Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Follow the Script

IntelliGent loves routine. Our day goes much better if we follow the same schedule. If IntelliGent knows what to expect, he moves confidently through the transitions between activities.

This holds true with conversations as well. IntelliGent loves when we follow a script. His favorite script is a series of question and answers. It goes something like this.

What is your name?
My name is (first name)

What is your big name?
(first, middle, last name)

How do you spell (first name)? (last name)?
(spells correctly)

How old are you?
I'm two years old

Where do you live?
(names house number and street)

In what town? province? country? continent? planet?
(provides correct answer to each)

What is your post box number? What is your phone number?
(again providing correct numbers)

Who is the Prime Minister?
Steven Harper

Who is the Queen?
Queen Elizabeth II

Who is the President of the United States?
Barack Obama

The script continues to lengthen as we add new questions. He loves it. If Dr. Dad or I don't ask, IntelliGent will prompt us with the first question. And don't think you can get away with skipping a question. He will remind you how things are supposed to go, if you don't ask them in the right order.

This love for frequent repetition has been useful for reviewing bible verses and other facts he has learned. I'm always thinking about what other useful information would fit in our script.

What should we add to the conversation next?

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Humor Me

Yesterday started a new stage of communication in our home. IntelliGent started telling jokes. His delight in being silly and playing with language kept Dr. Dad and I grinning.

Currently, IntelliGent's jokes revolve around changing the words of familiar nursery rhymes. He thinks it is hilarious. Here are a few of his favorites.

"Humpty Dumpty sat on a car."

"Jack and Jill went up the hill to fetch a pail of juice."

"Mary had a little lamb whose fleece was white as ice."

"Little Miss Muffet sat on a mountain."

Each time he follows with a "ha ha. I chose a joke." I know, I'll probably get tired of hearing these eventually, but for now it is fun. It makes me remember the days when simple things brought so much joy. Wouldn't you be happy if "the dish ran away with the carrot" at the end of Hey Diddle Diddle?

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Sing Me a Song

As I write this post, IntelliGent is supposed to be napping. Instead, he is singing the alphabet song over and over. Moments ago, I reminded him to be quiet and go to sleep.

I love to hear my son sing. There was a time, not too long ago, that I worried I would never hear his voice raised in song. It seems like a silly worry now as I wait for the silence of sleep to claim him.

IntelliGent has loved music from the womb. I am a trumpeteer. I continued to play trumpet, while expecting IntelliGent, until I could no longer get the air support needed to produce a steady tone. He was always excited at community band practice, doing flips and twists in the womb while I played.

That love for music continued after birth. When IntelliGent was very small, often, the only thing that could console him was singing loud and long. Dr. Dad and I spent a lot of time in song.

When IntelliGent started to talk, he would specifically ask for certain songs to be sung. He has a whole list of favorites, most he's learned in Sunday School. He would smile as I sang, but nothing could convince him to try and sing the song with me.

Then something changed in February. Dr. Dad and I were sitting at the table after dinner singing the songs IntelliGent requested when we tried something different. I held a note, Dr. Dad added to the chord, and out of the blue a sweet little voice added a third note. We were all so shocked and excited that a rediculous amount of clapping ensued.

For some reason, singing that note unlocked whatever was inhibiting IntelliGent from joining the music. Suddenly, he wanted to sing every song we knew.


The joy of music is evident on my son's face as he sings with me.

I wonder what took him so long, but then I remember. IntelliGent has strong perfectionistic tendencies. He wants to do things exactly right and is acutely aware of his limitations. I believe the perfectionism, couple with his awareness of limitations, is what has caused some of his delays.

My job is to help him learn how to modify his expectations to something more reasonable than perfection. Trust me, it's a full time occupation.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Read Me a Story

IntelliGent loves to read. His morning routine includes reading books to himself in his room. While he can't read yet, he knows these stories well enough to "read" some of them out loud. Most mornings he goes through at least two dozen books before breakfast.

