Sunday, September 28, 2008

"Fricative" Sounds Like a Bad Word

Some words just sound funny. As I went through college as a speech and language major, us girls would get over-stressed and laugh at the term "fricative" at times when our professor used it during the most serious of lectures. In fact, several of the students began using it to replace or avoid a bad word. Memories......

The Miriam-Webster Dictionary gives the definition as follows:
Latin fricatus, past participle of fricare
: a consonant characterized by frictional passage of the expired breath through a narrowing at some point in the vocal tract
— fricative adjective

I love words and find them entertaining. Each language has variants, but in English and what we are concerned with in our own household here is the particular subset of fricatives called sibilants. Here, the narrowing is made by the tongue curled lengthwise to direct the air over the edge of the teeth. Plainly put, we are having major challenges here with the sounds: /s/, /z/, /sh/, /ch/ and /j/!

It's really no big deal as once one of these sounds are remediated, generally the rest follow along naturally. That's always been fascinating for me to observe in kids. However, our work here on these sounds keeps getting derailed the past few years due to my daughter loosing teeth. By that, I mean a lot of teeth and on the average of four years earlier than children for her chronological age. This is quite intriguing as she is quite small for her years, physically.

Honestly, this is such a common set of sounds to be misarticulated, but this stay at home speech teacher is finding it a more difficult case to clear than my students of the past. I'm confident, due to this little one's motivation this will some day be behind us though. She has breezed through her review of sounds in isolation, in initial-medial-final placement in words and is on to phrases and short sentences at this point.

Of course, none of that matters unless there is full carryover in conversational speech. Luckily, this is one child who never stops chatting all day long. Some day soon we will get there, but every once in a while I think to myself "fricative!" If we could just get beyond all this there would be more time for our nature journals, art and music on the days we do our special subjects.

Monday, September 22, 2008

The Peace Fair

We attended a local community's Quaker Peace Fair this weekend and found it quite enjoyable. It was simply to promote harmony in the home, the community, the environment and the world...which is not so simple a task! I could easily see it took a huge amount of planning and coordinating to pull such a large fair together.

They did a fabulous job reaching out to the community with tours of the Meetinghouse, workshops, peace exhibits, an art show and live music amongst other various activities for children and items for sale. My children were thrilled to find that they could purchase an "armful" of used books for only one dollar and I must say that their armfuls were big ones, so I too was grateful!

As usual, even though not feeling well, I made it to where I intended to after hitting the major events and that was through the woods and down along the water. My reward was getting to see three captivating swans whom must have thought we had food for them, as they put on quite a show for us. I've shared this photo as we all decided that the swans were quite in keeping with the intent of peace, as their wings seemed to display what could be viewed as a heart shape and they were such serene beings.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Poetry Please!

I very much longed to be an education or English Literature major in college, but for various reasons ended up deciding on speech pathology drawn to the diagnostic aspect of it and the job market. As I began to work with children in the speech context, I soon came to the realization that story telling and particularly poetry had much to offer the language delayed and those with articulation difficulties. The students were thrilled with poetry, with it’s rhythm and rhyme and I soon catalogued poems that had an excess of particularly troublesome sounds for youngsters, such as the /s/ and /z/. It was a wonderful diversion from some of the games and curriculum out there.

Much to my delight, early on in my home educating, I found that although my son did not esteem poetry, but my daughters were drawn to it and memorizing it without being asked. I first discovered this truth while watching them swing while reciting "The Swing," by Robert Louis Stevenson to the rhythm. Next came "At the Seaside" and "Autumn Fires," and our love of poetry here ignited and then broadened.

My observation led me to believe that children are so much more apt to memorize than we give them credit for. They are naturally good at imitation, which for which I try to keep in mind in all areas of development of intellect and otherwise. For this reason, I quickly determined that they needed to be exposed to some of the best examples of language that we are able to give them on a daily basis. It stretches their imagination and significantly enriches them. I adore what Laura Berquest has to say on the topic: "Like any power of the soul, repeated use of the power will improve it."

So, these days my daughters plead, "Poetry Please!" every Friday especially, as they know it is our common practice during snack time to have poetry tea parties. We use real antique china, as it is my belief that everyday is special and we don’t concern ourselves with breaking it! We spread a table cloth on the floor, dish out the goodies and tea, stock up the books and go at it.
During this time, it is for mere pleasure, but having an aversion to penmanship workbooks, we use poetry to practice print/cursive, use it for speech articulation practice and of course to teach literary elements and at times we do memorize it.

