By guest author Shari Howard McMinn
More and more Christian families are adopting, with many already homeschooling or investigating it as an option for their extra special children. I have been a home educator for 23 years, having spent the past 13 years homeschooling my five adopted children, with six more years to go. I have learned a few things along the way which have helped my kids succeed in homeschool while I kept my sanity!
1. Establish a baseline
Where is your child right now in her education? If you haven’t figured this out already, do some in-home testing to establish at what grade level she is working for reading, writing, and arithmetic. Maybe you did this when she first came to you, or you had information from a school she attended previously? Document the baseline from which you can then measure her progress. Refer to it at least once a year to gauge her achievement, fine tuning your teaching materials and methods.
2. Set a reasonable daily schedule and stick to it
If your calendar is full, it is too full for homeschooling an adopted child. Most adopted children struggle with trust and trauma issues so it takes them longer to do everything, including processing instructions and recalling information they have been taught. You and your family need to cut-back your activities to a no-frills schedule: church, home life, homeschool, and work. You need to allow your adopted child to learn at his pace, giving him plenty of margin time to think, relax, and be in relationship with you and your family. Consistency and routine are key: the same bedtime, chore time, down time, meal time, and school time each day.
3. Help your child discover her likes and limitations
Our kids need to hear from us what they seem to be naturally good at, to be able to communicate to us what they like to do, and to understand their own learning struggles from our point of view. As you uncover who she is, help your child with self-discovery so she knows who God created her to be and how she can flourish in your family.
4. Assist your child with envisioning his future
Most adopted children have a difficult past or at least struggle making peace with it. Help your child realize the hope he has in Christ for a blessed future and how your Christian homeschool can equip him for a fulfilling and successful adulthood. Incorporate his goals, and yours, into your family’s home education vision and agenda. Does he want to be an athlete, a rocket scientist, a soldier, or a zookeeper? If he has short and long term goals to work toward, his school work will take on more personal meaning and he’ll want to participate more fully in it most days.
5. Work on your relationship with your child
Trust takes years to build, and your adopted child needs to trust you as both parent and teacher. Homeschooling is about learning within relationship — much like Jesus taught His disciples through daily relationship – and they changed the world! Every day, attempt to connect with your child in relationship, not to just “get through” the school day workload, but to grow your love for each other. Read aloud, play together, work side-by-side with her through math or another challenging subject. Be sure to do school work in the same room together instead of in the isolation of separate rooms or even different floors in your home.
6. Experience a full life with each other:
Cook, garden, listen to music, play recreational sports, watch movies, and worship together as a family. Adopted children need to be equipped with life skills and social opportunities to become achievers instead of remaining victims. When your child is not biologically related to you, he will probably enjoy different foods, books, movies, sports, and hobbies compared to you. Join him in his choices and invite him to join you in yours to become part of each other’s lives.
7. Patience, perseverance, and prayer should be your operating systems
Homeschooling is a marathon, and it is especially so with adopted children. They need to catch-up on many aspects of life that they lost out on before they joined your family. Additionally, they probably have learning labels and ‘issues’ related to trauma and loss. School may be more difficult for them than the average student. One may be highly gifted, soaring ahead — you’ll have to work overtime to keep her challenged and busy, steering her toward future college or entrepreneurial endeavors. One may lag greatly behind, needing to learn vocational and life skills for working a steady job as an adult even if she remains living in your home. You’ll need to pray for wisdom and direction for how to educate and raise each child.
8. Never give up on your adopted child
School might be a struggle; discipline will likely be a greater struggle; your relationship with him might be the greatest struggle of all. However, when you have 24/7/365 accountability and time together through homeschooling, much can be achieved and overcome. Unrighteous rebellion is a reality you might have to face. Gird yourself with the full armor of God, rely on His strength while you obey Him, and in time He will reward your faithfulness. Remember, salvation through Christ alone is the most important ideal to teach and model for your child.
9. Take breaks and get the help you need
Spouses need to date each other, the teaching parent needs to ‘hand-off’ kids to the working parent during at-home hours, and families need to have fun together. Plan times of refreshment and enjoyment. Get help from your church, relatives, and friends when you need a break or guidance. Utilize therapists, specialists, and other resources for your student’s problem areas. You are not expected to know everything, but know how to get necessary help when you are unable to teach certain subjects or skills.
10. CHEC can help
The newly published CHEC Guidebook has an entire chapter dedicated to ‘different learners.’ Be sure to check it out for determining your child’s learning needs and strategies for teaching to overcome them. You can find CHEC’s list of special needs service providers here. The staff answering phones at the CHEC office are available weekdays for counsel and prayer (contact us here). CHEC’s Homeschool Introductory Seminars offer legalities, vision, and practical advice for homeschooling preschool through high school, including special students such as adopted children. The next seminar is April 1, 2017 in Castle Rock.
You can successfully homeschool your adopted child! Home education can be a great way to build your relationship while providing the individualized education your child needs to succeed.