Sunday, December 21, 2008

Some day we'll laugh about this

Ah, Jordan. My chunky little nephew. You are the happiest, smiley-est, most charming baby ever one minute. Then the fussiest, most anxious and discontent baby the next. You have come in, rocked our world, and stolen our hearts in not even a half a year. And above all, you are certainly not your brother, nor your cousin. You are uniquely you, and you have changed everything we are used to about babies.

You always have me on my toes, sometimes reminding me not to be at the computer too long and other times to get down on the floor and play with Duplos for a little bit. And other times, giving me a hard time while I'm trying to read aloud a story. But you make up for every tear with a dozen shining smiles, and it makes it all worth it even more.

I sometimes have to remind myself of the wise words of your Nana, this too shall pass. We're here for you buddy, and we'll get through this. And as we were snapping pictures today, it made me think, that one day we'll look back and laugh at this. About the first few months of life when you cried nonstop. And about the following few month where you were full of smiles one second and full of tears the next. It doesn't always feel laughable, but in the end it will be but a fleeting moment in time to share a smile about. Love you little man.

~Aunt Liz

"Even a child is known by his doings, whether his work be pure, and whether it be right."
Proverbs 20:11

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Directed Confession

"Mommy, that's a bad word."

It's a bad habit, my road rage. Okay, rage is a little bit of an over-exaggeration. No, a LOT of an over-exaggeration. But in light of a less-than conscientious driver I encountered today, I mumbled under my breath, "What the heck?"

I try to encourage Hunter not to use euphemisms. A euphemism is, after all, a just substitute for a harsher, more offensive word. And although a word's euphemism is generally less offensive than the original, the meaning and attitude is yet the same. And after all, it's really not comely for a young man, or woman. "Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers." (Ephesians 4:29) Euphemisms certainly don't edify or minister grace so, I try not to use them.

I say try because, I still have a bad habit of doing so. It's hard to teach your child something when you're doing the opposite in front of him. More is caught than taught...

Anyhow, our conversation today went like this:

"Mommy, that's a bad word."

"You're right Hunter, I'm sorry I really shouldn't say that, it's not a nice thing to say."

"Tell God you're sorry."

"I'm sorry God."

"He forgives you."

"That's good."

"Tell God thank you."

"Thank you God."

I was a bit surprised - "Tell God you're sorry"? I'm not sure where he picked that one up. I suppose he's probably overheard me praying before. Kids pick up on the funniest things.

"And my tongue shall speak of thy righteousness and of thy praise all the day long."
Psalm 35:28
Hunter is 3 years, 9 months old

Thursday, December 18, 2008

What Do You See?

What do you see in this picture? A water-spitting phenomena? An obtuse angle? A yellow sunset over a blue ocean? A sign pointing left?

Hunter saw this squirt gun today and said, "Hey Mom, look! It's Ukraine!"

The things he picks up on...

"The LORD hath made bare his holy arm in the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God."
Isaiah 52:10

Hunter is 3 years, 9 months old

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Museum of Science and Industry

Today we went with our family to the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago. We haven't been there in a long time even though we have a membership. It's a really great museum, and apparently the largest science museum in the Western hemisphere! We're so blessed to live so close to such awesome learning experiences in our community.

The main focus of our visit was to see their seasonal exhibit, Christmas Around the World or also called Holiday of Lights. Each year at Christmas time they deck their halls with dozens of Christmas trees, each tree representing one of more than 50 countries. The ornaments on the trees represent the traditions of the country and there is a tablet in front of each tree giving you information about how that country celebrates, a traditional holiday greeting (Feliz Navidad!), and other fun information.You can actually go to the link above and read about the different countries featured.

Some of the trees didn't quite represent that country's respective decorating traditions, i.e. the USA tree looked more like a Fourth of July tree than a Christmas one! But the Swedish one, on the other hand, had tons of familiar decorations, like the straw reindeer and the weaved paper heart ornaments. Hunter's Great Grandma was full-blood Swedish, and we actually have some Swedish Christmas decorations such as these that she gave us.

We learned a lot in this exhibit and read many of the trees.

Fast Forward

The Fast Forward into the Future exhibit was pretty neat. Emailing pizzas? Human-like robots? There was a lot of interesting stuff in this exhibit, which Hunter enjoyed. Below - Hunter and Jocelyn enthralled by the "magic" mist at the entrance; Hunter experiments with some sort of sound-mixing music machine; Hunter tests out a fuel-efficient car; butterflies land on Hunter's outline as he experiments with a computer that can be run by your shadow.

Chicks and Genetics

Hunter really loved the baby chicks at the Genetics exhibit. I think we all did, as we hung around there for a long time! There were a lot that were already hatched but we didn't get to see any hatching, unfortunately. Hunter and Jocelyn also really loved playing with this touch-screen controlled video presentation that takes you into life in the womb.


We briefly looked at the train exhibit. There were tons of awesome little electric trains running on over 1000-feet of track, with mini replicas of the city of Chicago and so much more.


We spent quite a while relaxing in the aerodynamics exhibit, which I would have loved to explore more with Hunter, except I spent most of the time sitting down! We were all pretty exhausted at that point - well, everyone except Hunter that is! I had a hard time keeping an eye on him as he was busily running all around checking everything out!

