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Parenting in the Homeschool – Homeschooling Adopted and Traumatized Kids
Last summer, as we struggled to raise our new family members, I never would have guessed that I would not have the urge to write an article about homeschooling adopted children in just ten months. However, thanks to the techniques we learned from Consequences, Logic and Control and The Connected Child, the February 2007 workshop with Julie Alvarado, amazing support and prayers. for my family and friends, our family has become stable and our home has become a paradise instead of a war zone.
Homeschooling my three children has been one of the greatest joys and undisputed challenges I have ever faced. My children are 9, 7 and 6 years old and my biggest challenge is teaching them not only their intellectual age but also their emotional age. I’m not a professional, and even with only three years of homeschooling, I hope to be able to offer some good advice on how to be flexible while creating a routine, teaching without compromising content to meet children’s developmental needs, and choosing a curriculum. Our family helps many children with special needs to learn and develop.
Let’s start by talking about exercise. I find that adoptive parents who are dealing with extreme behavior usually do one of two things. They create these structures in their children’s lives, stifling and stressing them out, or they have no boundaries or expectations, choose to justify any behavior, but never re-educate their children in proper ways to express themselves. Neither path will help, and there’s nowhere to hide when you’re homeschooling—you’re responsible for their education and you have to have a plan. I’ve found that flexible routines offer the greatest hope for a peaceful home. Let me explain what it is.
In our house, we have two boys who get up quite early and a girl (the youngest) who generally gets up late. Instead of dragging Rose out of bed before she was ready and struggling all morning because she wasn’t sleepy, I put her to bed and had breakfast with the boys in the morning and focused on them. Often we play games together after breakfast before getting them dressed. (I get up and get dressed and try to be quiet before they both get up.) Then they get dressed and brush their teeth. If Gabriel, my middle child, is reluctant to get dressed, we set a timer and see if he can handle it. He loves any game and it always works. This is usually when Rose needs to be up and cuddled, so I take care of her and the boys play together while we have breakfast. As soon as she is dressed, we start our “three rupees” and the mother goes back and forth between her three children and does her maths first. Then my oldest, Ezra, does his handwriting, grammar, and silent reading while I do phonics and reading with the two younger ones. If I need one-on-one time with Rose or Gabriel, Ezra assigns a read-aloud to a child who isn’t with his mother. Younger kids love it and it encourages sibling bonding, which is great since they’ve only been in the same house for a year!
An hour after that, the kids usually need exercise, and I let them jump on the trampoline or if it’s cold or rainy, I let the boys wrestle indoors. During this time I do some work and bring it in before reading aloud. First we make picture books related to the unit we are currently doing (I will talk more about Konos later and the curriculum we use for all the other lessons), then we make group books. Younger children are less able to listen, so they are allowed to play quietly on the floor with cars or Polly Pockets while we read books for the oldest. After we talk about what we just read, they can play until lunch. After lunch, we do our unit study with the three children. The Konos curriculum includes science, history, music, art, drama, physical development, practical life skills, geography, and Bible studies to meet the needs of each child. The curriculum is hands-on, where we do projects together and explore each topic using a variety of tools. My kids love this part of the day and are learning things I never thought they could learn at such a young age because they are doing and discovering instead of just memorizing facts for a test. We do science experiments, learn about famous people, and act out historical moments. We practice positive behavior through nature walks, dissections, and puppets or role plays.
The next part of our day is rest time. Most days, that means an hour of quiet play in the room while mom regroups. Some days, children need a nap and keep a book in bed hoping to fall asleep. There is snack time right after recess, and every day we give each child 30 minutes of computer time. (This is a fun time for the kids to pick out toys to play.) Other days, I try to do an easy craft that the kids can mostly do themselves while I clean up and start eating dinner. One thing we’ve learned is that TV plays havoc with our children. Because of this, we’ve occasionally had a movie completely removed from recognition. Craft time replaced afternoon television time.
At this point, Dad is almost home and after a brief conversation with Mom, he often takes over. He takes the kids for bike rides, plays games with them, reads them stories, or helps them with their homework while I have dinner on the table. After dinner, everyone gets ready for bed, we listen to books on CD, read aloud as a family, or play family games with the little ones before bed. Rose and Gabriel go to bed no later than 8pm most nights, sometimes even earlier. Ezra sleeps an hour after them so he can have some alone time with us.
Generally, our children know what to expect from our days and this makes a huge difference in their attitude and behavior. What I’ve just described would count as a really good day – usually someone needs something a little different and I have to change things up. There are some fundamental concepts that form the skeleton of our time and don’t change much. Morning routines, mealtimes, reading aloud, relaxation time, and bedtime are essential to a successful day. Other parts can be extended; Shortened, modified, or completely eliminated as necessary based on what is currently going on in our home. Our day has no routine; it just flows.
I don’t mind if we have to lay on the couch for most of the day a few times a month because we study year-round. Getting my kids in the right mindset for learning means I know when to push forward and when to pack up the hard stuff for the day. My main goal right now is to teach them to trust me, teach them character, and stick with reading. As their brain heals from the trauma they experienced, the rest will fall into place.
In general, parents with adopted children have additional issues to deal with on a daily basis, making homeschooling very difficult. Because adopted children demand so much from us, homeschooling seems to alleviate problems that are exacerbated by a public school system that doesn’t understand that adopted children need more understanding. The last thing we want in our selfish human nature is to solve all these problems ourselves “without a break”! But I assure you; the rewards far outweigh the heartache.
Gabriel attended a wonderful public school (as a toddler) with wonderful teachers, wonderful staff and staff to help our family. Despite all of this, we have had behavioral problems at home because of the stress school has brought into the equation. After six months of homeschooling him, these problems disappeared. Little by little we see him off the meds he’s been on since he was three, and we see progress that we’ve never seen before, until the stress of school is gone. Homeschooling isn’t for everyone, but we’ve found that it’s the best way to build relationships in our families, and it helps our damaged children heal.
Update: My kids are older now (12, 9, 8) but this post is still relevant. I wanted to re-enter it in the hopes that it might inspire others.
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