Today, a Facebook friend has asked me some questions that perhaps you have thought of asking as well, but didn't have the nerve like WHY do I say bio-kids and differentiate, and why do I home school some and not others? Also, what happens to my daughters when they hit 18 and stop going to school? For those answers, read below:
1. Why do the girls have to go to school but I home school the others.
ANSWER: I started home schooling my bio-kids when they were born years before moving to Africa. I do not home school just because we live in Kenya; however, education in Kenya for children is mandatory and not free.
When we took in our teenage girls, one of the things they lost when they lost their parents was the privilege of going to school. No one was there to buy their uniforms or books or pay their school fees.
I did home school them for one school year, and it was tough for many reasons, one of which I mention later... but the reality is, the girls WANTED to go to school. They felt like they were missing a huge part of their lives as if we were denying them the most important thing they lost when they lost their parents.
In Kenya, to get to go to school is a big deal. Plus, they do have aunties and or grandmas in their lives who protested them being home schooled. It is not heard of in Kenya, and they were irate that the girls were staying home and 'learning nothing.' So all of the girls felt pressure from external factors as well..
Another issue we had home schooling the girls is that they didn't speak English. It was so tough for them in our home school class. Now they have better English skills than their peers, but that has taken 8 years to develop.
If you could see the joy and pride on their faces when they finally got a new school uniform and back pack, you would understand that it made them feel human again. It gave them pride and selfesteem, something they had lost by being abandoned and hated by society. Now, they felt loved and cared for. I wish kids in the USA can imagine how much MY daughters WORK to go to school, (i.e. walking 2 miles in the rain, etc...).
Another thing Johnny and I had to consider was the fact that in the end, our Kenyan daughters must grow up and live in Kenya. Staying at home with American parents, they need to socialize with their peers some where some how. Ultimately, they are Kenyan, and we live in THEIR country, unlike a lot of adoptive parents you might know.
Also, the reason my bio-kids don't go to school is two fold. I love home schooling them, and we live in a village where my children stick out. They would not survive in local schools being pale. Unless you come and experience it yourself, you might not grasp this. They would be pinched, bullied, and cause problems. There are American schools which are very expensive. The ones I know of cost more money than we receive in a year. So I home school. Andrew, age 17, however, has gone to a local mechanic school where all of the students are African grownups, and that was just fine. They did pick on him a bit, but it helped build his character. He is old enough to handle it now, and he, a part from being lighter, blends right in with his gentle nature and ability to just be 'one of the guys.' Things would be a bit different for my daughters, I think.
2. Why do I refer to my kids as 'bio' kids I thought they were all your kids? I know tons of people that adopt and never distinguish between biological and not. Are y'all just fostering or actually adopting them?
Most people you know who have adopted children live in the USA, right? They have jobs to earn a living and can take care of their adopted children. In our case, we live in Africa and are not allowed to work legally. We never differentiate between the children when speaking at home, obviously. Everyone is the same when it comes to life. They all sleep in the same room, same beds, eat the same food, have the same amount of gifts at birthdays, get outings with us, etc... however, for social media purposes, and for people in the West to understand we care for orphans and they should donate in order for us to be able to feed this many children, pay their school fees, buy their uniforms, etc... we must let them know that we have orphans. I use the word orphan-no-more and bio only on social media so that people can say, Oh! Orphans! I will help. Our situation is a bit different than most you know. We are the only people I know in Kenya who have taken orphans into our own home and NOT opened an orphanage or put them in a different space some where. We are doing the best we can to be equal in all things; however, if I always say, 'my daughters, my daughters..' noone will know that we are actually missionaries doing a unique style of orphan-care that gives quality care to our children. Plus, as you can see in the first paragraph, it just clarifies things for readers. Again, I never say 'bio-kids' at home. Though, I have said, "my students" when our other daughers are home during a home school day.
We have not legally adopted our daughters. We are fostering them, but forever. Legal adoption was not our goal, instead, we wanted to change the face of orphan care by creating a model that provides what orphans are missing-- family. So in a way, fostering for us is one in the same as adoption. Also, Americans are not legally allowed to adopt Kenyans, right now, either.
3. Do they have to go back to visit their family every year? Or Does that have to do with the fostering of them?
No. They do not have to go back. In fact, one of our daughters doesn't go back at all, but most of our children came from a loss of parents, not a loss of an entire family. Although their families do not want to care for them, they still want to see them at Christmas and vise versa. And our daughters WANT to visit their cousins and aunts and uncles because they miss them. Wouldn't you? It is what they do each Christmas by their own choice. They spend all their time with us, and that is fine, except, in reality, they have extended family as well, and they are a sweet reminder of where they came from, a link to their parents whom they lost. We do not want to prevent them from having that.
Also, when they go back, they get to show off how clean and 'smart' they are. When they left their villages, they were skinny, uncared for, dirty, unhealthy, neglected people. Now, they SHINE. They enjoy showing their families that they are cared for and have value.
The reason they go in December is because it is the only month they have extra days off of school. They go to school Jan., Feb., March, part of April, then off until they start again in May, June, July, part of August (they have competitions during that 'off month'), then back to school September, Oct. and only HALF of November, then off through December until January where the school year starts over again. We follow this schedule for our homeschooling as well so everyone is doing the same thing. So December has the most days off making it the best time to travel far.
4. What happens to the girls once they are 18 and finish school?
Remember how I told you that our girls missed school due to having no parents to care for them and pay their fees? Well, our oldest is turning 21 this October and is only in 10th grade. She as well as Sarah, 20, Mildred 19, and Sarah 18, are our oldest and ALL of them are in 10th grade. Not surprisingly, they are not alone in their class, either. Many children miss school at some point because it is so terribly expensive. So for them to get to go is exciting and wonderful. They still have 2 1/2 years of high school. Then, if their grades are good enough, each of them will continue her education in college, or if grades are a bit low, go to a tech school to learn a trade. Albeit, we have taught them many trades through the years, but you get the idea. They will mature and grow out of the nest just like any child. Noone 'ages out.' These are our children. We will help them through life until they can stand on their own.