Sunday, December 26, 2010

Holiday Fun with Your Family

Looking for a great activity to share with your kids during this holiday season? How about dusting off those snazzy aprons and stirring up some cheer and warm memories. Cook with your kids and prepare for a wonderful time. Here are some benefits of cooking with your kids:

Allowing your kids to help with the cooking gives them a strong sense of contributing to the family’s well being. Cooking is an important daily activity that provides nourishment to the family. When kids help with this activity they feel important and needed.

Cooking helps sharpen their reading skills and ability to follow directions. Find an easy to follow recipe or modify an existing recipe and read along with your child. Point out new words, phrases and use the opportunity to start a conversation with your child.

Cooking explores creativity and imagination. Don’t be afraid to veer from a recipe. Cooking requires thought and improvisation. Allow your child to think of yummy ingredients to add to a recipe. Let your child’s imagination reign in the kitchen.

For more information visit and explore Fujimini Island.

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Thursday, December 23, 2010

Join the ONCEKids family for the holidays!

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Holiday Cooking with your Kids

The holidays are right around the corner and kids are excited about sweets, parties and ribbon wrapped gifts. Want a great holiday activity with your child that triggers thinking and encourages reading? Try cooking with your kids. Here are some great benefits of cooking with your children.

Cooking helps children learn about food or nutrition. Even if you are making cookies kids can learn a great deal about the benefits of good food. By teaching kids to cook you are instilling a respect for food that will have lasting benefits through adulthood.

Cooking can help children gain self-confidence. Cooking is a task and like any task a successful completion can create boost in esteem and pride. Let your child help with holiday dinners and make them feel great about themselves.

Cooking carves out time to bond with your child. Cooking with your child creates warm memories that they will cherish for many years to come. Pull out those recipes and the aprons and set to work building a wonderful experience for you and your child.

For more family ideas, please visit:

Friday, December 17, 2010

Great Tips to help a Child Learn to Read

Teaching a child to read and write is not an easy feat. A great way to facilitate fluency is to get kids reading. Here are some tips for teachers and parents to encourage reading.

Tips for Teachers and Parents:

One way to get kids reading is to talk to them. Frequent communication with kids gets them hooked on words. Talking to kids guarantees great language skills.

Read to children. Make sure that you carve out a time each day to read to your kids. Being read to is a pleasure and it will ensure that kids find joy in reading.

Make sure you read books you love and tell your kids how much you love them.
If you derive pleasure from a book chances are that a kid will as well.

Marvel over words. Do you have a favorite word? Is there a word you like to use often? Share your favorite words with kids. This will encourage them to become fascinated with language.

Don’t forget the library. Make library dates with your kids. Teach them that books are to be respected and cherished.

Want a great book to share with your child? Try the Fujimini Island Adventure Series to give the timeless gift of reading for your child.
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Monday, December 13, 2010

Are You and Your Kids part of ONCEKids?

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Join the family.  We're fun and friendly!

Teach Your Child Through Imagination

Teaching language arts to young kids is not an easy task. Acclaimed author           John Steinbeck once wrote that “learning to read and write is the hardest and most important task of our lives”. Some scientists and social scientists who have studied the brain and language acquisition have concluded that learning to read and write is an extraordinary activity that is not an entirely ‘natural’ progression for human intelligence even though creativity is. Is it any wonder that teaching a child to read and write is such a difficult job? Teaching reading and writing is rocket science.

One of the best ways to teach a child to read and write is to tap into their imagination. One of the greatest assets human beings have is our power to imagine and create. Children are considerably more flexible when it comes to creating and entering into an alternate world. Remember reading a book as a child and becoming so completely immersed in another world that you lost track of time? Adults can harness this ability of children to aid in language acquisition. The key to encouraging reading, writing and fluency in children is to give them great books that facilitate escapism.

Try the Fujimini Island Adventure Series to give the timeless gift of reading for your child.

