I am trying to write some prayers for use in all kinds of adoption situations (Big Freelance Writing Job) and I would love to hear some feedback on what kinds of things you pray for your child(ren) placed in adoption, for your child(ren)'s adoptive parents and other family, for yourself, etc. I have a list, but it was brainstormed mostly by me and a couple of other adoptive parents. Anything you'd be willing to share would be very much appreciated. If you'd like to email me privately with responses, please, please do.
Nat seems to be cultivating an "Imaginary Friend." Every now and then she will make a reference to "Robot." For example, she'll tell us "everybody's here! Cole-Mom, Mama Shannon, Nat and Robot!" We have to remind her that Selina is "here" too in these instances. The other day, she offered me some imaginary birthday cake and I imaginarily ate it and when she offered me more, I told her no thanks, I was full, so she said "okay, here you go Robot!"
There are robot toys in one of her books (but no information about what they are--it's just a big pile of them) and one of her episodes of Between the Lions features a robot, but not centrally (and again, with no real info on what a robot is), so I haven't been sure exactly where she got the idea or if Robot is an actual robot, or just some person or other entity called "Robot" because she likes the word.
Then today, we were discussing what we should have for a snack and she announced "Robot doesn't like to eat." I asked her why that is and she replied "Robots don't eat food!" So I guess maybe Robot is a robot, but I still, for the life of me, have no idea where she got this concept of robots and whether they eat or not. (Clearly this is a new piece of information, since he was eating imaginary birthday cake last week!) Maybe it's not robot information at all, but imaginary friend information?
Time to grill the babysitters, I guess. Maybe they're sneaking her Nova or something.
I have been so upset about the goings on in the democratic primary lately that I have tried not to let myself hear any news. I don't want to hear any more about how Clinton surrogates are suggesting Obama is an undeserving affirmative action case. I don't want to hear any more about how unacceptable it is for Obama to be friends with a passionate critic of the U.S. government. But after pestering me and pestering me about it, Cole finally got me to watch Obama's Big Race Speech. If anything, he was too conciliatory for my taste, though he was politically just about as perfect as I can imagine anyone being on the subject. And wow, the media has been talking about the possibility that Black people and white people aren't completely honest about their feelings about race to each other's faces. That alone is a major rhetorical Obama victory as far as I'm concerned.
It's just really hard for someone who has studied a lot of nineteenth century American history (okay, me) to listen to white people complain that Black people aren't patriotic enough or are "anti-American" when they criticize the country. (Yeah, yeah, I know the whole Rev. Wright thing is all crazy-beyond-the-pale, but whatever. I am not shocked by it. I'm shocked that more people don't talk like that more often, frankly. People in general--especially non-white and otherwise less than perfectly privileged people--are far less angry and suspicious of the government than they ought to be, in my opinion.)
Anyway, the whole Obama thing has been steeping in my subconcious for a couple of days and then I watched the first two installments of HBO's John Adams mini-series and suddenly the light bulb went off and I realized what I wanted to tell you all. I wanted to tell you that one of the greatest orators in U.S. history had some "Anti-American"-but-patriotic things to say in his time, and his tireless leadership made America more American for the generations after him. Please take a minute and read one of my favorite things ever written by one of my favorite Dead American Heroes:
I also wanted to tell ya'll why Hillary Clinton needs to bone up on her early suffragette history, but anovelista did it so beautifully (including most excellent references), that I see no reason to waste my time doing it a tenth as well.
Nat and I made a protest sign and took it down to the five-year anniversary anti-war rally this afternoon. Selina came along for the ride. We met some nice people and waved at lots of cars. But we're tired of attending anti-war rallies. Here's hoping the next president gets the troops home asap.
Recently a virtual discussion of preschool came up in one of my Internet hangouts and it reminded me of the preschool comments I am starting to get in face-to-face life when Nat and I are out and about.
"So, (where) does she go to school?"
It has lately occurred to me that people ask this on the heels of Nat demonstrating her fabulousness in one form or another--perhaps being fairly calm and personable in comparison to same-age peers, saying something pithy, pointing out a word she recognizes or signing a phrase in ASL (or a couple of them in exchanges with me--a particularly handy thing to have available in church during quiet moments). So I think sometimes, what people are asking is "hey, where did she learn that?"
I always feel a little weird about it because Nat is still years out from compulsory school age and it didn't occur to me that I'd be facing the "why aren't you in school?" queries until she is 5 or 6. But at least in our college town, preschool--probably high-achievement preschool--is expected and the professors chat among themselves about which ones they like and why. So the "Oh, she stays home with me" response I give tends to shut down the conversation.
