October 15, 2014
by: Gari Lister
Christine Moers: Homeschooling a Child with Attachment Trauma
As part of ATN‘s Educating Traumatized Children Summit, Christine Moers, a parent of both adopted and biological children and a parent coach, spoke about the benefits of homeschooling traumatized children. For so many traumatized children, school — even with well-meaning teachers, even with trauma sensitive administrators — is terrifying. My youngest daughter is scared not so much of the teachers, but of the children. She is desperate for friends, but petrified of other children to the extent that she will not talk to them.
Because of her fears, we turned to homeschooling a few years ago. But homeschooling traumatized children is not easy — it adds a layer of difficulty onto the challenges of homeschooling generally. In her interview, Moers and Anna Paravano made several points that homeschoolers — and in fact all parents of traumatized children — should take to heart.
First, look at your child and decide what is best for them therapeutically. The answer may be your local school system or it may be homeschooling or it may be some other option. And sometimes the answer may change over time. Moers talked about the decision she recently made to let one of her children go to public school because that was what was best for that child and the family. For some children and families, homeschooling works, but for others, it creates too much of a battle over schoolwork. The question needs to be where is your child NOW, and what do they need?
Second, separate your success from your child’s success in academics. Moers, who had homeschooled for 11 years, spoke of the feeling of failure she had when she disclosed to the public that one of her children was going to go to public school. Anna Paravano shared the difficulty that she had as an educator with her son’s challenges in math. And I know that I too struggle — why isn’t reading easier for my daughter? Am I not a good enough teacher? Do I not spend enough time working on it? But stressing along those lines is just that — stressing. To be successful parents, we need to meet our children where they are and appreciate the journey. As Moers pointed out — people learn to read when they are in their 30s; people go to college when they are adults. Feeling safe comes first.
Third, Moers shared some simple ideas to combine homeschooling with therapeutic parenting. She did lots of reading out loud as part of her homeschooling — which meant that her children listened to her read wonderful stories out loud. What a wonderful idea for all of us parenting older traumatized children as well as those of us still with little ones at home! She also tried to combine lost of sensory activities and theraplay activities into her daily schedule. She simply labeled the activities as “English” — why tell kids that what they’re doing is therapeutic?
So — if you haven’t thought about homeschooling, consider it. But don’t force yourself if it doesn’t work for you and your child. It can be wonderful, but it is not for every family and every child.