Homeschooling and Foster Care

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by Guest Writer Lauren

My oldest was a newly fledged five year old. It was the year that we had to enroll him in a Kindergarten. We had been, for lack of a better word, “homeschooling” for preschool and loving it. What I didn't want, going forward, was to isolate ourselves from our community. I was worried that if we kept going, if we kept homeschooling, it would be for all the wrong reasons. I was also worried that if we sent him to public school, if we changed things because the financial burden was suddenly minimal, that it would be for more wrong reasons. I was worried we were going to be sending him off on some save the world mission. Something not fair of us to ask.

Basically, any way you looked at it I was worried.

We seemingly had two choices. To enroll him in the local school, the one that tipped above the poverty line, or to keep him home, in our nice little bubble. I couldn't decide. I'll never forget the day we sat in the car after touring a homeschool enrichment program. After more lengthy conversation, I told my husband I couldn't decide. I asked him, point blank, to tell me what to do.

As a wannabe feminist, it was terrifying. He said, “Let's homeschool. If it sucks we'll just send him to school later.”

So, we did. We continued to talk and work our way through what we were hoping and wanting.

We decided (together, I should add) that our goals as a family and our vision for his childhood included him staying at home with me. We would later figure out the curriculum and ideology but for now we just wanted more time at home. And time we had.

I'm increasingly grateful for it as the years go on. Our hearts have always had an inkling of aching for more and a little after this life decision we made another. Little by little, email by email, orientation after orientation, in what felt like eternity but now seems like a blink, we were certified Foster Parents. The dichotomy never really occurred to us. Taking our kids out of the system while at the same time opening our homes to the kids incredibly deep in a different one. It seemed to fit all those initial worries going into the educational system. About isolation and community and vision. It was too much to ask my five year old to save the world on his own but it was not too much of us to do it together.

I laugh at myself now. I never really quite realized the impact foster care would have on our schedule. Vision or no vision. The family visits and doctor appointments and home visits and therapy (both in and out of the home). The behavior curve and emotional needs of everyone. How changing any one thing can alter your rhythm incredibly. How important rhythm is for a homeschool.

I know you are curious as to how it works for us. We've been in the thick of it for three years now. Somedays I'm curious too. Especially on bad days.

Usually after an initial placement we tuck into our little home. Cancel classes and events. We work slowly through our books while we coordinate with the county. We do all the things any foster family does. We just do it together. You see, for us education is our life. It's not the math textbook or the penmanship. It's not history or civics. It's our life as a whole. And that life includes, on a daily basis, kids that need a home that loves them.

We have a saying in our home: “the baby is the lesson.” And that applies to our foster care commitments too. “The system is the lesson.” A lesson in patience. In hospitality. In sharing space and time and materials. It is a lesson in community. In homelessness. In the effects of drug use. In the prison system. It is a lesson in a family unit. A lesson in the pain that comes from a broken one.

A lesson in Grace. Overwhelming Grace. A lot of lessons for all of us.

While, at times, foster care feels more disruptive to our homeschool than conducive. It works for us because we've chosen, very intentionally, to do it as a unit. That means driving to visits together. That means the kids are home during home visits. Sometimes that means meetings in public with homeless bio parents. It means therapy waiting rooms together. It means making beds and laying out stuffies and showing the house to a new friend, together. It means tears on the stoop, together. It means welcoming their little brother home, in the middle of the week day, together.

The end of it is, the day to day is the simple stuff. Anyone can pick up a curriculum and give their kids an adequate education. Math will get done. Writing will happen. Books will be read. History will be memorized. The hard stuff is the life stuff. The overwhelming and confusing stuff. For that I'm beyond grateful that we get to do it all together, as a family, with bountiful time and curious hearts and open arms.