In the beginning, JD adamantly only wanted two children. I thought that four would be perfect. Once we caught God's vision of putting orphans into families, our plan was multiplied by God. We are currently blessed with 12 children; five biological, six adopted and one more waiting in Ethiopia. Our first adoption was from the U.S., the next three were from Liberia, West Africa, and our last two were from Ethiopia. We are supporting our 12th child in Ethiopia after her adoption could not pass court.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Learning Struggles

This may be one of those posts that I delete whenever I get around to printing a blog book for my children, but I really want to share in hopes of supporting (and being supported) by my readers that are struggling in the same area. I currently have six children that are full time students: two full-time public school, two full-time home school, one home schooled but enrolled in Classical Conversations and the last home schooled but taking two classes at the high school. I would have to say that five of the six have really struggled these first weeks of school. It is getting much better for one, who is now "getting" the class environment and adjusting well. I have gone from two to three hours of help a night down to about none. 

 It is also going smoother for one of my full-time homeschooling boys. I don't know exactly what has changed, or if it will last, but he is progressing nicely lesson to lesson in several subjects and there are definitely other years I would have never said that. 

Tori is really struggling in the 2nd grade class-room. I accept responsibility for some of that because I constantly shortchanged her and Julia in the school department because James and Ben take SO MUCH TIME everyday. Tori would silently sneak off to play and there were too many times I didn't force her back, because I was drowning trying to keep James and Ben on track. Julia hasn't suffered as much just because she is younger. Beyond the time factor though,  reading isn't coming easy for Tori. We drill and drill and she has to memorize a lot of spellings that other kids seem to just be able to hear. 

I will say that it's possible that I now spend more time "schooling" Tori and Julia with their homework than before they went to school. Since Tori is going to school, she is getting four intensive rounds of phonics a day. She participates in her 2nd grade reading group, also goes down to the first grade reading group, has a reading specialist teacher that takes her for another round every afternoon and then JD or I do all the reading homework with her every afternoon. We (the school and I) are hoping that we will see a big difference in a few months with the intensiveness of her program. 

 The reality is that I hoped to have the home schooling experience with my four adopted children that I had with my first four biological children. It was probably "pie in the sky" dreams considering I adopted children that had lead poisoning, were malnourished, had malaria and lived in an orphanage environment. I just really was not prepared for how much my kids would struggle with day to day learning. I see daily struggles and patterns that totally dumb-found me; I really don't think there are many people on the planet who can day after day teach a simple concept, only to have the child stare at you the next day like they have never even seen such a problem, and not become discouraged. 

I was near tears every night the first few weeks of school. I start homeschooling James and Ben at 8 a.m.; I can seldom walk away even for a moment and have them stay on track. If I was lucky, we could finish by 4 p.m. when the girls get off the bus. I would then have three to four hours of homework between Moriah, Tori and Julia. Now that Moriah is working on her own, I'm down to about two. Thankfully, now that JD comes home at a decent hour, he is taking about half that load as well. Two hours is still too much for us to have any evening life beyond homework and dinner, but I am not near as over-whelmed and discouraged as I was two weeks ago. We are taking the kids roller skating tomorrow night for James' birthday and It will be the first night in four weeks that the kids have gone anywhere on a school night! 

What does this mean for Selah and Bella (and Brooke)? It means I totally expect them to have serious learning challenges. (Unfortunately, it also means that I have many more years of challenging teaching!) It also means that I will have more realistic expectations and won't be as flabbergasted when they respond the way my current crew does. I will definitely keep them home the first year for bonding purposes, but then I will have have to see if it seems in their better interest to home school or send them for a year or two of school. I will definitely home school Brooke, since she isn't fluent in English; I just have to be realistic in how many Kindergartners I can juggle alongside of what I have going now.

