Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Where we are in 2 months

The girls are adjusting well, and I thought I'd write a couple of updates about how they're doing with English, Reading, Math, etc.   There are some definite differences in English acquisition - and I thought it might help for others to hear how they're doing.  Both girls are similar in aptitude, (very bright) so I think there are some definite factors other than age at play in their progress.

Factor 1:  Sarah has a Chinese speaker in her class, and she is definitely lagging in English acquisition because of this.  Jenny is completely immersed each day, and has much better understanding of conversation.   Their reading is progressing at roughly the same rate - but since Jenny had an understanding of general English phonics (th, ch, sh sounds, etc.) before she arrived, she stays ahead.  I think being in the K5 class gives Sarah an edge despite her age, as each day she studies phonics.  Jenny, on the other hand, passively listens most of the time in a 3rd grade class - increasing her auditory comprehension - but not her phonics understanding for reading.  Because of this, I think the ideal situation for an older child is morning school (the mandatory 4 1/2 hours) and then home early with mom to work on basic phonics and reading - she needs 1st grade resources. 

Factor 2:  ESOL has been a HUGE help and my girls qualified for one on one tutoring since they were enrolled early after arriving and had no language skills whatsoever.  My 4 year old was already too proficient when she was old enough for K5 at 5 years old - she did not rate ESOL intervention.  Sarah's teacher was out the first 3 weeks, and Jenny shot past her because of the 1 on 1 help.   

Both girls are able to follow basic math instruction at home, we are working through Grade 3 materials with Jenny.  Measurement and weight is difficult since she is unfamiliar with this as well as Roman numerals.  For now, I have set this aside since it can be memorized quickly when her language skills increase.  She does not "understand" many math concepts, but has progressed in the past through rote memorization of sequential math concepts such as borrowing, etc.  Doing the 3rd grade work and focusing on understanding each basic concept (place value, rounding, etc.) has been helpful and worthwhile so that she understands what she's doing.  We are "plugging holes" and skipping what she knows well.

At 11 years old, the 1st grade work is too easy for Jenny, but still needs to be covered at a faster pace.  While she has some of her phonics sounds, she has not covered punctuation basics such as periods, question marks, capital letters, etc.  She has never encountered "igh," "oa," "ow," etc., and needs to understand double vowels and silent letters.  So we will plow through some 1st grade books - again - to plug holes.  They are reading the 2nd set of "Bob Books" after 2 months - I think that's amazing!

Not surprisingly, both girls approach reading from a whole language perspective, so while they're making fast gains, they're unable to differentiate between sight words and decoding words.  While I've been able to explain this to Jenny, Sarah can't quite comprehend this yet, and often tries to separate the "th" sounds, etc, to "t" and "h."  English is so confusing!! 

Handwriting has been HUGE and we use the BJU Press videos for this.  It gives them a feeling of success, it is their favorite thing to do, and reportedly develops brain wiring similarly to piano playing.  It also instills a sense of excellence as I expect good work from them.  They are so proud of how well they write now, and it's worth the resistance to high expectations at first.  Unlike reading, it's a quick mastery item, and it's wonderful to see them grow in confidence! My dd adopted at 5 years old loved handwriting, too!

I LOVE the youTube songs for months of the year, days of the week, and shapes!  The girls love anything learned through song - and it's so helpful for memory items.  I only wish there were better ones out there for measurements!!

I model a lot of conversational quips that are useful in everyday life:  "May I please have...,"  "I need a.....,"  "Can you help me.....," "Where is....,".  These are great exercises in the car when driving.  "I am hungry," "I am thirsty," "I am tired," - they love doing charades to these. :)  When I'm tired, I don't do this, and we don't make as much progress.  These kids are hungry to learn, and it's hard to keep up with them.  They were asking to do school on Sunday!  Since they're so enthusiastic most of the time, I also try to note when they have their own tired days and just find something else to do so they don't get discouraged. I am so glad to have Emily helping twice a week, as I am definitely the first to give out - and need a break from round the clock learning!

Both girls only speak in English now - even to each other.  It's interesting as it makes it difficult to communicate sometimes, and I wonder why they do it?! (why not just ease into Chinese when you need to?)   When we visit Chinese friends, they will speak Chinese easily and happily - just not with each other.  It's very interesting and I can't wait till their English is better so I can understand more of their thoughts.  Sarah has told me some interesting story bits that make no sense - and I'm curious to know what she's trying to convey! 

I don't know if this is helpful or just boring - but I was very curious as to the English acquisition of other kids as they got home - so wanted to give others an idea of where we are.   Blessings, Kim


  1. Can you share the YouTube links? I would use them! you can email me privately if you like....Berzenji@gmail.com

    1. Hey Roberta - here are the links:




      WARNING - these songs STICK in your head, lol! My 11 year old learned all the months in a week using this. :)

  2. Very helpful and neat to hear about their progress and how each girl is unique in their successes and struggles academically. I miss seeing them and would like to visit soon!

  3. We are adoptiong an 11 year old this summer. I have been monitoring your blog as it is so helpful to learn from your experiences. Thanks for keeping up with the postings.

  4. Have you seen this site?


    The free section is great fun. There is a paying section too that I have not needed as we were past needing it when it came out.

  5. We remember the first time Elias was able to make us a story that he made up. Our kids are learning a little slower. They get frustrated so easy.
    Good to hear how well the girls are doing. We miss you guys also and hope that we can see each other again one day.

  6. I loved this update on the girls. I thought I had already commented but who knows...I'm a bit crazy these days! I traded the translator for the iPad2, (the cheapest one)! What games did your girls like?

    1. Although they're for younger kids, this is what they liked: Pluto Piano, Math Bingo (you can assess their math level, too!), Doodle Buddy, Doodle Jump, Matching Zoo, iTot Cards (word flashcards in English and Chinese) and iTranslate with the voice option. Little Analogies was challenging and I downloaded some interactive Chinese Fairytales but they didn't listen to them much. They LOVED photobooth (comes with iPad, taking pictures, and video.) BRING BALLOONS!! They played hitting them back and forth in the hotel room and had lots of fun. They loved dancing to different songs in iTunes - so bring some lively ones. :)