Monday, January 25, 2010

School for Newly Adopted Older Children

With new Special Needs adoption lists just coming out, I’d like to continue the discussion of concerns about adoption of school aged children.

We adopted our second daughter, just as she turned 4 years old, bringing her home in December. We gave her the nine months before the next school year to get used to us, get used to the language and take some parent/child classes together. We started her in 4 year old preschool that fall. When we had her evaluated for Kindergarten, the public school system said she was ready to go, their only hesitation being her spoken language and some gaps in language concepts. Since she was making progress in private speech therapy, they felt she could overcome this. Interestingly, the public school would not offer speech therapy, but would consider her for ESL assistance, due to being in the country less than two years.

We ended up placing her in Montessori school in a mixed age 3-5 preprimary half day class as a 4 year old, even though she had turned 5. This allowed her to work on 5 year old activities where she could and still have opportunities to fill the gaps of the earlier ages.

A friend of mine recently brought home her son, just as he turned 6. She enrolled him in kindergarten starting shortly after they were home. He is receiving ESL services. Looking back, I think my daughter would have benefited from starting school right away, rather than waiting.

If you have adopted an older child, what age and what schooling decisions did you make? Which ones worked and which ones did not? What advice would you give to parents just now bringing home a school aged child?

Guest Blogger

Nancy Williams

HR Associate Director

Love Without Boundaries


  1. I brought home biological sisters who were 3 and
    6 1/2 in December 2002. I kept them both home until the beginning of the next school year to get used to their family and learn the language. At testing time, we discussed a lot about what level our then 7 yr. old should enter. We decided on Kingdergarten. Her social skills were very supressed as well. Jump ahead 7 years...whe is now 14 and in 6th grade. Though she's a bit self conscious about her age, I'm confident we made the right decision. Her younger sister, now 10, is in 4th grade and adjusted as well.
    Karen in Arkansas

  2. We adopted a 6 1/2 yr old 10 1/2 months ago. She was in foster care and attended school in China. We were home on 3/13/09 with her. Within a couple of weeks I started taking her to a very academic kindergarten. I went with her the first couple of weeks on our own schedule to get used to it. I had to return to part time work. Within a few months she had English down. She is an A+ student this year. Her teacher said, she would have had no clue she had just come if someone had not told her! She has the best hand writing in her class. It could not have went better. The only thing is I'm afraid at the pace she is going we may end up skipping a grade. She is almost at a point of being able to read anything. If she were reading over my shoulder, she would read this. I think all kids are different, but I do think that they can adjust quickly if given the chance. I have no regrets as to how we handled it. She is a bit bossy and that is all we have to deal with in the negative department and we are working on her social skills in that area.
    We are adopting an 11 yr old from orphanage only and expect a difference! We also may adopt another 7 1/2 yr old from foster. It is exciting! -Karen

  3. I adopted a nearly 7-year-old from China six years ago. She was in no way ready to go to school. Actually I was homeschooling her sister, who was 6, so I decided to homeschool her too. Leaving her friends/language/food/etc. was very traumatic for her and she needed time to just adjust to all the new changes in her life, so we took three months to just work on learning about being in a family and learning English, reading countless picture books to her. She seemed very nervous when I trotted out workbooks, textbooks, etc., and did poorly, though she had attended school in China. I ended up redoing first grade and letting her work on writing without workbooks and narrating her own stories to me. She took off after that, gaining confidence, and was up to grade level not long after that. I think every child is different and it's best to wait and go by your instincts what is best for that particular child. I would never have thrust her right into school, but I know many who have done so and the kids thrived!

  4. It's really hard to 2nd guess yourself on this. Some kids are more ready than others and the quality of the schools across the country are so different.

    It's amazing to think that kids can assimilate withing mere months of changing cultures. If I had to move to China, it would take me 10 years before I could attend a class at a university and hope to understand enough of it to get a passing grade.

    Kids amaze me.

    Our Blog: Double Happiness!

  5. Kindness connects people in the world. I recommend you to see this film. It is about kindness from strangers.