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Thursday, December 9, 2010

Games Help Your Child Learn

Practically every child has played video games or some form of virtual game. These games can take hours to complete, are highly immersive and deeply competitive. They also trigger psychological responses. More mature games allow the player to make life or death decisions. These games can be taxing and addictive. Younger children generally don’t play darker and longer virtual games. But the virtual games for kids can have a similar impact on them. The question is, are kids of any age learning from these virtual games? Games build skills that are critical for learning. Games are best when they are designed to instruct or help kids explore a virtual extension of a theme or book. Games are most instructive when curriculum or reading based. Games can generate interest in certain subjects. Games can also improve language fluency and acquisition.

ONCEKids has several games, including digital coloring sheets, to supplement their Fujimini Island Adventure Series.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Games can be Great for Your Kids

Games have a bad rap. When we think games we tend to think childhood, play and…well, wasting time.

Of course, if we think about chess, Scrabble and immersive, virtual games we realize that games are far from simple and afford skills that directly negate any concept of time wasted.
Advances in game theory have deepened our understanding of game strategy and skill building. Game theory has softened the hard stance position that games ‘are just games’ with little benefit and no learning potential. Chess is one game that stands above all other games in its ability to stimulate learning and thinking. Many game theorists wax poetically about chess. But is chess the only game that triggers thinking in people of all ages? Any game that provides a challenge, whether competitive or learning, is beneficial to kids and adults. Thus, a word search can be a challenge if supplied to someone, particularly a child, who is building language fluency.

ONCEKids has a great word search that supplements the Fujimini Island Adventure Series. Visit the website and explore.
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Thursday, December 2, 2010

Coloring Fun for the Family!

Coloring is a wonderful activity for the young and not-so-young. Coloring not only allows children to explore different themes it allows children to be creative. I have heard parents and teachers correct children when they color leaves purple or the sky pink. You shouldn’t stifle a child’s creative flow. If you are really curious why they colored a dog green ask them to explain. You might be surprised at their answers. Maybe the family dog loves hanging out in the bushes and is often covered leaves. Ask a child about their creative choices and you might be stunned by their power of observation.

ONCEKids has several coloring sheets available on their website. The available coloring sheets tap into your child’s creativity by presenting various cultural motifs and tapping into a child’s power of imagination. The books can be bought through the ONCEKids website. You can color the sheets online with a palette of digital colors or print the sheets and color with yours or your child’s favorite crayons.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Share Crayon Fun with your Child!

Can you remember how excited you were to receive crayons as a child? Can you remember your favorite color of crayon? Was it periwinkle blue or burnt sienna? Did you get excited about coloring books? Did you rush through your schoolwork so you could grab a coloring sheet? Coloring is an entertaining activity for all ages but it seems especially wondrous when you are young. Coloring is a great way to preoccupy a child but it is also a great way to increase learning. Coloring pages allows children to explore themes, develop hand and eye coordination, perfect fine motor skills and increase interest and awareness of reading material.

ONCEKids has several coloring sheets available on their website. Just click here.
The available coloring sheets advance understanding of the Fujimini Adventure Island Series. The books can be bought through the ONCEKids website. You can color the sheets online with a palette of digital colors or print the sheets and color with yours or your child’s favorite crayons.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Cherry Trees don't like Lies

Cherry tree  Children own stories. Tell a story to a child, and they wander around and make it their home. Children glean from stories what is relevant to their lives, and identify with characters. Children don’t just read or listen to stories for their own entertainment. They draw on stories for therapeutic value. Stories are conducive to a child’s emotional health. This is why great care should be taken in selecting stories. Children value fun and action. But they also value meaning and worth in a story. Social values develop in part by the stories we tell children. George Washington never lived amongst cherry trees and, as a politician, he most probably lied consistently. But children in the United States seem to associate not telling a lie with a chopping down a cherry tree. The truth of the story seems not to matter but the value of telling the truth does. Stories are opportunities for mental and emotional growth. Take care in selecting stories for your children.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Learn more about ONCEKids

ONCEKids is the parents' guide to Fujimini Island from the Fujimini Adventure Series by Author Eileen Wacker.

