Helpful Changes

After much prayer, talking with friends and family, seeking professional counsel, and considering the needs of all of our children, we made the decision to let Dimples and Honeybee go to school. I use the word “let” because both of them have begged to attend school since they arrived in our family. After 18 years of successfully homeschooling our children, this was a very difficult decision. It was also completely counterintuitive to what we believed would promote attachment in our newly adopted children. If they were with me all the time, they would learn that I loved them, they could depend on me, they were safe with me, etc.

Twenty-one months after arriving home with Dimples, I finally called our caseworker and she shared something with me that makes a lot of sense. Children who have trauma/attachment difficulties (we can’t separate the two) are doing hard work when they are home with their parent. It is likely that when Dimples is home, on a deep level she is constantly thinking, “Is my Mom going to leave me? Is my Mom going to die? Does my Mom love me? Does my Mom love me as much as she loves my sisters?” There is an elevated feeling of anxiety. Although it may not seem to make sense, by sending Dimples to school, she is getting a break from the hard work of attachment and her mind and body are both very busy while she is gone.

While still in Ethiopia, we had an interpreter tell Honeybee about homeschooling. She was very surprised to learn that in America some children don’t attend school. She was not happy about it, but we assured her that our family loved it, it was fun being home together, we loved learning together, etc. I will say that she tried to enjoy it, but with the language challenges and some other educational issues, school was very slow for her. Often she would say, “I go school Mom, please?”

I have come to understand that for Honeybee, school provides a structure that feels familiar. After living in an orphanage nearly her entire life, she is comfortable being in a group that moves together from one activity to the next. Although I was very sad to put her in school, I knew it would be tremendously difficult for Honeybee to watch Dimples go to school without her.

For the first time in my life, I am packing lunches for my children, doing homework after school, helping them make valentines for parties, and volunteering to read in the classroom. After nearly three weeks, it still feels very, very strange, but we have peace about this plan for our girls. We don’t know what the future holds, we only know that this is what we plan to do for this school year. We’ll reevaluate at the end of the year.

My life feels very different now that I am homeschooling one in high school, one in junior high, and two in elementary school. The younger three are playing together and are happy and relaxed, which absolutely delights me. One morning, shortly after the girls began school, I looked in the family room and saw Boo and Eby playing quietly with the wooden train set. I realized that I hadn’t seen anything like that in a very long time. Boo is playing with dolls again and reading up a storm.

I find myself feeling hopeful and much more relaxed. When the girls get home, I am ready for them, with hugs and kisses, a big snack, and delight over the work they show me. They each enjoy telling me about their day and reading to me.

We are still figuring out how to manage “re-entry”. Some days we do it well, and others are not so good. We want to help Dimples learn how to regulate herself, how to calm herself, and how to interact positively, and those are hard tasks for her. I’ll have more to write about that soon.

Best of all, the girls LOVE school. They are so happy and excited. Dimples made me a card that says, “I love you, Mommmy. Thank you for putting us in school. Thank you very much.”
As always, I am attempting to strike a balance between being open and transparent in an effort to help other families, and protecting my children’s privacy. If you find yourself thinking that we made the wrong decision, please know that you only have a tiny bit of the big picture. That being said, we are open to helpful suggestions and are profoundly grateful for prayers as we navigate this complicated journey.
I have more to share and hope to get to it soon. I also have gotten some more great questions that will be coming up.

Humbly,

~Lisa

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Let me introduce myself. Russ and I are the parents of twelve children by birth and adoption, and sometimes more through foster care. I'm the creator of One Thankful Mom which has been as much of a gift to me as to my readers. In 2011 I became a TBRI® Pracitioner* and have lived and breathed connected parenting ever since. I'm deeply honored to be the co-author, together with the late Dr. Karyn Purvis, of The Connected Parent; it is her final written work. I love speaking at events for adoptive and foster parents. I'm also the co-founder of The Adoption Connection, a podcast and resource site for adoptive moms. I mentor and encourage adoptive moms so you can find courage and hope in your journeys of loving your children well.

26 Comments

  1. Marissa
    February 5, 2009

    I’ve already said it but I’ll say it again, you made a brave and selfless decision. I admire you for it.

    Reply
  2. The Pichura Family
    February 5, 2009

    Thanks for opening your heart to share with us the difficult decision you have had to make. I home school all my children right now and have wondered what life will be like and how the adjustment will go bringing home two boys from Ethiopia…I really appreciate your transparency and just being aware that it may not go the way we have planned it out and that is okay!

    Reply
  3. Anonymous
    February 5, 2009

    I think that only you and your husband (with the Lord’s guidance) can decide what is the right thing to do about your children’s education. We took it one year at a time with each individual child. I know it’s hard, when you believe strongly in homeschooling and want them home with you, but sometimes something else is what works best. For our oldest child, we started homeschooling her in second grade, which she continued through 5th grade. She was at a private school for the next 3 years, then chose to come home for high school. The middle one was home every year, except one, when my mother was living with us and dying of emphysema. The third went to Kindergarten (for specialized speech therapy) and first grade (when my mother was dying), was home for 2nd-6th grade, begged and was reluctantly allowed to go to public school in 7th, then came back home for eighth-twelfth grades. They all turned out to be well-educated, morally strong girls now pursuing their college degrees.

