When our adopted son Jonathan joined our family via foster in 2019, we were advised our family was chosen because we were a seasoned homeschool family and he would flourish best in a homeschool setting.
We were quite surprised because we had been told during our training that all children in state custody must attend the local public public school. We were about to learn how intuitive Jonathan’s team was.
When he first came to us, Jonathan was 9 years old and struggled with self regulation. He would have outbursts when given schoolwork to complete. The first time we sat down to complete math at the level we were told he was at, he hid under my desk and began screaming. He hit his head repeatedly on the back of my desk and hid his face. Eventually, I enlisted my husband’s help to coax him out. Jonathan was absolutely out of sorts and I aimed to find out why!
When we finally sat down with paper again, Jonathan appeared anxious and a little agitated. I explained to him that he was not learning anything and instead, he was going to show me what he already knew. I watched as he attempted each problem. I noticed he struggled with math in a most unusual way. I wanted a different perspective. So, I asked his sister to help him finish up while I left for a meeting at work. She called me and told me that she felt he exhibited signs of dyscalculia. Aha! She noticed it too!
The question became: How can we help a foster youth move forward with an educational barrier they never understood they had…
Jonathan was frustrated because he understood random bits of the math equations. He knew it didn’t make any sense as to why he knew some difficult concepts, but not some of the more simple concepts. It was absolutely perplexing and unfortunately, it had taken until grade 3, and being homeschooled with his first foster family, to find out why he struggled so terribly. But, there we were.
We knew he was able to obtain testing as a student in a public school. But how were we to obtain proper testing that his insurance and his care would approve?
I began climbing the ladder with the state. I spoke with anyone I could reach regarding education, special needs, and foster youth. I continued to hear that we had no other option but to place him in school to determine if he had any learning difficulties. That is, until I reach the very top. She told me she would contact the superintendent of schools, explain his team felt he needed a home education environment, and request testing for an IEP. She advised me to do the same.
Apparently, state law allows homeschooled students to utilize the same testing options, through the local school district, as all other children in the public school. Hmm – I had no idea! I had thought for years that home educated families were on their own if they felt their children might have a delay. I now know, and I am shouting from the rooftops that YES, YES, Home Educated children can receive testing from the public school system. What a blessing that is! Praise God we have this option.
Jonathan was tested. We were told he had the most complex math disability our county had ever seen. Ok. Now what? We took his testing paperwork to his pediatrician and asked for help. His pediatrician made an appointment with Vanderbilt Children’s Developmental Department for extensive testing to determine if he has any genetic anomalies, brain development delays, mood/behavior disorders, and more.
Jonathan is now doing well educationally and emotionally. He hasn’t had an outburst in years. We learned he can retain math concepts best by using a highly hands on approach. So, his father teaches him by way of working on our homestead, while his sister and I work with him in the kitchen.
Our Foster Agency saw we were determined and relentless when it came to providing what was best for Jonathan. They told us they would stand beside us 100%, if we ever felt one of our foster youth would flourish best in a homeschool setting. And this year, they followed through with that promise.
We are in the process of adopting a sibling set of teen girls that have been part of our family for the past three years. One of our girls struggles with English Composition, as well as emotional bonding. She has asked to come home to be educated. We submitted an education plan to her team and explained how homeschooling would help her catch up academically and assist with her continued bonding with our family. We were granted permission to homeschool her this coming 2023/2024 school year.
Is it possible to homeschool your child in foster Care? It is. Some youth feel more comfortable in a homeschool environment. It can provide a safe space for children to catch up academically as they navigate their trauma.
Christina McMahan studied Spanish at the University of Tennessee Martin. In 2006, she became a work at home, homeschool mom to her two stepdaughters. Her youngest stepdaughter has high functioning Autism and is hearing impaired and was struggling in school academically and socially. Christina works with her husband at their offices in TN while continuing to homeschool their gifted daughter, Reagan. They adopted their special needs son in 2020 and continue to foster behaviorally challenged and special needs children.