Monday, August 29, 2011

Language learning

Long before my kids were born, I had plans to teach them more than one language.  I mentioned that desire, and how well my initial attempts went, in this post.

So I was off to a later start than I anticipated, but not willing to give up my efforts.  I heard from multiple sources that Rosetta Stone was a great program to use for acquiring a second language.  Last year I taught my daughter at home, but with assistance from a county funded charter school.  The charter school provided us with free access for using Rosetta Stone.  I was so excited!  And then so disappointed to discover that it didn't fit with my daughter's learning style (at least at this age).

Hmm... what to do?  I don't expect my kids to become fluent in another language at this age.  But I do want to expose their minds and ears to other languages and make it easier for them to learn when they are old enough to value the benefits of knowing a second (or third, or fourth...) language.

Then it dawned on me.  I taught my kids how to speak English!  I didn't purchase an expensive curriculum to assist in my efforts.  They speak English very fluently (in fact they rarely stop using their language skills).  In just a few short years, they have been quite successful at largely mastering English.  So what did I do?  I talked to my kids, I played with them, and I read books to them.  They still like it when I talk to them, play with them, and read to them.  Can I teach them Spanish in much the same way?

I'll give it a try!  I took about 3 years of Spanish in high school and college.   My knowledge base and pronunciation of the language leave a little (well quite a bit) to be desired.  We purchased a children's Spanish dictionary.  Other than that we have been relying on the library to aid in our learning journey.  We have been checking out duplicate copies of children's picture books, one in Spanish and one in English, and reading them side by side.  I have found books by Eric Carle to be especially useful for this.  His books have fun illustrations, a fairly simple storyline, and lots of repetition.  We've also been borrowing CDs in Spanish, both stories and music.  I figure that will help us with pronunciation, even if we are not able to understand all that we hear.

We have been playing games to help the kids remember what they are learning.  For example, when learning colors, the kids ran to an object that was the color I said.  I have also been trying to mix some Spanish words into my everyday conversations with the kids.  "Can you please bring me the shirt de rojo?"  So far everyone is having fun learning a new language!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

First day of school

Tomorrow is the day I had planned to begin the new school year.  But somehow we just finished up our third full week of school.  I couldn't resist my daughter's pleas for school to start.  We've had three fun weeks of learning!

The weather report is predicting tomorrow to once again be nearing 100 degrees here at home.  The beaches will be largely empty since all the other kids have started back to school.  Do you see where I am going with this?  It seems our "first day of school" is destined to be spent enjoying sunshine mixed with waves and sand.  Just one more thing I love about educating my kids "at home."

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Dictionary in hand

I'm reading, with a dictionary nearby.  I had mentioned in this post that I was hoping to start reading some classic literature.  When I stopped to think about it, I was quite amazed to realize just how few classic books I've read.  I've always loved reading.  But quite often I read pretty mindless books as a method of relaxation.  Or parenting books with the hope of finding some miraculous bit of wisdom.

It seems I had a mental block regarding "classic" literature.  Maybe it had something to do with Cliffsnotes?  Obviously, if you need a book to explain a book, it must be pretty boring or challenging to read, right?  That mental block is now gone.

The first book I chose in my new venture was Uncle Tom's Cabin.  No dictionary was needed.  It was interesting to read, heartbreaking, and inspiring.  I am now reading Pride and Prejudice.  I have benefited from the use of my dictionary for finding the definitions of words like filial, asperity, and obsequiousness.  But for the most part, it is simple to understand and a very amusing read.  Both are great books that I highly recommend.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The grass is greener

Did you hear me whining?  I'm sure sorry if you did.  The grass really did look greener on the other side of the fence.

My husband, Joel, worked a bunch of overtime in June and July.  That wouldn't be too bad if he got paid extra.  Or if the kids had been able to see him a bit more.  For Father's Day, my 6 year old daughter made him a card and showed it to me.  "See those four hearts, Mom?  Those are so Daddy doesn't forget that we have four people in our family."

But, the part I was whining about?  We are a one car family.  We share a car; which leaves me without a car most days.  Nothing wrong with that.  In fact, I was the one who chose to go without my own car in order to save money.  Usually we can take Joel to work on occasion and the kids and I can spend the day driving where we please.  It just doesn't work too well when he works super long days and gets home after the kids' bedtime.

Sheepishly, I must admit to you, my whining sounded something like this:  "I feel so stuck at home.  I had hoped to get out of the house a couple times a week this summer and go places with the kids.  Oh, poor me, I live such a hard life..."  You get the idea, right?  I'll leave it at that so I don't drive you crazy.

The grass simply looked a whole lot brighter over there. 

Now my darling is back to a normal work schedule.  The kids get to see their daddy; they know that they are not forgotten.  We are able to drive Joel to work and roam freely about the county doing as we please.  And what do I want to do?  Well, I just want to stay home of course!  The kids and I are having a blast here!  Who would want to go anywhere else?  Yes, our lawn is full of dry grass, weeds, and chicken manure.  But home is looking mighty green and bright to me.  It was just my attitude that needed a little weeding and watering.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Mommy Brain

I've felt significantly less intelligent since becoming a mom.  I assume (or maybe I hope) that I'm not the only parent who has experienced this.  I wonder about my ability to hold a decent conversation with other adults.

