Tag Archives: education

Summer adventures at Oxford Castle

Though many of us enjoy the prospect of the Summer Holidays, a break in the routine, time together as a family with less pressure whether you stay at home or go away. Days out as a family are a great way to spend time together and learn something too.

As we are such a cultured family, we were thrilled to be offered the opportunity to visit Oxford Castle. It is only an hour from us and we’d not even heard of it before. It is run by the same company, continuum attractions, who run The Canterbury tales experience we visited back in April. http://lingotastic.co.uk/2017/knights-school-and-chaucer-the-canterbury-tales-experience/

We left the car at Thornhill park and ride. and headed into Oxford. The nearest stop to the Castle is Carfax tower.
The castle was a bit tricky to find on foot. We had to rely on Google maps to get there.

The castle has an amazing history, from the Norman keep, the site of the Empress’s escape, the catacombs where scholar Geoffrey of Monmouth taught and penned the king Arthur stories, to the Georgian Prison wing. It is the site of St Georges Chapel where many believe education in Oxford was born 900 years ago.

For hundreds of years, the site has held both famous and infamous residents, serving as a religious site, a home for royalty, a centre of justice and as the County Gaol.

As the Keep has such a long history, there are many people featured in it, and a handful of their stories are brought to life during the entertaining tour.

We arrived a bit early and had time to peruse the shop and cafe. Whilst sat in the cafe the girls did a bit of language spotting. There was a tour going on in Spanish, one in Italian, a group of Mandarin exchange students some French students, a Polish family, a Bulgarian family that we spotted. I was so proud they could identify all those languages.

We’ve visited a few castles in our time but the fact this one had been the site of a prison for 800 years and many executions had happened there made me a bit uneasy. My children are aged 8 and 10 and some parts of the tour made them uneasy, especially the story of the seven year old girl imprisoned for borrowing a perambulator. This tour is suited to older children and adults. The access, (as it is an ancient building) means you need to be steady on your feet to take part. I would not recommend the tour to those of a nervous disposition.

There was some colouring for children in the in exhibition room which the girls did whilst we perused the exhibition.

The highlight of our visit was Knight’s school. The blokes leading it were really knowledgeable and keen. My girls could not wait to get started on swordfighting. The enthusiasm was infectious. It was great to see them really engaging in this. As we chatted to the lads it made more sense. George and Robin are actually keen fencers themselves so running Knight’s school is just a continuation of what they do day by day anyway.

We spent five hours around the site, including climbing the Mound of the 11th century Motte and Bailey Castle.

On balance, the kids enjoyed the tour, the Knight’s school being the highlight for them.


Oxford Castle Unlocked is open daily from 10.00am to 5.30pm (last tour 4.20pm).

Standard admission prices:
Adult: £10.25, Concession: £9.25, Child: £7.75, Family (2 adults, 2 children): £35

Oxford Castle Unlocked is a 1000 year old castle which also served as a prison for over 800 years. The visitor attraction opened on 2 June 2006 and gives visitors the opportunity to learn about the real people who lived and died throughout the site’s turbulent past. Visitors are able to walk through the ancient buildings and experience the stories that connect the real people to these extraordinary events.

If your children would like to hear more about the King Arthur story, we really enjoyed this version.

Disclaimer:
Our family was given free entry to the Castle for the purpose of reviewing the attraction. These are our own opinions.

Inspirational mum Michelle from 1st early education

Each month we interview an inspirational mum in business. This month we have Michelle from 1st Early Education. I’ll let her introduce herself.

Hi I’m Michelle and I am originally from Dublin now living in Co. Wicklow Ireland with my family. I have a daughter in her early twenties and a teenage son.

What’s your career background?
I am a creative writer and storyteller and am trained in the Montessori method of education. I have been working in the field of childcare and early education for over 25 years.

where did the idea for your business come from?
I have always liked the idea of running my own business. When I found out I was unable to renew my contract because of a government embargo I decided to combine my experience of teaching and working in early childhood education and my love of creative writing and storytelling to create an online resource for parents and teachers called 1stearlyed.com. I have had great reaction to the audio work and have now launched my first album called ‘Fun in the car’.

Who are your target audience?
Parents of young children , The parent who values listening and sharing time with their little ones, wanting them to have lots of fun and learn making the most of this most valuable time in their formative years.
It appeals to preschool teachers as well as it is fun with an educational twist. The poems and stories you hear on the album compliment what they learn in their early years.

How do you spread the word about what you do?
Word of mouth , when people hear my album they tell others which is great, Because it is online through social media channels I am able to reach people all over the world which is fantastic, I have a lot of contacts in the early education sector and go to conferences and seminars spreading the word.

What’s been the biggest obstacle you’ve had to overcome?
Believing in myself and having the confidence to put my work out there.

And your proudest moment/biggest success so far?
Launching my first album ‘Fun in the car’

Why is work so important to you ?
I am very lucky in that I am passionate about what I do. I love my work. I absolutely love writing and creating material for children in their formative years.

Who inspires you ?
I have to say the little ones I have worked with over the years. I can see their little faces as I write and create the audio, it’s magical.

Balancing work and life.
Working on this because a lot of my work is online. I need to make sure take time out for myself and my family. Live every minute to the full.

