Verse of the Day

Friday, August 27, 2010

Eight Month Update

Our sweet babies have been home for eight months already! I was astonished to look at the calendar and see it was time for another update. Finding the time for the blog has been a bit more of a challenge as of late; but, like the saying goes, you always find the time to do the things you like.  And I do like to write.

Food Issues: The youngest still remains fairly stubborn with food. He is much better about trying new items, although I have now been finding food thrown on the floor. This child also still dislikes milk, yogurt, ice cream, and chocolate. I wonder if he'll ever like them. I have started buying orange juice with calcium.
     The older two eat most foods, although vegetables have lost much of their allure. On the positive side, the older two now consume a protein shake every day. They have had no problems digesting the protein, and they have grown a lot!
     Fruit has gone up again on their priority list. I have had to start limiting their intake. Thankfully, this restriction has not made them feel deprived or agitated. I always try to look for a way to say "yes" to something. For example, if my youngest requests a snack and it's immediately before dinner I'll say "you can't eat it now, but go ahead and put it in your pocket and you can have it after we eat." That way, his potential fear of not having food is eliminated.
     Now, on the flip side is my Guatemalan daughter. I have had to limit her intake of food. Particularly at dinner time, she always asked for seconds of the starch. She gets angry and resentful when she sees her older teenage brothers eat whatever they want. Because her weight-height ratio is seriously out of whack, I am trying to get her to slow her eating. I give her an age-appropriate serving, and require that she eat all of her food and then wait a few minutes (5-10) before giving her more. Ever time I've asked her to do that, she declines a second serving. Lesson learned: slow down the eating,  and wait. In my days at Jenny Craig, I remember that it takes the brain about 20 minutes to receive the message from the stomach that enough food has been consumed. When a person eats too quickly, a person usually overeats. Let's hope this simple strategy makes a difference. I also want to try having her drink a full glass of water prior to eating; just haven't remembered to do that one yet.

Medical: Glasses have proven to be the missing link in G.'s education!  Her attention span, energy level, and learning rate is vastly improved.
     Also on a positive note: the oldest boy is no longer terrified of the dentist. That intense fear and panic proved to be a issue of communication. Now that he can understand what procedure is going to be done on his teeth, he is no longer fearful.
     The only other change is that the youngest (the milk hating one) has significant problems with his permanent teeth. The new teeth are riddled with visible holes. Our dentist told us that it was due to significant malnutrition, either during pregnancy or in early development. Our little one had to have 4 front teeth "painted" with a bonding material. He will have to avoid dark drinks so that the uncovered tooth surface stays the same color as the bonding material. It appears as if all the new teeth coming in have this problem. I am thankful that we have great dental insurance!

Sleep: It dawned on me today that the kids' dreams are very different from when they came home. Initially, dreams were fearful and sad. Now, their dreams are exciting--- with good, happy, or positive endings. Interestingly, the oldest boy's dreams are mainly about rescuing family members from scary situations. He and his older brother are always the heroes!
     The negative with sleep:  how can I get the boys to stop talking at night? We have a regular bedtime routine; yet there remain times when they are still up 'til 11 00 p.m.  Drives me nuts.

Behavior: The new kids quickly revert to hyperactive ways when not in a predictable routine. Fortunately during school, their lives are pretty routine.  They get up at the same time, work for a scheduled time, eat at the same times, etc. The older boy remains the most hyper. I have to constantly monitor his activity: the more he does during the day, the more hyper he becomes. When he starts fighting with his sibs, I usually find the time (or Daddy does) to take him out of the house for a while. Just taking him to the grocery store with me for a half hour does a world of good for this high energy child! With him, I have to make the assumption that some of his hyperactivity is because he had more time to just run wild in Ethiopia; bad habits are hard to break. He can be very lazy and wants to take the easy way out for most things. But I also think it is just because he lived for so long in a stressful situation. It is just going to take a lot of time for his system to gear down. I am already seeing great strides in this direction; he's just not quite where he needs to be. 

     I have seen a resurgence of lying as of late. It is interesting to note that we have been studying Scriptures on lying and truth telling, and reading books on learning to treat others the way you want to be treated. I see it as an opportunity to put the lessons we learn into action. I am thankful that the kids are now making the connection between action and consequence. 
    In general, the kids' ability to focus and complete a task is greatly improved. Yet, my nickname is "Sarg." I have to be so very consistent and proactive. I have also found when the kids start "cat fighting" as I call it, or squabbling over silly things, I just say,"drop and give me 10." That means ten push-ups or sit-ups. At first I don't think they believed it was much of a way to discipline... but after having to do many sets of exercises every day, I'm seeing the bickering a bit less often. 

School: Because the kids' attention span is improving, I have slowly tried to lengthen the school day. Here is our sample schedule for the new kids:

8:00 a.m. Wake up
8:20-8:45 Breakfast, chores
8:45-9:00 Brushing teeth, doing hair
9:00-9:30 a.m. Family devotions
9:30-9:45 a.m. Short story with a moral ("Help Me Be Good" series is great)
9:45-10:00 a.m. Calendar work, oral recitation of months, days, counting, etc.
10:00 Snack
10:15-11:00 Math
11:00-11:45 a.m. Phonics and reading
11:45-12:00 a.m. Puzzles, games, coloring
12:00-1:00 p.m. Lunch
1:00-1:45 Califone cards for vocabulary, math music, and/or audio book
     (we also do about 30-45 minutes of reading before bedtime)

     I have ordered a couple of additional work books for penmanship and for health, and hope to add that to the day within a week or so.  I am trying to find subjects that I can also involve Blanca in.
     I have been extremely pleased with the Touchphonics system for teaching phonics and reading.  The kids get through one story a week, and do plenty of hands-on letter building exercises.  By the end of the week, the kids are reading a short story! I use so many different ways to teach the same ideas that the kids don't get bored with the schedule; I think they enjoy school.
     Again, the oldest boy is having the greatest difficulty in school, but I don't think that will last long. He is very sensitive to being what he interprets as a bit slower than the other kids; I am very deliberate with verbal encouragement and also doing more individualized out-loud reading with him so that the kids stop comparing their progress. Such competitive little creatures!
     All of the kids are easily doing Saxon Grade 1.  I am very happy with their quick progress and understanding of the material.

