Developing Language Skills with New Amigos Board Game

I have always been fascinated by languages. In fact, raising bilingual children is was one of the primary reasons we chose to homeschool. Along the way, we have purposely sought out resources and opportunities to develop fluency in a second language.

Finding materials for Norwegian is not easy (at least where I live) so I was very excited to discover the New Amigos board game. New Amigos makes language learning fun and interactive!

The game has sold over 42,000 copies in Norway where it was developed. In Europe, it is distributed through toy stores, department stores, as well as book stores. Thus far, there are several versions available including: Norsk-English, Norsk-Spanish, and Norsk-Arabic!

Developing Language Skills

You can play either as an individual or on teams, independent of language knowledge or age. By virtue of three difficulty levels, played in parallel, even novices can stand a chance against advanced speakers and learn the basics of the language along the way.

The game works in two directions: native English speakers, for example, but wish to learn Norwegian can play the English-Norwegian version with speakers of Norsk who wish to learn English. The vocabulary is learned by everyone as each player takes his or her turn.

I have compiled a list of my favorite Norwegian Language Resources for families interested in learning Norwegian, Snakker du Norske?

Even players with the same language background and goals can play together. In other words, though both my daughter and I desire to learn Norwegian and are at different levels ourselves, we can successfully play the game together and learn from one another. We do not need to play with someone who speaks the language fluently.

The correct pronunciation of words in foreign languages is no problem, as New Amigos uses a unique phonetic system that doesn’t require any advance knowledge. Unlike the dictionaries, the words are spelled using Latin alphabet letters instead of phonetic symbols.

New Amigos Game Play

The goal of the game is to win cards over three rounds, each new round begins after seven cards have been won. This is accomplished by translating cards in both languages. The winner is the player who, in the final round, translates all of the played cards error-free.

Novices translate simple words, while advanced players translate more difficult words. In addition to vocabulary, there are also sentences and idiomatic expressions. New Amigos also includes geographical information and cards focused on culture, business, and food and drink.

New Amigos is a great game for language learners of all skill levels. Available for purchase online, there are four bilingual versions presently available: Spanish/Norsk, Arabic/Norsk, English/Norsk, and Spanish/English.

The Importance of Quality Adult Mentors for Youth

Kids need adult mentors in their lives. Adults with whom they trust and share common interests. Sometimes mentors can be a family member – an older sibling or an uncle. A mentor can also be a family friend or teacher within the community.

When we lived in Redding, my daughter developed a strong relationship with an elderly woman, Karen Scheuerman, who volunteered her time to lead nature outings for the youth in the community. In the beginning, we looked forward to these weekly excursions – a component of our Roots & Shoots club – because it was a chance to get outside and discover a new part of the local ecosystem.

Enjoying a walk near the lake on one of our many weekly nature outings.

Adult Mentors

As time progressed and we got to know Karen more, a mentor relationship developed that helped to foster my daughter’s interest in the natural world. Though we have since moved away, the lessons she imparted have stayed with us. Their connection fostered a passion for service and protecting the environment for my daughter.

Take a peak at one of our most cherished memories with Karen, Ladybugs Ladybugs Ladybugs!

Sadly, we recently learned that Karen has passed away. As we reflected on all that she taught us about caring for animals and caring for the environment, I began to realize just how important mentors are in the life of a child.

I also realized that Karen had special qualities that epitomized a great mentor relationship. She was of course friendly and outgoing but she had something special.

What are the qualities of effective adult mentors?

What qualities stand out to you in a mentor who is ultimately able to make a difference in the lives of youth? Below, I have outlined six important features of successful mentor relationships:

Be a friend

The successful mentors are the ones who can be a positive adult role model while focusing on the bonding and fun of a traditional friendship. It can be difficult for youth to befriend an unknown adult.

As a mentor, your goal is to help the relationship evolve into one of closeness and trust—but if you sound like you think you know everything or act like a parent and tell him what to do and how to act, you are likely to jeopardize your ability to build that trust.

Karen Scheuerman, mentor and wildlife conservation advocate in Northern California

Have realistic goals and expectations

Strong mentoring relationships do lead to positive changes in youth. These changes tend to occur indirectly, as a result of the close and trusting relationship, and they often occur slowly over time.

