Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Post-Institutionalized Adopted Kids and the Homeschooling vs. Socialization Argument

When we brought our (then) nine-year-old daughter, and 12-year-old son home, they were very much lacking in age-appropriate education.  The Princess had the equivalent of a kindergarten student (“grade zero”) and Youngest Son was at about a second grade level, even though he’d completed what they called “grade three” at his orphanage for special needs children.  The kids were also the smallest nine and 12-year-old children in our town.  At 12, Youngest Son wore clothes that fit most American eight or nine-year old boys.  The Princess wore hand-me-downs from a little girl who was five at the time.  Neither child was ready to be put into school with age-peers. 

Before Hubby and I traveled to adopt our two young ones, I was fully prepared to homeschool them when they got home.  Afterall, I’d homeschooled their older brothers until they reached high school.  Easy peasy.  I thought I could do it with these two, also.  Not a problem.  Then I got stuck in country in 100-110 degree heat, on the 3rd floor of an old Soviet apartment building that had no air conditioning, with two very energetic young children, while fighting against a system steeped in corruption that entire summer.  Fun times.

My kids went to public school five days after we got home.  

The Princess started school in 2nd grade at age nine.  Youngest Son went into 5th grade at age 12. 

After a hellish summer, trying to parent two traumatized kids with attachment issues -- kids who could not understand me, and who I could not understand, and after putting up with every Russian-speaking person around me wanting to parent my kids “for” me in a way that would not allow my kids to even BEGIN to see me as their mom, I gave up on the idea of homeschooling.  I was completely exhausted physically and emotionally.  I did not have it in me to homeschool these two kids.  After seeing how cooped up they felt all summer, I believed they needed time with other kids, away from me.  I still believe they needed that then.  Actually, I still believe Youngest Son needs that.  In fact, he’s doing very well in high school.  It is true that I dreaded him going to high school, but his grades are good enough and he’s “making it” (so far) this year.  He is using good discernment for the most part, and he's hanging out with kids who are good kids.  As for The Princess?  Yeah, not so much.

Until this semester, The Princess had straight A’s.  In fact, she skipped from 4th grade into 6th grade last school year.  This caught her up so that she was placed closer to age peers.  She was able to keep up with the work and still keep her 4.0 average.  This semester, however, her grades dropped significantly.  She’s gotten wrapped up in girl drama and she’s boy crazy.  This has caused her to sink both socially and emotionally.  Her discernment is out the window – at least during the 7.25 hrs. of school each day, and she’s attracted to other kids from hurt backgrounds whose behavior is less than desirable.  

The Princess is now in the 7th grade.  I nearly pulled her out of school in January because she has been struggling so much these last several months.  Now, I’m nearly certain she will not be attending 8th grade in the public school.  

Things at the public school just seem to be getting worse for The Princess.  She’s too smart for this.  She’s too valuable for this.  The thing is, she’s not convinced of that right now.  Because she’s not beating kids up, or stealing property, or cheating on tests, the folks at school just aren’t paying attention.  They don’t care if her grades are A’s or C’s – as long as she does okay on the standardized tests.  (Sorry, but that is the TRUTH.  Like it or not, if you know me and happen to be a teacher in our school district, it isn't personal.  I think we have very good schools and teachers where I live, but I also know our teachers do not have the time to care as much as we’d like to believe they do.  If they did, I would have gotten some calls or emails last week.  I know of at least one teacher that saw The Princess struggling, yet did not take five minutes to tell me about it.)

Thankfully, The Princess and I spent a LOT of time together last week.  She is attached enough, and trusts me enough, and was able to pour her heart out to me.  She handled things well.  She was mature for the most part.  She processed some really hard stuff.  She used her tools from therapy.  Her world was made small by me on purpose, and I was a big, big part of that world.  It helped her feel safe.  I protected her when she needed it.  Yet, I also let her handle things, navigating some hard stuff on her own, because she needed that, too.  She did great!  Making her world smaller helped.  Consequently, I am convinced The Princess needs more time in a smaller world.  So, unless God zaps me over the head between now and August or shows me differently, I’m pretty sure The Princess will either be homeschooled, or will attend a near-by Christian school next school year.  (Right now, that decision is hinging on some financial planning with Hubby.  However, I am leaning heavily toward homeschooling.)
Does this look a little like "Mr. Bill?"

