For some families of children adopted at older ages the summer may be the best time to explore new schooling options. As part of the bonding process, or to better assimiliate a child into their adoptive family, homeschooling may be a consideration worth examining.
While homeschooling is a wonderful option for many children, it may be the one thing that promotes lasting bonding, attachment and security when families that adopt an older child. Homeschooling a child adopted as an infant is not any different than homeschooling a biological child because that child is being raised by you , and only you where as a child adopted when they're older, has have been raised by other people, or within an institution, before you brought them home.
At the time of our adoption, our children were 5, 8 & 11. We adopted three children, siblings that had been in foster care for four years. After about a year, I started to feel as if we had hit a plateau in terms of bonding as a family. Sure, we knew which of us was not a morning person, which of us didn't like eggs and who could be counted on for remembering directions, but I wanted more for us. I felt that we needed to start bonding on a deeper, emotional level. Also, there were emotional issues that needed more private family time in which to be addressed. I knew we couldn't accomplish that with them being away from us for 35 hours a week at school.
And it didn't end at that 35 hours.
After school hours, there was homework that needed to be done, tests to be studied for, teachers to meet with and over priced candy to sell. School seemed to have a way of creeping into our personal lives and stealing our family time.
I realized that school didn't only want to teach my children math and writing, they also wanted to pass along their morals and values to them. As a new family, my husband & I wanted to share our values with our children and it became increasingly difficult to compete with the school system. Children identify with those they spend the most time with and those they spend less time with become less important. School likes to give the impression of a close knit atmosphere and promotes themselves as "one big family." Loyalty and trust to school is often placed before loyalty and trust in family. Children learn to look to teachers for guidance, advice and information. While this can be damaging to any child, it may hurt or weaken the bonding process when a child is adopted at an older age. Let's face it, school is not the place to learn about lasting relationships and it sends mixed signals to children by expecting them to trust a revolving door of care givers. My children had a lifetime of being raised by strangers and identifying with the system and it was time for that to change.
We also started to question the message they were getting from school that they were learning disabled and failures at certain subjects. It's not uncommon for children in foster care or from institutions (not to mention English as a Second Language) to be placed in special ed classes and have more F's on their report card than A's or B's. The pressure placed on these children, (children who are already struggling with emotional issues), to keep up with other children and process information in a way that they may not be able to, is almost cruel.
Terry, a homeschooling and adoptive parent has this to say about her daughter (who came home to her at the age of 9):
"Her education could focus on meeting her specific needs in all areas and the time we have together has strengthened our family bonds. I see so many families who are divided into adults vs. children and I firmly believe that the forced socialization standards of the public school system foster that adversarial relationship. We are fully committed to teaching our children and happily accept the responsibility for their total development. We constantly evaluate our methods and materials and make changes as needed to benefit them and accommodate their learning styles. We are building strong bonds that will last forever!"
Vickie, another parent who adopted a sibling group of four said:
"Kids who are adopted through the foster care system already have so much going on in their lives. Even if homeschooling isn't forever, in all cases of older child-foster/adopt, just a year or two alone with parents educating/encouraging/being with their "new" kids is surely the best way to transition a child into permanency."
It's been a year and a half since we started taking our children out of school (we removed them one at a time over a four month period) and the benefits of homeschooling (and also being free of the school system) continue to have a tremendous positive impact on our family. We would never have come as far as we have, if our children were still in school.
If you are considering (or already have) adopting an older child, I highly recommend homeschooling as a way to foster bonding. It may not be easy, especially when most of the children adopted through the foster care system struggle with a variety of emotional issues. But if you've adopted older children then you're not the type of person who shies away from something just because it's not easy.
You can do it. Your kids are counting on you.