Homeschooling Through Adoption Transition

The following post is written by Sharla of The Chaos and the Clutter:  

homeschooling through adoption

There had been seasons before in our homeschool, seasons of four in diapers, seasons of foster parenting, seasons of stress, seasons of sickness, even seasons of loss. During those seasons, I had adjusted plans accordingly. Sometimes, I had just accepted that we would do less. Other times, we homeschooled through the summer or added Saturday mornings to the schedule to catch up.

I expected this to be no different. We had adopted three times before, though always little ones who had come to us as babies when we were fostering them and transitioned fairly naturally and seamlessly into our family. We had also added more than one at a time before during our eight years as foster parents. It actually wasn’t unusual back then to go from parenting four kids one day to six the next with a few minutes notice. I thought that this time, we should be able to adjust quickly and get back to our normal routine. I expected this adoption transition to be manageable and I thought that we were fairly prepared.

You can see where I’m going with this, right?!

Our adoption of two children from Ethiopia during the crisis of our adoption agency going bankrupt and having to travel to bring them home amidst media scrutiny five months before we had expected to was not something we could have prepared ourselves for.

We had studied about and had experience with attachment issues, but we were not anticipating one of the kids having full blown Reactive Attachment Disorder and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. We had plenty of experience with special needs parenting as three of our other kids have special needs, but we did not know that we would be adding a daughter with PTSD, RAD, severe cognitive delays, speech delays, and a previously unknown hearing loss.

We knew that the kids would probably have fungus and parasites and we knew that neither of them would be able to speak or understand any English, but we did not really understand how critically those things would affect our everyday lives.

In short, we did not get back from Ethiopia with our new 7 year old son and 4 year old daughter and get back into the routine of homeschooling. We got back in the summer and I had a hard time adjusting. I just couldn’t bounce back the way I had through other transitions. I was having a hard time just getting out of bed and putting one foot in front of the other. These two new little people needed me so much. My other kids were adjusting too and they needed me more than ever. I didn’t feel equipped.

Before the adoption, the quote “God does not call the qualified. He qualifies the called.” had come to be my mission statement or at least my comforting statement during the adoption wait, so I tried to cling to it again, but I was barely hanging on. It really was only through grasping onto God that I could even face each day. I didn’t realize it until much later when I was able to look back on that time, but I think I was suffering from post adoption depression.

It was a dark time. As September loomed, the thought of adding homeschool to my days that already felt overwhelming was enough to make me feel hopeless. I felt that I had no choice though and although I had not done any homeschool planning and although two of my kids still spoke no English, I attempted to homeschool six of my kids that fall. To say that it failed miserably is an understatement!

It took many months of frustration, tears, and unhappy children with an unhappy mom for me to realize that what I was doing wasn’t working. No one was really learning anything. When I was able to see clearly, I threw out the homeschooling and focused instead on creating shared family experiences, fun and fostering attachment. It worked.

Soon, everyone began to relax. I let go of the guilt about what I “should” be doing and instead embraced the reality that letting homeschooling go for that season in our life was what all of my kids needed. It was what I needed.

Did I sometimes still worry that they wouldn’t catch up? Did I wonder if I was failing them? Did I panic about the future at times? Yes.

But I knew that we were exactly where we needed to be. We had followed God’s lead into the adoption and I would have to trust Him and rely on Him for the future.

If you find yourself in a season where homeschooling is impossible, go back to the basics. Love on your kids. Hug them. Praise them. Encourage them. Be with them. Gather them around and read to them. Play with them. Pray with them. Enjoy them.

The rest can wait.


SharlaSharla Kostelyk is the mother of seven, two through the miracle of birth and five through the miracle of adoption. She is a homeschooler, adoption advocate and the founder of Adoption Magazine. Sharla is the author of That These Two Will Live and Shield: A Framework of Self-Care for Foster and Adoptive Families. She blogs about finding joy amidst the chaos at The Chaos and The Clutter


  1. I, too, thought we’d be able to handle whatever came our way with adoption, because we were doing what God called us to, right? Ha. Yeah, we’re still in that barely hanging on phase over a year later.

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