Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Encouragement for Moms of Late Readers



We've made some leaps and bounds this year in the area of reading ability. It's been a struggle -- mostly internal for me; mostly external for the girl. (We had very little teasing about late reading {came from neighbor kids; not siblings}, but it was enough that I realized how much worse it would have been in a classroom setting where comparison is built into the system.) My hopeful thinking that reading ability is unique to each child's maturation has been (experientially, at least) vindicated, so I feel I can share our story: 


More and more studies are being done on connections between the brain and reading abilities. The findings confirm that kids run the gamut on the age that their brains are ready for the different stages of reading. Kids become fluent readers once the pathways between both hemispheres develop. Physical activities such as playing in the mud, cutting with scissors, sweeping with a broom and playing ring-around-the-rosies are all helpful in maturing the brain. Reading to your child from a variety of styles (stories with pictures, stories without, poetry) helps them imagine a story and learn to rhyme. Once they show interest in letters, you can playfully teach them how to recognize and write. All these things prepare a child to read. Even so, children's brains are not the same and there is no settled age for the different stages of reading. 

My four kids have all had unique approaches to reading readiness. The eldest became interested in reading at age 7. Dad bought her an American Girl series and she quickly read them all (though she tells me now that she skipped the words she didn't know, which were quite a few!). She was hooked on reading from then on. She's an active girl who always has a project going on; math is not her strongest ability. 

Second child was not as quick to learn to read. He did reading lessons fine but wasn't excited or eager. At 13 he still doesn't choose to read for pleasure, but he handles the school readings assigned to him. He likes Lego, computer games and watching science/nature videos.

The youngest is 7. He also seems to be of a similar level as his brother. He is progressing fine through reading lessons, but he's not super excited by them. He prefers to read from a simple book rather than do a word-building lesson. He had a hard time paying attention to audiobooks last year. (I didn't expect him to; but I wanted him to listen to get some practice for later years. I just can't do all that reading aloud anymore!) This year he gives much better narrations from audiobooks, and he cried when Heidi came to an end. He is often lost in his imagination ~ thinking of stories or playing a character.

My dearest Phoebe, the third and truly middle child, is the one whose story encourages me at this moment. Because for a while there, I did not know what to do for her. We did brain exercises, Dad had to take over teaching the alphabet after I'd tried for several years, we dabbled in different reading programs, I would voice my concerns to others which usually ended with a new program recommended and me feeling like a failure. In my heart, I felt she would be just fine and would pick it up when she was ready; but I also felt so much pressure from the outside world to have my child on par with "standards."

Well, this is the year Phoebe has launched herself into the printed world. She started reading the Harry Potter series this fall and is on the 5th book right now. Hundreds of pages read in a week. On her own time. This is an amazing thing for me to witness and I. am. thrilled!

Two years ago she labored through a Magic Treehouse book over the summer when Dad offered an incentive. Last year she read books like "Green Eggs and Ham" for the summer reading program. And this year, at age 11, she's doing the Harry Potter series (4,224 pages!). 

This has not come from special programs or instructions or even brain exercises ~ at least that's my opinion from my observations. This has come because she was finally physically ready. 

There were several things I noted from The Struggle though:

  1. Don't push or nag or make reading lessons a horrible, tear-inducing drudgery. Surprise, surprise - that doesn't help anything.
  2. Do keep teaching reading. Progress is key, not arbitrary deadlines. Slow and steady. Back off if needed, but don't quit.
  3. Keep variety in your lessons. When she was a little older, we used Delightful Reading which I had written for Jonathan (there was only one kit at that time; now there are two for the younger years as well). We used several other programs in her younger years. We also just read from simple living books quite a bit.
  4. If a word is unknown in the course of the child reading aloud, just tell them what the word is instead of having them drag it out and get frustrated. I think it's important for them to enjoy the story and have some success in a timely finishing. If you're telling them every other word, you may want to try an even simpler book next time.
  5. Do anything verbal/reading related that interests them. Phoebe wanted to enter a story contest last summer and won third place with a cash prize. It was a victory for her. She also listened to copious Librivox recordings over the past years: Anne of Green Gables, The Little Princess, and the like. Her teachers in Sunday School made time for each child to read aloud from the Bible if they wanted to; Phoebe said that she was a little embarrassed to try, but she was determined to read for them. 

And so we forge on with school. Figuring out a problem. Stepping back. Praying. Trying something new. Remaining calm. Encouraged when at last there is a break-through; but not detrimentally pushing the child to that break-through until they are ready. I knew you would get there, Phoebe. We just had to give it time.








