Monday, January 17, 2011

Our First Exam Week: Spotlight on Recitation and Music

In an effort to be authentic and transparent, I'm going to reveal the shocking truth about exam week in the Glaser homeschool. We never did it. You thought all Charlotte Mason homeschoolers did them. Well, I never got the hang of it. At least, I never lied to you and said I did. That would be hypocrisy.

Because I always felt like we were behind (behind what, I wonder), I hated to lose even more time doing exams. It didn't kill David who ironically just exempted all of his exams for first semester of his senior year at high school (does God have a sense of humor, or what?). It was extremely difficult to assess Pamela because of her major stumbling block: aphasia! Five years ago, the oral language she is doing today didn't exist. I was still suffering from Enlightenment Thinking, so I would have either felt defeated when my children didn't seem to know what I thought they should know and I would have made the next term miserable for all of us.

Now that I am a recovering Enlightenment Thinker, I think it is safe to try exam week with Pamela. What is Enlightenment Thinking?
  • Viewing Pamela as a performer.
  • Having a list of things she ought to know.
  • Correcting her mistakes and adding them to the list of things to fix.
  • Viewing her efforts as purely solo.
  • Trying to measure and collect data to prove to the world homeschooling is working.
  • Feeling bad about things that she missed because she did it correctly last week.
  • Measuring her against other people with autism who are her age.
I am doing several things to inoculate myself from this destructive form of thinking. I am trying to view exams with an eye toward Pamela, the person, and her relationships by considering the following questions:
  • Is Pamela's world larger because of this book or activity?
  • Do I see her recalling or exploring ideas outside of our formal day?
  • Is her known in this area expanding?
  • Is this book or activity worth her time?
  • If not, is she ready for this level of thinking? Could I find a better resource?
  • Is she reaching any new developmental milestones?
  • Were there times when her face filled with joy?
  • Did she share any knew connections she made?
Pamela's narration of Ricitos de Oro in Spanish stunned me, and Steve couldn't get over it. We have come a long way in Spanish since August. She has this story, the nursery songs, and all the audio stories Steve narrated loaded up on her i-Pod Touch. She loves listening to them in her free time. The other day, I caught her watching I even catch her watching The Fox and the Hound in Spanish. Pamela sometimes speaks Spanish in context such as saying "Tengo mucha hambre" before lunch or "No hay más!" after finishing a bowl of food. Once I sang, "Food, glorious, food" while David was feeding the fish and Pamela said, "La comida" (the food in Spanish). Pamela spoke what Spanish she could on our trip to El Salvador and even communicated with Rosa, who spoke no English, through Spanish and gestures. Starting to acquire a second language spoken by half of her family is a major developmental milestone.

I plan to keep using all our resources although the songs are in a challenging key for us. Pamela and I keep switching octaves to sing with the singer on our recordings who must be a baritone. We will press on. I might try a free two-week trial of Speekee, an online program recommended by friends Penny and Queen Mum. It is geared for younger children and might suit her well. If she likes it, we might subscribe and have her work through the ten programs instead of the homemade stories when my schedule gets too full.

Pamela loves recitation. She enjoys reciting what she learned last term. Sometimes, she will recite "The Lord's Prayer" and Tennyson's "The Eagle" for fun. She smiles during "The Lord's Prayer" at church. On two different occasions, Pamela spoke Tennyson's lines: while looking at live eagles in Awendaw and at a stuffed eagle at a wildlife refuge visitor's center. It reminded me of a Jane Austen novel when a character quotes a beloved poet. I can tell by her unusually crisp annunciations of the hard c sounds in the first two lines of the poem that Pamela can hear the alliteration and finds it pleasant. I can tell in the pace of her delivery that she feels the poem's rhythm.

Were her recitations absolutely perfect? No! But I loved how Pamela put her own twist on "The Lord's Prayer" by blending the two different versions:
And - our - forgive our debts.
And we forgive our debtors.
And we forgive those who trespass against us.
She got stuck on the fifth line of "The Eagle" and turned to me, "What? What?" She knew it was on the tip of her tongue. She even tried to give me her only clue, "Thunder," because she knew it was in the closing line. Rather than look at it as a failure, I took the opportunity to show her two strategies. First, I repeated the fourth line. I was stuck, too! Then, I started the whole thing over and, as soon as I said, "He watches from," Pamela echoed from and flew solo until the end. It reminded me of what happened to Elizabeth Hughes at the Norfolk Admirals Game--how forgotten lyrics can quickly blossom into a beautiful moment when surrounded by people filled with heart.

Music is going well. Pamela loved our folk song selections. I picked two songs from South Carolina ("I Got a Letter This Morning" and "When the Train Comes Along") and one familiar one ("Skip to My Lou").

While Pamela may not be a candidate for American Idol, she captured that slightly off-key twang of the songs, which melted my heart. She nailed the lyrics of the first verse perfectly in only one song. In another, she artfully wove lines from several verses to make her own version, which is how these songs were created in the first place. In the final song, she used her own unique words. Her inventiveness captured the essence of what folk music really is when you think about it.

Pamela loved the hymns I chose. She needed help finding a good key with Rejoice the Lord Is King and stayed right with me once she got going. Her version of Open Our Eyes, Lord is absolutely precious because she sings with her heart in that one.

Pamela loves classical music. She has it on her i-Pod Touch and alternates between listening to Bach and Beethoven CDs in the car. She can accurately name composers of familiar music if we hear it piped in the store or on the soundtrack of a movie. Last term, we enjoyed exploring Vivaldi. She was already familiar with The Four Seasons and his mandolin concertos. We added the Magnificat and Gloria to her repertoire. Her favorite piece was Spring from "Four Seasons" and Pamela even hummed a few bars for me!


Jim said...

Try Speekee (-;

Dawn Kilgore said...

Her singing is beautiful.