Here you can meet the characters, visit where they live and find out about the rest of the popular children's book series.  We share the educational elements behind Fujimini Island and ONCEKids; and offer advice to parents and teachers. 

You can learn more about Fujimini Island and ONCEKids:

Fujimini Island on Facebook
Fujimini Island on Twitter
Fujimini Island Website and games
Fujimini Island blog

ONCEKids on Facebook
ONCEKids on Twitter
ONCEKids blog

ONCEKids website for books, games and stuff for your parents and teachers.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Words are Magic :)

A midget in the fairy tale forest in Sprookjes...
Story telling is ancient. Story telling was oral and was passed down from generation to generation but, in the modern age, it has become a more formalized affair. The Brothers Grimm were linguists who recorded the many oral stories that percolated in their culture. Fairy tales, as recorded by the two brothers, were vibrant, immersive stories with miraculous endings, and encompassing magic. Fairy tales are a form of storytelling that children and adults find powerful. The Brothers Grimm wrote very dark tales. Walt Disney significantly lightened the stories to meld with our culture and what we find acceptable to communicate to children in our day and age.

Additionally, fairy tales have gone through numerous permutations, and have become more encompassing. We assume that when we tell a story to a child now that it is a fairy tale even though the story may be missing the usual hallmarks of a true fairy tale. Any story told to a child is assumed by some to be a fairy tale. Children’s stories have become synonymous with fairy tales. This suggests that storytelling in general is as powerful as fairy tales. To a child every story seems soaked in the wondrous pull of a fairy tales. Words are magic.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Is your Child a good Learner?

Different cultures feel happy and respected when they are represented as wonderful characters in children’s stories. They feel comfortable reading about people that are like them – that celebrate the same holidays, eat similar food in a similar way and relate to the environment of the story. It is important for parents to have choices. Schools require a lot of reading by young, emerging readers. When a child is very young, they have to learn to read… when they are older they have to read to learn. So it is very important to develop children who love to read – this will result in better learners. So use the reading opportunity to develop a positive relationship with your child and read stories with as much diversity as possible.

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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A wonderful way for parents to be part of their child's learning

We want our kids to feel loved and we want them to love other people. We want them to feel happy and cherished. We want them to see possibilities for themselves. Reading is a great way to see possibilities. Children can be transported to other environments- some are magical, others scary and some that might remind them of their home or a visit to grandma’s. They can see how other people live and what is important to them. This is one of the most important parts of learning about others’ cultures. They can read about other cultures in Social Studies but they also learn by living an adventure in a book. Having diverse choices in children’s literature is a wonderful way for parents to be part of the learning journey with their child. As more and more reading choices feature protagonists that are diverse, this is a subtle way to promote more open minded children who grow into more open minded adults.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

What's Best for Your Child?

Want to know the best thing you can do for your child? 

Read to your child every day. Children who are read to develop a love of reading and develop advanced reading skills. Reading to your child also creates a solid bond between you and your child and can open up dialogue. The goal in reading to your child is not necessarily to finish the book but to discuss the book along the way. Discussions regarding text make the experience of reading richer. It also paves the way for learning about new words, which aids in language acquisition. As you read to your child point out each word. Also, read your child’s favorite book over and over. Repetition is the key to learning. Also, read many kinds of books. Poems are excellent reading material along with junior encyclopedias. Don’t feel you just have to read stories. A trip to the library with your child can open up many avenues of reading material. It will also a create a special time for you and your child.

For more information about ONCEKids and the Fujimini Series click here.
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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Learn more about ONCEKids

ONCEKids is the parents' guide to Fujimini Island from the Fujimini Adventure Series by Author Eileen Wacker.

