30 March 2007

Ending the Global Warming Debate

John Rabe linked to a wonderful speech this week. Given by Michael Crichton at CalTech in 2003, it is aptly titled "Aliens Cause Global Warming". Here are some of my favorite parts:
I want to pause here and talk about this notion of consensus, and the rise of what has been called consensus science. I regard consensus science as an extremely pernicious development that ought to be stopped cold in its tracks. Historically, the claim of consensus has been the first refuge of scoundrels; it is a way to avoid debate by claiming that the matter is already settled.
In science consensus is irrelevant. What is relevant is reproducible results.
There is no such thing as consensus science. If it's consensus, it isn't science. If it's science, it isn't consensus. Period.
When did "skeptic" become a dirty word in science? When did a skeptic require quotation marks around it?
Nobody believes a weather prediction twelve hours ahead. Now we're asked to believe a prediction that goes out 100 years into the future? And make financial investments based on that prediction? Has everybody lost their minds?

Crichton, of course, is not speaking from a Christian worldview, but nevertheless, he makes a most important point by explaining that the entire global warming debate {as well as other debates that have occured in our nation's recent past} are based on data that cannot be known. It is a debate from ignorance on all sides. Including mine.

I personally think that we would do much better to argue about things we know. I know that pollution fills my Southern California air. I know that the nearby dairy makes my home smell like cow if I open my window. I know that people are creating way too much trash. If we want to debate the environment, let's debate some known issues, and not something Al Gore and his flunkies typed into a computer model.

Read Crichton's whole speech here.

28 March 2007

Goals of the Communist Party

Si's comment in yesterday's post conveniently moves me on to today's post. {Thanks, Honey!} Of course, he knew this post was coming because he was the inspiration. This past weekend, Si became aware of a list that was read into the Congressional Record back in 1963. This list contained 45 goals of the Communist Party. Si was astounded to find that these goals have all been met, in one way or another.

Among the goals in the list are these beauties:
  • Develop the illusion that total disarmament [by] the United States would be a demonstration of moral strength.

  • Grant recognition of Red China. Admission of Red China to the U.N.

  • Capture one or both of the political parties in the United States.

  • Get control of the schools. Use them as transmission belts for socialism and current Communist propaganda. Soften the curriculum. Get control of teachers' associations. Put the party line in textbooks.

  • Continue discrediting American culture by degrading all forms of artistic expression. An American Communist cell was told to "eliminate all good sculpture from parks and buildings, substitute shapeless, awkward and meaningless forms."

  • Discredit the American Founding Fathers. Present them as selfish aristocrats who had no concern for the "common man."

  • Support any socialist movement to give centralized control over any part of the culture--education, social agencies, welfare programs, mental health clinics, etc.

  • Dominate the psychiatric profession and use mental health laws as a means of gaining coercive control over those who oppose Communist goals.

  • Emphasize the need to raise children away from the negative influence of parents. Attribute prejudices, mental blocks and retarding of children to suppressive influence of parents.

It is easily apparent that the U.S. is not the only country suffering from this underground Communist malady. Anyone following the attack on homeschoolers in Germany {where a psychiatric evaluation has been used to steal a child from her family} can see this. But it is happening here. As usual, Europe may be our scary future.

Read the entire 45 goals here. Or, if you are feeling really motivated, read the book that started it all: The Naked Communist by W. Cleon Skousen.

27 March 2007

The Socialist Prayer Request

Socialism is as much an economic theory as it is a political one. The general idea is one of collectivism: the State owns land, runs the schools, funds the medical care, etc. It is no secret that the U.S. is well on its way to socialism, which Marx defined as the stage following capitalism in the transition of a society to communism, characterized by the imperfect implementation of collectivist principles.

So how can a prayer request be socialist in nature? It is much easier than one may think. Simply pray that the government will help someone.

Let me explain.

I recently received an email prayer request for a nearby family. They currently have extremely premature twins in a local hospital. They have health insurance, but I can say from experience that health insurance can far fall short of covering a NICU bill. So this prayer request was that the family's application for State health coverage would go through quickly, that the approval process would be swift, that the needs of the family would be met...by the government.

