Monday, March 7, 2016

Trim Healthy Mama Recipe Roundup

Who else eats according to the Trim Healthy Mama plan? I began following THM in January, after receving the book and cookbook for Christmas. Although I haven't lost any weight, I can honestly say that I am not too concerned because I wasn't overweight to begin with. My journey with THM began as an attempt to reverse pre-diabetes, which was indicated by a 5.9 on my A1C blood test. I have not had this blood test repeated yet, but I can affirm that I am feeling tons better. I have more energy and patience, and I am noticably less irritable and anxious. In the THM world, this would be called a non-scale victory! I am thankful for these benefits, which give me the motivation to keep moving toward a healthier lifestyle. 

At first, I mostly used recipes from the Trim Healthy Mama Cookbook, but I have begun to attempt recipes that I find on various websites, too. I thought that, from time to time, I would post links to THM-friendly recipes that I have tried and enjoyed. You will find some of these below.

Main Dishes

Cilantro Lime Chicken Breast (I served this with brown rice, making it an E meal)

Bacon Ranch Chicken Casserole (S)

Easy Stuffed Cabbage (E)


Italian Meatball Soup (S)

Low Carb Broccoli Cheese Soup (S)


Peanut Butter Whip (S)

Fudgy No-Bake Cookies (S)

Snickers Shake (S)

Stay tuned, as I plan to continue posting links to some favoriteTHM-friendly recipes from time to time. Thanks for reading and happy eating!

Thursday, March 3, 2016

When Life Gives You Twaddle

Twaddle. It is a buzz word that homeschoolers tend to be familiar with. It is part of my everyday vocabulary, as it is for most homeschoolers who admire Charlotte Mason and follow her method of education. It is a fun word to say, but it is something that we strive to avoid. So, what exactly is twaddle? defines it as trivial, feeble, silly, or tedious talk or writing. Charlotte Mason used the word twaddle when referring to dumbed down books that are mindless, senseless, or silly—books that don’t engage the mind and heart of the reader. In Charlotte’s view, education embodied a science of relations, and books that did not engage a child’s mind to help form meaningful connections were simply twaddle. Tedious, boring textbooks immediately come to mind. So do silly and pointless books, such as the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles junior novel that I recently allowed my son to read. Although I do allow my children to read some twaddle, I mostly want them to read books that are the complete opposite—living books—books that are alive with passion and ideas. Books that will engage their minds and elevate their thoughts. I want my children’s daily lives to include a steady diet of living books to feast upon, and only a small amount of twaddle for dessert.

Several years ago, at a local homeschool meeting, the speaker expanded the word twaddle to include the excessive or meaningless activities that we often include in our lives. Such activities are unnecessary and stressful, but we frequently feel compelled to keep doing them anyway. I didn’t give her extended definition much thought at the time, but lately it has been coming to mind more often. My life is so full and busy, just like the lives of most other moms, and I have to wonder how much of my time is wasted on twaddle. For the purposes of this post, I will consider twaddle to be anything that is not worth my time at the moment and brings more stress than benefit to my family. How much that my family does is truly worth our time? What could—or should—we eliminate? This is something that I used to struggle with a lot. Well, actually, who am I kidding? I still struggle with it a lot. It is a matter of prioritization, and prioritizing is something that is well worth learning how to do.

Extracurricular activities can become twaddle. As a homeschool mom, I have always felt pressured to put my kids in a lot of extracurricular activities. I suppose my aim is to prove to the naysayers that my kids are not isolated, that they are receiving adequate social time, and that they do receive instruction from adults other than their parents. So, off we have gone, again and again over the years, to little league practices, martial arts classes, music lessons, dance classes, theater rehearsals, scout meetings, Awana clubs, homeschool co-ops, choir practices, etc. How much of this has really been valuable, and how much of it could be described as twaddle? Charlotte Mason believed that children needed downtime for exploration, play, and “masterly inactivity”. If my kids are too overscheduled, they will not have this downtime to enjoy childhood in the way that it was meant to be enjoyed. Not all extracurricular activity is twaddle, of course, and some of it is very beneficial for our children. We can ask God for wisdom to help us decide how much is too much for our family during any given season of life, and we can rest assured that it is okay to take a break when the family schedule becomes too overwhelmed. Recently, I ran into an old friend, and we conversed a bit about the challenges of parenthood. This friend reminded me that the best predictor of a well-adjusted child is for that child to live in a safe, supportive environment, and that the extras are really not important contributors to a child’s well-being. I was so thankful for that reminder! Our children need to feel loved, connected, supported, and safe. Those extras that we feel so compelled to provide for them, such as the music lessons, dance classes, sports teams, etc., are really just the icing on the cake for them. Fluff. Twaddle. There is nothing wrong with extracurricular activities; however, we can feel confident that our children would be all right without them. We don’t have to feel guilty when we must become selective about the extras in order to prevent stress within the family. Sometimes, it turns out that our children are just as happy—maybe even happier—after some of those extracurricular activities are removed. Children enjoy having downtime to play and explore! Think about that the next time you find yourself needing to eliminate some activities in order to save your family’s collective sanity. Your children really will be okay.

