It is loud in here right now. The sun shining through the south-facing windows and the heat from the woodstove ward off the chill on this -25 degree Celsius morning. There are six kids laughing, playing, shouting . . .and not really doing their math. But we will get back to it, for sure. For now, they are enjoying their morning, and so am I! We have been a foster family and adoptive family for over 10 years now. We have always homeschooled, and I am into my 9th year of teaching from home. Often, people look shocked and ask how homeschooling multiple children with special needs or behavioral conditions is even possible. My husband and I spoke at a conference about this years ago; it’s possible because homeschooling and adoption are actually a perfect fit for us.
Why We Chose to Homeschool
I do need to acknowledge, and quickly too, that homeschooling is not for everyone, and that is okay. I’m not saying that I’m better than anyone else because I homeschool my children, because I’m not! After talking with my friends from all walks of life, I have decided that school has its difficulties, period. Whether the kids need to be up early to walk to school or the bus stop, or whether you have school at home with fewer time constrictions, mornings don’t cease to be difficult in both realms.
It’s a fact of life: no matter who or where you are, the struggles of school-age children still exist. They don’t want to wake up, or they were up too early so they’re crabby now, or have to take medications they don’t like or have to be reminded twice to change their underwear or brush their teeth. Or, if your house is anything like mine, you might have to help put away two closets full of clothing after your beautiful daughters got up early to play dress-up before the sun even hinted at rising. If your kids are in public school, they might struggle with bullies or peer pressure; if you do school at home, you might struggle with defiant children or the attempt to get all the housework done (like laundry, cooking, and cleaning) on top of doing school. Neither option is easy or simple–neither one is the end-all, be-all. For my family, we chose homeschooling so that we could experience life with our kids at a pace that worked for us.
We live on a small farm in rural Northern British Columbia, Canada. Goat milking, egg hatching, chicken raising, and horse training were always activities we’d wanted to incorporate into our school day, and so we do. This morning, I read a lesson aloud, and then children of various ages, from teens down to toddlers, set to work on math, spelling, reading, and playing.
Don’t think that this lifestyle is perfect; it’s more like organized chaos. But the beauty of our arrangement is that close to lunch, the older kids will slip outside to catch their goats, and they’ll milk them to fill orders as a way to earn some pocket money. In the spring, ponies arrive for them to train, which becomes their part-time job. An incubator hums away on the counter with 12 eggs almost ready to hatch. The kids can candle the eggs, take the heartbeat of the unborn chicks with a special machine, and watch the eggs develop. Some kids write their birth parents letters and address envelopes for language arts, and some kids type a speech for 4-H.
How is this possible when you are battling reactive attachment disorder, major anxiety in a child, medical issues, or learning challenges due to fetal alcohol syndrome? Well, let me share.
Homeschooling Adopted Children Isn’t Always Easy
First of all, just like anyone else in any other situation regarding adoption, there are hard days. That’s life! However, homeschooling is not like doing “public school at home,” and I have found that families who try to do it that way quickly become overwhelmed. We have total control over our time, which means we are free to start school at 8 am, take a six-hour break, and then do math after supper. It means that projects for clubs become schoolwork, and everyday life becomes a lesson. Writing a grocery list, reading aloud to a sibling, and making homemade play-doh are all a part of school. To address the special needs aspect, we have enrolled with an online school that provides one-on-one tutoring for the children who need it. We also receive funding from our online school for counseling, and access to both occupational therapy and physical therapy services. To sweeten the deal, our community has a fairly extensive homeschool group that organizes hockey teams, basketball tournaments, time at a local fieldhouse, and many more great activities. As a family, we feel very supported and incredibly blessed to be able to walk this road of homeschooling.
As it does for everyone, times of medical uncertainty have popped up along our journey, such as when I and one of our children spent three weeks in a children’s hospital 14 hours away from home. Luckily, my husband, Tyler, was able to stay home and keep life relatively normal for the other children. We have faced times of transition as foster children move in or out. We often travel each September (and by travel, think of a family of eight. I mean camping and road trips, hotdogs made on a small grill we pack in the back of the van–nothing over-the-top expensive, since we don’t have the budget for that!) to visit museums, national parks, heritage sites, etc. We are currently working on our fourth adoption, and homeschooling gives us the flexibility we desire in order to best support our children as well as provide them with a dynamic childhood full of exciting experiences.
Not every day is easy, and it does take commitment and preparation. That being said, I am a huge advocate for homeschooling adoptive children, if you feel it is for you. Don’t be afraid to give it a try–you never know, it might just become a passion for your family, too!