Verse of the Day

Friday, March 18, 2011

Educational Helps: What Works for New English Learners

I experiment a lot with new and different curriculums for my "yearlings" (a term a fellow adoptive mom used for her kids who had been home around a year). I have found that I've had to be very open and flexible; if something doesn't quite work for one of the kids, I quickly move on to something else. As you will see, we do many math-related workbooks; this is simply because phonics, reading, and spelling concepts take significantly more time for my kids to grasp.

Here's the list of what we are currently using. No two days look alike:

Creative Teaching Press:

Following Directions, 1-2 (this is one of my favorite new additions)
Phonemic Awareness, Pre K-2 (for word lists)
Sight Word Readers, K-1 and starting 1-2

Dover Publications

How to Draw, by Barbara Soloff Levy

Top That Publishing

How to Draw 101 Animals

Critical Thinking

Complete the Picture-- Math, Book1
Mathematical Reasoning, Level B
Can You Find Me? K-1
Thinker Doodles, A1
Math Analogies A1 (for my daughter, home 3 years; too difficult for new English learners)

EPS School Speciality

Touchphonics (entire system, including associated workbooks and other recommended readers)
Merrill Readers


Penmanship, Grade 2


Writing Words, 5-6-7
Geometry and Measurement, 1
Math Games and Puzzles, 1
Word Problems, 1
Simple Sentences, 5-6-7
(Reading 1 did NOT work for us)

Sylvan Learning

Basic Math Skills, Level 1
Vocabulary Puzzles, 1
Math Games and Puzzles, 1

Saxon Math

Grade 1 (just finishing the end)
Flash cards (with the answers written in on the card in red ink)


100 Sight Word Mini-Books, K-2
Learning Sight Words is Easy, K-2

Evan Moor

Science: Read and Understand, 1-2
Beginning Geography, Vol. 2

Kathy Troxel

Addition and Subtraction Songs
Geography Songs
States and Capitals

Software (for Mac)

Sponge Bob Typing (they ASK to do their typing!)

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Adoption Update: Months 13-15

In spite of my own health issues, the last 3-4 months have been quite wonderful for our family. It is almost like the proverbial "light switch" has been flipped; the newest additions to the family have really settled in and are doing fantastic!

I would have to say the biggest change is in the eldest boy. He has settled considerably, and is very affectionate. He is my "sweet boy." He loves doing anything to help Mom, and has become quite thoughtful and kind. He likes to try new things (e.g. basketball), and now does not have a defeatist attitude when he can't do things perfectly the first time. He is also making great strides in language and school; he is still quite active and very loud, but not exasperatingly hyperactive anymore. This behavioral improvement may be due to changes in diet (eliminating red food dye, reducing overall sugar intake, and increasing dietary essential fatty acids)... or it simply may be "tincture of time." Only the Lord knows, but I am very grateful and so thankful!

The youngest boy continues to excel in school and is also quite affectionate. I love his morning hugs! He still struggles with bladder control, and we realize that these issues are behavioral/ grief-related issues (control). Aside from this one challenge, he is quite happy and well-adjusted. He displays no anger or inappropriate behaviors at all. He is very intelligent and genuinely kind. He enjoys school and learning, but most of all loves hanging out with his older brothers. Before bed, he runs to tell everyone in the house "Good-night, I love you!" If he forgets, he sends me on a mission!

Our newest daughter is still a spit-fire! She remains high-spirited and quite dramatic, although her pouting is very much decreasing. This little one simply does not like hearing "no" or being corrected. She will often try to provoke me to a "word-war," which is usually the behavior that will result in disciplinary action. That being said, she has become very much the little helper at home, and loves spending time with me. She takes initiative and helps me even before I ask. Additionally, she is not fighting very much with her 8 year old sister much anymore; they have become good friends--- talking and giggling into the night. She still has a bit of grief work to do; she needs more one-on-one time than the others.

All of the kids have a true interest in learning the Word of God. Their Sunday School teachers say they are asking lots of good questions and are eager to participate in class discussions. They all adore having people over, especially other highschool-aged kids from church. The only behavior I have to watch for is my daughter becoming physically clingy with other girls (at least it's not boys!). She so desperately wants to be liked and noticed.

