Growing your family: advice needed

I got an email today from a family who will soon begin doing foster care for a sibling group of 6, ages 9 years down to 9 months, with the goal of eventually adopting them.  They already have three children at home, ages, 12, 10 and 8, whom the mother is homeschooling.  They won’t be able to homeschool the older 3 ‘new’ kids until the adoption becomes final.  She wrote wondering if I knew anyone who’d adopted and homeschooled a large sibling group, as she is seeking advice with the transition.  I’m sharing below what I wrote to her, and then I hope anyone with insight will also share advice in comments.

 

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I’d focus on keeping it really simple at first. Plan to give everyone at least a month or two off school, so that you’ll have less to do in the beginning and can really focus on getting to know these new kids.  When you get back into school, begin with only the most basic subjects, like reading, writing and math.  It might be a blessing that some of the kids will be in another school for awhile, as you may appreciate having time with fewer kids in the home needing you during the school day.

Make a simple schedule for the bare minimum of daily to-do’s, with a few simple chores for each child. Try to allow everyone lots of sleep, including you!  If possible, give everyone an hour a day of alone time, either in the form of a nap for little ones, or just rest, quiet play and reading for older ones. Find some time alone with your ‘old’ kids every now and then too– it will be an enormous adjustment for them. Don’t feel bad about leaning on educational videos and Sesame Street more than usual for awhile. Adjustment takes lots of energy!

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OK, folks, what other adjustment advice do you have for this mama?  It would be especially helpful to hear from folks who’ve adopted sibling groups and older kids, but really anyone who’s mothering 4 or more kids has experience that may be encouraging and beneficial.  So feel free to chime in!

 

Related links:

Homeschooling: what I wish I’d known

Homeschooling newly adopted kids

How adoption affects siblings

{ 15 Comments }

  1. I saw this and was really interested. We are also in process of bringing in a sibling group of 4 into our homeschool family. I like the advice you already gave. We do not have the children yet and so we are homeschooling a lot right now with the goal of slowing way down for a while. I will be praying for this transition for your family. We are not planning on homeschooling the group until each kids espresses a desire(they are all school age) we feel that it will a huge transition as it is and school may be a norm for them for a while. I know they will eventually want to be a part of the fun. I do not want to force it though. This is something I have thought about that you might want to consider. We have adopted 2 but they were much younger so it was just natural to them to join the others in homeschooling. Anyway, I am curious to hear all the advice you get, I doubt there are to many out there with experience in this area:) What are you doing for vehicles? Those are the issues we are dealing with right now. LOL

    • Kim,
      I’m so thankful to Mary for taking the time to help me seek advice. I told my husband, even though the internet isn’t always the greatest, isn’t it awesome that we can reach out through this “vehicle” and find a community to glean information from, as well as encouragement. We don’t necessarily have a lot of people to ask who have had experience in this situation. In answer to your question, we purchased a new suburban that seats 9, less than a year ago. At the time we never expected our family to grow this large, but God had other plans. Anyway, for a temporary fix, we are going to install another seat in the back of the suburban which will then seat 12. It will only be temporary due to leg room and still not 100% comfortable with the safety aspect. However, I haven’t necessarily liked the safety reviews of the 12-15 passenger vans…but this looks like the only avenue we will be able to take at this point. My bio kids think we should purchase a huge limo so they can have a table in the middle and play games. :) They’re too funny!!! Good luck with your new little ones.

      • We are putting a seat in our excursion, I am with you about not being sure about a van. I think the kiddos might have the right idea! I know what you mean by the large family, when we were told after our second bio we could not have more I was 23 and thought I was done. I am 41 now with 2 grown, 1 in heaven and all the rest at home. If anyone would have told me then what I would be doing now…… LOL!

  2. You may want to know about a church in northcentral Minnesota where there was a large amount of adoptions by churchgoers there (story in national magazine) and recall a number of sibling adoptions and most were homeschoolers too. In looking it up it was Memorial Drive Bible Fellowshp in Askov, Minnesota.

