Thursday, August 12, 2010


I don't think I ever could fully find the words to share the sheer terror that at moments coursed through my soul over in Kazakhstan, and that terror did not revolve so much around bringing home pre-teen girls who came to us with such a rocky start (No, that terror was reserved for later...hahaha!).

It was homeschooling them.

Homeschooling them all...5 experience...2 brand spanking new English Language Learners, one not so new English Language Learner with obvious learning issues, one accelerated learner, and one right on target sweetie pie.

All by myself, uneducated in the ways of teaching, inexperienced as can be, and thinking to myself "Shoot God, you really know how to freak a gal out, don't you? Couldn't have asked anything a little less scary of me, could you?" and yet knowing full well that this wasn't really a choice I was being given, this was a calling I was being asked to acknowledge. Of course I DID have a choice and do every day of my life, for that is what free will is all about, but that doesn't mean I want to allow myself that choice to go against what it feels like God has asked of me.

Dominick tried to calm my fears about it, yet we both knew the burden rested solely on my shoulders for the most part and that I had his support but his way of truly supporting the effort was to go out and somehow earn enough greenbacks to keep me home to be able to do it.

I walked the floors countless sleepless evenings, crying and scared over any number of things, but this was the biggest one. I tried to imagine our first days home and where would I even begin, how would I start??? I told myself over and over again that I was not qualified to do this and yet knew our daughters would be so very vulnerable if we placed them in school, which is also an odd thing because they are both incredibly strong, but that vulnerability has played out in just what we are seeing right the life of mermaids and playing with playdough, and the need to do things they would be ashamed to do in front of typical kids their age. Somehow, at a gut level I knew all of this (thanks for the wisdom and years of research, God!) and couldn't ignore it. I also was beginning to see things in Kenny that scared me, reinforcing my opinion that something wasn't right and his issues were far larger than just being home 3 years and needing more time. How would I be able to work with that? And how would I do all this and still give Matt and Josh what they needed? some of those questions still remain, but this week they took their testing required by our program for the beginning of the year, and Mom got her report card. It was pretty darned good, if I say so myself, and I couldn't be more pleased.

And I finally let go of the breath I had been holding since December.

You won't believe this, we have been home a mere 6 months with the girls who spoke barely a lick of English.

Olesya tested out as reading at 2nd grade 3rd month and Angela at 3rd grade 2nd month!!!!!! Not an ounce of help, their test took them each close to two hours and their speed is slow, but man, I am STUNNED at their progress!! Olesya even tested at 3rd grade science! We have a ways to go with Language Arts, but Angela scored 2nd grade while Olesya struggles with the concepts on some things and scored below 2nd (they only start at 2nd with the scale).

Olesya was not reading well in Russian, and Angela had shared with me that there were often tears from her as she did her homework, but that she was a good student and cared a lot. For her to be reading this well in English after only having 2 1/4 years of school in Kazakhstan is a huge deal, heck it is a huge deal for both of them and Angela eagerly leaned over my shoulder after completing each test to see how she scored, and it was such a pleasure to watch her face light up to see the results of their hard work. And believe me, it has been HARD work...these girls have rocked it and never let up, and their reward came when seeing that score.

We had some success with Kenny as well, having tested for a baseline at the end of May, he showed a 5 word per minute increase and a small bump in reading level. While his comprehension is at 4th grade, it is his fluency that is getting in his way of taking off, but it looks like jumping back to beginning phonics and letting him read lots of "baby" books which he never had the chance to do in school as everyone kept moving ahead of him is helping.

Joshie took the test for the first time and scored mid 2nd grade on everything and beginning 3rd for math, all of which was no surprise to us and he is a steady little student who will do well.

Matthew quietly rocked the house and not yet entering 6th grade he scored mid-8th on science and math, and is essentially done with their scoring on reading at 10th grade level as that is the highest they go on this program. What I loved most was his quiet grin, and he walked away feeling no need whatsoever to brag to his siblings. Yet he cheered them all on when we were celebrating their successes.

Wanna know why going against birth order and all the adoption "rules" works in our house? Wanna know why both Angela and Kenny view Matt as their eldest sibling in all ways but a number? It is because of the character of this young man who leads the way all good leaders do...quietly and humbly, and walking in the way God has taught him too. The quietest one has never asserted his place, he simply reflects his maturity and thoughtfulness in non-showy ways and has earned the respect of every single person in our family because of it, including his parents.

So, we look forward to our vacation while still bringing books along so we don't loose all momentum. We recognize there are learning opportunities everywhere and take advantage of them. We know we have oodles of life learning to go with the girls and Kenny.

And me? I am smiling more and stressing a little less, knowing we are in our groove now and that I am not a total failure as I had anticipated I might be. I also rest in the knowledge that while this might not be everyone's idea of a life well lived, for me, it is. I have conquered yet another midnight monster and won, at least for now. I can feel relieved that I am not letting my kids down, at least for now. I can hang my head in shame as I realize how little I trusted God to "equip the called not call the equipped", and continue to trust that in the future as they grow older, somehow God will continue to equip me to do my job.