    Reply
  4. Laurel
    February 6, 2009

    Thanks for sharing. While we have, primarily, homeschooled our children for the last 18 years, there have been years that other options were best for a child or two. We have always taken one child at a time, and one year at a time.

    You are, absolutely, doing what you believe will be best for the entire family, and I support you on that. I am sure it was a very difficult choice … but I trust that it WILL be best … for this year (and then … you’ll see).

    Many blessings,

    Laurel 🙂

    Reply
  5. Cindy
    February 6, 2009

    I follow your blog, but I dont believe I have ever posted a comment yet! I just wanted to say that I admire you for stepping out on faith in this situation. We are a homeschooling family as well, so I can understand how hard this was for you.
    You inspire me as a mother, and I thank you for your willingness to be so open and honest.
    God bless your family!

    Reply
  6. Toiling Ant
    February 6, 2009

    I think it’s great that you’re making schooling decisions based on each child’s needs. I was homeschooled my entire life and definitely would like to attempt it with future children of my own, but each child (and parent!) is so unique that it’s impossible to make a one-size-fits-all situation work well for everyone. Congrats on letting your little girls do what they need to do, rather than clinging to a certain plan for everyone. Way to go! 🙂

    And I love your blog, and think you’ve got a great balance between privacy and openness. As a hopeful future adoptive parent, it helps me to see the real life struggles, as well as the successes. Thanks for sharing the way you do.

    Reply
  7. Andrea
    February 6, 2009

    I very much appreciate your transparency, and your honesty in your parenting decisions, and some times trials.
    Your decision to send the girls to school sounds like the right one for now. ;o)
    Blessings to you all!
    Andrea

    Reply
  8. Donna
    February 6, 2009

    Thank you so much for the insight on attachment. I had never thought of it that way, but it makes so much sense. As a homeschooling mom of 14 years I can relate to the struggle in the decision. Praying for you all in the adjustment.

    Reply
  9. Shonni
    February 6, 2009

    I really appreciate your transparency on this. Thank you for continuing to encourage others so much!

    Reply
  10. Adrielle
    February 6, 2009

    It sounds like the amount of stress that this decision has lifted from your shoulders will have a very positive affect on you and the whole family! Love you!

    Reply
  11. Sandee
    February 6, 2009

    Blessings to you and your family. I agree with so many of the comments here. As momma’s we do have to look at each of our children differently, uniquely. I have found with my littlest (5 yr old, adopted at age 3) I cannot work with her the same way as my other kids.

    You mentioned that you are helping one of your daughters “learn how to regulate herself, how to calm herself, and how to interact positively, and those are hard tasks for her. I’ll have more to write about that soon.”

    I would love to hear about this. That is exactly what I need to help my littlest with and so far I have not been too successful.

    Enjoy your blog and sharing!

    Reply
  12. Hollie
    February 6, 2009

    Only you know what is right for your children. I have loved following your blog and getting such inspiration and joy from your honesty and your beautiful family. You are doing such service in the world on so many levels. Again, thank you for sharing.

    Reply
  13. KT
    February 6, 2009

    What a beautiful card from dear Dimples 🙂
    Glad the girls are loving school. I think that is SUCH a valid point, that being in a structured enviroment is where Honeybee feels most comfortable! I imagine it is giving her some sence of what felt ‘normal’ her whole life, up until now.
    You all are amazing!!!

    Reply
  14. lorismusings
    February 6, 2009

    I do not believe there is one answer that fits EVERY family and EVERY situation. I think it is great that you have found a solution for schooling Dimples and Honeybee that is working well for all of you.

    Thanks for sharing so openly and honestly. It really does help others who are struggling with similar things.

    Reply
  15. Matthew and Amanda
    February 6, 2009

    Long time reader – first time poster! We are preparing to bring home our almost 7 year old daughter from Ethiopia. I cannot tell you how much I have appreciated your honesty while balancing the privacy of your family. I know your words have helped prepare us for what lies ahead.

    Thank you

    Amanda

    Reply
  16. curlyjo
    February 6, 2009

    So I’ve stumbled upon your blog a couple of times, as I think we have some mutual friends (passionate mamas women). We recently made the decision to enroll our 2 bio kiddos in school after only every homeschooling them. Adoption changed the dynamics of our family in a good, blessed, miraculous way…but for this season, for these kids, school is God’s provision.

    Thanks for your honesty.