  3. When we did foster care for the 3 we adopted they told me I couldn’t homeschool then. Turns out social services didn’t know anything. There were no laws in NC keeping me from it. Don’t know about other states but that was our other situation. When our 3 moved in it was summer and we did a unit study for my older 2 bio and the older 1. I read a book that was in the time period, we got about 40 books from the library and I set them loose. It showed me a lot about what my daughter was (and was not) capable of. I would read a lot to them, definitely teach about chores and expectations, and spend time organizing. My oldest came with bags and bags of clothes and toys and we had to spend time going through and finding a place for them, sizing, etc. Most days it was all I could do to get dinner on the table for all of us and I considered that a success! Lower expectations, for you and for your kids. Do field trips. Don’t check all their schoolwork. Yup, I said it. I didn’t always (still don’t) check all of everything. But they don’t know that :-) Maybe set up “teams” with grouping an older foster, older bio and younger kid together to do activities, cleaning, etc. And sleep. Everyone needs sleep. The hour in the afternoon still stands in our house after 23 years of raising children. Mama needs it! Good luck to this family.

    • You can in Texas but you won’t get a social worker to tell you that.

      • Jeri,
        Thank you…I will definitely look into it. We just want to make the kids feel like they’re part of the family right from the beginning.

  4. (Comment from facebook)

    Carmen wrote: “Just a thought: I don’t know what state this family lives in, and maybe homeschooling really isn’t a possiblity, but have they actually looked into it or are they just making an assumption? In many states it IS legal to homeschool a foster child. Here in WA it is legal and certainly possible. In fact, there is NO schooling required at all until the quarter a child turns 8. Anyway, I know this doesn’t help with the particular advice being sought, just thought I’d throw it out there.”

  5. I would encourage her to take a look at the book “Managers Of Their Home” from Titus2.com. It’s a great book that will help her figure out a schedule in order to homeschool and yet get chores and other things done too (the author has eight children). It will help her manage her time. I was only homeschooling two kids and yet this book helped me tremendously!

  6. We adopted 6 kids from the Philippines a few months ago and brought them home on Christmas Day, 2011. We also have 2 bio kids and 2 more from the same orphanage. A total of 10 kids at home: 6, 8, 10, 11, 14, 15, 15, 16, 16, 19 yrs.

    Here’s my suggestions:
    1.) Have very low expectations on yourself and the kids for a couple months! At almost 4 months we finally feel like we’re doing more than just staying “afloat”.

    2.)Let others help! Our church provided dinners for a while and other friends helped too. Consider this a great opportunity for others to “go near” the orphans as the Bible says we should. This will encourage a heart to care for orphans.

    3.)Get plenty of sleep- we were exhausted a lot at first and everyone had an hour of quiet time each afternoon.

    4.) Allow your priorities to change for a while. A super clean house and healthy meals aren’t as important as bonding with the newest kids.

    5.) Make sure plenty of time is provided to each kids- even the originals! They’ve sacrificed a lot and need to feel like their a part of the adventure too but not forgotten.

    In regards to homeschooling, five of the newest and 2 of the originals are all home schooled using an online public school in our state. This has been great for our newest kids to bond with us. The online school has really worked with us by providing about 30 hours per week of in-home tutoring. That’s been a huge help with some special needs our kids have and for English help too. Our 3 youngest are in a “brick and mortar” elementary public school.

    Enjoy your big family- we love ours!

  7. It is great hearing about other families walking in or about to walk in your shoes!

    We brought home 4 siblings (ages 11,12,14,16) from Ethiopia 4 months ago. WE are hoping for their two sisters to join us soon!
    We added them to our bio bunch (ages 5 months, 6, 8, 9, 11).
    I have to echo everything Mary said! That is exactly how we approached it. Life goes on a break – except from church. Do not say yes to ANY committments or you will be like I was and forget you committed to them (yikes!). Focus on family – good food, lots of great sleep – early bedtimes, lots of time together playing games, reading books, Bible study and family worship. Short field trips are great and DAILY, scheduled quiet times are so important. Everyone in a big family needs a break from one another. It is so good for mental stability to have at least an hour of quiet in the house and no one fighting or touching each other during that time :o ).

    Our kids were coming from another culture (as I am guessing yours will too, even if they share the same lanugage) and they needed security and stability and a positive role in the family. Chores are great, implemented at the beginning…giving each a way to contribute and to succeed at something.