I can inadvertently spend my time on twaddle, even when it seems like my time is being well-spent. Until about five years ago, I automatically said yes almost every time I was asked to volunteer for anything at church or anywhere else. I did this because I was a chronic, habitual people pleaser, and I didn’t want to disappoint anyone. Ever. I eventually found myself involved in too much, which left me feeling tired, crabby, and overwhelmed. For me, much of my involvement had become twaddle, even though my activities may not have seemed senseless, silly, or meaningless to anyone else. I was volunteering for good causes, but I found out that something good isn’t always what is best for me. Over the past several years, some specific life circumstances have helped me to learn, albeit slowly, that people pleasing really isn’t worth it. Now, instead of answering with an automatic yes to everything I am asked to do, I always think about it first. How do I know when to say yes and when to say no? If it is something that I think I might want to do, I generally ask myself three questions to help figure it out. First, I ask myself why I want to do it. I want to make sure that it isn’t based on any remnant of my people pleasing past, which tends to rear its ugly head rather unexpectedly at times. If I am able to rule that out, I then ask myself if I actually have the time to commit to it. I think through our family’s current schedule to determine if it would interfere with our other time commitments. I also make sure that I am continuing to protect some downtime for my family, which I feel is essential to our well-being. Finally, I ask myself if the activity would be a good fit based on my family’s current goals and priorities, or if it would actually distract me from our most essential goals. This is important to consider because any activity that is distracting you from your most imperative priorities is going to lead to unnecessary stress. Please note that I am not saying that you shouldn’t volunteer for church ministries or other good causes. As believers, it is right for us to use our time to serve others. What I am saying is that it is reasonable to make sure that any decision to volunteer comes from a pure motive—not from guilt or obligation—and it also makes sense to refrain from volunteering when your ministry to your family would suffer as a result. Our time is our most important investment, and we must continually evaluate whether or not we are using it wisely. I always discuss any potential time commitment—whether for me or for my children—with my husband, just as I discuss all family issues with him. He consistently gives me wise counsel and helps me to keep my focus where it needs to be.

Twaddle can invade our downtime at home. Am I the only mother whose family members usually gravitate toward electronic devices (major twaddle) during their free time? I doubt it, so other mothers know as well as I do the importance of putting limits on electronics, for our kids and also for ourselves. When I am adequately limiting electronics, the activities that my kids will pursue on their own are so much better for them. My teenage daughter exercises, practices her dancing, or reads a book. My younger daughter plays the piano, writes stories, or reads. My son plays with Legos, shoots hoops in the driveway, or practices his martial arts. We play board games together. We have conversations together. We connect as a family. Of course, I’m still going to allow the video games sometimes. I’m going to let my teenage daughter check facebook and text her friends. We are going to watch silly movies together. But, we put limits on our electronics to make room for more positive pastimes.

Regardless of the type of twaddle that has invaded our schedule, we can easily learn to recognize the symptoms of it: We will feel weary, overwhelmed, and grouchy because it is crowding out time that is needed for something else. In other words, it stresses us out! We can deal with this in the same way that we would deal with the literary twaddle that we are so familiar with. What would you do if you came across a series of silly, nonsensical books (think Barbie or something else along those lines) taking up precious space on your child’s bookshelf? Unless it was a favorite of your child or held sentimental value, you would obviously get rid of the books! The same principle applies to the twaddle that takes up our precious time. When we recognize it, we should try to get rid of it!

I realize that this use of the word twaddle is unconventional and is likely a bit of a stretch, but for me, it is helpful to reflect on. I can’t pretend to know what Charlotte Mason would think about it, but based on what I know about her, I believe that she would approve. I can imagine her encouraging us to remove the unnecessary excesses from our lives and to preserve the precious time that we have with our children. Time just to be together, without constantly having to hurry to the next activity. Time to pursue activities that we find to be genuinely worth our time. Time for spontaneous pursuits, rather than the pressure of too many scheduled classes and lessons. Yes, I definitely think that Charlotte Mason could appreciate that. So, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go take a look at my schedule. I’m going to work at removing some of the twaddle. I know that, in our super busy, activity-driven lives, it will be a constant battle, but I will continue to make the effort. Every day. Little by little. It will be worth it. Because our families are worth it.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Encouraging Language Development In Young Children (Language Development Part 3)

This post is Part 3 in a series about early language development. Click here to read Part 1, and here to read Part 2.

Language is a gift from God that enables us to communicate with others, and as a result, to develop relationships with the people who come into our lives. I think we would all agree that language is important, so what can we do at home to actively promote the development of our children's language during early childhood? Fortunately, the answer is a lot! And the really good news is that doing so isn’t rocket science. In all likelihood, you are already doing a lot of this with your child:

  • Intentionally talking to your child throughout your everyday life and activities.
  • Encouraging your child to communicate with you, listening attentively when she does communicate, and then repeating back and expanding upon her language.
  • Reading aloud is an absolute must.

See, you already do some of this, right? Let’s dive right in to some specific suggestions for children between the ages of birth and four years. Keep in mind at every age and stage that your child understands more language than she is able to produce. So, even long before your child is talking, lots of language development is happening and there is plenty that you can do to encourage that progression. These activities will benefit any child, whether or not that child has demonstrated a language delay. Please note that these suggestions are not intended to replace speech and language therapy. If you child is receiving therapy, her clinician will suggest more specific activities to do at home that are designed to support current goals and objectives.

