Posts Tagged ‘ESL’

Just Another Bump in the Road

October 14, 2015

Mother's Day 2015 014

I have been noticeably missing from My Sister’s Jar for two months….well, at least I noticed I was missing. We have had another bump in the ever bumpy road of our lives, but we carry on, get back in the driver’s seat and plead for God’s help once again.

It was May when our little Colombian princess was tested at a reading specialist and several (meaning more than 5!) different learning differences were detected. This was an AHA! moment for me as well as a WELL- DUH! moment mixed together. I assumed some of the difficulties were because Nora has only been speaking English for four years. This didn’t seem to apply at all once the road blocks to learning were identified.

I believe I have mentioned on here before some of my frustration teaching my own children who can’t seem to remember what I’ve taught them, and don’t really care that they can’t remember, and just want to go outside and look at clouds and dig in the dirt. I handed over Nora’s math teaching to her two older brothers for several months at the suggestion of our principal, my husband. It saved me from the desire to bang my head on the kitchen table when there was no recall of ANYTHING she could do yesterday.The boys didn’t seem to mind re-teaching carrying, borrowing, multiplying with zeroes over and over and over and over and over again. I did mind. It is a weakness of mine, as a homeschool mom, to want my children to learn and retain and move ahead, especially in phonics, reading and math.

With Austin, now 19, he was shown the letter F for 63 straight days of my ever-loving-homeschool-teaching-journey. He finally read the blinkin’ English language when he was NINE. That’s almost TEN. You know, three years before being a teenager. There weren’t any learning differences. He was just a late reader. (Insert mother justification….) He designed and installed our backyard sprinkler and drip system when he was also nine. He’s a smart kid. I kept the faith that God would touch the brain inside that hard, blonde head… and He did! Thank you, Jesus. It still brings me to tears when I relay the story of the first time in his life when Aus read… anything…it was a sign at Sequoia National Park, “Do not feed the deer!”

Back to the Colombian princess. When I heard the phrase “auditory processing” I wasn’t sure what it meant, so of course I googled it. Lo and behold, and what to my wondering eyes should appear, and good golly why didn’t I remember this… a website popped up of a lady WHOM I KNOW!  Oh yeah, she teaches on learning differences. She gave me great suggestions ten years ago when I was trying to get Austin to read C-A-T without the far-and-away look in his big blue eyes. Here is what I discovered: MAGIC! There were 16 symptoms listed for people who have learning differences in the area of auditory processing. Nora has all 16! WHAT? (I pride myself of being an overachiever too!)

Nora is attending reading classes with a specialist who understands left brain/right brain connections that need to be established. The “reading class” consists of physical activities outside to help cross the mid-line of the brain. School has taken a decidedly different look this year, with WAY more focus on my part, which has introduced me to a new level of exhausted. From 9:00 p.m. to midnight was MY time to get my work done. Now I’m dragging through dinner and looking at the clock longingly at 7:30 p.m. without the energy to get anything done. But God knows what He is doing. None of Nora’s challenges were made apparent until Austin was graduated from high school. The Lord knows what we can handle and what would throw us head over heels into the loony bin, and obviously teaching Austin and Nora (the new way) together was beyond my capabilities. And I am thankful we learned about all this when we did!

So as I start each new day, as a homeschool mom, around 8:30 a.m. or 9:30 a.m., I remind God that these are really His kids, and I need His help once again to leave my bedroom and teach them how to learn, how to love God and how to succeed in life! I could not do this on my own! And that’s a fact, Jack!

Nora’s English Lessons

April 7, 2014

Nora’s English lessons are ongoing, continual, every day, all day long, even into the dark of the night, forever… it seems.  Just today’s list of words that she learned …. either the meaning or the pronunciation:

1. “Shweediss” = Swedish…. as in Swedish pancakes, my grandmother’s delicacy.

2. “School Rock House” = School House Rock.  Come on! Those are classics!

3. Inspect … “isn’t that when you save piles of things like rocks?”  Um no.

4. “Ann of Grenoble.”   Oh.My.Stars!  Anne of Green Gables.  She did not live in Russia near Chernobyl!

