Homeschooling Your Adopted Child: 8 Steps to Get Started

February 22, 2017 0 Comments

“There is no school equal to a decent home
and no teacher equal to a virtuous parent.”

~ Gandhi

ˈhōmˌsko͞oling/ (noun):
the education of children at home by their parents.

The definition of homeschooling is fairly straightforward, but families who choose homeschooling as the best option for their adopted or special needs children can face some unique obstacles and challenges.

I believe homeschooling is a wonderful option for many children so, as a former elementary teacher and homeschool mama of nine years, I am sharing some helpful tips, answering a handful of FAQs, and listing some great homeschool resources and links.

I pray this post will be helpful to all of the homeschool moms out there and also to those considering homeschooling.

Homeschool Tips and Getting Started

1. Weigh the pros and cons.

The Pros and Cons of Homeschooling
Homeschooling a Child with Special Needs – Advantages
Homeschooling a Child with Special Needs – Disadvantages
10 Reasons You Could Never Homeschool (And Why You Really Can!)
5 Pros and Cons for Homeschooling Older Adopted Children
Homeschooling an Adopted Child: The Whys and Hows
Should You Homeschool Your Special Needs Child?

2. Become familiar with state homeschool laws and requirements and special education provisions.

Know the Homeschool Laws in Your State
Know the Special Education Provisions in Your State
Testing Information
Two Steps for Protecting Your Special Needs Homeschool

3. Determine your homeschool vision and goals.

Planning Your Homeschool Year: Setting a Vision
Homeschool Planning
Goal Setting for Your Homeschool Year
10 Steps for Planning Your Homeschool Year
Setting Homeschool Goals and Knowing Your Purpose

4. Find your child’s learning style.

The Learning Style Quiz
What’s Your Learning Style?
How Do I Learn Best?
What is My Child’s Learning Style?
Left Brain Child Quiz
Is Your Child Right-Brain Oriented?
Chapter 4 of 102 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum (book)
The Way They Learn (book)
The Big What Now Book of Learning Styles (book)

5. Determine your teaching style, educational philosophy, and your child’s learning style.

What’s your homeschool personality?
What is Your Teaching Style?
Chapters 2, 3, & 5 of 102 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum (book)
The Different Ways to Homeschool
Five Homeschooling Styles
Guide to Homeschooling Approaches
Homeschool Philosophies: A Resource List
What Kind of Homeschooler Are You?
The Homeschool Style Quiz
Teaching Method Assessment

6. Seek out and join local and online homeschool support groups.

State and Local Groups:

HSLDA Group Listings Group Listings
Homeschool World Group Listings

Yahoo and Facebook Groups:

Adopt and Homeschool Yahoo group
Homeschoolers with Special Needs Yahoo group
Homeschooling Special Needs Kidz Yahoo group
Special Needs Homeschool Facebook group
Special Needs Homeschooling Facebook group
Homeschooling Adopted Children Facebook group
Adoptive Homeschooling Families Facebook group
Homeschooling Your Children Adopted from China Facebook group
Homeschooling with Connection Facebook group

7. Choose curriculum and begin planning/scheduling.

(This may be the most overwhelming step of all so let me just say upfront – it will be OK!) If your child has previously attended public or private school this is also a good time to read and learn about deschooling.

You might also consider doing a homeschool trial run using a free homeschool curriculum such as Easy Peasy, Ambleside, An Old Fashioned Education, Khan Academy, HippoCampus, CK-12, SAS Curriculum Pathways, or Free World U.

102 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum (book)
Cathy Duffy Homeschool Curriculum Reviews (website companion to book)
7 Scheduling Tips for a Working Homeschool Mom
The Ultimate Guide to Homeschooling for Working Moms
Top 10 Ways to Schedule Your Homeschool Calendar
10 Ways to Create & Maintain Balance
Tweaking Homeschool Curriculum to Fit Your Special Needs Child
What is Deschooling?
How to Transition from Public School to Homeschool
The Truth About Deschooling
Tips for Deschooling
Deschooling: The Rules You Need to Break (parts 1 & 2)

8. The final and most important step – don’t overthink.

One of the biggest advantages of homeschooling is that nothing is set in stone!

10 Things You Need to Know if You’re Homeschooling for the First Time This Year


Q: Can I homeschool my adopted and/or special needs child?

Yes! Homeschooling is legal in all 50 states and parents may homeschool both adopted and special needs children (does not include foster children). Homeschool laws and requirements vary by state so be sure to check the specifications for your state including the special education provisions for your state.

