Thursday, April 25, 2013

Starting the Language Explosion - without actually talking

M is signing up a storm. I know I said that before, but the storm is even bigger now. He is constantly on the look-out for things he recognizes so he can point them out to us and do the sign. And if it happens to be a word he can say, then he joyfully proclaims it: "Ball! Ball! Ball! Ball!"

I remember K using words and signs at his age and generally wanting to communicate, but I don't remember her being so insistent and enthusiastic about it. I mean, she would point out an airplane and sign 'airplane' and then keep on playing, but if M sees an airplane, it's BANG BANG BANG on your shoulder, AIRPLANE AIRPLANE AIRPLANE signing, with bouncing and smiling and waving arms. And it's the same for anything he knows the name of. Going on walks is now an I-spy-style hunt for things to sign (or make animal noises) about.

I also don't think K took to signing as much as M has. She used them, and made up some of her own, but M uses them constantly and learns them very quickly (like, immediately). He would learn more if I would just look some more up to teach him. (Note: look up some more signs later.) It really is like his language explosion has started in his brain and hands and his tongue just hasn't caught up.

M's favorite signs (and things) are 'gorilla' and 'butterfly'. He is also drawn to flowers, it seems, and kept using 'butterfly' to mean 'flower', so I looked up the sign for flower and taught it to him. He is now learning to distinguish butterflies from flowers.

His new favorite thing to do is make me do image searches on my laptop for whatever he signs. He usually starts with 'gorilla' (because gorillas are awesome) and then car or train, though he also enjoys butterflies, flowers, elephants, and babies doing various things such as yawning, sleeping, crying or eating. I like looking up 'babies yawning' just to see him open his mouth wide, too.

The Slovak is on a business trip at the moment and for the past day or so M has been pointing to random men and signing Apo. Today on the subway it was every man he saw, including a poster for Iron Man 3. I think M will be relieved when the real Apo comes home so he can stop searching for substitutes.

We are planning to go to the zoo on Saturday (where they have gorillas!) so I need to come up with more signs for the animals we will see there. M is going to LOVE it.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Reading Out Loud: Lots of Questions!!

We are still in full swing with reading chapter books together. At the moment we are working on Farmer Boy as a family (the Slovak has gotten sucked into Laura Ingalls and wants to know what happens!) and K and I are reading the first Lemony Snicket book when it's just the two of us. She likes to go sit in a coffeeshop together once in a while and read a chapter there.

Last week we read a chapter of Lemony Snicket while drinking our coffee and eating a cookie. We had some paper and colors with us, so K drew a picture of Count Olaf's mansion while I read. It is described as being large and extremely dirty, and there are a number of eyes (pictures and carvings of a single eye, which will probably become a plot point later on). K drew the mansion as described, including a few details about the kitchen, children's bedroom, and so on. Then she scribbled on it to show it is dirty. She also wrote the letter i (lower case i with a dot) several times in different places, so I asked what it meant. She said, "That's the i. You know, there are lots of i's there."

I admit it. I didn't tell her about the eye/i mix-up. It was too funny to allow her to fix.

We are also quite enjoying Farmer Boy still. Last week we read the chapter called Sheep Shearing, which is one of the ones that stuck with me as a child. I had to pause after each time I said the word 'sheep' so that M could say BAAAA! In a chapter on sheep shearing, that was a lot of repetitions. Then a few days ago we read the chapter where the main character makes a big black stain on the wallpaper of the parlor while his parents are away. As I read it, K's eyes got as big as saucers and even the Slovak let out a shocked gasp. It was gripping. :)

I wasn't sure that a five year old would be able to understand a historical book with as much unfamiliar detail as this, but it really holds K's attention. She doesn't understand it all, especially the farming details - I mean, the child doesn't know what a cassette tape or phone with a cord is, much less a plow - but she loves listening and asking questions. And making a mess and being afraid of getting in trouble for it, well, that seems to be universal.

K is full of questions about our reading even when we aren't actually reading. She often brings up questions during the day or at bedtime, showing she has been thinking about the stories. They are sometimes plot-related, something she didn't understand, such as why Almanzo's father doesn't trust him with the colts, but more often to do with character motivations and more theoretical issues. She continues to return to Harry Potter even long after we finished reading the first book, for instance, because it is full of rich characters and themes.

Here is an abbreviated list of questions I've had to answer in the last few months:

Why are Harry's aunt and uncle so mean to Harry?
Why are they afraid of magic?
Why did Harry's parents have to die?
Why did Voldemort want to kill them?
What is a prophecy?

