Learning Styles

Now that Seth is in pre-school, we’ve been thinking about our children’s learning styles more than ever. Seth, Jacob, and Nathan are all quite different, which is really cool. I’ve always been very interested in learning theories. In case you’re interested, here are some of my favorites are Kolb, Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, Herrmann Brain Dominance Instrument, and Felder-Silverman Learning Styles.

Strong Families

What makes a family strong? What makes a family work well? What do strong families have in common?

In a 1995 article in Heart and Mind, Carla Dahl wrote some great thoughts related to this. There are no perfect families, but there seem to be some common characteristics of strong, thriving, and well connected families. The following are some modified quotes from Carla Dahl.

1) Strong Communication skills: Healthy families talk to one another clearly, directly and openly–especially about troublesome or hurtful issues and about values and guidelines for decisions members must make. Two integral components of good communication are our ability to be truthful about ourselves, and our ability to listen to one another without making premature assumptions.

2) Commitment to one another and to the family: In a healthy family, individuals are able and willing to balance personal preferences with family well-being, individual growth with family growth, independence with interdependence.

3) Ability to manage stress: Strong families are able to draw upon resources (faith, friends, time, information, money) at their disposal and articulate a shared, realistic perception of stresses. Through this shared process, stresses become meaningful and manageable.

4) Spiritual well-being: Many strong families take time to cultivate their values, identity, and beliefs, and to blend these core realities with their world.

5) Appreciation and affection: Strong families value and respect the unique contributions each member brings, and they are able to express that appropriately.

6) Time together: Time must be the arena in which the five other strengths are lived out. Healthy families use time to laugh, play, be spontaneous, and celebrate. This is quantity and quality.


Every now and then, I am re-awakened to the fact that I have three little boys running around me. Today’s favorite activity: spinning in circles until they all fell down with dizziness. Perhaps this is a favorite activity in your house?

Recently I read, “Statistically speaking, 25% of everything boys do is extreme.” So, if a little boy does one hundred things per day, twenty-five of them will be extreme for him. I also read, “The best way to raise your boy is probably to become a better boy yourself. You cannot in all likelihood learn it, so you must relive it.” This rings true with me, but if start spinning in cirlces, I’ll probably vomit.

Treeman, chapter 3

Written and illustrated by Seth Whitfield Newell

“Once upon a time, mommy and daddy and Jacob and Nathan all went to granddaddy and granny’s farmhouse. When they got there, Jacob and Nathan took all their clothes off, and they jumped into the mud! (hahahahahaha!) They got all muddy, and they had to take a bath. So they went and they took a mud-bath (hahahahaha). They washed themselves with mud. And then…Treeman had a rocket-engine on his back with fire shooting out of it. And treeman came and sprayed them with water and washed all the mud off. The end.”

Oh! You can also read chapters one and two of Treeman.

Stages of Language Learning

Sorry, the blog was down for a couple days. But we’re back up and running! I’ve been thinking about the progressive stages that children and adults experience when learning a foreign language. I would like to hear about your experiences with learning foreign languages? You can click on “comments” below and write your thoughts. How have you experienced similar stages? Do you remember going from one stage to the next? Below, I have written out a very brief outline of Stephen Krashen’s “stages of language learning.”

Pre-production: This is the “silent period” of language acquisition. Students at his level are taking in new language and trying to make sense of it in order to meet basic needs. Often students at this level can comprehend much more than they can produce.

Early production: Students at this level begin to respond with brief answers. Errors in grammar and pronunciation are frequent. It is important that students be able to take risks and experiment with the new language in a low anxiety setting.

Speech Emergence: Students at this stage are able to use language to communicate more freely and are beginning to use English for academic purposes.

Intermediate fluency: Students at this stage conduct conversations in English that are approaching native fluency. However, they are still developing cognitive academic competence, especially in the areas of reading and writing.

Advanced fluency: Students at this level demonstrate native-like fluency but may be experiencing difficulties in acquiring high levels of literacy.