Q: Can my homeschool student qualify for and receive special needs services/therapies (OT, PT, speech) through the public school district?

The short answer is it depends on the state and sometimes even on the district, so you will want to check your state laws as well as district policies.

“IDEA requires public schools to identify, locate, and evaluate children with special needs, whether or not they attend public school. This means that public schools are universally required to offer free evaluations to homeschooled students suspected of having special needs. Additionally, should a student be determined to have special needs that hinder the student’s performance, the public school must convene an IEP team, made up of the student’s parents or guardians and assorted teachers and professionals, to develop an Individualized Education Program (IEP). While homeschooled children with special needs have a right to both evaluation and an IEP, these services are not mandatory and parental consent is required. While an IEP developed at a public school can be of use to a homeschooled student—note that the IEP team cannot order a homeschooled child into public school and must take into account the parent’s decision to homeschool the child when developing the IEP—its usefulness depends largely upon what services the student needs and what services, if any, the school makes available to homeschooled students. ~ CRHE

“About 90% of funding for public school special education programs comes from the state — not the federal government. Although the federal government will not allow its Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) money to go to homeschoolers in ‘homeschool law states,’ the states can distribute their 90% in any way they choose. Some states have enacted laws that provide services to ‘homeschool’ students; these provisions are included in the state summaries on our website. If a state is a ‘private school law state,’ homeschoolers are eligible for services funded by both the federal IDEA program and the state.” ~ HSLDA

Q: Can my homeschooled student participate in public school sports and/or extracurricular activities?

The short answer to this question is also it depends on the state and sometimes even on the district, so again you will want to check your state laws as well as district policies.

From HSLDA: “Homeschool athletes can participate in homeschool and recreational leagues around the country, as well as some private school leagues. One of the biggest debates in the past several years, however, has been whether or not to allow homeschoolers equal access to public school sports leagues. Homeschooler participation in public school activities is usually subject to certain requirements, which are often part of the school’s policy and the state high school athletic association’s bylaws. Although specific requirements vary from state to state, they generally include: 1) being in compliance with the state homeschool law, 2) meeting the same eligibility requirements (residence, age, etc.) as public school students, and 3) submitting verification that the student is passing his or her core subjects. Consequently, the homeschooler may have to provide additional information, such as achievement test scores or periodic academic reports, even if the state’s homeschool statute does not otherwise require them. In states that do not have a specific statute or regulation mandating equal access, individual schools and school districts have the authority to determine whether homeschoolers can participate in public school activities. Policies often vary from district to district. In some cases, districts that would like to allow access are restricted from doing so by the high school athletic association’s bylaws.”

State Laws Concerning Participation of Homeschool Students in Public School Activities (HSLDA)
Homeschool Sports Access by State (CRHE)

Additional Resources

Links and Posts

Homeschooling a Struggling Learner (HSLDA)
NATHHAN National Challenged Homeschoolers Associated Network
Homeschooling Your Internationally Adopted Child (HSLDA)
10 Ideas for Homeschooling Your Adopted Child (NHBO)
Why We Homeschool (NHBO)
Design Your Homeschool
Learn to Read – Special Needs

Books and Supplies

Home Schooling Children with Special Needs (book)
Special Education at Home (book)
Homeschooling Your Struggling Learner(book)
1000 Recommended Apps for Children with Special Needs
School Speciality – Abilitations
Discount School Supply
Learning Resources

Happy homeschooling!


Reluctant Spouses: His Perfect Timing

February 21, 2017 2 Comments

I was ready to adopt long before my husband was. More than ten years longer.

It all started when I watched a documentary about the orphans and orphanages in China. My heart broke and I immediately felt compelled to adopt a little girl from China.

My husband did not feel the same.

I honestly could not understand why he didn’t feel the same. I can say that, because of this disconnect, I felt many emotions over the years. Anger and resentment mostly. But I never gave up hope, and I continued to bring the subject up whenever I could.

We had two small boys (who are now 19 and 22), and I would bring it up around them also. Scott was content with our lives and honestly couldn’t understand why I felt so compelled to adopt. We never discussed it outside of our home, so our families and friends had no idea what was brewing just under the surface at the Mager household.

Over the years I prayed that God would change Scott’s heart or mind. Because let’s face it, one of us had to change.

In the March of 2013 several things “fell” into place.