Dr. Dad and I have read to IntelliGent from the beginning. I will to admit to reading aloud from books before he was born.

Did those moments in womb listening to my voice help cultivate his love for stories?

I have no idea.

I do know, this child has a great interest in books. We often curl up together with a pile of books and just enjoy the cadence of the words. IntelliGent comprehends most of what we read, and these stories often come up again at later times, in unusual ways.

Fox in Socks is one of IntelliGent's favorite books. Dr. Dad and I have read that book to him often enough to have the rhymes memorized. Some months ago IntelliGent was playing with his magnetic letters in the kitchen while I worked on dinner. He showed me the letter B.

"B says b, like Bim and Ben lead bands with brooms."

Though I shouldn't have been, I was a bit surprised. We hadn't read Fox in Socks in weeks, but he was able to make the connection between the B sound and the alliteration in the rhyme.

Yesterday, IntelliGent read his first book in school. It was a simple four picture booklet with the same word printed below each picture. Before giving him the booklet to read, we wrote the word on the chalk board. IntelliGent sounded out the word phonetically and then put the sounds together. We were both pretty excited when the word "Dad" came out of his mouth.

We are still a long way from independent reading, but today was another exciting step in that direction. In the mean time, we will continue spending time together reading stories and learning things from books.

IntelliGent isn't the only one in the family who loves books.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

When Work is Play

IntelliGent has chores.

Dr. Dad and I do not expect our 2.5 year old to wait on us, but we do believe in the importance of chores, even at a young age. IntelliGent's chores are not difficult, and we have spent the time showing him what to do so he knows what is expected.

What do chores look like for a 2.5 year old in our home?

Push in the Mattress - IntelliGent is small for his age. He is also cautious, so we place a second mattress under his bed to aid him in getting in and out of bed. In the mornings and after nap time, it is his responsibility to push the mattress back under the toddler bed.

Put Dirty Clothes in Hamper - After Dr. Dad or I help IntelliGent out of his dirty clothes, he knows it is time to put them away in the hamper. He also loves to help sort laundry on laundry day. He assists in loading and unloading the washer and dryer. 

Put Away MagnifiCat's Dish - This chore was self-appointed by IntelliGent. After watching me take care of the cat's food dish one day, he decided to start doing that job himself. He's done it every morning since.

Put Drink Away - Once IntelliGent learned how to open the refrigerator, it became his responsibility to put his half full sippy cups back in the fridge to keep cool. IntelliGent loves helping in the kitchen. He willingly assists loading and unloading the dishwasher (supervised of course).

Put Away Toys - IntelliGent is an orderly little boy, and has been very good about putting away his toys from the beginning. Due to his personality, I rarely have to ask him to do this chore. Things are put away in the right place when he's done playing.

As IntelliGent changes and grows, his responsibilities will change and grow appropriately. Dr. Dad and I make a point to acknowledge the work that IntelliGent does and thank him for it. We each contribute to this family in our own way, and that includes a 2.5 year old putting his drink in the fridge.

IntelliGent has chores, but to him they are just an extension of his day and his play.

Monday, April 21, 2014


On Saturday, while preparing this week's school lessons, I realized we have made it to the halfway mark in our curriculum. Honestly, I was a little surprised. We've only been doing K4 for three weeks.

Sometimes, I struggle with this accelerated pace. I feel like we are attempting a marathon at sprint speeds. More than once, I've wondered about slowing thing down, just to be more "normal." Dr. Dad has reminded me, more than once, there is nothing normal about a 2.5 year old doing K4. My job isn't to slow him down, but to give him what he needs to learn and be challenged.

Currently, that means five lessons a day.

IntelliGent's love for school proves we're not going too fast.

Our school room

I strive to keep school fun. Our basement school room is a bright and cheerful place. Our schedule jumps from one subject to another with songs and games between. IntelliGent loves discovering the hidden letters, colors, and numbers in the "learning tree."

Perhaps these are the reasons IntelliGent insists on doing school every day. He'd do school on Saturdays too, if I'd let him.

