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Destinations, Dreams and Dogs - International adventure with a fast-track family (& dogs) of Old World values, adopting the Russian-Italian-American good life on the go…!

Reading to Learn

With four older children from Russia, English comprehension is not their forte’.  Reading to learn when they don’t know much English has its challenges, let’s say.  So, whenever they can, three out of four try to fly below the radar and pretend they know what they’re doing in order to escape trying to explain why they don’t ask for help, or look up a word in the dictionary, or why they don’t have any comprehension whatsoever of approximately half of all they study.

“Figure 16 shows several substances and their densities,” reads Mashenka, breezing along at a steady clip.  We require them to read out loud, in order to correct pronunciations and catch words they probably don’t know.

“Do you understand what density means?” I inquire, simultaneously cautious and suspicious.

“Uhhh…. ‘To calculate the density of a substance, there are two properties one needs to know…’” she sums up, happy as a clam to have found another sentence with the target word.

“Right… so what is density?” I repeat.

She tries to bluff again, “It is science definition.”

“Yes, I know it should be one of your definitions.  So what does it mean?”

I take her science book and leaf through, reading, “The density of a substance is its mass per unit volume.”  Very helpful stuff for an English Language Learner, I muse with an edge of sarcasm.  Thus, I end up discussing with her the equation:  Density equals Mass over Volume, and floating versus sinking.

I think we’re sinking.

Sashenka today is struggling with grammar in general, and Inverted Order in particular:  “The police car raced down the street.”  “Down the street raced the police car.”  Whenever the subject comes after the verb, the sentence is said to be in inverted order.

Not for our kids.  To them, upside-down and inside-out sounds just fine.

Pasha is working on science and the biotic parts of an ecosystem.

“Mama, vhat is biotic?” he asks, one of the few who is not too shy to ask, but then tends to ask too much, too often.  Anyone who ever said, “You can never ask a stupid question”, never met Pasha.

“Read the sentence to me,” I suggest.

“These organisms—animals, plants, fungi, protists, and bacteria—make up the biotic factors, or living parts, of an ecosystem,” he reads haltingly.

“So does that tell you anything?  See, they give you a definition in the sentence by saying the same thing in another way.  Tell me what is biotic, then?”

“Living parts?”

“That’s right.  And what are protists?”

“When people get angry about something and carry signs?” he wonders.

And so it goes.

Close, but so complicated.  Each sentence can easily take several minutes to decipher.  By the time we finish a paragraph, they most likely have forgotten what we were discussing in the first place, and why.  It’s a push-and-pull, sink-and-swim type of day, and by the end of it, I wonder how much we’ve really accomplished?

Probably nothing we won’t have to review again… and again… and again….



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4 Comments : Leave a Reply

  1. avatar Mindy says:

    My two are not homeschooled, but were adopted as older children from Russia so this post is still really relevant. I had my 8th grader reading a book for young athletes on mental toughness in sports last night, and we came across some terms that played out a lot like your described lessons. The ones I recall are “think in melodramatic terms,” “tactical expertise,” “perservere in the face of adversity” and “powerful self-fulfilling prophecy.” Took a bit of work including role playing and acting out examples to get these to be as meaningful as the author probably intended. The book has good life lessons in it though so hopefully at least a portion of it sticks.

    • avatar admin says:

      Oh, I hear you, Mindy! Most of the meaty motivational stuff is written in higher level English. You find yourself wishing they would dumb it down! In the beginning, I practically translated every word for them into Russian, but really, eventually, they have to make the transition into the actual English terms. I believe everyone will get there, it’s just that the journey can be… exhausting…! Thanks for relating, lol.

  2. avatar Phyllis says:

    Loved this! Yep, we are there with you, although at a lower level. And I think my three could be related to your Pasha and the questions. lol I even had 1 a week ago say he was having a hard time on his test. I asked what the test was in….took him over 30 seconds to give me a partial answer! Watson! I thinkI figured out the problem!! lol Oh well, we keep pressing on.

    • avatar admin says:

      That’s all we can do, Phyllis. Repeat, rinse, repeat. I love the slo-mo partial answers-! Maybe they’ll all end up working in Customer Service somewhere…. 🙂

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