Education in Hungary

When you enter another culture with children, there are plenty of opportunities to experience that culture in different ways. One really cool aspect of Hungarian culture we’ve been experiencing is the school system. Below is a graphic outlining the way Hungarian schools work. All public schools, starting with ovoda (preschool/kindergarten for ages 3-6), are free. When a Hungarian citizen enters college (főiskola) or university (egyetem), his/her first degree is free. Isn’t that awesome.

culture and adjustment

the map——>”Culture is a map to the heart. When you read a map, you need to start with where you are.” I like this thought. Anyone who wants to connect with the people around them and to become a meaningful part of society must take on this “map-reader” identity. Always learning. Always traveling. Always adjusting. Always growing character that is both cultural and trans-cultural (Utazni). When we read a map, we start with our current location. At first, we understand a new culture only through the lens of our own. It would be interesting to compare/contrast American and Hungarian commercials.

6-12 months——>We’ve always heard that significant cultural adjustment begins after living within that culture for 6-12 months. I think this is true. During the last two months, Laura and I have been feeling the cultural differences. More than anything, I think we’re coming to terms with the urban culture of Budapest. Today, we had a great conversation with Kristina and Péter (from our neighborhood) about urban culture, frustration, and grace. Grace. This is the big thing on our minds these days. Grace for our kids, for each other, and for the man in the store who fussed at our kids. It is easy to show grace to someone when they show grace to you. Showing grace in a situation of “ungrace” is a little tougher. I think this is a huge part of cultural adaptation.

building walls or bridges——>Living in another country will expose cultural “differences” which will inevitably create some degree of internal “dissonance” leading you to make positive or negative “choices.” What really matters here, I think, are the coices you make. I heard it said once that “everything we do is either building a wall or building a bridge.” The dissonance of cross-cultural living can naturally produce feelings of frustration, embarassment, loneliness, helplessness, or misunderstanding. But with a heart of humility, trust, and flexibility, and with a lifestyle of observing, listening, and inquiring a person can start building bridges.

rule #1——>My friend Tom is always talking about rule #1, “no expectations.” When I expect something, I set myself up for disappointment and frustration. I have many hopes and dreams, all of which guide my life and my actions, but expectations I have released into the abyss of grace. By grace I can accept and embrace disappointment, misunderstanding, embarassment, lonliness, and injustice. Grace enables me to release expectations, and releasing expectations prepares me to live by grace.

good day

Nyugati Train Station

“There are those who seek knowledge for the sake of knowledge; That is curiosity. There are those who seek knowledge to be known by others; That is vanity. There are those who seek knowledge in order to serve; That is love.” -Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153)

Today was a good day. We got to hang out with our friend Chris Martin from Virginia. It was cool to see how the boys gravitated towards Chris. I think they enjoyed having another English speaker around. We had some great conversation about marriage, parenting, culture, and cross-cultural living.

links to understanding

In case you’re interested, here are some links related to Croatia, Vukovar, and the war.

Tomorrow night at AngolEst, a few of us will hear Chris’ thoughts on Vukovar and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). I think this will be a good conversation. In the next few days, I’ll post some thoughts from Chris and our upcoming conversation.

Vukovar, Croatia

I had the opportunity (with Tom & Chris from Virginia) to visit Laci & Keri (our Hungarian Friends) who live in Vukovar, Croatia. I was so glad to see Laci and Keri, their community, and their church. I am incredibly encouraged by their lives. They have chosen to live in a difficult place and to serve the Croatian, Serbian, and Hungarian people around them.

In the early 1990’s, Vukovar was crushed by the war with Yugoslavia. As you travel through the city you see buildings, houses, gates, and walls are covered with bullet-holes. Tank shells have blown huge holes in the sides of apartment buildings where people are still living. The fields around the city are marked with dozens of signs indicating the possible location of land-mines.

There’s virtually no one who lives in this city who has not been affected by the brutality of this war. From what I saw and heard I quickly came to believe that this was not a war, but rather, it was an atrocity of ethnic cleansing. For the many surviving individuals and families, the sight of war-torn buildings is a constant reminder of all that happened.

When I see things like this, I have thoughts of doubt, “how could someone like me possibly help?” Someday soon, Laura and I are eager to visit Laci and Keri again, and perhaps we’ll bring some paint, some brushes, some dry concrete, etc… I’ll try to post some pictures soon. Here’s a picture of Laci and Keri!