Birth–3 Months
  •  Do what mothers already do naturally: Bond with your baby. Hold her . . . in fact, hold her a lot.
  • Sing to her.
  • Bring your face close to hers and talk to her sweetly.
  • Smile at her, and imitate the sweet little noises she makes.
  • Click your tongue and watch as she notices it.
  • Exaggerate your facial expressions as you talk and sing to her.
  • Hold a rattle and gently shake it, watching your baby move her eyes as she hears the sound.
  • Listen to music and sing as you rock your baby.
  • Enjoy the preciousness of infancy. It is fleeting.

3-6 Months
  • Allow your baby to look at a variety of interesting objects, including colorful toys with lots of visual detail.
  • Hold your baby’s hand and help her to explore different textures, like a blanket, hard and soft toys, and your face. There are plenty of textured baby toys available on the market, or use items from around the house.
  • Laugh with her when she laughs.
  • Talk to her in an animated, expressive way. Use a variety of facial expressions when you talk to her. Keep your face close to hers (about 12 inches away), making eye contact with her; vary your pitch from high to low, and your loudness from a whisper to a normal speaking voice.  Babies quickly become good imitators of the expressions they see and the sounds that they hear.
  • Sing to her a lot. 
  • Read or recite nursery rhymes, and read simple board books to her.

 6-12 Months
  • Actively respond to your baby’s coos, gurgles, and babbles.
  • Read colorful, simple books to her every day. Read slowly and expressively. 
  • Show your child pictures of animals in books and name each one as she looks at it. Then, ask her to show you each animal as you name it.  Hold your child’s hand and help her to point to the animals, if needed. Imitate animal noises as you look at the books together.
  • Throughout each day, talk to your child about what you are doing and what she is doing, keeping your language concrete and simple. Make eye contact with her when talking face to face.
  • Play simple games with your baby, such as Peek-a-Boo, Pat-a-Cake, and So Big.
  • Play music and sing to your child.
  • Get on the floor and play with your child. Talk to her as she plays, describing her toys, actions, and explorations with an expressive voice.
  • Around 9 months of age, your child will begin to understand that she can communicate with a specific purpose in mind; this is called communicative intent (for example, she can make a request for something that she wants). From this time on, you can begin to adjust her environment to make intentional communication more likely. For example, give her a toy that you know she will need to help to operate (like a wind-up toy).  Place desired items just a little bit out of her reach. Give her a puzzle with a missing piece. Encourage her to communicate with gestures, sounds, or words (early words probably won’t be understandable, and that’s okay). Before my children could talk, I taught them to use the American Sign Language (ASL) sign for “help” when they wanted to request my help with something.

12-15 Months
  • Continue to talk to your child a lot, and try to encourage her to talk to you, too.
  • Read, read, read to her every day. When you read simple picture books together, use them to communicate with your child and in turn, to stimulate her to communicate with you. For example, ask her to point to the pictures in books as you name them (“show me the . . . “), then encourage her to try naming some of the pictures.
  • As you talk to your child throughout each day, name the items that your child sees (i.e., milk, table, a pet’s name, etc.) out loud, and encourage her to say the words back to you. Describe her play activities and toys out loud as she is playing.
  • Let her make noise with safe, household items, such as a pie tin and wooden spoon, and “make music” with these items while you sing simple songs or chant nursery rhymes.
  • Teach the concepts of in and out by showing her how to put items into containers, and dump them back out again. Next, ask her to do it, helping her (if needed) to put something in, then to dump it back out.

18 Months
  • Continue to read to your child every day.
  • Talk to her throughout your daily activities, describing what you and your child are doing, feeling, and hearing. Look at her and make eye contact with her when you are talking together.
  • Expand her vocabulary by encouraging her to repeat words after you say them; always try to teach new words based on the items you encounter and the experiences that you have together each day.
  • Repeat your child’s spoken words and phrases back to her, then expand on them. For example, when she says “milk”, say to her, “I want some milk, please,” and encourage her to repeat it. When she says “book”, say to her “I want a book,” and encourage her to imitate you.
  • Praise her communicative efforts often! Make communication fun and pleasant without any pressure.

Two Years Old
  • Continue to read to her every day, choosing simple books with colorful pictures, nursery rhymes, and books with repetitive language. Eric Carle and Audrey Wood are two examples of authors who use repetitive language.
  • Model good speech and language when you talk to your child.
  • When your child says something, expand on it by asking questions that will stimulate additional thought and language. Always think about expanding her language.
  • Regularly and intentionally carry on conversations with your child. Make eye contact with her. Try to listen attentively as your child talks to you, and show her that you are listening by answering, nodding, and smiling. Not only is this good for her language development, but it will also create a habit of good communication between you and your child that will benefit your relationship for life.
  • Help her learn to follow simple instructions and commands with one step, such as “pick up the ball” or “put your cup on the table”.
  • Listen to music and sing with your child, and try to encourage her to sing along with you. This is the perfect time to sing action songs, like The Wheels On the Bus.
  • Introduce new vocabulary words to her, repeating those words often to help her learn and remember them.