If we stay at this pace and on this schedule, K4 will be done in three weeks. I've already ordered our K5 material. It should be here in time for a smooth transition once we finish our last K4 lesson.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Writing Woes

IntelliGent was ready for school in every area except writing. This has been a source of frustration for him, as his brain tells his hands to do things they are not capable of doing yet. He doesn't even enjoy coloring.

Recognizing his limitations in this area, I keep writing to a minimum during school. I've learned that IntelliGent likes to connect things with lines and circle correct answers. His lines and circles are well formed, but when asked to write the number one, he'd balk.

That was, until we introduced a fun iPad app called Letter School.

IntelliGent's favorite part of his school day is Letter School. We often do it last, like a reward for paying attention and trying new things. Because IntelliGent can trace the letters with his finger, it takes away the difficulty of holding a writing instrument. He loves making the letters and earning the stars. I love the confidence he is building.

This confidence is spilling over into his regular school work. He rarely balks when I suggest he tries to write a letter or number without assistance.

Number 4 written by IntelliGent

I was impressed this week when, instead of just scribbling, IntelliGent picked up his crayon and decided to draw a self-portrait. For a boy who has shown very little interest in art, this was a huge surprise. Dr. Dad and I thought the outcome was amazing.

2.5 year old IntelliGent's Self-portrait - Labeled for clarification

Writing tires IntelliGent faster than any other academic exercise. After he drew himself, and then told us about the picture, he was done coloring for quite a while. You can bet that little self-portrait is tucked away safely in IntelliGent's memory box.

With all the success we've had recently with writing, I thought we might have finally beat the writing woes. But yesterday proved that wrong. IntelliGent, once again, balked at picking up his pencil. When he did comply, his heart was not in the work.

While I could have been frustrated, I wasn't. The writing ability will come with time.

School isn't about paperwork, after all, it is about the joy of discovery. And we can discover a lot more without a pencil tucked between the fingers.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Dinosaurs are Huge!

Yesterday, we took our first school field trip to the Canadian Museum of Nature in Ottawa. It was a complete success.

IntelliGent is too young to remember our last visit to the museum almost two years ago. He was excited when we suggested we go to a museum and I was eager to see his reaction. 

Dr. Dad and 9 month old IntelliGent at the Museum of Nature

"It's a castle." Those words of awe, spoken from the car seat in the back, set the tone for our entire visit. Everything excited and interested IntelliGent. He boldly walked though the museum and marveled at the wonders of nature.  

Just like the first time we went, IntelliGent was captivated by the dinosaurs. He loved to see how big they were and his delightful declarations filled the room. "Look at that dinosaur. It's huge!"


It wasn't until I knelt down to get IntelliGent's attention about something that I finally saw the world from his perspective. In his eyes, Dr. Dad (who is only 5' 3.5") is tall. Those skeletons were gigantic. I took a moment to gasp in wonder.

It had been too long since I paused to view life through the eyes of a child.

Our trip to the museum of nature was a success, not because IntelliGent filled his mind with new concepts and facts, but because he reopened our eyes to the amazing world around us - the world we take for granted every day.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Who Invited the Pilgrims to Easter?

Starting the K4 curriculum at the end of March, combined with the fast pace we are keeping, has put us in a rather unusual holiday situation.

The unit IntelliGent is going through right now focuses on Native Americans, the Pilgrims, and Thanksgiving. Next week we'll talk about Christmas. But sandwiched right between those two out-of-season holidays is the real Easter Sunday.

I was tempted to skip over the Thanksgiving unit and move on to the next. Then I decided to go ahead and teach the unit anyway.

Is there any harm in talking about the Pilgrims at Easter-time?

The Pilgrims were thankful for the freedom to worship God in the New World. Their thankfulness was not reserved for that first Thanksgiving feast with their Native American friends. Easter is also a time for giving thanks as we remember the finished work of Christ on the cross.

We've invited the Pilgrims to our Easter celebration. Who are you inviting?

