PLEASE KNOW THAT EVERYTHING I WRITE ON THE SUBJECT OF ADOPTING AN OLDER CHILD IS SIMPLY MY OPINION BASED ON PERSONAL EXPERIENCE. I AM NOT A PROFESSIONAL- JUST AN ADOPTIVE MOM.
Hey there! I have had MANY mommies and daddies ask me about my opinions on schooling for older adopted children. In April I wrote an entry about our process of deciding how to educate Zoe. I thought I would re-post it and add to it a little.
When we were in the process of adopting our sweet Zoe I was a little obsessed about the best choice of school for her. I was so nervous about making sure she would be able to catch up with the other children and not feel like she wasn't smart just because she was a little behind the other kids. I researched DOZENS of options. I visited quite a few schools. Finally we went through an interview process and enrolled Zoe in a spectacular Christian school. She was supposed to come home sometime between April-July of 2006. We just knew she would have several months to learn English and bond with us then she would start a part time schedule. JUST PERFECT RIGHT???
Well.... as many of you know that is NOT how things turned out. It took us 5 months of waiting to finally get DNA because of slow lawyers and complications at the US embassy.We passed through April, May, June and their was no sign of Zoe coming home. In June we found out we had been kicked out of PGN and thrown into a rectification process for a minor clerical error. When we were kicked out we were told that because of these complications we should not even expect our Zoe home for Christmas.
For weeks I was devastated. All my visions of Zoe home for the summer and Thanksgiving and Christmas were melting away. I was worn thin emotionally and financially. The thought of another Christmas in the Marriott in Guatemala just "playing" family almost broke me.
I called Zoe's school and literally broke down crying as I explained to the unfortunate soul answering phones that Zoe would not be there in the fall. They were amazing and supportive and told us they would welcome Zoe when we were all ready.
As we prepared to go on a long awaited 2 week trip to Disney World in Oct 2006 our hearts were breaking. We had planned this trip for Zoe and Kaitlyn. We had booked it when we just knew July was a worst case scenario. ALL the grandparents were going. It was supposed to be a special bonding time with all of them.
Now here we were 3 months past our supposed worst case scenario and no end in sight. Then without warning we received a call that our Zoe had been released from PGN! It was crazy and unexpected and WOW! We were only two weeks from Disney and we really thought there was no way she would make it but we had to be ready.
All of a sudden things started FLYING! We got the birth certificate and final signature within a couple of days. We got everything ready for pink and took it with us to Florida. Sure enough... we were walking through Epcot when we received the call to come pick up our daughter. Her pink appointment was in 3 days!!!! I jumped on a plane and got our girl and brought her back to Orlando on Nov 1st.
Her first night in the US was spent in the Magic Kingdom. We didn't do much. Just the carousal and seeing some princesses were enough for Zoe at that point!! Yet just the gift of her being there- of seeing her hugging Mickey Mouse- it was more than we could have hoped for a month before that.
I called the Christian school and enrolled Zoe for the next semester. As we got to know Zoe better I realized that a classroom setting was more than Zoe was ready for at that point. She is so smart but was deathly afraid of making mistakes. She would literally break down weeping if she thought she was about to get a wrong answer. She had never even set foot into a school and hadn't even learned how to spell her name till she was in foster care. I realized that putting her in a group setting in that fragile state could be a huge mistake for our little one. I talked to our social worker and she whole heartedly agreed with our decision.
In fact our social worker told us that she was greatly relieved. She said that in her many years of experience (she has been in adoption for MANY years and is awesome) the majority of attachment issues happen when adopted children are immediately placed in full time care or school after coming home. Her opinion was that when it is possible it is highly beneficial for the child to have as much time as possible at home with a parent. As an adoptive mom this has been my experience as well when speaking with other adoptive parents.
Of course there are many children who will cope well with the transition even when placed in care. What I am saying as that WHEN I have heard of people having trouble (which is rather rare) this was usually the circumstance. In fact I have seen children immediately bond when removed from full time care and brought home when they would not bond for a year previously.
Knowing Zoe's personality we felt it was especially important to keep these statistics in mind. She is very sweet and tender hearted. She is easily intimidated and at that time had very little self confidence.
Just learning to function in a safe family has been a huge thing for Zoe. Learning to speak English has been a huge thing for Zoe. Learning to not be afraid to make mistakes has been huge. Being allowed (and forced) to think for herself has been a huge thing for Zoe. Learning to read in English, learning to write in English, learning Math at an advanced rate.... these things were going to be so much anyway. We had to be careful not to overwhelm her.
The most important thing for Zoe was to BOND with us. Learning to be a part of our family is infinitely more important than her multiplication tables. We know that each child is different and respect each family's decisions for their children. Parents know their children better than anyone. It was our job to know Zoe.
For Zoe we knew that her first year she needed to be with us as much as possible. Just like a newborn she needed to learn that we would take care of her and she could trust us. We knew that she needed that kind of security before she could have the courage to take off on her own. So we decided I would home school for this semester and she would go to school next school year if she was emotionally ready. Again the school was completely supportive and wonderful. (did I mention I adore them???)
We decided these were our goals.... Zoe would do two years of Math curriculum in 8 months. She would be fluent in English. She would be able to read on a beginner first grade level in 8 months. She would be able to write simple sentences independently. She would be able to receive instruction and correction without weeping. She would be able to fail without fear. She would be securely bonded to our family and confident in herself.
I am so proud of our girl. We accomplished every one of those goals except the Math. We are still working on the second year and getting there. She is amazing. I am just so proud I could bust!