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Dancing in Joy, and Other Things Homeschooling has Taught Me.

 

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I had so many fears about making the leap to homeschooling. I still have some of these fears, since not all five of my littles are home yet.

It’s been about a month and a half so far, and I have learned so much already. About my children, about my kids and societal expectations that we live in.

I have had the advantage of having a great tribe of beautiful mamma (and one papa) friends that are seasoned homeschooolers. They have been involved in the local homeschooling communities for over 10 years. Their support and guidance has truly helped with the ease of this transition. The best advice so far has been “Don’t stress, you are doing it right, and they are learning”.

  1. I am Calmer and less stressed: I don’t feel as rushed.  I am not hurrying to make lunches and breakfast before 7:30 am. We aren’t rushed to fit homework in between after school activities, dinner and evening routines. I feel a lot of the stress to get things done ‘before school on Monday’ disappearing.  As a result, my kids don’t feel rushed and hurried. Our house is experiencing more peace and everyone is breathing a little easier.
  2. We own our schedule: Our schedule and routine is now our own. We follow our own holidays and breaks. We follow our daily schedule. We take yoga breaks when needed, not when the clock tells us too. We don’t have to rush to get permission slips, weekly folders, and homework checked off. No more rushing out at the last-minute to bake cookies for the bake sale or buy supplies for a project due the next day.
  3. Leaning happens everywhere: Many of our friends told us “You are already homeschooling with all the educational field trips that you go on”. We are in control of their education, and this means we can create learning opportunities everywhere, all the time. Learning is happening all around us, if we take the time to see it.  I know exactly what they are leaning and can bring this into our daily conversations and activities. I am now the one that gets to see their faces light up when they learn something new, or feel accomplished.  I am loving being part of their education process.
  4. It takes less time: A normal traditional school day often consists of a lot of lining up, quieting everyone so that the teacher can be heard, re-direction, turning in work, retrieving supplies. This doesn’t happen in homeschool, or if it does, very little time is spent on these activities. This frees up their school day. Actual work only takes about three hours. This frees up the rest of the day for creative play and activities. (Free time does not mean video games. They have a list of educational games and activities that are allowed before 4:00 pm).
  5. Spontaneity is the name of the game: Being in charge of our school day means that we can have a spontaneous field trip, or we can decide to move around our studies. We have a co-op we attend once a week, but the rest of the week is ours!
  6. BONUS! I am leaning so much! We could all use a refresher in our studies. I love that I am learning right along with them!

The biggest thing about homeschool is that there really isn’t a right or wrong way to do it. This is the part that my friends have stressed to me. Just enjoy this time, and if a favorite song comes on, by all means stop what you’re doing and have a spontaneous dance party!

 

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Our Top 5 Reasons for Homeschooling Our Kids

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If you had told me a year ago, or even 6 months ago that we would be homeschooling all five of our kids, I would have told you that you are riding the crazy train.  It always comes back to this simple thought, We do what we gotta do for our kids.

I first began to see homeschooling in action about 6 years ago when I joined a beautiful circle of women who were mostly all homeschooling their children. These mamas I count among the best, loving, patient, fierce and present. I was in awe of their love and dedication, but thought “Oh I could never do that”. To spite having taught  several freshmen courses on World Religion at San Diego State University, and loving it. I imagined homeschooling to to be completely different than teaching a University class.

But alas, here we are. Although we have only begun to dip our toes in, and not all of our children have left their traditional school yet, we are loving it. We are breathing easier and soaking in the love and learning.

So what lead us to this journey? Here are just a few reasons;

