Thursday, September 29, 2011

This Dad Got It Right

Last week, there was a fabulous broadcast on Focus on the Family.  It's now transcribed so that it's accessible to nearly everyone.  The broadcast features a hearing father, Marshall Lawrence, of a Deaf daughter and what he said was brilliant.

"When it comes to the education of your [deaf] children, it's hard to know what to do.  I really felt that [my daughter] needed a language to think in, a language to be able to manipulate ideas with.
That's how you use your language most, you know? For yourself, not for other people.
You talk to yourself all the time, and don't you sit there and tell me you don't talk to
yourself. I know better. You talk to yourself far more than you talk to other people, so
you need to have some linguistic system in place that you really own so that you can
start doing that.
I knew that our daughter had to have some kind of linguistic system....

"She started [the school for the Deaf] in the second semester of the year, and by
the time summer came around; I saw her one morning signing in her sleep. I thought,
'Ah, she has a language of the heart now. She has the language to dream in and think
in. Now, we can start to communicate.'

"Of course, I had to acquire that language, too. That was the hard part, you know? She
drank it in like a sponge. For an old tired dad whose brain isn't very elastic anymore,
that was a hard job. But I felt I had to do that because this is my child. I have to have a
relationship with my child. I have to find a way to do this. So, I worked hard, and I
learned sign language. I don't do it great, but I learned it."

Yes!!  This dad gets it!  Sadly he's a rarity.  In fact, in his story, he shares the fact that he would bring several Deaf women to tears just by seeing him, a hearing father, signing with his daughter.

This guy ended up establishing Silent Blessings as well as Dr. Wonder's Workshop.

Three cheers for a dad who got it right!

Language Update

Bathtime is the best!

Today marks two months since we arrived back home to the USA.  Ken and I must tell each other 5 times every day that we can't believe they are really here AND we can't imagine life without them in it.

Thrilled that Daddy is home!
Silly face!

Driving a carriage 
Travis' language development still astounds us.  In just two months, he's upwards of 200 words.  I'm trying to keep count, but it's getting more difficult!  He's able to tell us most of the things he wants using ASL.  Just this week, he went up to his dad, tapped him, and told him, "I want to go outside and ride my bike."  After we got him outside to ride his bike, Ken and I talked about the big change from fussing, pulling on us, crying, pointing, and kicking his feet.  How much more calm his soul must be that he know he can simply be understood.  If something happens that we don't understand what he wants, he knows we will take the time to figure it out, then give him the language to communicate it from that time on.

The same goes for Tian.  He's adding a lot of spoken words to his vocabulary, but is signing even more, which is typical of even a hearing kid exposed to signing at his age.

One of both boys' favorite signs is "SOON."  When Ken goes to work (downstairs) or the older kids go out to play, the boys will stand at the top of the stairs signing, "SOON. SOON. SOON."  Recently, when Ken left for a 4-day trip, I was careful NOT to sign "SOON."  Instead, I said, "See Daddy Sunday!"  On Sunday morning, I told them, "SEE DADDY TODAY!! SOON!"

We are often asked how we teach our kids to sign.  Well, it's much like how you teach any child their first language.  In our house, it looks like this:

Travis hops off  his bike and runs to us, pulling at his helmet.  We know he wants his helmet off, but we do not take it off.  If we just took off the helmet, we'd miss a perfect opportunity for language learning!
We sign, "HELMET O-F-F" (The sign for "off" is fingerspelled O-F-F.)
He knows by now he has to sign it, too.  He signs, "HELMET F-F-F-F"  (So cute!)
Yes!!  Then, with lots of smiles, we help him take off his helmet.

The next time he does the same thing.  We also do the same thing, but this time, we correct him, showing him the "O" and he does it clearly. "HELMET O-F-F."

The third time, he rides up and, without ever pulling on his helmet, he just signs, "F-F-F-F"
Yes!!!  We sign "HELMET O-F-F?? OKAY! YES!"
He came up and initiated asking using language!!  It's okay that it wasn't perfect.  He's a toddler and we made sure to model back the correct sign, so he will get it right in a very short time.

