get or keep a man. You need to make him prove he is worthy to be with you. And yes, oral sex is still sex. If a man threatens to leave you unless you put out, let him go. He’s not worth your time. I think sometimes this happens because of a fear of being alone. I see young women getting pregnant, contracting an STD, and suffer from broken hearts because of the mindset of casual sex. No sex is casual. There is always some form of emotional attachment no matter how much you want to deny it.

    Recently I told one young man to consider this. What if you had a daughter and some guy “hit it and quit it”? How would that make you feel? You’d want to go tear his head off right? Well…what do you think happens when you get what you want and them dump a woman? Same thing with a woman getting sex and then dumping a guy. Sex is not a game. It is not a weapon to be used for power. It is supposed to be a pure and genuine way to express your love for your mate.

    Ideally sex should not happen before marriage, but I know we’re living in times when living together is considered normal. So if you’re not planning on getting married before you engage in sexual activity, please at least be in a committed relationship. One where you know and trust the other person and you’re not just “doing it” because you want to hang on to them or because you’re bored.

    You don’t have to have a degree in psychology to see the devastation and heartbreak caused by not respecting yourself. I believe having sex because you want to hang onto a partner or pressuring someone to have sex with you is a clear case of not respecting yourself or the other person. If you respect yourself and demand respect from others, you will come to realize you are worth more than your private parts. You are a beautiful person on the inside and out. You deserve a partner who loves you, has your best interest at heart, and treats you like a queen or king.

    I realize some of the readers of this blog will think I’m just old fashioned, but I’ve lived this. I have seen and experienced how empty this type of behavior leaves you. You may think you’re cool and having a great time, but at night when you lie your head on your pillow and think about your life in the dark night you will know the truth. Respect starts within you. Don’t be like little children trying to collect all the toys they can, or get as much attention as they can. Grow up, take responsibility for your actions and learn to love and respect yourself.

  • Playing It Safe

    Posted on March 12th, 2012 varana No comments
    http://farm1.staticflickr.com/37/84885938_2c4dba2a64_m.jpg

    Walk with confidence.

    The world is a dangerous place, there’s not doubt about it. It seems as if it is getting more dangerous each day, but you don’t want to stay at home all of the time. You need to go out and about, and you can do so safely if you use common sense and know your terrain. Any police officer will tell you self confidence and knowing your surroundings are two of the best self defense tools you have. As women we have to be able to go about our business without worrying every second if we’re going to fall into danger. Here are some tips to help you play it safe.

    • Know what is going on around you. Don’t walk around with your head in your mobile device or with your eyes on the ground. Know who is in your path, what is happening around you, and if you will need to run to safety.
    • Walk with confidence. Attackers and thieves look for people who are timid. If you give off an air of confidence, they will not be as ready to victimize you.
    • Don’t walk alone at night, ever. You may think a quick trip to the corner store is safe, but don’t take chances. Either drive or wait until someone can go with you. Is that gallon of mild really that important to risk you safety over?
    • When you’re going to out walking don’t wear large pieces of jewelry. It’s nice to wear your jewelry to special occasions, but the larger the piece and the more you wear is almost an invitation to be mugged or robbed.
    • My dad always told me to know an escape route. When you go out to dinner, shop, or are out in public know where you would escape. This means knowing the exits, not sit with your back to the door, and keep your eyes open for trouble.
    • On the bus or train always sit in the aisle seat so you can escape quickly. The best seat is right behind the driver since you won’t be bothered and you’ll be right next to the door.
    • Always check the back seat of your vehicle before you get in. Attackers can hide in the backseat and come up from behind. Do this each and every time you get into your car no matter how quick the trip into the store may have been. It only takes a second or two to hop into the backseat.
    • In that vein always lock your car doors. In traffic this will keep someone from opening the passenger seat and getting in or grabbing your purse. It will also prevent anyone from opening the driver side and snatching you out of your car to steal it. When you get out of your car make it a habit to lock your door no matter how long you expect to be away from it.

    These are just a few tips to try and keep you safe as you go about your day to day routine. You shouldn’t live in fear, but you need to play it safe no matter what time of day or night it is.