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Developmental Milestone Lag

Watching a child develop is a wonderful and sometimes frightening experience. IntelliGent has been delayed with his gross motor skills from the beginning. He was slow to smile, roll over, and crawl. I thought he'd never walk. While all his peers were up on their feet, IntelliGent was content to scoot around the room on his bum.

15 month old IntelliGent happily scooting along at the park.

At IntelliGent's 12 month check up, the doctor expressed concern because IntelliGent was still not pulling himself up and trying to stand. An X-ray was scheduled.

While I understand the purpose of developmental checklists, sometimes they create a lot of unnecessary stress for mothers. The days between getting the orders for the X-ray and the follow-up appointment with the doctor were scary. Every "what if" ran through my mind.

But there was nothing wrong with IntelliGent. He just wasn't ready.

I've learned since that IntelliGent has his own timetable for development. He waits until he can do something well before he tries. Even though he didn't walk until 20 months, when he did it was without the nasty falls that younger walkers often experience. IntelliGent's cautious nature has saved him from bumps, bruises, cuts and scrapes. He's never needed a band aid.

IntelliGent still isn't hitting certain milestone "on time," but I'm no longer worried. He'll jump and alternate feet walking up the stairs when he is ready.

IntelliGent and Dr. Dad out for a stroll with the wagon

Monday, April 14, 2014

Mommy and Daddy's books

Dr. Dad and I have a lot of books. I have two full bookcases for novels. Dr. Dad's interests run more toward science, politics, and Bible references. IntelliGent has grown up with books all around him. I remember the day he took an interest.

IntelliGent at 17 months
IntelliGent was a late walker (more on that in another post). It took him forever to pull himself up on furniture, but when he did his favorite place to stand was next to the bookcases. He'd pull books out, flip through the pages, and then put them back. His favorite books were Dr. Dad's Old Testament Bible commentaries.

We learned early that IntelliGent was very careful with books. The only page he has ever ripped was when we, as parents, over reacted. As long as we remained calm, the pages were gently turned and the books put back in their places. Sure, they were sometimes backwards or upside down, but the books were treated well.

Then came the day IntelliGent asked me to read the exhaustive concordance of Bible words to him. Gently I explained that the book wasn't a story and that he could look at the book once he learned how to read.

That moment sparked a almost obsessive fascination with letters. IntelliGent started paying closer attention to his ABC books, and when he began telling me the names of the letters on the page, I knew it was time to feed this new passion.

We purchased Melissa & Doug ABC puzzles and magnetic letters as well as other resources to help aid in his letter discovery. I love the quality of Melissa & Doug toys. IntelliGent soaked it in. 

This interest has lead to some amazing refrigerator and dishwasher art. 

Don't miss the letter symmetry on the red and green lines.

By his second birthday, IntelliGent knew all his letters and most of their sounds. He's still a ways away from reading Dr. Dad's concordance, but he's happily enjoying the journey.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Future Chess Champion?

IntelliGent has been fascinated with chess ever since he watched Dr. Dad and Grandpa play the game.

I won't mention who won.

While chess is not my game of choice, Dr. Dad has played the game for years, even competing in tournaments during his youth. He has a small collection of chess boards he bought on his travels through Europe.

Dr. Dad and MagnifiCat watch IntelliGent arrange the pieces.
IntelliGent loves spending time with Dr. Dad and learning the game of chess. At age 2.5, IntelliGent's understanding is limited to the names of the pieces and their correct placement on the board. Dr. Dad hopes to start teaching basic moves in the near future.

Do we have a future chess champion?

I don't know.

We aren't pressuring him in that direction, but I do look forward to the day IntelliGent can enjoy playing the game with Grandpa.

Friday, April 11, 2014

I'm Just Speaking French

8 months old and proudly Canadian
I grew up in the US where Spanish was the second language of choice. I did well in Spanish class and later taught the language to children in preschool. Then I married a Canadian and moved to the north where my Spanish skills have gone to waste. Instead, I've been shown over and over again the advantages of having a working understanding of French.