Another way we build the boys' vocabulary is by using synonyms of words they already know.  For example, they both quickly understood "yes."  Well, sometimes we need to use words like "okay, fine" or "good" or "you're allowed," but they don't understand that yet.  It looks like this:
The boys are riding bikes on the basketball court, then turn to go down into the grass.  They look back at me with raised eyebrows, wondering, "Is this allowed?"  I sign, "FINE. YES. OKAY. YES."  They will quickly pick up on the fact that "fine" and "okay" are positive statements much like "yes."

I must add, that once we give them a new word, we expect them to use it.  Once they have shown us that they know how to sign it, we will help prompt them, but they aren't allowed to just point and grunt for something they already know.  Sometimes, they (especially Travis) will decide they are mad and not only won't sign, but they won't look at us.  This would be the equivalent to a hearing kid closing their eyes, covering their ears and yelling, "La la la la!"  We hold our ground pretty firmly and either move their face toward us or just patiently wait out the fit.  The absolutely don't get what they want when they do this.

Travis just did this while I was in the middle of this blog.  He woke from his nap unhappy and throwing a bit of a fit.  When I asked him what was wrong, he would just turn his head away and cry more.  I moved into his line of vision and asked again.  "What's wrong?  Do you need a drink?  Food?  Potty?"  His head turned the other way before I could even finish asking "What's wrong?"  I had a feeling he needed to go to the bathroom because he was holding his hands up toward the direction of the hall where the bathroom is.  One thing he CAN do without a doubt is tell us he needs to go to the bathroom.  He was whiny and fussy and was refusing to sign.  So, I just kissed him and sat him down on the bed, then sat in front of him to wait it out.  In a matter of about 15 seconds of sniffling, he perked up, signed, "POTTY," jumped off the bed, and ran into the bathroom.  (He can go by himself now, but prefers to come get us to go with him.)  I could have just sat him on the toilet the minute I guessed that was his issue, but that would not have done him nor me any favors.  And what if that was NOT what he needed?  What if he was simply fussing?  He's learning more and more and more that he uses language to communicate and it's amazing to witness, even the fussy times!

If you think about it, this is just like how your hearing child learned language. You model it, they use it at age-appropriate levels.  You begin expecting them to USE their new words to express themselves instead of just pointing and fussing for it.  You correct and perfect their pronunciation as they are able.  You also expand their vocabulary using words they already know.  Most of this you do without even giving it much thought.  The same goes for signing families.  The same should go for any parent of a deaf child, no matter what route they will choose to take regarding aided hearing or speech.  Give them a language to think in so that they may begin thinking, dreaming, and having ideas way before they learn to read or speak or even hear with aides.  My next blog gives a great example of a hearing dad who "gets it."

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

My Deaf World Story: Part 5

In the last Deaf World post, I listed some advice for ASL students and interpreting students.  What though about the Deaf members of the community? Truly, you, as members of the Deaf World hold the keys to the gate.  You are the ones that decide to share your world...or not.

I would give advice, but, like Molly shared in her video "Bypass," Deaf people have been doing this for years.  Deaf seniors are true experts at it, from what I have seen in my own experience.  They aren't afraid to invest in a young student.  They have the authority of years and a wealth of culture and experience to share.

This doesn't mean younger Deaf members can't be guides through the Deaf World.  Future interpreters need those who are younger to introduce them (and re-train those who are more seasoned) to the Millennials in the Deaf communities.  Like I said, the Deaf World is changing and with it, the demands on interpreters are changing.

If you, as Deaf members of the Deaf World want to connect to your interpreter and want your interpreter to understand you, both linguistically and culturally, you must be willing to invest in the up-and-comers.