"And the heavens shall praise thy wonders, O LORD: thy faithfulness also in the congregation of the saints."
Psalm 89:5

Hunter is 3 years, 8 months old

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Window-Washing Adventures

Several months ago Hunter was helping me wash windows at the gym and I meant to blog about the conversations we had, but never got to it. We were having some interesting talks about contrails, rock doves, crickets, and ants. While I washed I spilled some drips on the ground, some in the sun and some in the shade, and we decided to see which one would dry faster. We talked about why the sunlight makes the water evaporate faster, and enjoyed a little spontaneous science lesson.

Today we were once again washing windows together, and having our usual conversations, about the clouds and the weather and the people and the birds. This time we were singing Christmas Carols in preparation for the Christmas party that is coming up on Monday. I let him help me wash sometimes (he works on the windows I haven't done yet) or he plays on the sidewalk. He hasn't helped me with this in a while and I believe it was July or August since our last window-washing adventure.

The minute we got out there Hunter found two old, dead leaves and dipped them in the water then laid them out on the sidewalk, watching. He did this for a while before he brought up that he was testing which one would dry the fastest. It's so much fun working with him and it's nice to know how much he remembers the conversations we have, even if it was months before.

"... a man hath no better thing under the sun, than to eat, and to drink, and to be merry: for that shall abide with him of his labour the days of his life, which God giveth him under the sun."
Ecclesiastes 8:15

Hunter is 3 years, 8 months old

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Të dua!

Saying I love you in Albanian [të dua (tuh-doo-ah)] and sign language.

"I will love thee, O LORD, my strength."
Psalm 18:1

Hunter is 3 years, 8 months old

Tuesday, December 9, 2008


Hunter got a Rubik's cube a few days ago. I got him a 2x2 cube and a little later, got myself a classic, 3x3 one (pictured).

This mechanical puzzle was invented by Hungarian sculptor and professor of architecture Ernő Rubik, hence the name. It's purpose? To demonstrate the properties of three-dimensional figures to his students.

There are exactly 43,252,003,274,489,856,000 possible combinations on this little two-inch high toy. Hence, solving it is completely about mathematical logic and reason rather than guesswork, as you could literally spend your entire life doing nothing but twisting the layers to different combinations and still not even touch the surface of possibilities. Forty three quintillion possibilities, one solution.

With so many possibilities and only one solution, it is the unsolvably solvable cube.

The solution to the cube is found in algorithms, those wonderful things that give Google's search engine its power, astronauts the ability to send a spacecraft to the Saturn, and a fifth grader the information to discover the solution to 253 x 746. Algorithms power computer science, mathematics and even linguistics and understanding them is key to all things math and science.

So what could playing with one of these little, inexpensive toys do for a little kid's brain? Well, let's just say I'm not even going to even try to analyze the potential, but I do know that exposure to manipulating one of these little toys has an incredible potential in teaching a superbly advanced level of logic, reasoning, and concentration skills as well as developing an intense understanding of the properties of three-dimensional geometry.

Has he solved it yet? No. Does he play with it all the time? Not really. It sits in his toy box, right in there with his wooden blocks, and he likes bring it out to fiddle with it while we're driving in the car. He joyfully exclaims when he gets two, three, or four blocks of the same color next to each other. Perhaps he'll figure out one of the algorithms (there are many) on his own, or maybe we'll look it up and explore the possibilities together. Who knows, but all I know is that it is one of the best $10 I have spent! With all the potential, what an incredible gift to invest in your child!

What can you teach your tiny kids? Absolutely anything!

"Forasmuch as an excellent spirit, and knowledge, and understanding, interpreting of dreams, and shewing of hard sentences... were found in the same Daniel, whom the king named Belteshazzar: now let Daniel be called, and he will shew the interpretation."
Daniel 5:12

Hunter is 3 years, 8 months old

Monday, December 8, 2008

The Solution to Obnoxious, Talking Happy Meal Toys

"And when he came out, he could not speak unto them: ...for he beckoned unto them, and remained speechless."
Luke 1:22

Hunter is 3 years, 8 months old

A is for Albania

You Can Change the World

Those are some pretty weighty words to be saying to a three-year-old, especially when you're not talking in future tense. But that is the title and focus of the new book we're going through, and it's not about building kids' self esteem but about teaching them to pray for the nations.

The book mainly focuses on praying for your family but I got the great idea to start praying for the nations, and we're using the book "You Can Change the World" by Jill Johnstone. It is the children's version of Operation World. Each week we will be praying for a new nation or people group, and learning things about them to better help us know what to pray for. The book we're using is written for children and is in alphabet-style format, with a different country or people group for each letter. The first country is Albania:
A is for Albania, where Christians once were banned; But God has stepped in and is changing this land.
Hunter is very excited to be praying for the people of this nation, and to know that he is having a lasting effect on the eternal souls of these people.

But perhaps you're thinking, do the prayers of toddlers really mean anything? Isn't changing the world a little much for a three-year-old? Are the prayers of tiny kids simply cute, innocent, and sweet, or are they capable of having a true and lasting effect on the world? I believe whole-heartedly that God views little children as so much more than "cute" and takes their requests seriously.

"And they brought young children to him, that he should touch them: and his disciples rebuked those that brought them. But when Jesus saw it, he was much displeased, and said unto them, Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God. Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein. And he took them up in his arms, put his hands upon them, and blessed them." (Mark 10:13-16)

"Then there arose a reasoning among them, which of them should be greatest. And Jesus, perceiving the thought of their heart, took a child, and set him by him, And said unto them, Whosoever shall receive this child in my name receiveth me: and whosoever shall receive me receiveth him that sent me: for he that is least among you all, the same shall be great." (Luke 9:46-48)
"... but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger." (Luke 22:26)
God puts little children as an example for us, a role model, and says that the greatest among us shall be like the youngest, says that we must become like them and receive God's kingdom as they do in order to enter therein.

