Feb 7, 2017

Three Year Update

I have been hesitant to blog now that my children are older and their privacy is the utmost concern, but there is a desperate need to hear from the Moms that have journeyed before.

So here i am.

Navigating the public school system has been by far one of the greatest challenges in our adoption.  There is no right or wrong, and you will make so many mistakes along the way.  There will be tears.  You will cry.  They will cry.  

You will wonder if they will ever graduate.  You will hear, "That's why I homeschool," from your well meaning friends and it will make you feel even more like you are an utter failure.  

We can simply try, fail, and then get back up and try again.  What works for me will not work for you, but we can learn from one another.

It's HARD.  Oh so hard.  

Joseph is 15 now, and still in middle school.  When he came to live with us, we made the decision to put him in 5th grade at 12 years old and because of never setting foot in school before, we had him repeat 5th grade. 

The days turned to weeks and the weeks turned to months.  We realized he loved to run and HE WAS GOOD AT IT!  He started playing the saxophone and we saw him THRIVE.  

We saw his self esteem flourish on the track.  I realized that sports and band were just as important as academics.  Then 7th grade rolled around and we realized he would lose his eligibility to run track and play basketball because he would age out.  The same thing would happen his Senior year of High School.  

At the time of trying to figure out grade placement, we didn't realize he would age out of sports.  Sports wasn't even on the radar.  We were so focused on what he was behind in academically, that we didn't see the importance of rounding out his education.

I talked to a local charter school and explored our options there, but realized they didn't have the ESOL support that our districted school had.  I had round robin meetings with the Care teams that deal with this sort of situation, but we are truly a unique case.

Then one day, i simply poured my heart out to the principal.  She told me about a program where Joseph could combine his core middle school subjects and finish them in one year so he could move on and not lose his eligibility.  Essentially, he could do 7th and 8th grade together.  

And this is where we are at this year. In August, he will be in high school, one grade placement behind his peers.  He will not lose his eligibility to play high school sports and he will continue to play the sax.  

I have lots of fears over this decision, but i'll save that for another post. 

Sep 22, 2015

I am a Christian Mom and i send my kids to Public School

My name is Sheila and i'm mom to 5 kiddos (Two recently adopted from Uganda) and i send my kids to public school.


I sent them to school even when they barely knew English.  Less than a month after being home and they have attached to our family just fine.

I have wrestled with this.  Everyone i know seems to homeschool.  If i read blogs on adopting the older child, they homeschool.

There is a pressure on Christian Moms.  A pressure to explain why we don't homeschool or at least send our kids to a Christian school.

There is an even greater pressure in the adoption community, esp if you adopt an older child, on why you send your child to public school.

So why does our family send our kids to public school?

1.  We know God is sovereign.  He controls every little detail of our lives.  Nothing i do is a surprise to him.  Although, i do wonder if He face palms himself some days with some of my decisions.

2.  I have never wanted to keep my children in a Christian bubble.  We listen to Christian music.  Most of my friends are Christians.  We are actively involved in Church.  My kids know nothing other than Jesus.  Sending them to public school exposes them to the world.

3.  When i was 12 years old I heard about this fun place to go on Weds nights called Awana.  A local church's bus ministry came through my neighborhood to pick me up.  I didn't grow up in a Christian home, but a little girl in a public school, invited me to church and my life has been changed ever since. I want my kid's to have the opportunity to tell another friend about Jesus.

4.  I don't want to homeschool.  At all.  I don't feel called to do it.  I have been on that horse once and vowed never to do it again.  I felt as if i wasn't in the center of God's will even though "Good Christian Moms" are suppose to do this.  I was miserable.  My daughter was miserable.  It lasted for a  very short season.

5.  I feel God calls everyone to different things in different seasons in our lives.  Does this mean we will public school forever?  No, but i have no doubt that we are in the center of God's will in this season.

6.  I feel even if i make a mistake that God can right any wrong in my children's lives.  Rom 8:28

7.  We are a family of 7.  Finances can be tight.  My children love to play instruments and it's FREE in the public school.  TOTALLY FREE.

8.  I love to volunteer in the public school.  There are so many kids that come from broken homes.  I love to be in a classroom loving on a child that doesn't get any love at home.

9.  I have had absolutely NO ISSUES.  Nada.  Not one.  If anything has come up, the teachers were quick to resolve it.  My kids haven't come home indoctrinated in the cult courtesy of Common Core.

