More About ASL

As I had mentioned in an earlier post, we are learning American Sign Language (ASL) from a friend who has a deaf son.  We are having so much fun learning!  Yesterday we started learning the song A-C-D-E-F-G Jesus Died for You and Me.  The goal is for the kids to sing and sign it at church later this month.  In the meantime, they get to practice singing/signing it in front of family.

Then today read this article which I thought was really good! This has been reprinted with permission from Home Educating Family Magazine 2011 Issue 2.

Talking With My Hands

By: Beatrice Scalf

Entering summer always causes me to reflect on the “goods” and “bads” of the last school year, the tweaking for next year phase. What have we done well? What bombed? Favorite subjects? This year the chips fell happily and heavily on the side of sign language. Everyone from the two-year-old to Daddy found this new form of communication fulfilling. We ventured to learn something that, in our home and daily life, is not necessary. None of us is deaf. We don’t have deaf family members. In fact, we only know one deaf person. Why, then, was it such a hit? I think the answer touches on something that is at the very heart of homeschooling in general.

Home educators are outside the box kind of people. We want to enlighten our children, broaden their minds, expand their paths with as much extraordinary as we can. We cover the basics, yes, but that is not where our passions lie. We don’t thrive on grammar and algebra. We are robotics and missionary studies and cake decorating. The unusual is our usual. Yeah, let them learn Spanish or French or (in our case) German but throw in some Swahili. You never know when they will find themselves in the middle of the Serengeti next to a Range Rover that is fresh out of petrol. Sign language is stupendous enough to fit beautifully into this penchant for form over function. Truly, though, sign language is a symmetry of form and function. It is a physical expression of the harmony between peanut butter and jelly. It is the brogue of a jet engine, a beautiful feat of physics whose function is profoundly expressed in its form. Sign language isn’t a dialect within a language. It is singular, an entity apart from other languages. You can’t express “ya’ll” or “pahk the cah in the cah pahk” with your hands. It is pure. Signing has no need of decoration or peppering with slang and buzz words.

Additionally, sign language is an expression of the desire for outreach that is at the essence of home education. We open to our children and ourselves an entire segment of our population that would otherwise be difficult to reach if not unreachable. Speaking with my deaf friend recently, I realized the “secret society” feeling I got from knowing that only a couple other people in the building could know what we were saying to each other. We were closed off from an entire room of people but were able to enjoy each other’s company. This conversation magnified for me the desire, the need,  to learn to communicate better with her. The setting was a large public venue with nearly one thousand people and multiple singing performances and speeches. She didn’t know that one singer was wonderful with a deep, bluesy voice, one speaker was talking through his nose, and the cheering was so loud that I wanted to leave the room. She didn’t know – until I was able to tell her. That bridge is a special structure. It’s the connecting of worlds that only pass in orbit occasionally and usually in a clunky, painful way. I was able to give her a deeper connection to the performances. She gave me a deeper understanding of how much I can help.

After the event was over I had the overwhelming urge to make sure she got to her car safely and to see that everything was okay for her. I couldn’t help thinking about what might happen if she was hurt and could not tell anyone. How can she know if a car is racing toward her if she can’t hear the engine? I felt desperate to be there just in case. This was all the urging I needed to continue teaching sign language to myself and my children. There is a need for more hearing people to become bridges to the deaf. So many reasons. So much need.

If revealing the world to our children is our goal, then sign language deserves top billing in the curriculum list. Beyond the obvious benefits, sign language is character building (a tool without compare to instill compassion). Sign language is coordination building. Sign language is logic building. Sign language boosts a toddler’s grasp of word meanings. Sign language has no age limits. It is a class that can be simultaneously taught to everyone in the family. Just to gild the lily, many universities and colleges are now accepting sign language as foreign language credits for entrance requirements. Obviously, this varies widely but it’s easy enough to check on and well worth the effort.

The difficulty with sign language is finding a downside to learning it ourselves and teaching it to our children. It’s not a case of the benefits slightly outweighing the risk. They aren’t even fighting in the same weight class. Even if you never become fluent or you never meet a deaf person with whom you can use your skills, you have broadened your mind and come to the realization that sometimes we do things just because someone else needs us to do them. It is a manifestation of a servant’s heart.

What a difference we could make if more people would take the time to learn ASL!

Linked to: Farm Girl Friday, Homestead Barn Hop,Teach Me Tuesday



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0 Responses to More About ASL

  1. gymkatamom says:

    Loved reading this! We homeschool, and my daughter is studying ASL. The whole family dabbled, but it only lit a passion in one child (who now desires to pursue ASL interpreting as a career). At first it was something like described here – just unusual and beautiful and of no concrete value, but for her it has become more. She’s been able to enlarge her world to include circles of people closed off to me. It’s fun to read that other homeschoolers are doing the same!

  2. Kerri says:

    How exciting for you and your family! We are a homeschooling family who are learing ASL as well. I’ve always wanted to learn since a teen, but never took it up. When I had children I learned how useful it could be for their development, so I taught simple signs. Then when I had our fourth child we learned of “signing TIme”, and we purchased some of the videos. Only God knew that he was preparing us for actually ‘needing’ to know ASL. Our son is hearing, but he has speech apraxia. So he can totally hear and understand us. But he couldn’t speak properly and his only way to communitcate, until he spent a couple of years in speech therapy, was with sign language. I think it’s great that you have someone to teach you. If you ever needed extra practice, there is a free course online here:
    This is what we are using now for our homeschooling lessons in ASL. We all have a lot of fun with it. One of my daughters suggested we use only ASL after eating dinner, while we hang out aruond the table after the meal.

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