  1. BULLYING When I have mentioned that my kids are being bullied, I have had several parents jump in and share:  “Oh I was bullied, everyone gets picked on, it builds resilience” or “I just teach my kids to handle it, or fight back”. I even had the Head of School tell us that her grandsons get bullied and she just tells them to ignore it . These words are not helpful, our kids are still working on recovering from their histories. Our kids were in a collective 15 homes before becoming a forever family. We are working very hard to build their confidence and instill sold self identities. When they experience bulling, it sets them back in their healing process. We understand that they will encounter bullies in life (I even encountered another mom bulling me online when I stated in a forum that my daughter was being bullied). It is not a level playing field, our children didn’t start out with the same advantages as most of their peers.
  2. TRAUMA INFORMED SCHOOLS Most schools are not trauma informed. Ours was no different. If you are lucky you may find a trauma sensitive school, but a school like the one Oprah talked about in a segment on trauma she hosted for 60 Minutes.  is rare. We have had some great teachers that ‘get us’ and then we have encountered others that don’t. There were the teachers that let my children get away with everything because they didn’t want to trigger them, or because they ‘felt sorry’ for them, knowing that they were in fostercare. On the other side of this, we have had teachers blame my children for everything, and labeled them as a problem. When a child acts out, a trauma informed person asks “What is going on behind this behavior? What does this baby need?” This is not letting them off the hook, but examining the root of the problem. With a trauma informed/sensitive school the needs of all children are considered. Fire, tornado, and lock down drills can be triggers for kids that have experienced trauma. Safety is always at the front of their minds, many exist in a fight, flight or freeze state. When their perceived safety is at risk, they will be triggered and go into FFF. To completely overlook and dismiss the needs of these children is a huge oversight.
  3. LET THEM BE KIDS With the emphasis on Common Core it has taken much of the creativity and flexibility away from teachers, and causes them to teach to the test. Here in NC we have House Bill 950 (Read to Achieve). This is the test of all tests for our third graders. They are told “Pass it you don’t move on to 4th grade”.  I had 3 children not pass this test (luckily it was resolved in a week with two of our kids, and overlooked with one because he has an IEP). This test is stressful for kids, especially for those with anxiety. What are we doing to these littles? One of my children sited for a reason to wanting to be home schooled as not feeling so much pressure anymore. Being pulled out for IEP work puts unnecessary attention on them. When they return to class they feel rushed to catch up with the lesson plan that their classmates have already been working on. Most kids feel the struggle to keep up from time to time, but our kids with IEP’s the struggle can create severe anxiety.
  4. SCHOOL ATMOSPHERE I am pretty sure that everyone is in agreement that the atmosphere in schools has changed. The Everytown website reports that since 2013 (Sandy Hook) there have been 308 school shootings. If you examine the data, many of these did not include injury, but that’s really not my point. It’s the atmosphere that’s being created in our schools. Our school had 3 threats in one week. This created an atmosphere of elevated stress, caution and frustration on the part of the parents to know the details of what was going on with these investigations. The kids felt it. They felt it from their parents, from their teachers and from their peers. There was no escaping these conversations when a police car is parked out in front of the school. Many parents agreed that it made them/their children more comfortable knowing that the police were on campus. Here’s that trauma reminder: Not all children associate police with safety. Their histories have proved to them that police equal problems.
  5. WE ARE IN CONTROL OF CURRICULUM I have to give praise to our school for offering a very diverse and inclusive curriculum. My children never once came home with the white-washed history of Columbus Day. The curriculum emphasized POC in history, and their music and art class was full of multicultural activities and songs. But, schools have limited resources, and there are still times when reading lists or histories miss the mark on being inclusive. So for our 5 year old we get to pick Zooey and Sassafras for our read-aloud and science. She sees herself in Zooey, and representation is so powerful. For our older children, we will not brush over the tough parts of history, we will not make heroes out the men that caused pain and devastation in our dark history. Will will celebrate the great achievements and contributions of the men and women that have made this country great.

These are OUR reasons for turning to home education. This is where our hearts are leading us. Every parent needs to make the decisions that are right for their families, and at the right time. When my kids were first entering school, my circle of friend included more HS families than not, but we had very specific reasons for choosing our school.  I also know that it is a huge privilege for us to have the ability for me to stay home with our kids. We do sacrifice a lot, but the fact that not everyone is in the position to make this choice is not lost on me, and I am absolutely grateful for this.

Next week…Dancing in Joy, and other things we have learned about homeschooling.

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National Adoption Day

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Yesterday was National Adoption Awareness Day. This has become the day that counties across the United States invite families that have come together through adoption to join in a celebration at the courthouse. The adoption process has been streamlined to just a lot of paper shuffling, signing and notarizing. As a matter of fact, it was just an ordinary Tuesday when our paperwork arrived in the mail telling us that we are now a forever family! I love that judges and courts now celebrate this moment with families!

We were hoping that the formality of the court celebration would help the kids understand that this is now their forever home. Kai has still been holding onto the hope that reunification with his bio-mom is possible, and Imani just doesn’t understand permanency, and is still concerned that she will have to leave and go live somewhere else.

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Among my joy and celebration, I had to set my feelings to the side.  “Why?” you ask. because for our little 7 year old, this was not a celebratory time. His face said it all, mixed feelings of loss and the new feeling of safety and security he has been experiencing for the last two years.

His bio-mom will always be his ‘mom’. I understand and respect the love he has for her. I try to keep the fading memories he has of her alive, with questions and observations thrown into our conversations; “Your voice is beautiful, just like K’s”… It’s difficult to process fostercare for children. It’s more difficult to understand foster-adopt. All they know is that this parent they loved is all of a sudden gone from their lives, and new parents, strangers are inserted. When you try to look at it through their eyes, it really is a strange idea.