Not too many years ago, our oldest was in a NICU. We had health insurance, but there was a high deductible. Plus, we already had bills for my C-section and my separate trip to the E.R. when my C-section abcessed. We were trying hard to live on one income, and prepared in advance by saving almost every one of my paychecks once we found out I was pregnant. The bills wiped out our entire savings, save a couple hundred dollars. And we still hadn't received the bills for the attending physician, prenatal care, anesthesiologist, neo-natalogist, and so on and so forth.

And so we prayed for help. And God provided. God provided through a young college student giving us $500 of his meager paycheck. God provided some extra work for Si. God provided through giving me wisdom in how to cut our food and gas bills {gas goes down a lot if you stay home}.

We have had some hard times around here financially, especially because all of our early savings was also early spent. But we have never turned to the government because we do not believe in socialism on any level.

Now, this post is not written to criticize those who have gone to the government. This post is to critically think about a prayer request. This prayer did not acknowledge God's ability to provide through His people. It did not also pray that God would be generous in His provision for this family. It prayed only that the State's help would come quickly.

And how happy the atheist Marx must be, to see from his grave how quickly America is abandoning her principles. Praying a socialist prayer is always interesting to me, for Marx himself saw it as the road to communism. And communism is, of necessity, godless.

26 March 2007

Big Boy Bunk Beds

I have been telling E. for some time that when he turned six he would get bunk beds. However, I have been watching for a good deal on bunk beds ever since we decided we would eventually need some for our family because I didn't want to pass up a good deal on used bunk beds and then later resort to buying them new. What happened two weeks ago was better than I could have dreamed of: bunk beds for sale in the classifieds that were technically new. Apparently, they were purchased for a foster care situation that fell through. So, though they were second-hand, they were new. And they came with mattresses.

I wouldn't call this purchase the best deal ever {my $10 exercise bike still takes the cake on that one}, but it was still what I had expected to pay for second-hand furniture that met all my criteria. Basically, I wanted bunk beds that were made of wood {not metal}. They needed to have good, sturdy side rails on the top bunk, and be able to be separated into two twin beds in the event that two twins would better serve our family's needs. The two mattresses were a bonus. I had expected to have to buy those ourselves.

Another bonus was that they were made of unfinished wood, so my mother-in-law and I were able to stain them in any color we chose. I happen to have an affection for dark wood. Si chose the stain, but he asked my opinion. I said that I preferred dark, but not cherry {which is red} and not something that looked too black. He brought home the perfect chocolate color.

Every day during naptime, we snuck out to the garage and worked away for a couple of hours. Usually, due to nursing, my mother-in-law started working before I did, and finished up long after I had returned to my rocking chair for a visit with Q. What would have taken me a good three weeks only took three days {and then one more for drying}. What a wonderful gift of time she gave to me this past week!

In all the project was a great success, most notably because a certain little boy was absolutely ecstatic. He ran around on Friday night {as Si and I were finishing the assembly of The Bed} saying, "This is just really, really special!!" For now, he is sleeping on the bottom bunk until we can be sure that he is able to make it to the bathroom in the middle of the night. A climb down a ladder is a bit much to add at this age. My hope is that I can make a little reading fort for him with the top bunk until we have good reason to fill the vacancy. I think every little boy would like the adventure of bunk beds. I know mine sure does.

17 March 2007

Why We Celebrate Saint Patrick's Day {Written by Si}

Long before the warring Germanic tribes swooped down across the frozen Rhine, the Roman Empire was crumbling from within. It hardly defended itself against waves of brutal invasions. With the empire’s fall, the violent tribesmen carelessly destroyed many of the classical works of antiquity and learning from the Greco-Roman era.

Thousands of miles north in Britain, a 16-year-old boy named Patrick was kidnapped in 389 A.D. by Irish raiders and sold as a slave in Ireland. For six years, he tended sheep in the hills of Ireland, spending most days praying and meditating.

In a dream one night, he saw Jesus telling him to get up and go to the sea because his ship was waiting. When he awoke, Patrick risked death by leaving his life of slavery and heading toward the coast. About 200 miles later, he found and boarded a ship headed for his homeland. Once there, he entered seminary and later church ministry. A few years later, he had a divine vision that motivated him to become a missionary to those who had enslaved him.