Our son, Jacob who is soon to be 23, went to Africa his spring semester of his freshmen year of college to serve as a missionary. He would be helping a church plant, working with locals to start bible studies and work in orphanages. My sister had a beautiful baby boy on March 20th of 2013. We were visiting her and facetiming Jacob in Africa. When we got home, Scott looked at me and said, “Do you still want to adopt?”

I couldn’t believe my ears!

So, I immediately started checking into adoption agencies. We didn’t tell anyone we were looking into it, not even our boys. Adoption is one of the hardest and most rewarding thing we have ever done, there is no way I could have done it without him by my side the entire way.

When we decided on what agency, we did have a discussion with Ryan to make sure he was on board. We facetimed Jacob once a week. We were on our weekly call when he was telling us about his work in the orphanage, then he stopped, looked up at his (through the screen) and asked, “When are you going to adopt? You aren’t getting any younger you know.” We just started laughing and told him we had talked with several agencies and the ball was rolling!

Scott said that it would truly have to be by the hands of God, because we had no extra money for the adoption expenses. And man, was it ever! The entire process took around 27 months from the day we filled out the application with our agency. Some things took longer and some things happened quickly.

We got the call on President’s Day in 2015. They sent the email of her pictures…. we were in love! When we realized her birthdate, we both sat down and sobbed. You see, she was born on March 1, 2013… the month my husband asked me that one little question that changed everything.

All in God’s perfect timing.

We traveled in June 2015 and met our beautiful daughter face to face on June 8th. She became a Magers forever on June 9th when we signed the adoption papers.

She amazes us every day and she was so worth the wait!

– guest post by Denise

Meant for This: Parenting Children with Complex Heart Defects

February 20, 2017 0 Comments

I want to start by saying that our miracle children astound me. We love them personally and uniquely. Their birthparents are revered in our home; we thank God they had the courage, strength, and compassion to have them and keep them safe.

I married my college sweetheart. Kyle is way more incredible than me; I serve a gracious, good God! What a gift I’ve been given in my husband of nearly ten years.

We worked a couple of years before deciding we wanted to become parents. We had a season of struggling to conceive followed by a new and exciting desire to adopt. I mean, switching gears to adoption sparked something so new in us!

We tried for almost five years to conceive a biological child, and then stopped. All of our stress slowly melted away. God had a plan for us all along; we only had to let go of our preconceived notions of family to allow for His agenda to come alive.

Over the course of those five years, over three were spent in infertility treatments and we had one miscarriage. During infertility, it was like we couldn’t grieve like we felt we needed to because there wasn’t an actual loss of life. After miscarrying, we felt free to grieve, and God soon changed the desires of our hearts.

Our dream shifted; we knew adoption was the right path for our family.

Looking back, I feel beyond blessed that we experienced the pain of not having a biological child. I now feel able to deeply, uniquely empathize with our children’s inability to be with their birth families. Also, I would not know and love my incredible kids if it were not for that season of infertility. It pushed us to go through all of the hurdles of adoption.

Willow and Jonas are uniquely our little loves; no one else would ever do!

When we found out (each time) that they had complex CHDs, we grieved. We grieved as a parent does when anything is physically wrong with their child. It also caused us to develop a ferocious protectiveness in our love for them.

Although we don’t want our kids to walk through sadness or pain, we believe God does not make mistakes. There is purpose in the pain. He is not only the Creator but the Great Physician; these heart ‘defects’ are not at all defects but are a meaningful trial meant for my children and for us.

We look at our children and see how perfectly and wonderfully God made them. Sometimes I cringe when people say to an expectant mom, “Who cares if it’s a boy or a girl, as long as they’re healthy!” I understand the sentiment, and at the same time I am so profoundly changed by watching my heart warriors fight to live. Their complex anatomy is difficult, no doubt, but it is purposeful and beautiful. They inspire me and so many others, and we wouldn’t change one thing about them.

The more I know about congenital heart disease, the more my mind is blown at how hard they fought before joining our family. Specifically, when we grapple to understand our kids’ complex hearts, we all – cardiologists included – are taken aback. There is a resilience to my kids that can only come from a hard start, physically and emotionally. Spend any time with them, and you’ll understand! Watching them soar as they continue to grow has been the joy and privilege of our lives.

At the beginning, we were not open to special needs. We were not open to toddler adoption either. It’s funny to me and so relieving now that my kids are in our arms. God taught us by moving us toward our children in baby steps.

You can’t conceive?
Consider these infertility treatments.
Your heart isn’t in it anymore and the loss of miscarriage has you aching?
Think about growing your family through adoption.
You don’t think waiting for infant adoption is the right path for you two?
Pray about international adoption.
At peace with adopting a toddler from somewhere like China?
Consider a child who needs serious medical intervention.

The decision process to adopt two toddlers with complex CHDs was obviously slow and cautiously maneuvered, but that’s about how it felt (only much more gradual). I cannot imagine if we had not taken the risk. I never, ever want to imagine the alternate life we could be living.

We believe God aligned all four of our circumstances to bring us to each other and give this gift of restorative, unconditional love. We live the good life with one another, and we fight all our battles together in this household.

Our daughter, Willow, is four years old and now thriving. Willow Mei had L-TGA with various other heart defects as well that allowed her to survive nine months with no interventions at all. Every doctor that meets her calls her a ‘fighter’. I mean to say, she doesn’t want them touching her! That fight she has is what kept her alive.

When we met, her oxygen ranged from 65-80, but you wouldn’t have known she was sick. She can make anyone smile! She’s intelligent and very verbal, and she has an independent strength that somehow mixes with her deep dependence on us as her parents.

When we said yes to her, she was 16 months old and her file didn’t look great. We were terrified we would finally have a child only to watch her suffer and fail to thrive. We got off the phone with the cardiologist who viewed her file, and we both cried.

We knew they were the tears of a mommy and a daddy.

When we said yes, we thought her best chance would be getting a Fontan surgery which is considered palliative since it would’ve meant only one ventricle in her heart. She had surgery one year after we adopted her. Her incredible surgeon and her team were able to give her a Hemi-Mustard Rastelli, so our girl now has one and a half ventricles! Her energy increased majorly after the season of recovery from surgery. This was a dream come true, and it was no cake walk of a surgery. It was absolutely terrifying.

Our cardiologist had assured us that she would absolutely have some complications; the likelihood of no complications was very slim. By the grace of God, the complications that we had during those long hours of her surgery were complications you’d prefer – if you had to choose in her scenario.

Once she was off the ventilator, she aspirated into her lungs, and we had two very scary events in ICU post surgery. She was re-intubated, and we were all slightly traumatized. She withdrew from that point on at the hospital, and not until we got home did we start to see little peeks of our precious girl’s vibrant personality again.

About four to six months after surgery, once we could breathe again and our girl was mended, we began to notice something…. We became incredibly jumpy regarding her safety. We would lash out at one another after little accidents occurred which was highly unusual for us. We began to understand that we had some minor medical PTSD from watching our daughter fight for her life.

Our jumpiness at anything related to her safety was our way of processing that difficult surgery.

Once we understood what was happening, we were able to communicate about it respectfully and eventually we felt less and less of those effects. I want to be frank about this, because it’s something that happens after long hospital stays. We were only at the hospital for twelve days, and then we had to be re-hospitalized for pleural effusions. I can only imagine how much more intense it is for those who have longer stays.

However, just like you can imagine, we were able to see life with new appreciation. We thanked God for the breath in our lungs… for the beating of our daughter’s heart. We didn’t care about material things, and we didn’t care about trivial matters anymore.

Every single day, we felt such gratitude for our doctors, for our daughter’s healing, and for God’s hand on her life.

We were given perspective, and that’s a beautiful thing to have.

After walking through the fire with our daughter during her open heart surgery nearly two years ago, we didn’t anticipate adopting another child with such a complex need. However, we were open to minor heart defects and decided that knowing and trusting our cardiology team in and of itself was a great reason to become parents to another child with this need. We had a team ready and waiting to go! But – as if we could ‘order’ the Creator around – we requested (through our social worker) that the need be not as serious.

His need was nearly identical, at least from our untrained perspectives.

Our sweet son is curious, and he’s a hugger! He wants to do everything his big sister does, and he is rarely fearful which is a tremendous blessing during medical appointments. If we find something out of place, we know who quietly moved it.

They complement one another so well. When we first adopted Willow, she was learning words at a rapid pace but not wanting to move around much. He’s been the exact opposite; he’s all over! She teaches him so much, from the alphabet to the concept of family – and he has taught her to be brave and climb the tallest towers.

The transition was far from seamless in adding a fourth person to our crew, but the struggle to adjust has made the result even sweeter.

Jonas had D-TGA with other heart defects that kept him alive three months before his first surgery in Nanjing, China. He had a complicated surgery there: the arterial switch. Our team of doctors was very impressed that this procedure was done on him prior to him coming home. Currently, Willow’s heart is looking fabulous, but Jonas is in a holding pattern.

