Tuesday Topic: Homeschool, Private School, Public School?

Here is a question that is quite personal to me as we navigate our children’s unique needs.  Lisa E. asked,

What are the pros and cons of homeschooling vs. attending school outside the home in children with attachment challenges and severe trauma? We are currently trying to make this decision for the fall and I am guessing many of your readers have this question as well.

Every family is different, every child is unique, and many of us have tried a variety of approaches to educating our children from “hard places.”  This is a relevant and timely question for many families.

What are your thoughts and experiences?  Take a moment to let us know – we want to hear from you.  You can keep it short, or write a long comment, whatever you can squeeze into your day.

Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts.

Encourage one another,


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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.


  1. Jennifer Distefano
    June 14, 2011

    For our choice it ultimately came down to the fact that Joe's anxiety sabotaged his efforts in the classroom and he was unable to eat, especially protein, every two hours at school (based on scheduling and his own personal distraction) as kids from hard places so often need. He also is emotionally less mature than the other kids in 1st grade and yet, intellectually more advanced. So school (for us it was a great Catholic school where I taught and my other children attend) was not a great fit. One other important thing that we considered was that Joe's best hours were spent at school and when he returned home he was hungry, irritable and tired. We wanted to experience together the good times in order to work on the relationship. Homeschooling, for us, has been the best option and I have no regrets! Joe is very "right-brained" and sensitive (as many kids from hard places are)…neither of these are fostered and encouraged in the school environment, but at home, they are some of his best traits! Its a very hard and individual choice. I have often heard in some cases that it would be more beneficial to attend school for the break in the intense, hard work of attaching that both the child and parents need. Prayers for all who must make this decision!

  2. Christine
    June 14, 2011

    This is a really good question! We have three children (so far), two were adopted and one bio child. We never consdered homeschooling as an option for our children. We always assumed we would go the way of all our friends and family and place our children in the care of our local christian school We had supported the school for years and never considered other ideas.
    Then we came home with our daughters……. as time crept closer to send them to school. i just couldn't. I feel that we fell into homeschooling because we couldn't bear to send our little ones into the world just yet. I have one VERY sensitive child. The thought of her at school navigating nasty comments, adoption questions, and all her insecurities without me broke my heart. She wasn't ready. I am so glad we have chosen homeschooling. I love it so much. Those afternoons where we are at the beach or the farm or walking through a forest and I think about all the other kids sitting at a desk, i am so thankful. I believe my child who did have attatchment issues was really assisted my homeschooling. It was the right choice for us.

  3. Donna
    June 14, 2011

    Wow—Like a time bomb going off!!

    This has been our debate for the last two years.

    We began homeschooling our older children 16 years ago, I remember crying the day I signed them out of school wondering if I could do it. 3 graduations and 3 successful college launches have proved we can, with the help of God.

    But now we wonder after almost 6 years weather this is the best option for our son. Both the littles have learning disabilites also due to early malnutrition and trauma which just mixes up the water.

    So now I sit here and filter whether I am doing the best to be their teacher and mom at the same time. It adds so much to the waters of bonding when you are not only correcting and praising behaviors, but also math and reading.

    We keep changing and morphing our school days hoping to find the miracle curriculum or schedule. Sad to say we have not found it. We continue to try and use resources available (speech therapy to help with auditory processing). We pray for wisdom whether school is a better choice or will it just exasperate the attention problems and mean I spend all evening doing homework he is unable to get done during the school days, thereby taking all our family time in the evenings.

    I look forward to hearing from others. It is so good of you to share the questions so we can all learn from each other. Most people I know here have no idea what I am talking about, so therefore can offer no help.

    Good to know that I am still learning:0


    1. mannarae
      June 19, 2011

      Donna ~

      "We keep changing and morphing our school days hoping to find the miracle curriculum or schedule. Sad to way we have not found it."

      When I read those 2 sentences, the first question that came to my mind was, "Do you think the school system would have that miracle curriculum or schedule?" Now I'm not saying they will or they won't … it was just a question that popped into my mind. If you can't, can they? Or, will they?

