Tuesday, March 23, 2010


I need to share about another class I went to at the annual Thomas Jefferson Education Forum last week end.
The Thomas Jefferson Education (TJed) Forum is an annual home school convention with presenters from all over the United States and Canada.
I can not even tell you how much I loved the forum this year.
Love does not even describe accurately how I felt about the forum this year.
I left feeling completely full, it was a feast for my soul.
I left with new vision and inspiration for our home school.
For any of you that are thinking about home school, this is a must. Sadly, the forum is only once a year, but you can order downloads of the sessions at the TJed Marketplace if you would like to learn more (It may take a few weeks for them to get the downloads ready for purchase).
I went to a class called Teaching Self Government by Nicholeen Peck.
Nicholeen is an amazing mom to 4 children and has had many Foster children in her home throughout the years.
Her foster children came to her home with problems like ADHD, OCD, kleptomania, compulsive lying, anger control issues, etc. She said, “I taught behaviors, not medication. They would come to us on many medications and usually leave not on any medications. Many children are misdiagnosed. They just need to learn cause and effect better.”
Her class was life changing for me.
I will have to write another post about it another day since my children will be up in just a little while and this is already long as it is.
Nicholeen did a documentary for the BBC called The World’s Strictest Parents
Here is a link to the show.
"The concept is that two so-called teenagers are sent to live abroad with a strict host family for a week in an attempt to change their behavior. During the week they receive an impact letter from their birth parents with a list of issues they should try to fix."
I watched this before the forum and was amazed at how she and her husband loved and worked with these children.
These teens left their home with new perspective and hope for their lives.
At the Forum I bought Nicholeen's book, called A House United, which you can also purchase on her website.
No, I am not being paid for advertisement! I just really love the principles she teaches.
Until tomorrow, here is a quote from her book that describes perfectly what I want for my children.
"Parenting isn't about doing anything to our children. Parenting is about teaching our children to choose good and happiness for themselves, by themselves."

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Nurturing Excellent Writers

Mr Bird and I attended a TJed conference this weekend.
It was truly phenomenal.
I came away totally refocused and re-energized and ready to implement some amazing things in our home school that I am so excited about.
One of the classes I attended was by a man named Andrew Pudewa.
He is amazing. I wish I could remember the huge list of his accomplishments, but I can't.
I do know that he has worked in public schools, created his own private preschools and he has 7 children that he and his wife home school.
When he was in his early 20's he went to Japan and lived for 3 years and studied with Suzuki, of the Suzuki method for learning music. Andrew studied violin for 3 years from arguably the best in the world.
I was captivated by Andrew's way of speaking.
He has developed a theory about how to get children to grow up to be great writers and to use reliably correct and sophisticated English.
The fact is you can't get something out of a brain that is not in there to begin with.
The question then becomes, how do you get reliably correct and sophisticated English into our children's brains?
There is a myth that says Good Readers Will Automatically Become Good Writers.
Not so.
And here's why.
What is our definition of a' good reader'?
We all know children who devour books like water in the dessert. They read huge, thick novels in a short amount of time, usually several per week. They read 3-5 levels above their grade level with amazing comprehension.
This does not mean these great readers will be able to use reliably correct and sophisticated English.
The problem is the sheer speed.
Think about it.
What do we do when we read fast?
We skim a lot.
If there are words or concepts that we don't understand we either skip over them or assign our own, perhaps incorrect, meanings to the words or ideas.
The biggest problem is that we are not hearing the English language the way it's supposed to be heard. We don't speak every word in our mind as we see it. We don't audiate the language.
Now let's think about another aspect to this problem.
When do parents typically stop or at least slow way down on reading to their children?
When the child starts to become really proficient at reading on their own.
We figure, they got it. Now I can focus on reading to the littler ones or we pick up books we want to read ourselves.
This causes a problem.
Besides reading, what are the main sources of language our children are getting?
1. Peers
2. Media
3. Parents or other BUSY adults
4. Reading
If you think about these 4 sources, none of them provide a database of reliably correct and sophisticated English, not even if the child reads well on their own.
There are 2 things we need to do to build a huge database of reliably correct and sophisticated English in our children's brains.