Have fun together

Sharing your expertise on a subject is of course educational and rewarding in itself. Having fun together also shows that you are reliable and committed. It is always possible to weave educational moments or real-life learning into the most “fun” activities. This is the kind of learning that youth tend to enjoy. It is learning with an immediate purpose and an immediate payoff; often they don’t even realize that they are learning.

Role models are highly important, helping to guide us through life during our development, to make important decisions that affect the outcome of our lives, and to help us find happiness in later life.

From my earlier post, Mentors & Role Models: The Positive Influences of Adults.

Give youth a choice

Giving your mentee voice and choice about activities will help build your friendship. Allowing them the freedom to choose or suggest activities demonstrates that you value their ideas and that you care about and respect her or him. The process can also help the child develop decision-making and negotiation skills.

Be positive

One of the most important things a mentor can do is to help develop self-esteem and self-confidence. Be encouraging and supportive; not criticizing. Many youth appreciate being able to bring up issues and having an adult who responds primarily by listening.

Listen

Just listening gives kids a chance to vent and lets them know that they can disclose personal matters without worrying about being criticized.

Respect the trust placed in you

As your relationship develops into one of closeness and trust, there might be times when the youth discloses something that causes real concern. As a supportive adult friend, you may be able to express that concern, but deliver your message in a way that also shows understanding and an ability to see her perspective.

Youth Activism: Don’t Silence Their Voices

At our weekly Scout meeting earlier this week we talked briefly about how we, as individuals can make a difference. If you do your duty, then you can make a difference and though you are just one person, together youth activism has the power to impact the world.

Youth activism is youth engagement in community organizing for social change. Youth participation in social change focuses more on issue-oriented activism than traditional partisan or electoral politics.

As hard as it seems, it’s possible to make a difference. All it takes is one idea and the right mix of determination and willpower to effect change at the local level. Start with one thing you’re passionate about and find small, local ways to organize and find solutions to the problem. 

Image of youth activist Greta Thunberg with her sign "Skolstrejk for Klimatet"

GRETA THUNBERG

By now, everyone has heard of Greta Thunberg, a Swedish environmental activist focused on the risks posed by climate change. She began her school climate strike only a year ago. This past week, she inspired over 4 million people to take a stand for climate.

“Everyone is welcome. Everyone is needed.”⁣⁣ ~ Greta Thunberg⁣⁣

Greta is great. However, if we center our attention and lift up only the white youth leaders on an international scale, we risk recreating the exact same dynamics of instilling a culture of white supremacy that is present in modern, adult organizing spaces. We risk silencing the voices of black, indigenous, and people of color .

Indigenous youth and adults have been tirelessly leading the fight for climate justice for millennia and yet their voices have not received the same recognition. Let’s celebrate a few of these amazing young activists!

Image of youth activist Autumn Peltier

AUTUMN PELTIER

⁣Autumun Peltier, Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territory in Canada, was appointed chief water commissioner for the Ashinabek Nation and was recently nominated for the 2019 International Children’s Peace Prize, awarded annually to a child who “fights courageously for children’s rights.” She was only 13-years-old when she addressed the UN General Assembly and told world leaders to “warrior up” to protect water.

Image of youth activist Isra Hirsi

ISRA HIRSI

Isra Hirsi, from Minneapolis, Minnesota, is the co-founder of the U.S. Youth Climate Strike. She helped launch the U.S. movement the same month her mother, Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, took office. She says the climate crisis “is the fight of my generation, and it needs to be addressed urgently.”

Image of youth activist Xiuhtezcatl Martinez

XIUHTEZCATL MARTINEZ⁣⁣

Earth Guardians Youth Director Xiuhtezcatl Martinez is an indigenous climate activist, hip-hop artist, and powerful voice on the front lines of a global youth-led environmental movement.⁣⁣ He has fought for climate protections and spoken to large crowds about the effects of fossil fuels on the Indigenous and other marginalized communities since he was six years old. In 2015, Martinez and 21 other youths filed a lawsuit against the US Federal government, Juliana et al. v United States et al. They argue that the federal government is denying their constitutional right to life, liberty and property by ignoring climate change. 