Little children - yes, even toddlers - can have a world-changing impact through their heart-felt prayers to their heavenly Father, calling on him to change a nation - and he will. "The LORD hath heard my supplication; the LORD will receive my prayer." (Psalm 6:9) "And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son." (John 14:13

So we are going to be praying - and praying a lot! And we are also going to be learning a lot about the land, the people, and their history of each country we pray for. I spent this weekend researching Albania and learned a great deal of interesting things. The first thing I made was a list of "Programs of Intelligence", which is basically the Doman term for facts about a subject. The point of Programs of Intelligence is not to cover every single fact about the subject, for that has the potential to go on infinitely. Rather the point is to give a good general overview of important things about that subject. The POI's for Albania include things about their culture and geography, like their language, climate, type of government, location, and other interesting facts.

We're also learning a few things about their language (common phrases and counting to ten), and learning about the history of their nation. Here is the information I compiled:

Programs of Intelligence for Albania:

  1. In Albania people shake their head back and forth to say yes and nod their head up and down to say no.
  2. The Albanian word for Albania is Shqipëria (shchih-PIRd-ia) which means the land of eagles.
  3. The national motto of Albania is "Albanians place their faith in Albania"
  4. Albania is located in southern Europe and borders the Adriatic and Ionian Seas.
  5. The capital of Albania is Tirana.
  6. The official language of Albania is Albanian.
  7. The climate of Albania has a moderate, Mediterranean climate with an average temperature of 7° C. in the winter and 24° C in the summer. Its landscape is mostly covered with mountains and hills, with small plains near the sea.
  8. The natural resources of Albania are petroleum, natural gas, coal, bauxite, chromite, copper, iron ore, nickel, salt, timber, and hydropower.
  9. Albania’s form of government is now a Parliamentary Republic. The Albanian Constitution was adopted on November 28, 1998
  10. During World War II the Albanians protected the Jews that lived there and provided refuge for Jews from other countries. Only one Jewish family was killed during the Nazi occupation of Albania. Albania was the only country that had more Jews living there after the war than it did living there before the war.

You can speak Albanian! Useful and common phrases we will be learning in Albanian to give us a brief but meaningful overview of the culture and language:
1 një (nyUH)
2 dy (dEW)
3 tre (trEH)
4 katër (KAHT-uhr)
5 pesë (pEHS)
6 gjashtë (JASH-tuh)
7 shtatë (sh-TAHT)
8 tetë (tEHt)
9 nënd (nUHnd)
10 dhgetë (duh-YEHT)

Common Phrases:
Hello – Tungjatjeta (toon-jat-yeta)
Goodbye – Mirupafshim (meer-oo-pafsheem)
How are you? – Se jeni? (See-yeenee)
Where are you going? – Ku po shkoni? (koo-paw-shkawnee)
Good morning – Mirëmëngjes (meer-mihn-JEHS)
Good afternoon – Merëdita (meer DEE tah)
Good evening – Mirëmbrëma (meer-EHM-bruh-mah)
Yes – Po (pOH)
No – Jo (jOH)
Thank you – Faleminderit (FA-leh-meen-DEH-reet)
Please – Ju lutem (joo-LOOTehm)
Sorry – Më fal (muh-fahl)

History of Albania in a nutshell:

  1. The land of Albania was once the Roman province of Illyricum since the year 165 B.C. Later on this land was divided into two provinces, Dalmatia and Pannonia.
  2. In 476 A.D. the Roman Empire fell and Albania was now under the Byzantine Empire, administered from Constantinople. Albania was under Byzantine rule up until the 14th century.
  3. In the 14th century the Ottoman Turks took over the land that is now Albania. The Turks ruled this land until the 20th century.
  4. Albania is mentioned in the Bible in Romans 15:19 where Paul says he preached the gospel from Jerusalem to Illyricum. In 2 Timothy 4:10 we learn that Titus went on a mission to Dalmatia. Albania was once filled with Christians but after the takeover of the Ottoman Empire in the fourteenth century many people converted to Islam – the religion of the Turks. Albania became the only Muslim nation in Europe for many years.
  5. Between the years 1444 – 1466 a man named Gjergj Kastrioti Skanderbeg led the Albanians in driving out the Turks. Skanderbeg led 30,000 men to successfully hold off the brutal campaigns of the Turks. The Albanians were independent for a very short time of just 24 years. Albania became famous throughout Europe for their resistance to the Turks. Skanderbeg is still a hero to this day and a symbol of hope to Albanians.
  6. The Albanians continued to resist the Turks for many years, and Albania finally became an independent nation on November 28, 1912.
  7. In 1939 Albania was invaded and conquered by Italy who made Albania part of the Italian Empire.
  8. In 1944, during World War II, the Italians and Germans were driven out of Albania and Enver Hoxha became the dictator. Hoxha set up a communist form of government. The state owned and controlled all factories, farms, power plants, schools, hospitals, and all other businesses. They also controlled all communication and transportation facilities. The government controlled all peoples’ lives and did not allow the people to have things like cars or refrigerators, did not allow people to travel and did not allow them to sell things with other countries. Religion was banned and people were not allowed to pray, talk about God or own any books that spoke about God. Parents were not even allowed to name their children Christian or Muslim names. The government tried to control everything so they could improve the country’s education and industry, but Albania became the poorest country in Europe. Many people saw the horrible situation in Albania but no one was allowed to go in or out of the country.
  9. In 1985 Enver Hoxha died. In 1991 the communist government was forced to resign. Since then Christians and many others have been coming into the country to help the Albanians with food, clothing, and medical supplies, and tell them about the gospel. They are still one of the poorest countries in Europe but are improving with the help of new government leaders and with freedom of religion.