My husband and I were joking about the fact that I'm often mistaken for Deaf, even by Deaf people or CODAs while he is sometimes mistaken for hearing.   My being mistaken for Deaf is not because I'm so awesome, but because I learned from and lived life with Deaf people, therefore, taking on most of the nuances of the language I saw from Deaf people.  Ken, on the other hand, learned to sign with hearing people as his language models.  Not until later in high school was he around more Deaf ASL users.  So it stands to reason that he would have some mannerisms that mimic his language models, the major one being that he often mouths English when he signs.
(I often tease those who tell me they thought I was Deaf, "Give me a little more time.  You'll see my 'native hearing' come through very clearly!" I can also still get lost or misunderstand ASL, so don't mistake my statement for arrogance. There is no place for a hearing person's arrogance in the Deaf World. Also don't misunderstand my comparing myself to Ken. His ASL fluency is worlds better than mine. I hate to admit how many times I've been watching a conversation or vlog and had to look to him to clarify something that I missed.)

I have to admit though, I do get a burst of pride every time I hear that compliment, but it's not pride in myself.  It's pride in the Deaf people who poured so much of themselves into me.  I picture each one and fondly recall so many late-night stories, fun-filled trips, struggles, tears and laughing until we couldn't breathe.  I love my Deaf World and am forever grateful for the people in it.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

My Deaf World Story: Part 4

While I was knee-deep in the Deaf World,  I was also taking ASL classes.  While I don't credit those classes for my language fluency, they did play a crucial role in my learning about the grammar and structure of ASL.  I was aslo beyond blessed to have had an amazing instructor and mentor.  Those classes would prove even more valuable when I began studying interpreting.   More than the classes themselves, my instructor, Linda Dyer, was another sort of "gatekeeper" in my life.  She was a non-native signer like me who had been in the Deaf World for many years.  (I used to tease her about just how many years.)  It was a God-ordained blessing on my life to have her as my instructor and mentor for those 3 years.

My story thus far only takes me through ASL II class.  My experience was so rich and language fluency came quickly because I took the advice of gate-keeper Janice, got involved, had Deaf heart, and didn't try to "help" nor take advantage of people in the Deaf community. There was no where else I wanted to be.  I truly and simply loved them and it obviously showed.

I realize my experience is truly unique for a non-native signer, especially these days.  I'm worried for the up-and-coming interpreter.  I can't begin to get into all the causes behind it, but the Deaf World is changing.  I don't see students approaching the gates any more.  I love how beautifully Molly put it when she said that interpreting students simply pull over off the bypass and look down at the "scenic view" below.  They show up at Deaf coffee or Deaf bowling, watch for a while, and communicate just enough to get a paper signed for their observation hours, but then they leave.  Bypass.  And both communities are suffering for it.

There is more to my story, but for now, I want to share with ASL students and interpreters-in-training the advice I got, plus a couple other things that you should seriously consider about yourself:
1. Are you willing to humble yourself to the Deaf community in your area and admit you know nothing?
2. Are you willing to ask for help?
3. Do you see yourself as someone who is going in to "help" the less fortunate? How do you respond when people say, "Oh, you're an interpreter? I have a cousin who works with special needs kids in a group home. Bless your heart for helping them out."?  Your answer to this question will determine if the gate will ever even open for you.
4. Find something you can do that is mutually beneficial so that you can spend real life in the Deaf World.
5. The older the Deaf person, the more rich the experience you'll have.  That's just my opinion because I adore the Deaf seniors I've had the honor the meet and wonder in their stories.  And no, I'm not hating on the young 'uns.  During college, most of my Deaf friends were around my age.

In my next Deaf World entry, I'm going to talk about what I think some Deaf members of communities can do to enrich their World and their experience with interpreters.  It also ties in to why I think I'm often mistaken for a Deaf person.


Several weeks ago, my friend Adrienne was perusing the internet and saw a call for nominations for a distinctive mom to win tickets to go see Motherhood the Musical and be named "Mother of Distinction."  She kindly thought of me and sent in a nomination.  I later learned a committee was formed to decide the winner and about 12 nominations were sent in.

