Jamie Martin, editor of Simple Homeschool, also blogs about motherhood at Steady Mom
I sat in a wooden chair at the dining table, telephone nervously propped in one hand, my heart beating unevenly. Steve sat across from me, listening in and ready to speak when called upon.
“So what will you do about Trishna’s education if you adopt her?” the social worker’s professional, yet friendly voice at the end of the line hung a question mark in the air.
Before answering I took a deep breath. I knew exactly what was in my heart for my kids’ learning, but I also knew not everyone agreed with me.
“I believe we will homeschool her,” I blurted out at last, summoning up my courage. Then came the awkward pause, waiting for her judgment…
“I think that’s a great idea,” the voice pronounced, and I finally exhaled.
Why did we choose homeschooling for our adopted children? And what unique issues are there to consider if you’re adopting and trying to decide on an educational path for your family?
Here are some of the whys and the hows Steve and I took into account.
Before I begin, I want to mention that not everyone will choose to homeschool their adopted children, and that we all must find the answer that resonates with our spirits and connects with our families. I’m not saying that every family should homeschool in this situation, but just explaining the whys behind our story in case it’s helpful for others. Remember: You’re the expert on your own family!
* One institution to another
My soon-to-be daughter had spent over four years of her life in an institution (an orphanage), and the idea of enrolling her straight into another one (the public school system) didn’t settle with me.
She had grown comfortable within an institutionalized setting, having been accustomed to having someone tell her when and how to do everything. I wanted her to have a chance to regain the spark of curiosity and self-motivation that kids typically develop from having hours to direct themselves.
* Learning family
If you have not had a family for a long period of your life, family doesn’t come naturally. It isn’t “just the way it is.” It is new, strange, alien, suspect. It has to be learned.
I believed this lesson was the key study my daughter needed to master–because the longer you go without learning it, the harder it can be to learn. Homeschooling allowed us to keep our family priorities in order.
* Making up for lost time
Trishna had spent over four years without us, but due to her age she would be expected to enroll in school soon–away from us for more of the day than she was with us. No matter how I examined this possibility, it never felt right for us.
If there has been trauma in a child’s life, there must also be healing. And a core component of healing is time. We needed time most of all–and homeschooling offered it to us in abundance.
* The chance to protect and nurture without distractions
In our family, we have three different races and four nationalities. We are “that family” that makes people do a double take when we go out together. That’s okay, though, because usually we are together–there’s strength in numbers.
But take a child from a unique family like ours, put them on the playground at recess every day and they become vulnerable–a target for bullies and racism.
Isn’t this just sheltering your kids, though? Yes, it totally is–and that’s what we believe is right to do for a season.
Within the safety of our home, we can talk about prejudice and racism, we can talk about special needs and what it’s like to feel “different”, and we can actually prepare our kids to deal with these challenges from a place of power rather than vulnerability as they move through life.
* Deschool for at least 6-9 months.
I would recommend that after your child joins your family (no matter their age), you deschool for at least 6-9 months. This means what it sounds like–no forced assignments or formal schooling–but the chance to adjust and focus on family, on enjoying each other, on recovering from trauma.
Simply focus on creating an inspiring home atmosphere during this time while also limiting inappropriate distractions (like too much screen-time).
How will you know when it’s time to stop deschooling? When you see your new child beginning to show interest and curiosity when it comes to learning and when you feel that you’ve at least started the bonding process, you can start integrating a bit more structure to your day.
* Choose an educational philosophy based on relationships.
With an adopted child, especially one who just recently joined your family, the last thing you want to do is to replicate school at home–handing her assignments to complete and forcing work to be done.
Remember: If the greatest thing you can do for your child’s future is to give them a stable, secure foundation now, then the most important factor really is relationship.
This is why A Thomas Jefferson Education (AKA Leadership Education) has been the right philosophical fit for our family. It has allowed us to rely on our kids’ natural phases of learning and development to guide their education–as opposed to us having to push them through it, damaging our bond.
For our two adopted children, this has been even more crucial.
* Individualize and personalize.
The extra hours homeschooling offers gives us the chance to alter every child’s curriculum, creating a unique life education for each student.
If my Elijah decides he wants to study his birthplace of Liberia, we can create an entire unit around it as part of our studies–what a gift! I love the ability to customize my children’s learning according to their passions, personalities, and heritage.
Ten years ago I was pregnant with my first baby, my son Jonathan. I had no thoughts, ideas, or plans to adopt…OR to homeschool!
Looking back now I know that God had an even better, more adventurous plan in mind for my life. I’m beyond thankful for these three babes–one from my womb and two from around the world–that I’m honored to be raising.
Are you homeschooling your adopted child? What have you discovered along the way?