November, 2011

Oh How Differently They Learn

November 21, 2011
posted by Tia in Learning

My two oldest children, Captain and Vi, are only about 19 months apart in age. They are the best of friends, and I have loved it.

One thing in particular that makes it fun is that they tend to hit a lot of milestones together. If one of them is doing or learning a new thing, the other one wants to be in on it too. And, just as I thought they would, they have recently hit a new milestone together: reading.

Captain has been on the verge of reading for a little while now. I could tell he wanted to. But he is a cautious child, and likes to take a good long look before he leaps into the unknown. I was starting to wonder if it would actually be Vi that initiated this time.

One morning several weeks ago, we sat down for personal scripture reading at the beginning of our devotional. I have been taking the first 5-15 minutes (okay, sometimes it’s 2, depending on the morning) to read scriptures and journal about them to help model these habits to my kids. I invite them to use the time to look at the pictures in their scripture story books. This time, though, Captain broke down and started to cry.

“I’m tired of looking at the pictures,” he said in frustration. “I want to be able to read the scriptures by myself.”

We stopped what we were doing, right then and there, and did our very first formal reading lesson. Vi, of course, was in on it, too, as I had expected. What I didn’t expect, however, (although perhaps I should have), was how differently they each approached reading! It was so interesting to watch them as they took turns reading on each page.

Captain has a very good memory and has always enjoyed memorizing things. He memorizes things easily just by hearing me recite through them a few times – more than once he has surprised me by reciting an entire poem, song, or scripture that I’ve never heard him say before. He doesn’t want to say the scripture or whatever it is over and over in general, though. He wants to just listen to me recite it, and he’ll pick it up that way. Interestingly enough, he is approaching reading the same way. He is not particularly interested in sounding the words out phonetically. Instead, he prefers for me to just tell him what the word is, and then he can try to remember it for next time. In general, he remembers quite well. Also, he is very literary and is very good at guessing what the next word is by the context of what we are reading.

Vi has a completely different approach. She loves to sound words out! Even if she already knows what the word is, she likes to pretend that she is sounding it out. I’m amazed at how well she does; that method really works well for her. She really enjoys having the tools to figure out how to say the words by herself.

Another interesting thing is that Captain, from the time he was small, was always begging to be read to. All the time. Every book. Several times a day he brings me books, asking for me to read to him. (And he asks his dad. And anyone else he can pin to the couch for a few minutes.) My younger son, Orator, is the same way. Vi, on the other hand, loves to be read to, but often would rather sit and look at the book herself. I remember that even as a toddler, I would often find her looking at books alone, but when I would offer to read them to her, it was as likely as not that she would actually turn me down!

This difference has meant that Captain has been taking learning how to read at a pretty easy pace. He’s not in too big of a hurry because, hey, he’d just as soon have me read to him most of the time anyway! Which is fine. He’s catching on. And I’m sure that once he is reading independently he will be very happy to be able to enjoy books by himself even when I’m to busy to read to him.

Vi, on the other hand, is still pretty fired up about reading. She checked out a Dick and Jane book from the library the other day, and has been working her way through it, bringing it to me when she wants help with a word (she wants to read it by herself as much as possible). She’s thrilled with the thought of actually being able to read books all day on her own. She can’t wait. (Neither can I!)

Math has been the same. Captain wants concepts to be fully explained, and then he can do the work, no sweat. Vi would rather try her hand at figuring it out herself.

Can I just say again that I love homeschooling? What fun to be able to sit down with my two oldest kids and be able to help them to learn how to read, all at the same time, and be able to cater to their pace and their learning style. I’m so excited about this new phase!

One Comment

Reading in the Evenings as a Family

November 8, 2011
posted by Tia in Learning

It was the beginning of June, right after dinner on a Friday evening. My husband asked me what we should do for fun that night—something relaxing, maybe, like watch a movie . . . ?

I thought for a moment. The older kids had already run outside to play, and it was so nice and warm out, and the sunshine was beautiful. It seemed a crime to call the kids in to the house to watch a movie. Perhaps we should think of something to do out of doors this summer that would keep us outside more in the evening.