The heart of a child is an amazing thing. It’s loyal, unconditional, and tender. So with this I held my children tight, and balanced my outward emotions with my inward joy, knowing that one of my children was mourning his past, while I was celebrating his future!

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It Takes A Village: The Guardian Ad Litem

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In the county I live in, right now there are over 600 plus children in the foster-care system. Each one of these children will be appointed a Guardian ad Litem. This is a volunteer position, and currently our county is in desperate need of people willing to step up and become a child’s advocate.  Guardians ad Litem serve as court-appointed advocates for abused and neglected children who come to the attention of the juvenile court system. Judges depend on testimony and reports from the Guardian ad Litem to inform their decisions about how to protect each child from further harm and meet their needs.

We were very lucky! Our Guardian ad Litem was/is an Angel. She took this position seriously, and never missed an appointment, court date or home visit. She did it with a smile on hr face and love in her heart. She has become an extended family member, and knew and fought for the protection of our children before we even met them.

A lot of people I encounter are concerned about the amount of children in the foster-care system, but are unable to adopt or foster a child. This is just one more way that someone can help the children without making a life-long commitment to the child.

What exactly does the Guardian ad Litem do? This is taken from the website:

Volunteer Responsibilities

  • Visits the child and keeps the child informed about the court proceedings.
  • Communicates with the Attorney Advocate to develop legal strategies to further the best interests of the child.
  • Gathers and assesses independent information on a consistent basis about the child to recommend a resolution that is in the child’s best interest. 
  • Interviews the parents, guardians, caretakers, social workers, and other service providers, and reads records related to the case.
  • Seeks cooperative solutions with other participants in the child’s case. 
  • Writes fact-based, child-focused reports for court hearings.
  • Attends and participates in court hearings and other related meetings to advocate for a permanent plan thatserves the child’s best interest. 
  • Testifies, if needed, to inform the court of the child’s situation.
  • Ensures that the court knows the child’s wishes.  
  • Keeps all records and information confidential.
  • Monitors all court-ordered services and keeps the court informed about the needs of the child.
  • Consults with local program staff for support and guidance.

If you have love in your heart,  passion for justice and a little extra time these children need YOU!

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They’re Ours!! Adoption Finalized!

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1 year, 9 months and 8 days after meeting our three youngest children for the first time they are ours! Adoption complete! What does this mean for our family?

  • No more home visits!
  • We get to make all decisions regarding our children (without counsel from The Team)
  • We are free to travel anywhere and anytime with our children, without special permission and notes
  • No one can take them from us. No changed minds, or family members suddenly appearing
  • We all have the same last name! We are now the Le Chevalliers!
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What is “Good Hair ” Anyway?

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I subscribe to The Root, The Root is an online newspaper that describes themselves like this:

The Root is the premier news, opinion and culture site for African-American influencers.  Founded in 2008, under the leadership of Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr., The Root provides smart, timely coverage of breaking news, thought-provoking commentary and gives voice to a changing, more diverse America. 

I like to stay in touch with the pulse of the African American community since three of my five kids are black, and I was raised and live in a predominantly white and hispanic community.  Today, I came across an article:  Are ‘A Whole Bunch of White People’ Adopting Black Kids? The article was written in response to A black Alabama lawmaker’s challenge to state residents regarding the adoption of black children into white families. I found it refreshing that they chose to  focus on Adoptee Stacey Patton, and her insight into the positive side of transracial adoption. They have even omitted the lawmakers name, as not to given him/her further attention.

It wasn’t the article that made me go “hmmmmm”, but the 500+ comments from the mostly African-American community that posted. This was a great peek inside the black community to witness and read how our family may be viewed.

For the most part it was one of acceptance. There were a few comments that noted that if you have not adopted, don’t bother commenting! Of course there were the ridiculous haters that mentioned such things as “…To raise an army of completely brain-washed Black People who will allow them to touch their hair, take their organs or be able to tell Racist jokes and say, “I’m not racist, I have a Black daughter’….What I’M wondering is WHY don’t white ‘people’ want their OWN white children? I mean, there are MILLIONS of white kids without parents, why not adopt them?!

Then there were the children who grew up in a white home, or hoped for a forever home and instead just “aged-out” of the system like Daryl: ,  “unless you are going to adopt them “Watch Ya Mouth & Mind Ya Bizness” growing up in an orphanage is NO JOKE, being turned out into the world ALL ALONE at 18 is NO JOKE – having NO FAMILY is NO JOKE”

The biggest ‘take-away’ I got from the comments was it was ok, just teach them their culture and learn to do their hair, “The only problem that I have with it, is a very small one, and doesn’t negate my overall opinion that it’s a good thing. I just wish that when people choose to adopt black children, they would learn how to maintain their hair. Too many times I’ve seen black children looking a complete MESS because the parents (of another race) have just given up.”

