—Delana H. Stewart
The Education of Older Adoptees, Younger Adoptees, and Biological Children
While this post will focus on the homeschooling of older adopted children, it may have some applications to biological children, foster children, and children who are adopted as infants. For the sake of this article, “older” adopted children will mean those that are school age at the time of adoption (though the tips below can even apply to 3-4 year olds who are adopted internationally).
The Positives and Negatives
In researching information for this article, I quickly discovered that there is much more information shared online from the positive perspective (i.e. the pros rather than the cons). I did glean from parents who had commented on posts, as well as from personal experience, to further develop and discuss some of the challenges and/or cons. It is easy to understand why parents who face the struggles with homeschooling older adopted children might not choose to write about it openly.
A Year at a Time, A Child at a Time
As I advise families with biological children, every child’s education should be considered and evaluated each year, according to the needs of the family as a whole and the needs of each individual child to determine the best educational route for that child, that year. This is true regarding adopted children, too. What might be the best option for you and your child and your family this year, might not be what is best next year. And, what you thought you were going to do (or what you started to do) might have to be changed based on needs and circumstances.
Based on the articles I read (see references at the end of this post), these are the 5 most written about pros and cons for homeschooling the older adopted child:
The 5 Pros of Homeschooling Older Adopted Children
- Travel: Many families elaborated on the freedom to travel with your adopted child when adopting additional children.
- Relaxed Approach: Less stress and anxiety for the child; able to take the first year off; able to work within child’s interests and motivation; time for creating positive memories. Many adoptive parents highly recommend taking the first year off. Build relationship. Love them. Take field trips. Do fun things on the computer together or watch educational TV. The year off approach can even be accomplished before putting a child in a traditional school.
- Attachment: Forming parent to child and sibling to sibling bonds can often occur more quickly if the child is in the home longer each day. A child can be completely immersed in family life and break the peer dependency cycle.
- Adoption Age v. Actual Age: Able to work at child’s learning pace. Many older adopted children (particularly those who spent their early years in an orphanage) are behind their age mates socially, emotionally, and educationally. If they came from another country, they will be behind their new peers linguistically for quite some time. It often takes a year for every year the child is old, for an internationally adopted child to fully adjust in his/her new language and culture. Homeschooling allows you to slow down the pace of learning and take these things into consideration. (Underlined phrases link to more info on those subjects).
- Safe Place: Your home and your arms often provides the safe place needed to address negative issues such as lying, cheating, manipulation, and the avoidance of adult interaction. [As a disclaimer, though, I must say that the “safe” adult is often the one who gets to see the child at his or her worst, because the child feels like you will still love him/her even when he/she is mean and hurtful to you.]
The 5 Cons of Homeschooling Older Adopted Children
- Family Stress: Often, the primary caregiver (especially because of #5 above) can become very tired or stressed. The first year can be especially full of trials and adjustments (meltdowns and tantrums). Some parents experience post-adoption depression (which can increase the stress).
- Other Children at Home: If there are other children (bio or adopted) in the home, the needs and emotions of a newly adopted older child can increase the challenges of homeschooling not only the other children at home, but also of being the best option for the new child. Within a family, it is important that the needs of each child is considered and weighed when making this decision.
- Special Services: Some children come with learning disabilities, ADHD, FASD, dyslexia, speech or hearing problems, autism, etc. In public schools in some areas, excellent services are available for helping meet these children’s specific needs. Some parents can handle these needs fine at home, but it is okay to need outside help. In many situations, these special services are not available to homeschoolers.
- Loss of the familiar: Many older adopted children (particularly if coming from another language/culture) already are losing people who look like them, speak like them, smell like them; familiar foods; friends; familiar routines/expectations. We discovered that taking our daughter away from 6 years of living in community with kids her age and younger was something she could not do without. In our home were three teenage boys at that time. Allowing her as a 6 year old (yet socially/educationally/developmentally about 3yrs) go to a half day kindergarten/pre-school program, better met her needs for the familiar. Additionally, it reduced the family stress of number 1 and provided her some special services that we could not provide at home.
- Racially Diverse Friendships: This one could actually go in the pros or the cons section. If your local school is racially diverse, but your neighborhood and church are not, then traditional school might better meet the needs of a transracially adopted child. If the local school is not racially diverse and you know of children and adults from your child’s home culture (or similar) that you can spend time with, then homeschooling would be the preferred route to go, providing that you spend time making these connections.
In the references section below, you will see links, quotes, and key points to other articles where you can explore the above more deeply. Make sure if you read the other articles that you also read the comments other parents have made after the articles.
Delana H. Stewart is the author of Nine Year Pregnancy: Waiting On God—Our Adoption Journey, Three Days at Sea: Soul flotation when the waves are pulling you under, and My Paper Pregnancy Journal: A place for you to tell your adoption story. She is the mom of three adult biological sons and one daughter (whom she and her husband adopted from Thailand). She blogs at http://delanasworld.wordpress.com.
10 Questions Adoptive Parents Ask – Short video clips by Dr. Karyn Purvis, author of The Connected Child: Bring hope and healing to your adoptive family. The 10 clips address these issues:
1. How Do I Handle Manipulation & Control?
2. Will Trust-Based Parenting Work for My Child?
3. Why Won’t My Child Act His Age?
4. How Do I Handle Lying?
5. How Do I Find the Right Professional To Help Us?
6. Should I Parent My Adopted Child Differently Than Birth Children?
7. How Long Do I Have to Parent This Way?
8. Is It Adoption Related or Not?
9. Will Trust-Based Parenting Prepare My Child for the Real World?
10. How Can I Be Fair?
Homeschooling: Our First Year | Life Safari –Great post by a mom who adopted three school-aged children to add to the 2 kids she already had at home…and encouragement for moms homeschooling their newly adopted children.
Homeschooling After Adoption by Dawn Mercer 2-1-13; http://www.rainbowkids.com/ArticleDetails.aspx?id=796
“…not being at school removes to a large degree the peer pressure to act a certain way. I think that this is significant because having been home just three and a half years a lot of our daughter’s needs are closer in some areas to what an average three year old needs than to what you would expect from an almost seven year old.”
Homeschooling the Older Adopted Child by: Selina Bergey March 8, 2012
Definitely read the comment made by Kippi.
Homeschooling the Older, Adopted Child by Joanne Greco-Akerman May 18, 2006
(Revised and updated June 1, 2010– http://www.rainbowkids.com/ArticleDetails.aspx?id=494 )
Homeschooling newly adopted kids by Mary Ostyn Feb 3, 2011
She offers great suggestions for practical and realistic ways to begin homeschooling when you bring home a newly-adopted older child.
Adoption and Homeschooling by Jen January 17, 2013
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