The kids began their very first day of school- EVER on Wednesday. My kids have been homeschooled since birth, so I wasn’t sure how we would do. They were ready to be with friends and have something to do, and I was ready to be able to get stuff done without breaking up a fight or being interrupted every 15 seconds. It was an exciting, yet anxious day for all of us. But there were no tears- just peace.
|Aren't they cute? Andrew was already tired of the "obnoxious mom" pictures!|
Before Tim and I had kids, he suggested we homeschool. He was fed up with the public schools and didn’t think we’d have money for private school. I told him God would have to work on my heart. Well, God did work on my heart, and we homeschooled from preschool on. When we were first led into missions, when schooling and education options were brought up, I remember thinking “This doesn’t apply too much to me. I homeschool and can do that wherever I am in the world.” After we received our assignment to PNG, I was sent the information on the school. I began doing some research. This school was exactly the kind of school I would have my kids in if I could design a school for them. Tim and I prayed and decided we would enroll them when we joined the work in PNG. This was a big decision for me. On one hand I was so excited they would be going to school, so they’d make more friends and have some incredible experiences. On the other hand, I was scared because they wouldn’t receive the one-on-one instruction they were used to and would bomb out. And what if I had messed up my kids all this time by homeschooling them????
Have you ever sat back in amazement at how God works out all those details that you have been fretting over? I did that yesterday. The kids are right where they belong, at least where they belong at this time. Ukarumpa International School (UIS) has students and teachers from all over the world. Most children are missionary kids, while some are Papua New Guineans who live nearby. It’s staffed with missionary teachers, who are teaching because they want to be here teaching these kids.
When we first arrived in May, the kids were tested for grade-level. UIS tends to be ahead of schools back in the States, so this was a bit nerve-wracking, especially when the kids had just gone through more transitions in a year than most kids. The results weren’t that surprising. We spoke with the principal and decided Andrew should go on to 4th grade and Bekah needed to do 2nd grade. This is where things got a bit sticky for a homeschooler. Most children have really strong areas and weaker areas. Homeschooling gives you the flexibility to be doing one level math and another level language and do social studies and science across several levels. Not so much with a classroom setting.
Andrew had been doing a lot of 4th grade level work, so he wanted to start 5th grade. Because of his age (he was ‘supposed’ to finish 3rd grade) and other factors, we knew he needed to continue and stay on track starting 4th grade. Again, I sit in amazement at God’s work. I kept hearing a lot about the 4th grade teacher. The more I heard, the more I knew it was where he needed to be for his first year in school. She is structured and has high expectations of them. Andrew needs the challenge and the structure. God knows!
Andrew’s class has 16 kids- 3 girls, 13 boys, and the majority of students are multi-lingual with another language as their mother tongue. The diversity is amazing! Andrew shares a desk with a Papua New Guinea boy named David. He has already made so many friends in the class. His biggest complaint is that he has to wear tennis shoes because shoes with backs are required. He came home today a bit discouraged saying his teacher wants them to only use cursive. He kept begging me to teach him cursive last year, but with all that was going on, I just focused on Language Arts and Math. I guess we’ll be working on cursive on the side.
The hardest decision was for Bekah. She had just finished 2nd grade, but we needed to re-do 2nd grade. She was not happy. I cried with her, and we talked about it. Her biggest concern was her friends back home in Georgia. They would all be in 3rd grade. It is hard for a child to understand and my heart broke right along with hers. Bekah is a late August birthday. In the States that means she started Kindergarten before 5 because of the September 1st cut-off date. At UIS the age cut off is August 1st, which meant she would have started Kindergarten a year later. Before we left for PNG, we had Bekah tested for dyslexia. You can read her story here. Her testing showed she was severly dyslexic and reading at a pre-K level. We did some intense work and therapy before leaving. It was amazing watching her progress and gain 2 years of progress in just a few short weeks. She is my amazing girl! The biggest difference between 2nd and 3rd grade was reading instruction. In 2nd grade the kids are still learning reading strategies, but by 3rd grade they are expected to know them. With the dyslexia, she needs that extra year of learning strategies. Here is the awesome God working. Her teacher struggled with learning disabilities as a child. She understands!!!! Want to know something else? Her very first day, she made a new friend. This friend also has some of the same learning struggles as Bekah!!! How incredible is God! I about cried when the mom called me yesterday to ask if Bekah could come over to play and then shared about her daughter. Our God is so good!
Bekah’s class is a little bigger- 20 kids. They have 7 girls and 13 boys. She was so excited to find out they didn’t have homework this week, so she could go out and play! They have at least 4 or 5 kids that will be in and out of the classroom. They are part of the village program, which means their parents are translators, typically. They will be gone for about 5-6 weeks at a time with mom teaching them from the school curriculum. She is super excited about doing art and music this year- something this mama couldn’t teach!
They have completed the first two days of term 1, and they both love it. I’m so excited to see what God is going to do with their lives. I know we will all face challenges this year. We’ll attend Open House next week, and I can’t wait to see more of what they will be learning throughout the year.