Can you imagine what a thorough understanding you would have of geography and each country's place in world history if you learned 50 facts like these for each nation and people group of the world? I wouldn't doubt that after learning 50 or so facts like these about each country of Europe you would have a better understanding of the geography and history of the continent than do most college professors.

He is going to be learning a lot and getting a very good understanding of the nations of the world, but the most important thing he will be learning - the whole reason that it is important to learn about geography and history in the first place - is that he is developing a missionary's heart. From this young age, he is learning that his life has meaning, has significance, for eternity.

To say the least, I am very excited about our new geography curriculum!

"Among the gods there is none like unto thee, O Lord; neither are there any works like unto thy works. All nations whom thou hast made shall come and worship before thee, O Lord; and shall glorify thy name. For thou art great, and doest wondrous things: thou art God alone. Teach me thy way, O LORD; I will walk in thy truth: unite my heart to fear thy name."
Psalm 86:8-11

Hunter is 3 years, 8 months old

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Realistic Animal Coloring Pages

I found these neat coloring pages from National Geographic Kids. I liked them because they are realistic rather than the cheap cartoons that most other stuff for kids is like. They had quite a selection of animals as well as a few facts about each one. I printed out lowland gorillas, orangutans, and chimpanzees for next week as we'll be learning primate bits. Enjoy!

National Geographic Coloring Pages

"For every beast of the forest is mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills. I know all the fowls of the mountains: and the wild beasts of the field are mine."
Psalm 50:10-11

Quantum Leap Pad

Yesterday Hunter's aunt gave him her old Quantum Leap Pad and a couple of books to go with it. He has been playing with it ever since and really enjoying it, especially the geography book.

In times past I used to be really "anti-electronics" for little kids, not in the sense of being borderline Amish or anything but just having a thing against all the computer and TV learning ware that is on the market for little kids all the way down to newborns. I read Endangered Minds by Jane M. Healy when I was pregnant with Hunter and although there was some things in that book that were good (like the fact that kids who are constantly bombarded with loud, obnoxious television and other media for many hours a day may have some trouble learning in the real world, that is, in real books the letter A doesn't dance up and down and morph into an apple then into an airplane then fly off the screen, accompanied by flashing lights and fast-paced music, all in under 5 seconds flat) but there were a lot of premises in the book that were off, like the idea that when kids watch any type of media they are virtually in "zombie mode" and aren't learning anything, just being mesmerized by all the ruckus.

But now I know that kids can, and do, learn from just about anything. There are a great many people who simply refuse to believe that kids could learn to read from the TV but it happens all the time, and many kids are picking up words and figuring out reading on their own as the result of the TV. Now I don't in any way propose that we sit down our preschoolers to four hours a day of good ol' "educational TV" on PBS, and would much rather have my son playing with blocks or running around outside than watching TV. Hunter rarely, maybe once a week, watches any videos, other than maybe 15 minutes a day of foreign language immersion. But with that said, I do believe that kids can and do learn from just about anything, and pick up an amazing amount of information from their environment. I still would rather him use his imagination and be building and creating when he plays, but a limited amount of play with an electronic box can nonetheless be beneficial.

So, back to the Quantum Leap Pad. He loves the world geography book, and that's the main thing he's been playing with. In this small book they have all the countries and their flags (over 200), the states of the USA, continents and oceans, and tons of other stuff. You can learn how to say "hello" in the languages of Asia, Europe, or Africa. You can learn about longitude and latitude and about different seas, gulfs, rivers, and landmarks. You can learn each country's capital, national anthem, it's population and land area, things about its economy and people, etc. Some things I've heard coming out of this little box of plastic and wires are things like "Vexillology is the study of flags" and "You could fill 160 Olympic-sized swimming pools with the olive oil Spain produces each year." There are lots of games and challenges and it's a great way to review all the geography facts he's learned as well as learning new things. It's supposed to be for ages 8 and up but he didn't have any problem navigating the system.

There were two other books that he was given, one was a sample book (that's the one that comes with the system) with all kinds of stuff like the bones of the body, planets, multiplication, parts of speech, and presidents of the USA. The other book he got was 3rd grade math, which as soon as he's done learning all his numerals he will be able to use.

I do prefer to be learning with him, having lots of face-to-face interaction, learning by doing, etc. But for those times when that's not possible, it sure is nice to have fun toys that teach like this!

"God be merciful unto us, and bless us; and cause his face to shine upon us... That thy way may be known upon earth, thy saving health among all nations... O let the nations be glad and sing for joy: for thou shalt judge the people righteously, and govern the nations upon earth..."
Psalm 67:1-2, 4

