We officially have two little readers in our home! I have been teaching Hannah letter sounds, but didn’t really try to have her decode any words, as I didn’t figure she was quite ready to do it. Well, she sure proved me wrong! Today I told her to try just the first sound of the letter and see if she could figure out the word. She read all of these: sat, at, in, is, man, and a few other similar words. I guess I’ll get out the Bob books – such fun!
Here’s another of our "homeschool electives": we took Naomi in for an evaluation and discovered she has a moderate to severe speech delay, which was more than we had expected. We’re still trying to figure out things that may be causing or contributing to it, like food intolerances, but for now she’s started a little speech therapy class with a couple of other three year old girls. She’s so thrilled with it! It’s funny how basic it is, and one of the big reasons we have her in it is simply to guide us in what we can practice with her at home. But it seems to be good in all sorts of ways other than just speech improvement. Naomi is so thrilled to have a little class that only she goes to. She proudly hops back in the car afterward, holding her prized paper projects. The older girls beg to be the first to see what she made! In fact we still have the first little booklet she made there, and when she "reads" it to us now, she actually uses an ending sound for each word – a big deal for her!
When we have schooltime in the morning, we all start out at the dining room table. The girls each get to pick a "school game" (anything from teeny plastic horses and riders, to special blocks, stacking pegs and memory games) to use when it’s not their "letter lesson" turn. I practice Isabelle’s TATRAS phonics and read alouds with her, Hannah’s Penny Primer and letters, and Naomi’s speech sounds with her. Of course, Juliette has a turn, too, and we work on speech sounds as well, since she’s not an early talker by any stretch. It really works quite well, despite the necessary reminders to play quietly so sister can think! I do hope it is helping Naomi to speak more clearly, but at least I’m pretty sure it is helping her feel special and be excited to learn!
Recently we had another one of those days at the park. I’m sure we all have a different definition of those days, but for us it meant that I took all the girls to a park and there happened to be a dog there. No matter if the dog was on a leash and not really that close to us. You should have heard the wailing that ensued! If I’ve failed to mention this, I had three little girls who were terrified of dogs, one big girl who loves them (interestingly the only one of our girls who was around when we had a dog) and a baby who doesn’t think much more of them than perhaps, "hmm, that’s a gooey sort of kiss". Hannah at least has pretty good reason for her fear, and even if she didn’t she’s good at inventing reasons. Naomi and Juliette just have fear! After trying to console, calm, bribe, and threaten, and finally plopping the wailers on a park bench (whatever it took to stop the hysterics!), I came home and told Matt I was quite certain we needed a dog! I didn’t really care if I wanted a dog (although many days I think I do), I didn’t try to remind myself we may not have the time for a dog around here (pish, posh), and didn’t think at all about doggy potty on the floor (our dog would be perfect!). All I could think was "I must be able to take my girls to the park, where there is ALWAYS a dog!" And the fact that I wouldn’t have to vaccuum under the lunch table was nice, too.
Well, as my husband wisely reminded me, until we actually have a fence around our property we can’t get a dog. So I invented doggie-homeschool. We have some friends who happen to teach a dog handling class by a park near our home. So with their kind permission, every Wednesday evening we put dinner in to cook late, and we head to the park for just a few minutes. Then it’s on to doggie school. Oh, this has been such a delight! I made the rule that no matter how afraid anyone felt, no one was allowed to cry! They can stick by me like glue, clutching my hand, but they can’t wail! Then we asked if the class minded us dropping in each week for fifteen minutes. Thankfully, as we are trying to train our children not to be terrified of dogs (wise, yes, but not terrified), many of these people are trying to train their dogs not to be afraid of little children, so it works quite nicely. I’m happy to report that a month into it, I officially have two big girls who LOVE dogs (Hannah being one of them!), two small girls who tolerate dogs, and one baby who still thinks no more than "hmm, that’s gooey". Daddy got to come today and see Hannah and Isabelle "train" their favorite dog. The dog’s kind owner lets the girls lead her around on leash, feed her, and tell her to sit. These dogs really tower over the girls, so it’s pretty funny to see Hannah saying "Kalina, sit, noooooo, sit, noooooo SIT, hmmm, oh, you laid down, good girl . . . . Mommy, I TRAINED her!"
Today this wonderful lady managed more than I thought was possible and had Naomi leading the dog on leash. Nao kept dropping the leash, and the lady would say "Pick it up, or she’ll run off" – all I could think was "I’m sure that’s what she’s hoping for!" But she did it, she was so brave! And Juliette wanted to try, but without help (this is the girl who says little more nowadays than "I do it myself"), so she stood there, looked this dog in the eye and said (in a cute and stern voice) "Doggie, walk! No, no, walk doggie! Doggie walk!" We finally convinced her she’d have better luck if she started walking!
Our next step is borrowing a dog for a week. We’re really looking forward to seeing how that goes, but hopefully by the end we shall have no trouble visiting any park we’d like to! Isn’t homeschooling great? Who ever heard of doggie school electives otherwise!
