How long can you stare at hieroglyphs you can’t decipher before you shrug your shoulders, smile, and move on? Without a cipher, or the ability to translate the pictograms into meaningful sounds or images, they would be just fancy lines and dots to you. I sometimes imagine that to the child with a language impairment, everything looks and sounds like an unintelligible foreign language.
I remember teaching my eldest daughter a lesson on cuneiform. At first glance, the stacks of triangular prisms set deep into clay looked like bird tracks at the seashore. By the end of the week my daughter was spelling out “God is love” in cuneiform in moist Virginia clay. What started out as unconnected input became a meaningful, eternal assurance. That is the beauty of ordering knowledge. It brings meaning to the wide and diverse inputs we experience by the millions on a daily basis.
When my son was first diagnosed with a language delay, I tried in vain on my own to get language to become meaningful for him. The symbols I showed him—in books and in our world—seemed to pass him by. After a wasted year at a preschool that was a poor fit for him, I turned in desperation to the internet, where time after time parents recommended the Simply Classical Curriculum. I prayed and prayed, mostly that the Lord would tell me not to homeschool him.
Surely, if teachers and therapists with advanced degrees couldn’t coax my son out of his shell of silence, how could I? How could I defend another wasted year in that critical window of language formation? I had already brought my eldest daughter home, and we were having so much fun! How would I handle the added struggle of instructing a child in work he had no interest in doing?
My father, a pastor, was my greatest encourager; he saw my eldest daughter’s success under my tutelage. Yet I was unable to envision the same result for my child with language delay. Assenting to my father’s godly wisdom, I stepped out in faith to teach Simply Classical Curriculum Level B to my son.
Those first months were humbling. Stories were pushed away. Sitting was a challenge. Speaking was hard won. But the low-stakes repetition of memory verses and ready answers to recitation questions built success for my reluctant talker. I saw how the curriculum laid a most beautiful foundation in literature, language, and ideas. I watched my son explode in language, interests, and maturity as I followed this curriculum designed to meet his specific learning needs.
As I read more about the rationale behind classical Christian education, I decided I wanted the same cohesive curriculum for my whole family. I switched to Memoria Press Second Grade for my eldest. I had noticed how every detail included in my son’s curriculum was relevant to what he would learn as he advanced through the grades, and, knowing there were gaps in my daughter’s knowledge, I spent the summer prior to beginning second grade in First Grade Enrichment and Rod & Staff Arithmetic 1. When my son sat on my lap to hear his sister’s stories, he would interject with connections to books we had read in his studies. This curriculum had unlocked his ability to read deeply, and my mommy-educator heart was singing.
I listened as my son spoke spontaneously, measured in word but with purpose. He went from two-word sentences to ten-word sentences with introductory phrases and transition words. I directly attribute this to the rich children’s literature that Memoria Press promotes. I appreciated the sensible apologetic for avoiding empty, stream-of-consciousness children’s books in favor of those with elevated dialogue, rich vocabulary, and varied syntax. Soon, he was asking to sit in on his sister’s morning recitation, and he soaked up seasons, presidents, coins, and continents. He could finish, “the sun…” with “rises in the east and sets in the west,” pointing out our sunlit kitchen window’s eastern exposure. My quiet little boy knew things, and he finally wanted to tell me about them.
Here, at the end of the year, I sit in delight at how much different his world is now that he knows things and can talk about them. He knows symbols, letters, plants, and animals. He knows of a world outside of his own, a blessed gift unto itself. This child has favorite books, and he loves to try to retell the storylines without erupting into peals of laughter.
Inspired by the beautiful children’s literature we studied through Memoria Press, my husband and I took our children on a storybook tour of Maine. My children pet a blue-ribbon pig at the Blue Hill Fair of Charlotte’s Web fame. They hiked the rugged wilderness setting of coastal Maine depicted in Island Boy. My eldest experienced the joy of clamming the same week she lost a tooth, much like Sal in One Morning in Maine. We toured Buck’s Harbor, savoring the salt-crisp olive focaccia of the still-standing market as the children clamored for ice cream like Sal’s little sister Jane. We picked wild blueberries near the cottage we rented and giggled that we, too, ate more berries than we brought home. What made the trip truly special was all of the connections they made. They saw things they learned through children’s books, and those things—no longer hieroglyphs—suddenly had meaning.
Larissa Nusz and her husband live in Virginia with their children, whom they homeschool with meaning. Larissa can be found on our Simply Classical forum, SimplyClassical.com, as Enbateau.