Holding patterns are so hard; sometimes it is all I can think about. I wonder when we will suddenly be told that it needs to happen soon. We get check ups all the time. There is no need for emergency surgery at this point, but he will need open heart surgery to repair his aortic valve before too long. We have sought three opinions and have heard four different options. The issue our son faces is rare.

After going through such complicated and scary surgery with Willow, we weren’t about to do something complex without hearing several surgeons say that was the best option. We’ve decided at this point to wait for his aortic insufficiency to cause his aortic valve to nearly completely fail before operating. We are grateful that one of the most aggressive hospitals in the country has assured us that this conservative approach is best. They will then go in and attempt to repair his aortic valve in hopes that he doesn’t have to get an artificial valve.

There are several back-up ideas if that surgery doesn’t work. We are so very thankful for options. What wonderful medical assistance we have in this country. We consulted with a hospital that is 1,761 miles away from us without ever leaving the comfort of our home.

Technological advances and medical knowledge and precision has greatly influenced the quality of life for my children and for others with CHD. What never was possible is now possible! People are living out their entire lives with major and complex heart disease. The online community allows for connections between patients all across the world, and people are getting heart repairs that save lives because of those connections.

What an incredible time to be open to parenting a child who has a complex CHD.

The resources are out there. Not only are there babies who need families; there are children dying and desperate for medical interventions that are basic procedures in western hospitals. I urge anyone reading this to open their heart to these beautiful children.

If you cannot adopt a child with CHD, pray about how you can get involved. Support organizations like Little Hearts Medical, OneSky, and Show Hope. These organizations not only rescue children and seek to find families for them; they save lives. My two babies are prime examples.

They are fighters. They are stronger than I’ll ever be.

They’ve changed my life forever and for the good.

Because of their struggles, they can enjoy the good times more than most of us. There’s something in the spirit of a heart warrior that will change you once you get to know them.

Walking my children through medical stuff is the greatest privilege I’ve ever been given. I am who I am because of how they inspire me.

I am the first to say that this family dynamic isn’t for the faint of heart. However, we’ve found that God gives us strength. We don’t summon up our own strength to get through things. We rely on Him together as a family.

If we relied on ourselves, we couldn’t do it. We never even would’ve tried. There is nothing more fulfilling than living out God’s call for our lives, however difficult at moments.

We were meant for this, and the love we enjoy together as a family makes life remarkable.

– guest post by Amber

Choosing Happiness Daily: Adopting a Child with an Unfixable Heart

February 19, 2017 1 Comments

One evening less than two months after bringing home our second son from China, I told my husband that I wished we could adopt an older child someday too. In both of our travel groups, there were older children who were adopted. These had made such an impact on my heart! They understood the idea …Read More

Waiting to be Chosen: Teddy

February 18, 2017 0 Comments

Teddy is a sweet and playful 4 year-old who is thriving in his foster family! He was abandoned in 2015 at a railroad station, yet was not speaking much at the time. Due to his lack of words, he was diagnosed with Autism upon intake. His agency visited with him this past October, and they …Read More

Yes, I Did. I Asked For This.

February 17, 2017 14 Comments

Someone finally said out loud what I assumed people might be thinking all along. I was asked, “How are you?” Careful not to ever come across as complaining about this beautiful mess God has called me to, I simply answered, “Good.” I never want to appear to have it all together (which isn’t hard); however, …Read More

Waiting to be Chosen: Maverick

February 16, 2017 1 Comments

Maverick is 2 years old and the only special need listed in his file is that he is HIV+. Maverick is adorable! He is said to be positive, active and has a ready smile! It seems like he is bonded to his caregivers and looks for their approval. He learned to walk at 16 months. …Read More

Red Flags: Not All Agencies Are Created Equal

February 15, 2017 0 Comments

You may have seen that an adoption agency with a program in China was recently “temporarily debarred” by the State Department. Some of the violations by this agency included (I am paraphrasing): Charging families in-country fees that were different than what they had previously quoted. Charging fees that were unreasonably high in consideration of services …Read More

After the Honeymoon: Adopting a Child with Complex CHD

February 14, 2017 0 Comments

Prologue: In our son’s room, we have a picture that reads: “Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9) We chose this verse for him, but in reality it applies more to us. My husband, Derek, and …Read More

Life with an AFO

February 13, 2017 1 Comments

I will never forget the day we received “the call.” I had just walked my son into preschool and came back to the car to see a missed call from our adoption agency. I quickly dialed my social worker’s number and she said she had the file of a beautiful little girl she wanted to …Read More

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