Posted by: ramonamom | June 23, 2008

Reasonable Expectations – Educating Your Older Adopted Child

What are your goals in educating your older adopted child?  Indeed, what are your goals in educating all of your children, adopted or biologically born into your family?  This is a subject which should be given much thought prior to bringing an older adopted child into your home, as a mode of education which may be fine for a child who was born and raised in the US could be an educational and emotional disaster for an older adopted child. 

Let me suggest that academics not be the main goal of educating your children:

Besides being wise, the Preacher also taught the people knowledge, weighing and studying and arranging many proverbs with great care. 
  
The Preacher sought to find words of delight, and uprightly he wrote words of truth. The words of the wise are like goads, and like nails firmly fixed are the collected sayings; they are given by one Shepherd. My son, beware of anything beyond these. Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh. The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.  For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.  Ecc. 12:9-14

 Certainly there is nothing sinful in seeking to learn and become educated, preparing for a career or to be a helpmeet to a husband.  Seeking education, like many other good endeavors can become an idol of the heart, though, so caution must be used as we pass our educational attitudes along to our children. 

Older adopted children often come into adoptive homes with little or no education, even at the ages of 10-12.  One of our sons did not start attending school in Russia until he was 9 years old, and even then he slept through most of his classes.  Teachers did not expect anything from him and he was not motivated to learn the subject matter on his own.  It was difficult for us, but we slowly began to realize that educational “success” with him was going to look much different that the traditional picture which we had carried with us up until that point – high school diploma, college education, good career choice, etc.  Rather, just learning a new language was a monumental task which was set before him and he had no choice – sink or swim.  In that case, he began to learn to swim, but he never did the backstroke or anything fancy.  😉  Seven years after we brought him home at the age of 13, he can easily communicate in English, but writing a legible sentence using good grammar is something he still struggles with.  However, he is improving now that he is on his own and being forced to get along in society without Mom or Dad signing everything for him. 

The method of schooling used and the expectations set before an older adopted child can have a huge impact on their new lives, either positive or negative.  They will likely come into your home knowing little or no English.  Perhaps they were star students in their native country (unlikely, but possible) – does that necessarily mean that they would be at the top of their class if you placed them into a public school, on the same level they were studying in their home country?  Absolutely not.  We have seen over the years that it takes about one year to learn a language thoroughly enough to begin learning in that language.  Even then, the subject matter will most likely be very different from what they learned in other school settings, outside of the US.  (We have had to explain to one daughter that the US was indeed involved in WWII, since she was taught that they were not.  We have also had to convince our Russian born children that Stalin did have a “negative” side to his character.) 

Academics aside, consider the plight of an older adopted child – a teenager for example – being brought into a public school setting and left on his own.  Suddenly the “everyone is looking at me” fear, which seems to be a constant companion for every teen, becomes a reality overnight.  They talk funny, don’t know the language, cannot answer any questions asked of them… You get the picture – It could be a teenage nightmare.  What would most teens do in a situation like that?  They would quickly  migrate to any peers which seemed to accept them.  Scary, isn’t it?  At that point the older adopted children would be likely to do just about anything to “fit in”, and in fact, they may feel more at home among peers who do some of the very things which strike fear into our parenting hearts. 

Is there any hope?  Of course there is!  The ideal situation would be a very low teacher to student ratio, with the parents having a thorough understanding and agreement with the teachers in regards to methodology and beliefs.  Homeschooling has worked best for our own family, as we were already homeschooling our biological children when we brought our first adopted ones home.  They were able to adjust to their new surroundings being loved and accepted, despite their “differences”.  We did our best to understand each child, learning along the way what their needs were and how we could best meet them.  Our early expectations were tossed out the window, as we began to understand who our children really were and just how far they would be coming to simply learn the language and be able to support themselves with some type of job as they entered the adult world. 

What homeschooling allowed us, more than anything though, was to teach them of a loving God and His plan of salvation.  Half of our adopted children are Christians at this point, and we are still praying for (and evangelizing) the others.  This certainly could have been accomplished in a good, solid Christian school, but our chosen route was homeschool.  Unless a particular public school were exceptionally different than most, Christian parents should think carefully before sending a newly adopted child into their classrooms, though. 

Shouldn’t they be taught to live in the real world?  Of course they should.  But, just like a new seedling, they must be cared for carefully during the tender stages of development.  The better care they receive in your “greenhouse”, the stronger they will be to later withstand the storms of adult life. 

Up next, some thoughts on homeschooling from Bob, reposted from the archives…

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