Earlier this week, she got a message saying that I had been chosen to receive the award!  I felt quite unworthy receiving such an award, but then I considered the title.  Mother of Distinction. I like that.  I was chosen because our family is certainly distinct.  Some would say weird, different, unique...distinct.  The fact that I'm the mom and wife in my family of distinction makes me a mother of distinction.

Ken works very hard so that I can stay home and teach the kids here.  It was Ken who sparked the events that shifted our family and changed our lives forever...and for the better.  One day, riding in the car, not too long after moving to our awesome home in Highland Village, he asked me, "Is this it?  Is this our purpose?  We're supposed to DO something.  Do MORE.  Not just have a big house and be comfortable and keep chasing after more stuff.  I kinda want to just sell everything and move somewhere we can help other people and do something that makes a difference."

I remember sitting quietly, so proud of his desire, but also silently arguing between myself and God about how it was kind of nice to just be comfortable.  The thought of giving up comfort is terrifying, but it was also exciting.  I had no doubt it was in line with God's heart.  It was about one year later that I suggested adoption and Ken was willing, even knowing the sacrifice.  It took us another year and a half until we found Tian, then Travis, but we did it!  And it was the right time.  Ken is also the one who suggested we downsize.  I was instantly relieved and completely on board, but it was his leadership that got us where we are.

The kids also make me the mom I am.  I love kids and have five because I like my kids!  I like being around them.  The oldest 3 Brownies were instantly excited about us adopting, even to the point of giving up much of their own personal comfort (their own rooms, big house, pool, yard with playground, neighborhood they loved, a booked Disney cruise) for us to do it.  Those are some amazing kiddos.  Not perfect kiddos; imperfect and sometimes pains just like their momma, but certainly kids of distinction.

Then there are two littles.  These boys that we can't imagine ever living without.  American culture, labels them "special needs" "orphans."  But to us, they are two incredible boys with a distinctive past that allowed for us to add them into the Brown family.  Their one true special need was a family and they have that now.

So it's because of the six other members of my family that I was even considered for this award.  And I accept it with honor on their behalf.

Thursday night, several of my girlfriends met me at the show.  Having no clue what to expect, I was surprised to be called up on stage just before the show.  It was a bit embarrassing, but also a hoot! (To be honest, I've never minded getting up on stage in front of people. Good thing they didn't hand me a microphone!)

The night was truly a special night for several reasons.  I got treated to a musical, which I happen to love.   It was the boys' first time with a babysitter (and the Big Brownies, of course).  Several of my girlfriends were able to spend the evening with me.  How fun is that?

The show itself, Motherhood the Musical was wonderful! I must admit, as someone who grew up going to Broadway musicals done by professional touring groups, I was prepared for a so-so show and lots of cheese.  I was totally wrong to be cynical!  The show is excellent!  It's a must-see for ANY mother and maybe even some husbands.  It speaks so honestly to many major issues moms face.  We cracked up, clapped, and cried our way through the show.  Every friend I took was equally complimentary of the show.

The actresses were phenomenal, namely Jill Hall, who could pass as Gilda Radner and Kahreema Khouri, who has a voice that all of America should be hearing.  Kahreema's performance of "Every Other Weekend" brought me to serious tears.  "Not Gonna Take It Anymore" had me rockin' it out in my seat and the entire audience clapping along.  "Costco Queen" was another hilarious favorite among my friends.

If you're in the Dallas area and you're a mom, go see this show before October 9!  My friends and I have $8-off coupons we'll share!

Friday, September 16, 2011

My Deaf World Story: Part 3

The minute that meeting was over, I made a bee-line to the hearing chick who had been my lifeline in the  classroom.  I learned that she was what they called a CODA: Child Of Deaf Adults.  She was a native signer.  (She would become my best life-long nothing-could-ever-change-it friend. She would also introduce me to the man who would become my husband.) I let her know I was new to town, new to the college, new to signing, and had lots of time to work with the Club if anything was needed.

