Thursday, September 17, 2015

Progress Report for Ben

I'm thinking, now that we have a month of the new school year under our belts, it might be time for a progress report. In order to see the progress, we will first take a look back:
Up until January of this year, Ben was homeschooled, with mixed results. He learned to love reading, science, and history, but he wasn't happy studying at home, and this situation became worse for my extroverted boy, as more and more of the older children grew up and left home (especially hard was the departure of Ben's beloved brother, Gus, when he moved to the US).
Following the kidnapping, in August of 2013, Ben and I both had trouble getting back to the business of homeschooling - we had other things on our minds, to sort through and deal with - and Ben fell behind in his schoolwork, especially in math and writing. As other aspects of our lives began to normalize, school became more of a problem, and things were tense around here.
For reasons too varied to discuss in a blog post, the decision was made to put Ben into the excellent local Christian bilingual school. He took a placement test, which said he was prepared for approximately the middle of fifth grade. With the agreement of the school administrators, he was placed into the sixth grade, because of his age. At ages 12, 13, and 14, there are a LOT of physical and emotional changes happening, and we wanted Ben to be with his peers.
This meant that the six months of school Ben attended last year were incredibly grueling for Ben, and for the rest of the family. Every day, in just math, for instance, he would have to learn whatever new thing the class was learning, but he would also have to learn and practice a number of other types of problems that the rest of the class had previously learned but he had not yet experienced - and he had the same situation in many of his other subjects, as well. Two days per week, he would attend tutoring sessions after school, with his 6th grade teacher, Miss Whitehead. When Ben arrived home every afternoon, he and I would go straight to work on his homework, and, except for a brief stop for dinner, we usually worked straight through until bedtime! Our family was extremely impressed, from the start, with Ben's effort and mostly good attitude. He loved going to school, and was determined to make this work.
It was still a long, hard struggle, though. Over the weekends we would spend time catching up on any homework he hadn't been able to complete during the week (especially in math), and Ben would spend a lot of time writing, writing, and writing! If things went well, Ben would find himself with Sunday afternoons free . . . but that was it! Poor guy (and, just fyi; poor me, too. LOL).
We made it to the end of the school year, and Ben passed all of his classes . . . and for the most part he either received a high A, or he barely squeaked by to pass, in each of his subjects.
Now, you may have noticed that I said this is a "bilingual" school, and I haven't yet said anything about Spanish. Ben speaks English as his first language, and, when we started school, he had a minimal ability to get by in Spanish. He certainly was not ready to take 6th grade classes (social studies and Spanish language arts) in Spanish, with students who speak Spanish as their first language! During the time his classmates took those classes last year, Ben worked with a tutor at the school, to improve his Spanish. At the end of the school year, we felt that he was catching up pretty well in his other subjects, but our greatest concern was whether he was ready to enter the 7th grade classes in Spanish, as a regular student.
Over the summer, Ben attended tutoring sessions, three times each week, with a Honduran teacher from the school. Miss Amy did such a great job with him - her friendly, gentle manner encouraged him to open up and talk in Spanish about anything and everything - and we felt guardedly hopeful about Ben's Spanish abilities, as we started this new school year. (Fortunately it is comparatively very simple to read and write in Spanish, if you can already read and write in English - the reverse is much more complicated.)
As we started the new school year, I was guardedly hopeful about Ben's progress, but, to be honest, I was mostly dreading it! One thing that is available to the students at the school, when they reach 7th grade, is the opportunity to participate in after-school sports. I had promised Ben that he would be allowed to participate, if his grades weren't negatively affected, and if he could manage to get all of the homework done in the time that would be left over, after he'd spent time in the after-school activities. So, he had extra incentive to do well this year - he excels in sports and desperately wanted to be involved in those, as much as possible!
Now, after a month of seventh grade, I'm delighted to report that everything, so far, is going so much better than last year! Happily, Ben is no longer the strange new student who doesn't know how anything works . . . and this has helped him a lot, in adjusting to the new teachers and other differences that are in effect now that he has moved into the second level of classes at the school. He is now attending the classes which are held in Spanish, as a regular student, and the teachers have expressed to him that they are pleased and surprised at his progress! He has been doing an amazing job at keeping track of all of his assignments, and is taking full responsibility for making certain that his homework is completed in the evenings. He's participating in after-school sports four days each week, as well! I'm thrilled, of course, and just a little bit amazed at his progress!
There are still - and certainly will continue to be - many struggles and difficulties along the way . . . Ben is a teenager now, you know, LOL! But I wanted to take a moment and just be grateful for where we are, where we've come from, and that the future looks so bright for Ben, right now.


Anonymous said...

Wow, time flies...very handsome young man!

estee said...

Congrats Ben on doing well in school!
Trish,I stumbled upon your blog after reading a post in Rachel Jones's blog. Thanks for sharing your story.