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Math Tests and Piano Songs

“Mama, I do my reading now, set the timer!”
What used to be panic stricken, is now growth.  An area of anxiety for one girl, is now joy.
Maria is now in the 5th grade full time.  At back to school night the teacher told us that even kids who have been good at math can struggle when they get to 5th grade, that it’s challenging for many kids.
When Maria first came home last November, we homeschooled which consisted mostly of baby books, one-digit addition, and lots of repetition, and recovering from a setting of no real security; 
sleeping, eating and love.
Andrew and I have been doing research of children who grow up in high stress/fight or flight mode.  This can be an orphanage setting, or even a volatile home with high stress or even abuse.
For children in these settings learning can be difficult, and in some cases impossible as they cannot store information.
“Chronic anxiety makes learning difficult, if not impossible.  When anxious and overwhelmed, kids have difficulty remembering instructions and may experience dizziness, nausea and panic.”
How We Love our Kids p. 159

We spend our schooling time creating a safe place, instead of focusing on accomplishment or speed.
“It’s ok to make a mistake,” we repeat gently as we hold her hand back from quickly, voraciously rubbing an eraser until a hole appears in the paper.
She takes a deep breath, a break, ‘everything is ok, you are doing great, you are smart,’ as she looks at us, it used to be sad hopelessness, but now in a calm way, as she prepares again.
This has been a long process, and it hasn’t been overnight.  Andrew has proven to be better at it than me, the parent with the teaching credential, who was trained to teach with speed.  But as we all learn together, we constantly find ways to boost up her self esteem.  Children from chaotic childhoods struggle with self esteem in all areas, not just schooling.
A favorite for our boys is to have Maria do her 30 minutes of school reading to them.  Finley in particular cherishes this time, and loves the stories.

And as it turns out, reading to little brothers makes Maria feel pretty good too, confident even, as Finley follows along, points out the pictures to the words, and they laugh at the funny and cute parts.
And we see her reading pick up a bit, a little more light and fun and she reads, line by line, word by word.

“I bet Finley wishes he could read like you, Maria.”
“Yeah, I do!” he nods.
Turns out, there are many things she is good at, and it feels pretty great.

I found a third grade math work book at a garage sale recently, the same one I used to teach out of, and sometimes on the weekend we will do a page or two if we have time to fill in some of the skills.
Andrew talks with her teacher each morning about how she’s doing, what we were able to do on the homework.  The teacher is so kind, and even takes time to read the math out loud to her.  She says during math time, some of the other girls sit near her to help out.
So many people cheering her on.
And last week, we got her first math test back.  
The teacher told us it was coming home.
And when Maria pulled it out of her back pack, she had gotten a 
We went out that night to celebrate.
We had some old gift card lying around, and we celebrated.  
In 5th grade math.  Having learned so much, worked so hard.
We were so proud, in fact, so was Maria.

And for the very first time, all on her own,
she said;

“I Am Smart!”
And this time, she really believes it.
Shirley Temple, pizza, I know, right?

If you agree, let out a yell!!
Writing on the table all about the math she knows how to do, “Watch mama, watch this!!”

An opera singer stopped by our table to sing, at the perfect melt-down timing for the boys, 
“Do they like Disney?”
“We don’t have tv,” we said
“Whaaaat!? Ok, here’s an opera piece about a young woman.”
“I’m from Russia!” Maria told her, smiling.
At which point she was all in our business about tv and Russia.

We had some new friends over.  They speak German and are homeschooled.  The daughter’s favorite thing to play is American girl, too.  They hit it off so well.  
I love seeing Maria make friends, especially such sweet ones.

Finley thought they were great, too.

Two weeks ago, Maria started piano lessons.  So on Wednesdays, just down the street, she sits and learns.  I sat in on the first lesson as the teacher reinforced all the things she is learning in math, the principals of fractions, measuring and counting right at her finger tips.
She loves it!  
“Mama, it’s time for me to practice piano!” as she sits at our old, wooden piano from Stuart with zeal, flipping through pages with little black notes, the ones with the black sticks sitting in lines, the ones she can read all on her own.  
“Mama, listen to this one, ‘Mary had a little Lamb,’ oh my gosh, that’s so cute, the lamb, look.”
We only let her practice for 15 minutes a day, and not longer so she doesn’t get burned out.
“Maria!!  I can’t believe how many songs you can play, it’s so good!  You can make your own music now!”
“I know!!!” she tells me, excited.
Less often, she talks about her old home, and how they weren’t really allowed to do anything.  How they mostly just sat, and tried to play, “But, like, no toys, or anything, mostly just sit.”

We love you so much, dear Maria.  You are a constant, daily gift to us and to our hearts.  We are so proud of you and your strong, strong spirit.  You have overcome so much in your short life, and have a remarkable, loving, kind heart despite.  God lavished his love on us, your parents, by placing you with us.
And always know, forever and ever:

You are loved.

You are smart.

And oh so fun!  (Each with a baby, one baby really milking his role)

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  • Darcy September 10, 2013, 10:46 pm

    It is a highlight to my day when you have a blog post 🙂 It lifts me up, helps me to praise our God and His lavish love.
    Our church is working with other churches to help with the state’s foster care/adoption system in hopes that we can eliminate kids without homes. I am excited to see what God will do in peoples lives – including my own.
    Thank you for sharing your life and kids with the world – it is impacting others 🙂

  • Jane George September 10, 2013, 10:47 pm

    i have loved reading this, i have been so out of touch for so long with you guys and then i read this and it reminded me how much i adore your family, your love, your story! Your kids are amazing and so are you! xx

  • Stephanie September 10, 2013, 11:55 pm

    What a touching story. You are amazing parents and yes

  • Kathy September 11, 2013, 12:02 am

    Love it, another beautiful post!!! Sweet, sweet Maria!!

  • Lisa Lucchese September 11, 2013, 1:02 am

    Maria I am so very proud of you. Your are extremely bright and work so hard. I am a tutor and I wish all my students would work as hard as you. Don’t every forget how amazing you are. hugs!

  • amy jupin September 11, 2013, 1:19 am

    did you write this just for me??

    thank you for sharing!
    maria IS smart…and beautiful, and sweet, and loving, and awesome, and amazing, and quite possibly the cutest little thing eva!!

  • JoshandKristen WantToAdopt September 11, 2013, 2:04 am

    “I am smart!”. I could just cry! What a blessing. Thank you for sharing your story. Your kids are beautiful!

  • Kate Deals September 12, 2013, 1:42 pm

    Another post that brought tears to my eyes. You have an amazing story that I love reading about. Thank you for all your blog posts. While we are too old to adopt I have been donating more to those that are able to.

  • Wendy Talley, Portsmouth, VA September 12, 2013, 7:24 pm

    Remarkable! Go Maria! Such an inspiration.

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