Hunter is 3 years, 8 months old

Monday, December 1, 2008

December Words

Here's the words we'll be learning in December, taken from's online archive.
  1. cavalcade: a procession.
  2. vicissitude: a change in condition or fortune.
  3. soporific: causing sleep; also, something that causes sleep.
  4. profuse: plentiful; copious.
  5. tarradiddle: a fib; also, pretentious nonsense.
  6. deracinate: to uproot.
  7. surly: ill-humored; sullen and gruff.
  8. mendicant: a beggar.
  9. rapprochement: the establishment or state of cordial relations.
  10. perspicacity: clearness of understanding.
  11. artifice: an artful trick, stratagem or device; also, cleverness, skill.
  12. dishabille: the state of being carelessly or partially dressed.
  13. cacophony: harsh or discordant sound.
  14. frangible: capable of being broken; easily broken.
  15. draconian: excessively harsh; severe.
  16. complement: something that fills up or completes.
  17. unfledged: not fully developed; immature.
  18. pari passu: at an equal pace or rate.
  19. discursive: digressive; rambling; also, marked by analytical reasoning.
  20. tocsin: a warning.
  21. finical: finicky.
  22. calumny: malicious misrepresentation; slander.
  23. persiflage: frivolous or bantering talk.
  24. amity: friendship; friendly relations.
  25. benefaction: the act of conferring a benefit; also, a benefit conferred.
  26. hermitage: a secluded residence; a retreat.
  27. gnomic: uttering, containing, or characterized by maxims.
  28. multifarious: having great diversity or variety.
  29. bibulous: of, pertaining to, marked by, or given to the consumption of alcohol.
  30. gelid: extremely cold; icy.
  31. ebullient: high-spirited.

"But the word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart, that thou mayest do it."
Deuteronomy 30:14
Hunter is 3 years, 8 months old

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Hunter Eating a Hot Ball

Today while we were driving in the car with some friends, Hunter kept asking for one of the hot balls that was sitting between the seats. I kept reassuring him that he wouldn't like it, that they were very spicy, and that he would spit it out.

Finally, after much pleading, I went ahead and let him have one, sure that he would spit it out within seconds. But, lo and behold, even with much funny faces, he ate the whole thing! I got this video pretty much at the end of the hilarious faces, but it was still pretty funny and a good laugh.

"There went up a smoke out of his nostrils, and fire out of his mouth devoured: coals were kindled by it."
Psalm 18:8

Hunter is 3 years, 8 months old


 It always amazes me how easily little children make friends.

Today while we were at a friend's house taking communion, there was a young mother there with her four-year-old son. At first Hunter stuck by my side, being quiet and polite in the presence of company but after a little while he casually made friends with this little boy, who was playing paper clips. While there was adult conversation and prayer and Bible-reading going on the two new friends quietly played tigers and other such games underneath the table without being any such disturbance. They were even sharing cookies with each other by the end of the afternoon after quiet time had ended, and parted for the day with a hug.

When we got back to their aunt's house he quickly went downstairs, only to find another little friend who was six-year-old Alannah, the Jackson's cousin. She was jumping off the couch arm onto an inflatable matress and Hunter quickly joined her in her game (not the safest, I know, but he survived). They later played with toys horses and board games and had a splendid time together, as if they had been friends for years.

It made me smile seeing him make friends so easily and effortlessly, having lots of social interactions with all sorts of different people just as a normal and natural part of life. It's not that today was anything new or different, as this sort of friend-making occurs all the time, but today was one of those packed days, and he made friends everywhere he went.

"And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins. Use hospitality one to another without grudging. As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen."
1 Peter 4:8-11

Hunter is 3 years, 8 months old

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Things I'm Thankful For

Hunter made this list today about things he's thankful for. When I first asked him, we were in the family room which had quite a few festive decorations and he started naming off all things Thanksgiving... "Turkeys... scarecrows... indians... leaves... pumkins... corn... pilgrims..." It was funny but I explained what "thankful" meant a little bit more and asked him to think of some other things, like his favorite things in his room or things that he's really glad that he has. This list was the result, and as you can see we did keep some of the Thanksgiving decorations because he was quite insistent that he was thankful for them. The "you" at the end of the list is for family members, because he was listing off everyone ("Noah... Anthony... Mommy...") but of course if we included everyone the list would be like fifty people long and there would be no room for anything else!

I made copies of the list and put them inside Thanksgiving cards we gave to his Grandmas. I actually wrote the words down lightly in pencil and had him trace them, because he tends to write BIG and all over the place so I knew it wouldn't fit in a small card if he wrote the list without the aid. He did pretty good, and was really proud of himself, it'll be a memorable keepsake for many years to come.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! May you remember all the good things the LORD had blessed you with!

"That I may publish with the voice of thanksgiving, and tell of all thy wondrous works."
Psalm 26:7
 Hunter is 3 years, 8 months old 

Monday, November 24, 2008

It's Alabama!

A while ago I wrote a post about Hunter noticing state outlines in other things. Well yesterday in our countdown to Christmas, as part of it we keep track of the days left on Hunter's 100-bead abacus. As I moved the bead over from 33 to make 32, Hunter said "It's Alabama!"

"What?" I couldn't figure out what he was talking about at first. He kept saying, "It has two on the side" and finally it clicked that he was saying that he thought the beads resembled Alabama.

The beads do kind of resemble Alabama if you were to take those two beads and switch them to the bottom, but I guess he already did that in his imagination. It made me laugh that he was so creative as to notice "Alabama" in this line-up of dots, it's incredible the things that little kids notice when we give them the opportunity, that is, give them a base of interesting knowledge and help build their natural love of learning. Learning encyclopedic knowledge opens so many doors, it's just incredible.

I was also quite amazed that he noticed that because we learned those states several months ago and it was funny that they were fresh enough in his memory to be able to recognize the shape in something like that.

"Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else."
Isaiah 45:22

Hunter is 3 years, 8 months old

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Reading Notes on the Piano

I was working at my desk today when Hunter sat down at the piano and starting reading off all of his music note flashcards. I have been teaching him these for months but since I generally never test him, I didn't really know how much he knew. He knew every one of them, and knew most of their locations on the piano.

