Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Sergei's Blog

Our son Segei has his own blog. He is mostly posting pictures that he or Zhenya (his brother) have taken. Drop by and give him some encouraging words.

Go Ask Dad III

This is our regular feature on this blog called Go Ask Dad. This is a place where people can ask us any question within reason, and I, sheshe, or one of the kids will attempt to answer it.

Many people often wonder how we do what we do, with eleven kids, homeschooling and most of them coming from different countries. If you are one of those, here is your chance to ask. We try to always remind others that it is all by God's grace, but still He has taught us things that might be helpful to you as you attempt one or more of the things we do. So if you have always wondered how a big family operates, or how you adopt a child from oversees, or how you homeschool kids who speak five different languages only one of which you speak, then go ahead and ask.

Also some of the kids have agreed to answer questions. So feel free to ask them questions, though please refrain from asking personal questions about their background.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Erlan's Letter -- Another poem from Tessa

When I look deep in your eyes
I see myself reflected
Showing me how deep are your thoughts
How great your love for me.

When I look at your face
I see love shining outwards
I see the perfection the Creator has given me
And I wonder, what have I done?

You smile at me, brightly
All I wanted to say
Melts away, replaced by my unfailing love for you
I could never go on without you.

You speak my name
Its vibrations lie sweet upon the wind
I stop my flow of words, my tongue is quickly stilled
As I contemplate the message you have to give.

You wave your hand
I want to take it in my own
The thought of losing you, even for a little while
Brings searing pain upon my heart.

I watch you play
Gently, with the little children
And I know, when you are mine again, you will cherish
Our children forever.

When someone upsets you
Each crystal tear you shed
Brings hundredfold anguish upon my heart
I cannot help but comfort you.

When you are happy
The light of stars shines in your face
Your bright laughter floats upon the wind, beautiful
I am wrapped in a blanket of joy.

You are my one, my only love
I will cherish you forever and always
Though stars should go dark, and all people disappear,
Nothing will ever keep me from you.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Sheshe is headed to Mayo Clinic

As those of you who follow our blog or us know sheshe has a neurological problem that has the doctors stumped. The doctors now want to send her to the Mayo Clinic. In the providence of God, we just finished the book of Job in our family Bible reading. So timely for what is going on in our lives.

You see, we want answers. We ask God for healing, or at least to know what is going on, and yet He does not answer. Such was Job's story. He had a question for God, "Why have you done this to me?" However, in the end, God never answers Job. Instead God asks Job questions that reveal who God is and who Job is not. And Job, seeing God more clearly, worships God.

Here then is our problem, we want to know what God is doing or why God is doing something. We think that we can understand God and His ways. And though He sometimes reveals them to us they are beyond our comprehension, because He is so much more than we.

In the end we must recognize that we cannot understand all that God understands. We must also understand that He has a right to do what He will and we do not. And, because of this, we must simply trust Him. We must go beyond trusting Him to provide us with answers and provide us with what we want, and simply trust Him.

It seems to me that this is the faith of the little child that Jesus speaks of. A little child trusts a parent implicitly. Try to convince a three or four year old that mommy is wrong some time. They simply believe that whatever mommy does is right. They trust not in what mommy does, but they trust mommy.

Still it is hard, because we think more of ourselves than we ought. We believe that God owes us an explanation. We need to do like Job and repent in dust and ashes.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

The ongoing cost of adoption

In my earlier post I discussed how an adoption can be done more cheaply than most people realize. Today I would like to discuss the ongoing costs involved in adoption.

Basically, the ongoing cost of an adopted child is the same as any child. Though, if you adopt a child with medical or other problems, these may involve more costs.

Some of this cost will be defrayed by the government allowing you to keep more of your money through tax credits and deductions, but that still leaves money that has to come from somewhere. So where does it come from?