10.  I totally trust Jesus with my kids.  I have seen Jesus send FABULOUS teachers/mentors/believers into my kid's lives.  In school.  In public school.  

I have to trust that where i fail as a parent, God will fill in the gaps.  Figuring out how to parent an adopted child through the public school system is daunting and at times, it's down right maddening. 

Even when we fail, when we fall flat on our behinds, we can trust that God loves our children even more than we do.  

That's a promise i cling too.

Jul 30, 2015

DeCluttering my soul...

Get Stuff. Buy Stuff.  Buy More stuff. 


Answer emails.  Answer more emails.  10 minutes turn into an hour.


Check Facebook.  Check Instagram.  Get nothing done.

My soul has become cluttered.  

My goal for the next month is to live more intentional.  To escape the things that really do not matter.

I do not want the clutter in my life to steal my joy.

"In quietness and rest shall be your strength."  Isaiah 30:15

I need quiet.  

I need rest.  

I need to sit and be still. 

I need to focus on decluttering my soul.  

1.  I am stepping away from Facebook for a short season.

2.  I am going to be intentional with my prayer life.  Actively taking timeouts to simply be still and talk to Jesus.

3.  I am going to go through my home and purge. Because purging souls my soul.

I have 3 weeks until my kids go back to school and during this time i am going to try to be still and be real with myself because at the moment, my soul is simply cluttered.

Happy Decluttering!

Apr 14, 2015

Public School & The Adopted Older Child Part 4

This month we met with the CARE team members and came up with a "game plan" that we all agree with.  The team consisted of:

ESE Liaison
School Psychologist
Guidance Counselor
Sp/Lang. Pathologist
ESE teacher

We determined that placing a child with limited education into an ESE class would NOT meet his needs.  He does not have a learning disability and is simply having to play catch up.  They gave us the option of "opting out" of standardized testing.  

Seriously...what good comes out of Joseph taking a 5th grade FSA test when he's currently 3 grades behind?  What has happened to common sense in education?

He will receive ESOL support 3-4 times a week and Tier II help in reading and math.  Tier II supplemental instruction is for students not making grade level benchmarks.  They will provide small group instruction (3-5 students)  no less than three times per week for a minimum of 20-30 minutes on top of ESOL support.

He will continue to have him remain in a mainstream classroom and will advance into Middle school next year.  We chose to have him repeat 5th grade this year so he will be entering Middle school at 13.  We are still not sure how this will affect sports and this is a huge concern for us that will need to be addressed next year.

Just when i have things figured out this year in elementary school, Middle school is coming up quickly.  I need to meet with the ESOL liaison and figure out the game plan for next year. 

In a nutshell, this process starts all over for Middle school.

Mar 18, 2015

Public School & The Adopted Older Child Part 3

This past month I have sat down with a team of doctors and had Joseph evaluated so we can bring this information back to the school and come up with an educational plan that we can all agree on.

Clearly, the plan that he is on in the Elementary level is simply not working.  

Do i blame the school?  Absolutely Not.  They simply are using ESOL strategies for a student that speaks their native tongue in the home, and Joseph does not.  

I have 4 Associate problems that he was diagnosed with that range from Academic Underachievement Disorder to Reading Disorders.  Of course, these are not permanent, but the school is bent on labeling students and not using common sense so i walked out with my handy dandy consult report and brought it back to the school.

Joseph has had 1-2 years of formal schooling in Uganda.  We fought tooth and nail for him to start at the beginning, but he was 12 when he started school.  The best we could do was 5th grade.  They were gracious enough to fight for him to repeat 5th grade.  

I do feel that academically he would have been better off at the middle school, but not developmentally.  Our area has a strong ESOL/ELL program for Middle school students.

Tomorrow i take our "diagnosis" and sit with A CARE (Children At Risk in Education) Team and discuss our new plan of action.  

I am not sure if i want an IEP plan.  He simply is behind because of a LACK of education.  Nothing else.  No learning disability.  He needs time and extra pull out services.  He does not need standardized testing telling me that he is behind.  I know that.  Common sense.  

I am amazed at how much progress he has made in one short year.  In a fairy tale school world, i would love for him to go half day focusing on the ESOL/ELL block in Reading/Language, Math, Band, and PE.  

My heart hurts for the ESOL/ELL students that fall through the cracks.  For the families that do not speak English.  Navigating the public school system is a nightmare.  Fortunately, i know the ins and outs of it, but kids shouldn't be falling through the cracks because of their age.  