ROOTS & SHOOTS

Are you a young person interested in making change, but don’t know where to start? Or are you an adult who is inspired by the recent wave of youth activism in the U.S. and want to help out? Consider Roots & Shoots; join an established group in your area or start a new group for your homeschool community or at your school.

Roots & Shoots, a program of the Jane Goodall Institute, is a global movement of youth who are empowered to use their voice and actions to make compassionate decisions, influencing and leading change in their communities.

What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.” ~ Jane Goodall

Founded by Jane Goodall in 1991, the goal is to bring together youth from preschool to university age to work on environmental, conservation, and humanitarian issues. Roots & Shoots is a movement for youth just like Greta, Autumn, Isra, and Xiuhtezcatl …. just like you or your children.


Developing Teen Leaders: Expanding the Family Meeting

Whether your children are toddling about beneath your feet or are asking to borrow the family car, organizational skills are a must. We’ve thereby utilized a monthly family meeting since the kids were wee ones to plan holidays, discuss our goals, and essentially take our pulse or discuss any issues or concerns.

Now that my children are a bit older and they are taking on leadership positions of their own, I find myself sitting back and smiling – admiring how the professional skills we’ve implemented into our family life now help them in their academic and social circles.

young boy scout addressing the city council with text overlay Developing Teen Leaders: Expanding the Family Meeting @EvaVarga.netFor an overview of scout activities, school performances, orthodontic appointments, etc., a shared calendar is critical for us as a family. Using the color coding and invite features, we can improvise when unforeseen changes (sick teachers, additional music lesson, or a Scout Board of Review) are needed. However, we are not always on the same page despite having electronic devices.

Expanding the Monthly Family Meeting

My husband and I have noticed a gap with how to make the upcoming appointments and ‘to do’s’ more tangible for our children. Like us, the kids are more prepared and less stressed when they know what to expect each day. No one likes getting woken for a surprise dental appointment or getting pulled away from a coding issue on their Minecraft server for a haircut. Now that they are older and are beginning to schedule appointments of their own (art lessons, podcast interviews, etc.), we need to be aware of their plans as well.

We tackled this nuance with a family meeting on a weekly basis – or Weekly Overview Review. This meeting takes place next to a whiteboard in the dining room (essentially my VIPKID classroom each morning), and lasts about 15 minutes – usually on Sunday after breakfast, or in the evening if the morning doesn’t work out.

Our shared Apple calendar is color coded and thus using colored markers is a natural extension of our digital schedule system. It helps everyone to visualize the week and understand it better.

The focus is on the coming week, and the board therefore is divided into columns from Monday to Sunday. Everyone enters the most important dates with his or her color and introduces them to the others, e.g. “9-11 volunteer at marine life center”, “6:30 Board Mtg at the hospital”, “piano lessons”, “debate club”. We are thereafter fully engaged and aware of the activities planned through the week.

These revised meetings have been such a success that I’m looking forward to purchasing a magnetic calendar whiteboard. Having a visual reminder that we can refer to throughout the week will also help alleviate conflict. No longer will my son have an excuse to say, “What? I have a doctor apt? You didn’t tell me!”  or “I forgot to look at my calendar. I must have missed the notification.”

Questions We Ask the Children

Once our obligations are recorded on the white board we take time to discuss the details of the week. We also encourage the kids to take more ownership in their learning – to strive for academic and career goals.

Additionally, we all share in the management of the house – doing our part to assure the chores are completed and the burden doesn’t fall on one person’s shoulders. Everyone has a role and helps to contribute to the success of the others.

• What are you doing this week?

• What do you need from us (financial assistance, transportation, etc.)? Are there any permission slips that we have to sign?

• Is there anything from last week that isn’t finished yet?

• Did you schedule time for learning? What creative project(s) are underway? Do you need help studying or with a project?

• Who will take over which household chore in the coming week? 

• What meals would you like this week?

Input in these areas really helps reduce my stress during the week. I’m able to shop for groceries just once (generally) and have a clear plan for the week. No more evenings with me scrambling at the last minute trying to figure out what to cook with what happens to be in the pantry. This also helps assure the menu is more diverse and appealing to everyone.