In the Book of Deuteronomy we have the following passage:

Deut 24:19-21
When you reap your harvest in your field, and forget a sheaf in the field, you shall not go back to get it; it shall be for the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands.When you beat your olive trees, you shall not go over the boughs again; it shall be for the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow. When you gather the grapes of your vineyard, you shall not glean it afterward; it shall be for the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow.

One of the ways God provided for the fatherless (orphans) was to tell His people not to be greedy and take every last thing God had provided them for their own use. They were to leave some for the ophans, widows, and strangers.

One way then then to apply that in our lives is to recognize that we should sacrifice some of what we have to help such as these. Let's discuss some practical ways that could be done.

With the way we manage our groceries, it costs about $25/week per child. This is dinner for two at a moderately priced resturant. You can give that up.

You can buy some of your clothes at consigment shops or thrift stores instead of Walmart or the mall.

You can not go to a movie once a month?

You can buy a used instead of a new car?

You can give up cable TV and read books from the library.

You can give up these and many other things that are insignificant when you compare them to the plight of child living in an orphanage in a third world company.

Why would you do these things. Well, if you are like me, you would do them because you know that your Lord cares for these little ones. And that he came and gave His life on a cross to pay the pentlty for your sins. Because that is real sacrifice, and at the least, you ought to be able to give up some of your comforts to help another.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Why homeschool?

I have been enjoying reading a number of good articles at Why Homeschool. A couple of interest:

Would you let this stranger into your house? Most of you will recognize the stranger once you've read about him, but I won't spoil it here.

A Quote - making life too easy had this quote along with some good thoughts:

"Too many parents make life hard for their children by trying, too zealously, to make it easy for them." -Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, poet, dramatist, novelist, and philosopher (1749-1832)

It reminds me of how in making sacrifices to adopt our other kids, we helped our biological kids out. With only the three we probably would have spoiled them. But bringing in eight adopted children made their lives harder and, in the long run, better.

As we brought more kids in, we were no longer able to wait on them hand and foot. They had to learn to contribute, to server others, and to give of themselves. They even had to learn to deal with people from outside their sterile Christian world. They were introduce to life, yet still had the relative saftey of a loving home.

I believe they are better for it.

Cultural Challenges

Gean asked: "What is/was the hardest thing culturally for the kids to deal with as they made the transition from their past to your home? "

I assume in this case you are talking about the children we adopted from Russia, as the others had already been in the US for a while. There are so many cultural issues that it is really hard to put a finger on one that was the most challenging.

For those who will be adopting - as you travel to adopt or visit your child, it helps to relish the feeling of being in a different country and culture. Carry this with you as a reminder when your child comes home, so that you will have a taste of what they are going through. The good thing about your short trip is that you know it will soon end, though, and you will return to the comfort of your home. For the child, when they are adopted and brought to the US, they have no hopes of returning to that comfort. Even if theirs had been a horrible setting and environment, it was what they knew and there was most likely some comfort in that familiarity.

Coming to a new country brings so many new sensations. The smells, tastes, sounds, sights, feelings - EVERYTHING is different. It can be overwhelming to a child... even an adult for that matter. New demands are being made on you, words are being spoken that you don't understand, foods taste different, nothing looks familiar... Some children will adapt easily to their new surroundings, but you must be understanding of the one who seems challenged by it all.

How can you help this child? The best way we have found is to introduce them to new things slowly. This means bringing them to your home and staying there for a good while, limiting visitors. Do not go galavanting around the town, showing them off and trying to impress them with all of the material goods of their new country. This is a disaster waiting to happen! Rather, allow them time to adjust to their immediate surroundings - their home and family. Establish a routine with them, try to feed them some familiar foods if possible, find out who this child is that God has placed in your hands.

So, in answer to your question, Gean, I guess "cultural overload" is the biggest issue. An understanding heart and a calm voice (surrounded by lots of prayer, of course) goes a long way in smoothing those bumps.

Hope this helps!


