Grammar, adoption, and homeschooling

I learn surprising things from homeschooling... about my children.  They are things I'm not sure I would find out if we didn't choose this educational path.  This is especially true with TM.

Learning a new language can be a tricky thing, especially if that second language is being learned while the first language is being lost.  Adopted children seem to effortlessly begin to communicate in an apparently fluent manner just months of coming home.  TM was functionally fluent in just three months.  I had read many places that spoken, day-to-day language comes first, with more sophisticated, academic-type language lagged behind for many years.  I knew this, but we weren't doing formal schooling at first, and surely the second type of language acquisition would catch-up by the time he needed it.

I am realizing just how naive my expectations were.  There have been multiple occasions when TM will ask a question and demonstrate a complete misunderstanding of something I was convinced he understood because he seemed to understand.  The words 'could' and 'should' leap to mind.  I became a bit upset one day when he told be I should do something.  (I will admit to not liking being ordered about by my children.)  But then it came to light that he had no idea there was a difference between the two words and was using them interchangeably.  I apologized for losing my temper and wondered how many other instances of this type had already occurred.

TM is now reading fluently (a development of the last month or so) and so we have begun formal grammar lessons.  Yesterday he was diagramming sentences with compound subjects and compound predicates, enjoying it and getting things correct, so I was a bit surprised at his reaction to today's lesson.  No diagramming... it was merely identifying the difference between statements and questions.  This threw him for a loop, and consequently my as well.  I was a bit dumbfounded when he asked me what a question was and showed difficulty in identifying them.  (Just try for a minute to describe what a question is without resorting to circular reasoning.)  I finally came up with a couple different ways of thinking about questions and by the end he was doing much better.

It all just reminded me again how I can't assume anything.  As I go back through past interactions with my son, it makes me wonder.  Some of our less than wonderful relating has had to do with answering my questions.  The world must be a baffling place if you are never sure whether there is a reply needed or not.  It has made a lot of things fall into place.  We will also be doing a little work on the concept of questions and what words signal the need for a response.  It will also remind me to be a little less reactive and stop to determine if something is based on willfulness or misunderstanding.  (Something, I admit, I should do anyway.)

It also makes me grateful that I am the one teaching him these things.  (Even if it can be frustrating at times.) There is a strong chance that had I not been teaching grammar to him that I would have never made this connection.  The idea would have been introduced in school, and either explained or not, and any difficulty would have been just a blip in the day. Probably I would never have been aware of it because a third party cannot know what is vital for someone else to know.  And really, who would have thought that a grammar lesson would shed such light on family communication?


Ann said…
Have you read the articles by Boris Gindis on Cumulative Cognitive Deficit? Quite fascinating--and so true! One point he makes that I found especially insightful was that kids who did not learn to read/write in their native language have more challenges later on with English.

On another note--starting to really get ready for China--seems unreal!
thecurryseven said…

No, I haven't read them... or even heard of them. I'll have to look them up.

And as far as getting ready to travel. I haven't done a thing!!! No passports for certain individuals... no visas.... nothing. Since you're already preparing, throw in some extra clothes for me, because at the rate I'm going, I'll probably need them. What should I be doing?!?

Anonymous said…
Yes! Our S is a little younger than TM, I believe. Similar story in that we adopted him when he was almost 4yo. He is now 8 1/2, and I run into these little language idiosyncrasies all the time. I will think that surely he is "caught up" by now. Then when I stop to ask him if he understands what "x" means, he says "no." And I, too, wonder how much goes by the wayside that I think he is getting. On the other hand, then he will listen to an audiobook with complicated language, and will understand. It's complicated!

sandwichinwi said…
I notice it much more with Sunshine than with Banana Boy (home at 2.5 and 1.5 respectively, but S had a much greater language delay). Sometimes I'm at a loss for teaching him because he is missing so much random background. And has language gaps. He has had great difficulty with pronouns and questions.


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