The album consists of 9 tracks which can be downloaded. The tracks are full of original poems and stories narrated by Michelle with lovely background noises. They can find out about Teddy and all the adventures. Teddy loves playing hide and seek. The children can listen and interact learning about different places they may go and things they may see. The great thing is there are lots of little facts incorporated so along with improving their listening and observational skills ,plus enriching their vocabulary, they will be absorbing knowledge in a fun way.
On the site you will find resources to do with your children and activities to compliment what they hear about on the album. Keep checking back as it is always being updated.
You can find out more about the album and resources at www.1stearlyed.com

facebook 1stearlyeducation/

twitter @1stearlyed

If you want to buy your own copy of this great resource check out Fun in the car CD

How does it feel to speak a language?

We are really blessed to have a guest post from the inspirational bilingual author Delia Berlin. Prepare to be encouraged and provoked to think.A tall order, but she does it! Emotional Aspects of Language Learning

Delia on deck

I grew up in Argentina and my first language was Spanish. Then and there, any knowledge of a foreign language was universally valued. My school years in Argentina exposed me to German, English and French. Today, I’m only fluent in Spanish and English, but I still have rudimentary knowledge of a variety of languages.
Having spent my adult life in the US, when I had a daughter I had to decide what language to use with her. Since I always thought that speaking more than one language was beneficial, I wanted her to learn both English and Spanish. She was bound to learn English from her teachers and peers, so I chose Spanish. She grew up bilingual, and decades later she is now raising a bilingual child of her own.

So why is it that so many Americans with parents or grandparents who spoke another language never learned a word of it? A friend of mine pointed out that in her family, the first generation of immigrants was focused on fitting in. Learning English and leaving the old language behind was required for upward mobility and success. There was no practical value in teaching children a language for which they no longer saw use. For these immigrants who had left their countries forever, survival depended on growing new roots as Americans.

In the years between the world wars, immigrants arrived in waves. There was a hierarchy for these groups, with the latest one to arrive usually being the poorest and least socially connected, and therefore shunned. With language as the main identifier of one’s group, the quicker one learned English, the sooner this discrimination would diminish. Native languages were a liability. It was only natural for parents to want their children to sound “American” and to be spared these difficulties. As for children themselves, then just like now, their focus was to fit in with their peers.

The first time I noticed a child in the US who spoke Spanish but pretended he didn’t, I was baffled. But then, I understood. Here, if you are middle class and educated, travel and have global interactions, proficiency in Spanish is helpful. But if you are a Latino child in a poor community, speaking Spanish may have given you nothing but grief. And so ironically, emotional aspects come into play and those who are most disadvantaged become less likely to exploit the rich, low-hanging fruit of an additional language, that eventually may give them an edge.

libros2

Although largely spared, I was not blind to the prevalent prejudice and discrimination against Latinos while raising my daughter. I understood that if she was going to speak and maintain Spanish, she had to “buy in” to its benefit. In those days, I didn’t have many bilingual support sources at hand, but a home-made combination of talks, travel, books and even a little Sesame Street, seemed enough to convince my child about the value of her Spanish.
These days, with easier travel, increased communication technology, more diverse populations and a global economy, the practical value of knowing multiple languages has skyrocketed for some. But for many they still remain a stigma.

During the last four decades in the US, inequality has increased resulting in more marked segregation in neighborhoods and schools. In my own town, for example, more than three quarters of the students are Latino, while more affluent adjacent towns have mostly white, non-Latino enrollment.
Our teachers and school administrators do their best to support bilingualism, but with segregation entrenched, prejudice and discrimination are hard to eradicate. Speaking Spanish is not perceived by many of these children as helpful, and this presents an emotional barrier to developing and maintaining bilingualism. How could we change this negative perception in every child who has the opportunity to learn Spanish from a young age?

kids' books

In my community, my contribution comes in the form of writing bilingual books for children and reading them at local schools. Bilingual books help children make linguistic connections between their languages. In their homes, these books allow every family member (a grandma who may not speak English, or a young uncle who doesn’t know Spanish) to share the same story. Children can discuss the story with everyone in the family, and even adults may benefit by improving their own language skills. By reading these books in local schools, I also demonstrate that bilingual skills are valuable. Many of these children have never met an author, let alone a bilingual one. For some of them, this single experience may tip the scale of motivation.

When I’m out with my young granddaughter, we speak Spanish. While rarely anyone says anything, gestures and actions speak louder than words. The wide range of responses from people around us spans from sheer delight to harsh judgment. At times, even I become self-conscious enough to switch languages, as if needing to prove that we can speak English, that we are home.

We all can find our own ways to recognize the value of languages to motivate children’s learning. Our help could come in the form of praise for a child’s language proficiency, or a request for help with a translation. And it could be as subtle as becoming aware of our own reactions to people speaking foreign languages. Worldwide there are different social dynamics at play for each foreign language. Some languages may even trigger public distrust, avoidance, or fear. Children may not be able to articulate these reactions, but they certainly notice and internalize them.

Bio Statement:
Delia Berlin was born in Argentina but has spent most of her life in Connecticut. With graduate degrees in both Physics and Family Studies, she worked in early intervention, education, and administration, and taught child development at the college level. She writes bilingual children’s books, as well as essay collections with her husband, artist David Corsini. For more information about Delia Berlin and her books, visit her website at deliaberlin.com.

If you’d like to buy some of Delia’s lovely books click on the links below.