There are a lot of questions I get asked about foster care and homeschooling. One of the biggest one is how do you balance home school and foster care? My answer, very carefully!
I started homeschooling Robby from the beginning for many reasons. We knew a few homeschooling families and was very impressed of how well-adjusted to life these kids where. We wanted our kids to reflect that. When I stopped working, it opened the door of the possibility of homeschooling.
Robby also had some “pooping” issues when he was younger and made that “K” year very hard, so it also worked to keep him home. As we continued we started to develop a home school mind. When we started fostering, we started with babies. We wanted to stay younger than Robby and this worked. While I only had two kids I kept our foster babies home.
When I got up to three kids, I enrolled my two little ones in our churches child care center two mornings a week. I needed some time to do some time with Robby (like speech therapy) and it was easier with out the little ones. Also when I had Dr. appointments or a meeting at DHR, I could make arrangements for my little ones to be at the center.
It wasn’t until Jeremy moved in with us in his 7th grade year that I had to enter into a public school. We loved his teaches and counselors there! They bent over backwards for us. Up until then, Jeremy really hadn’t been to school, just bits of school. At this time, I really didn’t think about homeschooling him. Our days were balanced. I enjoyed our after school talks we had every day over a potpie.
When he was in 8th grade (still in foster care) I asked to home school him. We were having some problems and I knew that if we could get home, it may help. Our other option was private school. We looked into one just before his 9th grade, but he was trying to live a normal life and wanted to go to normal high school. In 10th grade he went two days and came home and asked if he could be home schooled. I told him try one more day. My husband felt it would be better for him to be home schooled, and here we are today. They key with Jeremy was we knew we were adopting him when we asked to home school him while he was in foster care.
A year ago we had a bright 9-year-old move in with us. He was in 3rd grade and that was our first exposure to the elementary schools. And our first taste in balancing foster care with home school. And it was not easy. We are done with homeschooling in the morning, early afternoon. At night we don’t have homework. But Brandle was coming home with homework and the last thing he wanted to do was homework. He would rather play with Robby. So I started doing some of Robby’s work in the evenings doing homework time, to help balance things out.
Doing the summer, we picked up foster care of one of Brandle’s younger brothers. He had many behavior problems and lots of needs. He was going into K the same as my little girl. It was at that moment that I had to make a choice, and measure how much I can handle. Since AnnieQ was my social butterfly, we decided to send her to K along with Michael. We asked Robby if he wanted to go, but he said he was a homeschooling boy and he was staying that way. So our year began with two older boys being home schooled, three in the local elementary school and one in morning PreK.
After the boys left at Thanksgiving we decided to keep AnnieQ in school. She had a great teacher and I felt she was in a good place for this year.
So what have I learned from all this.
- If you are totally against public schools, then don’t foster care school age kids.
- Make sure you have good communication with the teachers. They are part of the team working with this child.
- Having a homeschooling schedule and a public school schedule is hard. Have good calendar skills. You will need them.
- Homeschooling and having some in public school make it hard to do all the extra volunteer extras stuff that I wanted to do.
- There are many forms to fill out and beware of the fundraising.
- If you have ESP meetings (Special education meetings-education service plans) know your rights, and don’t feel afraid to ask questions. This is a HUGE team effort involving you, the school, DHR, the parents (if they are involved) and anyone else who may be involved.
- The public school kids get jealous of the field trips the home school kids are taking.
- Have regular contact with teacher, either through notes, email, or phone calls.
- I didn’t use the bus until after the boys lefts. My littlest one then was too active to use the bus. But use the bus when you can. It helps with schedules, and all the crazy deriving around you must do!
- Be organized with clothes for the week.
- Create a landing spot and files for all the papers that going to come in. I would send school work in a folder now and then to a visit so the parents could see.
- It takes a few weeks to get into the swing of things.
- You don’t have to do everything that comes your way.
- You are not super mom. Stop trying to be. (yep yep had to keep learning that one over and over again!)
Foster care and home schooling are possible. It just takes a lot of work. Know your family and what will work for them.
Why didn’t I home school them? First, I knew the goal was to get them back with their family. So I needed them to be in school to keep that part stable and “normal.” Also, I personal needed that break from the littlest one! Loved him dearly, but was emotionally drained ever day. When I went to pick him up everyday I was happy to see him! Foster children come with a whole different set of issues that your children do not have. Knowing your limits is key!