Thursday, June 27, 2013

just like me

For whatever reason, I used to have this fantasy that I would want a child/children who were just like me. Moreover, I had this idea that my kids would need to experience life just like me. Then, I adopted a black girl, and I realized just how silly and not possible this fantasy was. Don't most of us spend our adult life overcoming our childhoods anyway (this is a joke, kind of)?! 

Well, becoming a missionary has made me a little sad at times that my kids are not living a childhood like mine, at all. In my head I know that is not what matters most, but sometimes, it's a healthy aspect of parenting in that you want to relate to your child.

When I was little, I used to spend a lot of time at my dad's uncle's farm. We called it the farm (as in the only farm because it's the only one we ever went to). I have fond memories of the farm--uncles showing me baby pigs, cousins, coffee time that included chocolate chip cookies, Grandma G who taught me some of life's most important lessons, tractor rides, and a lot of room to run and hide and make up games. On rare days, probably when it was too cold to be outside, we would play inside. In a tall wooden cabinet, there were games, toys, and books for kids. My favorite toy was a marble run. 

Last fall when my Uncle Neal was here on a work trip, I mentioned this marble run to him. I don't even remember what made me think of it. But, I told him it was my favorite toy at the farm. Well, when Neal came back this Spring (on another work trip), he pulled this out of his suitcase. 

From wood that Neal got from my dad, Neal made this marble run for my kids (or for me) and brought it all the way from Minnesota to the Czech Republic. Now, as I'm working on my computer or cleaning the kitchen, I often hear the sound of the marbles rolling down the marble run, and I smile because my kids are doing something just like me!

Friday, June 21, 2013

i've got to learn this language

Yesterday, in a I can do anything moment, I took a four-year old, two two-year-olds, and a dog to the river that's just behind our house. I don't have any pictures because one cannot take a photo while holding a leash and the hands of two two-year-olds as they make their way along a rocky bank. We had a great time there splashing in the water, throwing rocks, and keeping everyone alive. When it came time to get all of us up the bank back to the trail, I picked up Alex and had him on my left hip, I was holding the dog's leash in my left hand, and grabbed Gabe's hand with my right hand.

A very nice woman who I have seen around Frydlant said something to me in Czech. Okay, here's where my awesome skills left the building. I can often understand the gist of what someone is saying, if I can really focus, and if I have a tiny bit of context. In situations where I am not able to focus or I don't have context, my brain is often about three minutes behind. Three minutes doesn't seem like a long time, but it's long enough for someone to ask me a question and for me to answer, and then realize later why the poor person was looking at me funny.

Now that my brain has been able to process, here's what I think happened.

I'm standing near the river with Alex on my hip, the dog leash in one hand, and Gabe's hand in the other, the women kindly says something like this in Czech, "Are you able to make it up the hill by yourself or do you need help?"

I answer (in CZ) smiling, "yes!"

She repeats her either-or question, "Are you able to make it up the hill by yourself or do you need help?"

Again smiling I answer (in CZ), "maybe, yes!"

She says to her husband, "Go help that crazy American woman up the hill!" (Okay, I don't think she said that).

The Czech man holds his hands out to Gabe so sweetly (as not to scare him), and I explain to Gabe that he's going to help him up the hill.

I say thank you in Czech at least three times, and I say good-bye. All of which are said with precise pronunciation.

Then, I'm walking away, with my three kids and the dog, and I realize she was asking me an either-or question. Dang it!

This summer, I'm increasing my language lessons to at least three times a week, so . . . watch out Czech, I'll be able to answer your questions . . . soon!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

nine years of marriage in pics

It's our ninth wedding anniversary. It's cliche, but it gets sweeter and sweeter, and my hair gets better and better; Brian's stays the same. These nine years were better than I asked for or imagined!











Wednesday, June 12, 2013

my preschool recommendations

Last week was epic for me. One of my former students whom I taught when I worked at Charlotte Christian School came to visit us. She was part of the class that I taught two years in row for 7th and 8th grade Language Arts. This entire class holds a special place in my heart, and I was thrilled to have Abby here for a week.

Abby is majoring in Early Childhood Education at Clemson, so her and I teamed-up and ran an Early Literacy Summer Camp mostly for missionary kids in our town (and a Czech family from Cece's preschool whose dad is Scottish). We focused on early reading and writing skills in English because this is a an area that us missionary parents must teach our kids ourselves. Because Cece is in CZ preschool fulltime, it can be challenging for me to keep up with her early literacy skills (in English) at home. Having Abby here for a week was a perfect opportunity to focus on this and to invite some of our friends, so their kids could benefit too.

For those of you who are also shouldering the responsibility of early literacy in English, I wanted to share some of my favorite resources, activities, and ideas with you.

Curriculum and Curriculum Authors:

Literacy Beginnings is my go-to for all things preschool. Half of the book is how to set-up a preschool classroom (methodology) and the other half is full of ideas and activities to do with this age group. Written by two of my favorite curriculum authors Fountas and Pinnell, it includes a list of picture books organized by themes and separated into books for age 3 and books for age 4. It also has a list of poems and songs to use with younger kids in Shared Reading.

Lucy Calkins is my favorite curriculum author. I have read several of her books (cover-to-cover). My favorite being The Art of Teaching Writing. What I love about Lucy (yes I've met her, so I'm calling her Lucy) is her high expectations for kids. Even preschoolers and kindergarteners can write (you have them think, draw, and then "write"). Students at this age learn the art of story telling in their drawing and attempt to label where they are in their story. Lucy also has a brilliant way of talking to students--"Boys and Girls, today, you are going to be authors!" She just published a kindergarten writing curriculum that is fabulous, but expensive. I didn't buy it, but I downloaded every sample I could find online. I could go on and on about Writer's Workshop, but maybe that should be another blog post. Lucy also has a curriculum for grades 3-5 for teaching reading that is fabulous. Here is a sample of a curricular plan for grades K-8 reading workshop, which I highly recommend!

In addition to this curriculum, I wanted to mention some children's books that we used during our Early Literacy Summer Camp, all of which I highly recommend too.

Children's Books: 

We're Going on a Bear Hunt, by Michael Rosen, is a great book to use in Shared Reading. My boys, especially, love this book. After you read it several times, write a portion of it on chart paper and have your child read it along with you. Also, teach your child that good readers go on adventures when they read. They read as if they are in the story. 

The Lion and the Mouse, by Jerry Pinkey, is a fabulous book to teach children that "the pictures tell the story" and that good readers make predictions as they read. "What do you think is going to happen to the mouse?" (said in a very dramatic voice).

Knuffle Bunny, by Mo Williems, is another great book to use to teach predictions. "Do you think Trixie is going to get her Knuffle Bunny back?" It's also one to use to show that pictures tell the story, and you can go on an adventure with Trixie as she zooms past the school and into the laundromat!

Ira Sleeps Over, by Bernard Waber, is a mentor text (good example) from Lucy Calkins' Narrative Writing Unit. Read it to your child and talk about how good writers tell stories from their own lives; they write about what actually happened to them. 

And finally, I often get things from Teachers Pay Teachers (a website that is true to its title). It's a little daunting to navigate--many great things, but a lot of not so great things, but here are two gems that we used for our Early Literacy Camp last week.

used in Reading Workshop:

used in Writer's Workshop: