Trying to sum up 19 years of experience homeschooling both biological and adopted children is a daunting task, but I’ll do my best! Our homeschool journey has not always been an easy one. Actually, it’s never been easy because living and teaching children 24/7 is stressful. When we adopted a sibling group of three in 2000 we didn’t know how much our lives would be turned upside down. Parenting children with Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) presented challenges beyond our imagination. Yet, we have soldiered through and are entering our last years of homeschooling with our youngest two.

Here is my best advice for you mothers homeschooling children with Reactive Attachment Disorder. I also think these ideas can apply to many other special needs children (You can read more about our journey parenting wounded children through my adoption archives).

What are your goals for your child? What do you want your children to look like/be/do/experience by the time they graduate from high school?

I have an overall plan for my children with goals for their lives at the end of their homeschool education. For every single one of them, I desire that their relationship to Christ be more important than any other and that they will walk by faith in determining God’s plan for their future. We try to achieve that goal through Bible study, personal alone time with God, conversation, church worship and activities, friendships with other believers and mission trips, to list a few. This is not the concentration in our homeschool, but it sets the foundation for what we believe is most important.

Relationship or education?

As much as your RAD child wants to push you away and sabotage it, this is the most important aspect of your child’s life. Learning about relationships and living with others is a key skill for adulthood.

For me, this has meant stepping back many (many, many, many) times and asking God what is most important for this day. Is it beating those math facts into their heads one more time (and sometimes the answer is yes) or is it about stopping what we’re doing to address the heart issues? To try once again to overcome the fear of abandonment, the debilitating shame and anxiety that encompass their hearts. Letting the child know in that moment that he/she has my complete and total attention. Praying over them one more time that they will take to heart the blessing they are from God, chosen by Him for our family, innocent victims of a fallen world.

Strive for excellence but accept limitations.

Whether your child is in a public, private or homeschool, the teacher can only pour into your child as much as the child can hold. Realizing that your child may not be capable of higher math or research papers is a part of the process. Just as there are classes for students with special needs in public school your child may have unique needs that you are best equipped to address.

I want all my kids to be lifelong learners, to know how to research and experiment and discover where their gifts/interests lie. I want them to be godly, loving people who I will always desire to experience life with. If my kids accomplish my primary goal I believe they will be all these things.

Don’t compare.

No one else is walking in your shoes so do not set yourself up for failure by comparing your homeschool to your neighbor’s down the street. They may participate in a classical education program, play every sport and at least one instrument while you’re just hoping your child will get out of bed without screaming at you. Yes, I know from personal experience that homeschooling a wounded child can be immeasurably different from homeschooling a biological child. In our situation I discovered that realizing this allowed me to make necessary changes to find out what worked best.

Let go of some of the control battles.

Realize as your child is healing (and yes, healing is possible) you will have a constant push/pull, especially with homeschooling. Your kids will probably sense how badly you want them to learn so they will make every day a struggle. It’s just one more opportunity to show they’re not going to do it your way.

How am I supposed to light a fire for learning in my children when I wonder if they’d rather light the house on fire with me in it? It’s frustrating, exhausting, disheartening and stressful. I have to ask myself if it’s really worth the struggle today over learning the parts of speech and algebraic equations (or in earlier years, writing their name legibly and pronouncing a three letter word correctly). The answer may be that it is because we have to push through. Diligence and perseverance are qualities we value highly. But those qualities apply just as much to diligence at winning my children’s hearts and perseverance to love them in spite of their anger and disrespect and manipulative games. If you make every issue a control battle no one wins. Pick your battles wisely.

Teach your children about real life.

Being at home allows you to teach your children in ways they learn best. Real life learning is essential for children, but even more so with our RAD kids. Give them the practical skills of taking care of themselves, earning and managing their money and practicing the decision making process. Grocery shopping, meal planning, cooking, cleaning and laundry all count as life skills. Every day is an opportunity to teach my kids how to make wise choices and pick themselves up when they fall.

What does this look like for each child? Every child is different. Their learning styles are different. Their emotional makeup is different. Their life experiences are different. Their strengths and weaknesses are different. My relationship with each of them is different. My hopes, dreams and  expectations for each of them are different. Part of homeschooling is knowing your child, showing them Jesus, learning when to push and when to back off. Realizing when they’ve done their best or played dumb to push away. There is no perfect curriculum, no perfect teacher, no perfect homeschool. Seeking Him in my inadequacies I allow God to teach me and mold me into a mother that can reach my child’s heart while stimulating the God-given mind and abilities he has been given.

marty waldenMarty Walden is passionate about sharing her life, faith, dreams and adventures as a DIY, crafty, bargain hunting, homeschooling, memory keeping mom of both biological and adopted children. You can connect with Marty through her blog Marty’s Musings, email, facebook, twitter, pinterest or google +.

Publication date: June 12, 2013