Kung Fu Panda

Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift. That is why it is called the "present."

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Schooling a newly adopted, older child; Our experience 1-year later

I am excited to share Gwen's story. I have hopes that someone out there will find it helpful. One of the biggest questions when you are adopting an older child from another country is where to start with education. We were blessed to be able to homeschool Gwen and by doing so, did not really have any "rules" to follow where curriculum is concerned. We did need to declare her a grade though, and that was the first challenge. When Gwenny came to us in March 2008, she spoke NO English; wrote no English. She did however, have some tiny school books with her! These tiny school books gave us a look into what Gwen had been learning in China. While obviously the reading and writing was of no relevance, the math was a major window! We discovered that she had been doing Singapore-style math, and by looking at the problems and work, it appeared she was working at a 2nd grade level at age 7! I was already determined to set her grade at an age appropriate level and if we needed to go back we would (it is much harder to move a child up and back.) With this thought in mind, and seeing her work, we determined that we would actually set her grade 1 grade level higher than her age, and placed her as 3rd grade. In about July we started preschool type games and flashcards. Logan was very helpful here, giving her a great "older brother" influence. By August she was up to kindergarten level, knowing her colors, letter sounds, a few blends etc. She was beginning to write her name and showing interest in learning to write more. We let her lead, but we did have to encourage her too. As she started to understand more words, and was able to put more info into her memory bank, we pushed forward. By September she was reading! I used some reference from http://oldfashionededucation.com/ to help me teach reading and phonics. We worked hard on "seeing" words and building a memory of them, but phonics was our best friend. She learned to decode very quickly, but can be frustrated when phonics rules do not apply even today. We started learning simple grammar by October. As each American Holiday passed, we did a unit on the holiday, learning about calendars, dates, days of the week, and capitalization rules (scholasticbooks.com). I began to use ABeka 1st grade workbooks by about September. By November she was working through ABeka 2nd grade, and in December she was using both 2nd and 3rd grade ABeka. In March she FINISHED the 2nd grade ABeka workbook (I think I will keep that book forever!), and she was working solely from the 3rd grade workbook. She now reads at a middle-year 2nd grade level! With math, we dived right into 3rd grade level, again using ABeka but not doing any word problems at all. There were a few things I skipped along the way and came back to later, but for the most part she worked right through 3rd grade math. She had some struggles learning new math concepts, and has determined that math is her least favorite subject. 3rd grade math is HARD! There were so many new concepts for her to learn along with learning to read and write, but we did not do hardly any science or history (from books) until the beginning of the first of the year, with the exception of talking about things in our daily life, planting a garden, and learning about holidays. Our concentration was on 1. keeping her math skills going. 2. Learning to read and write English. We did not give her "tests" this year, we simply let her work alone show her grades, I did a LOT of reading "to" her, and based grades in Sciences and History on what she could retain and repeat back. She did many things in the form of "Art" projects.

In March, we used a testing booklet for standardized testing to begin to teach her the formats she would see when she took the Iowa Basic Test. It also gave me a good look at things that we might have missed or skipped over through the year. We did this booklet once a week until testing day, and the week before testing I started to go over "timing" the test, filling in the answer sheet and some of those little details she would encounter for the first time. In May she took the Iowa Basic 3rd grade exam.

Yesterday, we got the results and I would like to share them with you. Please keep in mind that she took this test ON HER OWN. She did not have any assistance or special attention, beyond the fact that I told the teacher she might have to remind Gwenny to stay on task. SHE DID WELL. VERY WELL. Her scores were set at 2.0 grade equivalent-2.6 grade equivalant. Her highest scores were in SPELLING (she has a knack for it!!), PUNCTUATION, CONCISENESS AND CLARITY (under useage and expression), MEASUREMENTS (a new math concept this year!!), MULTIPLYING AND DIVIDING WHOLE WHOLE NUMBERS, LIFE SCIENCE, ANALYZING INFORMATION and finally, USING REFERENCE MATERIALS. WE ARE SOOOO VERY, VERY PROUD OF YOU GWENNY!!!

While she did not achieve the appropriate 3rd grade level, we will graduate her to 4th grade, and continue to work in both the 3rd grade level and begin the 4th grade level next year. This summer she is reading and learning about book reports. We will continue to work "lightly" on her math skills, and both of the girls are using a computer program called Clicknkids (http://www.clicknkids.com/Phonics2.asp).

I would like to say that we had planned to place Gwenny in school this past year. Our thinking was to submerge her in the English language and let peer influence help her. The school we had registered her with (a charter school) failed to finish their building and did not open this year, determined (hahaha), I signed her up for Public school and found out they were going to "bus" her to a horrible neighborhood. LISTEN, GOD DOES SPEAK! We were MEANT to Homeschool her. I KNOW this now. One very important thing I want to share is that I was not able to go to China for Gwen. She bonded with her Dad instantly, and I felt a bit like I had literally missed the boat. Teaching GAVE us an opportunity to bond, I mean REALLY bond. I was afforded the opportunity to get to know Gwen, to learn that when she wants to know something she will pay very close attention. To know that once she has obtained the information she wanted, she will then shut off. I learned that she needs a gentle push sometimes. I am still looking for ways to help her turn her brain back "on" once she decides to shut it off lol. I learned from Gwen! SHE taught ME many things this year. I feel SOOO totally BLESSED to have had this precious time of learning with her. In many many ways it felt like seeing your child walk or crawl for the first time.

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The Brown Family said...

Thanks for sharing this story of Gwen's (and mom's!) remarkable progress.

When we adopted Pearl it was my intention to homeschool her. After 3 days at home, she grabbed her backpack and insisted on going to school with her sisters. I was so fearful to send her, but after prayer felt comforted in that decision. I have found that she needs social time with her peers. She has also excelled in school, our family, and is a happy girl.

Gwen reminded me so much of Pearl when we were together in China. I am not surprised at all to hear this wonderful report! I know that the Lord guides us to exactly what we need!


Norah said...

I loved this post, and you and Gwen are both an inspiration to me! Marissa was placed in first grade this past school year. She will be 9 on July 8th and will be here for one year that week also. She did very well in school this year, but we also did a lot of work at home with her. I'm going to click on the links you provided and see what I can find. I have never home-schooled. I don't know how or where to start, but I admire those who do. Congrats to BOTH of you for all of your hard work!

mary said...

What a beautiful and smart precious girl the Lord has given you! We too are homeschooling our children after adopting an older child from China. Mason is a smartie, but he also all boy and doesn't like to sit for long - ha! You have a wonderful family, and I can't wait to hear more about your homeschooling adventures :)

Keisha said...

WOW! Sounds like she had one AWESOME teacher! ;)
I think its great that you are able to teach her & form bonds with her at the same time!

RamblingMother said...

What a wonderful update on Gwen.

Donna said...

What a remarkable girl Gwenny is and what a patient caring and competent mommy you are to help her catch up so quickly!

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