Our Plans for School...and about the language barrier

Quick Recap: we are all present and accounted for!
If you have followed our family on Facebook and/or Instagram, you’re up to date.  If you only follow our blog, I’m sorry—here’s the quick recap: we traveled to Ukraine and adopted our boys during a revolution (total stay was 8 weeks), we had a very busy and fun summer bonding as a family, and now our kiddos are about to start school!


Many of you have asked what we’re doing for school for our boys and how their English is coming along, so I thought I’d give you the low-down. 

Here's the short version:
-English - our boys are rock stars and are doing amazingly well with their English after only 4 months in the U.S.!
-School - Slavik and Vlad are going to public school, Valik is being homeschooled, and Eden & Cal are going to a new church preschool program. 

Here's the {much} more detailed version:

Learning English
Background:  Our boys are multi-lingual (Ukrainian, Russian, Spanish, Italian, and English are all spoken in our home) and super smart!  However, when they came home on April 26th, they knew barely any English.  Praise God for His perfect timing of giving us a full summer before we even needed to think about school for them!
 
How they are learning:  For the last 4 months, we have required our boys to do English lessons for a minimum of 30 minutes a day M-F (we took several breaks when we were on vacations).  Our older two have been doing Rosetta Stone, and our youngest has done a variety of lower-level programs (videos, games, etc.).  We encouraged more TV and movie watching than most would seem normal so that they would hear English even more.  And we limited the amount of Ukrainian videos that our youngest could watch since he struggled the most with learning English.  Now that they are close to starting school and doing activities at church without us around, we have required that they speak to each other in English when we are having dinner together.
 
Progress:  While we were in Ukraine, we had to use Google Translate 99% of the time to communicate with them.  In the early days home, we had to use it at least a few times a day.  Now we only have to use it for words that are used infrequently (recent example: sauerkraut). 
 
Verdict:  Our boys are amazing!  They definitely had/have moments of getting frustrated and overwhelmed with learning our language, but they have amazed us with their progress!  I was honestly the most scared about the language barrier with our boys, but God has shown me that it’s one of the easiest things in international adoption! 
 
Bottom Line:  Because they are our sons, we just know them.  The best analogy I can give is how a mama knows what her newborn baby needs by his/her cries.  We can communicate easily with them because they are part of Team Huss. 
 
Starting School
Background:  In Ukraine, our boys attended a very small school (their orphanage was their school).  They each had roughly 12-18 kids in their grade level, and they stayed in the same classroom while the teachers rotated in and out.  Team Huss lives in the Houston area where the public schools are huge!
 
Weighing the Options:  From the beginning, we wanted to ensure that we made our decisions based on the needs of each child.  In other words, all 3 boys don’t have to have the same type of schooling.  We wanted to get to know them before we made any decisions (once again, than you Lord for giving us 4 months with them before we had to make any decisions!).  We wanted to consider all possibilities: public school, private school, and homeschool. 
 
Ben and I both attended public schools and loved them (he in the Houston area; me in a small town in Louisiana).  We have tons of family members who are public school teachers.  We are fortunate to live in a great area for public schools—they are top notch!  They get ESL support in our public schools, so that was definitely a viable option—the only real downside being the size of the schools. 
 
Then there is the private school option.  The big pros for that would be the smaller atmosphere and Christian influence.  But cost is obviously a downside there, as well as little ESL support. 
 
Then there is homeschooling.  For the last year or so (once we started pursuing our boys’ adoption), I started learning more about homeschooling by reading other people’s stories and talking to homeschooling mamas.  There are so many things about it that fit my personality, but we just weren’t sure if it would work with our weird schedules or if our boys would want/need it.  Right before the boys came home, I attended a parent meeting at an amazing private school that combines homeschooling with traditional classroom schooling.  I thought this would be our answer for sure!!  Then I realized that they don’t cater to any “special needs” (ESL included) and that the final testing date for placement was in early July (when the boys would only have 2 ½ months of English under their belts).  I knew that they couldn’t possibly take an all-English placement test that early, so we had to throw that option out (for now). 
 