So in 433 A.D., he returned to a barbaric Irish society that only spoke the language of war, where it was common practice to hang the skulls of decapitated opponents on one’s waist. Into this setting he shared his faith in Christ for 60 years. Through his consistent preaching and love, innumerable townspeople, Irish warriors and druid priests became Christians. They laid down their swords and began leading productive, peaceable lives.

From Patrick, who was later named a saint, flowed a movement of Irish missionaries who took the gospel back to Europe, which had been ransacked by decades of barbarian feuds. Because these Irish monks valued education, they built monasteries wherever they traveled in which to teach scriptural truth. Also, they salvaged what remained of classical ancient works like the Iliad, Plato’s writings and whatever they could find. These believers shared the gospel with barbarians, taught them to read and later established centers of learning—universities—in which to teach the Bible.

Historian Thomas Cahill says the Irish saved Western civilization because of the faithfulness of this man, Saint Patrick, and his successors. Were it not for their devotion to biblical truth and classical learning, Europe might still be a land of illiteracy and brutality today. All of Western civilization owes an enormous debt to Patrick. And that is why we celebrate the date of his death on March 17.

(Source: How the Irish Saved Civilization by Thomas Cahill and Wikipedia)

15 March 2007

Down on the Publicly Funded Farm

I received an email today announcing our church homeschooling group's Farm Day. And then I noticed where said Farm Day is taking place: a local charter school, a public charter school.

A school funded by you. And me. But mainly you, since we don't really pay all that much in taxes.

I am really missing Spunky today. She could say all of this a lot more clearly than I'm about to. It was Spunky that really got me to think long and hard about what I really believe in regard to homeschooling. And so I am about to quote her endlessly.

The way I see it, there are two major philosophical/religious/political issues surrounding education, from which all other controversies tend to stem. The first is what Scripture says. The second is what the U.S. Constitution says. There are plenty of nonchristians who decide to homeschool due to the fact that the public school system as we know it is blatantly unconstitutional. In fact, I've long been considering writing on my political views surrounding homeschooling.

But for today, I will stick to the charter school issue as defined by Spunky:
For the record, I don't care what curriculum Dan or anyone else chooses to homeschool their children. It's your right as a parent to pick whatever you feel is appropriate. But not all who call themselves homeschoolers ARE homeschoolers. Some are public schoolers at home. Let's not get sloppy and allow the term "homeschooling" to become generic for anyone who just decides that the public school building is not to their liking but the curriculum and state control are just fine by them. I'm not saying the term "homeschooling" should only be reserved for those who teach the Spunky approved way, but that the term should not be so broad as to include those that homeschool the state approved way either.
The emphasis there was added by me because I think this is a critical distinction, one I often hesitate to make in public because we have people in our lives that we hold quite dear who have chosen to public school at home, and feel free to call themselves "homeschoolers."

Public charter schools, with their farm, shop, "free" zoo passes and museum passes and computers, are quite tempting, especially for parents who think their kids would benefit from these things and who cannot {or will not} afford these things. And I am not here to criticize someone for choosing this route, at least not today {though I have already stated that it is unconstitutional}. But let me state clearly that I firmly believe days like "Farm Day" are specifically designed to woo our local homeschooling masses back into the place the government prefers they be: under governmental control.

The point is aptly made by Spunky:
It is important that the definition of homeschooling be determined by who the student is ultimately accountable to.

And why?
A distinction is necessary to ensure that the freedom to homeschool is not lost through increased regulation. If we combine the two groups then when the state seeks to increase regulation or make changes to the "schooling at home" crowd the "homeschooling" crowd could be affected by the changes and potentially lose some of the authority to direct the education of their children.
In other words, allowing the term "homeschooler" to become generic may eventually threaten the liberty of the true homeschooler when the charter schools start to change the rules a bit. The more separate we remain, the less we are threatened by the charter schools.

So charter schoolers are not homeschoolers. Chant it with me like a mantra.

Also, be watching the sidebar Read What I'm Reading section for articles on the state of affairs in the world in regard to homeschooling, specifically posts from HSLDA. There is a huge fight in Germany going on right now. Homeschooling parents are being arrested under laws created by Hitler to maintain strict State control over German children. We must always remember that homeschooling is an act of liberty, a liberty that is not recognized by the constitutions of many countries around the globe. The U.S. is still very unique in the world.