Here you can meet the characters, visit where they live and find out about the rest of the popular children's book series.  We share the educational elements behind Fujimini Island and ONCEKids; and offer advice to parents and teachers. 

You can learn more about Fujimini Island and ONCEKids:

Fujimini Island on Facebook
Fujimini Island on Twitter
Fujimini Island Website and games
Fujimini Island blog

ONCEKids on Facebook
ONCEKids on Twitter
ONCEKids blog

ONCEKids website for books, games and stuff for your parents and teachers.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Children are never too young to learn the importance of words

You can never read to your child too soon. Often, just talking to a baby or toddler helps them develop their vocabulary. This vocabulary becomes very important as a child matures, and begins the task of learning to read. A great way to talk to your child is to point out objects and name them. Children eventually incorporate these names into their vocabulary. It is also a good idea to introduce a child to rhyme on sounds, songs and words. Studies have shown that children tend to remember pairs of words that rhyme before all other words. Another great activity is to take your child to the grocery store and say the names of objects in the store. Also, try to carve out a special place in your home to read, write and draw. The more prized reading is in your family the quicker a child’s language skills develop. Teachers often talk of ‘print rich’ environments when they speak about their classrooms. A home should be no different. Fill your home with books, magazines and newspapers and your chances of having an advanced reader increases dramatically. Read to your child and expose them to words as early as you can. Children are never too young to learn the importance of words.

For  more information about ONCEKids and the Fujimini Series click here.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Picture Books Encourage Children

Good readers are often excellent divergent thinkers. A divergent thinker is flexible, fluent, original and can elaborate. All these skills are critical for reading. Picture books encourage a child to increase the flexibility of their thinking by letting a child take contextual cues from the pictures and fill in critical elements of a story. Picture books also encourage fluency by enticing a child to read over and over again. The process of repetition actually encourages deep learning and understanding. Picture books can also develop original thinking in young readers by allowing them to fill in the story and make connections between pictures and words. Young readers can even develop their own story lines based on the pictures alone. Picture books can also develop the skill of elaboration in young readers. Elaboration is critical to understanding and comprehending a story. If a child can elaborate on a story then that means that they effectively digested the story. Picture books encourage divergent thinking.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Picture Books make Reading Fun for Young Readers

It seems that each year that goes by parents become more and more competitive when it comes to their kids. It is not enough to read early but the child has to be able to read chapter books. In the quest for making kids smarter many parents have pushed aside picture books. Reading is a multi-layered process and picture books can actually spur active reading and develop a love for reading. Forcing a chapter book on a child that is not ready may create a fear and dread in the child and stall further language acquisition. It is important to make reading fun and approachable for young readers. Young readers need constant support and encouragement and need to make small accomplishments along the way. Picture books are a great way of helping a young reader meet language goals.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Fujimini Adventure Series aides in School Children Collaboration

The Fujimini Adventure Series can easily meld with lessons in social studies for Kindergarten through second grade. In Green Hamster and the Quest for Fun, Green Hamster learns the importance of collaboration. Collaboration is also a critical component of teaching a child the many elements of social studies. Collaboration means working together. Learning about other cultures while learning how to work with others is a valuable lesson for a child.

There are several collaboration techniques:

1. Roundrobin – each student in turn shares something with his or her teammates.

2. Corners – each student moves to a corner of the room representing a teacher-determined alternative. Students discuss within corner, then listen to and paraphrase ideas from other corners

3. Co-op – students work in groups to produce a particular group product to share with the whole class; each student makes a particular contribution to the group

These are just a few techniques for collaborating in the classroom or with a group of kids. During the process of collaboration a child can learn many things about the other child and can learn many things about the main subject such as teamwork, Japan or even the history of birthdays.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

ONCEKids: Enabling parents, teachers and children

ONCEKids has developed a series of books for children pre-K or nursery through second grade. The Fujimini Adventure Series references cultural symbols familiar to China, Japan and Korea. ONCEKids has conducted market research of children’s literature and has found that many Asian cultures are underrepresented in child and young adult fiction. The Fujimini Adventure Series enables parents and educators to introduce various Asian cultures to children.

