Originally Posted by mamarhu
Does anyone else hang out in special needs, adoptive/foster parenting, AND unschooling forums? Or maybe 2 out of 3?
Hmm. As you know, I hang out in special needs and adoptive/foster parenting. We homeschool, but are currently in love with Montessori (doing what we can at our home). So we don't really unschool. That said, one of the things we *love* about Montessori is that it provides children with a lot of freedom in their education (and the ability to learn self-initiation and self-regulation) but that it has a structure to support all that.
What we take from unschooling is a total commitment to following our kids' interests and helping them access educational opportunities (especially when we are out and about in the community) that match those interests. For example, ds (just turning 4 yrs. old) started asking a lot of questions about plumbing a few months back. He became very curious about systems of pipes. With our encouragement, he's since asked a plumber relative to explain some things to him and to even let him "shadow" this relative while the relative does some simple plumbing jobs in his own home. We're not sure yet if scheduling is going to work out, but I've got my fingers crossed. That's the stuff I'd really like to see us continue to develop as a family.
|I am in the admittedly slow process of adopting 4 kids from foster care. One 8YO girl is already in my home, 6YO boy is coming this week, and I am hoping the 5YO twin girls will be here this summer. I know foster kids are required to be in school, and have no problem with that for current FD - she loves school, is doing great. But the boy has academic delays and possibly some behavioral issues, and the twins have major behavioral stuff, especially at school.|
For what it is worth, when I was doing therapeutic care, I did my fair share of extended school suspension days with my kids (during which I decided to take my own approach to their education). None of my kids did particularly well with low structure.
In fact, they all seemed to really thrive (and relax) the more structured I made things. I really had to shift what I thought was ideal, and that was hard. I didn't want to use tools I'd rejected, but the kids needed them.
They especially seemed to enjoy, as much as they silmultaneously resisted it, all the educational focus and attention I gave them. My kids who struggled the most in school, academically and behaviorally, needed a different approach than the one in school, but didn't do well at all with its polar oppossite.
A lot of times I was able to use the extra time with them on days they were suspended to offer foundational stuff, sometimes through every day work (like requiring them to do a baking project with me so we could work on fractions) but often through more strictly "academic" (though almost always hands-on) activities. I did a lot of patching up. There were huge holes/gaps in the learning they had done to that date...big foundational pieces missing. To patch, I found it was helpful for both of us to keep it fairly strucutured. This also gave us a useful scope and sequence for their learning activities.
But that is a limited sampling of kids, admittedly, and may not be true for others in similar circumstances.
|Discipline-wise, I feel the same. I am pretty set in my parenting style, and although I parent each child differently, there is a non-adversarial, non-coercive, cooperative flavor to my interactions with my kids (and the rest of the world for that matter).|
One of the hardest things about parenting, I've found, is to shift when my discipline style doesn't fit a kid's emotional or other needs. I never would have dreamed of doing a behavioral chart with any of my kids. The idea made me cringe, actually. But one of my longer-term foster kids clearly felt safer with the chart, and it was one of the only tools I had that truly kept us from having the police at our house everyday. I never would have guessed a tool like that could make that kind of a difference. But it did.
That said, I still tend to stick with my natural discipline style and adapt only when needed. That makes it easier on all of us because I don't do well when I am really uncomfortable with a technique.
When I have to make some major changes, I actually have been known to take classes (like Parenting With Love and Logic) to get in the practice of those things which aren't natural to me. As soon as it isn't needed, I find I revert pretty easily back to my more natural style.
|I would like to give myself credit that the 1 kid in my care turns out to have the lowest needs now; it didn't look that way, she really was extreme at first, with sexual acting out, fecal smearing, and every major violent/aggressive behavior you have ever heard of. My style is simply a great match for this kid. The 3 younger kids are coming from situations that are very structured, with consequences, behavior charts, psychotropic medications, and very mainstream therapeutic level foster care. Frankly, their behaviors have not much improved in the 18 months they have been in care.|
It's hard to know which came first, the chicken or the egg, or to know exactly what made a difference in any given situation because raising our kids isn't a controlled experiment: there are multiple factors at play at all times.
I'm sure you are making a difference for the kido in your care. Please don't think I am saying otherwise. I just know that with some of my foster kids, occassionally I've said about former foster parents, "I can't believe they did _____," and then find myself needing to do a similar kind of thing six months or a year down the line. It's easier to think that our style will be healing than someone else's. That said, it's nice when it works out that our style is in fact healing
. I guess I am just saying to be flexible.
|She is also missing the basic level of trust the bios have - that I am basically on the same team, with similar goals.|
One thing we've always done with all our kids is weekly "family meetings." We take a really big "team approach" to these meetings (everyone brings agenda items, everyone participates in solutions from the point of trying to find and articulate shared goals, etc.). Even if our more every day style has to be a little more directive, I've found having some introductory experiences to "being on the same team, with similar goals" is useful to help work slowly, slowly toward that approach on a more daily basis.
|Does the history of neglect influence?|
In my experience, yes. Absolutely!
|Is it unfair, even unethical, for me to test my pretty radical theories on such vulnerable kids? Or is it unfair to not give them the same opportunities I give the bio-dumplings?|
I'd say that it is unfair and unethical to go in with such rigid expectations either way that we can't face when our expectations don't match a situation. I think it is unfair and unethical to try to shape our kids around our ideals of how we "should" raise them. I think it is unfair and unethical to be non-responsive to our kid's histories.
But honestly, you are asking these questions. That doesn't seem much of a danger. I think you'll feel your way through it as the kids grow with you. I think as Whistler said, you should experiment with just trusting your gut. Generally I too have found that the most useful thing to do!