    As far as schooling goes, I wish we could have taken 2 full months off, but our new kiddos were anxious to get going. So we have thrown them in the mix…adding them to what we are already doing. Taking things more slowly and allowing time for discussion and questions and also time to evaluate their individual levels of math and English. We use My Father’s World and have incorporated the children into our group studies and then given them time for individual work at their own level. I would start everyone a bit lower than where you actually assess their abilities. Give them time to do well and feel good about it. They certainly don’t need to know what “grade level” they are working in. Focus on relationships first. Everyone’s relationship with God, with all siblings, with you the parents, with themselves…do school, but use it as an avenue to accomplish this. School is the lesser goal. They will be educated along the way as you become a family.

    School, for us, is going well, overall. A challenge to be sure, even when all attitudes are in the right place. Doubling your classroom is not a small task. But I wouldn’t do it otherwise. These children need the bonding that being together 24/7 will allow.

    When your many, new needy children are home, making your first/bio children a priority is quite a challenge but so important. This is part of the balance that takes so much time. Being the pivotal person (with dad) for so many individuals all needing your time and attention is honestly something that seems impossible most days. Thankfully we serve a God who grants us amazing grace to fill in all of those cracks we can’t fill on our own.

    Glad to help in any way if I can…praying for you!
    amy (at) mesquitefurnitureoftexas (dot) com

  8. We adopted a sibling group of seven from foster care (ages 2-11 at the time). At the time, we didn’t have other kids being homeschooled (not old enough for public school). While there are no restrictions about homeschooling foster kids here (WA), we felt it was a good idea to keep them in school while in foster care. Not a battle we wanted to fight.
    They were in public school for 2 years before adoption was final. Here are just a couple of thoughts because every situation is so different.
    1. We got a lot of flak for not making sure our kids got all their homework in while in public school. There were a few reasons for this…first, our kids came home after being challenged all day (they were behind in school). That, along with all the emotional issues, meant evenings were tough. Our first priority was to become a family. Establishing this we felt was essential to future success as a family, but also academically.
    2. We are now on our third homeschool year. We are still focused on mostly the basics, though we are just now starting to feel like other areas are coming along. Give yourself a lot of time to adjust, especially when they’ve been used to public school.
    3. We are so glad that when our kids first came, we really laid down our expectations for chores, house rules, etc. I remember when my husband took them on a tour (though we’d actually had the 2 youngest for a while) I wondered if we were being too strict up front. But our kids have thrived on the structure. It was something they would continually comment about to social workers – they loved it after earlier chaos.
    4. On a side note, we found actually meeting the kids at the bus stop with food when they got home was a huge help for the evening. Plus, I always pretty much had dinner done or in the oven before the big kids got home. This was because of (5)
    5. A big issues for us was teaching them how to solve problems with each other. We had a chart that we would go through daily and my husband and I were on constant alert for a while. I really couldn’t leave the area for five minutes without a problem.

    Mary is free to pass on my email if you have other questions! It can be a long road, and definitely all-consuming at first. But we are so thankful for our family!

  9. I wanted to say a very heartfelt thanks to all who have responded. I told my husband last night it is so nice to know others are willing to share in this adventure and offer ideas/wisdom from their own experiences. God has really shown our family HE is right in the middle of this adventure and HE will provide all we need. Thanks again and I will continue to check to see if anyone has new advice. So far I’ve taken from each reading…keep it simple..low expectaions in the beginning…structure/organization (my challenge area)…and rest.

  10. Our three girls came home within 6 months of each other…although not biologically related, it was a huge transition for our family for 12 months or so. School was and is an issue for us as we continue to seek out the best fit for our family. We home schooled for the first 5 months to work on reading skills and basic language stuff. We slowly transitioned to public school the next two months (2 hrs a day, half day and then full day). We finished our first year with full time school for 4 months. This year we home schooled for 6 1/2 months until we realized that it was the worst thing for everyone despite my strong desire to keep everyone home. We are using public school as a safe place for these next three months and then moving to private christian school for summer and next year. I feel like we should have made a better plan from the start but sometimes these things don’t work like you think or want them to. I wish all my kids could be at home but some just cannot not….and I’m starting to be ok with that. We are a home schooling, private schooling, public special ed schooling kind of family!

    L

  11. We do foster care in WA. We currently have 5 kids total. I thought we could only homeschool with a court order, but I do know foster families who are doing it.

    If your foster kids will not be changing school districts, I would definitely leave them in school through the end of this year even if you find you have the option to HS right away. It will help them with the transition to your home. By the end of the summer, you will know if you will be ready to HS all of them. Some may want, and need, the break from family and want to go to public school. And, your bio kids may need the break from them as well!

    Good luck!