Questions We Ask Ourselves

As the kids have become more independent, it has also enabled me to go back to work on a part time basis. At first, I was substitute teaching and thus I would be away from home for the full day. This created difficulty in regards to scheduling and transportation. With VIPKID, I rarely substitute anymore but I do volunteer regularly. These obligations require us to sometimes be a little creative or seek out outside support (Grandpa, for example).

• Do either of us have to adjust our weekly plans because an important appointment for the children has been added?

• Do we have to organize outside support on any day?

 

You may think a family meeting like this is too formal. Our experience, however, is that the kids develop a much better understanding of each other’s plans, find their way much better with their own daily lives, and thereby become more independent and self-reliant.

Our Oregon: Reminiscing on Past Experiences in Our Beloved State

I am a native Oregonian. I was born here and though I have lived in California for a few years, I have spent the majority of my life in the Beaver State.

image of a tug boat and old dock pilings morning sunrise with text Our Oregon at EvaVarga.netI have also homeschooled my children from the beginning and have thereby relished in the opportunity to explore our beautiful state through field trips and hands-on experiences that otherwise may not be possible.

I am super excited about the new Travel Oregon video, Only Slightly Exaggerated. Not only is the animation and musical score amazing – it highlights many of Oregon’s most beloved attractions.

Written and produced by Wieden+Kennedy
Animation by Psyop & Sun Creature Studio
Music by Oregon Symphony

Our Oregon

I shared this animation with my children and they were both impressed. My son enjoys creating short videos in iMovie and my daughter loves art. As we watched, inspiration came over me. If they were to create their own video – what locations would they feature? We began to reflect on some of our more cherished memories. I have gathered a few of them here for you:

Waterfalls

When people think of waterfalls in Oregon, they visualize the amazing waterfalls of the Columbia River Gorge, and for good reason. The 620-foot Multnomah Falls is Oregon’s tallest waterfall and its most-visited attraction, seeing over 2.5 million visitors each year. Though the gorge should not be overlooked, there are certainly more waterfalls throughout the state that are just as impressive.

image of teen girl sketching next to a waterfall with text Our Oregon at EvaVarga.netMagic Coast
We now live on the coast and can smell the salt air with each breath. We enjoy the bounty of nature’s blessings with regular clam digging and crabbing excursions. While these activities are also popular with visitors, there are many others. Geocaching, letterboxing, painted rocks, and Oregon Coast Quests are all popular family pastimes.

A great book to read with children – to learn more about the coast and cartography (the art of map making) – is The Coast Mappers by Taylor Morrison.

Along the Oregon Coast, there are four distinct ecosystems – each with its own unique flora and fauna. A visit to each of these makes a fun field trip for families.

Crater Lake

The Cascade Range is a major mountain range of western North America, extending from southern British Columbia through Washington and Oregon to Northern California. The crowning glories of the Cascades are the major volcanic centers – Mount Hood, Mount Jefferson, the Three Sisters, and Crater Lake, which sits in the caldera created by the eruption of Mount Mazama.

The Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway brings visitors from around the world to these majestic areas. From high atop the rim of Crater Lake, you can see what a wonder the world really is. A hike down to the water reveals new wonders.

Forest Trails for Hiking and Biking

We always been avid hikers, though in the past we have focused solely on day hikes. In 2016, for example, we aimed to hike 52 hikes in the year. While the goal was lofty, we just missed it by eight.

We are now training to complete a 50 mile backpacking excursion in summer 2018. In preparation, we will be undertaking several overnight excursions. Backpacking with Teens provides many benefits – most notably connecting with nature and family.

image of teen boy ocean kayaking and harbor seal in background with text Our Oregon at EvaVarga.net

Wild & Scenic Rivers

Oregon’s Rogue River was one of the original eight rivers designated in the National Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. Known for its salmon runs and rugged beauty, the Rogue River was designated October 2, 1968. Aside from breathtaking views, Wild and Scenic rivers provide many benefits for wildlife and humans.

There are approximately 110,994 miles of river in Oregon, of which 1,916.7 miles are designated as Wild & Scenic.

