Kris’ Corner – Schooling Choices for Trauma

January 17, 2024

So if you’ve been reading my posts for a while, you probably know that I homeschool. Obviously, I understand you cannot homeschool a foster placement (except possibly in some very special exceptions), but want to just put this out there especially if you are moving towards adoption.

Here’s my hot take on this subject, which is simple, but not easy: consider where each individual child is academically, socially, emotionally, etc (please please please consider all areas…not just academically) and do what’s best for them; do NOT make a blanket decision for all your children because they all have different gifts, talents, strengths and needs.

I know you all know that, but sometimes in our desire to simplify, we forget…so I just want to put that out there as food for thought.

I know that might not be what you want to hear.

Maybe it is contrary to everything you ever thought would happen with your child’s education.

Maybe you have biological kids always went to public school, but homeschooling a child from hard places makes the most sense…which I know opens up a whole other kind of worms. “Why does he get to stay home and do his school in his pajamas? Why can’t I stay home all day?” Or, “Why does he get these field trips instead of having to do work?”

Or possibly it’s the reverse: you’ve always been a homeschooling family but your adopted child needs more services than you can obtain through a homeschool education. This also brings about questions such as “Why can’t I stay home too?” Totally understandable.

And as with all areas of parenting, the list of questions the decision can bring about is endless. And I honestly don’t know how to tell you to navigate that…other than remind the kids that you are the parent and get to make the decisions, plus every child is different and they all have different needs. You love them all but sometimes have to parent them each differently. (These are the kinds of things I have said to my older boys in other situations in which they felt I was being unfair to them, or “overly fair” to their younger brother. Honestly it’s part of life and growing up, but still not always fun to parent through).

So if that’s not enough to consider, I give you the following items to also add on to that decision. There is always the possibility that even though you live within a school system with amazing supports for kiddos in need, public school isn’t going to be the best for him. And people will question you on that decision, so be ready for it.

Or it might be that you live in an area where it’s not a great school system for kids with higher needs and you have to advocate really hard, or consider a private school that might be better suited to their needs because there’s no way you could homeschool and that’s OK.

Other points to consider: if your child is getting a lot of services and/or therapies which require them to miss school or be late or leave early or make a traditional school day difficult, homeschool might be what the child needs.

I definitely love homeschool and feel very led to do it but that’s because I know that’s what my son needs. Now, are there days that I seriously question my judgement to homeschool him? Absolutely…because trauma rarely gives you a warning when it’s going to pop up. It never says, “Hey, you might want to scale back or adjust your lesson plans for the week because you’re in for a bumpy ride.” It simply shows up unannounced and does its thing.

Which, even though that is challenging, I personally feel it’s still the best decision for us because if I worked full time and trauma showed up while he was at school (and it definitely would!), I’d be getting a call to pick him up. Which would mean leaving work, getting to school and helping de-escalate (if he wasn’t already), taking him home, making sure he felt safe and then attempting to finish the work that he didn’t complete at school.

And honestly, that would be much harder for him (all of us, really) than simply doing school at home and adjusting things if needed.

To be clear: I don’t give this advice or encourage this as something to be taken lightly. It’s something that will require a lot of thought and consideration, discussion with your partner, and even with the child (as well as other children in the home); this would especially be true if only one child will have a different school experience than the other kids in a household.

On top of all that, consider your own personal support; what do your friends and family think and how supportive would they be of your decision (regardless of what it is). If you homeschool, do you have good local support, or at least connections to find good local support? If you use public school, what is the culture for kids from hard places (basically…is the school trauma-informed?).

I know, I know…it’s a lot of what if’s and questions and things to research, discuss and consider. And maybe I haven’t helped you solve the riddle that is your child, but hopefully I’ve helped you at least ask the questions that might lead you to a solution.