14 March 2007

All Good Things Come to an End

I remember back in the day when I was still working at the University that there was a discussion of marriage going on in which an older co-worker of mine quipped, "I know why so many people get divorced around year seven! It's because when they get married, they get all new stuff. Then, around year five, everything starts breaking. For the next two years, they argue about money so much that they end up divorced!" He was mostly joking, of course, and had been married quite a bit longer than seven years. I, on the other hand, was a newlywed. I also knew that many jokes have in them a grain or two of truth. And I remember that I purposed in myself to try and outwit such a situation.

Our main strategy has always been saving for the future. Tax refunds, not that we've gotten many, go to pay off bills or replace something that seems to be breaking. After we bought the Suburban, I immediately tried to decide what to save for next, and came up with a tie between a clothes dryer {ours has acted funny since we bought it used for $50 years ago} or a new computer {we are currently afraid to turn this baby off, as it might decide to die in its sleep overnight}. So, I have a section in our savings account for these things. Whichever ends up in the grave first gets the money.

In the meantime, I am also still using the broken mixer that makes that horrible clanking sound. I just close my eyes and dream of a Bosch.

I am sure that all you readers thought this post was going to have some sort of moral to the story, but really I wrote all of this in order to lay the ground for this horrible news: something in our house has died {rotted, actually}, and it was neither the dryer nor the computer. It's my favorite sheets. The beautiful white ones with the boldly colored flowers gorgeously embroidered along the edges. The ones that perfect match the scarlet pillows and throw we have on our bed.

Those sheets.

Yes, they made a beautiful ripping sound as I pulled them up the other night.

Don't worry, said Si, I can sew them up some evening while you nurse. But I had a bad feeling about it. And then Si hopped into bed, pulled up his sheets, and rrrriiiiiiipppppp!! went those sheets. My little tear was nothing compared to that one-and-a-half foot rip, rip, ripping.


I was excited for a new dryer, or a new computer, even. But sheets? My favorite sheets?

12 March 2007

It's What's for Dinner

Eight Hour Turkey Stew, to be exact. I had to modify the seasoning a bit because I am currently avoiding basil and parsley, but the fragrant aroma of this one-pot meal is already spreading throughout our house. Dinner should be great.

In seeking to master my crockpot, I am learning that there are only so many times I can make a vegetable-beef soup variation before the masses start crying things like, "I like Rebecca's minestrone soup better!"

Thanks, Rebecca, really.

But I digress.

Mastering the crockpot is important for me, with the three kids under five and all {I am milking this because E. will be five in May, and "three kids under six" isn't nearly as impressive}. I found a great new resource, one that will definitely mix things up a bit. It's a blog appropriately named Slow Cooker Recipes. I signed up to have the blog email me each new recipe so that I don't even have to check it. I figure out if the recipe sounds like something we'd like, and then I either delete it or print it, depending on the answer to that question. I try the recipe once. Thumbs down, and the recipe goes in the trash. Thumbs up, and I stick in with my slow cooker/crockpot recipe collection.

Another good resource is Betty Crocker's Slow Cooker Cookbook and Betty Crocker's More Slow Cooker Recipes Cookbook.

Also on the crockpot front, for those of you out there with long days and thought that the slow cooker recipes were still too fast and that you would burn everything if you left it on while you were away for more like ten or twelve hours each day: the Rival Oval Programmable Stainless Steel Crock Pot! This baby is fully digitized, meaning you can set a timer and when the cooking is done, the warming setting automatically kicks in, so that you walk in the door and are greeted by a meal that is ready to eat, rather than a blackened, burned mess.

Prepare dinner in the insert the night before and put the insert in the refrigerator. The next morning, simply pop the insert into the cooking unit, program the little timer, and leave the house knowing that a nutritious, warm meal will be greeting you when you return.

08 March 2007

Just Say No to Drugs

I don't give Tylenol for fevers or teething or pretty much unless you broke your arm. But I will hug you and try to comfort you in any way I can. I don't apply sunscreen, but I will try to get you out of the sun before you get burned. And there are days when I feel like I probably shouldn't mention this to certain people, especially if my children are suffering some pain or in the sun, because they will disapprove. And then there are days, like today, where I think I might need to start a category on this blog called "I Told You So."