5. “Dad didn’t ate any.”  We ain’t hillbillies no mo.

6. “Mom, what is a globin?”  I don’t know.  “It’s here in my book!”  Spell it.  “G O B L I N.” That spells goblin…. it’s a make believe little monster.  (Why the heck are there goblins in the phonics workbook anyway??!!)

7. Nora looking at a picture of a newspaper and logically trying to choose the descriptive word from: Pretend, Prison and Printed.  “It looks like it’s really a paper and but you could pretend it’s not. You could read that in prison. Someone had to print it, so it is printed. I don’t know this one, Mom.”  Circle any of them, Nora.  :o)

These are the days of our lives. 

That’s MY Girl!

March 14, 2014

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Nora, my 10-year-old, came and inquired about the “easiest” dictionary for her to use.  “The Children’s Picture Dictionary that you keep in your playhouse is the easiest one,” I answered.  Then she spied it.  My pretty sky blue Complete Christian Dictionary was in arms-reach on the homeschool shelf in the family room.  She pulled it down and sheepishly asked if she could use THIS one.  “Of course you can but it doesn’t have as many words as a regular dictionary,” I explained.

She hopefully queried her daddy, Do you want to sit on the couch with me and read the dictionary?  Hahahaha!  That’s my girl!  The three males rolled their proverbial eyeballs at me.  Gah!

Sitting on the couch for about 20 minutes, she was flipping pages left and right and I could hear, under her breath, “J K L M,” and “S T U V W.”  Finally I questioned, “What word are you looking up?”  “Booty,” she replied, which brought on a burst of laughter from me, her father and brothers.  She’s not thinking baby booties…. unfortunately.  We (term used very loosely) taught her the clapping game Big Booty when she joined our family in Colombia.  To no avail, I tried to explain slang words. I eventually gave up with, “Booty won’t be in the Christian dictionary.”

“Why not?” she inquisitively asked.  One of her brothers told her, “Bad words aren’t in the Christian dictionary.”  Her big brown eyes flew open as she realized booty is not a good word to be using. “Is it a swear?” she almost whispered.  Her daddy replied, “Not really, but it won’t be in there.”

“Are you sure bad words aren’t in here?  Let’s look one up and see.  What’s a bad word?” she expectantly asked her daddy.  “Well, you tell me all the bad words you know and then we’ll see,” my tricky husband answered.  Hahaha!  She wasn’t falling for that!  Then her brothers glanced at each other and one of them added, “We can think of some bad words you could look up.”  Not funny and not happening, thankyouverymuch.

Nora settled for looking up “any” word.  Then she came up with TRAP.  Her and her daddy spent WAY too long finding the T… then the R…. then the dictionary fell and closed and they had to start all over.  She asked again, “What does it start with?” “C” said one of her mischievous brothers.  We all chuckled and I threw the wet blanket on the crowd conversation again adding, “It’s a CHRISTIAN dictionary…. trap starts with T in the Christian dictionary.”  Good grief!

The English Beast Raised its Head Today

February 25, 2014

For the Colombian princess, English has been her second language for almost three years now.  She has learned to read quite well now, but she SHINES in the creative spelling department. (ugh!) I have come to realize that in the Crosby household we must not speak very clearly.  You’d think I would have better pronunciation as I’m on my third time through the entire Downton Abbey series! Here is a little glimpse into our English lessons today.

explode the code 002

Nora reads a sentence and then checks the YES box or the NO box.

1. Can a tiny baby sleep in a playpen? NO is checked.  I ask her to explain.  “A tiny baby can’t sleep in the sand out in the open at the park by the swings!” she explains, horrified that I might think that is acceptable! Ah, playpen = playground. Situation rectified.

2.  Can cattle fit in a cradle? YES is checked.  I ask her to explain. “If the cradle is big enough and you have a small cattle, it could fit,” she justifies! I ask her to define cattle. “It’s the cage the dogs sleep in.”  Ah, cattle = kennel.  Situation rectified.

3.  Are there animals in a stable? NO is checked.  I ask her to explain. Rolling her eyes she points out the obvious for her mother, “How could an animal fit in a stable?”  I ask her to define stable. “It’s when you hit that silver thing and stable the pages together.” Ah, so stable = staple.

