Posted by: fatherof11 | June 27, 2008

Education – Language and Cultural Issues

Giving only a moment’s thought to it, we will recognize that education cannot happen without some method for the teacher to communicate truth to the student. If the teacher and student cannot communicate, no transfer of knowledge can take place. Now take the example of the foreign child who is adopted and immediately placed in a traditional school. The child may be bright and she may even have had a good education in her native country, yet suddenly she is placed in a situation where she is asked to learn without knowing the language well. As you would suspect, such a child will typically have great difficulty keeping up with her peers in the classroom.
One of our daughters who was adopted from a disruption was placed in this very situation by her first adoptive parents. She was a top student in her native country. However, she was placed at the eighth grade level with a less than first grade mastery of English.  Armed with an electronic dictionary and not much else, she tried desperately to keep up.  Most of her time was spent merely looking up words to see what they meant.  Think about it, though.  Knowing what all the words mean does not imply you can make sense of a sentence or paragraph. Some classes, such as mathematics, do not rely as much on language and were easier for her than others, such as history, which require a better grasp of the language. Not surprisingly, she floundered in many of her classes. This was very frustrating to a girl accustomed to being the top in her class. In the end, the frustration contributed to many of her behaviors that eventually produced the disruption. Though there were other problems involved, this unnecessary burden placed on her did not make things easier.
The solution for children like this is to forgo those subjects which require a great deal of language until their language skills are up to the task. This means creating a individually tailored curriculum which focuses on language acquisition. Other subjects can then be introduced as the language permits. Clearly, such an individualized curriculum does not fit well into a standard classroom situation. It can really only be done in a one on one situation between teacher and student, or at least with a very small teacher to student ratio. While these could be handled through tutors or special classes if available, there are other things going on in the newly adopted child’s life that make homeschooling a healthy solution.
One of the things that happens to a child when they are adopted from a foreign country can best be described by culture shock. Not only does the child have a new home and family, but everything in their environment has changed. Everything from foods to social customs are different.  Things that they considered “right” are now wrong.

One humorous example is that, where some of our kids come from, used toilet paper is placed in the trash can, not the toilet. Suddenly, your new mom is freaking out because you threw toilet paper in the trash. Isn’t that where it goes? Now multiply that by the thousands of different little things that are changed and you can imagine how easily such a child can become overwhelmed by all the changes.

Consider introducing this child into a traditional school. They may look different, they speak a different language, they have different customs they are just generally different. And different is not what you usually want to be in a group of kids. Though homeschooling is often criticized because of its “lack of socialization,” most kids can do without the “socialization” that involves being the outsider who is open game for teasing and abuse.

At the same time, many of these children are just learning what it means to be in a family. Many have not known parents and need time to adjust to what that means. Combine these changes with the ones mentioned above and the child can quickly become overloaded.

The ideal would be to give them time to adjust to the culture, before putting them in large groups of people. It would also be preferable to give them time to adapt to a few new people at one time. Clearly the family should be given priority. All of these point to a situation, such as homeschooling, where the child is kept at home for some time prior to introducing them into group situations.

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