Posted by: ramonamom | June 30, 2008

Education – Practical Examples

Now that we have thrown a week’s worth of theories and principles out in the blogosphere, I will share some down to earth actual examples of how we have “educated” our older adopted children. 

The first two children we adopted were 8 and 9 years old when we brought them home from Russia.  Our daughter (the 9 year old) was deaf (with some hearing in one ear – enough to be aided) but we were determined to homeschool them both, just as we had already been doing with our three biological children.  I searched high and low on the internet for resources to help with teaching a deaf daughter who did not speak English, but could find nothing at all.  So, I made it all up as I went along and we had a blast.  I used ABeka’s beginning phonics and math books, as they needed to learn from the very beginning stages in all areas.  Neither one of them had any understanding of the concepts of time (minutes, hours, days, weeks, etc), money, mathematics, etc., so I had the privilege of teaching them all of these things.  We used practical examples as much as possible (blocks, money, manipulatives), went on many field trips, talked to the children a lot, and encouraged them to learn from their siblings.  And learn they did, although I felt completely inept much of the time. 

Eventually, the older daughter seemed to reach a plateau with all of her academics.  There was just so far she could go with writing a grammatically correct sentence and nothing we seemed to do helped her get beyond that.  We suspect she may have some learning disabilities due to possible Fetal Alcohol Exposure or these limitations may be due to her lack of any language base until the age of 9/10.  She caught on well to math concepts (using Rod and Staff textbooks which are very practical), unless they were abstract.  So, at the age of 18, we have declared her academic schooling finished and now we will continue to train her in the areas she dreams of someday achieving in life – being a wife and mother.  She has come very, very far from the daughter we brought home from Russia many years ago who had no language basis at all and it has been a series of joys and challenges to teach her.   She has had little motivation to learn academics on her own, so I erased the images of having our own little Helen Keller from my mind long ago.

Her younger brother is now 17 and we expect him to graduate from high school in two years.  He has come very far in his reading comprehension over the years (using the classic literature in Robinson Self Teaching Curriculum, G.A. Henty, and LOTS of Hardy Boys books), although he is still doing 7th grade math (Rod and Staff).  He is very good at manual labor jobs and he takes great pride in keeping an area maintained to a high standard (one of his jobs is cleaning our ceramic cooktop and it bothers him to see anyone get it dirty).  This son has challenges specific to Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, which have limited his abilities, but he has recently done an excellent job of overcoming some of these. 

The second sibling set we adopted from Russia were 12, 13 and 14 at the time of adoption.  We were very uncertain of their academic background when we brought them home, so we began teaching them the language with Rosetta Stone’s computer program and worked on basic math worksheets to determine their capabilities, most of which I found free on the internet.  As they learned the language better, we had them start reading books in the Robinson Self Teaching Curriculum, with increasing difficulty as time went on.  They were eventually able to read and work Saxon math books on their own, up to about the Algebra I level.  None of these kids chose to finish their academic schooling, though.  Our daughter (the oldest) chose to get married and start a family – an endeavor she was well suited for and quite capable of undertaking.  Her two brothers had an independent itch which seemed to need constant scratching, so they both moved out (one of his own accord and one of our choosing) and began their adult lives.  Both of these sons work full time in the food industry at this time, although the younger one came very close to passing his GED test and hopes to finish the one section he narrowly did not pass. 

Our other three adopted daughters came to our family separately from disrupted adoptions, ages 11, 12 and 14 at the time.  The first daughter to come into our family had been in her previous adoptive home for only eight months and she had spoken little English over that time (her adoptive mom spoke her native language and did not make her learn English).  She was deeply traumatized when we first met her, yet she tackled academics with a passion.  I bought simple math worksheets for her to practice on during the three weeks I stayed with her before the adoption and she seemed to eat them up, finishing one right after the other.  She surprised us by being able to read a bit of English and as I worked with her she picked it up quickly.  We eventually began to realize that she was good with basic concepts, but abstract thought and reading comprehension was more of a challenge. 

The second daughter adopted from a disruption had been with her first adoptive family for three years, attending public school during that time.  She was not doing well academically and testing had shown her to have “language delays” which we quickly realized were normal for someone who had only known the language for a short amount of time.  She was berated in school and told repeatedly that she was stupid, often receiving very low grades.  It has taken lots of patience and encouragement to help her see that she is indeed not stupid, although she struggles greatly with math to this day.  Her reading comprehension is good and she has read many of the books in the Robinson Curriculum.  This daughter also very  much enjoys reading missionary biographies. 

