Tuesday, September 17, 2013

School Levels

A commentor wondered why Jie Jie is still working at first grade level. Here's the reason...

She's been home now for only 29 months. When she arrived, she was 7 years old, had never been to school, had never held a pen, pencil or crayon, had only moderate good health, couldn't read a single character of Chinese, didn't speak a lick of English and spoke poor Mandarin. (The orphanage was mainly concerned with keeping this medically fragile child alive, which was a miracle in itself). Once she learned how to color, she then had to learn her alphabet and how to write. Then, a new sister came along. Then another. Then another. Then we moved. But before we moved, she got through an entire kindergarten year and half a first grade year in only one year.

Jie Jie can sound words out very well and read at a first AND second grade level. Her comprehension is high. However, she doesn't test well because tests are in complicated English grammar and she can't understand it. She is not an auditory learner AT ALL. I've had her tested and I'm awaiting the results, but I am pretty sure she has some kind of learning problem when it comes to auditory processing and speech output. She is also a perfectionist, and it slows her down.

I'm less worried about her than the others because she makes constant progress. She has high goals and she's an achiever. She'll get there academically, but she's starting from further back than most kids.

Blossom does have a learning disability of some kind. It could be as simple as forcing her to be right handed in China when she is a natural lefty, or it could be something else. There are other factors having to do with how she was treated in her orphanage that would lead her to cease to try to learn, despite being a naturally curious child. I worry about her the most, but I'm very pro-active and have a situation that is going to be very good for her and the other girls this year.

Sissy slept through most of her schooling in China. Without anyone enforcing bedtime in her orphanage, she and her friends stayed up very late every night and slept through school every day. She also admits to having bought coffee in order to stay awake at night. She didn't start school in China until she was 8 years old. She was very small at age 8, the same size, in fact, that Jie Jie was at age 8, which was the size of a 4 or 5 year-old. Children who are not nurtured, stop producing human growth hormone or produce a lot less of it than is normal. Add poor nutrition to that, and you will get a child that is going to have issues across the board. Luckily, Sissy is in good health now and has gained weight and grown well since I've had her.


Amy said...

Interesting. We are working on bringing home a 9 year old from a very poor run down orphanage (Huainan) She is smaller than our just turned 6 year old. I have learned a ton from your blog. Thanks

Lisa and Tate said...

I wish comments were not questioning or judgmental. You are doing an amazing job with your girls and seem to have an understanding of their needs as well as what resources can best serve your girls. I am in WOW of you.

kimjax said...

K - one of my dd's - home at 11 years old, is doing 2nd grade work in subjects like science, 3rd in English, and 5th in math. She read well in Chinese but was never taught critical thinking skills. Hyper vigilance, due to physical abuse in her foster home, lends to several learning issues. Many are being resolved with time and effort. Kids' brains are incredibly resilient! I'm interested in the comment about growth hormones - she's also very small for her age. If you have time, read my post about music and the adopted child (last year). It's been very helpful. :)

goodiego said...

Our DD's English Language Learner (ELL) teacher told us it can take up to six years for a child to "catch up" to their peers in a new language when they lose their first language. It took my DD six years to test out of the ELL WIDA program at school. At our request, she continued to get help in math, science and social science (academic)language for two years after testing out of the program.

I think your beautiful DDs are still speaking Mandarin sometimes, so they are more of an ESL student in some aspects. Some of their emotional and academic language was never learned in Mandarin so in another aspects, they are ELL students. It's like peeling back layers of an onion!

We thought DD had some learning disabilities along the way but mostly we gave her time and extra support over the years. She is currently in 7th grade and she was on the honor roll last year!

Sounds like you are addressing each DD's needs individually. Like another poster just said, and I want to steal! "I am in WOW of you!"

Respectfully, Gina

Almond Tea said...

K- You mention an auditory disorder in Jie Jie. My son (as you know bio, not adopted) has Central Processing Disorder (CPD) that you may want to look into. He has many of the characteristics you mention Jie Jie has, perfectionist, bright, but not an auditory learner. The test can't be administered to young children (toddlers etc,) I think he was 9 when he was tested. It took hours, but is very comprehensive. I felt when I left, I had a lot of answers I had been looking for.

I know you are probably tired of doctors, clinics and hospitals, but this may help you and Jie Jie. There is a software program called "Earobics" that is helpful and qualified speech therapists can work children with this diagnosis as well. HTH.

Anonymous said...

I'm a K-5 ESL teacher and currently about 50% of my students born internationally. Our district integrates students for all classes except English/Reading to allow for language by inclusion. I think it is ridiculous to place these children in a grade strictly based on their age - or to even place them in one grade level class across the board.

All of my children are placed in age appropriate lunch, music and physical education classes, however the remainder of their curriculum is based on ability and comprehension. I have an 8 year old who should be a third grader by age and has been home for around 7 months. He is in fourth grade math, first grade history and science and K-level language arts. We retest every 9 weeks and adjust classes accordingly. By not forcing a specific grade level across the board, students can excel faster at the subjects they are gifted in and focus more on the mechanics of the ones they do not yet comprehend.

This particular child was in K-level Math for his first semester at school and completely checked out. He is now at the top of his Math class with children a year older and runs into school every morning asking for more work so he can attend all classes at 4th grade level.

Circe said...

Neat to read your blog! I'll have to check back. What a great family you have!

Wendy B. said...

It is wonderful that your girls can be with others their age, yet can work at their own pace academically. I homeschool my three kids (two home grown, one adopted from China as a baby), and that is one of the best things about it. They work at whatever level they need to. My daughter from China excels in Math and is a grade ahead (in 4th grade, but 5th grade math), yet works at grade level or slightly below in reading and writing. Your daughters are blessed to have a mom who works with their levels of experience and ability and who realizes that as long as they are progressing, that's really what matters.

Penny said...

Here's another resource for auditory processing and other learning disabilities: