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.

Dec 30, 2014

2014 in Review

We officially became a Family of 7.

We bought a Nissan NV to shuttle us all around.  We love it!

We play soccer.  A lot of it.

Joseph did his first Easter Egg hunt.

We do hair family style.

We visited Papa.  How we miss that man.

We played lots of family games.

We swam with cousins.

We spent LOTS of time in the car.

We went to the Aquarium for the first time.

We ran running races.  And we won.

Joseph is fast.  Very fast.  This sport united us as a family.  Game changer.

We live in a place where people vacation.  We are blessed.

We have fun.  

We went to Sea World together.

We have a special bond that is unbreakable.

Brenda caught up to grade level and Joseph is well on his way.

We play make believe.

We broke bones.

We became American citizens and have passports to prove it.

We went Trick or Treating.

We are learning how to shoot.

We are doing fabulous in school.

We celebrated Christmas for the first time in America as a Family of 7.

We love one another.

We won All you can Eat chicken wing contests.

We took 1st place in School runs.  

We decorated Ginger bread houses.

We run Just Because.

We cherish Family.

Nov 26, 2014

What is wrong with me?

I am drawn to the message of Jesus and have been from a young age.

When i think of Jesus, i think of His love, His generosity, His servant's heart, and His hope.  

I want that in my life. 

I need that.

I am so passionately in love with Jesus that my heart aches over what I'm about to write.

I know that I'm a hot mess and i know that i need Jesus.  I know that i need community. The body of believers.  

But why do i feel like such an outsider?  Why do i feel like i never measure up?  A mere student among the Christian professionals?  

Why do i feel like i need my defenses always up?

Why do we have to pretend like we have it all together?  All the time.

Why do we all have to align ourselves with right wing politics?  

Why do we have to judge one another because of our political views, social media posts, or traditions?  

Why do i feel like i have to walk on eggshells?  Why do i feel that i can't be who i really am?

Why can't i bring my hurts, habits and hang ups to the alter and share them with believers?  


I know I'm not the only one facing this discontentment.  

I always thought that people who stopped going to church were giving up on God, but now i wonder if they are just giving up on the body of believers.  

Giving up on people just like me.  They were tired of simply wanting to be heard.  

Wanting to say, "I am hurting and I need Jesus."  

But i was too busy to hear.

If you speak out about this, you're accused of bashing the body.  

I am simply saying, the struggle is real.  The flock is leaving.  

Maybe i'm wrong in feeling the way i feel. But i do know, i'm not alone.

Jesus, bring revival and let it start with me. 

Nov 24, 2014


This year marks our first year as a family of 7.  I am blessed beyond measure to mother these 5 gifts of mine.  

I am thankful that my kids haven't realized that i have absolutely no idea what i'm doing.  Parenting is hard!

I am thankful for seasons of loneliness because it is spiritually powerful.  It forces me to push beyond fear as i seek the community that i need.

I am thankful for my husband that is the calm to my chaos.

I am thankful for Netflix which allows me to watch 5 seasons in one month.

I am thankful that my kiddos are self sufficient.  Gone are the days of wiping little butts or buckling car seats.  

I am thankful for prayer.  It has taken me over 25 years to realize that God wants me to talk to him simply about everything.  Nothing elaborate.

I am thankful for Thirst busters.  My most favorite thing ever!!  I will drive 5 miles out of  my way for good Diet Coke.

I am thankful for Super Walmart.  I hate that place, but i have the money to walk in there and buy groceries.  So many people do not have that luxury.  

I am thankful when my children see me in a crowded room, they ALL light up with a smile.  They still want to be around me.  I know this season will end soon.

I am thankful that i get to see the excitement of Christmas on these 2 faces this year.  

Nov 14, 2014

1 year with Joseph and what have i learned?

I still can not believe it's been one year that we have been sleeping under the same roof.  One year that we stepped onto that plane boarding Uganda to become a family of 7.

What a year it's been!

I stand in awe of the young man that Joseph is growing into. Watching the bond that Joseph and Brenda have melts my heart.  Hearing Brenda tease her big brother or him telling her stories about Uganda remind me of why we are on this journey.

As difficult as some days are, they are completely beautiful.  Hard but glorious.  Messy but redemptive.

What have i learned this year?

1.  I have learned that I have absolutely no idea what i'm doing as a parent most days.  What worked last month has already gone out the window this month.  We are truly a work in progress.

2.  My relationship with Micah is the single most important parenting tool i have.  We are a united front most days.  The kids find stability in that.  Life may be crazy and chaotic, but they know Dad will always back up what Mom says.  And vice versa.  The kids know that disrespect will NOT be tolerated in our home.  

3.  Despite artificially twinning my oldest and middle daughter, we have had no issues.  At all. I love to see the bond that my younger girls have.  They are truly best friends.

4.  Despite reading every adoption book out there, when an issue arises, i draw a blank.  

5.  This year has been very lonely.  Simply, people do not get the journey we are on.  It's hard to protect our family's privacy and share our challenges. 

6.  Brenda and Joseph's adoption journeys have been completely different.  
Different ages + different genders = different issues.  
Adopting a 7 year old was a piece of cake compared to a 12 year old.  A 7 year old little girl wants to sit and snuggle.  A 12 year old boy wants a fist bump.  

7.  I need to make an effort to praise my children more.  So often, i get caught up in what my children are not doing right.  I have learned genuine praise builds self esteem in all children.  Praise is Important to raising a confident child. I am a work in progress.  

8.  I love my children more than anything.  They bring me so much joy.  I love to watch them play and hear them laugh.  I love to watch their personalities unfold.  I love to see them grow and flourish. They truly are my greatest blessings from Jesus.

9.  My heart breaks for my children because i can't fix what breaks their hearts.  I can't fill the void in their life.  I will never replace their mother, nor do i want to.  I can simply pray for their hearts and for Jesus to fill in the gaps that i fail them.

10.  Prayer.  It is so important.  It's the glue that holds this family together.