Homeschooling your internationally adopted child
by Vicki Bentley, HSLDA Toddlers to Tweens Consultant
Adoption adds a new dimension to the challenge of homeschooling. Throw in a language barrier and a whole different culture, and what’s a parent to do?
Since my own adoptions were domestic, I consulted moms experienced in international adoption for their insights on homeschooling children of other nationalities and cultures. With a loving and creative approach, they assured me, homeschooling can help ease your child’s transition into his new family and country!
First priority: Building relationships
According to Renee, mother of 12 children adopted from various countries, “The most important thing this child will be learning is how to become part of a family.…My priority for our children was instilling the word of God into their little hearts. They needed to know that they were precious in the sight of God, the creator of the universe. They needed to know their value and worth was found in Him, and not in their past.”
Expect to spend the majority of your first year or two working on family bonding and language development. Purposefully build emotional connections with your child by keeping him close, reading to him, hugging him (use your judgment in physical contact, based on his history), giving him your attention, smiling at him, speaking gently to him, and letting him be your helper or shadow. One mother even slightly changed her older children’s sleep schedule to allow her to devote extra time to her newly adopted daughter.
Concentrate on the basics
Reading aloud to your child, or reading together with him, can be helpful in building a foundation for language learning. Many parents have found Rosetta Stone software, as well as sign language programs such as Signing Time!, useful in teaching English. Even a child who can already read English may need some phonics reinforcement, so Ruth Beechick’s The Three Rs can help you lay the groundwork for phonics.
A basic unit study guide such as Before Five in a Row is simple enough to build language skills without overwhelming the child, while tying in other subjects besides phonics and language. Math-U-See, Right Start Math, My Box of 10, or another hands-on math approach will help the child learn to think mathematically while language skills are still being built.
Learning centers provide informal opportunities for children to put new skills into practice and encourage independent learning. And don’t underestimate the power of everyday activities like measuring, weather observation, nature studies, and cooking to provide a low-pressure educational and socialization environment. (For more teaching suggestions, see the resource sidebar.)
Consider your child’s history
He may be accustomed to having only shared items, so it can be very special to have his own school supplies. A plastic snap-shut pencil box, an inexpensive lidded plastic shoe box, or a zippered pouch can hold pencils, pens, glue sticks, crayons, and erasers.
Provide nonverbal outlets such as informal music sessions, hands-on projects, park days, swing-set play, swimming, bike riding, or other physical opportunities.
An internationally adopted child may be accustomed to a structured environment, particularly if he has come from institutional care. Although you may have a relaxed school itinerary the first year while you concentrate on relationships and academic basics, remember that most children find security in routine.
Your child’s cultural history is part of who he is. If you are able to maintain a scrapbook of his heritage, or help him to retain his first language or family lore, it could be comforting to him now and encouraging to him later.
Academics are important, but…
Second Peter 1:5 admonishes us to “add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge.” While knowledge is important, it isn’t first—or even second—on the list of priorities; faith and character come before knowledge. Your precious new family member may have attachment challenges, authority or food or other emotional difficulties, and medical or dental issues that occupy your time and efforts. While you want to take into consideration any legal requirements for homeschooling in your state, don’t put pressure on yourself or your child to perform at grade level within a few months. (HSLDA members should contact our legal department with any questions regarding proof of progress or other state requirements.)
Remember that homeschooling is simply one aspect of raising and discipling your adopted child. Providing a safe learning environment and a loving, caring home gives your child the opportunity to blossom in every area of his life. And his experience of being adopted into and cared for by a new family can show him God’s love in an ever deepening way.
Vicki Bentley is HSLDA’s Toddlers to Tweens consultant. Renee, Alicia, and Amy Kate contributed to this article.
This newsletter originally appeared in the HSLDA Court Report magazine.
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SAVE THE DATE
Saturday, August 6, 2016—Exploring Homeschooling