    Reply
  17. Anonymous
    February 7, 2009

    Okay so this is a post I will not ever understand, but not because I haven’t tried to understand. I mean this comes straight from the ‘home schooling is the best way to school’ culture. As a result folks have to apologize for NOT home schooling. To me that is just odd. I went to school all of my life and can’t imagine my kids not going to school (my culture is a going to school culture!). Home school or send your kids to school, no apologies are necessary either way. Bravo for the Ethiopian girls they are going to school! And bravo for the rest of the family who are home schooling! May we all have peace in our hearts knowing that one isn’t necessarily better than the other.

    Reply
  18. shell
    February 7, 2009

    Thanks for being real Lisa! I love seeing your sweet girls smiles and seeing transformations happening!

    Reply
  19. Brianna Heldt
    February 7, 2009

    Lisa as always I am blessed by your blog!!! SO thrilled that your girls are enjoying school and that it’s working well for your family. You are so inspiring and encouraging to me!

    Reply
  20. Anonymous
    February 7, 2009

    I’ve long been a follower of your blog and an admirer of your family. I am a former elementary school teacher who chose to stay home once my first of two sons was born. I always believed strongly in a traditional school-type education where the children went to someone else besides Mom or Dad for more education, and I taught in the public school system for 6 years. Momma-hood has since taught me that there is more to an education than the academics. My 7-year-old son is very intelligent, yet often under-estimated by his peers and teachers. I have prayed many times over whether I should home-school him, knowing that he and I would soar through his studies and that I could bring more enrichment and creativity than he receives in the traditional classroom. Yet, he attends a local school as I have realized that his social needs (he’s quite introverted and needs social problem-solving skills) cannot be met in our home environment. And, as my husband will be deploying next fall, I anticipate that both of my children will be attending the school to preserve our sanity. I figure that whatever academics/religious studies I don’t feel are covered well-enough can be taught here on the weekend and during the summers. It seems to me that you have searched your heart and found the solution for your daughters. Kudos to you for recognizing them as individuals while still part of your family unit. I pray that I will have your wisdom when my family encounters those bumps in the road.
    God bless you all.

    Reply
  21. Anonymous
    February 8, 2009

    It makes me sad that you feel you have to feel apologetic for sending your children to public school. Is there really that much snobbery in the homeschooling community? Most people do not have the opportunity to make choices like you do. My children have been in public school for years, the children i bring home from Ethiopia will go to public school. Public school can be wonderful and provides so many opportunities that homeschool can not. You get what you put into it. Your child needs something you advocate for it. I am proud to have my children attend public school, not that I have the alternative of either private or homeschooling as I am a single working mother making a just adequate income(per US standards). How many children in Ethiopia would do anything to attend your public school, which is probably in a very nice neighborhood and has more then adequate funding(I saw the picture of your mansion perched on it’s hillside). Perhaps public school may be an option for lesser, more limited income people? My children attend public school in one of the worst, crime ridden neighborhoods in the city; it is a school of promise as well as a school of much diversity. And I am proud to send them there. I hope you will feel proud of your children; I am glad you allowed them this opportunity….I am proud of them. Please feel free to delete this. I am not anonymous because I am not proud of my statement, I am anonymous because I don’t want to incure the wrath of the homeschool community(lol). I have enjoyed many of your posts on your children. Hope you’re having a great weekend.

    Reply
  22. Anonymous
    February 9, 2009

    I am so glad to have read this today. We are a homeschool family of 5 (soon to be 7) with 1 child adopted from China and home for 1 1/2 yrs. I have been praying about sending her to school. I am glad to hear that others are in similar situations.

    Reply
  23. Expat Mom
    February 9, 2009

    I think you are doing a wonderful job, being flexible like this with your children. Some kids need different things and often their parents just don`t realize it in their attempt to do what they think is the “right” way. So good on you for realizing that your girls were better off in school.

    BTW, I`m totally for homeschooling, I was homeschooled right through Grade 12 and am schooling my children at home.

    Reply
  24. darci
    February 9, 2009

    first, i thought that post was heartfelt and real and powerful. what a hard decision to 'let go' what you have done for so long…but what a blessing it must be to see the joy in those little girls at having a similiar routine to settle into..
    then, i read thru your comments. sigh. i felt so bad for you, because it seems you've been 'misunderstood'..and have all us homeschoolers lumped in with you. 🙂 I so get what you're saying..God bless you and your precious family> ( i should go to bed..it took me three tries to spell family right, lol!)

    Reply
  25. Angela
    February 10, 2009

    As always, you encourage and inspire me! May God continue to bless you and yours, wherever He guides you!

    Reply
  26. jen
    February 12, 2009

    Oh, it was so good to read this post, and it made a lot of sense to me. We have been hs-ing Y and our Little Man this year. This is our first adventure in hs-ing, and it has been very, very good…but there is this part of me that wonders if I should send Y to school for all of the reasons that you just mentioned here. I think that eventually we’ll bring her home again, but I have just wondered if school would meet some of her needs that I can’t. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and convictions here; I really appreciate your honesty and transparency!

    Reply

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