What happened to the knowledge and abilities that I used to have?  Maybe I was over-confident in what I thought I knew!  Parenting is quite effective at showing me lots of things that I need to learn and skills that I need to develop.  Maybe most of my brain cells were destroyed from years of nearly sleepless nights.  Or from years of communicating mostly with small children.

Or maybe I'm just preoccupied with different things.  I do know pretty much all of my children's likes, dislikes, and personality quirks.  I am able to tell them where almost all of their "missing" possessions are located.  I am able to figure out what to feed my family.  I do manage to keep everyone bathed and wearing clean clothes.  I do happen to have a full school year, plans for a bunch of different subjects, mapped out in my mind.

For now, I'm strangely okay with this, my mommy brain.  If anyone would like to have an interesting, adult conversation with me, I should be able to manage that in about 10 years or so.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Not much to say...

Some days I just don't have much of importance to say.  Thankfully other people do!  Here is a great blog post to read.

What if?

Please pray for the sweet kids at Save the Children Orphanage.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Pictures added

I finally got around to adding pictures to my last few posts!  Thought you might like to take a look.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

So I was told...

Babies love to listen to their parents' voices, so I was told.  With little babies, they say, you can read anything and your sweet little one will just be thrilled because it is mom or dad's voice they are hearing.  Perfect!  That left me with lots of great ideas.  I could read Spanish to my daughter and teach her two languages from infancy.  I could read my Bible aloud to her.  She'd be hearing scripture while I fit in my Bible study time.  My husband, a student at the time, could read his text books to her.  Learning, study time, and bonding all rolled into one.  I was very excited to begin.

Cousin Haleigh "reading" to Anna.

I read some of her baby books to her.  Yep, my sweet baby girl loved having me read to her.  I started reading to her in Spanish.  She cried, she screamed.  That little baby, at about 2 months old, was downright mad!  I had met a lady from a trilingual family who said her child would get upset if mom or dad spoke in the "wrong" language.  (Mom spoke to her in one language, dad in another, and they used a third language to communicate with each other.)  Okay, that must be the problem, she just expects me to speak English.

I picked up my Bible and started to read to her.  She was ticked!  Hmm, maybe she is just tired or hungry at the moment?  A tiny baby couldn't really care yet what I read to her, could she?  I tried again on other days.  Same response.  My little darling only wanted me to read to her from children's books.  I gave up, but tried again when she was one.  Same response, except by then she had words to express her dislike.  "No Mommy!"  I tried again when she was two.  Same response, but with a larger vocabulary.  "No Mommy, you don't talk like that!"

Then my son was born.  Another chance!  My daughter was one picky little baby.  Maybe my son will listen if I read the Bible to him and speak to him in Spanish!  I gave it a try when he was just a couple months old.  He screamed too.  So much for that theory.

Thankfully, my kids will now happily listen as I read to them from the Bible.  They are also interested in learning Spanish and other languages.  I can make plans for my kids lives all day long, but when it comes down to it, I am not in control.  But God has got it all figured out.  I'll do my best to guide my children's stubborn hearts, but only God can truly direct their paths.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Bits of life

Anna lost her first tooth this week!  The tooth fairy came to visit and left money and a letter.  Anna's tooth fell out while she was brushing her teeth, getting ready to go have pictures taken at a portrait studio.  So fun that her 6 year old picture session happened to be that day.

A hawk had been circling around our yard, hungrily watching our chickens.  It even landed on their coop and stared at them for a while one day.  For their protection, the chickens have been restricted from their normal free-range days.  Yesterday, I felt bad for them and let them out with hopes that the hawk had given up on a chicken dinner.  I went back outside to check on the feathered ladies and could only find 3 of them.  "Cheepy, where are you?!"  I looked all over; searched all the usual hiding spots.  No Cheepy.  Finally, I looked closely in the nesting boxes.  There she was!  Later, the kids and I went out to inspect her progress and found 4 eggs.  We hadn't been expecting any eggs yet since the chickens are just 4 1/2 months old.  Today she laid another egg.

Arik has been saying, "God knows everything.  But I know almost everything!"  I can't convince him that there really is an awful lot he doesn't know.  "My brain is special.  It is never wrong."  He keeps telling me this, and it is quite obvious that he believes it.  Hmm... we could be in trouble with this kid.

Tonight I made spaghetti sauce with homegrown tomatoes and zucchini.  Yum!  I would be particularly impressed if I had also grown the onion, garlic, and herbs.  Maybe next year.  I've started making all our bread, thanks to the help of my bread machine.  I absolutely love knowing exactly what ingredients are going into the food we eat.  I'm wondering what frequently store-purchased product I'll make at home next.

Planning for the rapidly approaching school year is in process.  The list of subjects I want to teach the kids is long.  Can I fit it all in?  I keep having to remind myself that I don't have to do it all this year.  I'm thinking we will start with the basics and add in one extra subject each week until our schedule feels right.  The kids are especially excited about science and history.

Anna kept begging for more school today.  "Mom, can we have school today?"  We started with Bible, then did reading, then math.  "Mom, can we do more school?  I'm ready to have school every day again."  History lessons and projects followed this statement.  We went outside.  "Mom, can we do more school?"  "Yes, but only if you go in and pick up the toys first."  "Arik, hurry, lets pick up the toys so we can have more school time!"  They went inside and cleaned up.  We had a science lesson.  "Mom, what else can we learn?"  So, there you have it.  Like so many people say, homeschooled kids are weird.  But I'll take this kind of weird any day.