Imagine my self-justifying delight when I read this headline from the Baltimore Sun: Cold remedies put children at risk, group says. Read it, because everything I've been saying is true. It reminds of that news article I posted awhile back about the tainted cough syrup that actually killed people, people who would have survived having a cough.

So, back to the Baltimore Sun, here are a couple clips from the article:
As many as 900 Maryland children younger than 5 overdosed on the medications in 2004, the petition alleges. The deaths of at least four children in Baltimore have been linked to unintentional overdoses in the last six years.
Last month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that 1,519 children younger than 2 were treated in emergency rooms in 2004 and 2005 for overdoses and other complications related to cough and cold medications. Three infants less than 6 months old died.

Basically, some of the foremost pediatricians in the world have requested that these remedies be more strictly regulated by the FDA for children, including disallowing marketing them for use in children. The FDA has {so far} done nothing. Why?
Last fall, Sharfstein wrote the FDA to express his concern about the FDA's regulation of over-the-counter cold remedies to children. He got a letter of thanks, but "nothing since then," he said.

He then launched a review of FDA regulation of the products, and found that the agency has never conducted a thorough review of the scientific evidence of the drugs' safety and effectiveness in children.

It "doesn't make sense," Sharfstein said. "And we were able to get some really impressive people to agree."

Coughs and colds are frequent in young children, and parents often turn to remedies that combine cough suppressants, expectorants, decongestants and antihistamines. In 1990, sales of these products totaled nearly $2 billion.

07 March 2007

The Way I See It

Paul Spears isn't the only person who can find a great quote on the side of a Starbucks cup. Si and I go to Starbucks on Wednesday nights for a "date." I put that in quotes because lately we have had two little girls along with us, but since both of them don't speak much, we are able to {mostly} have a {short} conversation. For what it's worth, I look forward to this night every week.

This past week we got The Way I See It #217:

The day my son was born, I simultaneously died and was reborn. Every day before that day, my life had been about me and what I wanted the world to give me. Every day since, my life necessarily has been about what I can give to someone else. And that, I think, is why the world needs more children--and more parents.

--Kevin Streit
Attorney from Richmond, Virginia
Need I say more?

05 March 2007

The Great Cake Tradition

When I was little, my mom made most of our birthday cakes. I have a very distinct memory of her making a very blue Cookie Monster cake for my little sister. I remember it because my sister got in big trouble for sneaking into the office {where it was hiding} and taste-testing the cake. I also have a memory from when I was older. I remember finding a picture of a cake that I wanted her to make for my special day. I brought her the picture and she made it and I was thrilled.

This is why I started out, from the very beginning, making our cakes. These cakes are made from the box mixes and with grocery store frosting. Someday I plan on learning to make it all from scratch, but that is a bit much for me right now. Grace helped me make cakes back before we had a digital camera. If I had had one I would have to post not only the photos of the finished product, but also of us gluing the cake back together with frosting. Once it was decorated, folks never knew how close it was to disaster!

We acquired our digital camera {using Christmas money} in January of 2006, so all of these cakes were made in the last year or so. All but one of the instructions can be found at the Family Fun website. Also, notice that a lot of them are decorated with candy. Candy can be very expensive. I cut costs by using a local grocery store that sells candy in bulk. I can then buy three gumdrops and one gummy worm if that is all I need. This saves money. It also means that my kids aren't begging to snack on the excess candy!

Fun Fat Piggy Cake
This cake was for A.'s first birthday. I said I would post the finished product back then, but I never did, so here it is. I chose it because the only thing I knew A. liked for sure was the color pink. As an aside, I must mention that the green tablecloth really wasn't that dark. That February was very busy and we had a simple cake and punch party at night, hence the lighting.

E. was just starting his interest in heavy farm machinery, so as a gift we bought him a John Deere toy tractor set, complete with cute little farm animals, a wind mill, and fencing. I thought that a good way to use it was as a very heavy cake topper. This cake is two 9x13 cakes, stacked. I decorated half with chocolate and half with vanilla tinted green with food coloring. The chocolate half was a field for the tractor, and the green was pasture for the animals.

