This is always an exciting time of year.  Planning is complete, new books have been purchased, and the new school schedule/routine is in the final tweaking stage.  Ready or not, our first day of school begins in about nine hours!  This year is going to be very different for our family.  Half of our school-age children will be at home and half will be in school.  Our girls have been home now for a year and a half.  They’ve come so incredibly far over the past 18 months.  They’ve learned to speak English, they’ve adjusted to a new culture, food, and family, they’ve made friends, and they completed a year of homeschooling.  But the fact is, they’re now 6, 6, and 8 and they have no prior education and the past year has been very difficult.  Books and methods that have worked with my other children have not been successful with the girls.  None of them are reading yet, despite trying very hard (Mom and children!) and the longer they’re home the more overwhelmed I get while realizing just how much they’ve missed by not being in a family for the last several years of their life.  As a result, we decided to put the girls in school for a year.  At the end of this school year we will re-evaluate.  The ultimate goal is to bring them back home.  We’re a homeschooling family but right now, this year, we’re calling in reinforcements!  We live out in the country.  Our local public elementary school is in the middle of farm land and peach orchards.  There are less than 250 students in the entire school and they have wonderful intervention specialists that can help us identify where the girls need special help and can get them started with the right tools for success. To be quite honest, I also had a bit of a revelation a few months ago when trying to decide what would be best for the girls for the coming school year.  I’ve never been able to just be their mom.

My other five children have been with me since birth.  I was able to nurse them, sing to them, help them crawl, walk, and talk.  We had fun at the park while casually learning to count and sing their ABCs. I rocked them to sleep and watched them blossom from a baby, to a toddler, to a school age child.  When our girls came home last year after a long adoption process and grueling waiting period we went into survival mode.  We went from four children to seven overnight.  Our daughters didn’t speak a word of English and were coming out of some very traumatic life experiences.  Josh and I were playing the roles of teacher, counselor, referee, nurse, chef, chauffeur, disciplinarian, oh, and parents.  Right around the time that the girls became pretty fluent in English we began our new school year.  They loved having Mommy as their teacher and they soaked up everything I was pouring in.  However, there was so much that simply wasn’t clicking.  I was treating them as if they were on a preschool/kindergarten level but the reality was they really weren’t even there yet.  I began to see that they were missing a solid foundation.  My stress level began to rise as I put pressure on myself to start building that foundation from scratch at a much older age than usual.  My relationship with the girls became strained.  You see, I fell in love with my biological children a day at a time from the moment they were born.  It’s pretty easy to love a tiny little newborn that grew in your belly for nine months.  It’s a pretty different story when you bring three little strangers into your home and family.  Three little strangers, whose pictures you’ve clung to for three years, faces you’ve prayed over and imagined what life would be like when they’re finally home.  Well let me tell you what its like when they finally come home.  It’s hard.  Homeschooling is hard.  Parenting is hard.  Homeschooling and parenting three new strangers who are now living in your home, part of your family, and call you Mommy is hard.  I love my daughters more than life itself but love is an action, not a feeling.  The emotional love often doesn’t come until later, sometimes even years later.  I’m just being honest and real.  So when I began to struggle with feeling loving toward my girls I suddenly realized that I have yet to just be their mom.  After lots of prayer and researching our options we decided upon our local elementary school.  For the first time since I met my daughters, I am going to just be their mom.  Their education will be in the hands of three sweet, qualified ladies just down the street Monday through Friday from 8-2.  I look forward to getting to know my girls on a new level without the pressure of also being their teacher.  We will paint fingernails and have makeover slumber parties.  We’ll go shopping for new clothes and watch chick flicks together.  I kind of feel like I’m going to be the mom of four daughters for the very first time.  We’re all pretty excited.

Well this post evolved into something completely different than I originally intended so I’ll have to write about what we’re doing in our homeschool this year in another post.  However, I want to end with this:  I absolutely love having a large family.  I love adoption and I love our unique family.  As crazy as it is sounds, there’s already talk around here about “the next one” and sweet baby Charlie is only six weeks old!  I always said I wanted nine children so maybe there is one more baby or child that’s meant to be in our family.  Only time will tell.