To home school or not to home school? This is a question that many adoptive parents, myself included, consider for their children. Parents want the best education for their children and unfortunately there is not a “one size fits all” solution. For many children who have grown up in institutionalized care a traditional school setting can be a challenge and many teachers are not trauma informed and able to provide the child the teaching structure he or she needs. There are many factors for parents to take into consideration when determining what type of school setting will be the best fit for their child.
When a child first joins their family through international adoption some of the initial reasons parents consider homeschooling is to foster attachment, give the child time to adjust to his or her new family, learn the new language and catch up academically. Other added benefits include but are not limited to meeting a child’s specific needs, scheduling flexibility to accommodate appointments/therapy, reduced anxiety, and the ability to focus on individual talents/interests. For children adopted internationally homeschooling can also provide additional opportunities to embrace and incorporate the child’s birth culture in their education.
I interviewed a few adoptive families to gain some additional perspectives. Adoptive mom, Jennifer Giugliano shared her experience with homeschooling and the public school system. When asked what she felt the benefit of homeschooling her son, she answered, “We were able to attach even more, go at his pace for learning and focus on the things he enjoyed while making them into lessons.” The ability to slow down and move at the child’s pace in order for him or her to be successful is a common advantage to homeschooling. Homeschooling also provides the added control to structure the day so that your child can succeed and minimize anxiety. The mornings can often be the most stressful for parents trying to get their kids to daycare or school. Adoptive mom Crystal Libby agrees, stating that homeschooling allowed her daughter with special needs to, “focus and practice self-care skills without the rush of the morning.”
Children raised in congruent care are at a higher risk of developing sensory processing disorder (SPD), which can be difficult to deal with in a traditional school setting. Sensory activities are not always incorporated into the daily routine in public schools. It may also be difficult for a child with SPD to focus and remain seated in a classroom for the required periods of time, resulting in behavior issues. Homeschooling provides the freedom to include special accommodations or activities that may be helpful to a child’s academic success. Jennifer stated that her son loves hands on activities and anything sensory involved. By homeschooling her son she was able to tailor each lesson to meet his need and make it fun.
Making the decision to home school can be tough but parents with a child with special needs has the added anxiety of navigating the special education programs within the school system. Adoptive mom Crystal stated that “as stressful as I feared homeschooling my child with special needs to be it actually failed in comparison to the stress I felt as a parent going into quarterly IEP meetings and opening up the report cards in her [daughter’s] backpack. I was constantly reminded of her shortcomings and failures.” By homeschooling, parents are able to focus on the positives and successes of their child, which may not meet that of their typical peer but are still successes for that particular child.
In addition to the many benefits to homeschooling there are also many challenges to consider. Homeschooling requires a lot of patience and relies on the parent’s ability to teach their child. It is not every parent’s strength to teach their child. But there are many resources and curriculums available to assist parents. However, even with the best resources some personalities between parent and child may clash causing much unneeded stress on the parent/child relationship.
Parenting a child can be draining for parents. Parents who home school their children serve a dual role as caregiver and teacher and this can become even more overwhelming to parents. Parents may experience burnout from homeschooling and need a break from trying to perform both roles well. Depending on the school and team of teachers it may be more beneficial for parents to send their child to school. Schools often offer specialized services for children with special needs and a team of professionals available to give input. Jennifer shared that for her the challenge of home schooling was being both her son’s mom and teacher. Jennifer and her husband decided to enroll their son in public schools because they realized that he needed more than they could offer him. Fortunately, they were lucky to have a great school system with an amazing team willing to work at their son’s pace. She shared that the school has been “amazing with him and he has worked so hard! We can really see his growth.”
If parents have multiple children in the home, they may decide that homeschooling isn’t the best fit for all of the children. Parents may find that one child can cause extra stress to other children in the home and interfere with their success. If a child is frequently melting down or diverting attention away from his or her siblings, it may be beneficial to make different education plans based on what is best for each individual child.
Another challenge to homeschooling is that one parent has to be able to stay home during the day. Not all families are financially able to make this decision. Even if one parent is financially able to stay home, they may not want to give up their job if it something they enjoy (or need to maintain their sanity). Children also benefit from socializing with their peers, so while there are many opportunities to join homeschool coops, recreational teams or volunteer in the community it may not be the best fit for all children and they may succeed more in a learning environment with their peers.
Making the decision to homeschool has to be right for the whole family. It may be something your family finds beneficial or it may be something that is beneficial for only a season or two or it may not fit your family at all. Crystal shared some insightful advice to parents considering homeschooling their child “I would say, do not let fear of not being enough stop you. I firmly believe you know your child better than anyone. You know what makes them tick, shutdown, what brings them joy, you know where they came from and how far they have come. There is so much flexibility to allow your child to grow a desire for learning. Homeschooling may be what’s best for this year and maybe it’s not what is best for next. I do not believe it’s an all or nothing type of choice.” Each family’s needs are unique and may even have their own set of pros and cons they need to consider. Whether you decide to only homeschool your child, home school your child for a season of their life or enroll them in public or private schools, consider all of the options available and choose what fits your child and family best.