I am supposed to be dedicating this month of June, to talking about college, but I’m going to go off track just a little bit and talk about homeschooling. Not exactly on topic, but close enough. It’s still in the education field right? I’ve actually been meaning to talk about this topic for awhile because the link between adoption and homeschooling is very strange to me. Almost every adoptee I've ever met was homeschooled to some extent. What is up with that? Well, this gives me the opening I needed to muse about homeschooling. I have a lot of mixed feelings about homeschooling. I see the benefits of it, but I also think it can be counterproductive/damaging for some kids, especially adoptees.
My Homeschooling Experience
As you probably are aware of by now, if you’re a regular reader, I was homeschooled up until high school at which point we attended a very small K-12 private, Christian school. All five of my siblings both adoptive and biological were also homeschooled. In fact, all of my mom’s side of the family, except her one brother, homeschooled their kids. We actually coordinated our own makeshift school, that we called “Cousin Club”, where we “attended” school Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.
Side note: At the time, most of my mom’s extended family all lived in different houses but on the same property, so we all grew up very close and saw each other often. My cousins all consist of both biological kids and adoptees. There are 28 of us, 14 adoptees. We are from the United States, Ethiopia, and Taiwan. Needless to say. we have a very big and diverse family.
Our Cousin Club was held at my grandmother’s house. Between my aunties and grandparents, we had full days of scheduled classes. For example, my grandfather, or “Papa”, as we call him, would teach U.S. History, after that, we might go to Math class which was taught by my Auntie Anne, who was a math whizz. We also had science and reading etc, you get the gist. That was my homeschooling experience. We did Cousin Club in addition to our own work at home, which my very organized mother, meticulously had the programs planned out and taught. When we reached around high school age, and we had all kind of aged out of it and were ready for a change, at which point we enrolled in private school.
A Homeschooling Myth?
I do think there’s a common misunderstanding about homeschooling that I’d like to address. A lot of people seem to think homeschool is just sitting around the house doing nothing. No, you still have to take the same required classes you would in a school, and pass all the state required tests, and submit them to the state, you’re just doing all the work at home instead of in a school building. I get really annoyed when people make comments or jokes about people who are/were homeschooled like we’re somehow less intelligent when we, in fact, took the same if not more advanced classes as everyone else. Many studies have shown homeschooled kids tend to be more prepared for college and have higher academic achievements.
It Didn’t Work For Me
I think homeschooling works for some people, without a doubt. However, it did not work for me. I was way too advanced in my learning for homeschooling. I was reading books like Chronicles of Narnia and Lord of the Rings, by the age of 5 or 6 and was whizzing right on past all of my older siblings in all the topics. The problem with homeschooling is it’s not really designed to have people are different learning scales at the same time, everyone kind of needs to be at the same learning level and pace, and I was not. While more time was being dedicated to my other siblings who struggled in some topics, and some of them have learning disabilities that required extra time, I was already finishing assignments way above my level and completing extra work just for fun. My mom finally figured out to get me those "DIY" workbooks because I could take them and just do them on my own, and I did. I like structure, I like being tested, being challenged and being able to ask questions, debate, and learn as fast as I wanted to, homeschool did not provide me with that experience. I was given assignments and I would finish them very quickly and be left sitting around wonder what else I could do. I felt more like it was holding me back from my full potential. This is probably why I took up reading, so well. Actually, our whole family took up reading well. I don't know why, but we are all pretty advanced readers and we love it. By the time I went to High school I immediately enrolled in AP classes and even those weren't challenging enough. it was no surprise I graduated with a 4.0 and honors. While it didn’t work for me, it did work for most of my other siblings. as mentioned before of them have learning disabilities like dyslexia that proved very difficult to find assistance with when we did end up in school. My adoptive siblings struggled overall with the structure and demands of being in school, the teachers and the assignments, while also juggling their adoption experiences. It was always a bit of a struggle. However, the difference in success was night in regards to how much better they did with homeschooling vs. public/private school.
How It Can Affect Adoptees
I’m highly concerned as to the number of people who homeschool their adoptees and I often wonder why that is. Seriously, if you homeschooled your adoptees, I am very interested in knowing what prompted you to do so vs sending them to school. Again, not that it's inherently a bad thing, I'm just very interested in figuring out why adoptees overwhelmingly seem to be homeschooled and also tend to be adopted into Christian families. A 3-way link? Who knows. It does worry me a bit with adoptees though, especially transracial adoptees (TRA), and here’s why.
In a nutshell, it’s isolating. I had zero contact with anyone who was not related to us for pretty much the first half of my life. I legit did not know other black people existed outside my family, until about 7th grade when we finally switched to a more modern and diverse church. Prior to that, we went to a Lutheran church that my grandparents raised their kids in, once a week, with a bunch of old white folks and some of us played sports later in our teen years. Outside of those what 12 hours a week total? No social interactions. I believe this can be very damaging. Kids need to learn how to interact with other people, it’s just a basic skill necessary to survive. I think this is extra important for adoptees as we tend to be outcasts anyway, and viewed as “weird”. Isolating us even further doesn't tend to help. Learning social skills, and just being able to interact with other kids, especially if you live in a diverse area, is so important. Not that Rochester or Olympia was flowing with black people, but I would have at least met another non-white person and learned I'm not insane having the experiences I was having.
That being said, I do believe you can achieve this AND homeschool, but it requires taking action to make that happen. Much like I've talked about it is possible to live in a predominantly white area and also provide racial mirrors and allyship for TRAs, it just requires you, as a parent being extra mindful and being willing to put in the works. I also believe homeschooling can help fill some of the voids that come along with attending a public or private school. For example as a black TRA who struggled with the homeschooling experience, maybe it would have been better for me to attend school but also receive homeschooling on things like black history, which we most certainly never discussed in school. You can combine the two experiences and make one experience that can help adoptees.
To wrap up all these scattered thoughts, I think homeschooling works, just not for everyone. I think people need to be mindful/extra careful when making this decision and make sure it's in the best interest of the child. You don't have to do the same education style for every kid. Maybe some are homeschooled, and some are not. There's nothing wrong with that if that is what works. Not sure? Try both out, see where they do better at. I do think you can make it work and/or find a way to combine both. If you do decide to homeschool, just be sure you’re still finding ways for kids to be involved with other kids, whether it’s extracurricular programs, sports, volunteering, it can really be anything. It's the isolation and anti-social terms that come along with homeschooling that worries me, but it can be avoided.
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