I am finding that people just don't know what to say when the subject arises. Maybe they are really thrown by it. Maybe it's like I've announced that I'm from Pluto--a freaky freak in their midst when here, they thought I was a normal person like them. Maybe they have horrible ideas about home school and are practicing saying nothing if they can't say something nice.
Sometimes people go on to inquire whether I have any special skills or abilities that allow me to keep my 3-year old at home and deprive her of "school." If I mention that I used to teach preschool (which I sometimes mention for other reasons) they assume that it's okay for my child to hang out with me, since I must know what I'm doing.
I just find all of it crazy strange. She's barely three! Since when does a child's own mother need special qualifications to govern her "schooling" at age three? What kind of backwards world is this? Three!
The thing is, I may indeed put her in a preschool or play school next fall, for a half day here or there--two or three days a week--if we can find something handy and affordable, but not because she needs "school," just because I need some time to work and baby sitting is pricey and Nat is an extrovert and would probably have a lot of fun in a group of kids.
But as far as learning stuff goes, well, we've got that covered. In the virtual discussion, there was a question of what kind of academic programs various preschools offer and what people make of them and whether people feel academics are important to little kids anyway. It got me thinking about how much "academic" learning Nat gets in a natural context every day. I lean towards the notion that academics-as-separate-from-life-in-general are a weird invention anyway, and that learning is best absorbed through such contextual experience. I thought I'd brainstorm here about how Nat's daily life experiences might fit into traditional academic slots, were we somehow required to prove she's learning. I plan to do this on a daily basis (not online) next fall, when I start thinking of what we're doing at home in a more formal schoolish way. I figure if I start this now, it will give me practice for a time in the future when I am indeed required to do it for a higher authority.
I can get Nat to clean up messes by asking her "how many blocks are on the floor?" and she'll count them as she deposits them in the block basket. Or I might say, "pick up all the green blocks" then blue, red, etc. She's very good at follow-on counting, which means she can count five blocks in one corner, move across the room and pick up seven more, counting them one through 12 in spite of the hiatus between piles (rather than counting a pile of five, then a pile of seven, separately). I know this is a good learning experience for her, but mostly I do it to get my living room floor picked up.
Whenever we eat, I ask Nat to think about how many people are eating and what they will need and how many. She can count out plates for each person, then forks, napkins, etc. She's getting good at doing this by herself. Part of it means running around the house and asking whoever's here if they will be eating with us. Extrovert that she is, that's one of her favorite parts of the job.
Nat loves to sort the flatware into the drawer in its little compartments--big forks, little forks, big spoons, little spoons, etc. When she finishes, she throws up her hands in triumph and declares "You did a great job! I'm so proud of you!"
Nat got some haba stringing beads for Christmas. I got her two identical sets and sometimes I string one set then ask her to copy my pattern. She will then string some and ask me to figure out how to copy her pattern.
We do "subtraction" in relation to eating. EG: "You have five bites of pizza...hey! You ate one, now you only have four!" etc. It isn't Montessori counting beads, but it has the same effect.
Properties of liquid are a daily project around here, as with most preschoolers. We have spills and cleanups and soap bubbles and pouring from container to container etc. ad nauseum, of course. Sometimes I give Nat a variety of unbreakable kitchen items, run some water and soap into half of the sink and let her "wash dishes" while I make dinner or otherwise work in the kitchen.
Nat is still quite into eggs.
Nat's fascination with eggs began because she really liked to eat them. Then she really liked to watch me make them. Now she is learning to break them (I still have to hold her hand so she doesn't just smash them to smithereens) and stir them with milk to scramble them. When you think about it, eggs really are amazing. They come in one form, break into another and cook into another. This whole process just intrigues Nat. She likes to watch them cook. (And she likes to go count up how many people are eating them and bring me the plates to serve them!) But she also knows "baby birds come in eggs!" as she used to say. Lately she's been noticing that other animals come out of eggs too. She has several books that feature eggs hatching and various creatures coming out of them. She returns to the hatching pages over and over and them turns them to find the penguin, chicken, caterpillar, cricket, robin, lizard that hatched, and asks "where's the egg???" In other words where does the egg go when the baby hatches out? I am hoping that when the weather lets up and our CSA starts its free-range (truly free-range, grass-fed) chicken production up again, we can go visit them and she can see eggs in nests and chickens sitting on them and make more egg connections.
