Schooling from the Bottom Up

This week I decided to take a different approach to teaching Kylah. We’ve been moving forward working on fine and gross motor skills plus basic nursery school skills and facts. This week we plunged head first into a thematic unit on transportation. I knew she could identify many vehicles, but I wanted to move into the area of classification and sorting of those vehicles (and add a whole lot more). I wanted to give her more opportunities to make choices and find correct answers instead of being completely spoon fed.

She balked at the change the first day, which I was expecting. She gets frustrated if she flips over an un-matching card in a matching game, if the puzzle piece doesn’t fit the first time, if her answer/choice isn’t right the first time, if she runs into a “wall” while trying to solve a maze, drops a needed block on the floor, touches anything with the wrong texture, has anything sudden or unexpected happen within her sight or hearing, etc, etc, etc… (And by frustrated, I mean anything from balking and refusing to continue to screaming and hurting herself.)

I’ve been wanting to push her a bit more because I’ve been sensing that she is ready, but to be perfectly honest, I wasn’t ready. I wasn’t ready for the mental and emotional battle that comes with any deviation from her perception of routine. After putting it off for too long, I finally decided to go for it.

An adopted child comes home with gaps that adoptive parents need to identify and fill to the best of their ability. Those gaps may be emotional in nature. I’ve spent hours holding my adopted children rocking and cuddling them like babies far beyond the “normal” age because they NEED it. I have “worn” my kids on my back with a wrap and held them when they are much too big because it comforts and calms them. And it brings peace to their world. The gaps my be mental. I’ve had to go back and teach a 6 year old how to hold a pencil, how to use words instead of grunts, how to look at books, and play with toys. The gaps could even be physical. Our girl came home not knowing how to eat solid food. Her tongue muscles still struggle to push food toward her teeth and mealtime is a battle.

As I was preparing for her arrival, I expected her to be a couple of years behind. What we discovered is that she had the skills of an 18 month old in some areas and emotionally she seemed even younger. In three short months, she has jumped from nursery school to preschool in many ways. She had advanced beyond some of the simplest games and is hungry for more. Since we homeschool, it was easy to assess, change, and move forward.

So this week, the first day was hard. Really hard. We spent hours snuggling on her bed through bouts of crying and screaming. But the rest of the week, it was as if the door to understanding opened and she was running through it. I really can’t explain it any other way. Has she moved up to grade level suddenly? No, but she is taking great strides in that direction. The orphanage workers left us with little hope that she would ever advance in learning or speech. They had given up on her. Their advice to us was to “just keep her happy” so she won’t have an emotional breakdown. (And believe me, those are NOT pretty.) They definitely discouraged us from pushing her to do anything.

Here are a few pictures of our week. Notice tangrams didn’t get thrown on the floor, the hands touching sand, the willingness to use glue, and several completed projects. It took us time to build up to some of these. It may be a small accomplishment to others, but these are huge successes at our house.

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Hard work? Absolutely. And, some days are still really hard. She can be needy, she can be cranky, she can be picky, she can be restless. Just like any other kid. She is also amazing, funny, growing, learning, loving, kind, and best of all, she is ours! And, we are so glad she is.

~ Regina

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