Friday, April 16, 2010

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

What We're Up To This Year... 5th Grade ESL

Okay, I've been w-a-a-a-y too busy homeschooling this year to post about homeschooling! With a high schooler still doing most of her work at home, a middle schooler preparing for high school work, and a 5th grader who has only been in America just over a year, school can get pretty interesting around here!

I recently answered a post on an adoption Yahoo group (CAFE Kids, if you're looking for an awesome group of Christian adoptive families who have adopted kids from Ethiopia), and I linked my blog. I realized how much I would love to say what's working for us in case that would help anyone at all (NOT because I'm any sort of expert!!!) but how I have neglected to do so.

SO. While the boys are getting started on their morning independent work, I am going to take a few moments to link what is working for Minte so far this year. And add what we're changing this semester.

The above photo is Minte playing a sight word BINGO game from our Sonlight 1. (We use change from the change jar for BINGO markers, and once he BINGO's, if he can read me the words on the row, he gets to keep the money. Fun!) I have LOVED using Sonlight with him this year. It is World History, which he can completely comprehend and is a body of knowledge to which he has had no exposure. It's so interesting to me that he has come from one of the most ancient lands on the globe, but has no idea what has happened there (not to mention all over the world.) It has been fun to study this together using Sonlight's literature-rich approach. However, since he is an English Language Learner, we are using the Level 1 Readers and Read-Alouds. I have accelerated the schedule a bit and I feel like we might be ready to order the level 2 books soon.

For math, he originally started in a co-op class using Right Start Math. It was a great class, and he enjoyed the interaction and the teacher, but it was not a good fit for him. We have since switched to something more consistent for him and with which I am more familiar: Math U See. I have used that program for years with my other two and I. Love. It. It is thorough, hands-on, and visual. He is currently working throught the Gamma level. Due to his prior schooling in Ethiopia, he is zipping through portions of it, but I am getting a measure of assurance that he is getting a solid foundation. He will also complete the Delta level this year. He was in school in Ethiopia before he came home, but we have been on a year-long quest to solidify his knowledge of basic facts, as well as learn to tell time and do measurements in English. I love how it is taught in a hands-on way through Math U See. Also, the pages are plain and not too distracting. A good fit for us.

In addition to his Sonlight readers, he has loved going through the Explode the Code books for phonics. This semester we will begin slowly working through Wordly Wise A for sequential vocabulary-building. He has been "real life" vocabulary building for a year now, but I think it's time for a more systematic, academic approach. I like the format of the early Wordly Wise books, so we will begin doing exercises a couple of times a week through book A and possibly get through book B before summer.

Handwriting: I've always used "A Reason For Handwriting" because I love the short daily exercises, only 4 days per week, and copying Scripture. He has done well with this. He is almost through with his first book, so I'm considering switching to Draw Write Now. In his school in Ethiopia he had no drawing/ art experience and actually has a disdain for art. I want him to feel more confident in his drawing. There are short sentences to copy as well, which I think he will be able to read now. I think it is a good fit, even though he has told me he does not want to learn how to draw. We'll see. ;)

Last year we worked our way through Abeka's level 1 science reader. Then we just added in whatever I came up with, like growing butterflies, planting flowers, other science experiments and concoctions. (One of my favorite resources for this is here.) This year he's in a science class that meets once per week. It's one of his favorite things and I don't have to deal with the mess. We still like making concoctions... I just don't want the pressure of a weekly one. ;)

Writing: Here is something I'm toying with. WriteShop Primary. I got it at a book fair last year. Now that he's more fluent in English, he has soaked up enough good English through literature and read-alouds, he is ready to begin writing stories of his own and learning how to write. (Remember, you can't squeeze anything out of a dry sponge! Kids need to spend time absorbing good writing and rich stories in order to compose their own.) I think we'll start some short lessons from this program each week.

So, that's his schoolyear in a nutshell. I realize he is 5th grade age, but he has flourished using the primary levels. He came from a culture that doesn't even use our alphabet. In fact, I just overheard him doing his math and I heard " arat, sost, and, hulet..." (4, 3, 1, 2 in Amharic.) He still does quick calculations in his first language. Plus, even a year later, he's still adjusting. Plus, because of his past, he's still grieving some days. Plus..... There's always a plus. There's always a bigger picture, and it's not always about school. I am seeing him poised to absolutely "snowball" in his progress, once the basics of phonics and vocabulary are in place, along with his increased comfort level with the English language. My goal is to have him on "grade level" by high school. I am seeing great strides!

I hope the above suggestions help someone who may be walking this road, or just starting out homeschooling an English Language Learner. It has taken us a year even to get to this point. To read what we started out doing, go here.) Enjoy this journey! Don't put pressure on yourself, which always has a way of putting pressure on your child. Each day with this precious person is a gift. In many ways, you are making up for lost time... but our great God, the God of time, will do that. He will make up what you lack. I have seen this day after day in our home!


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