So you will understand my environment, I was attending East Central University, a school with a strong program for Deaf students as well as some Deaf Studies courses, ASL classes, and an interpreting minor.  The university was just 30 minutes from the Oklahoma School for the Deaf.  I consider the environment I was in to be, in terms of the Deaf community, culturally rich.

Janice took me under her wing, but didn't spoon-feed me, especially when it came to language learning.  She gave me the very best advice I could have ever gotten.  She told me that I needed to find some way that my relationships with Deaf people would be be mutually beneficial.  She was protecting the people in her World.  She advised me to get a TTY and asked if I had a car.  I did have a car and since several Deaf students did not, I began offering rides to those students.  I would also proof-read papers.  In turn, they guided me through their World.  They invited me to sit with them at football games (that we never watched, but instead formed a circle in the stands on the opposing team's side so we could visit).  They invited me to go dancing after the games.  They took me with them to the school for the Deaf homecoming games and reunions, the Deaf Bass Fisherman picnics, and Deaf Awareness Days. They very quickly became some of the best friends of my life.

I remember arriving at OSD one afternoon for some event and getting stopped by my Deaf friends before we headed inside.  They said, "Remember: No mouthing English!  We better not see it!  Mouthing English is SO hearing!"

Another friend would take me with him to Wal-Mart when he needed work done on his car.  He didn't need me to accompany him, but would allow me to tag along and practice interpreting for the automotive guy.  While waiting for the car repairs to be done, we would walk the isles, visiting and expanding my knowledge of ASL.  He was about the age of my father.  He was very purposeful in his interactions with me, always making a point to teach me something, knowing my goal was to become a fluent signer and interpreter.

During this same time, I remember sitting at a round table at the Deaf school.  It was well into the middle of the night and the older Deaf couples were telling stories that made me cry tears of sorrow and even more tears of laughter.  Stories about growing up, stories of oralism, slapped hands, secretly signing in the dorms, yelling contests in the bathroom, parents that just never "got it," learning as adults that farts made noise or that bathroom stalls did not prevent sound from travelling through the room.  I feel very nostalgic when I watch the part of the PBS documentary Through Deaf Eyes. (Available on Netflix streaming.)  If you watch Jack Gannon tell of a traveling minister attempting to "heal" him, notice the way Jack's wife is enthralled with his story, hanging on every word as if this is the first time she's heard it, giggling and laughing as he tells his tale....That is what I would witness regularly as I was invited to sit around the table to watch these stories be told.  I'm pretty sure I missed a good portion because of my lack of fluency, but even only understanding half was enough for me to see the richness and value of their stories.  Oh how I wish I had recorded them!
(The more I write, the more I remember! be continued....)

My Deaf World Story: Part 2

As I walked into that classroom on the campus of East Central University in Ada, Oklahoma in 1994, my big head deflated by about three times.  The room was busy with activity, hands flying and NO English anywhere to be seen.  My eyes jumped from conversation to conversation and I immediately knew something: I knew nothing.

The students began forming a circle of desks around the classroom.  One hearing girl let the non-signers know we were going to go around the room introducing ourselves and telling where we were from.

Okay. I can do this.  I watched a few people signing. Even though they were signing slowly for us newbies, I still was lost.  I rehearsed in my mind what I would sign and when it was my turn, I shakily signed, "I (with initialized I) S-----A------R-----A-----H.  I FROM A----R----K----...." I had planned to continue to spell my state name, but a Deaf guy quickly jumped in, signing at, what seemed to me, lightning speed.
"Arkansas?!  Which town?!"
*deer in headlights look from me*  The hearing girl that signed told me what he was asking.
Oh! Oh!  Okay.... "F----O---R---"
"Fort Smith?! I'm from Spiro! I know many Deaf in Fort Smith. Who do you know?"
Here come those headlights again.  So thankful to this hearing girl helping me out.
I could only recall Jeff.  I didn't know the names of the senior citizens that graced our home when I was young.  I couldn't even remember the name of the couple from my community sign class.  So I signed:
"Jeff Holmes? I know him! He is one of my best friends!"