Thursday, September 28, 2017

Passed Through Beaumont

Mom and Dad were in Louisiana, so the kids and I made a very quick trip over to see them. We are always happy to head East on I-10 because we pass through Beaumont and usually get to stop and see Liz' camp friends. 


This time we saw what Hurricane Harvey had done to the area. We did not see anything like this in Houston (granted, I don't think we were in the part of Houston that had flooded). But both sides of the streets in their neighborhood and throughout town were laden with flooded belongings and housing material. Our friends had had 5 1/2 feet of water (sewage water) in their home. Their church that they had evacuated to had also suddenly begun to take on water and their vehicles were lost in that flooding. They stayed with another family for three weeks and have now found a place to rent while they reconstruct their home. 


Elizabeth is doing a cookie fundraiser for their home. She has lots of orders to fill this week, but once it settles down, I'll post her blurb so my peeps can participate if they wish. You can also simply donate to the Goebel's if you would like to help them rebuild their home. Their PayPal email address is Tolliecorder@gmail.com. They (and many others from their church) have been amazing friends to Liz; we kind of like them. 


Strangely enough, I got no pictures of the kids with my parents. My phone kept dying on me every time I thought to take a picture. But we had a picnic with them at Girard Park in Lafayette. We sat together at church on Sunday. And we had lunch with Mr. Wallace and Mrs. Aline Hebert and family after church. We got to see my cousin's baby who had had surgery when she was born. My mom has been helping them take care of the baby. The kids were smitten with her. She was so precious. No tears the whole time we were there! 


We stopped at Lake Charles (the actual lake, not just the town). Liz has been wanting to every time we pass by. I thought, "What the heck? Let's do it." So we waded for 12 minutes and then washed our feet and headed back down the road toward home. 



Thursday, September 7, 2017

Clouse Sibling Reunion in WA

It's been five years since I've been to visit Washington, so this was the year to go again and it was Phoebe's turn to go with me.

Tonya's new place near Yakima, WA was the meet-up spot. Mike and Nettie had been at a family camp in Montana and drove over from there to spend some time with us. They live in Virginia, so it really was great how it all worked out for us to get together. Cory lives in Seattle, and he took time off of work to be with us.

Jordan is Jonathan's age. 
He's on the autism spectrum; he likes to take electronics apart, play with Playdo, and he was working on K'nex while we were there. He was very sweet to Phoebe and I and gave us hugs and kisses on the cheek. 

My dad was there a couple of the days too. Mom is in Louisiana helping my cousin's family with their baby who has had several surgeries in the past months.

Mike and Cory laughing at some video or meme. 

This was a highlight of our time. The last evening together, the siblings went to Cowiche Canyon for dinner. Tonya got a pork chop and I got a salad and we shared our meals. Very nice atmosphere. Modern/woodsy decor. I found out I'm not the only one who likes to listen to other people's conversations in restaurants. Cory said it's an introvert thing ~ we're very aware of what's going on all around us. 

We also finally discovered the one thing that we all had in common: none of us voted for Trump. We've all grown up going down different paths, so there were a lot of interesting conversations, especially between the two brothers. But it wasn't ever mean or ugly or disrespectful. Thanks, boys!

All us siblings got to be together 5 years ago at the family reunion, but we didn't hang out with just the four of us or anything. I don't think the four of us have hung out like this since I left home for college. I have to say it was so refreshing and enjoyable! 
I love you, Mike and Tonya, Cory and Nettie!


Aupa got the kids a raft and took each of them out on a pond. Tonya and I got a spin in it too.

We hiked to a woodsy park and found a calm spot to get in the Yakima River.

Joshua is into making slime, so he and Phoebe made quite a bit of it together.

Each day, the air quality got progressively worse as smoke from surrounding fires of the Northwest rolled in. The last day, as we were driving to Seattle, you could look directly at the sun without sunglasses. I don't think Tonya or Cory are in danger, but some towns are evacuating.

Grandma is living with Aunt Mary in Tacoma, so we stopped by to see her for a few minutes before heading to the airport. I think I'm a lot like Grandma in personality. She told us some stories from her growing up years. Her dad was a farmer in Nebraska. She lived in a sod house. She and her two sisters always shared a bed until they left home. They lived in town for a couple of years, and she decided to take herself to church one day (her parents were not religious, she said). At some point her mom followed. Then her dad and then her sister. 

Dad made these yarn bowls at my request. He made the bowls out of cherry wood for Elizabeth's birthday. He made my longish yarn blow from wood from Grandma's barn (he made one for Grandma too). She recently sold her property in Deer Park. I'm not sure if the barn came down or what, but we have wood from it now. 
I absolutely adore these!

When we first arrived in Seattle, it was too late to drive to Tonya's, so Cory had gotten Phoebe and I a nice hotel room on the lake (Lake Union? not sure which one). 


Fancy breakfast with a beautiful view (before smoke, thankfully).

We drove through the Cascades on the way to Tonya's. Phoebe took lots of pictures of the mountains. I do miss those mountains.

Tonya's backyard. She made a good move when she decided to buy a house in a small town. The school's are smaller and seem like they'll be a better fit for her boys. And you can't go wrong living in a farming community. She's surrounded by apple orchards and corn and vineyards. 

Aupa made gumbo for us ~ So delicious! We had it for several meals over the week because I'm not going to get good gumbo for a while. 

Phoebe and Joshua riding in Aupa's truck on the way to the River. 


Tonya's backyard pool. Uncle Cory is a great uncle to the kids!

Shadow is Tonya's new puppy. She's beautiful and a sweetheart. And she gets into everything!

The sisters! We were the middle children.

The calm place of the Yakima River. It took us a while to find a good spot since the river was flowing so swiftly. 



Aupa and Phoebe duking it out over Monopoly. They put the rest of us out. Aupa called it quits at 11:00 pm because it could have gone on for quite a while. 

The siblings sitting around and chatting. We covered many topics. We talk about politics and economics and our health issues these days. 



I wanted to include this picture of all four of us siblings, Mom and Grandma. She came to visit us in Louisiana one year, so this is us picking her up from the airport. We don't have a lot of pictures that include all four of us.

Grandma and Aunt Mary have their own little farm in town. They have chickens, rabbits, cats, dogs, ducks.... And a nice garden. Grandma has always had a large garden. 



Sunday, August 27, 2017

We Celebrate Our 17th Anniversary and An Eclipse

A week or two ago we dressed up and went to a new restaurant in downtown Cibolo.
We've been kind of partial to cheese plates since we got one on an evening cruise for our 5th(?) anniversary.



So delicious and so filling!

This is the Linnea flower Phillip painted for me a while back. He had the image printed on greeting cards (linen textured!) for me. The first one will be sent out this week to a little baby girl, newly born, named Lanaya.

This guy came back to see us! I've been keeping an eye out for him. He's our one-legged male grackle. I figure it's the same one over and over. How many one-legged grackles can there be that visit our yard? There's another one who limps; his left claw is curled up like it hurts him. I wonder what causes these injuries? 

We got a 60% eclipse here in San Antonio. My sister got a 90% one in Yakima, WA. We should get a pretty full eclipse in 2024. We will purchase glasses far ahead of the event to avoid price-gougers. 

But Ms. Monica came over to celebrate her birthday that day. Our gift to her was a cake that Elizabeth made for her. A very elegant cake based off of a picture Ms. Monica showed to us. She brought soda pop (Manzana and Fruit Punch), and we sang to her and ate pieces of cake.



Jonathan was our eclipse photographer. 
None of us in the neighborhood could figure out how to get the picture using the eclipse glasses and our phone camera. So everyone passed their phones to him. 


Eclipse shadows as described by World Book Learning: 
"This happens when sunlight passes through a very small hole, as it would through a pinhole camera. Such a tiny opening gathers and focuses the light that passes through it, projecting an image of the light source on the other side. On a normal sunny day, you might notice circles of light projected over the shadows of tree leaves. Those are images of the sun projected through tiny holes in and between the leaves. On eclipse day, these circles will become crescents. Look at the shadows of leafy trees, tightly woven baskets, or other objects that have small holes in them to try to observe this effect. You can also make a small hole with your hands by interlacing your fingers." 


Several families came out during maximum coverage. We had a friend give us a pair of his eclipse glasses, but he wasn't too sure about their certification, so we put them over a pair of sunglasses and it seemed to work out fine. 

I really enjoyed eclipse day! We were in and out during all of the four hours or so of time. We did some nature journaling and had Ding Dong ice cream sandwiches (I found what I could that was cheap, round and sweet). It was really fun to celebrate the day with our neighbors!


Saturday, August 19, 2017

Harris' in Town

Cody and his kids stopped in to see us for a few days after a long trip around the States. We're grateful for their friendship and the efforts they make to see us.

Dinner upon arrival.

I'm pretty sure that's Star Wars they are watching here. 

BBQ and ice cream in Cibolo. 


The girls did some domestic knitting and baking. 

We didn't do too much. They had been traveling for a month or so and were pretty tired out, so we mostly stayed at home and hung out. I took the kids to the hill one evening and we hiked to the top. We went swimming for an hour, we watched movies, we went to church Sunday morning. 

An enjoyable time to renew friendships.