Using the Fujimini Adventure Series in social studies affords the opportunity to expose children to other cultures and to learn about social responsibility. An excellent way to start teaching about the cultures of Japan, China and Korea is to brainstorm with your child or student. Learning is a process of adding new ideas to old ideas. Many children many already know about other cultures. For instance, many first graders may already have heard of sushi or bonsai trees.

Brainstorming is important to activate what a child already knows and brainstorming is the first step in acquiring new knowledge.
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Thursday, October 21, 2010

Going to Language Classes – Why doesn’t anyone eat?

I sign up for Hangul language classes at a language institute (called “hagwam in Korean”).  Classes are held four days a week from 10:30-1:30.  I learned French and Italian in the past, living and working in those countries so I figure I will make this commitment.

I know it will be a huge advantage to be able to speak and communicate in the language. On the first day, I pack my survival kit – I have three Diet Cokes (they have the little cans in Korea), a peanut butter sandwich and several granola bars.  I imagined other students forming mini groups and talking and eating during the breaks.  Maybe I will get to know some local places and meet lots of expats from across Seoul.

Well, no one else in the class brought in anything and I am the only American.  There was not so much as a Styrofoam cup with the last bits of coffee. I feel embarrassed thinking that only a mom would bring in her silly snack and drinks; everyone else must hang out at the breaks, make friends and sip cappuccino. We all sit down at the long table and the teacher (“sangsamneem”) comes in and immediately starts speaking in Hangul. I am confused.  Isn’t this beginners’ intensive course?

I soon realize that the other 8 students are from Vietnam, Cambodia, Russia and China.  They are new to Korea and need the language to get into a school or get a job.  So English is not a common language. My assigned partner in class is Vietnamese; I am nervous about the pairing. Not because he is Vietnamese (I love Vietnamese people) but I am instantly suspicion of any man who is skinnier than me! But more importantly, he appears to understand everything and takes copious notes.
Anyway, I am sweating within a half hour; this is definitely going to be more than a hobby.  All the written and oral instructions are in Hangul.  I do not understand anything and there is going to be homework every night. How can I do the homework when I can’t read the directions? I can’t read and pronounce the characters yet. I need remedial Korean!

Isn’t there a lower class for people like me – this is completely alien to me!

I instantly sympathize with people coming to the US who do not know a thing and want to build a life. Now I understood why almost none of the expats speak more than a few phrases of Korean – it’s very hard to learn another language, especially a character language if you are a Westerner. During the break, I am starving so I take out the sandwich and diet soda.  No one has anything to eat or drink.  A few people go outside to smoke but no one grabs snacks at the local café.

After the first week, I finally ask the teacher, “why doesn’t anyone eat?” In the US, people would have brought pizza, croissants, coffee, etc. and the breaks would tend to be filled with eating and chatter. I am humbled by her answer. She says, “I am sure they ate breakfast and will eat their meals later at home but most people who are here learning the language are very poor and this school is very expensive for them. They do not have any money for snacks. Plus we do not eat snacks in class here.  Maybe that is why people in the US are getting bigger.”

This is another big plus for Asia.  They actually work their entire time in the class, pay attention and are there to learn – not to socialize and eat snacks. It is an excellent diet strategy so I only bring snacks on Fridays and I share them with everyone!
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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Experiencing the WOW of Tokyo

Shortly after returning to Seoul after the summer, we are going to Tokyo for a long weekend. I had actually travelled throughout Asia over several years working on a business development team in General Electric. Whenever the work trip was several weeks, I would spend the weekend and walk around and enjoy the sights, food and people. But it was work, and inevitably I saw more of hotel rooms than the actual sites of city. Plus I was usually rushing home as the trips normally lasted at least ten days to make it worthwhile.

