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Teaching Sign Language, FREE Art Lessons, The Math Mom

By Heather Idoni

Added Thursday, November 05, 2009

                The Homeschooler's Notebook
     Encouragement and Advice for Homeschool Families
   Vol. 10 No 82                         November 5, 2009
                      ISSN: 1536-2035                              
   Copyright (c) 2009 - Heather Idoni, FamilyClassroom.net

  Welcome to The Homeschooler's Notebook!

  If you like this newsletter, please recommend it to a friend!
  And please visit our sponsors!  They make it possible.


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  "These maps are wonderful! I am using the Well Trained Mind book
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  along with them, and to have geography all laid out for us to learn
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  Notes from Heather
  -- American Sign Language
  Helpful Tip
  -- The Math Mom
  Winning Website
  -- Art Lesson Plans
  Reader Question
  -- ASL vs. SEE?
  Additional Notes
  -- Newsletter Archives
  -- Sponsorship Information
  -- Reprint Information
  -- Subscriber Information

       Notes from Heather

  This issue's reader question is about American Sign Language.
  I am learning more ASL each day as I communicate with my 18 year
  old niece who is cognitively impaired and developmentally
  disabled.  She is non-verbal, so she communicates with us
  primarily through ASL signs she has learned over the years.
  Thankfully she can hear and understand verbal English -- that
  would be much more difficult if she were also hearing impaired!

  It has been fun and also challenging learning enough ASL signs
  to understand Charlotte, and she is very happy that we can.  She
  has been living with us for a little over a year now and is
  very patient with us!

  American Sign Language is a real language -- and as important
  as any other in the world.  More and more colleges are recognizing
  the legitimacy of choosing ASL for foreign language credit.

  My favorite place to learn new ASL signs is this video site:


  It has come in VERY handy in adding to our vocabulary and aiding
  in deciphering my niece's communications!  If you want to begin
  learning ASL casually, or spark an interest with your children,
  this is a good place to start.  You don't have to become a member
  to use the site -- most features are available to non-members.

  And here is a portal site which links to videos at several sites:


  -- Heather


  Do you have comments to share?  Please do!
  Send your emails to:  mailto:heather@familyclassroom.net


  Susan Wise Bauer and Gregg Harris on Knowledge Quest Maps:

  "Knowledge Quest maps are ideal for the grammar stage learner;
  they are uncluttered, accurate, and perfect for coloring. I highly
  recommend them as a simple and yet effective way to develop the
  young student's geographical awareness of the ancient world."
  -- Susan Wise Bauer


  "We love these maps. What an incredibly helpful tool! Children
  seem to gain so much from visualizing geographically what they are
  studying. I think this is a wonderful product that would enhance
  any study of history." -- Gregg and Sono Harris

  The Knowledge Quest site features not only blackline maps, but
  timelines and other excellent resources.

  Find out what the excitement is all about!  Visit today:



      Helpful Tip

  "I have a non-profit website for Moms about Math where I illuminate
  mathematics that we do daily - while shopping, cooking, mowing the
  lawn, driving, parenting - and help parents see math and present it
  to their kids as a toy, a tool and a friend.  See if you will find
  it helpful: http://www.TheMathMom.com

  In addition to weekly stories, I also post daily puzzles (see upper
  right corner link for a Family Puzzle Marathon).  Many people find
  that puzzles are a great way to present math in a non-intimidating
  and engaging way to their kids."

  -- The Math Mom

  Do you have an idea, experience, or tip to share?  Please write!
  Send to:  mailto:HN-ideas@familyclassroom.net

      Winning Website


  These fantastic FREE lesson plans can be used to create a complete art
  curriculum for any age child.  Search by grade level or discipline --
  and check-out the video lessons, too!  The printable PDF links to each
  project are beautifully arranged in categories, which makes it easy to
  browse or find exactly what you are looking for.  Scroll down the page
  to view the most recent additions before you start browsing!  All the
  PDFs have clickable links to each recommended tool or material which
  you could purchase from the site, so you know exactly what is needed,
  although (of course) there is no obligation to purchase your materials
  from their company.