I am looking at both Alpha Omega’s online academy and ACE’s(Accelerated Christian Education) online school.  My older boys used the (P)ACE’s in their Christian school as little boys.  I used Alpha Omega’s LifePaks with them when we homeschooled.  I like both programs.  I’m just trying to decide which would be best for The Princess.  If we begin to homeschool, I want her to complete the program through 12th grade.  Both are accredited.  Both have retreats, missions projects, and even regional graduation ceremonies.  She would get a diploma and a transcript, just like at a “regular” school.  (If you’re a praying person, would you pray for wisdom for me on this decision?)

The Princess is such a little social butterfly.  The good news is we have a homeschool group in town that meets at the church right next door to our house.  I had tea this morning with one of the moms who takes her kids there.  It sounds like it would meet both The Princess’ social need, as well as my need for help in  higher math (like trig and calculus).  It would also provide physical education opportunities.  The argument of having “no friends,” and not having her “socialization” needs met would not be a valid argument – at least not in this town.  In fact, the socialization she WOULD experience would be the kind I want for her.  I want her to learn to edify others rather than tear them down.  I also want her to develop discernment and be able to navigate the hard stuff when I’m not around.

The challenge for me will be getting organized.  I’ve been so very disorganized these last 4.5 years.  This is not who I am -- not prior to adoption anyhow.  When I start to think about THAT, I get overwhelmed.  I don’t know where to start.  (This is not an opening for a sales pitch on some company's organization system, so don’t even try it.)

Perhaps if I start by moving furniture around this weekend?  Hmmm, Hubby is going to be thrilled.  (Yes, that’s sarcasm.)


marythemom said...

When we got our kids (ages 11 and 13) they were still technically foster kids so were weren't allowed to put them in private school. By the time they were adopted (almost 2 years later) our son had shown too many behavior issues to go to the tiny Christian school that uses the ACE program to which we sent his sister (and the biokids).

I still wish we'd found a way to try it, because they both had sooo many gaps in their education that the public school didn't bother to try to fill in... they just keep ignoring it and building on top which means my son (12th grade) reads on a 5th or 6th grade level because he's missing some major concepts like phonics so he sight reads, but the school says he's "on grade level" because he's studying Romeo and Juliet with the other kids his age. I love that the ACE program identified my daughter's gaps and actually helped her get caught up.

Both my kids did OK in school until about 5th grade when the school starts introducing more "abstract concepts." My kids operate in a very concrete world. We did have to pull our daughter from the private school because it was unable to accommodate her learning disabilities. Public school isn't much better, but homeschooling my RAD kids was NOT an option.


Courtney said...

One thing I would double-check with the curriculums is to look at them from an ELL standpoint. One of Alex's biggest issues is with reading comprehension, because he does not have the language base OR THE LIFE EXPERIENCE to understand a lot of what is expected of a child in his grade level. I have had a hard time finding a curriculum that will address his language needs without an assumption that he has gone through the same 10 years of life that other children have. I don't know anything about the curriculums you mentioned, so I'm hoping you can tell me they are great for ELL kids, as I might decide to get them for us too! :) Right now we are operating piece-meal, which we can do since we are still at the lower elementary grades. :)

Trauma Mama T said...

Courtney - The thing about BOTH these curriculum programs is that the child is tested prior to beginning. The programs are then custom designed for the child. For example, Alex may need to start language arts at K-7 (Kindergarten - 7th month) and Math at 1-4 (1st grade, 4th month). The testing finds the gaps in your child's learning and development and fills those in before you move on.

I'm starting to lean more toward the Alpha Omega program for The Princess. I'm just comfortable using the LifePaks and I like being able to supplement things, especially language arts with things like classic literature.

Anonymous said...

I think you are totally right- sometimes they NEED their world to be smaller and safer. Our "trauma queen" is doing well in homeschool, though she would love to be in public school. The key objective in our home is ATTACHMENT, which has been much more easily combined with the homeschool lifestyle then I thought. Every day gives me much opportunity to build trust, security, and community with TQ. Today was filled with tantrums and tears, also was so much fun she didn't realize we were schooling! And our child is slowly becoming able to handle social situations in small doses without exhibiting trauma behaviors. God bless your homeschool.

Trauma Mama T said...

Thanks Anon - Yeah, The Princess is already trying to bargain with me to "only" homeschool for 8th grade. I don't plan that far in advance, though, and she knows it. She also knows that once I start homeschooling my preference will be to keep going. We'll see what happens. Making her world smaller is already helping.