Here are my thoughts on that final comment;  Hair.  Wow, in the community I grew up in, with the hair I have hair was never a ‘thing’. Growing up, the biggest question was “bangs or no bangs?.” and since it was the 1980’s…”how big are those bangs going to be?”. I have five nieces that I babysat often. They had straight blond hair. I could not even brush their hair into a basic pony-tail, nevermind any ‘fishtails’ or anything fancy like that. Poor girls looked a mess when they came to stay with Aunt Carrie.  I remember a picture of their special ‘Brownie Bridging Ceremony” and I couldn’t do anything with their hair, so I just left their hair a stringy mess for their special day. My sister would have styled it real cute, but that is the price they had to pay for me babysitting. Fast-forward 20 years and I am the Mami to two beautiful African-American girls with hair I have never even touched, let alone  styled or taken care of.

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The first thing I did, was reach out to some friends that have experience with  black-natural hair, then I went  to Target and browsed the aisle of African-American hair products, and just asked some black women that were also shopping the isle. The next thing I did was rent Chris Rock’s “Good Hair”.  I have come a long way since that first styling of Bug’s hair, and I have improved my skills (didn’t say I mastered this). I know I have a long way to go, but here’s my throw back at all those Naysayers: As Moms I think we are all doing our best, don’t assume that us white Moms aren’t even trying. I can speak for myself anyway and say that I am not only trying, that I actually stress about this more than I should. As a white mother, I didn’t grow up with this texture of hair, I didn’t have all these years of practice I didn’t have Moms, Aunts or Sisters teaching me the tricks and tips that have been lovingly handed down from generation to generation. I also know that even the black moms that have stopped perming their hair or their children’s hair struggle with it at times.

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What I do know is that I love my girls more than life itself, that I would do anything for them. That I tell them how beautiful their hair is, and how beautiful they are. I have never mentioned whether they have “good hair” or not, because I don’t know the difference, and maybe that is just as well. So next time you see a white mami and her baby girl, (whether biological or adopted) tell them they are doing a good job, and know that they are probably already criticizing themselves enough for both of you!

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Signed, Sealed and Delivered…I am Yours!

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When we adopted Lola and Diego there was a lot of hand holding through the process. We adopted through a private agency in the United States. Our agency gave us a sheet typed out in ‘comic sans’ that gave us a step-by step account of what to expect during the process. I remember sitting down with that sheet of paper and going through each step with our case worker and asking her how long for each step. Even with that, they said the PGN process could be between 2 weeks and 6 months (yes…we got the 6 month end of that deal).

This time we are adopting domestically, through the fostercare system. This has been a very different process, and I have never really known where we are in the process. After something BIG , happens I will ask…What next? about when do you anticipate this being final?

The difference is, we have our babies here with us. I get to hug them, hold them and kiss them goodnight. The adoption paperwork is really a matter of formality (don’t get me wrong, I will be excited), but it’s not like when we were waiting for Lola and Diego. Everyday that passed, was a day lost. It was excruciating knowing that they were somewhere else, and not knowing how they were being taken care of. I already loved them, they were already my children. I had several women that had gone through childbirth, try to commiserate with me over the fact that they were a week or two past their due date. Although, with all things relative, and I am sure that really sucks and is physically uncomfortable, i would think to myself “yea, but you had your baby, safe, warm and in the comfort of your womb”

That is why I am not stressing over the details of the ‘when’ the adoption will  be finalized, in my heart, it’s a done deal. What will finalization mean for our family? It will mean that we will no longer have 4 different last names, it will mean that we can make any decision regarding their education, health, diet or even hair (yes hair) that we want. We will be able to travel anywhere in the world we want to go, and we won’t need special papers and permission just to cross the state line. It will also mean that we will not have home visits (except for just a few post-adoption visits) anymore, even though we have been very fortunate to have the best GAL (Guardian ad Litem) we could ask for, and our case worker has been one of the great ones.

So for those that are curious about when all this will happen, here is where we are at:

Georges and I need to have a stack of files signed in front of a notary, and then we file with the County Clerk Office.  The county clerk has 30 days to return it to our case worker, then she has 60 days to to process and submit to the state. they don’t have a deadline, but turn around on that is about 30 days. We just watch the mailbox for the next 3-4 months for the decree to come in the mail. No Judges, No courts…just the mailman bringing us the paperwork one day.