And that was my first "Deaf Small World" experience.  Here I was just a green, naive, newcomer to this Deaf World and I already had a connection.  With the help of the hearing girl (although she refused to straight-out interpret for me; she forced me to work to my own end, then she'd jump in to save me), I was able to communicate a little of my history as told in Part 1.  I felt the smiles of my Deaf classmates as I relayed my story and, although I didn't understand it at the time, they were opening the gate for me to enter their Deaf World.

My Deaf World Story: Part 1

Telling My Deaf World story was inspired by this video.  Thanks, Molly, for bringing back a flood of memories for which I will be forever grateful.  I realize how fortunate I have been.  The biggest thanks go to my friends, mentors, teachers, and guides through the Deaf World.  I will never ever leave!

Before I was even an idea, my parents began learning sign language.  Growing up, I vividly remember Dad standing up next to the preacher, interpreting the service.  He was never trained as an interpreter, but learned to sign from the members of the Deaf community in and around Little Rock in the late 1960s and early 70s.
My parents learned old-school Amslan, signing "GO" with two rolling "1" handshapes and "WHO" circling the mouth.  They signed in English order and threw in some SEE for good measure because that was what they were seeing at the time.
At age five, I was prouder than proud to sign my first sentence to our fifteen year-old Deaf friend, Jeff.  "TIME....TO....GO."  I can visualize that moment as if it were on film.
Jeff spent quite a bit of time with our family, even coming on some family trips with us.

When I was still very young, Jeff moved off to attend the residential school several hours away and the other Deaf at our church slowly disappeared.  So I did not grow up surrounded by the Deaf World, but what I had experienced from birth to age five or six would be enough to prove addicting to me.
Looking back, I don't remember a time that I did not want to somehow be connected with the Deaf World.  I thought I wanted to teach deaf kids.  I mean, what else could you do working in the Deaf World?
My junior year in high school, my parents enrolled me in a continuing ed class at our local community college.  Now I know the teacher was horrible, but to her credit, she brought in several people from the Deaf community.  One couple was particularly encouraging.  They (seemingly sincerely) told me I had a natural gift for signing and they hoped I would continue learning.  They told their friends I worked at Hardee's, so Deaf people could come in on my shift to sign their orders to me.
My senior year in high school, my grandmother gave me a business card of a sign language interpreter.  I had never imagined there was such a profession and, outside of church, had only seen interpreters in the little bubbles on TV.
I went to college in Ada, Oklahoma my sophomore year with big head, thinking I really knew sign language, when in actuality, I knew a lot of random church signs, some SEE signs, and the entire Hardee's menu.  I knew nothing of the language of the Deaf World and very little of the people.
Walking in to my first "Silent Friends Club" meeting in a room full of Deaf people, I was about to be seriously humbled.
(to be continued....)


I loved this blog by Molly Wilson.  It sparked a multi-part blog telling my own Deaf World story. When my kids are grown, I plan to get back into mentoring and training students and new interpreters.  Molly's video is so right-on.  So beautifully stated.  (Honestly, my English doesn't do justice to her ASL. I might should have taken more time on it, but wanted to get this out there.)  My next two blogs will tell my story of my journey into the Deaf World.  To hear or read or even see in ASL a radio interview with Molly about this topic, visit this site.

Bypass by Molly Wilson (CODA)
(transcribed below for the ASL-impaired)

disclaimer: This is my, Sarah Brown's interpretation of "Bypass" done for the benefit of readers who do not know ASL.  I was not asked to transcribe this nor has my transcription been approved by the signer.