     

  • Fun Things Around The House

    Posted on December 19th, 2011 varana No comments

    You don’t have to be a tax accountant to know that there are times when you can’t go out with the kids. You also know that there is no way that you can afford pizza every Friday night, or getting that specialty coffee.

    But kids are important. Without the attention they need to grow and develop, children tend to have issues with the outside world. They fail to learn how to socialize. They act out in class, start fights, and worse. This act of aggression is a desperate seek of attention, and even if it’s bad, they are going to get it.

    Moms and dads alike know that the working world takes up a lot of our time just to make the bills. There are times when all we want to do is curl up in a ball and avoid the frustrations of the outside world. It’s true, though frustrating, kids are not a convenience. If they were, you can just imagine how many parents would not have them.

    How do we make it fun for them, while keeping our sanity? Revert. Reversion and digression to their levels makes it fun for them, and if you video it, makes it fun for you to relive. Become the dragon that they are so frightened of and chase their fears away. Monsters under the bed? Find a cheap, and good smelling, cologne. Tell them it’s the monster spray, and as long as they can smell it, monsters will not come near them. The cheaper the better works, as we all know that cheap perfume lasts a really, really long time.

    Frustrated with having to IM your teen for dinner? I totally understand. I found that if I make their plates and set them off to the side, they’ll eventually come out of hiding. Ironically, they look like sewer monsters when they do, and a digital camera is great. When the breach their hulls of the bedroom where “No one is allowed,” snap that picture with them unaware. Eventually, they’ll come down for dinner earlier, avoiding the mishap of the camera, and worse, you posting it to their Facebook page.

    Make a picnic out of an afternoon snack with your toddler. Pretend their are ants, and your little one is the only one in the world who can make them go away and not steal the snacks. They become the hero, and the praise does wonders for their social incline.

    More and more parents are finding it difficult to spend time with their kids. Pencil “Jimmy”, or whatever your child’s name is, into your schedule. Don’t specify, just write the name. When you look at your schedule, you will know it’s Sara’s turn, or Gregory has a play, or Janie has a recital. However you do it, just make the time. 24 hours in a day can have it’s benefits.

  • Food For Thought

    Posted on December 8th, 2011 varana No comments

    Saving money and time can be a hassle for the average stay at home mom or dad. Unless you are a financial analyst who is amazing with crunching numbers on the spot, you can find that even your grocery bill can be an amazing defeat in the world of saving cash.

     

    This world is full of debt, and unfortunately, so is anyone who has ever lived. Finding out how to get the best in groceries and still save money is a life saver for many families today. There are simple things that you can do before even leaving the house to go shopping.

     

    Make a list. One of the biggest ways to lose money is by not knowing what you absolutely need in the house. Once you make the list, take it with you. For anyone who shops regularly every week, memorize the layout of the store in your mind. This will help you in organizing your buggy later on, and can save you a bundle in the end too.

     

    Coupons. I would love to see a raise of hands of those who watched mom sit for hours on a Sunday at the kitchen table clipping coupons. This age old trend is still a massive way to save that hard earned cash in the end. But there is a trick to it. A coupon for $1 off a brand of toothpaste should be used on the smallest size available to the coupon’s instructions. Find stores that still double coupons, and you can save hundreds of dollars every year. Though a rare find, those stores that still double the coupons are usually also the most expensive, so watch out for price hikes in some of the products you buy.

     

    Stick to the same store every time you shop. If they don’t have it, don’t get it. It really is as simple as that, and there is nothing more to it. Not only will you save on your groceries on sites like CouponSuzy.com, but you will save in the gas you use to run all over looking for that one certain item.

     

    Leftovers are healthy. After all, you made them right? Heated up leftovers for dinner cleans out your refrigerator, feeds the family, and saves on a meal once a week. Granted, there are some things that just taste horrible reheated, such as eggs. But as the old saying goes, eggs really are cheaper by the dozen.

     

    So there you have it. Make a list. Cut or pint out coupons. Stay loyal to one store. Eat and be merry while saving a bundle at the same time.