Saturday, September 14, 2013
School Challenges and Accomplishments
Now that we are well into school, certain challenges are presenting themselves. The two younger girls have back-slid in reading and phonics. Sissy leaped ahead due to improvements in her English. I'm very excited about this! The main challenge for Jie Jie right now is learning to be faster and learning to test. The main challenge for Blossom is understanding verbal and written instructions. She needs everything explained 12 different ways before she understands it. Meanwhile, the other two are finished with the same assignment. So far, we've been doing a lot of first grade phonics. Jie Jie will also do some second grade phonics at the same time once she reviews the material and Sissy might be there with her, too. After getting past the short vowel sounds, we'll add the companion spelling book for all the girls at first grade level. I hope we finish first grade level phonics in just a couple of months. They would be beyond this, I think, if they knew English better, but when they sound words out, with their accents and poorly developed oral muscles (in the case of the two olders), they get the letter sounds all wrong. We are on the waiting list for an amazing speech program.
For social studies we will be putting together the United States like a puzzle. Each girl had a light blue presentation board and they will each the states to name and color, one per week, then we'll learn and do worksheets on the flag, flower and nickname of each state then glue it on the board. By the time we finish all 50 states, the U.S. will be fully assembled on each board and we'll label the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans.
They are doing math, Sissy at a solid 3rd grade level, the other two at 1st grade level still. They got hung up on place values last year (ones, tens, hundreds), so borrowing and carrying stumped them.
Taken for what it is, it's easy to feel discouraged as a mother with children this far behind academically. When I think of what my girls have come from, though, I can see a lot of progress from when they first came last year. Many people have said they will catch up. I don't think that's going to happen because you can't make huge leaps past gaping knowledge gaps, they have to go through the learning phase, knowledge won't just beam into their heads without exposure.
Certain things will be helpful this year over last year and I'm very excited. First, we have a dedicated school room. This is huge because my girls need their school room to look like a classroom. We have a nice new chalk/white board (which we all LOVE), a globe, US and world wall maps with the Pacific Ocean in the center so we can see China and the US easily. I've also ordered a document camera and projector, which will help us immensely. My goal this year is exposure. Now that they understand and speak English better, I can read to them more and expose them to more pictures, videos, ideas, etc.... and they will understand it and learn from it.
I also admit, that after a particularly hard day with them yesterday, I put mini m-n-ms and smarties in a cup and they get to choose one piece of candy when they do well or figure out something challenging. For example, we've read the word "great" and talked about it only once and Blossom remembered it when we did flashcards a week later, so she got to pick a treat. The tiny amount of sweetness also tricks to brain into a more euphoric state, which would not work with bigger pieces of candy.
Our schedule is starting to settle. Jie Jie goes to "outside" school twice a week for an hour each time. Blossom goes to outside school three times per week and Sissy goes four times per week, each for two hours at a time. At home, they get to access the school's online learning programs for reading and keyboarding, which they will all do.
The baby is easy and she also has some "school" in the form of board books and puzzles, which are new to her. I am getting into the swing of getting housework, laundry and food preparation taken care of while schooling. I'm still on maternity leave for a little longer, so I don't have to add that to the mix yet, thank heavens. Once I do start work, it will be a lot more limited than before, thanks to a lower cost of living in my new city and a trusted assistant.