3-4 Years Old
  • Continue to talk with your child often, making eye contact, actively listening, and expanding her language by asking questions. Teach her the relationships between words, objects, and ideas by talking to her about the new experiences and objects that she encounters. Talk to here a little bit beyond her understanding. Converse with her as you would with any other person.
  • Keep reading to your child daily, beginning to choose longer stories, which will model good language for her and also help to increase her attention span.
  • Read nursery rhymes and books with repetitive language, which will stimulate phonological awareness (a pre-reading skill), as well as other areas of language. Try to get your child to join in with you as you read the rhymes and repetitions. Ask her to tell you stories as you look at picture books together.
  • Encourage your child to talk to you about what she sees when you go for a walk or a ride together.
  • Tell your child stories (both real and pretend) and then encourage her to tell you a story about herself or someone else. If you want to go a step further with this, write her story down as she tells you, then let her illustrate it. Most likely, she will want to "read" her story again and again.
  • Sing with your child and listen to music together. 
  • Practice giving her some two step commands to follow (i.e., “give me your brush and pick up the shoe”).
  • Help her begin to classify common, familiar objects into categories, such as things I wear. You can do this with pictures cut from magazines or with real objects from around the house.

There are some common themes that you probably noticed within nearly every age group in this list of suggestions. Talk to your child. Name objects. Read to your child. Sing to your child. Expand her language. Make eye contact. The repetition may have seemed redundant, but these concepts are so important at every stage of development that they are worth repeating. Let's talk a little bit more about a couple of them.

Reading aloud. My personal belief is that there is nothing more important that you can do for your child’s language development than to read aloud to her often. The good news is that most homeschool familes that I know already read a lot, so I’m almost certain that this is already a part of your daily routine. Keep it up and expand on it! Reading is so useful for stimulating speech and language that I would eventually like to write a blog post about specific ways to use books to help a variety of speech and language issues. Stay tuned!

Music and singing. At every age and stage, I suggested singing to your child. Why? One reason is simply because children love music, and it engages their attention in a way that little else can. Also, music benefits many areas of development, including language. It helps to improve memory, even for little babies as they learn to anticipate the variations in pitch and inflection that they will hear in a familiar song. Music helps to enhance auditory processing, and it is a tool that is often used to help a child learn just about anything. That’s why there are so many CDs marketed to help children learn everything from math facts to Bible verses. Additionally, the rhyming language in children’s songs helps to build phonological awareness, which is a critical language skill for reading. Some music styles, including classical music, promote active listening, which is important for language development. Singing helps to develop imitation, which is yet another significant language skill. On a personal note, when my middle child was a baby, music helped her to learn imitation in a memorable way. I used to sing to her about everything—whatever we happened to be doing at the moment—to the tune of Freres Jacques. Imagine my surprise when, at 8 months of age, she started humming Freres Jacques on her own, usually while I was rocking her. She then began babbling to the tune of Freres Jacques. As she grew a little older, she made up words to sing to that same tune. True story. It was super cute and it provided another avenue for her to learn imitation prior to her first spoken—or sung—words.

On a final note, I want to briefly discuss the use of sign language in young children. Children are often able to learn to use signs before they are able to talk, and it can be very gratifying for them to learn to sign some commonly used words early on. My children regularly used a handful of signs when they were babies, including more, eat, drink, in, out, and help. People often fear that introducing sign language in the early years will prevent a child from talking, although the reality is that studies have shown the opposite to be true. The ability to communicate by using sign language provides natural rewards that will often stimulate a desire to communicate even more. This can lead to earlier talking. The most efficient way for typically-developing, non-hearing impaired children to communicate is by talking, and they will always use this most efficient method as soon as they develop the ability to do so. So, please do not be afraid to use sign language with your baby. Spoken words will soon replace the signs, but it can be fun and rewarding for young children to learn some signs early on. Do use spoken words along with the signs when talking to your baby so she will learn to link the two together. Click here for some tips on getting started with baby sign language.

photo credit: <a href="">Mother's Day</a> via <a href="">photopin</a> <a href="">(license)</a>

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Home, Sweet Home

I love poetry. 

As a homeschool mom who leans heavily toward the Charlotte Mason philosophy of edcucation, I have been intentional about including poetry in the lives of my children. Yesterday, my daughter and I read Home, Sweet Home by John Howard Payne. Although it is a familiar poem, I still enjoy it every time I read it. Home, Sweet Home feels especially encouraging to me as a homeschool mom because it confirms, in a beautiful way, how natural it is to celebrate the sweetness of home. It really is possible to experience fulfillment and contentment at home, even if the rest of the world would have us to believe otherwise. Please read and be encouraged: There is a reason that we feel drawn to do what we do, and the peace of mind that we experience from doing it is not worth anything else that the world might offer. There is no place like home.

Home, Sweet Home 

'Mid pleasures and palaces though we may roam,
Be it ever so humble, there's no place like home!
A charm from the skies seems to hallow us there,
Which, seek through the world, is ne'er met with elsewhere.
Home, home, sweet, sweet home!
There's no place like home! There's no place like home!

