Thursday, June 28, 2012

Schooling the Older Adopted Child

I wanted to do a post about what kind of school materials have worked for us with our 11 year old – newly arrived home from China.  While all kids are different, and Jenny appears to be a quick learner, we’ve discovered some strategies that we believe have added to her enthusiasm for learning.  

Our younger daughter began in K5 – a perfect starting place for and adopted child.  But Jenny was placed in 3rd grade at 11 years old (as far back as I could put her) and while she learned much about American culture, she spent most of the day unable to understand the discussions.  Her ESOL teacher was fabulous, and helped with some rudimentary knowledge such as days of the week, basic conversation, weather, etc.  The daily immersion in English was good for both girls and gave the home girls some needed respite from the big changes in their lives. 

In the early days home, I hired a teen girl to work with the girls on their homework and basic phonics.  The best tools early in were:

·      Bob Books
·      Alphabet flashcards
·      First Words flashcards (most on iPad)
·      Various Youtube songs for days of the week, shapes, months, and other preschool items.
·      BJU Press Handwriting Videos

At the end of the school year (total of 3 months in school), we determined that Jenny would be homeschooled because of her various level needs, while Sarah was close enough to the K5 spread at 7 years old to stay where she was for now – moving on to 1st grade.

We began homeschooling both girls this summer with BJU Press curriculum.  The BJU Press Videos are fun and interactive – and really grab their attention.  They expose the girls to much more than academics – they take virtual field trips to the post office, and other community locations, and talk about daily life with videos to help understand.   11 year old Jenny uses the following:

BJU Press:
·      Math 4 materials and video
·      Phonics and English 1: Composition, Phonics, Reading (skip handwriting)
·      Spelling 1
·      Handwriting 2 (cursive formation)
·      Bible 1

We will add science and history in the fall. 

Jenny is thriving with this material!  She is thrilled that she can understand the Bible 1 lessons by herself – the material is written in basic English for 1st graders, and she can clearly read the message!  There are also great stories about life application – specific to US family life – it’s just a perfect level for her to learn Bible.   The unit hymns teach her the basic songs she hears at Church.  I have her memorize her scripture in Chinese from her parallel Bible.  The charts and materials make it fun – it’s her favorite class!

We also watch Nestfamily Videos each night, and the girls are starting to recognize the Bible stories and even answer questions at Church.

The Handwriting 2 book was started midway at the cursive point, and she is thrilled with her ability to write – better than many American kiddos!  She used the videos, and I insisted on excellence – giving her great confidence when she met the standard.  Her handwriting is beautiful and something she was able to succeed at quickly vs. reading.

Phonics and English are terrific, and we are painstakingly going through each lesson, even though many are easy for her.  She needs the basics of punctuation, etc.  She is reading beyond many of the lessons, but needs the decoding work.  We’ll likely skim through 2nd grade and move right into 3rd.  Mrs. Walker is a master teacher, and I plan on using the 3rd grade reading video for her.  The composition prompts really have her “thinking through” her phonics, but I quickly spell words for her when it becomes too challenging.   I tell her that her goal is creativity.  It’s the perfect springboard for English instruction as well – look at the opportunities in the below pages! 

Math is BJU Press’s “crown jewel” and the manipulatives and critical thinking are HUGE for her.  She was taught rote memory based mathematics, and had no clear understanding of place value, etc.  This is BJU Press’s strong point.  She needs me to help her develop strategies for deciphering the higher level word problems – and the video instructs her to pinpoint specific words – perfect for the ESL student!  She absolutely loves the video presentation and feels more confident as she works independently.  When she doesn’t catch something, she’s able to rewind, or can figure it out from the visual images!  We are loving distance learning for her!

When she finishes for the day - she's off to the swimming pool - hence the bathing suit pics!  I hope this multi-level approach is helpful for someone – it has made our daughter excited about learning, gives her milestones that she’s able to complete each day, and does not feel too juvenile for her at all. (my worry)  She loves the little crafts since she never had those in her younger years.  If you have any questions or stories of what works of your own – please post!  Blessings, Kim


  1. Wow! Way to go Jenny! What beautiful hand writing! It is a wonderful composition too!
    We are very proud of you here in Texas!
    Glad you are able to understand the Bible videos and are enjoying them so much.

    We LOVE BjU Press too! You are right the videos are AWESOME! We will likely use BJU all the way through 12th grade.

    When will you add in science and history? Of course it is important to be able to read and comprehend well before tackling extra subjects.
    I am amazed at their progress.

    Elaine and Lisa

  2. Thanks, Elaine - Jenny will love to hear your encouraging words! We'll add the rest in the fall - just working on reading this summer, but she begged to do the rest! Sarah begs to do less each day, lol! Two different academic interests. :)

  3. Kim, THANK YOU for posting this. We're (Lord-willing!!) bringing home a 14 year old in November, and I'm flummoxed as to how to plan for her homeschooling. I know plenty of it will have to be determined after she's home and settled, once we figure out where she is in math and English, but this post has given me a starting point as I think through it and start looking at what to order. Thank you so much for sharing this info!


    1. Hey Kelly - don't be afraid to "start at the beginning" with reading - that's where they are. Once they get going - they'll skip ahead quickly! Congrats on your new teen - I'm praying about the same thing!