We’ve come up with some things this week which have thrilled the girls, particularly my five year old. One is a small bit of (I think) actual creativity on my part. The girls accidentally broke my exercise band, and I found some curved branches. That probably sounds like a really weird combination, but with the two I was able to make a couple of very passable bows. We then spent the morning hunting for twigs we could use for arrows – all in all it was quite fun, and we’re very pleased with our bows and arrows. We’ve spent a good amount of time having "archery contests" and are just loving it! Isabelle may be my girliest girl, but she is also pretty fascinated with certain weapons, bows and arrows topping her list! And if I do say so myself, they’re pretty groovy – even daddy and I didn’t want to put them down!
Daddy made all the girls happy by finishing the bunk bed he was painting for them. It looks lovely, and they are so happy with it! We now officially have four little girls in one room. Juliette is so proud to be in the big girl room. She’s funny- potty training is harder with her than any of the others, yet going from a crib to a bed is a delight! They’re all so different, go figure.
Next we discovered this fabulous new printing of the Narnia series – large print for reading aloud. Isabelle can read these herself, but it’s still fairly slow going as she’s only five, and it’s a long book! So I put on our audio Narnia CD, which we LOVE, and she was able to follow along in the book for the whole chapter – it was wonderful!
The last exciting thing for Isabelle is that we created her very own blog. Yes, my five year old has a blog. I thought it might make for a fun and different way to do her oral narrations, and boy does she love it! She got to pick out her own template picture and all of that good stuff. I had no idea how happy this would make her! If you’d like to see a five year old’s blog, feel free to visit little Belle.
Here are some pictures of our week:
Belle with her new "archery set"
Mommy and Belle having an archery contest.
Isabelle reading Narnia
Me and my Juli Bunny:
Isabelle actually took this picture of Alyssa- didn’t she do a great job – a little budding photographer!
We were all outside enjoying the one warm spring day we’ve had this year!
The bunk bed daddy painted:
Years ago I had this strange feeling that God had either called me to work on the mission field, or to stay in the states and marry a cop. Weird, I know, but it turned out to be true. He has called me to serve Him right here, loving my husband and teaching my girls. I love the work He’s given me – even on the days when it doesn’t feel lovely. But it certainly hasn’t erased my desire to serve others, particularly those of other cultures. I suppose that’s one way He led us to adopt Naomi, for which we’re forever thankful! I also love to read books for the girls of stories from around the world, so they don’t grow up thinking our little spot on the planet is the only one. But it’s hard to figure out what this service can look like when I’m at home all day with the girls. Lately I’ve felt that we are lacking in teaching our girls to serve others. The girls do plenty of service around here, of course – chores to help mommy, holding a bottle for baby instead of playing, etc. But I was longing to allow them to use their gifts to bless others outside our family circle as well.These things must start in the home, but we desire for our family to be the aroma of Christ to others, too! Yet each time I hear about a ministry I think "how could a family with five toddlers do that?" Then God showed me something, through little snippets here and there, which reminded me of something my wonderful mom was faithful to teach me and my sisters to do- in fact it comprises my very first memory at around three years old. My mom used to take us to nursing homes to visit neighbors, relatives, and even people we didn’t know who needed love. I realized at once how perfect this could be for our family right now – a ministry that toddlers really are just right for. There are so many lonely older people languishing in "homes" where they don’t see the smile of a baby, hear the laugh of a toddler, and yes, even listen to the incessant (yet endearing) chatter of a five year old. There is a whole, rich culture of people that our society largely would forget, who should be the honored elders of our land. And our church does regular visits to a nursing home in our town. Why I didn’t think of this before, I don’t know, but I’m so excited to try to become a part of those visits or find another time our family can do this! We were talking about it at dinner tonight, and while I did dishes the girls all started drawing and coloring little presents to take to some "grandmas and grandpas" they don’t know yet, but who might enjoy some cheerful little visitors. God has blessed us with the chance to care for orphans – both by visiting and by adopting, and I am so thankful He’s shown us a way we can bless our older neighbors, too! Hopefully soon I’ll have some stories to post, but for now I was just excited that God gave us an idea of something our family can do here and now. He is so good to answer the prayers of our heart, stateside or abroad!
PS. Ok, I’m bummed because I just found out we definitely can’t do the visits when our church does – the schedule just won’t work! So it may be a little while before I have some stories to post, as I’ll have to make some calls and figure this all out. But I still wanted to post this now, as I really think it can be a great way for us to minister to others alongside our little ones. I’d love to hear any of your stories about blessing others as a family!
Well, some of our dearest friends are getting all famous! Remember Christine? She blogs over at From Dates To Diapers and MommiesUnited now. She and her husband, Ray, are flying out to New York as they were invited to appear on The Morning Show With Mike and Juliet tomorrow. They’ll be part of a finance section, discussing budgeting for their family with six little ones, groceries, saving money, etc. Please pray that God would use this to glorify His name through His people. And go check it out if you have a TV – I don’t, unfortunately, so I need to find someone to record it for me! I’m sure it will be well worth watching!