Tuesday Topic: How Would You Educate a Newly Adopted Child?

This week’s Tuesday Topic comes from Carmen who writes the blog, Country Blessings. She asked,

We have adopted 4 children privately, the oldest was 3 when we adopted him, but now we are in the process of adopting a waiting child from our state.  So most likely they will be older and possibly in school already.  We have homeschooled our children in the past but currently have them enrolled in the public school. 

Would it be better to homeschool our new child in order to get to know them better and establish attachment to our family, or would it be better to put them in the public school, so that they can have a break from us?  My heart wants to homeschool, but maybe that wouldn’t be best?  If I was only home schooling our new child, and not the others, would that be a source of jealousy?

I know there are going to be lots of opinions on this question and I would love to hear your thoughts. This is definitely a topic we’ve wrestled with. Let’s hear what you have to say; no thought is too small, too incomplete, or too unsure to share. We’re a community thinking it through together and supporting one another on the journey.

If you have a Tuesday Topic you would like to ask, please email it to me at lisa@onethankfulmom.com and I’ll add it to my list (which isn’t too long at the moment). Please put “Tuesday Topic” in the subject line to help my tired brain stay a little bit organized.


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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. Mary
    April 16, 2013

    Great question! Obviously from an experienced mommy who is very in tune with her children…which says ALOT towards being successful with this situation! We also have a variety of homeschool and public school…and may one day be adding Christian school or more as our children grow in their educational needs. Are family is the opposite…I homeschool some and the newer family members go to public school. We talk about meeting the needs of everyone uniquely. I make an effort to ensure that everyone feels that we are interested in their learning experiences. The homeschool kids join me at school assemblies or programs and the public school kids join in our homeschool field trips or evening/weekend activities. We try to blend the two together. When its hot lunch at school…its hot lunch at home too. The public school kids get lunch box treats, the homeschool kids have lunch box treats. Etc…Since we ultimately want to homeschool everyone, we tend to lean a little on the "homeschool is awesome" camp so when it comes time to transition our public school kids will be excited…rather than feeling like they are giving something up. It's working because everyone wants to be homeschooled and I'm hoping September 2013 brings that opportunity.

  2. lovinadoptin
    April 16, 2013

    I have always been a proponent of keeping all children in the family; foster, adopted, homegrown, in the same school setting. I have seen families place the foster child in a public school while homeschooling their homegrown children and the foster child was very jealous. I think that, no matter what school situation a child is in, they will see the one their siblings are involved in as being better.
    I LOVE your heart for wanting to keep your new child, keeping him/her as close as possible is what they need to bond. At the same time you will have to weigh jealousy issues coming from both sides. I'm sure your other children are amazing, but what if they are jealous that the new one is homeschooled? It doesn't foster the best sibling relationship.
    It sounds like you are a fabulous mother who puts the needs of her children first, and in the end that is what's best. These are only my opinions from my experience, much luck in choosing what works best for your new kiddo. And congratulations!

  3. Mamitaj
    April 16, 2013

    My answer is "yes." Every kid is unique and every family is created special. Some kids will need a break. Some parent's may need a break. Some kids may need a mom full-time. Others are going to find that uncomfortable. Some siblings may be jealous. Maybe the siblings will be glad to go off to their "own world" for a time each day. Some children may need the special programs that public school offers. Sometimes, what feels right and looks right won't work out and you will need to change plans mid-stream.

    This one thing I know… Kids who are scared and anxious are unable to learn.

    So, maybe for the first year, school is on the back burner altogether. Or maybe the newbie stays home for school for the first year…or maybe the whole family hunkers down together. I can't tell you what your family's education scenario ought to look like. I can only advise you to pray for each child's specific needs to be met and the whole family dynamic also.

  4. SleepyKnitter
    April 16, 2013

    This is my “outsider” opinion, because I haven’t “been there, done that” in exactly the same way the question above is being asked, but maybe our situation might have a few similarities.