With IntelliGent at an impressionable age, I want to introduce him to foreign language. From experience, I know how quickly children can pick up on new words and a new language. But I don't know French. In honesty, I don't have an ear for the language at all and to this point have shunned any opportunity to learn.

That prejudice is changing with Dr. Dad's example and encouragement. While I have not found a curriculum suitable for helping IntelliGent learn French, we have started watching his favorite shows in the language. He loves it.

Today he brought me Curious George. "Let's watch it in French, Mommy." 

And so we did. 

Later, after the movie was finished. IntelliGent came up to me and started muttering something I didn't understand. I asked him to repeat, which he did, but the words were still unintelligible.

"What are you trying to say?" I asked after the second repeat.

"I'm just speaking French," IntelliGent replied.

Photo by Dawn Scott
I can neither confirm nor deny if he was indeed speaking French. However, I think it might be time for me to take a look at that Rosetta Stone program Dr. Dad has been using. I can't let my language prejudices get in the way of IntelliGent's learning.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Taming the Tyrant: 5 Steps toward Toddler Transformation

My two-year-old stands in the center of the floor, poker straight, with his face raised to the ceiling. High-pitched screams echo through the house, his once sweet face contorting with rage. The whole neighborhood now knows that I turned off his favorite show. I’m living under toddler tyranny.

The tyrannical twos can be difficult as a child pushes against the barriers hindering his egocentric universe. Five principles have helped me survive through the challenging transition from infancy to childhood.


Some days, it seems the smallest things will set off the tyrant. As the tantrums start, I feel my blood pressure rise. How dare this small person, who I carried within my body, treat me in such a way? While I want to yell and scream at him, I know I can’t. Giving into the temptation will only result in a power struggle. Instead, I take a deep breath and pray for strength. I go to my son and speak quietly and calmly. I talk about his frustration without mirroring it. Soon he calms as well. A soft answer isn’t easy, but works wonders (Proverbs 15:1).


I thought it would be fun to go to the library as a surprise, but when I ask my toddler to help clean up the toys, a fit ensues. The abrupt change in plan has disrupted his emotional equilibrium and though he loves the library, he can’t handle the transition. I’ve learned the hard way that my son can’t switch from one activity to another without some warning. By talking about what to expect ahead of time, and giving him some advanced warning, I’ve been able to reduce the number of tantrums we experience throughout the day.


Being two is a negative experience. Everyone tells the toddler “no.” Don’t touch that. Don’t go there. No. No. No. Is it any wonder that “no” seems to be the tyrant’s favorite word? I make a point to comment on the things my son does well. I thank him for cleaning up his toys and being a good helper. I talk about the kind way he treats other children and how fun he is to play with. His disposition improves under this positive reinforcement. On the opposite side, I ignore the bad behavior. As long as no one is in danger of being hurt, I walk away and let him have his tantrum. When he’s calm again, I come back and reiterate my love for my son.


When the tantrums start, I long to make it stop. I hate confrontation, but living with a tyrant tot means conflict all the time. At the end of the day, I am completely worn out. While I want eradicate the difficult situations, I let my son experience the consequences of his behavior, even when it means more screaming in the near future. We talk about expectations during calm periods and clearly state the consequences for not fulfilling those expectations. My son has missed a chance to play at the park on several occasions because he threw a tantrum in the grocery store. He’s learning that good behavior gets praise and poor behavior has consequences.


Consistency is the hardest part of training tyranny out of the toddler. Constant exposure to explosive emotions wears on my sanity. There are times I just want to give up and let my son have his way. I’m too tired to do battle but I have to. It is my responsibility, given by God (Proverbs 22:6). I must be consistent with my discipline (the training of my tot) as well as showing him my love. I spend a lot of time praying for the strength needed to meet the challenges of toddlerhood. Without consistency, the other principles lose their effectiveness. Consistency is the key.

I live with a two-year-old tyrant, but he is also a treasure. I’m doing my best to train him in the way that he should go. With God’s help, we’ll both survive this transition.