A milestone

We just passed our 1000 visitor here at Nihilo. Nothing compared to the big dogs in the blog world like the Pyromaniac who gets 18,000 visitor in a single week where he does not really post anything. Still we are glad that some of you find what we do of enough value to come back. Thanks for stopping by.

Monday, January 23, 2006

The Cost of Adoption

One thing that is often said to us is "We would love to adopt children, but we just cannot afford to." In some cases this appears to be an excuse, because "everyone knows how expensive an adoption is." However, in many cases I think it comes from a lack of investigation. With tax credits and deductions for the adoption expenses, our combined bill for adopting eight children will be under $6,000. Based on the current laws for tax credits, that amount would be very near zero if we started the same adoptions today.

So some people would say "how does that work?" First when adopting, the federal government gives you a tax credit of up to $10,000 for any expenses you had for adoption. This is a credit not a deduction, meaning that it goes to pay your tax bill not just reduce your income. The credit is only good for taxes you actually owe, but it does roll over for up to five years meaning that, unless you income is real low, you will eventually get the money back. Now a foreign adoption will usually run more than $10,000. However, since the $10,000 is per child, adopting two children at the same time will double you credit, but usually not double your cost, since some costs such as your travel do not double with two. When all is said and done, this will often reduce your cost to $0 over a period of several years. The main problem being getting the cash to complete the adoption and then waiting for several years to get the costs back.

Also, most states usually give you some form of deduction for adoption expenses.

Besides tax incentives , there are ways to reduce the cost of an adoption. If you are adventurous, there are ways to do foreign adoptions without an agency. This greatly reduces fees. Often agencies will reduce or waive some fees for special needs children or sibling groups. Also, there are often special circumstances where others are willing to pay most of the costs. One of our adoptions only cost about $400, though that was a very unusual circumstance.

We have also seen many people adopt with monies given by family, their church, or others. Sometimes just by direct gifts because of the need, and other times through active fundraising efforts on the part of the adoptive parents.

All in all, cost should not be a hinderance, if you are willing to investigate the costs and be creative both in reducing costs and raising money.

Remember that God has unlimited resources, and can provide in many ways. In each of our adoptions He has provided for the costs in unique ways. We have often gone forward not knowing where exactly all of the money would come from. In a couple of cases, we simply committed to take the next step, and then to waiting to see if He would provide the rest. Through it all, He has provided.

Tomorrow, I will discuss the ongoing costs of raising the child.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Go Ask Dad II

This is our regular feature on this blog called Go Ask Dad. This is a place where people can ask us any question within reason, and I, sheshe, or one ofthe kids will attempt to answer it.

Many people often wonder how we do what we do, with eleven kids, homeschooling and most of them coming from different countries. If you are one of those, here is your chance to ask. We try to always remind others that it is all by God's grace, but still He has taught us things that might be helpful to you as you attempt one or more of the things we do. So if you have always wondered how a big family operates, or how you adopt a child from oversees, or how you homeschool kids who speak five different languages only one of which you speak, then go ahead and ask.

Also some of the kids have agreed to answer questions. So feel free to ask them questions, though please refrain from asking personal questions about their background.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Home, Sweet Home

I was discharged from the hospital today, and it is good to be home. I can take about 2-3 days of that, but it starts getting old after that. The food is better here, too. ;-) The good news is that they found lots of things that are NORMAL in my body. They did not find the "problem", though. It feels odd to have so many normal things going on, when something is so obviously wrong, at the same time. Aren't our bodies awesome and complex?!!

Opsoclonus - Myoclonus is the clinical diagnosis at this point, but unfortunately it is quite rare and my neurologist had not seen "since he was a resident". I was not even sure he had seen it then, or perhaps just read about it. Since he has ruled out so many things, he is still not sure how to treat it. I guess he has not done the same research on the internet that we have, has he? ;-) He wants me to return to my opthalmologist this week to see if the Opsoclonus is still there (it is), then have that doc report back to him. This will continue to be a process of going from one doc to the other, until something can be decided. He is talking about perhaps sending me to Mayo, but I am not excited about that. There is a doc in Philly that has done some research on this, so I will see if I can print off some information to take with me to the eye doc. Maybe he will share it with my neurologist.