This is perhaps our least overtly attended area, because it is implicit in everything, all the time. We obviously do a lot of book reading, but I just draw Nat's attention to words and letters and how they work together all day in a thousand ways. She does the same, herself. She has started trying to read the signs she sees when we drive around town. "B-A-N-K" she announced a couple of days ago, "Bat!" I told her that was close, but it was actually, "bank." Today, on the way home from Selina's 9-month checkup, it was "A-R-T, rat!" I corrected her on that one too. But darn, that's close again.
Just in the last week or two, she's had a literacy explosion and will "read" repeated words in her books, when I read aloud and leave the word out, and point to it. She likes to do this with "hug" or "hat" or "eat" or other small, simple words. She also likes to learn (by sight) the words in her favorite book titles and read them out to us, pointing to each word as she reads (mimicking us, of course) "The. Skin. You. Live. In." she will show us, on the cover and again on the title page. She likes to turn any instructional attitudes we've ever taken with her around on us and point to the words she knows, asking us to "try to read it" and when we do, she applauds and congratulates us heartily.
I found the entire first season of Between the Lions (30 episodes) for $60 online and ordered it. She LOVES, LOVES, LOVES it. It has, sadly, usurped her audio-visual affections from Signing Time. She will ask me if she can watch "tween the lions and make words?" I tell her she can make her own words with her own books and she often does. But I often plop her in front of the t.v. while grabbing a quick shower, or feeding and rocking and burping Selina in the other room, so she does get to watch it a lot. It has really bumped up her interest in words and reading. I don't hate it. (I do hate a couple of other "teach reading" t.v. shows for kids, and Nat was all into one I really extra hate, so I am happy to see she is all about this one now.) One bonus nice thing about Between the Lions is how Afro-centric it is. The lions are African and most of the human beings on the show are African American. But I do think the phonics and other reading pedagogy used on the show is solid and Nat is too little to think the mix of "educational" and "entertaining" is lame, so more power to her.
I don't foresee ever having to sit down and teach Nat to read. All I see is sitting down and reading, giving her books and letting her read, etc. She is very self-directed about language arts. That said, dialogues like this one occur multiple times a week in the course of life:
Nat: "Look! There's a word!"
Me: "Yes, it's a word! What does it say? It starts with G, what sound does G make?"
etc. for the next letters or if it's a long, hard word, I'll just tell her and she'll repeat it. SO yeah, I guess I am teaching her, but not like, sitting down for reading lessons every morning at 11 or anything like that.
She is still signing quite a bit, but I am afraid we are reaching a plateau. I can't find a good ASL curriculum near us that goes beyond what we already know. I am hoping that before too long I can find a true interpreter program and take it and keep her learning and just learn it better myself. We may also be able to find a deaf or otherwise ASL-fluent baby sitter one of these days. One of Nat's current baby sitters is a future speech pathologist and has maxed out on what the university here offers in ASL, which is three semesters. She says Nat knows more. But at least she can sign along a little.
We also still hope to find a French-speaking baby sitter one of these days too. No luck in that department this semester.
Nat is practicing writing and drawing which is really more a matter of fine motor skills than of language. Now that she is less prone to eating pencils, crayons and paint, I try to give her some practice with one or more of them daily. When her skills are developed enough, we can start the drawing lessons in the book I got last year. Meanwhile, we talk about the shapes that make up images and objects and she knows and can copy a vertical line, a horizontal line, a diagonal line, a circle and a dot (which is really also a math skill). Here's a picture she drew by following my instructions exactly, to draw various colors of circles, a vertical line, a horizontal line (it's the teeny one, crossing the sort-of vertical one) and some dots:
Using simple instructions and helping her connect the lines etc., I can direct her to write letters, but she gets bored with it quickly, so I don't usually push it too far unless she asks or shows an interest in writing something specific. She's getting to that little kid drawing stage of making big circles filled with various squiggles and dots to represent faces. Mostly, I just praise her for the beauty of these attempts!
This summer I plan to start an adults' reading group in educational theory and practice with a homeschooling group I recently joined. In the fall, I plan to start Nat in some formal activities including a martial art, Suzuki violin, the drawing lessons from the book I mentioned and a bilingual baby sitter (French or ASL) at least two days a week.
Also, in the fall, I plan to make large sweeping goals like "Get Nat involved in X,Y and Z three times a week" or whatever. I will revise the sweeping goals a couple of times a year, probably. I'll do the daily journalling to see how we do at hitting those goals without thinking too much about them. That's about as unschooly as I can probably get. I don't think I'll ever sleep again if I just let go of the whole thing completely and let the education fall where it may. I'll lay there all night, every night thinking "Wait! When's the last time Nat did blah-blah? Oh my God, I'm stunting her!"