  All FREE, ORIGINAL, and really COOL art lessons from Dick Blick!  :-)

  -- Heather

      Last Issue's Reader Question

  "I was wondering if anyone has experience in, has a child interested
  in, or looked at sign language as part of their children's education.
  Is there anyone familiar with the differences between Signing Exact
  English and American Sign Language and their usefulness in real life?
  And what is your preference?  What kind of credit can be given for
  ASL and/or SEE?  How far can they go at the high school level?
  Thanks for your help." -- Anna

      Our Readers' Responses 

  "I can't answer most of the questions, but I did want to weigh in
  on the question of ASL vs. SEE.  ASL is a language spoken (yes, the
  term is actually used) by the American Deaf community.  SEE is the
  use of individual signs to replace words in English.  Most of the
  signs of SEE are based on ASL, but changes are made to make it more
  English-like in various ways. 
  Would you ever consider teaching your child a bunch of French words,
  then telling them they don't have to learn the actual language because
  they can just use the French words in English sentences instead?  SEE
  is a denigration of an actual language, is belittling the entire deaf
  community, and is really just learning a bunch of ways to move your
  hands." -- Brandel in Jerusalem


  "Hi Anna -- I am not pretending to be an expert, but I did take a
  fascinating class at our local community college that introduced me to
  ASL and the signing Deaf culture in general.  Our community college
  offers two courses in it, and a local Deaf advocacy group offers more
  in-depth training in ASL.  From the instructor's information, I got
  the idea that 'signed English' is not widely used in the Deaf community
  itself and is designed for the ease of educators working with the deaf.
  ASL users tend to consider themselves a minority linguistic group and
  their language is often taught as a 'stand-alone' manual language
  rather than trying to make it 'fit' standard English grammar (which
  is what signed English is designed to do).

  I assume your children are hearing; the opportunities for skilled ASL
  translators can be lucrative.  ASL translators who can master very
  technical vocabulary (such as for lawyers and doctors) were presented
  to our class as making potentially $100.00 an hour for their services.
  There is a hierarchy of certification required in order to be an
  official ASL translator.  In any case, even a course or two will
  widen your children to another culture as well as a language.

  Here are some links:

  Hope this helps." -- Karen C.


  "I took several semesters of ASL in college, and have taught some
  of it to my children (beginning when they were babies).  The basic
  difference between ASL and SEE is that ASL is a different language
  from English, with its own grammar and dialects.  Though originally
  developed for the Deaf population by those who can hear, it is now
  very much a part of the Deaf culture and identity.  It is primarily
  used by those who identify with the Deaf culture, and those who
  interpret for them. 

  SEE is exactly what it says - a way to sign the English language.
  It is primarily used in educational settings where hearing people
  want deaf children to learn to communicate in English with other
  hearing people. 

  Pigeon Signed English (PSE) uses ASL signs, but puts them in English
  word order.  This makes it easier for native English speakers to use
  and is generally tolerated by the Deaf community - kind of like the
  way adults smile at a toddlers efforts to speak.

  If you teach ASL, you can give credits just as you would for any
  foreign language.  If you teach SEE, you cannot count it as a
  foreign language. 

  Teach SEE if you want you children to interact with people who are
  deaf as the 'expert' who will help them be as 'normal' as possible.
  Teach ASL if you want your children to be able to interact with
  people who are deaf as people, with respect for the Deaf culture
  and language.  Yes, I'm biased toward ASL. :-)

  If at all possible, try to find someone who is a native, or at
  least fluent speaker of ASL to practice with.  Our community has
  a 'Deaf club' that opens its gatherings to the public once per
  month.  It was an awesome opportunity to go learn and practice
  the new language I was learning.  Contact a local sign language
  interpreter or an ASL instructor in your area (many community
  colleges offer classes) to find out about resources in your area. 

  Oh, and one other thing - if you can't learn from a real person,
  try and find a video series rather than a book to learn from.
  Books are helpful for reference to remind you of a sign you've
  already learned, but it is nearly impossible to properly learn a
  dynamic language from a static picture. 

  I think learning ASL is very worthwhile - and enjoyable besides!"
  -- Laurie


  "I don't know the answer to the different types of signing, but
  I suggest you contact a local association for the blind, college
  or university they might be able to give you some insight.