4. Do you put a kettle on the stove? NO is checked.  I ask her to explain. “There are big holes in the side of the kettle.  Water wouldn’t stay in there and I think the plastic would melt,” she reasons.  I ask her to define kettle. “Its the cage the dogs sleep in.”  Wait, I thought that was cattle?  So, cattle = kennel = kettle.  This is making perfect sense.

And this was all within fifteen minutes!  But that is not all.

5. Can a needle vanish in the tall grass? NO is checked.  I ask her to explain. “If you hold onto the needle it won’t bannish!” (implied: DUH, Mom!) I underline the V in vanish and she corrects her pronunciation.  I ask her to define vanish. “It’s when you bisappear.”  Oh my stars.

Nora-isms: Skills of Language Acquisition

May 11, 2012

Until our Colombian princess learns how words are spelled, she will continue to pronounce them the way she hears them, which is not always clearly nor correctly.  It may be contributed also to our lazy speech or the rapid-fire delivery we occasionally use.  It makes me laugh.  Have a glimpse into our kitchen this afternoon:

Nora: Mom, will you paint with me tomorrow?

Me: Sure, I will paint with you.

Nora: What is taint?

Me: I don’t know what taint is.

Nora: You just said taint.

Me: No, I said paint.

Nora: Oh, ok.  What does taint mean?

Me: (thinking that I don’t want to explain a tainted woman) Nothing really.

Nora: Isn’t that where you put the gas in the van?

Me: No, that is TANK.

Nora: Oh, I thought it was taint.

And so our lives go on as she learns to carefully pronounce words in English.  I distinctly remember the Colombians laughing at my Spanish.  I’m sure I had some doozies as well.  Later today she asked if I wanted to watch a movie with her. Sure. 

Nora:  How about Robin Hoove?

Me: What?

Nora: Robin Hoove…. you know with the wolf and the chicken.

Me: Oh!  You mean Robin Hood, and he’s a fox.

Nora: Hey, just like my book I read Sox the Fox!

Me: Yep! 

Nora: Can we start Robin Hoove now?

Her words make me laugh over and over again.  And the word Congratulations has lots of syllables.  Too many to remember sometimes. 

Later I asked her to pause the movie so we could eat dinner.  She replied, “Yes, man.” 

Me: What?

Nora: Yes, man.  I learned that on a Focus on a Famly story.  The boy kept saying “Yes, man” to his mom.  She said it was good matters. (manners……)

Me: It is actually, “Yes, Ma’am.”

Nora: What is?

Me: Yes, Man is supposed to be Yes Ma’am.

Nora: Oh.  I wondered why he was calling him mom a man.

And later again, we were in my bedroom looking for matches to sterilize a needle….

Nora: Did you look under the covers?

Me: No, why would I keep matches under the covers?

Nora: I seen them there before.

Me: YOU DID?  (Reflecting back 15 years ago when Larisa tried burning the house down by lighting matches in our bed!) Who’s bed were they in?

Nora: What do you mean bed?

Me: You know what a bed is.

Nora: Why would you keep matches in a bed?

Me: That’s what I want to know.   (She stares at me like I’m stupid.)

Nora: (Exasperated) Look under the covers in your bathroom…. I seen the matches there.

AHA!  Cupboards = covers.  Good grief!

The English language is a beast.

ESL Fun and Games…..sorta

November 14, 2011

The sweet Colombian princess and I have been diligently learning the phonograms to sound out the English language for two months.  She almost mastered the frist 26 (single letters) but as she wrote them…. I came to the realization that she is already programmed for printing the letters incorrectly, holding the pencil totally rigid and straight up, as well as copying over the letters two and THREE times each before lifting her pencil.  Drove me nuts. 

Children Handwriting

After many prayers and whining sent heavenward, I remembered that one of my sons had difficulty printing so I started him with cursive first.  It worked brilliantly.  Thanking God for the wisdom from on high, I decided to switch Nora over because she had no bad habits to overcome in cursive… well, almost.  The rigid pencil grasp made all her letters tilt backwards and look like a lefty wrote them.  After saying 4,678 times, “Tilt your pencil back,” I resorted to taping her pencil down to her hand.  One of my insightful friends recommended this… and it worked.  She fought it all that day (technically for about 15 minutes), but from then on she was determined never to be taped again and carefully tilts the pencil back before writing now.