Number One:Don't stop reading to them just because they can read well on their own!
When you read out loud you don't skip stuff, you read every word that is printed.
You use the proper intonations and syntax that children may not use on their own.
You can stop to define or look up words and geographical locations.
You can make connections that you may not have made on your own.
You can build comprehension, even in children that already have great comprehension.
When children start to read well on their own is the precise time they need to be read to out loud above their level in large quantities of time.
If you read to them above their level they will rise to it.
A large quantity of time is defined as 2-3 hours a day, non optional.
That's a lot of time.
It is OK for some, not all, of that time to include recorded books.
We almost always have an audio book going in the car. We download them from Librivox or borrow them from the library and put them on the ipod. We pause the book at our destination and start it every time we are traveling together.
The kids love it.
You would be amazed at how much reliably correct and sophisticated English you can add to your child's brain just by adding audio books to your life.
Add to that a great novel after dinner and scriptures before bed and they will be ahead by leaps and bounds.
Number Two: Memorization
This seems to be a lost art in our educational system.
We have moved away from memorization and started focusing more on grammar rules at such a young age.
We used to memorize poetry and verse and great speeches in huge quantities.
Now we learn nouns, verbs and adjectives before 2nd grade.
Here's why memorization is so phenomenal for ourselves as well as our children.
Memorization grows the brain. It does not matter what we memorize, the process of memorization makes connections in the brain. The more connections we have in our brain the better and faster we will be able to learn and retain any concept.
The more connections our brains have, the more RAM in our PC.
The Suzuki method works very well for memorization as well.
Suzuki method is a way to not only memorize, but retain what we have learned.
We start by memorizing just one piece.
Once we know that one, we add another.
Everyday we repeat all the pieces we have memorized, adding a new one.
As we add new pieces to our repertoire we continue to recite the first ones we learned.
Obviously by the time we learn over 10 or so pieces we will not be able to repeat all of them everyday.
At that time we should be repeating many of them everyday, we should repeat the one we are working on 3-5 times per day.
If we keep up this pattern we should be able to memorize and retain 80 pieces in about a year.
Imagine the knowledge and language data base of reliably correct and sophisticated English!
The kids and I have already gotten to work.
I can't wait to see where this leads us!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

My (Not So) New Partnership

By now most of you have heard the story of Dick and Rick Hoyt.
Their amazing, inspirational story of love and strength and courage is all over You Tube and emails and facebook.
Dick Hoyt is Rick's father.
When Rick was born his umbilical cord was wrapped tightly around his neck causing extreme brain damage.
The doctors said he would be a vegetable his whole life and that they should put him away in an institution and continue to live their lives, without their son.
They could not do that.
They took Rick home and determined to give him the best life they possibly could.
After a few years it was very apparent that their son was special.
He did not talk, he did not walk.
But his family could see something in his eyes.
His family treated him the same as all their other boys.
They went swimming with him, played stick hokey, where ever they went, Rick went.
When his dad would tell jokes he laughed right on key.
He understood the world around him.
When he was 10 years old a team of engineers developed a special computer that allowed Rick to communicate with others.
He went to public school and even graduated from college.
When Rick was in High school he found out about a charity race for a disabled boy and he wanted to be a part of the race.
He wanted to show his friend his love and support and that anything is possible.
He came home and told his dad he wanted to run in the race.
Dick, being the amazing father that he is, strapped Rick into a chair and ran the race, acting as arms and legs for his son.
When the race was over Rick said, "Dad, when we run I don't feel disabled."
Dick was hooked. He wanted to give his son that gift over and over.
Dick and Rick have now competed in over 950 races, including the Iron Man competition, the most grueling triathlon ever.
Dick does for Rick what he can't do on his own.

I watched this video again today at a conference and was touched again by their story.
But I saw something new in it this time.
I saw myself.
I saw my Savior.
So many times I feel like Rick.
Completely helpless.
I feel like I try and try to live my life and be the best that I can be.
But time after time I fail, miserably.
I fail to the point that I become a vegetable.
I am barely able to breath and survive on my own, let alone take care of my kids and my husband.
I feel helpless and defeated and like a failure.
As I saw Ricks face as his dad was pushing him, I saw true joy.
I have felt that joy, when I am close to my Savior I feel that.
Suddenly I wanted to be in my Saviors arms.
I ache to be near Him.
I realized that, foolishly, I have been trying to do this thing called mother hood and life in general all on my own.
I have stopped having Christ as my partner.
Somewhere between the dirty diapers and the laundry and the school and the cooking and cleaning I stopped turning to Him for help and guidance.
I started doing it all on my own.
I realized I am still carrying the loss of my dear mother-in-law all on my own, I have not given it to Him.
And you know what, it's really heavy.
It's too heavy for me to carry by myself.
I need Him.
I need You, my Rock, my Redeemer.
Will You carry me?
When I just can't do it anymore, will You carry me?
I know You will.
You have promised time after time that you will.
Your yoke is easy and your burden is light.
I need You on my team.
I am recommitted to our partnership.
Watch out world, here we come!