Happy Father's Day Cake
This was for my dad on Father's day. It was fun to frost a cake in a shirt box! The cuffs and neck were made with cardstock. I decorated the cake the night before, and the frosting bled onto the cardstock. So sad! If I could go back, I'd still decorate it at the same time, but I would leave off the cardstock until the party was about to begin so that it looked nice and crisp.

Flower Power
I was happy with how this turned out, but I had to modify it a bit. The cake called for mini-cupcakes, but I couldn't find anyone who owned a pan and I wasn't going to spend the money for a pan that I would rarely use again. So I just used big cupcakes for the big flowers, and then chose one uniform design for the small flowers and placed them directly on the cake. The instructions also called for candy leaves, but I have a friend who lent me her cake decorating set so that I could use green frosting. It was a nice touch. This was one of the best times I've had decorating a cake because I used my own ideas rather than going strictly according to the directions.

03 March 2007


Baby Q. slept through the night! Eight hours of uninterrupted sleep was ours for the taking, and take it we did! How glorious. But, of course, there are no guarantees for tomorrow.

02 March 2007

The Darndest Things {03/07}

30 March 2007: Mommy the Priest
E. got in trouble today. It happens, what with the sin nature and all. But sometimes it is so hard to keep from laughing at his folly! Today, he wanted to hold Baby Q., but he didn't want to listen to an adult give him instructions on how to go about this properly. So I took him into a back room and explained that if he could not listen to instructions about how to hold the baby, he would not be allowed to hold her. During this time of discipline and instruction, my poor son's heart was broken to pieces by the burdens he had apparently been carrying around since he awoke from his nap. And so began his confession. He picked his nose. He didn't wash his hands before holding the baby. An enormous list of sins and trespasses came streaming out, and he sobbed as he told me all the horrors he imagined himself to be guilty of.

I smiled, but tried not to laugh because it is true that he is not supposed to do these things. I assured him that he could learn to do what was right, and that I would help him remember. He seemed relieved at letting it all out! I now know what Charlotte Mason meant when she referred to children as being solemn creatures.

14 March 2007: Kids DO Say the Darndest Things
Si: What'd you have for snack at Cubbies tonight?
E.: Cookies that looked like a palm tree.
Si: How many did you have?
E.: Two.
Si: That's a reasonable amount.
E.: And then I had three more!

6 March 2007: The Great Imitation
I had this vision that once Q. was born, A. would play with her dolls alongside me as I took care of Q., and that this would help A. deal with having a new little person around. Family members got involved, and soon A. had a doll with a little baby car seat carrier, a rocking chair, and even a stroller {which E. insists on filling to the brim with his toy cars}.

But nothing happened. In fact, it was like she knew what I wanted, for I would catch her rocking in her chair in secret. The second I walked into the room, she would jump out and run away.

But today it clicked, and all was exactly as I had imagined it would be. As I was nursing Q., A. climbed up onto the couch next to me and put her baby in its carrier in her lap. When I burped Q., A. burped her baby. And then suddenly A. looked at me in absolute disgust. I asked her what was wrong, and she exclaimed, "EW! Stinky diaper!" {Well, actually it was, "Tinky dah-puh.} She went on and on. Finally, I suggested that she go change the baby's diaper. She left the room, and I could hear her rummaging around in her own room {where we change her diapers}. When she came back, her doll smelled like baby wipes!

So now I am trying to figure out how to rescue my wipes supply from her greedy little hands. She wasted half a box yesterday.

6 March 2007: Just Around the Corner
We were out driving this morning, which is a rare occurrence for us. I am slowly adding more errands back into the schedule as I adjust to having three, rather than two, children. The fruitless cherry trees that line our streets here are exploding into beautiful pink blossoms. I pointed them out to the children as we drove.

Me: Oh! See those cherry trees all in flower?! Aren't they gorgeous?
E.: Yes! They are gorgeous!
Me: That means spring is just around the corner.
E.: {After sitting in a momentary thoughtful silence} Mom, what does "just around the corner" mean?
Me: It's a saying. It means that something is coming very soon.
E.: Oh. Something is coming very soon.
Me: {I drive up to a stoplight, filled with satisfaction that he understood it so fast.}
E.: {As I stop at the light} Is it this corner??

**And then later, as he and Si are walking to the mailbox**
E.: {After Si, too, points out the trees} That means spring is just around the corner!
Si: Where'd you hear that?
E.: Mommy said it.