An exile from home, splendor dazzles in vain;
Oh, give me my lonely thatched cottage again!
The birds singing gayly, that came at my call-- 
Oh, give me them--and the peace of mind, dearer than all!
Home, home, sweet, sweet, home!
There's no place like home! There's no place like home!

~John Howard Payne

photo credit: <a href="">Rose Cottage at Slad</a> via <a href="">photopin</a> <a href="">(license)</a>

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Early Childhood Language Development (Language Development Part 2)

"Why isn’t my child talking yet?”
“She doesn’t seem to respond to anything I say.”
“I wonder if her hearing is okay, or if something else could be wrong.”
“I think his language is a little behind schedule, but will he catch up eventually? Is it okay to wait and see if he grows out of it?”
These are questions and concerns that many parents have when their children are young. Today’s blog post is going to address some of those concerns. As promised, this is a follow-up to Language Development Part 1. In Part 1, I explained my background and introduced some linguistic terms. We will continue the discussion in this post, first learning some specifics about typical language development in the first four years of life. The information that I am providing is not meant to be all inclusive, but will give you an idea of some language-based milestones to expect as your children grow and develop. It may also help you to recognize when your children are not developing typically or at the same rate as their peers. Subsequently, you will find a few warning signs of a possible language delay or disorder, which will enable you to watch for some specific behaviors as your child grows and changes. The final section of today’s post will look briefly at the differences between a language delay and a language disorder because these phrases, which are commonly used among speech and language clinicians and other service providers, can cause confusion at times. In my next post, Language Development Part 3, we will discuss some ways that you, as parents, can stimulate and encourage your child’s language development at home. Initially, I was planning to include all of the above-mentioned information in today's entry, but it became so lengthy that I decided to split it into two posts, saving the suggestions for enhancing language at home until Part 3. Be forewarned that this is still going to be a long blog post—sorry!  I don’t plan for everything that I write to be so lengthy, but I couldn’t address this issue without attempting to do so in a fairly thorough manner.
I compiled the material that follows from unmarked handouts and class notes that I kept from my grad school classes in the late 1990s (yes, I save everything). I cannot cite the sources since I do not know where the material originated from, but I do consider this information to be common knowledge within the field of speech-language pathology and readily available from many sources. In addition to the list below, there are links to more comprehensive data about developmental norms, derived from various studies, available on the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) website: Below, you will find the list that I compiled of some of the developmental language milestones that you would expect to see at different ages during early childhood. Some of these are receptive language milestones and others are expressive language milestones, but I didn’t differentiate those categories in my list (please see Part 1 for an explanation of this).
0-3 Months
  • Makes eye contact briefly
  • Startles in response to loud sounds
  • Moves eyes toward the source of the sound
  • Reflexive smile
  • Makes random and reflexive sounds, including coos and gurgles with vowel sounds (ah, eh, uh), and single syllables
  • Produces different-sounding cries to communicate different needs (beginning of vocal communication)
  • Stops crying when picked up
4-6 Months
  • Actively seeks sound source, turning head toward the sound
  • Smiles in response to speech and feelings of pleasure
  • Gazes at a person’s face
  • Anticipates feeding upon the sight of bottle or mother
  • Looks in response to hearing own name
  • Smiles when making eye contact with someone who is smiling
  • Shows displeasure when an object of interest is removed
  • Babbling begins, directed toward self, others, and objects
  • “Vocal play”, including coos, chuckles, gurgles, laughs
  • Vocally expresses eagerness
7-9 Months
  • Responds to facial expressions
  • Attempts to imitate some gestures
  • Looks at some common objects when those objects are named
  • Looks at family members when named
  • Understands “no”
  • Uses m, n, t, d, b, p, z in babbling multiple syllables
  • Uses a wide variety of sound combinations and uses inflection in babbling
  • Imitates the intonation and speech sounds of others
  • Uncovers a hidden toy (the beginning of “object permanence”)
10-12 Months
  • Will give toy or object upon request
  • Understands and follows simple commands regarding body actions
  • Looks in the correct place for toys that are out of sight
  • Turns head immediately when own name is heard
  • Understands the meaning of “hot”
  • Can name or look for object that is out of sight
  • Gestures and/or vocalizes to indicate wants and needs
  • Learns to vary behavior based on the reactions of others (i.e., repeats a performance that is laughed at)
  • Vocalizes during play, vocalizes to mirror, and vocalizes loudly, with a wide variety of sounds and intonations
  • Uses all sounds during vocal play (consonants and vowels)
  • First words can be expected to occur between 10 and 18 months of age
13-18 Months
  • Follows simple one step commands