    Two falls ago when we brought our older daughters home from another country, my thought was that we would keep them home for a semester in order to learn English and get to know our family, even though a younger child already in the family attends public school and leaves on the bus every morning. We asked for advice from numerous sources and the almost unanimous vote was to put the new children in school immediately, in spite of the language barrier, newness to the family, et cetera. We followed that advice and placed the girls in school after they’d only been home two weeks. In some ways, this was for the best.

    Both girls had been attending school daily in their birth country, and that was what was “normal” to them, even though American school was significantly different than their birth country school had been — at least they were in a structured day with other children.

    But in our case this also backfired as the schools placed our girls by their age rather than running tests to find out their abilities/knowledge base, and also placed our oldest daughter in a class with another Christian girl from her home country who, as it turned out, had extremely negative, ungodly views against orphans and was DAILY expressing these views to our daughter for the entire seven months that she was with us, telling her that she was stupid and ugly and lacking in talent and ability and that she had better “pull herself together and be grateful she’d been adopted” because she was worthless. DAILY. Yeah. At the same time, this girl’s mother was preparing birth country lunches for our daughter and sending them through this girl, and our daughter felt very dependent on this family though every member of that family undermined our daughter’s ability to bond with us. We did not know until too late that much of this was going on.

    So this is somewhat of an extreme situation but it influences my thoughts on the issue of sending newly adopted children off to public school.

    On the other hand, our younger daughter turned out to have significant learning issues that we would not have discovered so easily or as quickly at home, and we would not have begun the IEP evaluation process so early without the public school’s direct intervention, and our daughter would not have begun receiving some of the special assistance that she is nearly so early. I have been a university instructor for the last thirteen years and have never had a student with the kind of issues our daughter has, and I do not believe that I would have responded nearly as well or as quickly as her very loving and knowledgeable first grade teacher did, who was on the alert for these issues from the beginning.

    I would dearly love to home school all our children, but having observed many sides of the issues with both our own adopted children and the adopted children of many other families in our support group, I think that if I had the opportunity, I would continue public schooling our middle child, home school our oldest and youngest, and “wait and see” about any future children, making the decision on a case-by-case basis. At the moment, we have to public school all of them, but I am praying that our circumstances will allow for home schooling soon.

    Home school versus public school is a very complicated decision, and each family should do what their gut feeling tells them is right for their unique situation after listening to advice from different sides of the discussion. Make an informed decision, certainly! But do what your gut feeling tells you is what your individual child and family most needs.

  5. Mary (Owlhaven)
    April 16, 2013

    I'd homeschool for awhile at least, especially if that is what your heart is longing to do. There's nothing like time together to begin to build attachment… You can always reevaluate next semester or next year to see if that's what you want to continue to do.
    Mary, momma to 10, homeschooling since 1995

  6. Laila
    April 16, 2013

    I would homeschool the new child so that you have lots of one on one time to bond and attachment. To help with jealous feelings, I would tell the other children that this is the new child's time to learn what a family is .

  7. Emily B
    April 16, 2013

    This is such a great question. It was one I struggled with until the state made the decision for me. Until we finalized our adoption, we had to have the children in school, public or private. They could not be homeschooled. My husband and I brought home our girls–ages 4, 6 & 7–in July of last year. We adopted them from U.S. foster care. Our bio kiddos were 6 & 9 at the time. The four older kids have attended our neighborhood school this year. A wise friend suggested that we sign up our little one for pre-k, just in case we all found ourselves needing some space. Her advice was so wise! My little one needed those 4 hours each day just as much as I did.

    We've had the girls for 9 months now. We have found that when you adopt older kids from hard places, the process of learning to adjust to a new family and a new way of life is very intense. Going to school gives them a safe haven where they can let their emotions take a rest. It gives them a break from the very hard work of bonding. There's also so much more structure and routine in school than there is with homeschooling, and my kiddos really needed that this year. For them school felt safe and predictable, and didn't require them to expend any more significant emotional energy.

    When the kids get home from school, I'm very intentional about using the rest of our day wisely. I'm closely involved with homework. When they have reading homework, we snuggle on the couch and read. I use homework time as an uplifting time where we encourage and praise every little bit of progress that is made. I let them snack while they work, and I keep the mood upbeat and cheerful. It has come to be a time that we all look forward to.

