Today my guest post is from Mama Homer.
My husband and I adopted our son shortly before he turned seven years old. In Russia, school doesn’t start until age seven, so he had never had any traditional schooling of any kind.
When our son arrived, he did not know one word of English. He also had moderate anxiety issues to the point that if I suggested school time, he would completely shut down, run away, or scream and fight me from the start. In addition, he didn’t trust me as a caregiver.
At first we did a lot of reading together, snuggled on the couch. Picture books helped him figure out what the story was about, even if he couldn’t understand the words I was saying. We worked on picture flash cards to improve his English, but I didn’t find that it helped much with real world application.
When I started to him on pre-school age work, I was reminded very quickly that even American preschoolers have the benefit of 4 years of parental guidance ahead of them. Almost everything I started him with I had to back track, then back track again, then back track until the most very basic elements.
The toughest were math and reading. For math, he obviously needed to learn the English names of the numbers, but as we went on, I realized that he didn’t really understand the concept of numbers, or what it meant to put them together. I remember a lightbulb moment for him when I showed him how bread+meat=sandwich just like 1+2=3.
Reading has been another journey. He learned the alphabet and sounds well enough, but when I’d show him lists of words – cat, bat, rat, sat, mat – at least half of those words he had no idea what they meant – so if he got a sound wrong and said ‘gat’, there was no way for him to know that it wasn’t correct. Pictures didn’t help either when figuring out individual words. We moved directly to easy reader books and he finally started moving forward.
Our son has been with us now for almost three years. We use primarily Charlotte Mason Philosophy and try to make learning as natural as possible (helps with school anxiety too). He’s made amazing strides and I’m so proud of the progress he’s made. It’s true he’s ‘behind’ compared to his peers still, but I truly believe that if he were in public school from the beginning, he would have been placed in ESL classes for longer than he would have needed. I also know that our relationship, while getting off to a rocky start, is stronger now than it would have been if we hadn’t fought through all of this together.
Note: If you are the homeschooling parent of a special needs child, I would love to have you tell your story here. Please use the contact form to drop me a note.