  • Points to object he or she wants
  • Begins to understand that certain objects are his own
  • Points to one to three body parts on command
  • Perceives the emotions of others
  • Uses 3-20 words
  • Says “all gone”
  • Asks for “more”
  • Names familiar objects when asked, “what’s this?”
  • Uses sentence-like intonation in jargon
  • Uses single words and may begin to use two-word phrases
  • Speech may be basically unintelligible with the exception of a few words
19 Months – 2 Years
  • Understands approximately 300 words
  • Actively listens as pictures are named
  • Points to five body parts on command
  • Responds to yes or no questions (may shake head instead of answering verbally)
  • Uses approximately 50 recognizable words
  • Uses names of most familiar objects
  • Imitates animal sounds
  • Closer to two years, will begin to verbalize toilet needs (may verbalize these needs before, during, or after the act)
  • Says own name
  • Uses two word phrases
  • Uses more words than jargon – jargon will be almost gone by two years
  • One third of words produced are nouns
  • Speaks understandably about half of the time
2 – 2 ½ Years
  • Understands approximately 500 words
  • Understands concept of “one” versus “all”
  • Identifies actions in pictures
  • Uses 200 words, and is intelligible approximately 70% of the time
  • Answers “where” questions and “what . . . doing” questions
  • Uses in/on correctly
  • Produced 3-4 word sentences
  • Plays alongside other children, but not usually with other children (parallel play)
  • Speech is approximately 70% intelligible
3 – 3 ½ Years
  • Understands approximately 1,000 words
  • Identifies hard/soft, rough/smooth
  • Identifies circle and square
  • Uses 800 words
  • Begins to ask questions – mainly “what” and “who” questions
  • Uses action words
  • Counts three objects, pointing to each one
  • Begins to use “is” at the beginning of questions
  • Uses “and” conjunction in speech
  • Uses regular plurals consistently
  • Uses “is”, “am”, and “are” in sentences
  • Produces 4 to 5 word sentences
  • Plays in increasingly imaginative ways
  • Speech is approximately 80% intelligible
3 ½ — 4 Years
  • Understands 1,500—2,000 words
  • Uses 1,000—1,500 words
  • Responds to commands involving three actions
  • Tells two events in order of sequence
  • Can tell stories, mixing real and unreal
  • Carries on detailed conversations
  • Continued refinement of speech intelligibility
  • Combines 4 to 5 words in sentences
  • Begins to understand turn-taking, but can be bossy toward others
  • Prefers to play in a group of 2-3 children
  • Uses complex sentences frequently
  • Simple past tense, present progressive “is + ing”, contractions, and pronouns used consistently
  • Asks “who” and “why” questions
After reading all of this developmental data, let’s think back about the questions that were posed at the beginning of this blog entry. What if you aren’t sure whether or not your child’s language is progressing in an appropriate and timely manner? What if you have noticed that your baby may not be developing in certain areas as quickly as her peers are, but you aren’t sure if there is an actual problem? Some children really are “late talkers” (will be addressed later), and they don’t have lasting problems with communication. So, how do you know? As stated earlier, the above list is intended to be a very general guideline, just to give you some specific milestones to look for at each age. If you feel concerned, please compare your child with these developmental milestones. Look for patterns and write down your specific areas of concern.  Keep a record of milestones your child is reaching at an age-appropriate time, as well those that are lagging behind. Also, if you are concerned about your child, please take the time to look at the more comprehensive information available on the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association website ( Based on normative data, ASHA has provided a few specific warning signs of a possible language disorder:
  • Doesn't smile or interact with others (birth–3 months)
  • Doesn't babble (4–7 months)
  • Makes few sounds (7–12 months)
  • Does not use gestures (e.g., waving, pointing) (7–12 months)
  • Doesn't understand what others say (7 months–2 years)
  • Says only a few words (12–18 months)
  • Doesn't put words together to make sentences (1½–3 years)
  • Has trouble playing and talking with other children (2–3 years)
  • Has problems with early reading and writing skills—for example, may not show an interest in books or drawing (2½–3 years)
What should you do if reading this has reinforced the concerns that you have about your child’s development? If you feel that your child may not be developing as she should, please consider seeking a speech and language evaluation sooner rather than later. Over the years, multiple studies have confirmed that an earlier start to therapy generally leads to a more positive outcome. Also, I have to stress that it is always a good idea to begin the process with a visit to the pediatrician. Discuss your child’s development with her doctor, making sure to bring up the specific issues that concern you. Your doctor will do a physical exam, and will most likely screen for delays in all areas of development. If the doctor feels that speech or language may be delayed, a hearing screening will be done as well. Depending on the age and needs of your child, the doctor may be able to do a quick hearing screening in the office, or a referral to an audiologist could be necessary. If you regularly take your child to the doctor for well child checks, screenings for developmental delays should be something that your doctor has already been doing regularly. However, sometimes less obvious problems may not be caught on those screenings, and you are the best expert on the health and well-being of your own child. Even if your child has passed the screenings at every well child check, don’t be shy about discussing your concerns with your child’s doctor or asking for a more in-depth evaluation. You may need to request a referral from your doctor for a speech and language evaluation, and that will definitely be true if you are planning to bill your health insurance. If your child is under three years old, a free evaluation from an early intervention agency should be available to you. If your child is three years of age or older, you have the option of going through your local public school system for the testing, free of charge (yes, this is available to homeschoolers), although I do understand the reasons why many homeschoolers would not choose this route. If you live close to a university with a communication disorders and sciences program, there may be a speech and language clinic on campus that will provide inexpensive services. If you are planning to go to a therapist in private practice or in a hospital system, be sure to find out ahead of time how much of the expense might be covered by your insurance. I would also suggest asking for recommendations for a speech pathologist among your friends and acquaintances ahead of time. I know that it would make me feel more comfortable to work with a therapist who was recommended by someone that I know and trust. The bottom line is that help is available, and there are usually multiple options regarding how you might decide to go about accessing it.
Now that we have looked at signs of a possible language delay in young children, I think it may be important to differentiate between the terms language delay and language disorder. These terms are sometimes used interchangeably among professionals who work with young children, and I know that some parents have felt confused about the differences between their meanings. Language delay refers to a child who is progressing through the developmental milestones of language at a slower rate than her peers; the wording implies that she will eventually “catch up”.  A language disorder, however, refers to someone with a far more persistent impairment in one of more of the five domains of language (phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics, and pragmatics). Sometimes it isn’t possible to know whether a young child has a language delay or a language disorder until that child grows older. A child’s difficulties may be labeled as a language delay initially, then later renamed a language disorder if the problems persist or intensify. In order to help explain this distinction further, I am going to include a portion of a blog post from the Special Education Guide:
How do you know when a child has a language delay versus a disorder? Unfortunately, there is not always a straightforward answer to this question. As we know, each child is unique and affected by intrinsic (i.e., biological, such as family history, birth weight, severe prenatal and/or perinatal complications) and extrinsic (i.e., environmental, including access to health care, stable residence) factors. Each child meets developmental milestones at different rates and after varying degrees of practice. However, there are widely accepted developmental norms for the acquisition of speech and language skills. When these are not attained, or attained at a slower rate than chronological age peers, questions about delay or disorder rise to the forefront.
A language delay is just that — a delay in acquisition of language skills compared to one’s chronological and cognitive/intellectual age peers. A young child with a language delay may exhibit a slower onset of usage of a language skill, rate of progression through the acquisition process, sequence in which the language skills are learned, or all of the above. Generally, early language delay (late talking) may be characterized by less than 50 words at 24 months, few word combinations at 30 months, limited use of gestures and sounds to communicate, limited symbolic play, limited understanding of word meaning and inability to follow verbal instructions. Approximately 50 to 70 percent of these youngsters (i.e., late talkers) reportedly catch up to peers and demonstrate normal language development by preschool and school age. However, there is a subset of children who continue to demonstrate persistent difficulties acquiring and using language skills below chronological age expectations (by preschool or school age) that cannot be explained by other factors (e.g., low nonverbal intelligence, sensory impairments or autism spectrum disorder) and may be identified as having a specific language impairment (i.e., language disorder).
The American Speech-Language Hearing Association (ASHA) defines a language disorder as a significant impairment in the acquisition and use of language across modalities (e.g., speech, sign language, or both) due to deficits in comprehension and/or production across any of the five language domains (i.e., phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics, pragmatics). Language disorders are heterogeneous, and the nature and severity of disorders can vary considerably.(Reposted from
I truly hope that this has been helpful. I am so excited to share ideas about enriching your child's language development at home, but this post is so lengthy that I am going to stop here for now, and save those suggestions for my next post, Language Development Part 3.Thank you for reading, and please stay tuned for Part 3, which you can expect to see very soon! Have a blessed week!