  How far can they go at the high school level?  I think that really
  depends on your local homeschool laws.  To be on the safe side I
  suggest you look into your local DOE website and see if the local
  high schools give a signing course.  This will give you a pretty
  good idea of how far you can go, at least as a minimum because as
  a homeschooler you will likely exceed the public school standard.
  Using the DOE course description you can also write up your own
  course description.  I've done that with our students and developed
  a form I use for any independent studies our children do.  My form
  has the following sections:

  Rationale -- identify the reasons you want to take this course. 
  Activities -- the major initiatives you plan to take. 
  Resources -- specific books and materials you will use. 
  Objectives -- measurable tasks or projects you will complete. 
  Schedule -- meeting times and project completion dates. 
  Assessment/Evaluation -- indication of what must be accomplished
  to earn an A, B, C, etc.

  By the way, there is an umbrella type school that will help you
  create courses at http://www.narhs.org/." -- Judy in Florida


  "ASL has its own grammar and syntax that is not at all like English.
  SEE is Signed Exact English and is basically what it says.  You use
  the ASL signs, but in English grammatical order.  Take the following
  easy sentence for an example: 'The boy plays with the ball.' In SEE
  you would sign 'boy plays with ball'.  In ASL you would sign 'ball
  boy plays with'. ASL grammar is basically object, subject, verb.
  I have been slowly integrating ASL and SEE in with our lessons.
  For me it is a necessity as I am newly (3 years ago) 100% deaf.  I
  am having to learn and thought the kids (14 and 15) would benefit
  from it.  They are not happy.
  As far as how high they can go, there are literally thousands of
  ASL signs and the object is to get them proficient enough to be
  able to carry on conversations using only sign language.
  Two websites that are wonderful are http://www.lifeprint.com and
  http://www.aslpro.com .  ASL Pro also has a link on their page for
  religious signs.  On Lifeprint.com you are able to print out a
  workbook or work off the website.  They are both free, but they
  also have CDs available at a cost to be able to do the lessons if
  you are on dial-up or just don't want to be on the internet at the
  I am also using the 'American Sign Language for Dummies' book:


  -- as well as some sign language dictionaries from Galludet, the
  Deaf university." -- Kristina

  "The difference between SEE and ASL is that SEE has a sign for EVERY
  English word and can differentiate between present and past tense
  of verbs, etc., while ASL has signs for the main concept but doesn't
  use signs for every word.  The two types of sign language have
  different uses, depending on your goals.  To an outsider, ASL looks
  very fluid and beautiful while SEE is a little more choppy.

  My perspective is a little different.  I have 2 kids born with
  hearing loss who started out with sign language.  The first (now
  5 1/2) is hard of hearing.  I wanted her to know the signs for nouns,
  and the signs for concepts and phrases, so we used ASL.  The second
  (now 3 1/2) is deaf and I wanted him to be able to translate signs
  into a proper English sentence, even though he might not hear all
  the words, so we used SEE.

  About half of the signs are the same for ASL and SEE, so you'll be
  learning many of the same signs regardless.

  As far as usefulness, ASL is more universal in the US if you're
  looking to interact with deaf kids and adults.  SEE mirrors English
  and is used primarily in educational settings for kids.  SEE makes
  you think about the English language (verb tenses, adverbs, adding
  ING to words, etc.) and can be helpful to visually demonstrate the
  difference between parts of speech.  However, signing SEE for
  communication is cumbersome and most adults who know SEE also know
  ASL, so they can communicate faster and with more people."
  -- Lisa in Washington State


  "I have been interested in sign language since I was in 5th grade.
  I have been interpreting off and on since I was 13 and my sister
  is married to a man who is deaf so I know a little about what you
  are asking.  First of all, most deaf people use ASL or a combination
  of Signed English and ASL which is called Pigeon English.  Signed
  English is what deaf schoolchildren are taught.  It is every single
  word signed, in the structure that we use in English.  They are
  taught sign language this way so that they will understand the
  English language that they will be reading, writing, etc.  As they
  get older and merge more into deaf culture (if they are choosing
  sign language as their primary language), they will learn ASL.  This
  is an entirely different language structure, using signs.

