One Family’s Story – Part 1

I have heard people say that vision begins when a sense of “oughtness” consumes you. For me, life changed in 1999. My daughter, who barely spoke English, began public kindergarten. I’ll never forget that first heart-wrenching parent’s night. Cute renditions of families and houses adorned the wall. Searching for Jane’s picture, anxiety began to consume me. My fears were soon justified when I saw the white paper covered with crayon scrawls, not unlike the result of a toddler’s first foray into the crayon box. Even with my most imaginative Picasso-esque perspective, I could not conjure up a house and family from that colorful mess. I knew then as I had known the day we brought her home from that Russian orphanage; my daughter was different. But that night the Crayola colors across the kindergarten wall shouted to me with emphatic urgency.

In desperation, we returned to the private Christian preschool/kindergarten where she had attended preschool the previous year. They had worked with Jane during her initial transition to the U.S., helping her undertake a new language. Maybe the caring hands of these wonderful Christian women will make all the difference, I thought. Her chances looked better here than in a public school classroom of 35 kindergartners. The half-day schedule allowed me to home-school the other half of the day. I was hopeful we could cover some lost ground by taking an all hands on deck approach to Jane’s education. A little progress was made, though the cost was exorbitant; the struggle excruciating.

Wary of progressing, but uncertain of the benefit of repeating kindergarten, we decided to move onto first grade. Not wanting to repeat the public school experience, we began to investigate Christian elementary schools. Some had waiting lists that pre-dated Jane’s adoption. Others, when learning of Jane’s struggles, subtly steered us away. Finally, the local Lutheran school welcomed us in. Our Lutheran School experience was short-lived, however. Though the teacher was kind and loving, it was clear that she had neither the bandwidth nor the expertise to deal with Jane’s learning challenges. Once again, we returned to homeschooling. Day after day, we walked through the fundamentals – phonics, math facts, and handwriting. Day after day, my frustration grew. I heard other homeschoolers go on about those wonderful aha moments when the light bulbs came on for their children. They beamed as they declared the sacrifice worthwhile.

For us, there were no aha moments, no light bulbs, no moments of confirmation. There was only repetition. Everyday felt like the first day of school. The painstaking gains on the previous day’s material seemed to evaporate overnight. My pediatrician told me my problem was nothing more than a language barrier. Once Jane grasped the English language, our problems would go away. I sought out other adoptive moms, only to sink deeper into despair as each gloated over her child’s rapid mastery of English. I felt hopeless and alone; a failure as a mother and a teacher.

To be continued..

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