The Most Valuable Homeschooling Lesson

I never intended to homeschool. All I remember is a blur of meetings with my children’s teachers and principal, researching their learning disabilities, and the unsettling enlightenment of how difficult it was going to be to have our children’s needs met in a school setting.

When we adopted our first three children, we had no idea what we were getting ourselves into. The social worker commented on them being “surprisingly unaffected,” and while I knew that no child in foster care could be “unaffected,” I assumed what she meant was, “They’re ok, and we can do this.” We weren’t given their medical history or any analysis until several weeks in, but by then we had already started noticing that there was something off with the children. Had we fully understood the years of trauma and the ramifications of being born drug and alcohol affected, I can’t imagine we would have thought ourselves capable of being their parents.

Every day we were getting notes sent home about their behavior at school. My youngest was raging, my middle child was highly destructive and she could not keep up (though she was in a grade far below what was appropriate for her age), and my oldest was checked out and socially isolated the entirety of his school day. The teachers were frustrated and wanted me to do something about the disruptions they were causing. I didn’t know my rights or my children’s rights, so I initially approached these meetings as if I was inferior to the teachers.

What I wanted was to bring them home. They had just been adopted after having three placements in their year spent in foster care. They had yet to experience any kind of stability. Someone mentioned to me that I could bring my youngest home since he was only four, but that I couldn’t homeschool my older two until their adoptions were finalized. I wasn’t referring to homeschool when I mentioned wanting them home. I knew that was way out of my league. I just meant I wanted them to be able to have some peace, and school was obviously exasperating their trauma. They weren’t learning anything, yet they were still being passed through, labeled instead of serviced.

We did bring home our youngest and saw immediate change in him. Three months later, he no longer qualified for the mental retardation diagnosis he came to us with. It was like the lights in his brain turned on and he was able to roam about.

That process taught me the most valuable homeschooling lesson: Place your child in the position to learn, and they will. Meet their needs, and children want to learn.

Six months later, we were able to bring home our other children, and by this time we had adopted an older sister of theirs who would eventually be homeschooled as well.

In our foster care training classes, one of the many documents we filled out was one where we needed to answer the desired age, sex, race, quantity, and whether we would take special needs children. While we knew for years that we wanted to adopt, we never could reconcile the specifics of how we would do it. We left the paper blank, and we now have a sibling group of four mixed-race, special needs children—two girls and two boys. We were desperate. We took the road less traveled, and we placed ourselves in the position of desperately needing God to lay out for us how we are going to do this life every day.

It’s been a motley mix of rising to impossible challenges and relishing the rewards.