Thank you, Lord, for such gifts from above! Thank you for all of my dear children.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Health Battles

For those who don't know us really well, the past 4 months have been quite unusual. I developed subacute thyroiditis in late December. What started as an innocent inflammation of one side of the thyroid gland, quickly developed into a very uncomfortable hyperthyroid condition. I developed a 104 degree fever, had severe and unusual body pain, and lost a rather dramatic 10 pounds in a week. I also got the flu on top of this; I must say I felt wretched! The localized neck pain was moderate, but the heart palpitations and tachycardia were severe. I have been on beta blockers since that time; today is the first day that I have been able to stop medication. I am hopeful my blood pressure will increase a bit; I am so tired of feeling dizzy and unfocused.

Subacute thyroiditis is usually a viral condition that resolves on its own within several months. That does seem to be the case in my situation. I was hyperthyroid for approximately 10 weeks; I will now become hypothyroid for about the same length of time. My endocrinologist follows my progress via regular blood tests. Now that I appear to be through the hyperthyroid stage, the problematic arrhythmia should be a thing of the past. 95% of patients totally recover for this type of thyroiditis; only 5% require permanent thyroid replacement.

This relatively minor, although inconvenient and frightening virus completely knocked me off my feet. I have really never been in the situation of simply not being able to take care of my family--- or only being able to do very little for them. The illness has certainly given me a different attitude towards life, and I can not say that all of it has been positive--- at least at this point.

What I can say is that I am in genuine awe of people, who by God's grace, manage to care for their families and continue to homeschool their children when they are devastated by illness. One friend of mine has battled breast cancer for over 12 years, yet she continues to love and to serve her family like few of us ever could. I do stand in awe of my God who infuses her spirit with exactly what she needs every single day, to do what the Lord has for her to do. God is Good, and He alone is to be trusted!

Thanks to all of you who have prayed both for me and for my family through this trial. I'm feeling better every day, and I praise the Lord for His protection and healing.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Orphan Sunday 2011

So I'm a bit behind... I've had good reasons--- I promise! Here is the first in a series of family updates; we start with Orphan Sunday.

My church, Desert Springs Community Church, hosted its first Orphan Sunday on February 20, 2011.  We were blessed beyond measure with the wonderful groups represented at our church: YWAM/Ethiopia, Building AZ Families, Christian Family Care, Aid to Adoption of Special Kids, OCJ Kids, World Orphans, and Sister Connection. Thank you to each group and person who made this day possible; it was an unbelievably important and special day to me. Caring for orphans occupies a major portion of my heart, and I am so thankful for organizations that serve so willingly. 

I am also grateful to the Lord for the many lessons He has taught me through the physical adoption of children. It helped to prepare me for Orphan Sunday. One of the main lessons is not to have great expectations. That doesn't imply a fatalist attitude; it simply recognizes that God owns and controls everything. Things are what they are, and they happen in the Lord's time, not mine. He just asks for my obedience, not my perfect performance.

That being said, Orphan Sunday was a work of the Lord. It was what He wanted it to be. Whether it brought attention and raised awareness of orphans is not my responsibility. I did what I believed the Lord told me to; the "success" or "failure" of Project: James 1:27 rests on His shoulders. My main hope for this day was simply to instill some sort of awareness at Desert Springs of the enormous magnitude of the global orphan crisis. 163 million orphans. It's difficult to even process the number, let alone realize that each and every number represents a living soul--- struggling to live and breathe and survive. Sadly, I don't really know whether people in the church cared or not. Only the Lord knows.

One of the highlights of my day was to hear my Pastor preach on serving others. Hearing the Word of God... knowing what it says about caring for orphans and widows is critical to every believer. We simply MUST hear the truth, and hear it repeatedly. We must be encouraged to respond, and be given opportunity to respond. And we can't hear the truth only once a year; we have too short of memories and are too intrinsically selfish for that sort of lackadaisical approach.This is an awesome responsibility of church leadership. And when believers actually hear what God says about orphans and widows, how can any deny that this is a crucial mandate of the church? I pray with every fiber of my being that someone, anyone is hearing and responding to the call to rescue the lost. Come on, church!

On a lighter note, the other highlight of Orphan Sunday was simply opening up my home to others who love the Lord. I am so touched to have had the sheer pleasure of meeting and getting to know some of my fellow warriors, in particular Julie Gumm of World Orphans, Chris and Jeff Butler of YWAM/Ethiopia.

It is such a joy to meet others who give their very lives to serving the Lord through caring for His kids. You ladies (oh, and Jeff, too!) inspire me to continue on in the area of orphan care.

I wonder what next year's Orphan Sunday will bring?