Tuesday Topics: Education for Newly Adopted Older Children

Dimples doing school shortly after arriving home

I’m back from Seattle where we had a great time visiting Sweet Pea and then a good therapy appointment. I am so proud of Dimples for the hard work she did, but Deborah and I agreed that a month is far too long to go between appointments. I hope to consistently take Dimples every other Monday until the snow hits Snoqualmie Pass; then we’ll probably have to cut back to once a month when Russ can travel with us.

It is always challenging to jump into the week when I am one day behind. This morning I got the laundry going, dinner in the Slow Cooker (soup), and the house headed toward tidiness. We’ve also gotten a decent amount of schoolwork done. After lunch we took a walk on our new path through the pasture. Russ mowed a track for us to walk and run on and I am so excited to enjoy it with the kids. Eby and Little Man had fun picking apples off the wild trees at the bottom of the pasture. The apples are a little small, but they have a nice flavor.

Today is Tuesday, which means we have a Tuesday Topic to explore. This week’s question is:

How old were your internationally adopted children when they came home? We are a homeschooling family, so when our kids come home, they’ll have lots of time to get adjusted. But what did you do with them when they first got home as far as “schooling”? How much down time did you give them to adjust before you started with the learning of things like letters, sounds, all kinds of direct teaching? I’m just wondering if too much too fast causing them to shut down with overload?

This is a great question and I would love to see answers from people who have chosen all sorts of different educational options for their children. I will post your responses at the end of the week, so feel free to jump in anytime. Don’t be shy – your contributions make Tuesday Topics interesting. Please email your responses to me, or post them in the comments section.

If you have a topic that you would like feedback on, please email it to me at:

Thankfulmom [at] gmail [dot]com

Please put Tuesday Topic in the subject line.

I look forward to lots of interesting answers!


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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. lorismusings
    September 29, 2009

    Our girls were 10 and 6 when they came home from India. (They have now been with us for just over eighteen months.) They came not speaking much English – maybe ten words – and not very helpful words at that! 🙂

    They came home in February and so I took that spring and summer just to play games with them, using pre-school type learning games, working with picture flash cards to learn English words, playing matching games, reading to them, and just enjoying getting to know each other. It takes time just to adjust to all that is new.

    I started home schooling them in the fall, but I tried to be fairly laid back although we did keep to a schedule of five days a week, about three hours every morning. I was invited to join a home school craft group that met once a month on Fridays. It was a wonderful way for the girls to meet and socialize with other children and even better that there were other adopted children as part of the group. I also had them go to AWANA which they really enjoyed!

    My girls had very little educational background so it has been slow going and sometimes difficult to teach them. I am thankful for my background home schooling my two bio kids – one who had learning disabilities.

    What I have found is I need to be very patient and move as slow as is necessary for each child. I have found that I need to be open minded about what I see as their success in academics. It takes time (years) to adjust to a new language, family, culture, food, way of educating, etc.

    Every child is different and I have talked to many parents of older adopted children and they all have different experiences in regards to school. There are a lot of variables.

    It is an adventure and one that will find you at times exhilarated with your success while the next moment you are discouraged with what seems like failure when you feel like you have no idea how to tackle something! It is one of the most stretching and rewarding things you will ever do.

  2. Renee
    September 29, 2009

    As a homeschooling mom who is really hoping to adopt older kids down the road a bit, I am excited to read the responses. We live in a high regulatory state (NY) and I've often wondered how it would work.

  3. Chris
    September 29, 2009

    I'm anxious to hear the answers to this one, we hope to bring home a 9 y.o. by next summer and since he will be needing surgeries and learn English I plan to homeschool him the first year (first time) and I'm wondering how to go about it.

  4. Laurel
    September 29, 2009

    We brought home 3 siblings from Ghana in March '08. They were 6, 8, and 12 when they came home.

    We have homeschooled for the past 18 years, so that was a natural fit.

    Our kids were/are excited to learn, so we jumped right in with school work (even buying workbooks while we were in Ghana with the children for 6 weeks).

    We did a LOT of workbooks the first year, which helped us to really determine what levels they were at. Whereas this year, we have moved on to a literature based curriculum, with lots of reading and read alouds.


  5. Acceptance with Joy
    September 30, 2009

    I'd love to meet you someday.
    You have to drive past us to go to Seattle for you appointments I think. We live in Cashmere.

  6. Jennifer
    September 30, 2009

    Our boys are 10 and 4 and we just brought them home from the Philippines two weeks ago. Our 10 year old started school today at the public school. We chose that time frame based on what other families who have adopted from the Philippines have done, and he was so very eager to start making new friends. He knows a good deal of English, so he should do okay, but they are putting him in ESL class twice a day for now.
    Our 4 year old speaks no English at all, so it's good that he has almost a year before he starts kindergarten. I have started some letter work with him, but we take it super slow. We just do one letter a day, and I only have him write it about 3 times. Any more than that and he gets really frustrated.

  7. Becky
    September 30, 2009

    Our 3 children from Ethiopia arrived home here the end of February. They were ages 11, 6, and 5. I had "talked" with other homeschooling moms on their blogs about their approach to schooling their newly adopted children. There was a wide range of approaches given, with some families starting schooling as soon as their children were home, and some families waiting for 6 months to a year to begin. I believe this is one of those kind of decisions that is very individual and varies with each individual child. But for us, after much thought and prayer, we decided to have our new chidren begin school within a couple of days of arriving home. We did plan their school to be such that it would be positive outcome activities, nothing that could cause frustration. We also made sure that there were a lot of fun snacks that were a part of completing school subjects, so that homeschool and completing schoolwork had a positive/ happy feel to it. I tried to combine my time in helping them with their schooling as a bonding time as well, with lots of praise and positive touch, such as a hand on their arm or shoulder while I viewed their work. Or sitting on the couch together with my arm around them as we worked together or I looked at what they had done. I made "check-off" sheets for their school subjects, since my other children had check-off sheets for their school, and the new children really liked that – being able to "mark off" that they had completed their school work and feeling like full, participating members of our homeschool. One of the reasons we decided to start school soon after arriving home was that we wanted them to feel from the start like full-fledged members of the family, and in having them participate in school while all of their siblings were doing their school seemed like it would help accomplish that. I will say again that their school involved things that I knew they could accomplish without frustration, but left them feeling like they were doing real school and like they were learning. Now that they have been here for 7 months, we have stepped up the pace, and they are doing more "standard" type school work, and it seems to be working. This is what has worked for us. Every child is different and has different backgrounds and different needs, so what works for one may not work for another.

  8. lifeonplanetearth
    October 2, 2009

    We will be following a life learning path and providing our children with many varied opportunities to learn out in the world, from various people and places. I have been researching how children learn very intently and I am finding that everything 'sticks' more when it is learned autonomously. We feel life learning is an especially great fit for adopted children so they can adapt and adjust and be who they are while learning things at their own pace. The changes must be enormous for them and we don't want ours to feel any additional pressure to perform. Lots more info about this on my blog.


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