      Food for thought … that's all … 🙂

      Many blessings as you discern the road ahead … as you follow wherever the Lord leads …


    2. dawn
      July 11, 2011

      I have a big(ger) with auditory processing disorder, 2 typical learners, and 2 littles. I appreciate what you wrote, "It adds so much to the waters of bonding when you are not only correcting and praising behaviors, but also math and reading."

      I have found that I can homeschool the typical learners OR him, but not all three together. When I homeschool him, our relationship suffers and when he is in school, we also spent most of our family time doing homework. This past school year we determined that he can only give as much as he can and while we push him to excellence we do not expect perfection. Whatever he can get done in two hours is all the homework he will ever turn in and our Christian private school really works with us and understands his needs. He may never test as an academic genius, but he will share Jesus without fear with anyone!

  4. Cara
    June 14, 2011

    Hi to everyone,
    We brought our children home from the Philippines at the end of last November, they are 6 & 8 years old. I have been a homeschooling mom for a number of years but with a recent move and the changes that came with a growing family, my 2 oldest daughters went back into the public school system after Christmas of this year. It was a true blessing to spend that first month 1/2 home together as family, I think the bonding between our children definitely had a jump start because of it.
    I began doing some basic schooling with our adopted children after they were home for about a month and everything went very well. At first. Once the "honeymoon" ended, school at home became a place for defiance and never ending battles. We persevered until the middle of February until it became obvious it was not going to work. I was happier in bed than out of it in the morning and there was little joy throughout our day no matter what I tried. I was so sure homeschooling was the best thing for them (and certainly in some cases it is) and I was really disappointed……I think the kids were having trouble figuring out what a mom was, let alone a mom that was also their teacher part of the day!
    Anyway, we have a good school with an ESL focus here in Vernon BC where we live, so we made an appointment to meet with the principal and ESL teachers and decided it was our best choice. The school would not enrol them a grade level below their age like we requested, but compromised and put them into K/1 & 2/3 split classes. We recently met with the principal again and they've now agreed to "hold them back" at a lower grade level…….I said not to worry about the kids feeling bad about being held back, as I've been telling them all along they're in Kindergarten and grade 2 anyway!!
    It's ended up being a good decision all around for our family, we drop the kids off & pick them up every day…..next year they want to ride the school bus home =)
    This got really long! I hope sharing our experience is in some way helpful, it's a tough decision and the answers aren't always clear.

  5. Mama D's Dozen
    June 14, 2011

    Great question.

    As the 21 year homeschooling mother of 10 bio. children, 6 of which have graduated and moved on to successful adulthood, I just assumed that we would homeschool our adopted children, as well.

    We have homeschooled them for the past 3 years, but always with the question "Would they/we be better off if they were in school?"

    One of our daughters has RAD. I believe that the rest of us would be better off if she went to school (because of the disruptions of her rages). However, I wonder if this would just push her further away from attaching. I think that she would do well in school. I don't think she would rage there. But, as a major manipulator, I would really struggle with the false attachment she would quickly make to the teachers, and the "sweet little girl" act that she would portray. Would this cause so much stress in her that once she got home her rages would be even worse?

    So many questions. So few answers. We keep talking. We keep praying. We keep researching. Maybe next year she will be in a classroom. I really don't know.


  6. Cari
    June 14, 2011

    We brought our then 12 year old daughter home just one year ago. Even though she was to enter 7th grade in her country, she tested to be mid-3rd grade level here in the U.S. All our other children attend the local public school, so this where we sent her this past school year. We wanted her to be placed in at 5th grade, but the school thought it was best overall to put her in 6th grade {because she does has a mature appearance}. She was failing everything except gym. So we had her tested, and she qualified for an IEP {individualized educational program} and was placed in remedial classes where they read all her tests aloud to her. She did show progress {and the school is advancing her to 7th grade}, but my husband and I are very concerned with the missing gap of education from 3rd-5th grade that she still does not have. When is she ever going to learn the basics from those grades so she doesn't need to have her tests read to her? We are very strongly considering homeschooling her this next school year to go back to the basics and fill in the gaps, that way she'll have a better educational foundation to build on and have as she enters the "real world" as an adult. I would love to hear any thoughts on our situation, as I have never home schooled before or never really wanted to. Just a side note, our daughter is 13 now, but very immature socially and even after a year we are still struggling with some attachment issues, so this is another reason we feel we need to home school her.