4 March 2007: On Accents
We had a guest speaker at church tonight. He was originally from Pakistan, I think, but he is a missionary to Sri Lanka. I didn't think his accent was that bad. I've definitely heard worse. I understood him perfectly, even though I was in the Cry Room with three other mommies, each with a whimpering baby. When it was over, though, E. came into the Cry Room to greet me. He declared {to all who would listen}, "I didn't understand a word that man because he talked funny!"

1 March 2007: New Understanding
We have a silly little foamy board book called My Pretty Kitten that A. just loves. We've been reading it to her on and off for almost a year. But recently, she noticed the page where it says, "After each meal, she washes her feet." The illustration shows a kitten licking her paws. It is quite tastefully done, but A. seems to have a new understanding that the kitten is putting her tongue to her toes, which is gross if you think about it. A. thinks about it, for sure. Starting today, every time I read this page, she yells, "EWW!" before I can turn it!

01 March 2007

Teaching Reading: The Very Beginning

I think sometimes E. intimidates other parents because he is four and reading quite well. Early reading happens to run in our family. I read at three, my sister at four, and Si isn't sure how old he was but seemed to have read before kindergarten. So if there is any genetic predisposition, E. probably inherited it. He also has a good temperament for reading. He has a very long attention span for his age, and he likes stories. This is not to brag, but merely to explain that I don't think parents of extremely hyperactive boys should compare themselves to me, a parent of a fairly mellow boy.

However, part of me is surprised at how far we've gotten. It was only a year ago or so that he knew only the very basic of sounds. So I see now that there is something to be said for working at it a little day by day and not worrying about it so much.

But there are a few things I did, and I will share them now in case they help anyone.

  • Teach letter sounds with animal sounds. E. was having great difficulty at one point. He was even angry when I suggested that letters had a sound, and the sound was different from the name. First, he received a gift from his aunt that was made by Leap Frog. I am not usually into gadgets, but this helped E. immensely. Called the Fridge Phonics Magnetic Set, this helped him, using a little song, to understand that "every letter makes a sound." Once the idea of letters making sounds clicked, we studied letter sounds with animal sounds. Cow says, "mooo" and I says "i". This seemed to help so much.

  • Do not progress until each lesson is fully learned and each previous lesson fully reviewed and remembered. In teaching phonics, it can be very frustrating for a child to keep moving on when the previous lessons haven't really "clicked" yet. We have some friends that use the 100 Easy Lessons book for their children, but they joke that it is really about 300 Prolonged Lessons because they spend as many days as necessary on each lesson.

  • Get the Bob Books. I wish I could offer other suggestions, but these books are the simplest, earliest readers I have ever seen. They definitely bridge the gap between learning basic consonant and short-vowel sounds and being ready for true easy reader or early reader books. I think it was Charlotte Mason who once wrote that children need to feel a bit of success with each reading lesson. And Engelmann thought that a child should be invited to use what he has just learned immediately by reading parts of a real book rather than just sticking to lists of words. Bob Books will accomplish both, but they should not be started until after the child understands that letters make sounds.

  • Don't start before he's ready. A child must have mastered the alphabet {both upper and lower case} first. If this has not happened, do not begin reading. It is not enough to be able to recite the alphabet song, though that is definitely a start. Being able to visually identify each letter, no matter what order the letters are appearing in, is key. However, p, d, q and b all look the same to a child, and a mother needn't be as concerned about that part being perfect before beginning.

  • Don't stop once you've begun. Keep plugging away, even if you are having to do the same lesson over and over each day. But get creative. If you are learning the ai sound, don't use the same words every day. Or make a game out of matching first letters to make new words {like main, pain, rain, etc.}. But don't stop just because the child seems stuck on a sound. Or, if you need to go on because it is getting frustrating, don't forget to come back. Or, go backwards and try to work back up to the place he had trouble. But don't just stop reading, or any ground you've covered might be undone.

  • Don't worry. I have met parents who think that because some kids read early, they all should be able to do it. But all kids are different. Sure, there might be cause for concern if a child can't read anything at all at the age of seven or eight, but there is still a lot of room for variation. When they are twenty, they will almost all be able to read, and no one will care what age they were when they began.