For this IS a job, believe me, it is not easy and it is thoroughly engaging despite the lack of a fat paycheck as a reward. No, my reward comes in the "light bulb" moments I get to see with my very own kids when they totally get something they didn't get 10 minutes ago. I get to be present for most of their learning and to watch the slow, steady gains and celebrate with them. I get to see the frustration and the tears as Angela had the other day trying to learn to make chance saying "This is SO hard" as she put her head on the table out of collective frustration over EVERYTHING and gave in to it for just a moment....and I could be right there to lift her up, let her burrow into my shoulder for a bit and whisper to her "You are strong, and everything has been so hard for the past 6 months...go ahead and cry, it's'll get it soon." I then had the ultimate pleasure of seeing her master it 10 minutes later and jump up and down saying "I can do this!"

Of course she can...they all can. So can I.


Lindsay said...

Congratulations to you and all your kids on such great achievements. So very happy for you all.

Karon said...

As always I find myself engrosed in your post. They make me think in new ways and see things from a new perspective and I love how it pushes my mind. You have a lot to be proud of. First and formost is recognizing what your kids need right now. I used to teach in a two room school in Oregon (which was practiacly like homeschooling several families.) It was wonderful in many ways to watch those kids grow and to work so closely with them. It was also like a three ringed circus many days because they were all over the place. You have a tough job, all teachers do, and you are doing wonderful.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations on everyone's scores, including the teacher's, Cindy! While I never had to learn academics in another language except for taking some quick summer sessions of German to prepare for a quarter overseas, I've watched our two daughters struggle through the process. One is nearly to grade level in most things, and our newest is slowly gaining. They have approached their learning very differently, the younger one being slower to take her learning to heart. She enters middle school in two weeks and is reading at a 4th grade level...not sure what month off the top of my head. She'll receive some good services, but we still will have homework to talk through at the end of the day. It's amazing how hard they work and how much they can gain. Of course, there's still much ground to cover, but it will just come at it's own speed...I need to keep telling myself on my anxious days. She did test and qualify for special ed in math, as that's been a big struggle. She had some tutoring that really helped her gain confidence, so I'm hoping that issue has more to do with confidence and her focus having been on settling in and language and might resolve itself. I also found some math DVDs that really seem great. It's The guy is supposedly a genius, yet explains things extremely well...creatively, thoroughly, patiently. He encourages that the listener will be able to do it, that they will learn it with all the examples they will work together. No bells and whistles, just a wipe-off board and full explanation. You can pay to view all online, providing your computer does more than this old thing. It goes from beginner math all the way up to trig, geometry, calculus, etc. Our daughter watched and listened attentively, and on her own decided to do the problems ahead to try to beat him to the answer. That alone is a huge step for her. You might want to check it out, as it seems a very good way to make sure they understand the concepts. Just a thought, if math is an issue.

You're doing great. That's truly what learning should each one's own pace, exciting, life long, and every day along life's paths. Enjoy LaJoys! Our time with our new kids has already been cut short by things beyond our control. Homeschooling is offering you tons of time and bonding with your kids. We've chosen a different route, but I can certainly see the advantages to what you're doing. We've got friends and family who homeschool through middle school or high school, so we're very supportive of both choices, when they're well thought yours certainly was.

Nancy in the Midwest

Anonymous said...

Hurrah! Great report cards, reflects all the hard work each has been doing. And to score off the charts, Cindy, we always knew you would score off the charts as a teacher. I wish I could imbue you with the confidence the rest of us have in your ability to inspire and lead your kids. Yes, yes, I know there were times of incredible pain and uncertainty and probably will be again, life is like that, but you and Dominick are wise and wonderful parents. He is as hardworking and joyful as I have ever seen, and you have strengths, abilities, compassion, and love that give your family a firm foundation. Of course, credit goes to God, to the spirit guiding and loving you--all of you.

I love you too.

Lenore said...

You are doing such an amazing job with all of your kiddos....with schooling and every other facet of their lives! You are always there for them, make sure their needs (at all levels) are met and give them, oh, so much more!!

Their test scores are "out of this world". This is reflective of all their hard work and you're unconditional and undying love (yeah, and YOUR hard work too!!)

Team LaJoy ROCKS....always has, always will!! Don't ever question if you've got what it takes!!! You are surround by the answer to that question on a daily basis!!

Anonymous said...

Congratulations. We never doubted you or the kids. We are so very proud of all of you - thanks for sharing your lives with all of us. See you very soon - Vegas

Anonymous said...

Cindy, sooo happy to read about the terrific scores of all of your kids and how proud they must all be! Tell Matthew that Charlotte wrote in her web a word that describes him perfectly! HUMBLE! And what a wonderful thing for a boy his age with his talent to be! It is wonderful that he is there as a role model for his siblings - as a student and as a person. Have a terrific trip!

Carol said...

Cindy, that is phenomenal. You never cease to amaze me. So happy for you that you can celebrate such measurable progress... in homeschooling... and other areas too.

Enjoy every minute of your trip... you deserve it!