Homeschool versus public school can be a hot topic debate. People who homeschool usually feel pretty passionate about the topic. Meanwhile, those who send their kids to public schools are often just as convinced that they are making the right choice. Most homeschooled children have at least one stay-at-home parent. Not all stay-at-home parents homeschool though. I am a stay-at-home mom who still sends the kids to school daily. I am actually considering trying homeschooling though.
When you become a foster parent, you will have to decide how you will handle the children’s education. I always did my best to keep the children in the same school they were in prior to being placed with me. My personal feeling was that it was best to keep part of their routine the same if possible. Moving into a new home with a different family is quite a change. Imagine also having to switch schools and make new friends too. I always felt that minimizing the trauma was the best way to go. That said, there were times I was driving kids 45 minutes one way to get to school in the morning. Not everyone can do that. If you are working parents, you especially may not have time to drive out of district to take kids to school.
If you are a homeschooling family, you may opt to try to homeschool your foster children as well. If they were previously homeschooled, this might be the best option. However, if they were previously in public school, they may have a hard time adjusting to being homeschooled.
How do you know if homeschooling is the right choice?
If the child has been having a hard time in public school, homeschool might be a better option. Some kids who are in foster care may have some social issues or challenges. If they are having a hard time adjusting to public school and are falling behind or have disciplinary issues, homeschool might be a better option.
Are you in a position to be able to homeschool? Do you feel confident that you can teach the lessons they need, in a way they will understand and be able to learn? Do you have the patience to homeschool the kids?
I think some kids would thrive in a homeschool setting, while other kids may need the social interaction of their peers daily.
I have two children that I have adopted from foster care. I think one would do great in a homeschool setting. I think the other would fail miserably if I tried to teach him. I think if I kept my older son home, we would both lose our patience with each other and nothing would be accomplished. Meanwhile, my youngest would excel in learning at home. He is shy and sensitive. He has separation anxiety, and he prefers to be home with me. I am actually considering homeschooling next year, just him, because I think going to school may just cause him too much anxiety. Meanwhile, the older one prefers the school setting to the home setting. He has attachment issues, and he can better regulate himself when he knows the time frame is limited, and the relationships are on a timed schedule.
Each child is unique and requires different things. This is true of education as well. When considering homeschooling, you must think about the needs of the child, and whether homeschooling will meet those needs. If the child is very social and works best in groups, then homeschooling might not be the best idea. However, if the child is one who is shy and full of anxiety (like my youngest), considering homeschooling might be a positive change.
When fostering, I would hesitate to make any educational decisions without consulting the child’s parents and social workers. In some areas, you are allowed to change the foster children to the local district. In other areas, you may need prior permission to make a change in schools or districts.
If you are passionate about school, either homeschool or public school, I would note that in your foster parent profile. You could be upfront that any child in your home will be homeschooled by you. Or, if you prefer public school, that all children will be placed in the school district, even if previously homeschooled.
The adjustment for the kids is the biggest concern. If a child has never been to public school, and is suddenly dropped into the school system at the same time they are removed from their home, it could be quite a traumatic experience.
In my opinion, doing what is best for the child should be the top priority.
So, what if you have been fostering a child for a period of time and think they need a change in their education?
I have changed children to a different school district a few times. I have had kids who had Individualized Education Programs that I didn’t agree with or felt that the school wasn’t handling appropriately. Some schools are more receptive to parent or caregiver input than others. I have had occasions when I felt the child would be better served in a different district based on programs and teachers. As a foster parent, I would meet with the caseworker and discuss my concerns. If the caseworker agreed it was in the child’s best interest, I would change the child to a different school. Of course, parents were part of this discussion as well.
In similar circumstances, if a child was not getting along well socially in their district, I have felt a fresh start in a new school might be the best option. In this type of situation, homeschool or a change in schools may be a good idea. When a child struggles with peer relationships, and they are also going through foster care, they may struggle even more. Being able to take a break or start fresh may be necessary for their success.
If you are in a small-town area and the child is placed in foster care, it may be difficult for them to handle the questions they may face from friends or classmates. It can be very difficult to focus and learn when your home life becomes a topic of discussion. A child in this situation may ask to change schools or be homeschooled. This may be especially true if there were abuse allegations or if a family member has been arrested.
