Homeschooling adopted children is a great option, not the only one, but a great one. I think when i say that I homeschool my adopted children, it’s as if I took the easy road, I had it in the bag. I can tell when I explain our education choice, a person has that look on her face. I took the low road, right? I didn’t have to get them up in the morning and they could do school in their pjs, right? Wrong (well, maybe pjs sometimes).
I didn’t choose homeschooling my adopted children because it was easy. It wasn’t. It isn’t. Their fears don’t disappear because I homeschooled. Their developmental delays didn’t vanish because they were home. I didn’t let them hide and settle in comfortably where they were academically, emotionally and physically. I challenged them. Every day. It was/is hard. For them. For me. And so worth it.
Last weekend, daughter Ania and I hiked to Raven Rock, about 1.5 miles to the overlook and I’m pretty sure it was ten miles on the way back, straight up. Homeschooling is like the hike. It was rocky terrain. The climb was steep. We babbled all the way down, ignorant to what lay before us on the way back. Still we enjoyed the view, both ways. We high-fived when we hit the finish line, dripping in sweat and in need of food. Homeschooling is not an even ride for adopted children. They may babble excitedly about the year until you hand out some assignments. It may be rough terrain, but the view when you and your child crest the hill, when he gets a concept, when he understands a problem, when he conquers. It’s breath-taking.
So, if you choose to homeschool your adopted children, there are some things you should do.
- Find a support group.
I host a Mom’s Tea at our local homeschool co-op (THESIS) every Friday during the school year. I think I got asked to host because I am on the older/wiser side of life, but this tea has been such a blessing to me. There are so many families homeschooling special needs children nowadays and the Moms at the tea understand. We have common goals and common struggles. We support each other. One Mom shared with me that she wouldn’t have made it through her first year of homeschooling without this group!
2. Don’t be afraid to throw out the formal curriculum for a season.
We parents can get so caught up in our children being academically on target that we forget that some of the children came from hard places. They don’t know how to be part of a family and we are more concerned about the fact that they cannot write their name. Practice some life skills and family habits for a while. Read books aloud. Again and Again. Practice sitting at the table for a meal as a family. Talk about what families do together as if it were natural. “See, you can do it, we sit at the table and eat together because we are a family.”
“We do chores together as a family.”
“We play games together as a family.”
3. Don’t be afraid to backtrack.
My eight year old son knew how to read and write when he joined the Guire family. The only problem for him (and me) was in Polish, not English. He had made it clear he wanted nothing to do with his native language and we had to go back to the very beginning. The alphabet. Phonics. And we did. I didn’t want him to be embarrassed, so I made sure he was in the room when the younger kids were covering phonics lessons so he got double duty.
A lot of parents are afraid their child’s education may have gaps if they go back and recover the basics instead of moving forward with the rest of his peers. I say, the child’s gaps will be wider and more noticeable if you don’t backtrack. The truth is, no one knows everything they need to know when they graduate. No one knows everything. There is always room for improvement and education is a life long habit, not a brick and mortar building. It is emotional intelligence, critical thinking and character, not just book learning.
4. Don’t try to school like everyone else.
The culture of the United States is sameness, whether we admit it or not. Never has Pete Seeger’s tune, Little Boxes rang true as much as it does today.
“Little boxes on the hillside,
Little boxes made of ticky tacky
Little boxes on the hillside,
Little boxes all the same,
There’s a pink one and a green one
And a blue one and a yellow one
And they’re all made out of ticky tacky
And they all look just the same.
And the people in the houses
All went to the university
Where they were put in boxes
And they came out all the same
And there’s doctors and lawyers
And business executives
And they’re all made out of ticky tacky
And they all look just the same.”
We are all trying to be the same. Just go to the sidelines of your child’s soccer game or swim meet and listen. Watch. Kids are wearing basically the same thing. Moms talk about school projects, work, recipes, shopping or their kid’s progress. We try to measure up and fit it to some sort of agenda we learned on the side lines.
Education has increasingly gone mainstream. No child left behind means teach to the middle of the class while kids at the top and kids with learning delays fall behind. No child left behind cannot work because it doesn’t fit each child’s need for education. We don’t have the resources and manpower in our school system for all of the children with special needs, learning delays, emotional issues and then there are the kids who knock the IQ tests out of the park. So, why would we bring these kids home and do exactly what the classroom is?
Why would we mimic the classroom for the child with ADHD or a child on the spectrum who cannot hold still? Why would we follow the What Your Child Needs to Know Guide when a six-year-old child missed so many days of school in his former placement that he doesn’t know how to write his name? When he doesn’t know the difference between a letter and a number?
Find out what your child needs. Does he need to learn to be part of a family? Does he need to go back to the basics? Can he read? Can he sort colors? Shapes? Does he know what money looks like?
Homeschooling is not for everyone. I’m not knocking the school system. I come from a family full of hard-working educators. I know some awesome teachers, child psychologists and administrators. If you decide to homeschool your adopted child, it should be based on what he needs, not what other’s expect of you,not what everyone else is doing. Choose the best choice for him long-term and enjoy the journey.
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