Here is our list of favorite sources currently:

1. A Child’s Garden of Verses
2. A Swinger of Birches, Poems of Robert Frost for Young People
3. Read Aloud Poems for Young People
4. Favorite Poems Old and New
5. The Harp and Laurel Wreath
6. Simply Poetry

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Name This Flower Please........

Today was science again and while I like doing experiments with my daughters, I get a bit tired of all of them accumulating around the house. For example, this week we were concentrating on learning the term "osmosis". The potato slices in water vs. salt water was one thing as it was nice and clean looking. However, the raisins soaking for 48 hours in water to convey this idea got gross. By day two when our math instructor arrived, they were huge and floating in dark, murky looking water. So, today we hastily dumped them, reviewed the scientific method, wrote up these experiments in our lab books and moved along.

Although I use a science curriculum and follow along the order of topics, I do not always go along swimmingly from lesson to lesson. I often think of the wisdom of Ruth Beechick's quote, "Bend the book, not the child," and so I like to change gears upon our interests or just spice things up. We all had enough osmosis. So later in the day, it was my quick "Name that Flower" routine I like to spring on the girls. These flowers are our last left overs of the summer, our late bloomers here. I like them as they provide such nice green foliage all summer long and then surprise me just when I think all the flowers are finished blooming each year. Well, samples were quickly cut and put in a vase, field guides flew and within minutes it was determined the flowers were physostegia virginiana or better known as obedience flowers. I like that....obedience flowers, but the girls looked at me as if I played some sort of trick on them and was going to slide into some character lesson! We just sat out in the grass a while and enjoyed them watching the sunlight and shadow dance through the last of the garden. I think we got the name right, but are always open to corrections here.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Nature Center Day

When we are able to get out of the house, amongst our favorite places to go seem to be our local preserves. We are fortunate to have two preserves close to our home. One is known as The Watershed and the other is actually a NativePlant/Wildflower Nature Preserve. Both are doing a fabulous job of respecting and maintaining the environment for future generations and also educating so many children and families in the process.

The girls had a great time and returned home to enter some of their favorite findings in their nature journals for the year. I plan on joining them in this journaling as well this year as soon as I get myself a bit more organized and purchase a set of Prismacolors that I have been desiring. My current set of special pencils have become way too short. Here are some indoor photos to view.

Interesting nature items to touch and feel

It was a surprise to find this bee colony

The turtle...a true friend!

Lots of critters to admire and inspire

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Chronically Yours

If you had the patience to read my entire profile, you can quickly deduct that I should be used to chronic illness when a few additional waves hit, since I have had fibromyalgia for 16 years. Well people, that’s really if one doesn’t get stuck in denial.....oh say for at least a decade and a half!

I find Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’ stages of grief seemingly apply to chronic illness, and I apparently got stuck. I rather view her proposed stages as emotional behaviors and while they were intended for grief and tragedy of terminal illness, Kubler-Ross applied them to any form of catastrophic personal loss. Chronic illness qualifies on many levels, but eventually one comes to terms of acceptance, and moves beyond. I’ve decided it can and must be lived, but on some level a continuous process this grieving is.

Like many of you, I was initially mis-diagnosed for a several years. So when the diagnosis of fibro was stamped on my forehead, I seriously had my doubts. Now, doubts are one thing, but how I joyfully over looked using a cane with a chair attached to shop while dragging along one very heavy, strong-willed toddler, I now recognize as a tad bit off. Leaning on furniture to walk and clean my home, whizzing through an airport in a wheelchair to greet friends on a lay over and receiving a permanent handicapped placard for my car should have been red flags. All red flags.

Never the less, I pressed on, much to prove to others that I could try to please and live up to expectations, including my own. I worked as a speech-language specialist with huge case loads of children and continued to pursue a family. When I was in too much pain the second time around to bear a child myself, my husband and I pursued the dream of adopting a baby. It was a dream I had quietly held in my heart since a child, but never thought it would come to fruition. Consequently, my illness also became one of my greatest of life’s gifts in that way. When I was better, we gave birth again. I was determined to have a family and wanted a large one at that. I now count my blessings for who I do have as I realize it did not have to turn out so favorably.