I think it’s time the Deaf World and the Interpreting World come together to discuss how we approach this issue of training interpreters.
In the past, if you wanted to become an interpreter, but had not been born into the Deaf World, you would have to find a way IN to the Deaf World.
The Deaf World has many varieties of communities within. Understand that Deaf communities each have their own “gatekeepers” if you will.  These gatekeepers could be CODAs or Deaf people who have an understanding of both the Deaf and hearing worlds.  They decide who is accepted into their Deaf World.  Honestly, if a hearing person is seen to have a deaf “heart” [someone who accepts Deaf people with the right attitude/spirit] they’re accepted in, regardless of their background.
Going through the Deaf World then takes time.  It doesn’t happen overnight.  It’s  a process of sharing time, experiences and language with the people within.  The Deaf people take time to teach and pour into this new hearing member.  Then, years later, the Deaf people in the community see that the person is ready.  The new member now understands Deaf culture.  They understand the language of the community and all that entails.  At that point, the Deaf community support him/her in their goal of becoming an interpreter.
As interpreting gained popularity, the Deaf World had to widen the gates and enlist more gatekeepers, but they were up to the challenge!
After the ADA passed in 1991, Deaf people had a legal right to have an interpreter!  But there were not enough interpreters to fill the need.  So, parts of the interpreting world, such as RID, interpreter training programs and various referral agencies got involved, encouraging more and more people to become interpreters. 
The gates to the Deaf World were bursting!  The gatekeepers were overwhelmed beyond what they could handle.  Deaf people were also feeling taken advantage of.  Students would come, take what they could from the Deaf World in order to learn what was needed, then run off into their jobs as interpreters, leaving the Deaf World and discontinuing their involvement and support.
That’s when the interpreting community decided to build NEW highway.  The Deaf World was too small and too slow, so a new highway was built around Deaf World.  This new highway completely bypassed Deaf World.  Interpreters in training didn’t go through Deaf World any longer.  Instead, they learned the basics of what they needed through universities, colleges, and workshops.  They learned about the subtle intricacies of the language by taking a class rather than experiencing it from within the community.   
Oh, they my come over to observe the Deaf World, much like driving off the highway at the scenic overlook, only observing from afar, never getting involved.   And to the Deaf World, that felt oppressive.
When that “trained” interpreter graduates an academic program, then meets a Deaf World member, there is  disconnect.  The interpreter doesn’t understand the language nor the culture of the Deaf.  Communication doesn’t feel natural.
What do we do about this problem?  How do we put an end to the current approach and raise the bar, looking to the Deaf World for their successful techniques for training upcoming interpreters?
Take some time to think about this issue.  Thank you!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Stupid, Socially Awkward Homeschoolers

We've been homeschooling for seven years now.  In those seven years, I've heard the battle-cry of upset homeschooling parents dealing with people who make derogatory comments about homeschooling.  I've considered our family fortunate, because other than the very rare "What about socialization?" question, the kids really haven't faced ignorance....until the past few months.  (I do remember a mom blaming homeschooling on the fact that my then-5-year-old-wouldn't-even-BE-in-public-school-yet daughter asked for a second gift bag at a birthday party. "Well, she's not in school, so she's not learned those social rules yet."  Umm...blame my bad parenting, but not homeschooling.)

Since moving to our new place, the kids have had the opportunity to endure a lot of ignorant comments. Among those are comments about homeschoolers.  (I will blog later about the other bigoted, offensive things my kids have heard lately.)  Maybe our past neighbors thought this stuff, but never said it out loud, but these neighbors have no problem making comments that tell my kids "homeschoolers are stupid and socially awkward."

Here are a few comments spoken directly to my kids while I was not around: (Imagine that! I'm not constantly beside my children!)
by a mother: homeschoolers just don't do as well academically/don't go to college.
by a teenage kid: (referring to another homeschool kid in the 'hood) He's socially awkward because he's homeschooled.  (In that same breath, she said, "His brother isn't. He's cool. And you guys, too."  Well, obviously public school didn't teach logic to this particular teen.
by their peers: "What's 11x12? You can't answer fast? See? Homeschoolers aren't good at math because they are homeschooled."
I AM proud to say that Hannah told the kids she couldn't think of the answer off the top of her head right then and asked the kids the same question back.  They couldn't answer quickly either.