Why did the Sorting Hat say Harry has a little bit of Slytherin in him?
Why did the Sorting Hat put Hermione in Gryffindor even though she loves learning like Ravenclaws?
Why did Ron say Hermione is awful?
Why do people in Harry Potter think that all Slytherins are bad if every House has some good and some bad in it?

Why is Mr. Filch so mean?
Why doesn't Mr. Filch like children?
Why can't he do magic?

Why is Draco so mean?
Why doesn't he like Muggles?
Why does he think he's better than other people?
Why didn't his parents teach him to be nice when he was little?

(repeat for every character in Harry Potter)

Why does Voldemort want to kill Harry?
Why does he hate Muggles?
Why does he want power?
Why do people choose to serve Voldemort when he is scary, evil and crazy?
Why do they care more about money and power than about other people?
Why does Voldemort want to live forever?
Why is he afraid of death?
Why does he like hurting people?
Why doesn't he have any friends?
Why doesn't he understand love and friendship?
Why did he grow up in an orphanage?
Why did his mother die?
Why did his father go away?
Why did his mother do a love spell on his father?

Please note that the answers to most of these questions are REALLY COMPLICATED. I have become a Slytherin apologist (they aren't all bad, all Houses have good and bad, imagine if your parents taught you from a very young age that you really are better than everyone else...), but it is very difficult explaining Professor Snape, for example, to a five year old. The anti-hero and spy is very difficult to grasp - he does one thing but thinks another. He is ugly but not evil. This goes against a child's understanding of the world.

And then most recently,

"Who did Harry get married to when he grew up?"
"Ginny, Ron's sister."
"And who did Hermione get married to?"
"Yes, in the books it was Ron. But I don't think she really would because Ron and Hermione would not be happy together."
"(disappointed groan) But I wanted Harry and Hermione to get married! Because I love them both!"

Okay, I could handle having given birth to a Gryffindor. I mean, she's five, right, so she'd fit right in. But a HARRY/HERMIONE SHIPPER? I have to work on this.


Coming up with truthful answers to K's questions that a five year old can understand can be a challenge, but I have to say we're having fun.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Baby M: Language Update 1.5 years

Baby M is turning one and a half in three days.

He can say a few proper words, mainly bye-bye/papa (hard to tell which he's saying), baba (grandma), mama, possible attempts at ball and his sister's name. He is not prolific in the word use at the moment.

If you count animal sounds and signs, though, then his word count goes way up. He loves pointing out to us all the animals he sees, making sure to tell us MOO or BAA or CLUCK CLUCK. I'd say he knows ten or more types of animals, with a mixture of sounds and signs - for a dog he says HAF HAF, for a butterfly he signs 'butterfly', etc. - and he is very eager to learn more. He is always bringing me a book of animals to look through together. I am becoming hard pressed to come up with unique sounds or gestures that he can make for each one. :)

He watched part of Disney's Cars recently with K, and he kept tapping me on the shoulder and making his sound and sign for car. He didn't let up until I agreed that yes, those are cars. Then again a few seconds later, and again, and again, for at least twenty minutes.

We are pleased that his comprehension in both languages is good. He is able to point at things or pictures that we name, follow instructions (when it pleases him, obviously), and so on. Now if we could just get him to stop throwing toys at us...

Seriously, he is an unstoppable force when he gets in a throwing mood. His favorite position is toy in hand, with his hand cocked behind his head so that you never - quite - know when he is going to pull the trigger and throw it at you. One morning the Slovak came into the living room to find K innocently absorbed in play and M standing right behind her, big toy truck held up over his head, huge devilish grin on his face. Apo got there in the nick of time.

K puts up with it really well, and I can't even say I blame her (as an older sister myself) for occasionally losing it and beating him over the head. As a mother, though, I have to discourage that sort of behavior.

M loves books and has a great attention span for his age. His latest craze, as mentioned above, is looking through animal books - big children's encyclopedias with lots of pictures. If someone says an animal he recognizes (even in passing), he will sometimes go retrieve the book and find the picture of that animal to show.

He also loves rhymes and finger plays and if you do one, then he wants you to do them all. He will hold out one foot for This Little Piggy, then the other foot, then point to his belly for Round and Round the Garden, then hold out his hand for Varila myšička kašičku, then the other hand, then grab your hands to make you sing Row Row Row Your Boat, on down the list of all his body parts with songs or rhymes attached to them. It's really not acceptable to do one and then quit.

M is at a trying age right now, with lots of thoughts and not enough words to express them. He is on the path now, though, and we know he won't be a toddler forever.


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