And they definitely shouldn't be taking a 5th grade Reading/Writing FSA test when they are at a 1st/2nd grade reading level.  Thank you State of Florida for giving my child "extra time" as an accommodation.  He simply has a longer time to stare at words that mean NOTHING to him. 

Feb 18, 2015

Public School & The Older Adopted Child Part 2

I have realized that navigating the public school system has been a completely different experience with our adopted children.

When Brenda came into our family, she was just shy of 7.  We decided to place her in 1st grade (March 2013) for the remainder of the school year.  Because of standardized testing in 3rd grade, we have found that there are an abundance of ESOL/ELL resources for the younger grades.

By the end of 2nd grade, she was already on grade level in both English and Math.  All of this happened with very little effort on my part.  She was in a classroom that was surrounded with sight words, colors, basic addition and subtraction facts and her teacher tailored her work specifically for her.

She is thriving in 3rd grade.

I was naive to think Joseph would have a similar experience.

Joseph started school in Feb 2014 at age 12.  We placed him in 5th grade and we had realistic expectations.  In Uganda, Joseph had minimal schooling so we knew we had lots of work ahead of us.  

We took this opportunity to immerse him into American culture and he loved it. He loved recess, computers, art, music, and socializing with the other children.  He joined a soccer team and we have seen his personality shine through the extracurricular activities offered through the public school system.  

We knew that he was no where ready for middle school so we begged for another year in 5th grade.  
We had to fight the school board for this, but eventually we all decided another year in elementary school would be in his best interest. 

He is currently in 5th grade again this year.

This year (at home) we have focused on Dolch sight words, Rosetta Stone, Reading Eggs and basic math facts. He also spends time reading out loud or reading with the help of the Tag reader pen. 

Highly recommend Reading Eggs!!!

In school, he is pulled out for ESOL/ELL services 3 times a week for 30 minutes a day.  The rest of his day is spent in a mainstream classroom.  

Our ESOL services are limited in grades 4th/5th as they focus on the younger grades because of standardized testing.  Even though Joseph is a struggling reader our district offers no services for his grade, yet they offer reading camps for grades below 3rd.  

This drives me nuts!

It's been a struggle to fight for the services that would allow him to succeed.  Services that i know he would benefit from.  I have hit road block after road block fighting for services that i know he needs.  

For example, they need to test him in his native tongue to qualify for certain programs.  As with most adopted children, English is his stronger language now.  He does not speak his native tongue at home like most ESOL children.

Honestly, the majority of his learning happens at home, as i feel he is lost in the shuffle.  The school system simply does not know how to provide the services that an internationally, older child, adoptee needs.  

Do i feel he gets what he needs at school?  No.

But, i also do not feel that he would thrive in a homeschool environment either.  We are a work in progress navigating the public school system with an older adopted child.

This is unchartered territory with little information out there.

I have another meeting in a few days to tailor Joseph's learning plan.  I will keep you tuned.

Jan 28, 2015

Public School and the Older Adopted Child

Navigating the public school system with an older adopted child is extremely difficult especially for a child with little schooling.

In Feb 2014, we decided to place Joseph (age 12) into the 5th grade.  Actually, we didn't have a choice.  The school board wanted to place him into middle school, but we knew he was no where emotionally ready for 6th grade, let alone academically.

He didn't speak any English and we knew that he came from a background that relied heavily on memorization.  He could read "some" English, but had no idea how to blend those sounds, nor did he understand what he was reading.

We knew that very little schooling would happen that year, but he would learn socially from the other children.  He picked up English fast and by the end of the school year he had mastered conversational English with a very heavy accent.

Summer came and went and we fought hard to have him repeat 5th grade again.  We were met with a fight by our local school board, but eventually they agreed with us that another year in elementary school would be best.

Sadly, our public school system has a very weak ESOL/ESL program.  Internationally adopted children are not your typical ESL students.  They do not go home and speak their native tongues.  Many of the resources are for students that are bilingual.  Our kids quickly dump their language as they acquire English.  It's a very difficult place emotionally esp. with an older child because they struggle to express themselves.  They have fast lost their native language and can only speak basic English.

We focused heavily on Rosetta Stone and basic math facts over the summer and saw huge gains.

Towards the end of the school year, i stumbled upon this website:

I spent the next few months researching how to navigate the public school system, esp one that was clueless with children that were adopted internationally.

I'll will share more next time.