The years were unpredictable, but blessed. But hey, I think I’ve just careened through Kubler-Ross’s other stages at a really high velocity since some other stragglers came into being. I kept snowballing these diagnosis’s such as raynaud’s syndrome and picking up other complaints like labored breathing and increased generalized pain. I had lots of mystery symptoms such as disabling gerd, burning eyes, nose, mouth and ear pain. I never really responded to acid reducers and suffer constant gastritis and reflux, as well as spastic motility of the esophagus. I became what seems allergic/intolerant to almost all medication prescribed and over the counter, most foods and so much of life around me that I felt my body was engaged in a war with its self. It was a war no one else, including most doctors could see, which as you all know, tends to create it's own set of issues. I’m sure other sjogren’s sufferers out there can relate to the constant throat and vocal cord pain, burning and choking feelings present. If that does not make one seek God due to fear alone, I am not sure what will! Then came the peripheral neuropathy symptoms and so it goes on and on. Sorry, more than you needed to know. No longer in denial, I took up stock in the kleenex company for quite some time. That's stage is not a lot of fun and while I still dip in and out of it, I recall how much I loved life and now press on in this interrupted life that remains with as much happiness as I can muster.

I’m not making light of the other stages, as I definitely have walked through them and still do. It’s the severity of symptoms that cajoled me out of denial as they stopped me in my tracks. At least I now understand a bit better and I now know the mystery of me, that I have sjogren’s syndrome as well and probably have for 9 years now. It has a name now, but it’s not all that I am.

If any of you attended any of Rest Ministry’s seminars during National Chronic Illness Week online last week, you may know where our hope can come from. I believe in Lisa Copen’s slogan for the year that states: "Hope Can Grow From the Soil of Illness." It is hard, but with a foundation of faith, hope can and does return as one reorganizes and reclaims their own life. I’ve only been able to move on due to my faith and the courageous examples God has placed in my life and am humbled by their existence and help. All of you CI people out there, and you know who you are, have been a gift to me. You've helped me to find time for fun and laughter amongst the tears and to recall that God is good all the time.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Back At It

Teachers are odd birds in a certain sense, if I may say so myself as one of them without offending. We graduate highschool and are thrilled to go to a university. We celebrate graduation of university and what do we do but declare we cannot wait until September, a new semester to remain in school! And stay in school we do, or at least in some spirit or sense of the word for a life time. It’s never over, this love affair with learning.

My calendar has turned. My year begins and always has in September, rather than in January. I’ve always felt a certain rush, a thrill even after declaring to my husband that this year is not the same, due to anticipation of new medication trials. It’s really not and I have concerns. But on the way home from the doctor early this morning, blaring my radio loudly to block out any repetition of doctor conversation, I began to be infused once more with that excitement as I changed from one radio station to the next searching for that just perfect song to fit my mood. Bad habit. I’m once again, feeling the newness of the year beginning. It is creeping up on me. I’m feeling it simply because I realize that I am alive. I am not done yet with these forever living learning moments.

The school bus is not stopping at my driveway. Even so, it’s the ceremony of new school days here with two daughters who will be missing their brother as he is off to a school with well defined walls. We’ve got blank notebooks to fill, new pencils, traditional photos to take and the expected goodies to start the moment for both students and guide. It is a special day. And yet, isn’t every day important? Do not all of our acts warrant celebration?

So, yes, we’ve begun organization and a bit of book studies. We are busy diagraming grammar, memorizing poetry and yes, attempting to get back into math. This year we have a gracious retired math instructor to help us periodically and to play math reasoning games with the girls that I don’t feel the stamina to. There are harp lessons, piano to practice and animals to feed. There may be even be more animals to feed than are out back currently....time will tell. We are listening to a world history audiotape with our eyes shut pretending we are back in time and planning all the science experiments that we uproariously mess up together. It is the beginning of new memories and new opportunities; a beginning for change. I am humbled and wonder just how much I will learn in the coming year.

I like this little school room with it’s sky blue walls, maps and collections of rocks and shells and all sorts, but we are out of here for the remainder of the day. It’s only September and I cannot remain in the classroom when the classroom is beyond these doors. We are going to hop into the van to take off to a local preserve. I will pay for it physically later, but it will be worth it. We want to declare our goodbyes to the monarch butterflies at the butterfly house before they take flight again this year. I’m not sure how many more days or years we’ve got like this together. So in my mind as every year, I am down on my knees once again whispering the prayer from the Psalms or perhaps it is being whispered to me. It is so ingrained in my mind at this point, it is if I actually hear it aloud: “Teach us to number our days, so that we may present to thee a heart of wisdom.”