    Now that we have almost a year under our belts, I am better equipped to make decisions about which school environment will be best for each child. I now know my three adopted girls intimately. I know that my Bubbles (8) needs to be homeschooled this coming year. We are firmly bonded and very comfortable with each other. She loves to be close to me all the time. It is no longer hard work for her to be at home. She has major gaps in her education as a result of her difficult past. Homeschooling will be perfect for her. My Piper (7) is totally thriving in public school. She loves every minute of it, and has made huge strides this school year. She's a favorite friend, and her teacher raves about her. She is bonded to me as well, but like to use the learned helpless card at home to gain more attention. She doesn't try that at school. She'll be staying in public school. Little Sunny (5) will be attending a small, private kindergarten that only goes half days. She needs the rigid structure with the high nurture. The intensity of being a home is still too much for her.

    To sum it up, my opinion is that for the first year your new kiddos are with you, consider keeping them in school to give them (and you) a break from the intensity of learning to be a family. After you have gotten to really know your kids, you'll be better able to make the best schooling decisions for them.

  8. onita
    April 16, 2013

    I would definitely homeschool the new child if that is possible to establish trust and develop bonding
    I have adopted a baby and I had a 11 and a 17 yr old at the time of the adoption:) I t worked out with the Lord's. Pray and ask the Lord what you should do as well and talk it over with your husband

  9. SleepyKnitter
    April 16, 2013

    I just returned from a parent-teacher conference in which our ESL instructor said that she home schools her twins in the mornings, and then they attend public school in the afternoons. the twins are now far more relaxed and playful, whereas they used to be very stressed and tired after school, and all their grades have improved, too. She recommended this hybrid approach as something that might benefit our daughter, so we will be looking into it. Just wanted to mention this idea in case it helps someone else. We had never heard of this hybrid approach before — I would think it would drive the public teachers absolutely crazy, having students coming and going, each one on a different schedule, and the teacher having to remember and plan around who is coming and who is going.

  10. Carmen
    April 16, 2013

    Thanks so much for all your responses!! I really value all your experiences and appreciate you sharing them. It seems like it really depends on the child's personality and needs, from what you guys are saying. Also being open to change and flexible! We just got off the phone with our social worker- sometimes adopting an older child makes me excited and sometimes quite scared- but thankfully God knows what we need and He will send us the right child. Blessings to you all–

    1. Jodi Pizzuto
      April 18, 2013

      Yes, yes, YES!! I think always when we are dealing with people of any age and size it is important to remember that everyone is different — and different people have different needs. My adopted daughter could not be homeschooled. It simply wouldn't work out for our relationship. We are in the process of waiting for another adoptee — and we have two birth children. I have homeschooled in the past and I am not opposed to doing it again if the need were to arise. But it's a case by case basis. Blessings to you and you are RIGHT… God knows your needs and He knows the needs of your children… all of your children, even the ones to come. 🙂

  11. Christine N.
    April 16, 2013

    I would say keep an open mind until they are actually home with you. We have three bio kids 9,7,5 and we added a foster baby in December. His 5 year old sister moved in three weeks ago. Before she was in our home, I worried she would feel left out being the only one going to school, or that she was so far behind it might be best for her to wait and start Kindergarten in the fall. However, in three weeks I have done very little but manage fires, both from her and my bio kids. She will start the neighborhood public school on Thursday, and I've been counting the days. I love her and I still have some of those concerns, but public school is going to be the best thing for the family as a whole. I'm very thankful kindergarten is only a half day in our neighborhood. I think it will be the perfect amount for us to get our homeschool done for the day.

    On the other hand, I have a friend who believed strongly in homeschool for her foster children, and even though it's not allowed in our state, she was able to find a charter school (so technically a government school) that let her pick her own curriculum and just checks up on her monthly or so. It's been a big blessing in their lives. It might be an option for those who run into that roadblock of "No homeschooling." Don't even use the term homeschool. Say you found a charter school that you think will be a good fit for the kids. Maybe it will work for you like it did for her.