It was really neat to see all the teaching I've put into him is paying off and he really is learning.

"Rejoice in the LORD, O ye righteous: for praise is comely for the upright... Sing unto him a new song; play skilfully with a loud noise."
Psalm 33:1,3

Hunter is 3 years, 8 months old

Nature or Nuture? Developing a Musical Genius

Link: Superhuman Genius - Jazz Prodigy Ariel Lanyi

The other night I saw this show on the science channel called SuperHuman. This episode focused on "geniuses". There were several people featured on the show from an art prodigy to a man with an amazing memory. Of the five people one of the was a little ten-year-old boy named Ariel Lanyi from Israel who is a pianist and composer. I have seen many piano prodigies, especially on the Internet, so seeing a child play the piano like this was amazing but nothing incredibly new. However it was what his parents said about how he developed his talent that stuck out to me the most. Right in the beginning of the show Ariel's mother says:

"There is a theory that very young children can be taught anything. They don't have to be born that way. But, the earlier you start the education, the more you'll be able to achieve."

When she first said "There is a theory that very young children can be taught anything" I thought to myself, "That has Doman written all over it!" Of course I can't be totally sure, but when they continued on to tell of an incident with two-year-old Ariel in the car, it sounded even more like Doman. He told the story of when Ariel was two-and-a-half and they were driving in the car, and his dad recognized Beethoven's 2nd piano concerto on the radio and labeled the song for Ariel. To which Ariel said, "In...?", expecting his dad to label the key the song was played in as well. His dad didn't know it off hand but Ariel finished his sentence and said, "In B flat major!"

This is exactly how Doman teaches parents to train their children in music, simply to play pieces for them and name them ("This is Beethoven's second concerto in the key of B flat major"). His parents don't say they exposed him to rigorous music training from the time he was born, just exposed him to music and named songs for him, and had music playing in their home "almost 24 hours a day". We don't find out all the details of what they did but we do know that they believe that Ariel was taught to be a great musician because of his environment, it wasn't some gift he was just born with that developed magically on its own.

I was also impressed with his parents' and his attitude towards his "genius": they were humble, and certainly weren't pushy. Most people think that in order to "make a genius" you have to push the child but that's simply not true. Ariel was such a little charmer and I love how he said

"I don't like the meaning of child prodigy cause, child prodigy is basically someone who can play fast, and, not more than that. Not understanding music, just fast."

"And how are you different?" the interviewer asked.

"Because I understand the music, I analyze."

"Are you a pianist or a musician?"

"A musician."

"Are you a genius?"

"[Chuckles]. Not yet. I will be one day, but not yet."

"Not yet", I love that.

I also love his parents' view on his future when his dad said, "When a child prodigy stops being a child then, the question is does he have [what it takes] to be a bona fide artist, or not. And if he doesn't, then, he can be a very happy amateur. If he doesn't follow a career in music then he will have to follow a career in something else. And it has to be his decision obviously, it will not be ours."

I also recently watched a similar story about Marc Yu, seven years old, whose mother was committed to teaching her son to play the piano since she missed out as a child, and played lots of classical music since he was in the womb.

I loved the documentary, except it was funny how, even though the entire video they was pointing to the opposite, at the end of it they concluded that, somehow, these prodigies were born with "different brains" - "music brains" that is.

I just thought this was another interesting piece in the "nature versus nurture" debate. One person could take this exact same story and just call him "a prodigy", saying that he just really liked music as a little child and showed a keen interest and then randomly taught himself to play the piano. It's what Glenn Doman calls a "happy accident", and it actually happens all the time. There are many prodigies whose parents didn't even try to provide an ideal environment, they just nurtured a genius on accident (there happened to be music in the house when he was an infant, there happened to be a piano around for him to play with). But then when we look at it from a different light, where the parents actually developed a love and understanding of music on purpose.

I was really inspired by this story because I have always known that it was good for a child's developing brain to play classical music for them as infants and children, but wasn't ever sure of how much effect it was actually having. It was almost like taking a step of faith when you pop the CD in and just hoping that it's doing something good. Now I'm more inspired than ever and am ready to fill our home with great music, knowing how powerful it truly can be.

"I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well."
Psalm 139:14

Monday, November 17, 2008

The Math Mystery

"Mathematics is not a subject like geography, but a way of thinking and reasoning."
- Glenn Doman
How to Teach Your Baby Math

It finally hit me, the meaning of those words. For fourteen long months I have been endlessly wrestling with the answer to a very troublesome question: Why does the Glenn Doman math program have such a high failure rate, children simply "losing" all that they were taught?

It was a disturbing question indeed. A revolutionary idea had been presented - that babies could understand mathematics (and understand it well, very well) if we presented it to them in an honest, factual, and joyous way. But then a peculiar speculation was made: where are all the kids who were raised on Glenn Doman math? And even worse, even more so disheartening, were the ever-increasing stories of failure with the Glenn Doman math program. "I tried it, and my kids appeared to be able to recognize quantity, but they lost their ability when they got older."

I had heard this story line many times in the past fourteen months as I browsed online forums, websites, and blogs, and was beginning to become more and more perplexed: "How could a child just 'lose' his ability to understand math and numbers?"

For a long time I was able to justify this "loss" of information and understanding with a simple enough, yet not completely satisfying, solution: The children had lost their ability to perceive quantity because they had not gone far enough with the program, their parents weren't consistent enough and the duration was too short, so the kids started to learn but lost it before they had a chance to get firmly grounded. It was really a matter of "use it or lose it".

