Today is Bee’s last day of sixth grade. When she joined our family four and a half years ago, she could not speak English, could not read her native language (Amharic), and had very little formal schooling. She was ten years old, but together with our agency, we legally changed her age to make her nine, hoping that would give her a little extra time to catch up to her peers.
That decision has produced some issues, and having been adoptive parents for over six years, I’m not sure we would do it again, but that is a post for another day.
When Bee joined our family in the summer of 2008, we expected she would be homeschooled with her siblings. We assumed it would help her attach and feel safe in our family. She pleaded with us to send her to school (once again, another post), and would say, “I go school, please Mom?” Dimples’ challenges were becoming more and more significant, and that January she entered a small K – 3 public school; Bee pleaded to join her, and we agreed. That was our first foray into public education and was a hard transition for me, but the girls did very well, and I began to breathe again.
The following year Dimples attended a small Christian school, and Bee came home to be homeschooled with Ladybug and Sunshine. We made it through the year, but it was hard on both of us. We concluded that after nearly an entire life spent in an orphanage, it was so much work learning to have me as her mom, that I couldn’t also be her teacher.
The next two years were spent at the Christian school with Dimples. While Dimples flourished there, Bee struggled. She needed a lot of support and flexibility, which wasn’t possible in that environment. It was a wonderful community for her; each day she was immersed in a climate in complete contrast to the orphanage: nurture was high, structure was clear and routines predictable, adults were respected, children were to have self-control, the standard for behavior was high.
But Bee struggled – she was a bright, talented girl whose strengths were not able to shine, and the academic gap seemed to be continually widening.
Then we discovered the charter school at the edge of town. Based on a model of Expeditionary Learning, Bee became part of a team, working with her peers to explore, study, and create finished projects to share with the community. One of Bee’s highlights was creating the compass rose for a map of a local area. Her talents shone and with lots of support from her teacher (who was fantastic), she made great strides academically. It was a wildly successful year for her.
Bee told me that last year she felt stupid every day when she went to school. This year she is sad to see the year end and can’t wait for seventh grade to begin. That, my friends, is a dramatic change for Bee, and we could not be happier.
Question: What educational choices have you made for your children? What options have your tried?
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