As a result of this musing, we devised a plan. Reading a book together in the evenings, but with rules to keep it special:

Rule #1, All of us had to be there together (no reading without Daddy when he was at orchestra, etc.).

Rule #2, It had to be evening.

Rule #3, We had to read outside.

The first book that we picked out was Summer of the Monkeys by Wilson Rawls. We had the old copy that my mother-in-law had read to her kids when they were little.

It was a success! Right away the kids started looking forward to reading together outside every evening that we could. They would rush through any evening chores or cleanup that we asked of them. One evening, Captain even jumped right up after finishing his dinner, then went over and filled up the sinks and started doing the dishes himself! Hurrah!

The book was a definite hit. The kids loved Summer of the Monkeys—all of us did. The kids would sit on the swings of our backyard set, or lounge on the blanket I had spread on the grass, and listen, fully enthralled. Captain was the most involved in the story, and we all got a big kick out of his expressions when we would reach a twist in the story line.

Alice in Wonderland was the next book we read. The kids weren’t quite as involved in that one, but it was fun, and it was short. We read this one while waiting for or watching fireworks outdoors more than once.

After that came Treasure Island. This, too, we enjoyed. However, half way through the book it got too chilly to read outside all the time, so we changed the rules with the season. Now we could read indoors, sitting around our fireplace together. We switched off for a week or two, reading sometimes indoors and sometimes out as we straddled the seasons. But we’ve had snow on the ground for three days now and I’m pretty certain now that we’ll stay in.

Last Friday evening we stayed up late finishing the last few chapters of Treasure Island. I can’t wait for our next book. We’ve had so much fun reading while the TV stayed on the rolling cart in the closet.

What are your favorite ways to read as a family?

In it for the Long Haul

November 1, 2011
posted by Tia in Living

What a crazy month it has been – and already it is over. I feel as though I have been so busy and I hardly know why.

Lately, when people ask me how it is going with four kids, I give them somewhat of a bewildered look and answer,

“Pretty well. I love it. I’m just not sure when I’m supposed to clean my house.”

I can almost do it all: caring for the babies, spending time with the kids, homeschooling (those are my favorite parts of the day), and even meals. It is the cleaning that has me baffled. We’re at a bare maintenance right now and that’s about it. There’s so much dejunking, reorganizing, wall-washing, systematizing, and just plain cleaning that I want to do, and there’s just no time to do it in.

Sigh. Deep breath. Oh, well.

I’ve heard it so many times before, but it’s true: walls will wait to be washed. The piano won’t give up on being dusted any time soon, but my children won’t let me push pause on their growth to enjoy them later. They are of primary importance, and it’s when I really remember and act on that, that I am happiest.

Something that my mom taught me a few years ago has been running through my head lately. Now, Mom had lots of kids – in the double digits. And she’s homeschooled all of us. She knows busy, overwhelmed, and tired, almost as intimately as she is acquainted with joy, love, and fulfillment. She’s amazing. (I’m rising up to call you blessed right here, Mom, just so you know. Thank God for you!) When I spoke to her a while back about the overwhelming responsibility of being a mother, she counseled me to remember what was important and spent most of my time on that, and not worry so much about the things that don’t really matter.

We talked specifically about homeschooling, and she told me that she had learned to be very careful not to go overboard with her methods and efforts in that area. This is when she said the phrase that has stuck with me:

“I’m in this for the long haul. I can’t afford mother-burn-out.”

I’ve thought about that a lot. What am I doing that could cause me to burn out? What will matter in the end? I’m sure we all ponder these questions at times, especially when our time and energy are limited and we have to spend them carefully.

Well, my family matters. My relationship with God matters. The other people around me in my life matter.

I’ve been trying to spend time on those areas, and ignore the walls. (And the bookshelves. And the closets, and sometimes occasionally the dishes or the laundry.) These things will have their time, but right now is not a season in my life that I should be worrying so much about them. Because I can’t afford burn-out. My family is too precious.

What things do you do to avoid burn-out? Is there anything that helps you remember what is most important when you’re feeling overwhelmed? It’s not just me that feels this way sometimes, right? 🙂


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