Making a Decision:  For our little guy, it became clear very early on that he would do better in a learning environment outside of the home, and he definitely would need ESL support.  We also knew that the elementary school we are zoned for is brand new and within walking/bike riding distance from our house.  Plus, elementary school classes can only have 22 or less kiddos in them, and we knew he would only have 1-2 teachers and wouldn’t have to learn the ropes of moving classes or having a locker, etc.  So that decision was easy.  Slavik will be a 4th grader at Adolphus Elementary!
 
When “back to school” time started getting closer, it was all our middle son could talk about!  He wanted to drive by and see what school he would attend, he was pumped to get some new clothes for school, and wanted to know all about using a locker and moving from class to class.  His personality is much more extroverted and he just couldn’t wait to meet some new friends!  When he went with me to registration, he was all smiles and decided he wanted to play American football!!  So that decision was easy.  Vlad will be a 7th grader at Bricsoe Jr. High!
 
Over the summer, we learned that our big boy HATES crowds.  There were several times we changed plans mid-stream because he saw all the cars parked somewhere or all of the people inside a building (think about every Chick-fil-A in the summer around lunch time!).  We also learned how self-motivated he is with his English lesson.  And we learned that his #1 passion in life is soccer, so he is playing with a club that practices 3 nights a week from 8:00pm-9:30pm.  Even with all of these factors, it still seemed like he wanted to go to his public high school (he initially laughed at the idea of homeschool!).  We tried to register him and kept running into issues and delays.  I went ahead and took him to new student orientation (even though we hadn't completed registration), and that’s when his attitude suddenly changed.  When we left I could tell from his body language and look in his eyes that it freaked him out and that he was super uncomfortable.  That night he spoke up and asked me if he could homeschool.  It took me off-guard because he had laughed at the idea only 2 months ago...but then I realized he was serious, so Ben and I discussed it.  There were so many reasons for us to say “yes” to homeschooling him, and the thing that sealed the deal was realizing that we’d get a lot more time with our big boy who could likely be “leaving the nest” in 3 short years.  We prayed about it, talked to him about it, and had the most peace about the decision!  (the same kind of peace we had with our adoptions—even though we know it’s gonna be crazy and new for us, we just know it’s what we’re meant to do right now)  So that decision was easy.  Valik will be a 10th grader at Team Huss school!
 
Our girls will also be starting something new this year.  I’ll continue to work part-time, but now I’ll spread it over the week rather than work full days 3 days a week.  So, unfortunately, our girls can’t attend the awesome MDO program at our church anymore since it’s only 2 days a week.  However, we’re excited that we found a great church preschool program that is in between Slavik’s and Vlad’s schools!  So that decision was easy.  Eden and Cal will be in preschool at Faith School for Young Children!
 
Bottom Line:  We will take it step by step and child by child.  We’ll reevaluate each semester to see if we need to make any adjustments and go from there.  We are incredibly thankful to live in a country (and state) that allows us so many education options and the freedom to choose what is right for our kiddos! 
 
Please continue to pray with us for our kiddos (and us) as we enter this very new territory.  Thanks for loving us!

 

5 comments:

BumbersBumblings said...

So awesome how well you know your children and what each one needs! Hope they have a great year!!!

Jenny Marrs said...

great update, lauren!! i know exactly what you mean about the language thing...I just "know" what Sylvie is trying to say and the language barrier has been MUCH less of an issue than I thought it would be. i'll be praying for all of these transitions taking place in team Huss with school I love how you are adjusting to what each kiddo needs. you are a rock star, momma!!! XO!

McGivern's said...

WoW!!! What an awesome update! thank you for sharing...it's awesome to see how each child is different and need different things. So true of all of us and a good reminder that they each of them might just "need" something different than what we had growing up. I stand in awe of y'alls faithfulness! may we have the courage to do the same one of these days.

barb said...

Lauren and Ben and team Huss, what a great read. You have all obviously thought and prayed about this and God has shown you His best for each child at this time. We're so proud to be related to all of you. Our prayers for a great year. Love, Ken and Barb

Anonymous said...

Hi I go to school with Vlad.....CAN I MARRY HIM???