In 1988, Pacific Rivers (then Oregon Rivers Council) took the unprecedented step of crafting the nation’s first large federal river protection act, the landmark Oregon Omnibus National Wild and Scenic River Act. To this day, it remains the largest river protection legislation in the nation’s history. It added 40 outstanding rivers totaling 1500 river miles to the National Wild and Scenic River system in Oregon.

When the children were younger, camping at Indian Mary near Grants Pass was an annual tradition (sadly, the tradition came to an end when we moved to California). These summer days along the Rogue River provided many of our fondest memories and greatest lessons on aquatic critters.

Whale Watching

People come from all over the world to learn about the gray whales that travel along the Oregon coast each year. Whales are visible from Oregon’s shores all year long although some months are better than others.

The Whale Watching Spoken Here program places volunteers at great whale watching sites during the two official watch weeks. The Spring 2018 Whale Watch Week will be March 24th – 31st.

Oregon is not only a great place for whale watching, but visitors also flock to our coastal cities to watch the winter storms.

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As you can see, Oregon is known for its diverse landscape of forests, mountains, farms and beaches. Yet, there is so much more. I’ve lived here nearly my entire life and there are still corners and hidden gems I have yet to see.

How about you? What attractions would you feature in a video animation of your state?

Backpacking with Teens: The benefits exceed physical fitness

The digitalization of today’s modern world has had a massive impact on teens. Children today spend an increasing amount of time on social media and online games, thus ignoring the outdoor aspect which is so important for their physical and emotional development.

My children have been active in Scouting for three years now and we enjoy many outdoor adventures. Today, I am pleased to welcome this guest post sharing the benefits of backpacking with teens.  ~ Eva

The best gift modern parents can gift to their teens is exposing them to a variety of outdoor adventures. Top of the list of these adventures is camping and its extension, backpacking. Backpacking is one of the most creative yet productive ways to prepare a teen for upcoming challenges of adulthood. Backpacking is not just a preparation for adventure but a groundwork for life. When done collaboratively with your teens, backpacking also becomes a time to be cherished.

Parents are the first tutors to their kids. Teen morale gets a boost when they get active. Engaging in activities along side their parents ensures support and encouragement from one another.  Thus, planning and preparing for a backpacking outing is an invaluable way to strengthen the bond between the two.

image of family backpacking in the snow with text Backpacking with Teens @EvaVarga.netBackpacking Builds a Bond

Proper planning is critical for a successful overnight backpacking trip. Involving teens with the preparation provides an opportunity to develop a groundwork for communication and trust. Parents and teens should work together to research the necessary equipment, learn the skills for navigating and tackling unforeseen accidents (first aid, wildlife encounters, etc.), as well as develop a training plan to meet the physical demands. Listed below are aspects which outline how planning and executing a backpacking trip can help develop a stronger relationship with your teen:

Communication: The teenage years are stressful and life-changing. Often, teens tend to tune out or ignore their parents, choosing instead to listen only to their peers. Planning a backpacking outing with your teens can help initiate better communication between parent and adolescent and thereby the development of a stronger bond.

Trust: When preparing for backpacking, there are certain circumstances that will demand both parents and teens work together. Such situations will, in turn, create a sense of responsibility within a teen and positive energy will be released while working together. Planning for the trip is the best time for both parents and teens to build trust with each other.

Perspective: Preparing for an overnight backpacking trip will initiate an understanding between parents and teens. The parents will acquire the ability to identify their teen’s perspective and a blend of creative ideas lead to better preparation.

Concentration: While planning and preparing for backpacking, teens will offer their views and ideas which parents will take into consideration. Such activity enforces relaxation within teens, in turn, relieving stress and spawning better concentration.

Bonds: Often, teenagers do not open up easily and sometimes keep their true feelings hidden away from parents. Through shared backpacking experiences, parents begin to see the strengths of their children and teens see their parents as mentors. This softens the walls they may have built up and encourages teens to be less guarded towards parents and present their views openly.

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Authors Bio

Yogi and Suchna believe in taking the road less travelled and stumbling upon some hidden gems along the way. For over a decade, they’ve mapped their way across various continents, sniffed out unusual routes, discovered new flavours and stayed at quirky hostels. TheBackpackerCo is their expression of soul travel. You can catch up with them at TheBackpackerCo – The Backpack Paris Trip Experts.