Thursday, December 22, 2011

Schooling children who are adopted as teenagers

I've had several people who visited my blog ask about schooling our children after their adoptions. Ben was 6.5 and John was almost 14 when we adopted them. If you read our entire blog, I stopped blogging when the children were going to begin public school. Well, public school was a big, big mistake. Really. IF it is at all possible, do NOT send your older adopted child to public school. First of all, John had to spend a week testing, as mandated by the state of NY and our Federal government. He didn't understand two words of English, of course, so the testing itself was upsetting, confusing and frustrating. Then, the school decided to place John in 6th grade (age 14--normally 8th grade), and (becauseof his test results) he was required to take 3 periods of ESL a day. His ESL class was made up of Spanish speaking migrant workers' children, and it was a complete and utter waste of time. I sent in several hundred of English/Chinese flashcards that I bought, and I purchased an expensive English language learning program for Chinese speakers that I gave to the school. The teacher basically babysat the kids all day and did not even look at the resources that I provided. I'm not exaggerating when I say that the only English he learned at school, in  the 10 weeks he attended, were profanities. His first full English sentence was to tell his brother to "F off." In addition, John latched on to the kids who would readily accept him, and naturally they were the losers, dealers, and delinquents. John was almost 14 years old upon adoption, but, like most institutionalized children, he was several years behind socially, emotionally and academically. John looked, and acted, like a 10 year old. Also, attending school all day also slowed down John's English acquisition. Sitting in a classroom most of the day with kids who did not speak English (and had no intention of learning English) only made John resist us more. In addition, it took away from the time that we had with him to establish our bonding etc. In June, after 10 weeks of public schooling, we called a meeting with the administration, guidance office, ESL teacher etc. I have never seen my husband go absolutely bonkers (he is an attorney), but I thought his head was going to explode when the vice-principle bluntly announced that John would never graduate high school. He'd be 21( and age out) first because John was going to miss 3 core subject classes a day, in order to attend his federally mandated ESL classes. John would not get enough credits to graduate, according to the administer, in four years of schooling because of the ESL classes. I had to almost physically restrain my husband when the principle said that, by the way, HE was going to make the educational decisions for John, since John was at school 6 hours a day and ultimately the principle is responsible for the child's education and the principle knows what is best. Umm. No. Sorry. You just happen to work here right now. Our son's education is way more important to us, than it is to you, jerk. You might have him for a few years, but he is our son forever!! And we know him better, understand his needs, and you know virtually NOTHING about children adopted from China, or their needs! I am certified in NY to teach Reading K-12 and English 5-12, so I could at least speak the school's lingo, but the administration was practically trying to bully us!  As I said, I'd never seen my husband go ballistic, but he went nuts when the school told us that they were going to make all the decisions because they knew what was best. And that John would never be successful because it was just too late for him. The next day I started a search for a private school. Our oldest son (now age 16) has been attending an all-boys college prep school,ince 7th grade, and at that point I was homeschooling our son who was 10. The college prep school has rigorous admission requirements and costs 2 arms and a leg. And I just didn't feel that I could homeschool a defiant, angry teenager, who didn't know English. Then, I found a Christian school that offers a K-12 program. The school also works with several agencies in Asia (China and Korea) that sends students to their school to master English so that they can get accepted into American Universities. They understand how to work with Asian students, and the other ESL students are highly motivated to succeed. The school placed John in 8th grade, at our request (only one grade below age appropriate at age 14.5), and arranged his schedule so that he had the ESL teacher all to himself for one period a day. He also had a study hall where he was peer-tutored every day. The teachers held him to the same standards as the other students, but did provide extended test taking time when necessary. We received weekly progress reports, and we spent hours with him at night doing homework. The school jumps through hoops to make certain that we are happy, and they check with me before adjusting his schedule or giving him modified assignments.  Now, John is in 9th grade and he works independently most of the time at the 9th grade level. He maintains a B/A- average. At my request, we continued the one period a day with the ESL teacher.  She makes certain that he is "getting" everything. Next year he will join the regular English class and will no longer be considered an ESL student. Ben (age 8.5 now, 6.5 upon adoption) never received ESL classes. He's completely fluent in English, and almost at grade level reading and writing.. At the private school we are the consumer...they will adjust the curriculum to meet the child's needs because if they don't we can find another school! Our son Connor, who was home-schooled, would be in 7th grade in public school because of his age. He is in 8th grade at the private school because of his abilities, and in 10th grade math and science. Of course, he has a 95 average too. With a graduating class of 16, the school can be flexible and meet all our children's needs! Hooray!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

New blog

If you just found this blog, welcome! We adopted two children, ages 6.5 and almost 14, from China March 2010. We feel called to adopt again, and our new blog for our new sons is

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Friday, December 16, 2011

20 months later

It's been 20 months since we adopted, and I feel that an update is long overdue. The boys are doing FABULOUSLY. John is currently in 9th grade at Lima Christian School, and he is maintaining a A/B average! John competes (and medals) all over the country in taekwondo, and he'll be testing for his black belt in April. Yes, that is a year faster than normal, but he is a phenomenal athlete and he trains at the taekwondo academy 12-15 hours a week. He also plays basketball, runs cross-country and rocks on the electric guitar and drums. Ben is in 2nd grade at Lima Christian, and he also takes drums and taekwondo. Ben had a tough first year because of his severe asthma and dental problems, but he is blossoming now. What a charmer!! Both boys have doubled in size and weight, and they are fluent in English. John is, in fact, writing a book about his experiences as an older adopted child. We will post it for sale on Amazon when it is complete. Here is a teaser:

My name is John, but my Chinese name is (JiangFengHong). When my mom adopted me, 20 months ago, I was almost 14 years old. I think I was pretty lucky because in China they have a rule that if a kid doesn’t get adopted before age 14, then the kid can’t be adopted anymore. When I found out someone was going to adopt me, I was mad because I have so many friends. I was worried about if I will have friends in America. Will my new family like me? What if they don’t like me? Will American people keep talking about how I was an adopted kid. I don’t know a lot of things. I don’t remember being born. I can’t remember being a baby. But there are some things I know.  I know I was born in Beijing. I don’t know who my birth parents are, and I don’t know why they couldn’t raise me. But I think they can’t raise me because they are very poor, or they don’t want me live with them, or they are some crazy people. Anyway, I don’t blame them because they can’t raise me. I just want to say even though they couldn’t raise me, I still love them.