When in a classroom setting, a child should be able to focus on education and not have to worry about what their peers may be saying about their home life.
In larger cities, this may not be an issue. When schools are larger, and class sizes are greater, students may be able to keep their situations more private than they can in small-town communities.
I can recall one situation during my years of foster parenting when I asked to be allowed to move the child to a different district due to their situation being known by too many peers. This child began having anxiety about attending school because she felt to many people knew the circumstances of her removal from home, and it made her uncomfortable. She needed a fresh start. She needed to be able to go to school where nobody knew her situation so that she could focus on learning. She wasn’t a child who would have done well in a homeschooling situation though, she still needed peer interaction and a break from the home environment.
These are things to consider when thinking about the best situation for your foster children and their education.
Another important thing to consider is that since all children learn differently, you may want to homeschool one child while sending another to public school. Just because one child in the home attends public school does not mean that all the others must. If one child in the household would be better served by being able to homeschool and have a bit more flexibility in their schedule, then you should do what is best for that child. If a child really needs the structure of public school and would have a hard time getting work done at home, you are still able to homeschool others while sending that child to public school.
As I stated earlier, I am considering homeschooling just one of my children. One of my children suffers from anxiety, and this is especially true when it comes to school. He also has a sleeping disorder. This can make waking up and getting ready in time for school very difficult. He would benefit from a more flexible schedule that would allow for a later start time on days when he is exhausted from lack of sleep. It would be great to not have to wake him when he is asleep, and to allow him to wake naturally rather than on a schedule. Having a sleeping disorder as a child attending school can be hard. When you are often very tired and not well-rested, having to interact in a social setting can increase anxiety.
My other child absolutely needs to go to public school during the day. He loves going to school. School gives him structure that he needs to feel in control of his day. He knows exactly when he has recess and lunch. He knows exactly how long he has to do his work. He is able to manage relationships at school better than he can at home. He knows that once the bell rings and the school day ends, he is finished with those social interactions for the day. He can do well when he understands the time he needs to interact and maintain boundaries with others. At home, it is difficult for him to socialize with his family. He struggles to bond properly and prefers the more superficial and limited relationships of teachers and peers to that of family relationships. He would not do well being home all of the time.
If you are not sure what to do for a child who has entered your home as a foster care placement, be sure to discuss options with parents and social workers. If the child is old enough to participate in the conversations, it would be beneficial to also discuss the situation with them.
If the child’s parents do not agree with your thoughts on school, you may need to come to a compromise. If public school isn’t working out, but homeschooling isn’t the best option either, maybe a private or charter school would be a good compromise.
It is important to work closely with the child’s parents and caseworkers to make the decisions that will be best for the child.
If the child is seeing a therapist, and you are not sure what educational situation would best serve them, you may want to discuss the options with the therapist. It may be possible to even have a group session in which all parties involved can attend and work through the decision together.
You may also want to consult with current or past teachers for some insight on how the child learns, and if they had any strong opinions regarding the best educational strategy for the child. Teachers, both past and present, can be a great resource in a child’s educational needs and in knowing the best teaching strategies that will help the child excel.
Whatever you choose to do for the education of your foster children, be sure that it is what will serve the child best. What is good for one child may not be good for another. Each situation ought to be handled individually.
If you cannot provide the type of schooling the child needs, whether it be homeschooling or public school, you may not be the best placement for the child. If the child needs to be at a school he or she has attended their whole lives, and you are unable to get the child there daily, you may want to ask social workers to find a home closer to their school of choice. Or, if a child would be better served in the home setting, but you or both parents work and are unable to homeschool, you may want to see if there is a foster family that has the option to homeschool and could take placement.
Making the correct choice for a child in your care can be challenging. Use all the resources and support available to you to make informed and careful decisions that are in the best interest of the child.
Jennifer is a mother to 3 children (one biological, two adopted). She is also a mom to numerous pets. She enjoys volunteering in her children’s classroom, reading, and crafting in her spare time. She has been married for almost 15 years.