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Sun'll Come Out Tomorrow

Spring 2009

Dear Spring,

I have longed for you for the longest time. Your sunny rays are just starting to flirt with the back of a winter storm. Soon there will be more sunny days than cold dreary ones. I can't wait. Today I saw your warmth peak through, then claim the day in full glory. We had so much fun riding bikes up and down the driveway about a million times and playing in the dirt. The flowers feel your rays, too. The Day Lillys are starting to peak through the fresh moist soil. It was therapy for my soul to pull away the dead leaves and weeds to give them all the room they need to grow and blossom. And then there is the strawberry patch. The new little fuzzy strawberry leaves have appeared and with it the promise of their sweet fruit. We dug around their roots and pulled out the dead leaves, hoping all the while for a bounteous harvest. It will not be long until I will not be able to keep the children from searching for the sweet ripe berries. Our apple trees are starting to get just the slightest hint of buds. I don't want to miss a moment of your fleeting glory. I want to watch you open our apple blossoms and see the bees buzz around the tiny petals. I want to thrust my face heaven ward and feel your soft warmth on my cheek. I want to hear my children laughing in your tender care. I want to see your raindrops and dream of the vegetables you promise with each drop of rain. I can't wait to see the first leaves on our grape vines and watch as they slowly grow to be as big as the palm of my hand. It all seems so miraculous and magical and wondrous. I want to discover our parks and trails and mountains again that we have missed so much the last few months. I want the fairy dust days to return and to dream about fairy homes and dance with the fairies. I want to till and plow and plant. I want to watch the tiny florescent green leaves of a new plant emerge from our fertile ground. I want to bask in you. With my family. Then, if only for a while, everything will be perfect.
Love, Me
P.S. Thank you for a wonderful day! I love you.

Sunday, March 14, 2010


I am the Sunbeam teacher in my ward at church.
That means I get the teach the smallest children in primary.
They are 3 years old.
There are 5 of them.
Every Sunday.
I have been the Sunbeam teacher in 4 different wards.
It was the very first calling I ever received after I graduated Young Women's.
You'd think I'd be a pro at it by now, but apparently I still have more to learn.
About Sunbeams.
When the primary president asked me to teach the sunbeams, I'm not going to lie, I was a little let down.
I thought, Really? Again?
They have a lot of energy and I am getting old, and tired.
Now that it has been a few months I must admit, I LOVE it.
I have fallen head over heals in love with those kids.
I never loved any of my other Sunbeams like I love these ones, and one of my past Sunbeams was my very own nephew!
But for some reason these kids have stolen my heart.
Brenner is to die for. He has the biggest brown eyes I have ever seen. He looks at me and I absolutely melt. That's it, I'm a gonner.
He could probably get away with what ever he wanted if he were my own child, it's a good thing he's not. To go along with thos eyes he has the sweetes disposition and when he sings Popcorn Popping it sends me to cloud nine.
Then there's Nate. I have never seen a boy as loving as Nate. As soon as he sees his siblings in primary he does a bee line straight for them. Then it's hugs and kisses and lap sitting with his favorite people. It is so fun to watch. I just can't bring myself to make him sit in his seat.
And that boy says the funniest things. He is constantly keeping me rolling.
Rylee is our shy one. Her first Sunday in primary she was really nervous and did not want to come into our class. Once she found out we sing and have snacks and color and play she loves it. She has really opened up to us and I love seeing her sweet personality.
Now she sits on my lap every week, half the time she ends up falling asleep!
Kalli was made for primary. From day one she sat in her seat (most of the time), answers all the questions and sings all the songs. She loves her little friends and is surprisingly articulate.
Elli loves to pray, all by herself. It is so precious for me to see her fold her tiny arms up and squeeze her eyes shut and speak to our Father in Heaven.
I often wonder why I love these ones more than the others.
The others were every bit as cute.
Every bit as funny.
Every bit as loving.
I think the change has been with me.
I was not a mother the other times I had this calling.
I see in these children the things I see and love in my own children.
I have the experience in what is fun to 3 year olds from being the mom to my own 3 year olds.
And now those things are fun to me too.
Being a mother has shown me how to love more like the Savior loves.
I can see them like the Savior sees them and I have completely, 100% fallen in love with these kids.
I love seeing them in the hall and having them come up to me with a hug and telling their parents, "There's my teacher!"
I love hearing them sing and pray.
I love looking into their beautiful eyes and hearing them laugh.
I even love watching them eat their snacks.
Everything about them is precious to me.
I can't think of anything I would not do for them.
It makes me think about Christ's love for me.
He loves me so unconditionally.
There is nothing He would not do for me.

In fact, He already has!