Before we ever had children in our home, I had been browsing blogs of homeschooling families. The idea appealed to me, as I have known several different families over the course of my life who home schooled, and I was curious about what all they did on a daily basis – what did it look like? Though my husband said we would, “Talk about it later”, in other words “We are not homeschooling” , I kept browsing.
While preparing to become foster parents, I started taking note of what they did with their preschoolers and mentally adjusting to what we could do with kids to help them while attending public schools. Any foster children that came into our home were required to go to public school. You could request a variance to that, but I do not think they grant many of them. Their reasons usually fall under:
- The kids are often behind in various areas and need extra support catching up or not falling behind
- Increased appropriate adult role models
- More eyes to make sure everything is okay with the kids
- It can be very emotionally and physically draining to deal with traumatized children. The more people to help, the more likely it is that the placement remains stable. (i.e. the foster parents do not request a child is moved due to it being overwhelming.)
When George (3) and Jack (2) came to live with us, that knowledge became very helpful. See, for over 6 months, if you ever turned on the television when they were around a tantrum would ensue. It did not matter if you turned on an adult show, a children’s cartoon, or a show aimed at babies. It was the oddest reaction I had ever seen.
They required constant attention from me during the day, then from my husband and I at night. They did not know how to play on their own, so there was no sitting them in front of a pile of blocks while I sorted socks. They just could not do it. (This is why my sorted and filed paperwork ends right before they came to live with us. It has been in an ever-growing stack since then.)
Add to all of this the fact that both boys were basically non-verbal. Jack would point and grunt. George could say some words, but no real sentences. It was not exactly like you could ask if them they wanted trucks or balls.
Additionally, the habit of Obedience was not one they processed. I am not sure if it was a result of their previous home life or a result of the upheaval their little lives had just experienced. While one was better than the other at responding to boundaries, it still was not safe to take them out of the house unless they had on their harnesses or you held them.
This resulted in me trying all the ideas I had been gathering on my mental list of preschool activities. The main things were: reading out loud, going outside, schedules, including them in your work around the house (this was easy as they would follow me everywhere), and hands-on activities. What commenced was a series of trial-and-error experiments to see what worked and what did not.
The result was amazing growth in a relative short period of time. It may have seemed to take forever, and our stress levels were pretty high, but in the long-term view it really was not all that long.
- George began talking in 5+ word sentences within 7 months.
- Jack learned a few signs, then a few words. Within a year he was almost caught up verbally.
- I worked with George on saying my (proper) name. We took it a syllable at a time, which sounded pretty funny at times. He never really got there till after living with us for over a year, but …
- After being tired of Jack not calling me anything after 3 or 4 months, I sat down with him one day and tried to get him to say my name. He got the one syllable while looking directly at me, so I earned a new nick name. It was easier for George to say also, so my name was ‘officially’ changed.
- Several children’s songs were learned, even if they could not sing them. They would respond and sometimes ‘sing’ along.
- Once they learned to talk, they could ‘fill-in-the-blank’ on words I left out of poems or songs we had learned.
- George went from having 2 half-day preschools the first semester here, to having 1 specialized half-day preschool and more time at home.
- Jack slowed down on his eating and rarely choked on food.
- Jack went from biting off the corners of a newspaper, to loving books.
- After about a year, I almost fell off my seat when one of the children said they did not like a certain food. This was a HUGE milestone and I almost hugged the kid.
- Now, if I go somewhere with George, I can usually trust him to stay where he is supposed to or behave as he is expected.
- Jack has turned into a hard worker, who loves to help.
- The children went from never having attended church, to Jack being able to sit through most of the service on my husband’s lap. George had a harder time as he did not want to use appropriate behaviors. He outgrew that phase, which I attribute to him ‘finding his words’ and overall calming down. Jack, however, has since found his independence and has had to work hard at controlling it.
- The children went from screaming in the car drive was longer than 10 minutes, to being able to tolerate car trips several hours long and traveling via airplane.
Things still are not perfect, nothing ever really is, so we keep working and growing. As much as the children have changed, my husband and I have also changed as parents. I think differently now than 4 years ago. I look ahead for problems that may arise and try to avoid or dissipate them.
I could not have foreseen all that has happened. Sometimes I am also amazed at what we have come to consider to be ‘normal’. Other times I wonder when this roller coaster is going to end. Till then I want to share some resources/links with you that have helped us. First up, reading ….