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Saturday, September 15, 2007

New Kids on the Block--Very Nice!

I haven't had a chance to write about the new family down the street. There are two brothers who bought a house together a few houses south of here. Both brothers have big families; I think each has eight kids. Maybe we'll call them the Brady Bunch on Steroids for purposes of this blog.

Some of the girls over there like to rollerblade on the sidewalk. We had races and I pulled two or three of them down the street in a line. The other night I went out and read them some Shel Silverstein on the sidewalk. They liked that so much I loaned them the book a few days later, in care of the oldest girl I've met, an 8th-grader.

A couple of afternoons this past week I was lucky enough to be home at homework time. Eight of them piled in my house to do work and take care of their youngest brother, who is not even a year old yet. Little Eddie takes a nap around 4, so it was just a matter of getting him down. His six-year-old sister gave him a bottle, and his 11-year-old brother took him home when he fell asleep. Their mom/aunt works at home in the afternoons putting boxes together, and she has trained them all to do their homework very quietly. I was amazed at how little noise they all made while they were working. The first day, I even got some writing done!

Later, one of the younger ones, who is obviously in the early stages of learning English, came and told me she had to read a book in English to somebody for her homework. It was a beautifully illustrated book called Half-Chicken/Mediopollito, bilingual in facing pages. She started reading it to me in English, but one of her older sisters suggested that I read the Spanish on each page before she started reading the English, "so she'll understand." I jumped on this immediately because I wanted the practice and the help with Spanish pronunciation. So I read the Spanish and occasionally asked for help pronouncing unfamiliar words. Then Alma read the English. When she clearly had no idea how to pronounce some of the words, I would re-read the sentence in English to her and then invite her to try it again. One of her brothers liked the story so much he hung around listening through the whole process.

The second day, it became more apparent which of them are struggling. Everybody seems to be doing pretty well in math but a couple of them are struggling with the transition from Spanish to English. One of the older boys is in 6th grade and was struggling with some hard words the first day. I loaned him my copy of "My Side of the Mountain" (in English) to see if he liked it and if he could understand it. He had some trouble with that book, too. I think maybe we should read it aloud and have him draw some of the descriptions if I can get enough time to do that with him.

There's a second-grade girl who is still a little weak on the alphabet, and her spelling reflects that. It's invented and looks more like first-grade spelling to me. I suggested to her big sister that they try getting some alphabet flash cards from the dollar store and singing the ABC song with her once or twice a day.

"Like before bed?" When you pray?" kidded the older sister.

I grinned. "Well, probably before praying," I suggested.

One of the younger girls had a Spanish vocabulary assignment, including the word unidad. The English word given to define it was "together," but the kids and I all thought that was weird. "Juntos" means together. I got out my Spanish-English dictionary and as I suspected, "unity" is a better definition, but she didn't quite get the concept. That's probably why the teacher gave the word together, but it didn't satisfy us. Her older brother was able to help her get unidad from communidad (unity from community) and we put our heads together and came up with this sentence:

The family that has unity is going to have a lot of success/La familia que tiene unidad va a tener mucho exito.

That would be their family, for sure!

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