  12. 2plus2mom
    April 16, 2013

    I'm not a homeschooler, so my opinion may not be relevant, but I just wanted to point out that if the older child is in school he/she may already have an IEP through the public schools and be getting special services. In terms of attachment, homeschooling would be great, but you'd might miss out on some specialized programs that are designed to meet his/her needs.

  13. Angela
    April 16, 2013

    After our daughter came to our family from Ethiopia, at the age of 6 yrs old, I made the choice to home school her even though my my bio kids have not ever been home schooled because we have such a great, small school for them. I just felt for attachment reasons and building security and love in our home for our daughter, home schooling her for the first year would be best, not to mention she was still learning our language (HUGE)! I think it was the best decision and have not regretted it. This year she is attending public school with our other children and she is in the first grade and is thriving in her grade and in the environment!

  14. Magaret
    April 16, 2013

    I only have two children, but each was homeschooled from January to Septmber before starting school, since any more homeschooling was not an option for our family. I am so grateful to have had time at home with each of my children, one of whom arrived at five and the other at nine. They did not speak English and getting along in our family and the US were huge adjustments for them, and being home and not dealing with school hw, etc, was very helpful. Our second child does have some learning issues which it took a while to figure out but I think that would have happened if she were in school too…Our children were jealous of each other, but I think that would have been true no matter what the school arrangements were. But it was so helpful for me to get to know the homeschooled child and help him or her figure out the family. And I found other ways to have time alone with our older child while our younger child was staying home.

  15. jesswiederholt
    April 17, 2013

    Great question! We have 3 bio boys and one adopted son from ET. We have homeschooled from the beginning and so it was natural to just start our adopted son home with us. I don't see the need for IEPs or public school services. If needed you can get your child tested yourself and find a good ESL tutor but typically kids thrive w/o it! One of our bio sons has Dyslexia. I talked to everyone I knew who worked in the public schools and none of them really knew what to do about testing and services and I heard so many horror stories from fellow parents of Dyslexic kids who were in public schools and kids were not being properly helped. I had him tested and have an excellent tutor who specialized in Dyslexia. We do struggle some days as my adopted son gets frustrated easily, but I feel its been good for our attachment to stick with it and love each other through it! He has been home 18 mos and is excelling beyond grade/age level. Good luck to you in your decision. I agree take it 1 day at a time and you'll do great! peace!

  16. Traci
    April 26, 2013

    We brought our newest 14-year-old daughter home in March '12. We pushed hard to be allowed to homeschool her the 4th quarter of her 7th grade year. (She was fostered until 11-12.) She had already been in two schools that school year and we didn't want to put her in a 3rd. The rest of our children were in private Christian school or away at college. Those nine weeks of one-on-one bonding was VERY VALUABLE – even though we were honeymooning. It still counted. We had the opportunity to give her a rock to stand on before going out to school.

    The honeymoon abruptly ended when the other children came home for the summer. Our newest girl was intensely jealous of the kids sharing my attention during the daytime hours that she was accustomed to receiving herself. It was a rough summer and we needed her to go to private school in the fall. I was very exhausted from the rough summer and the break served us well. She had an excellent experience socially, but after three quarters at school it was obvious that she was going to need one-on-one attention to catch her up.

    At the end of 3rd quarter this year we made the decision to bring ALL of our kids home for their education. We plan to keep them home through graduation (we have 2 finishing up 8th, 1 finishing up 7th and our youngest finishing up 2nd.)

    It is my very strong opinion that any child that has missed educational needs as a result of trauma could benefit from a strong homeschooling environment. Our newest 8th grade daughter is doing very well in Pre-Algebra, 8th grade history, science, etc., but she is also very grateful that I'm tutoring her in 4-6th grade grammar, writing and math. She has huge holes in her educational foundation. I'm also able to walk along side her in her age appropriate writing assignments to discuss sentence structure, capitalization and grammar. She was never in a home environment (not with her birth family or her five other foster families) that allowed her to learn.

    Our state is offering our girl a full ride to a state university and it is my job to do everything in my power to help her get to a place that allows her to say yes to that very generous gift when the time comes.

    Every family is different and this may well not apply to your family at all, but this was our experience. Our girl loves being home and having the advantage of one-on-one instruction.

    Good luck to you!

    Traci in OH


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