The theory seemed reasonable enough, but incomplete, and I still had many questions. As long as the only stories I heard were "They appeared to be able to recognize quantity but then they lost it", and no stories of people actually going through the entire program (arithmetic, problem-solving, numerals and all), my story was sufficient.

Then one day several weeks ago, I met and conversed with a parent on the brillkids forum who shared their experience with the Doman math program, and things were starting to get more and more confusing. They shared how they had done the program and their children lost the ability, and they had called the Institutes who had apparently stated that all children lost the ability to do math after their third birthday! I knew there was an explanation about the statement from the Institutes, but the more perplexing part was that this parent was saying that they had done the entire math program, all the way through, with each of their children, yet it proved of no use as all their children lost their abilities after age three. Although they did admit that none of their children were ever able to do arithmetic (while toddlers at least), so it's questionable about how thorough or how consistent the program was, it still presented a difficult mystery and a million more questions with no one to answer.

Then something incredible happened: I called the IAHP and got some simple, yet incredible answers that at the time didn't seem so profound but as I have let things settle in my brain (and they have been spinning for, like I said, the past fourteen months) everything about the failures with the math program now make sense, and this puzzle is no longer such a mystery.

Here is the phone conversation I had with Ms. Breyer. The Institutes can be reached at 1-800-344-TEACH

“Good afternoon this is Connie Breyer.”

“Hi, this is Elizabeth calling…”

“Oh yay! [laughs] Good, I’m glad you called back. Yeah, so, let’s get this thing straightened out. Um, yeah, so what forum is this?”[She originally had called me but I had to call her back because of a crying baby!]

“Um, this particular forum was on a website called

“Oh yeah we’re hearing a lot about that!”

“Oh really? Well that’s neat…But, yeah, what this person was saying is that they had had a lot of success with the reading program but had tried the math program and it didn’t work, and they phoned you and said that you stated that the ability would not be retained past three years old which didn’t make any sense to me, considering you still sell and promote stuff for the math program and why would you sell stuff that you say doesn’t work?”

“Well, now, the thing is that in the book it does say that there is this window of opportunity and it closes somewhere between two-and-a-half and three-years-old. Um, after that age, usually, the children cannot see, they cannot distinguish the quantity, in the same way that you and I cannot distinguish 88 dots from 89 dots. You and I, the only way we’d know is by counting. But a tiny baby – a child – can distinguish which one is 88 and 89 instantly.”

“Well now, I knew that there was that window of opportunity but like, with my son, he started with the math program when he was almost 30 months and did great, and that was a year ago he’s 3 ½ now and can still perceive quantity, so, shouldn’t children who are trained with this program, the ability be retained?”

“There are some children that are able to retain the ability to distinguish quantity but that is not the norm. The point of the whole program, is to set a foundation for math, for the rest of their lives. Once they understand that a number is a quantity, not an abstract numeral, then everything that has to do with mathematics makes logical sense. Adding, subtracting, multiplying, dividing, everything. Once they have that, then they’re set for life, and then they are able to transfer the quantities to numerals. But it’s that understanding that never goes away.”

“But, now, when they’re older, they can still understand math, and do instant equations and such?”

“Oh yes absolutely. Our children are fabulous mathematicians.”

“Oh okay, well, that makes a little bit more sense then…”

“Yes there’s just something that happens in our brains that makes it so we no longer can distinguish the quantities.”

“Hmm… well that’s really interesting.”

“That’s why we don’t recommend starting our program, with children older than three years old, because we can’t guarantee that it will work. There definitely are some children though who are four and five and can pick it up but,”

“Now I’ve heard that, with autistic people, sometimes, even when they’re older they can sometimes still distinguish the quantities, even without training.”

“Like Rainman?”


“Yes, and for our brain-injured program, we teach the dot cards no matter how old the children are. They are neurologically that age, even though they’re not chronologically. So, we use that program with all of our children [in the brain-injured program], even if they’re adults.”

“So, is that making any more sense then? At first it was like, hope they don’t turn everybody off to our program.”

“Yeah, no, we wouldn’t want that and I’m really glad that you were able to clear these things up for me.”

“Yes, me too, and I’m so glad you took the time to call, it looks like you’ve done a fabulous program with your child. And, he has that now for life.

I then told her some thank you's for their wonderful organization and such, and told her about how I had found their books at the library and have really enjoyed learning with my son. She was a wonderfully kind lady and the phone call was not only informative but delightful.

Hanging up the phone, I was, on one hand, a little bit disappointed: So Hunter won't be able to look at a flock of birds, or a pile of cereal, or a stack of pennies and instantly be able to tell that it's 93, no more or no less? Such a "cool" and useful ability was something I was not too excited about letting go of, of him losing.

But then there was the other thought, the other perspective, the "Ah ha!" moment. As I let things settle and reflected on what was said in this phone conversation, suddenly it was all starting to make sense. "The point of the whole program, is to set a foundation for math, for the rest of their lives..." Those words rung through my head over and over again. Yes, a foundation, a foundation, to set a foundation of what math is and what it means and how it works, and this foundation - this understanding - will go on with them for the rest of their lives. That's the point, that's the goal, that's the secret to success. Does it work? "Oh yes absolutely". I knew it did, I knew it could: I had seen it with my own eyes, with my own child, that tiny kids really can do math, really can perceive quantity. The words "fabulous mathematicians" rang comfortingly again and again as I contemplated the ramifications of this conversation.

What were the ramifications? Well, I had always thought that if quantity training was initiated before the third birthday, then the child would have that for life, which is why so many stories of kids losing that ability just didn't make sense. But after this conversation, it is all beginning to be clear why quantity training is not enough.