    1. Sharon Wheeless
      June 15, 2011

      Cari, we are currently waiting for a referral, so I have no experience home educating children from hard places. But I do homeschool our 9 year old bio daughter. I recommend reading "The Well Trained Mind." The author goes into some detail about remedial education for kids who are coming out of the public school system. Even if you don't end up using her methods, most home educators agree that her book is a good read and you can get in touch with other moms on the online forum that started because of her book.

    2. Mama D's Dozen
      June 15, 2011


      I would definitely give homeschooling a try. We brought our girls home at ages 6 & 9. They had huge educational gaps. Even at age 6, our daughter did not have the concepts that our children just "automatically learn" during their preschool years. She knew that 2 + 2 = 4, but she could not do a corresponding story problem, because she did not understand the concept behind the memorized 2 + 2. (In Ghana, most of their education is rote memorization, so they may know an answer, but not understand the concept.)

      In just one year of homeschooling, you can very easily fill in many years of "gaps". It also could be a very positive step towards attachment.

      Laurel 🙂

  7. Amy
    June 15, 2011

    In our experience, public school and attachment challenged children are a bad combination. We have been involved in the adoption world for about 15 years and just about every family we know who has placed RAD children in a public school environment has had false allegations of abuse filed against them and social services investigations, some including removing all of the children for a time. I would say the risks are the same in private school, unless the parents know the teachers VERY WELL and the teachers understand that the children will not be truthful and that their learning will be very sporadic.

    In our case, we have chosen to homeschool. That said, its very challenging, because children with attachment issues are oppositional when it comes to learning much of the time and also many times are just overwhelmed. We use a Classical/Thomas Jefferson Education approach but also learned much from Raymond and Dorothy Moore – sometimes its better just to wait until a child is ready. Some of my RAD sons did not learn to read until age 10. Now they are voracious readers. Many of them didn't take school seriously -as adults they are now reaping the consequences. Education is important but in my opinion, bonding and character come first, its hard to educate well without them. One of the things that has greatly benefited my children is lots of read aloud time (we currently read aloud about 2 hours of each day). My favorite books to read are Lamplighter Books but we have also read history, classic fiction, etc… reading as a family creates bonding and also gives everyone some quiet, non battling times…:-)

  8. Kate
    June 15, 2011

    We have 2 grown biological daughters and 16 adopted kids. I homeschool all the kids except for our son who has reactive attachment issues. He does super well at school – the teachers love him. He doesn't do super well here at home. I think the environment at home would be better, but our day would be spent dealing with his behaviors and nobody would learn a thing. I'm sad to say that we all breathe a sigh of relief when the school bus pulls away with him in the morning and everyone can let down their guard.

  9. Laura H.
    July 5, 2011

    After 13 years of homeschooling and one graduate now in college, we have added a baby and an adopted 12 year old (both boys) in this past year to our other 5 children – so age ranges are from 19 – 11 months and I'm befuddled as to how to arrange a schedule to continue our homeschooling journey…especially as I consider the relational conflict that has become the norm between our 12 year old and the younger ones (8,4). Dear husband and I are talking and praying and researching – and I put this question to a group of mom's who should be able to offer insights based on understanding of the whole dynamic of an adoptive/homeschooling/large family.
    Also, any words of insight and encouragement would be welcomed as husband and I are both discouraged w/ the state of affairs at the moment and don't know which "fire" to focus on first.
    2 Chronicles 20:11-12 help…"….we don't know what to do, but our eyes are on you."
    Thanks for any moments you can invest. – Laura H.


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