I wrote this article for a writing challenge.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Red Means Stop

IntelliGent is completely fixated on stop signs and traffic lights, right now. Every day, he leads conversations about the what the colors on the traffic light mean. These conversations usually start in this way:

"Red means stop. Green means go. Yellow means slow down." 

These statements are then followed by his latest thoughts on the subject. For a time, he was concerned because red and yellow make orange, not green. He's tried to determine why blue and purple are not found on a traffic light.

IntelliGent ready to hit the road - 21 months old

Music is a huge part of IntelliGent's life. Though he is just starting to sing along with songs, he will often request that I sign to him. As you can imagine, he loves the traffic light song (sung to the tune of The Farmer In the Dell)

Red means stop
Red means stop
When we're at the traffic light
Red means stop

verse 2 - Green means go, etc.
verse 3 - Yellow means slow, etc.

Every time IntelliGent sees the color red, even on something as innocent as a flower in a story book, the conversation starts over again. Sometimes these are the first words out of his mouth when he wakes up. 

I've even heard him talking about them in his sleep. 

It's not just traffic lights that have captured IntelliGent's attention, but stop signs as well. We count them as we take walks or drive around town. He readily identifies the octagonal shape long before we're close enough to read the word. Today, during school, he was frustrated because his octagonal shape card was black, not red. After all, octagons are red. 

With all this focus on stop signs, I shouldn't have been surprised when he started spelling the word STOP. This was immediately followed by questions what letters were in GO and SLOW.

It will be interesting to see how long this fixation lasts and what captures his attention next.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Accelerated Learning

Today we finished the first quarter of Bob Jones University Press's Footsteps for Fours - a program we started a week and a half ago. Most of the content we covered in these first 45 lessons was a review of what IntelliGent already knew. However, he's demonstrated a good grasp of all the new concepts, except Left and Right.

When Dr. Dad and I ordered the program, we knew that we were going to be going through things at a quick rate. We were aware that IntelliGent already understood most of what the program had to offer but, afraid that I had missed some key concepts in our informal learning time earlier, we decided to purchase Footsteps for Fours anyway.

Keeping IntelliGent engaged and challenged has required we do a week's worth of lessons in a single day. IntelliGent is learning new skills as he cuts, glues, colors, and writes. His favorite part of the program has been the stories and nursery rhymes. Above all, he loves the little dog, Max.

Accelerated learning makes more work  for me than running through the teacher's manual as written would. Nap times are almost completely consumed with preparation for the next day's school time. It is tiring work but worth it when, in the morning, IntelliGent is barely out of his breakfast chair before he's pulling on my arm, begging to go to the schoolroom.

"Let's do school, Mommy. Would that be fun?"

Yes, buddy. It would be.

Just let me finish my mocha first.


Monday, April 7, 2014

Why Homeschool?

IntelliGent at 15 Weeks old
My choice to homeschool happened long before I had children of my own.

I received my education, kindergarten through high school, at public school. I knew before graduation I didn't want to put my children through the same system. Not only did the classes teach things that go against my religious convictions but, too often, the quality of education was lacking. For my class, the school system stepped away from phonetics and experimented with a different program for language skills - a program that didn't work.

In some ways, my public school education failed me and I want something better for my children.

There is also a practical reason to homeschool my son. IntelliGent loves to learn and has a very long attention span when he is engaged in something new, but as soon as he is bored - and he bores easily once he has mastered a game or task - he is constantly into mischief. Knowing the trouble he gets into at home, I couldn't, in good conscience, put him in a classroom where I know he would be constantly bored. Public School teachers do the best they can with the resources they are given, but it isn't fair to make them accommodate a child who can already count to 100 and was one step short of reading at age 31 months.

Let me be clear, I have nothing against educational institutions and I don't look down on those who put their children through the public school system. Homeschooling does not work for everyone. I am just trying to do what is best for my child and my family.

Thank you for joining me on this adventure.