Family Relations: The kids' relationships with family members continues to improve. The kids are slowly gaining more respect for others' property. They are starting to "snoop" less through their sibling's rooms, and are taking better care of their own belongings. In general, they still do better with fewer clothes, fewer toys, less "stuff."  But then again, wouldn't we all?
     All the kids are quite affectionate.  Even the oldest is warming up more; he lets me hug him a little longer these days. They all think Daddy is the greatest dad ever. They simply love him like nothin' else!

New Favorite Books, or recently re-discovered favorites:

"Our 24 Family Ways, A Family Devotional Guide," by Clay Clarkson
"Parenting with Scripture," by Kara Durbin
"The Best of Woof," by Danae Dobson
"I Can Draw Animals," and "I Can Draw People," by Usborne Playtime

Great Website for kids in kindergarten:

Hope this post is encouraging!  It helps me, as well, to recall just how far and how fast they've grown and matured. To God be the glory!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

School's In!

While I have been working with the new kids since they've been home, this week was the first official week that EVERYONE was doing REGULAR, FULL TIME school. And what a week it's been....

First, my two oldest are in high school. This year is actually easier for me, as I don't have to drive the oldest to a science class in Timbuktu. All of their classes are done either online or via computer software, other than some Biblical education. For those of you who have known me for a long time, this transition was really difficult for me to make. I always prided myself in spending so much "quality time" with my kids in school (read "spoon-fed learning") that divorcing myself somewhat from the process was scary. Now, they are alone responsible for getting through a wealth of information, studying it, and producing projects or passing tests. And what is interesting is this:  they like the new way of doing school! Perhaps this is because they know exactly what is expected of them and when; but perhaps it's because I'm not constantly breathing down their necks, expecting them to do more and do it faster!

Yes, I have struggled throughout life with "moments" (years) of perfectionism. I remember thinking before our first adoption that I could still do most of life in the same way.  I could just work a little harder and get up a little earlier to get everything done. But then when the Lord put it on our hearts to adopt three more, I realized about the moment we tried to crack a book that "school as usual" was absolutely gone... not just temporarily changed, but destroyed. The Lord saw fit to show me my pride regarding home schooling, and freed me to understand that He was their teacher.  He was ultimately the one to ensure that the kids would learn exactly what they needed and when. Yes, I'm to be proactive and plan and do everything that is necessary, of course. But their success or failure did not rest alone on my tired shoulders. I had to give the burden of teaching to Him.

My sweet seventh grader does get more time with mommy the teacher.  I make extra time for him, both because he needs the personal instruction in math, and because I want to talk with him about what he reads. His first book this year is "Chosen By God," by R.C. Sproul.  I absolutely love the discussions about the sovereignty of God and predestination.  What a special treat to carve time out in the day to talk about life's "big picture."  Seventh grade is certainly one of my favorite years, as children begin to comprehend and appreciate huge spiritual truths.

And then, my elementary bunch.  I feel more like a drill sergeant than a teacher sometimes!  We do lots of oral work, but have now added "Touchphonics" from EPS School Speciality.  This is an incredible program that actually has the kids beginning to read the very first day!  The program is an alternative to regular phonics systems in that it teaches phonics, word structure, and spelling in a multi sensory way.  So rather than simply looking at letters and trying to remember what sounds they make, the kids are actually building words with real foam-like letters.  The letters are color-coded; letter combinations that make certain sounds are joined.  Thus, they utilize tactile, kinesthetic, visual, and auditory modalities to learn the language. The kids build a word, trace the word with their fingers, write the word, and hear the word in a story. Then we do it all over again the next day, using different techniques. I am delighted with their progress in just a few days!

The kids are also taking Saxon 1 Math; Miss B. is in Math 2.  They are all working on handwriting, art, spelling, vocabulary, phonics, reading, and Bible.  We also do quite a few learning games and puzzles still.  Working with four little ones is actually easier than I thought it would be. Except, of course, if I have to leave the classroom area... then all you-know-what breaks loose!

So if you think that you simply can't add more children because you want to home school, think again! If the Lord desires you to home educate many, you may just have to adjust your idea of perfect or normal or necessary. He will always give you the time you need to do the things He's called you to do. Just the way His world works.

    Wednesday, August 4, 2010

    Great Resource for Explaining Household Expectations

    Joy Berry's "Help Me Be Good" series is just what we needed!  Yes, yes, I've talked with my kids over and over again about lying, teasing, being mean, etc... but the message doesn't always get across.  This series of books has been really great for the kids.  I can read a story about a particular behavior, and then we can talk about specific issues and applications within our household.  The books are short and to the point, plus they have good, easy to understand illustrations.  Now, we can discuss lots of different issues without sounding like we're preaching and lecturing.  

    It is available on