  Here is an example that was always used in my classes:

  We would say, 'Have you been home yet?'
  In ASL, we would SIGN, 'Touch home finish?'

  ASL has just recently begun to be acknowledged as a 'foreign'
  language and many colleges are accepting it as such.  I am teaching
  my children sign language using 'Signing Times' videos:


  These are EXCELLENT and perfect for gaining a large repertoire of
  signs.  She does not teach ASL per se, but uses it in the videos
  if you know how to recognize it.  Once your children have a good
  foundation of signs, then I would get them in a class that is more
  intense and begins the basics of ASL.  ASL is a very difficult
  language and I don't know any hearing people who use it in Deaf
  culture exclusively.  All of the interpreters that I have known
  use Pigeon.  But then again, I never took an ASL course.  I wish
  that I had.  Sign language interpretation is an excellent field
  to get into.  Many states do not require certification, and the pay
  for freelance work is excellent.  Also, there are only a handful of
  interpreters throughout the U.S., so they are in big demand.  My
  sister turns down assignments often and makes a killing when she
  does work.  I think it is an excellent thing, especially for our
  daughters, as they can pick and choose assignments based on when
  they want to work or not!

  If you need any further help on this, I'd be happy to oblige."

  -- Allison H.


  "SEE or Signing Exact English is trading a sign or movement for
  each word; there is no grammar, no historical context.  ASL is a
  rich language with different grammar and a history and linguistic
  context (not to mention dialects).
  I took ASL in college from a deaf professor with a PhD.  He was
  amazing to listen to as he pointed out the differences between
  SEE and ASL -- and also between ASL and Dutch Sign (his father
  was also Deaf and from Holland -- the prof 'spoke' both).  It was
  also interesting when we'd have speakers from different areas of
  the country because there would be dialect differences.  These
  would show in where the hands were placed in relation to the body,
  facial expression, and even slight differences in hand position.
  We were able to meet a group of New York students and they had
  the same dialect so we were able to see the difference between a
  person's style and a regional thing.
  Personally I would have a harder time assigning credit for SEE
  than for ASL, purely because learning just signs (and not learning
  the history, culture and grammar) I believe shortchanges the
  opportunity to grow and learn.  SEE is too much like learning
  English, and by the time a student is in High School, in America,
  one can assume that they can speak English.  So to me SEE is not
  really learning a foreign Language." -- Mia


  "Anna -- In summary, SEE was created to make the Deaf world
  conform to the hearing world, whereas ASL is their actual language.
  SEE has some advantages that the hard-of-hearing population (in
  some cases) has adopted, but the reversal of verbs, adjectives,
  adverbs and nouns, that is part of ASL, is still a key point that
  sets apart the Deaf culture.

  Sign Language can be considered a foreign language and even a
  first language for others and should be viewed as one of the more
  popular languages in the United States, even though it is usually
  not listed in a ranking." -- JenniLyn

     Answer our NEW Question

  "I have an 'issue' that I would LOVE some answers to.
  My son is 4 years old and he will be 5 in may 2010.  He goes to
  Preschool 2.5 hours a day 3 days a week now and he loves it.
  I want to homeschool Kindergarten and 1st grade, but I hate the
  idea of all-day Kindergarten!  We are not 'overly' religious;
  our reason to homeschool is mainly that we think there is no
  reason he needs to be away from home for that much time.  Also,
  there are so many things I want to do with him and teach him.
  He doesn't have any learning disabilities; he's actually already
  doing some Kindergarten and 1st grade stuff.  He is very articulate.
  He's my firstborn though, and very 'look at me'!  He LOVES to be
  in charge and doesn't always like to play together with other
  kids unless they play HIS WAY.  He's very social (especially
  with older kids and adults) -- and very talkative.
  My questions are:

  1.  Am I 'cheating' him socially if I homeschool him?
  2.  Am I homeschooling him because I truly think it's best for
  him or is it just what I want to do?
  3.  Will he have a hard time adjusting to school if we send him
  in 2nd or 3rd grade?
  Thanks!" -- Gretchen


  Would you like to respond to Gretchen's concerns? 

  Please send your answer to:  mailto:HN-answers@familyclassroom.net

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