You see, babies are born with the ability to perceive quantity. The Doman program is not actually teaching quantity recognition but rather labeling it. A tiny child can already tell the difference between 28 and 29 without any training - they just don't have a name for it. All the Doman program does is gives quantities names and teaches the names for putting those quantities together and taking them apart ("plus", "minus", "multiplied by", "divided by"). This is not teaching the tiny child anything new, per se, but simply giving them labels for things they already innately know.

But teaching them names is not enough. The child must progress to the point where he doesn't just see the numbers on a card (which he will soon not be able to do anymore) but that he sees the numbers in his head. He must be able to manipulate the numbers in his head, he must know them front and back, knowing not only the number but its relation to other numbers, knowing that "fifty" is half of 100 and 1 less than 51 and 30 less than 80. He must know that "twenty eight" is a third of 94 and half of 56, that it's the product of 2 and 14, and 7 and 4, that it's the sum of 20 and 8 and the difference of 30 and 2. If it's all in his head, he'll have it for life, and he must get to that point before he loses the ability to "see" quantity.

This is the point where we will get back to the original statement in this post, the moment where it finally hit me about the meaning of Glenn Doman's words: "Mathematics is not a subject like geography, but a way of thinking and reasoning."

It hit me as I was reading a new blog post, a Doman friend who does the math program also, with very tangible results. But she was perplexed about how her son, now two, has never been able to verbalize his answers. He can easily pick out the correct dot card when you ask him what 24+54-21 is, but if you ask him for a verbal response, even to a simple addition equation, he just makes something up, like shouting "two!" for 10+24. This is nothing new to me: Hunter does the same thing. I've discussed this odd behavior before, but for some reason when I was reading about it this time, something clicked, and it all made sense.

I realized, little kids at this stage cannot yet verbalize the answers because mathematics is not like geography - it is a way of thinking and reasoning. If math was simply about memorizing a set of facts - What is the capital of France? Who was the fifth President? What sound does the letter A make? - it would simply be a matter of recalling the correct answer, the corresponding fact. But math, in the way that babies can do it, is not about memorizing facts: it is a way of thinking and reasoning.

When you tell him an equation, a mental process is going on in his head that is nothing like the process that goes on when you ask him the capital of China. He's being trained to think mathematically, and in the beginning verbalizing what he sees in his mind will not be as easy as verbalizing other facts he knows, because they are completely different tasks. It's not as easy to recall the fact "sixty-eight" as it is to recall the fact "George Washington". Although this may seem somewhat strange to us, as we were taught math by mere memorization of times tables and algorithms, but what is going on in a baby's mind is completely different and it's not like geography.

The goal, therefore, in training babies in math, is to get them to be able to verbalize, that is, it's to get them to know the numbers in their head instead of just being able to see them with their eyes on paper. Training him to think and reason is the goal, but he must learn mathematics thoroughly before he gets to the stage where he can no longer see the numbers on paper - they must be completely internalized, so when you say "seventy-three" he knows exactly what that number is and isn't, and he can manipulated the numbers strictly in his mind without the aid of visual dots.

For some final thoughts on the issue of "making the math permanent" for your child, I will end on a quote from the forum member who brought up the phone call with the Institutes in the first place:

"If you ask a fluent reader to explain how they read they would simple state that they can. It is possible that the mental manipulation of quantity develops to the stage where the entire process takes place at a subconscious level."

That is the goal, for a child to truly master mathematics so that it is permanent in their being and always remains with them. Here is the conclusion of steps that must be taken in order for a child to go onto be proficient in instant mental calculation:
  1. Parents must, first and foremost, create in their child a rage to learn mathematics. Some children do not like the math program initially because we are teaching them something they actually already know. A child must love his numbers, must adore his numbers, for true learning to take place.
  2. On being consistent: Consistency is of utmost importance as your child will learn best this way. By taking breaks, whether days, weeks, or months, your child may forget a great deal of what was learned or even worse, lose interest.
  3. On being timely: Spending an extended amount of time on one thing would likely bore the child and cause him to lose interest. It's important to keep your lessons new and exciting to retain the desire to learn it.
  4. On being thorough: Being thorough is important, as you want to be sure to cover the material well, so he knows it well. We're not talking about endless drilling here, but about making it a part of life, talking about it frequently, and playing lots of games with numbers to be confident he knows the material well.
  5. It's important to try and follow the program as much as possible as outlined in the book. For example, don't teach numbers 1-100 all the way through to your 2-year-old without introducing arithmetic - he will want to progress to interesting things quickly, so don't hold him back.
  6. Parents should not wait an extensive amount of time to introduce numerals. It is important that numerals be learned while he is still able to see quantity, so that he is able to see the connection and relationship between the two.
  7. Parents should exercise extreme foresight to keep lessons interesting and to keep the desire to learn mathematics at a high. Keep in mind the cardinal rules of teaching, like always stopping before your child wants and to only teaching when you're both in a splendid mood. Keep lessons brief and frequent. If your child loves math, it will take a great deal to stop him from learning it. This is the most important factor for success.

As I mentioned in a previous post, we're now introducing numerals in a countdown to Christmas and Hunter has been doing very well with them. I'm not sure why Hunter is an "odd ball" and is able to still perceive quantity at so late of an age, but thank God that he is! I hope that this post has been informative to all of you who have wondered about the Doman math program but haven't been able to put together the pieces.

"At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in thy sight."
Matthew 11:25-26