Another lightbulb went on one day when I realized all the phonogram cards are in printing, not cursive.  So I made a set of cursive phonograms and we STARTED ALL OVER AGAIN… with hardly any recognition.  Oh my.  That was two or three weeks ago and she is getting it…. slowly.  A cursive n does look like an m.  And a cursive k does resemble an r.  I get the confusion!

We have finished the spell-to-write-and-read list A from Spaulding.  Twenty little words.  And I mean little… do, go, is, am, my, run, etc.  We talked through them all.  She sounded them out.  We clapped the syllables.  She printed them quickly in left-angled letters and then carefully in right-leaning cursive in her Spelling Book.  She is doing so well.

Alas, today she had her first spelling test of the twenty little words.  The results were not pretty.  Only three were correct.  It was disheartening for me.  I realized today that she is still translating from Spanish to English with the letters and sounds.  I shouldn’t be surprised by this, as she has only been speaking English for seven months.  This is English as a Second Language afterall!  But still, I assumed she was understanding more than she is.  I texted the principal of our homeschool and told him how frustrated I was.  Being ever the compassionate parent, he asked how she took the news.  I replied, “I didn’t tell her.”  Then he added that at least I couldn’t blame him that it came from his side of the family!  hahaha!  After I secretly marked the test, Nora and I played some card and sound matching games and then put it all away for another day. 

That is precisely what we have…. another day.  One baby step at a time.

I’m a Poser

August 17, 2011

I figured it out.  I’m a poser.  I’m not a real homeschool mom.  It all came crashing down today as I sat at my fellow-homeschool-mom’s kitchen table.  Books, planners, test guides, lists and schedules were strewn from one end of the kitchen to the other.  She was busily slipping pink sticky-notes into each literature book before they were stored in the red plastic box that nobody is allowed to touch except her.  The queen mother of homeschooling.  I mean, good grief, the lady’s got six kids.  And no twins.  Each hot pink note said something different:   “Read Aloud”  “Jimmy”  “Easy Reader”   “Lisa”   I’ve never seen anything like it.  Mounds of books.

To my credit, I’ve done more planning this August than all of my past ten Augusts added up.  I’m branching out this year.  I’m not using the tried and true curriculum that has served me well for ten years.  I’ve always taught all of my kids together on the same topic.  It’s so much easier to teach that way!  But this year?  No.  Well, yes and no.  We are studying American History with a vengeance, but not like any unit ever tackled in this house of school.  My two high schoolers are in my US History class, so they are on the same page, albeit at drastically different levels. My junior higher is in for the shock of his life.  I just finished writing his assignment for the YEAR…. literature, history, vocabulary and math. (He’s taking a science class from the homeschool mom mentioned previously… with the booky kitchen table.)  I have NEVER written down a year’s worth of assignments for anyone, including myself.  I’ve always flown by the seat of my pants…. planning a week or two… or miraculously a month in advance.  Not this year.  This is a ton of work.

My level of comfort was surpassed when it dawned on me…. early June… that I am teaching English as a Second Language to a youngster… for the very first time in my life.  Our girl can sound out words in Spanish… she can write a handful of words in Spanish… but we are swiping the slate clean and starting at square one in English.  It’s been a while since I looked at phonics… a, ay, ah.  The more I learn the 27 phonograms, the less sense the English language makes.  Spanish is so much easier with every letter making ONLY one sound.  Brilliant.

The plan is set in stone… .like never before.  Even if I get carried off by gypsies the kids will know what to work on until late May.  They may not even notice I’m gone!  Even their dad could hold down the homeschooling fort!  All this planning does make sense to me…. but what it we have a hiccup?  What if we fall behind?  What if I need fieldtrips… LOTS of fieldtrips???  What if? 

So, fellow homeschool moms.  I’m with you this year.  My planning is done.  I’m not posing this year as a mom-educator with children at home who has it all together.  I do actually have it all together.  First time in TEN years!