AMANDA BLAKLEY ON RAISING CULTURED KIDS
You’re a mama and adventurer at heart but you’re also an entrepreneur, can you tell us what your day-to-day might look like?
As an entrepreneur (and mom) days are sometimes unpredictable. Atticus started senior kindergarten this year, so it’s been a whole new stage with him out of the house all day! I usually walk him to school in the morning and then pop back home to spend some time with little Archie before he heads off to a program or play date with our amazing caregiver.
His mornings out buy me time to respond to emails, take a meeting or fit in a workout.
My business partner and I met at nursery school pick-up/drop-off two years ago – the boys are now at different schools but on a similar schedule, so we tend to meet in the mornings to discuss design ideas for future collections, check in with our sewers or powwow at the fabric showroom for design inspo.
If I’m not attending an event, I will often grab lunch on the go or use that time to eat with a friend and catch-up.
The afternoons are usually when I (attempt) to get my writing assignments completed. I like working at home when Archer is sleeping. There is something about the quiet hum of the appliances that gets me in the zone.
If I’m not travelling or in a meeting, I pick Atticus up from school just after 3. We come home for a snack and Archer is usually waking up around this time. Sometimes the boys will play at home or have friends come over, but since the weather has been so gorgeous, they’ve been going out to have their play dates at the park.
They come home exhausted and starving. I usually have a small snack when they have their dinner but wait to eat with Adam after we put the boys down.
That dinner, bath, books, bed hour is predictably insane. If I have an event to attend or a dinner I try to skip this hour as it can be a hard extraction otherwise. But most nights (especially when Adam is traveling) it’s all me. Because Atticus no longer naps, he is ready for bed at 7 sharp – so I try and keep the routine as tight as possible.
And then it’s 'us' time – if we don’t have a dinner or event to attend – we catch up on the day over our meal. And like most people, we love a good Netflix binge 👍🏻
You’ve created a plethora of travel guides on your tumblr specifically for families – why is travel with your family so important to you?
The importance of travel and the significance of seeing the world was ingrained in me from an early age thanks to my parents and grandparents. My grandmother was an epic adventurer – circling the world many times over. My siblings and I had the good fortune of living abroad as school-aged kids and this experience was such an important part of the fabric of my upbringing. I am passionate about cultivating and passing along this love of travel in my own children. I strongly believe there is so much more for families to discover beyond the amusement-saturated destinations and all-inclusive kids club variety of holiday(s). I enjoy unearthing and cataloguing the curious, tasty and quirky underside of the destinations I visit for travellers with (and sometimes without) their tots.
For all its merit, this world our children will inherit is pretty messed up. Understanding ethnocentricity and taking it out of the equation is just one small gift I hope to pass on to them.
You’re currently teaching your young boys French, could you share a little of your experience introducing a foreign language to them?
Both my husband and I were lucky recipients of the gift of a second language (French). It’s still early days with our boys, but they have both had the opportunity to spend quite a bit of time in Latin America – listening to and attempting to use the Spanish vocabulary. My parents both live in San Miguel de Allende so it’s a relatively easy destination for our little crew. Atticus started a French immersion program this Sept and we’ve been having fun reading the French books he picks out, practising the alphabet and counting. It’s surprising and amazing how quickly their minds start to soak up the new language. Even little Archer is using some French lingo after hearing his big brother say and sing things.
Why do you think it’s important for your children to learn a language?
Obviously the language itself can be handy for travel and other worldly career opportunities, but as the daughter of an educator (and the recipient of a French education), I am most interested in the studies that illustrate how a second (or multiple languages) contribute to new brain pathways and cognitive development, divergent thinking and the like.
With the juggle of work, life, young children, how do you find ways to reinforce a foreign langue each week?
To be honest, we are still figuring this out. At this stage, I feel confident he is getting all he needs for language acquisition from his teachers, but we love to read and so including French books into our daily routine is a simple hack that is paying off
Do you have any tips for parents who want to introduce a language but don’t know where to start?
I would start with an audit of what language would be the lowest hanging fruit. i.e. Does a parent, family member or caregiver speak another language and would they be open to teaching and speaking to your child in only this language? An immersion program is always a great place to start – many countries offer various programs at a school board level. In Canada, French is one of our national languages so it is widely available. If you have the opportunity to live abroad – especially in a country that speaks a different language – jump at it!! And finally, hiring a tutor or signing up for a language class or course like those offered by The Cultured Kid. Consistency is key – the more they see, hear and repeat the vocabulary, the more it sticks.
What’s been a favourite family adventure to date?
This is a tough one, we love Latin America and have spent a great deal of time exploring South America, Mexico and Central America since the boys were both very wee. There is something about the warmth of the people, the importance they place on family and togetherness, the vibrant colors and culture as well as the climate, which is always a welcome respite from our cold Canadian winters.
We have also started a bit of a summer family road trip tradition. We escape the city and drive down to Pennsylvania’s Allegheny forest or visit my grandmother in Massachusetts. We love spending time in the Berkshires and the Catskills as well. We fish, swim, roast marshmallows, catch tadpoles and lounge by the lake for a few glorious days of family time.
For further information on where you can find Amanda (because in case it isn’t already obvious, we all know she’s never in one place for long), you’ll find her on your media of choice.
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