Archive for July 9th, 2007

Something Else to Buy Instead of Curriculum: Signing Time

It’s been a while since I wrote about Signing Time, but it occurred to me that I ought to mention it for new readers.

The Signing Time DVDs are a wonderful series of half-hour shows designed to teach American Sign Language (ASL) to children. Adults who happen to be in the room will find they can’t help but learn as well. The shows are delightful, with catchy songs, cute kids, and practical ASL vocabulary.

Here’s an excerpt of what I wrote about Signing Time two years ago:

It’s hard for me to imagine our lives without Signing Time. Rachel Coleman, the creator, and her daughter Leah, who is deaf, and Leah’s cousin Alex, who is hearing, are practically part of our family. “Rachel says” and “Leah says” are regular utterances around here. When Wonderboy watches the videos, he looks back and forth from me to Rachel, or from his sisters to the children, in awed delight. His hands soar through the air, mimicking his beloved Rachel. He understands the spoken words “Signing Time” even without his hearing aids in. (This is significant. He probably hears something like “eye-ee-eye,” but he sure knows what it means.)

Rachel’s songs have become my personal highway belt-it-out favorites (along with Marie Bellet and Bruce Springsteen), because she *gets it* so completely. Leah was a year old when her parents learned she was deaf. Rachel’s family’s love and occupation is music, and my hat is off to Rachel Coleman for finding a way to so beautifully combine her old life with her new one. Next to the joy she has brought my children, my favorite thing about Rachel Coleman is her honesty in lyrics. Her song, “The Good,” expresses my understanding of motherhood better than anything I’ve ever written: “Maybe we won’t find easy, but baby we’ve found the good.”

Lately, Wonderboy has been re-immersed in these DVDs, asking for them daily. They are the ONLY television show he has ever shown any interest in watching, ever. When his sisters watch other shows, even cartoons, Wonderboy pays no attention. But for Signing Time, he is always all eyes and ears.

He has learned a ton of vocabulary from them, including (just lately) words like “remember,” “learn,” and “smart.” I wrote a post for Bonny Glen last night about what a big deal it is that he is now beginning to grasp abstract concepts (such as remember, learn, and smart!). I really think ST has a great deal to do with that.

Rilla (she is 15 months now) is also enchanted by ST and enchants the rest of us with her perfectly scrumptious signing…when she signs “More,” her daddy is putty in her plump little hands.

I also think the DVDs spurred Beanie along the path to reading when she was four and five years old. The English words for each sign appear on the screen before the signs are demonstrated, and those were some of the first words she learned how to read.

The shows are now being aired on PBS, so you can check your listings to see if it’s playing in your area. But the DVDs are a worthy investment (and they make great gifts). (And no, I don’t get a commission on these materials! I just love them.)

The first three volumes are simpler, younger, than later editions. Volumes 4-6 are my family’s favorites, except for Wonderboy, who prefers, ironically, the “Welcome to School” disk.

I see on the website there are two new “Practice Time” DVDs—I haven’t seen those yet.

We seem to have lost Volume 11, “My Neighborhood,” somewhere along the trail during our cross-country trip. I’m thinking about re-ordering it, because I know Wonderboy would be very into the whole police- officer-firefighter theme right now.

There is also a Signing Time blog and forum.

Signing Time DVDs
Rilla Signs
Unsolicited Signing Time Commercial
Signing with Babies, My Favorite Topic

This Blog Is So I’ll Remember Today Twenty 365s From Now

July 9, 2007 @ 12:10 am | Filed under:

Things to remember:

The way the baby sticks out her tongue in anticipation when you’re about to give her a bite of food, the little pink tip curling up over her top lip…

Wonderboy suddenly grasping abstract concepts, catapulting forward to more complex communication, and how funny it is that his first big light-bulb moment was straight out of The Miracle Worker. I was washing dishes, and he put his hand under the running water, and he was saying, "Water, water" like always, and then suddenly he looked up at me with a big smile and said, "Water WET!" Yes, water is wet. He gets "wet" now, and dry, and hot, cold, smooth, inside, outside, on, in, under, soon, "in a while." In developmentally typical kids, you take for granted their understanding of ideas like "soon." But with a kid who has a language delay, you realize what a huge deal it is to grasp a subtle and non-concrete concept like "not now, but later."

In this same burst of progress, he has also begun to pretend and imagine. I never noticed the awakening of the imagination before—if asked, I’d have said it didn’t have to awaken, it was always just there. But with this child, I think I witnessed the moment real imagination arrived. There’s a board book he wants me to read every day at naptime, the Byron Barton Trains book, and on one page there’s a picture of a train passing some houses, and one of the houses has a little black dog in front of it. For weeks Wonderboy would say, "Do-hee" (doggy) when I turned to that page, and then one day he said, "Doggy in house. Doggy go house," and he pointed to the house the dog (presumably) lives in. Then he pointed to another house on the page and said, "Cat house." Another house: "Mouse in house." He was imagining other animals into the picture, pretending them right into those other quiet houses.



Another thing I want to remember: how much he loves to be read The Very Busy Spider, mainly because of the pig. The ASL sign for pig is the same as the sign for dirty: you wiggle your fingers under your chin. When we say "oink oink," we make our pig-sign fingers wiggle over to tickle under the other person’s chin. He adores this, oink-oinking me, being tickled in return. He makes all the animal signs as I read that book, and just lately he began saying (verbally) the animal sounds, too: neigh, moo, baa, maa, woof, MEOW (his cat is always VERY LOUD, I don’t know why), wack-wack, cah-doohoo-doo (says the rooster), and oh that hoo-hooing owl with the boy’s small fists making O’s around his eyes, I could just die from the cuteness of it.


Driving home from VBS one day, the week before last, a strange thing happened. Everyone was tired and starving, and all of a sudden the emergency $20 I keep stashed in the car leapt out of its hiding place and began croaking out, "McDonalds! MAC-DON-ALDS!"

I was quite understandably rendered speechless by this bizarre event, but the girls shrieked in hearty and gleeful agreement with Emergency Twenty—E.T. for short. (And actually, he sounded quite a lot like the E.T. of my childhood, except he was clamoring for FREEENCH FRIES instead of Reese’s Pieces.) Then Wonderboy picked up the chant, using a funny low voice—and this made the girls howl even harder and rendered me more speechless still because he was making a joke based on sound, on tone of voice.

I finally summoned words enough to point out to Emergency Twenty that he was supposed to be for unexpected tolls or if we run out of gas and, um, there’s no place near that accepts credit cards…or debit cards…or whatever, E.T., it’s not like I KNOW what sudden cash emergency might arise…what if there’s a roadside sale on books and they have an original edition of Never Tease a Weasel or something? I mean, really. French fries? Hardly an emergency (says the mother sternly to her children, as she turns into the McDonald’s drive-thru lane).

French friiiiiies,
croaked Emergency Twenty.

Hen hiiiies, croaked Wonderboy in the backseat.

What could I do? Emergency Twenty went off to seek adventure in the great wide world. First stop: a grimy fast-food cash register. Woohoo! E.T., you sure know how to party! What’s next, the inside of a deposit bag?

On the way home, Rose kept offering fries to her brother, who sits beside her, but he wouldn’t take any of hers—he only wanted mine, which had to be relayed through Jane in the middle row. This exasperated Rose somewhat.

"Oh, it’s okay, honey," I said. "He’s only three once." I thought about it for a minute, and amended: "Well actually, I suppose he’s only three 365 times."

Somehow, thinking about it like that, it seems even more fleeting than "only once." A child is only three years old 365 times. 365 days is nothing, really, a flash, a blink. 365 flower seeds isn’t even a handful. 365 jellybeans can vanish in the course of a single birthday party.

Jane leaned forward, chuckling. "The nice thing is, he’ll be four 366 times!"

Leap Year never struck me as such a gift before.