I don't mind hearing negative comments myself, but when people, especially adults, put down my kids, you're going to stir some coals in this momma.
Kenzie, in China, learning how silk is made.
What? No kids her age?! You mean she has to interact with adults?!

TJ at Tiananman Square with his favorite friend and guide, George.

Hannah, overcome with emotion seeing her brother for the first time
and witnessing 13 other families meet their kids for the first time.

For the past 5-6 years especially, I have been extremely careful not to put down public school.  (Okay, I DID just make my own snide comment about logic, but I digress.)  We have chosen to homeschool for reasons that are unique to The Brown Seven.  I don't expect any other family to embrace or desire homeschooling.  I don't view public school as evil or stupid.  I certainly wouldn't say something to another kid about how horrible public school is for them.  I pray I've never even said anything to a child that implies that.  Hearing other's rude comments will certainly keep me mindful of my own speech.

So how do I handle this issue with my kids?  When they come home with these stories, how do Ken and I instruct them?  We see it as an opportunity to practice graciousness, respectfulness, and intelligent conversation.  That's why I love that Hannah answered a question with the same question.  Without being rude or disrespectful, she basically showed the boy that one multiplication question can't prove you have no knowledge of math, homeschooled or otherwise.  We are teaching our kids to consider others' perspectives.  Maybe that mom who bashed homeschooling had a homeschool mom make her feel bad for sending her kids to public school.  Maybe not, but let's give people the benefit of the doubt.

Developing Christ-like character is a major goal in our homeschool and a major reason we homeschool.  These difficult people and situations will help us in achieving that goal, so I'll choose to be grateful.

(PS. I spelled derogatory wrong and had to use spell-check to make it right. And I have a bachelor's degree. What does that say about the quality of my education?  Right! Nothing!!)

Sunday, September 11, 2011

6 Weeks Home

We've been home 6 weeks.  We've had the boys 8 and 9 weeks.  Is that really all?  We've lived so much life with them over these couple of months, it's easy to forget how short our time has been together.

Daily, we see new things they do that remind us that they did, indeed have years of life before we entered into it.   Sometimes, it's something adorable such as the way Travis will dance or put on a hat, then salute or do what looks to us like slow Tai Chi.  We didn't teach him any of that!  Sometimes it's sad, such as when this same child shows a look of terror when he does something he thinks is wrong.  These events make us wish we had a video of their life we could play back now and then.

We had a few firsts this weekend!  I went to work for the first time in almost 4 years.  I should say "went to work in Texas for the first time" because I did work out of state last summer.  Anyway, it was nice to get out and work again. I'm so thankful that my husband encouraged me to do it.  I never would have gone it otherwise.  My working for 10 hours over two days led to our other, more exciting first.  When Ken left for the grocery store last night, Tian stood at the top of the stairs and cried, reaching out for Ken.  Even my picking him up and hugging him didn't help.  He tried to wiggle out of my arms to get to his daddy.  And I could not have been more thrilled!

Both boys are zooming along very fast on their Strider bikes.  Here they were their first week:

Here they are just a couple of weeks later:

In other news, the boys now actually like each other.  They are still a bit competitive when it comes to me or Ken or a particular toy, but otherwise, they are playing together, hugging, laughing, and enjoying each other.

Travis has no less than 100 words and adds more all the time.  Tian is probably up to at least 50 words and is also verbalizing some words. One of the lastest phrases they sign is "SEE SOON" when family leaves the house.  From what we can tell, they truly understand that "SEE SOON" means that we ARE coming back.  When I left for work this weekend, they stood out at the balcony, looking down to me and signing "SOON. SOON. SOON."  Tian will say it, sounding like zi-zooooon.

See you soon!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Wordless Weekend

I forgot to keep up with Wordless Wednesday, so to make up for it, here's Wordless Weekend. (Guess my comment and captions makes it not so wordless.)
"Fixing" the bike

Finding belly buttons

First day of school

Math at the park

Morning ritual

Already fans of fast cars

Who doesn't love a great book?

Family favorite