Friday, April 19, 2013

Loose web of associations

My mind seems to work overtime while waiting.  For months, I have been fretting about how I will be
teaching Nellie to learn (and use the toilet) and talk (and brush her teeth) and about a million other things.  My mind kept milling around literacy and our family's love of books.  We have a read-aloud nightly and consider it one of our favorite pastimes.  I was worried how books would come across to Nellie - what would a "fairy" or a "knight" translate as when I am reading (or a cat or house for that matter).  A quick look at all the literature relating to teaching a child with visual impairments in the preschool years says that what is most important is linking the words to experiences.  I have been mulling over this point.
Oldest and youngest coloring together.
Sure you can buy books with tactile illustrations of "the bowl full of mush" but somehow this didn't sit right with me. Then I read a post on Thomas Marshall Does it All  (a wonderful blog, a stinkin' cute kid) about Thomas learning about leprechauns in school by dressing up as one.  Then he really got what a leprechaun is (funny hat, big belt, pot of gold).  Dressing up bridged the gap for him since he is blind.

At supper the other night while eating baked beans and cornbread, Jericho was lamenting that the food was gross except the maple syrupy goodness of the bean sauce.  Gaelan (in true Gaelan fashion) said "Jericho, you use the bread to sop up the sauce, like in the Pete Seeger song!"  And sure enough there is a line in the song Groundhog with the words soppin' up the pan (while eating your groundhog gravy).  Leave it to Gaelan, the kid who was obsessed with the word "bust" when his brother was an actor in The Wizard of Oz (you will be a bust, be a bust, be a bust, in the hall of fame....)  He loved that word, and that song, every time he heard it he would need me to define what a bust was again and again.
Fairy cupcakes and lemon water to celebrate Spring.
So if you follow my loose web of associations here you can see that I ended up deciding that real life experiences, lots of reading, and expanding on the story with crafts, dress up, and (big surprise!) eating are the way to go.  That and really good folk music thrown in.

I think this is the way Nellie will begin to learn language, associations, and concepts.  A deep and rich way that is sustainable to this family.

This "putting it all together" way that I process can be time consuming, but when I reach a final conclusion I am confident I have a plan that will work with her needs and my strengths.  Every book we read can become fodder for their play and hence, for her learning.I think Lucas and Gaelan even had a pair of Joe and Frank Hardy stuffies for a while.

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