I would so love to be a fly on the wall of some other large, adoptive, homeschooling families to see if they have some secret that I haven't discovered!  I have to say that if I got things my way, I would be homeschooling all of them, and we would all attend Classical Conversations together, but my plan wouldn't include Julia's challenging daily behavior or the learning challenges that send me to my chocolate stash in the closet! I am hoping that "my way" will be more realistic  in just a year or two! 

                                                         Keeping it real - Jenny


  1. Your house sounds a LOT like my house has over the years. If you were a fly on my wall you would think, "Hey, I'm doing okay (or at least "normal" for an extra-large-adoptive-family-with-challenging-children)." :)

    I have been homeschooling for 22 years. Even with my 10 bio. kids, I have 2 highly challenged learners . . . 2 highly gifted learners (which presents its own challenge) . . . and quite a few in the normal to gifted range.

    Then . . . we adopted 3 "older" children from Africa. They arrived at ages 6, 9, 12. The first year of homeschooling them was OVER THE TOP HARD. Oh.My.Yes. The blank stares like I had not just taught them a concept 101 times. Oh yes. Been.There.Done.That.

    I must tell you, though, that sometimes that can be a consciously played "game" by the dear child. Yes.It.Can. They WANT to be the center of attention. They WANT to watch mom squirm. They WANT to interrupt mom's life.

    After 4 years of homeschooling the youngest, and 4 years of the blank stare (not to mention the almost daily rages), we finally put Little Miss into a small private school last spring. The dear child (4th grade) simply could NOT multiply 2x2 at home. Yet, in less than a week in school, she was multiplying 432 x 12. Yes.She.Was. It was all just one big game to her. She was the Star Student at school. No behavior problems. Smart. Friendly. Makes this Mama pull her hair out. :)

    It's a tough call, but at some time those boys are going to have to learn how to focus, stay on task, learn . . . without Mama "holding their hands" all day. I know a mom who sat at the dining room table, "teaching" her son, 8-10 hours per day, 5 days per week, all the way through high school. Yes, technically he did complete high school . . . but it was his mom who should have earned the diploma. The "boy" was not at all ready for "real life" after high school. Not judging you AT ALL . . . just letting you know that I UNDERSTAND the challenges.

    Hugs from a Mama who has been.there.done.that.

    mama of 12 (ages 10, 11, 12, 13, 16, 19, 21, 23, 23, 25, 27, 28)

  2. Prayers for you, sister! I am encouraged by your "real" posts where the challenges are discussed and that not only the great moments are shared. Many blogs leave me sad and feeling like everyone else can be super-moms while I struggle with daily homeschool life. I talked to an older mom at my co-op today who has one in public school, on in part-time private/homeschool/ and one with special needs at home with her. She said each year, she and her husband would pray and discern where each child was and what educational set-up would best meet their needs. Encouraging to see you also walking that out and being willing to change things that are not working well. Continue strong in the grace of Jesus!

  3. I feel your pain. Over the past couple of years, my homeschooling ideas have totally changed. I went from 2 gifted bio kids, to 6 adopted sn kids. I do wonder, many days, how much is a "game". I drilled a handfull of short vowel words all last week to 10yo MR child. DH played a computer game with him, and had him reading a handful of short vowel words in 15 minutes!
    If you were a fly here, we'd send the kids out to play, and have a REAL conversation=)
    Simple but true--what I've learned most....don't compare them, and don't fall into the trap of comparing yourself to supermom!

  4. You guys.....you are the REAL supermom's. Don't let yourself believe otherwise.

  5. We have 7 kids ages 3 to 16. We just brought home a 3 and 4 year old in May. I truly thought we would homeschool everyone this Fall and just be one happy family. The summer showed us that it truly was not in any of our best interests! We now have one in Running Start (college), one in a two day a week homeschool support school, 3 at a private Christian school and the 2 youngest at home. Everyone is thriving and it truly is what is best. We all needed the structure that it provides. Most of the kids are young and no learning issues have shown up yet, but for general behavioral and happiness reasons it has been great! Who knows where everyone will land next year, but for now its fantastic!