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Destinations, Dreams and Dogs - International adventure with a fast-track family (& dogs) of Old World values, adopting the Russian-Italian-American good life on the go…!

Six Reasons Why to Homeschool Your Older Adopted Child

Believe me, I never pictured us homeschooling.  We don’t live on a farm, or any of the other stereotypes that are out there about homeschoolers.  But we started bringing home older children from Russia and we saw few options.

Let’s start with some definitions and realities.  By “older child”, I mean a school-aged child, one who has not been exposed, perhaps, to the English alphabet.  This may refer to either a domestically-adopted child from a rough background, or an internationally-adopted child, from similarly-difficult origins, yet who may be able to read and write in their own, native language.

It’s my opinion, that in the younger grades, there may be hope for mainstreaming.  Put them in school, let them struggle a few months or a few years, but eventually, they’ll “get it”.  That’s a good scenario.

Here are a six reasons why we chose to homeschool our children who were mostly preteens when they arrived home:

1.  All of them were “slow”.  If you asked them their age, or other, basic information, they would look at you blankly and finally conjure up an answer, often, not correct.  Ask what flavor ice cream they wanted and again, the long wait for any type of response.  They were not used to any type of interaction beyond either rote repetition for school, or very immature dealings with orphanage friends.  This would take time to get them used to a normal give-and-take.  Meanwhile, your student is being labelled as a loser by peers and teachers, alike.

2.  Their verbal and written Russian was not good (not having parents to correct and coach their speech), and they were not sent to village schools.  Everyone knows that the in-house, Russian orphanage school system is substandard.  Their grade level did not correspond to life on the outside.  So it was not a simple issue of just learning English.  They were far behind in the most basic material.

3.  Their friends were low-lifes and this is the type of child around which they felt most comfortable.  Put them in a regular school— religious, charter, public or other—and  they would seek out, if not be sought out by, semi-criminal elements.  They might receive a good education, but if they’re in prison….

4.  In homeschool, we did not have to wait for them to learn English… in order to learn.  In our case, which is probably different from the norm, I taught them things like the times tables in Russian, then switching to English.  Even if you don’t know Russian, you can employ a Russian tutor by Skype a couple of times per week who asks what they’ve been reading (simplified Russian literature, science, math which you buy for them online from large Russian bookstores in the U.S.) while you bring them up to speed in English.  That’s about three to six months saved from oblivion, depending on their age.

5.  They were able to bond to us, learn our values and way of life for six to eight hours more per day.   There’s so much to learn in the first few months home— how to eat properly, go to the bathroom properly (don’t underestimate this one), boy-girl relations from the orphanage that you don’t want duplicated at your local junior high school, etc.  The older child, while in certain ways more independent, needs their parents to guide them even more than perhaps a younger child.

6.  It saves you from doing hours of homework with them every night.  If they don’t understand what’s being taught in the classroom, you’ll still have to teach them at home, at night.  That’s called homeschooling, just at a different time of day, and it doesn’t excite me to spend my evenings doing my child’s homework.

All that being said, if you can’t, you can’t.  Yet, as a new school year comes sneaking up on us, you might think about homeschooling.  The good news is, when it comes to schooling, no matter what route you choose, you can always change your mind if it doesn’t work for you.




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7 Comments : Leave a Reply

  1. avatar hoonew says:

    I’ve seen language tutors (via Skype) and have wondered how someone would choose an individual Skype tutor. Any recommendations would likely be an internet one, so less reliable. How would a non-Russian speaking parent be able to evaluate a tutor’s Russian grammar, ability to teach, etc, all via the Web. Sounds like a big leap of faith!

    • avatar admin says:

      That’s a good question, hoonew. It all depends on what your objectives are. If the tutor uses a textbook, progress should be made week by week, chapter by chapter. Credentials in linguistics at the university level would give additional assurance. Should the student be a small child, simple conversational skills by a native speaker could be sufficient. It might be a kindly grandmotherly type with an encouraging temperament. Depending on the age, worksheets or questions on texts can be sent by e-mail and the student may submit their written answers prior to the lesson. Many people pay lesson by lesson and the price might be half to two-thirds of what an in-person lesson could be. So there’s not a lot to lose. And if there are any further concerns, a parent might tape a lesson to run past someone else, or sit nearby and listen-in that things sound relaxed and normal.

  2. avatar sarah says:

    This is a very good post. I have wondered why you home schooled. Our International school in London has a whole program to bring the kids up to speed in English in their own separate class room before they are mainstreamed into the very small classes. The school also has a native language program so my kids are taking Russian as well as French (starting at 3 years old). You make a very good point about their backgrounds. I see my now 5 year old having left a very good baby home at 14 months not having issues however my just turned 3 year old St Petersburg Diva was not in such a great place and I see her social skills lacking in many areas, lack of impulse control, not being able to sit still ,not able to listen, not being able to regulate her emotions. Poor baby. If this is her with only 18 months in a not so bad baby home, I can’t imagine what she would be like if we got her in her preteens. I can’t imagine trying to navigate the preteens in an american middle school or high school with out the life skills most kids take for granted. Good for you! I was also just thinking my 5 year old is thriving in his international school versus in his preppy Connecticut school as I think he sees himself being like all the other kids in school for the first time. He loves that most kids are from another country and speak another language! This would hold true for your four kids! All in the same boat together.

    • avatar admin says:

      Oh, be still my heart. I love it, Sarah! We are an international family, and it’s a constant struggle to impress the kids that they are truly “normal”, knowing several languages. Ours can read in three very different alphabets, and we waited until they were home about 6 months before starting them in on something other than Russian and English. The social skills are more important than we think and I just came across a great website with resources that addresses some of the auditory processing issues (short-term memory probs that are often labeled as ADHD, etc.). I’ll have to write about it soon because now we have some new ideas. The brain has a certain amount of plasticity and we’re seeing great improvement as we look back over the years, so here’s hoping for even better futures!

      • avatar sarah says:

        Please yes! I see such a need for my littlest Diva! She experienced real deprivation I think to the point of not knowing how to even really make facial expressions except for a serious frown. The poor things is on high alert at all times. I wonder what went on….She actually adores school and really loves the other kids but she is a lot to handle in the class. We are starting the year with no help for her in the class but, if she is too much we will happily pay to have an extra person in the class to help with her. The school is so supportive of her and she is so happy there. I just love seeing her joy at being a part of it. They love her and know her history and want to help her. It is so refreshing! I just pray we don’t get transferred because as you know not all private schools will be so willing to help and bend over backwards.

        • avatar admin says:

          Some of the schools view children with struggles as liabilities to their school’s overall scores, too. That’s great that you could find a good fit. I’ll try and share later this week about our finds in terms of some educational help. Stay tuned…. 🙂

  3. avatar Sarah says:

    Hmm, interesting. You bring up a good point. She is very bright. She has her issues but is ahead with language and picks things up very quickly. Maybe that is why? Sasha my 5 year old is very bright with a gifted IQ, I don’t think Gracie is gifted just, bright. Could be right on your theory. They can be supportive and it doesn’t hurt them.

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