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Language Development Part 1

Once upon a time, before I was a homeschooling mama, and even before I had any babies, I was pursuing a different path. Like many of you, I went to college; I earned undergraduate and graduate degrees in Communication Disorders and Sciences, which was my training to become a Speech-Language Pathologist. I did not spend very much time working in that field, although I did work briefly in an early intervention program and also in a post-acute rehabilitation facility. I had always planned to return to work in my chosen field, but my plans gradually changed, and I still remain a committed homemaker. After I gave birth to my first child, I could hardly stand the thought of leaving her. However, I had just graduated with my master's degree, and I felt conflicted. A part of me thought that I would regret it if I didn't go to work. Also, my husband was encouraging me to get a job at that time. Part-time work seemed like a good compromise, so I did work a limited schedule during my oldest daughter's first couple of years until eventually, my husband and I decided that I could stay home with her full time. My plan then became to return to work when she started kindergarten, but by that time, I had two more babies and I didn't want to leave them, either. The Lord had already begun to put the desire to homeschool in my heart during my oldest child's toddler years, and my husband eventually became enthusiastic about that idea as well. I have loved the privilege of being home with my children, and I can honestly say that I haven't looked back with any regrets.
Over the years, friends who know my background have occasionally approached me with concerns about their children's speech and language development. I still have an interest in the field, and I am always happy to discuss those issues. Consequently, I have decided to write a couple of blog posts about language development, and later, I hope to do some writing about speech as well. I would like to preface these posts with the disclosure that I am not currently a licensed Speech-Language Pathologist or even someone with extensive experience in the field. Rather, I am:
  1. A mom.
  2. A person who was trained to be a Speech-Language Pathologist, and as such, acquired some knowledge about language development.
  3. Someone who worked briefly as a Speech-Language Patholgist, but made the decision to give up that career years ago in order to be a stay-at-home mom.
These posts are not intended to be exhaustive or comprehensive, but rather to encourage parents to think about how your children are developing, to seek help if you have concerns, and to think about the ways you can enhance your child's language development at home, especially during the preschool years. My desire is to provide homeschoolers with information that could be helpful to you. Before proceeding further, I would like to emphasize the benefits of seeking an evaluation from a Speech-Language Pathologist if you have concerns about your child's speech or language development. If you think that something may not be quite right, trust your instincts and have your child checked out. It would never hurt to do so, and it might honestly prove to be very helpful. I am aware of a couple of books on the market for parents wanting to help their child at home rather than seeking therapy, and I hope to review and write about them at a later date. At this time, I don't have enough knowledge about those books to be able to speak about whether or not they are useful. As a homeschool mom, I unequivocally believe that parents are the best experts regarding their own children. On the other hand, I also know that various studies have shown that early professional intervention for language delays generally leads to more positive outcomes. That is why I will encourage you to trust your instincts regarding whether or not to seek intervention, and to pursue an evaluation early on when those instincts are telling you that such help may be needed. In this post, I would like to define some terms that may be helpful if you are seeking professional help for a possible language delay. These terms describe the various ways that language is understood and explained by professionals. In my next blog post (Language Development Part 2), I will discuss developmental milestones, warning signs of a possible language delay,  and ways that you can stimulate your child's language at home in your everday interactions and activities.
One simple definition of language from the Merriam-Webster Dictionary is "the system of words or signs that people use to express thoughts and feelings to each other". I would add that language is the primary way that God designed humans to communicate, and it is a system that is both beautiful and complex. When we are young, language allows us to inform our caregivers of our needs and wants. As we grow up, it enables us to develop relationships with others and is a means that God provided to help connect our hearts with those we love.  When speech and language professionals talk about language, they broadly categorize it into two distinct types: Expressive language and receptive language. Expressive language refers to language that is produced by a person in order to communicate meaning, and receptive language refers to the comprehension or understanding of meaning derived from the communication of others. Language development and disorders are generally discussed in terms of these two major categories.
This next part is a bit technical, so I invite you to skip reading this paragraph entirely if you want to. Many people would find this information impractical, but if you want to familiarize yourself with some speech therapy lingo in order to prepare for the possibility of reading these words in a report or seeing them on test results (or if you happen to have an interest in linguistics), please read on! Linguists recognize five components of language: Semantics, morphology, syntax, pragmatics, and phonology.  Both receptive language and expressive language are included in each of these areas (understanding versus production). Semantics involves the meaning of words and word combinations in a language. Examples of semantics include vocabulary and figurative language. Morphology involves word formation and the internal structure of words. An example of morphology is the use of inflectional word endings (word endings that change the meaning of a word). Syntax involves the grammatical arrangement of words in sentences. An example of syntax would be the ability to use sentence structures that vary in type and complexity. Pragmatics involves the social use of language. Examples of pragmatics include the social rules and norms that govern conversations, such as turn-taking and staying on topic. Phonology involves the sound system that comprises our language (phonology will be discussed further in a later post about speech disorders). That is a lot of information to pack into one little paragraph, and much more could be said about each of these five areas. If you would like to learn more about any of these, please visit The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association at
I must sign off for now, but please look for Part 2 very soon, which will discuss some developmental milestones, warning signs that there could be a language delay, and ways to stimulate your child's language at home. I'm looking forward to it!

To read Language Development Part 2, click here.

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I Am Back!

Hello! Welcome to my blog about home life and homeschooling! Maybe you are a friend of mine, or perhaps you just stumbled on to this page. Either way, I'm glad you are here. I previously blogged on this website between 2011 and 2013. Unfortunately, when life got super crazy, I completely stopped writing for a few years. Now that my kids are older and I seem to find it easier to pursue activities of my own choosing (sometimes, at least), I decided to try blogging again. I'm super excited about it, and I hope to post something once a week or so. I have many ideas floating around in my mind, and I am looking forward to sharing thoughts about life and homeschooling once again.
Today, I want to renew this new blog with a message. The message that I want to share is that I BELIEVE IN YOU. I believe in what we are doing. After homeschooling for more than ten years, I still believe that it is a wonderful way to educate our children. I believe that you, as a homeschool mom, are doing an incredible job. Even on your worst day. Even on days when you feel lonely, disappointed, tired, or overlooked. Even when you aren't seeing the fruit. Even when you feel like you are failing and are unable to believe in yourself. The job you are doing is more than worthwhile. There isn't something better that you could be doing with your time. On hard days, homeschooling can be both frustrating and discouraging, and I will confess that I have spent some time fantasizing about the career I gave up in order to do this. Those fantasies would have never been reality, though. The career would have had its own frustrations, and parenting would still have its frustrations, too. Someday, your kids will grow up, and when they think back about when they were young, they will appreciate all that you sacrificed for them. Most importantly, they will never doubt your love for them. More than anything else that we could ever give, our children need our love and our time, and your kids are receiving both from you in abundance. I believe that, in the grand scheme of life, homeschooling is REALLY GOOD for our kids. There are days when we doubt that. There are days when it feels overwhelming and too difficult to continue, but by God's grace and with His help, we CAN do this! (Phillippians 4:13) I look forward to sharing this wonderful, exciting adventure called homeschooling with you.  Thank you for reading, and may God bless you and your families with a joy-filled week!