But, I find living in Asia and traveling as a tourist is different and much more fun.  Plus the A-team at my husband’s office steps in and sets up amazing trips with tours and many insider tips.  Whether it was shopping, seeing the worthwhile places or eating in the newest places, our trips are always action packed and leave no regrets. Coming into Tokyo from the airport is spectacular – the city is modern and enormous, and as well, very exciting and hip. The hotels and service are remarkable and the skyline is so crowded with skyscrapers and neon that it is shocking. 

This first trip, we stay at the Intercontinental out in Tokyo Bay. What a beautiful setting.  I am a little surprised when neither the airport nor the hotel will change Korean won – thank goodness I had US cash.  You need cash in Tokyo for taxis, etc. American hotels for the most part cannot compete with the Asian service experience.  And, the decor of upscale hotels with the fusion East West elegance is gorgeous. So we wander around Meiji Gardens, visit the Imperial Palace, walked around in Ginza and eat at fabulous restaurants. One restaurant banged a loud gong every time a new patron entered and all the staff shouted in Japanese.  The kids loved it and Japanese food is delicious.  We also love the “punk” hair, vibrancy and style of Tokyo.  Everyone is so good looking and unique.  It was a stylish place and I am beginning to have a crush on all things with Asian inspiration.

Another time I will write about my trip to Kyoto, the place of ninjas and samurai. And bikes!
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Friday, October 15, 2010

No More Rapunzel

And so began many wonderful experiences in Korea and across Asia – not only did we live in Seoul, we lived very well.  If an Elton John concert was coming to town, we could sit in the front row or Nora Jones or Il Divo.  If we went to a restaurant, Rich’s assistant always made the reservation and we had a terrific table and service. The kids were finally settled into a school routine.  I missed the sports availability and the two oldest were bused 45 minutes to an hour each way, but there are always challenges so it did not seem too tough. We had been given a driver for the family; at first I thought it was an invasion of privacy and a loss of independence.  But I got used to it and started to really enjoy how much easier it is in a big sprawling city, where I could sit in the back and do crossword puzzles-- while someone navigated through the ever-present traffic.  My third child went to preschool and the Korean moms were warm; I accepted their invitations for play dates and started to make some friends. As our first year came to a close, we were becoming comfortable in Seoul and Korea was becoming comfortable with us.
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Wednesday, October 13, 2010

I am Rapunzel

I was an expat wife living in Seoul, South Korea for four years with four small children and a husband who worked all the time.  In the beginning, there were many days that were so very trying, I sometimes went into another room to cry so my kids wouldn’t see my tears.  At times, they would just come pouring out of my eyes without warning. I had left many things behind.  Things I did not even know I valued like Mom’s nights out or Tuesday “diner night” with kids (and a glass of wine with the other moms) or phone calls to my family OR Sunday NFL football. The twelve-hour time difference made communication tough and I started living for responses to my mass e-mails as I was very lonely.  I had a housekeeper, a driver, four kids and a husband and I was desperately lonely and alienated. We lived in a beautiful two story apartment right on the river and I would often stand by the window and just stare out at the lit bridge with the thousands of cars crossing.  I felt like the Rapunzel of Korea.

I came back for the first summer to stay in Connecticut as we had kept our house. There was a great camp for the kids and I could see friends and family. My husband had to stay back and work in Korea.  Everyone talked about how strong I was and what a big load I had to carry. During this time, I thought a lot about living so far away and how different life was going to be for a while.  I went back to Korea after the summer with a new sense of purpose.  I was going to learn the language.  I was going to make Korean friends. We were going to travel around Asia – and if my husband could not get the time off, I would go for short holidays with the kids and then bigger trips with him. I would run and even enter a few 10k races.  My list was long and I felt motivated.

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