Our third daughter adopted from a disruption came to us at the age of 14, a very angry and bitter person.  We worked minimally with academics for the first few months of her life with us, but mostly on her emotional issues and learning the language more thoroughly.  She excelled in school in her native country, but was set back academically by having to learn a new language at the age of 13/14 and then by the trauma of the disruption.  She also has read many of the books in the Robinson Curriculum and is doing Advanced Mathematics in the Saxon curriculum.  It has been a challenge to get her reading books on her own time, as she much prefers reading in her native language, but we seem to finally have found a genre of books she enjoys reading (Christian adventure/romance/historical fiction). 

Just recently, we have reevaluated the academics of these three daughters and found that there is little to no chance of them finishing the Robinson Self Teaching Curriculum.  They simply started too late in their academic careers and their reading is not to the level it needs to be to zip through the books in the time frame necessary to finish high school in the next few years. 

Thus, my husband has made some changes in the reading list for Robinson Curriculum, removing the history books and some others, also.  These will be replaced with textbooks from Bob Jones University, CD’sfrom Switched on Schoolhouse, and our daughter who struggles with math so much will be using Teaching Textbooks for that subject.  Two of these daughters are on track to graduate in two years, although one of them has contemplated studying for the GED and taking the test within the next year, which is fine with us.  The other daughter should graduate from high school in three years.  Considering the changes these girls have gone through in their short lives, and the emotional traumas, it is amazing to realize that they will all be graduating from high school at the age of 19!  Our two sons who began Robinson Self Teaching Curriculum at the age of five will both continue along that path, graduating at least a year earlier than “normal”, so our students have quite a range of abilities among them. 

This post has been rather long winded, but I wanted to show some of the varied choices available through homeschooling and how we have been able to gauge our student’s abilities as we have gone along, making changes in textbooks and curriculums when needed.  It has been a delight to watch our adopted children learn to speak English and adjust to their new surroundings while in our own home.  There have been lots of challenges throughout the years, but homeschooling these children is one decision that we have never doubted was right for our family. 

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Responses

  1. We have JUST returned from Ukraine with 17yo and 16yo boys. We decided early on to home school them because they are both delayed (the oldest primarily socially and the youngest with some significant learning disabilities). We are getting feedback from other Christians who have adopted that getting them into a school setting of some sort with peers helps them both socially and to learn English more quickly. We already have them signed up for karate with my husband 2x week, bowling, English tutoring, and will be evaluating the ESL program at the local branch of the university near our home tomorrow. The oldest can communicate quite well in English; the youngest understand and uses language around the 3 yr level only. Please advise.

  2. Martha,
    Congratulations on your recent adoptions! I am happy to give suggestions, but please keep in mind that every situation is different, as are the personalities and histories of each adopted child and their new family.

    We actually suggest that older adopted children be given plenty of time to first get used to being part of a family unit, as this is a concept that is likely completely unfamiliar to them. Unless they were recently orphaned, they are probably not used to having parental authority in their lives and being held accountable for their actions, either. Time must be spent on teaching them how American families “work” and what your particulare expectations of them will be. Even before that, though, they need plenty of down time to simply get used to the new culture they will be immersed in. Slower is better in this case! Take the time to get to know who they are – learn as much as you can about their history, their likes, dislikes, challenges, talents, etc. Sit down with them and look at family photos, drive around town to show them where you live and work, and introduce them to folks outside the family unit slowly.

    There is a chance that older adopted children may be naturally drawn into peer relationships that we would consider unhealthy for them, so caution must be used in this area. If they smoked and drank in their home country, they may prefer the teens here who are doing the same, so keep a close eye on who they prefer to have as friends.

    Kids this age can be easily hurt emotionally. They tend to think that “everyone is looking at them” and since they will be so very different in the beginning, this will likely be the case for certain! Try to shield them from unkind remarks until they have a good chance to get used to the culture. We strongly recommend homeschooling, partly for this reason. Watch your boys carefully and see if it seems that the other activities (karate, classes, etc) seem to be helping or hurting them and do not hesitate to withdraw them if the effects are negative. There will be plenty of time for that later!

    Educationally, be careful to not put your expectations of them too high. It is unlikely that they will be able to graduate from high school work for a number of years. From our own experience, it takes about a year to fully learn a language and it is only at that point that they can begin to learn IN THAT LANGUAGE. We have a daughter from China who was a star student there, but after having been in the US for five years she still struggles mightily with language comprehension in some subjects.

    I hope this helps. Feel free to ask more questions.

    Blessings
    Ramona


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