School Questions

Now that we’ve gotten home from China and our family is all together now, it’s time to really start planning our school year. Well, I probably should have gotten a bit more planning done before we went to China, but here I am, and it’s time to get down to business.

I’d like to ask all of you who have walked this path before to share your wisdom.

What are your favorite English as a second language curriculums? What have you used before, and what did you like about it?

I would like to use a computer program that would be user friendly and the girls could progress through as they mastered the material. I need something that gives them a sufficient amount of drill because there’s so much to pack into our days that I’m afraid if it has to be left up to me to carry it all out, I won’t be able to keep up.

The second question is what can I do for math? Can I use any math curriculum or will I have difficulty teaching them that without a common language? They are fourteen, but do I start simple? Like maybe even fourth or fifth grade?

My last question is about their Bible. While we were in China, we bought the girls Mandarin English Bibles. There are Mandarin and English columns side by side. I thought I would have them read the chapter in Mandarin and then copy the chapter in English. What do you think about that? Good? Not so good? Why?

My sister is a middle school teacher in the public school. She has explained to me that in school, the children who do not speak English have a couple hours of English as a second language and then just audit the rest of the courses until they learn the language. They just pick up what they can, and are not penalized for what they don’t know.

I’m really hoping many of you share your wisdom on this one!


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  1. Terri Ebbs says:

    I think the bible plan sounds fabulous! I’m no teacher but it seems like 2 hours of day learning English sounds about right. Abbie (home 3 years) continues to be pulled out of class a few hours each week still trying to help her get caught up with language, speech and just in general.

  2. Pam says:

    I think your Bible plan is EXCELLENT! Wish I had thought of that one myself. 🙂

    As far as math goes, when our daughter came home at 10 1/2, she was VERY slow with picking up her English (she still has a LONG way to go after over 2 years home) and there was no way I could “teach” her with where her language was at. I used and just printed off a worksheet each day. I was able to find out what she could do, and then just used the worksheets as drill and to keep up the skills she already had. We did that for her first year home for math. The only new “math” things she learned that year were “money” and telling time on the round face clock.

    Her 2nd year home we started with Teaching Textbooks. Perhaps not my first choice for math BUT it really works WELL for both of us. I NEEDED something she could do independently since I am teaching others who are at the ages where they need lots of one on one. I actually have a current post on my blog as to why TT works well for BOTH of us.

  3. Cindy Happ says:

    For computer software programs we use: Starfall; spellingcity; softschool; and Lexia. The girls can learn English from Starfall, Lexia, and Spellingcity on their own. I use softschool for math and you can get them started and let them proceed on their own. Once they are used to the programs and know what they are to do each day, they will take off on their own. The programs speak clearly and expect them to respond.
    I would strongly encourage a program like Lexia to drive home the sounds of the alphabet, especially the vowels. It seems they struggle with those the most.
    I have them write out their spelling words 5 times each day and these are words that you would like for them to learn.

    As for the Bible course, I would set up a reading curriculum that would have them reading the OT Bible stories first (in Chinese) and then read stories from the NT. To write it out in English seems more of a chore for them. I would encourage them to enjoy their reading time and ask questions on a translator for some really good conversation. I would try and keep it positive and fun because some of the words in Chinese will be new to them and may be confusing as well.

  4. julia says:

    Rosetta Stone is a great start point. The words are clear and concise. It does not work on grammar well, but that is something that is learned in a classroom and at home. The one thing that was very critical was to speak slow and clear. Over annunciate the words you use. They will pick up easier. I also made sure she was looking at my mouth move when I talked. The chinese language uses different parts of the mouth to form words so it took a while for her to catch on to using frontal tones instead of throat tones. I know all the taboo about television but it really helped my daughter pick up as well. We are not big tv watchers so that was hard. exposing the girls to as much outside conversations as possible will also help. There is so much in this beautiful world of ours.

    Keep me posted and call if you need to. BTW it was great to talk to Eliza the other night. Caroline is worried about Evangeline. She asks me daily how shes doing.

  5. Viona says:

    I have a friend whose mom tutors many esl students. She uses Shurley English. Most of her students have been in the states for a while; however, she SWEARS by the program. I used I used it at the Christian school I taught at for several years. As repetitious as it is, the kids really get it! May not be appropriate just yet, but hopefully soon!!! 🙂

  6. Holly says:

    Abeka has an ESL program, HOWEVER, I wouldn’t run out and spend a bunch of money on it yet. I too have used Starfall in the past with an older child learning English and while you don’t want to let their education lag, just remember that they need a solid foundation to build upon. Learning the alphabet, the sounds the letters make, even how the vowels make a long and short sound, is HUGE! Recognizing letters, simple phonics and math should be it for awhile. I think you were so wise to halt electronics for awhile. Those are especially attractive to teens and can be a stumbling block in bonding. Love the idea you had to buy Mandarin/English bibles! Think of all the things that children born here learn as toddlers and in preschool and kindergarten. These new treasures of yours still need to learn them in ENGLISH. Colors, numbers, letters, basic short sentences for daily use. Helping in kitchen can count as Home Ec and even math! Try not to stress too much. I have some experience in this and even gave up homeschooling and put child in school and guess what? a few hours a week of ESL made almost no difference. She sat in a classrom having NO idea what was going on or what to do and just withdrew further. You can do this! You can do ALL things through Christ Who gives you strength! blessings, Hollly “Hope” 🙂

  7. Julie Agee says:


    I used a variety of things to begin with. Starfall for the first few months–just for letter recognition and sounds. I also used Wilson Reading program which was designed for students who are older. I used a lot of worksheets for math in the beginning. At this point–they seriously need a combo phonics and sight word combination curriculum. Don’t be scared to start with kindergarten material and move on. Sara is in 1st grade reading and 5th grade math. You may find that each girl needs different programs. We just brought Sara back home–her choice. She said she just couldn’t understand enough for it to make sense. Since I’m a stay at home mom–I felt that I could help her with English and Math. We are now just beginning to use Teaching Textbooks in Math. It is wonderful–but she would not have been ready in the beginning. I also used a Chinese/English Bible. She just copied a couple of verses a day. She loved getting to practice writing in English. ANd I wanted her to get God’s word in ASAP.

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