What I came home with, more than anything, is the understanding that God has simply made my body very different and my life may never be what it was before. I don't know what that is going to look like from here on out, and I pray that He will indeed lead some doctor to an effective treatment to return my health. However, I know that He knows what is in store for me, and right now, today, I need to understand what changes I should make in my life to adapt to the life He has for me. This does not mean that I am "giving up" - rather it means that I am going to try to give God the reins and not try to do it all myself.

I have made a few changes already - stopping all caffeine (sodas and chocolate), wearing sunglasses when I go out, cutting back on activities, not driving much, riding carts in the stores, etc. I really want to try and build my stamina back up, but will need to go easy on that, most likely.

Thank you so much for your prayers. I am humbled to realize how many folks have been praying for me.

Friday, January 20, 2006

A Poem from Tessa

This is a poem Tessa (age 14) wrote. I is excerpted from her current novel she is writing. I hope you enjoy.

Let peoples now rejoice
The dark and gloom is done
The war we fought has ended
Our worlds can see the sun.

Fair maiden, we salute thee
Young sir, we give our thanks
Wars river now is drying
Where once it filled its banks.

Thou camest from afar
To our anger-ridden land
Thou asked for nothing untward
But came to lift a hand.

In thankfulness we grant thee
This crown of heavy gold
May thou bear it ever wisely
As the lands which now thee hold.

May thee be blessed with children
To carry on thy reign
To comfort thee in thy old age
To ease thee of thy pain.

May thee be blessed with riches
With greatest wealth untold
With sliver and with jewels
With cups of finest gold.

Our blessing be upon thee
Our new King and Queen
May thy lives be happy
The lives we wish wed seen.

All hail King Erlan Helan-El!
All hail Queen Ilianna Rohon-Ter!
Long live the High King and Queen!

It's funny when their heads spin

We went to visit sheshe in the hospital last night. We being me and seven of the kids. One of the nurses comes in and sees seven teenagers including two asians and asks "Oh, where are all of these kids from?"

Well, sheshe in her normal manner says "Oh, these are just some of my kids."

"SOME of your kids. How many do you have?"

Sheshe looks at me and calmly says "I don't know, dear, how many do we have now?"

Me being the ever so serious one replies "Just counting the ones at home or do you want to include the ones that are gone right now?"

Sheshe: "Oh, we better count all of them."

Me: "Well I guess that would be eleven, dear."

The nurse seemed to leave rather quickly after that. I think she felt like she had wander into some alternate dimension and needed to get back home.

Oh well, its fun to watch their heads spin.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Dad Answers Part 3

Anonymous poster WC asks some more good question. By the way WC, introduce yourself, I like to know who I am talking to.

Do you ever get to go on a "date"...out to eat, for a walk at the mall, to a movie, with just you and Romona---no kids??

Certainly. All but one of our kids are teenagers so there is no real problem leaving them at home, especially since my Mom lives with us.

What are the biggest obstacles to overcome from going from just husband and wife to 11 kids?


How many of the 11 children are "walking with the Lord"?

We cannot truly know someone else's heart, so that is really hard to say. We are also cautious to not push for professions of faith. Children can too easily rush to make a profession in order to please mom and dad. We certainly present them the Gospel and encourage them to put their faith in Christ, but we would much rather leave a child examining themselves to see if they are in the faith than trusting in their profession and a baptism.

Having said that, we have two who have made a credible profession, been baptized, and are showing fruit. Several others give credible professions and are showing some fruit, but have not sought baptism. All the rest give some form of profession and may exhibit some fruit, but do not seem to be genuinely regenerate. None express open rebellion to either us or God.

This may be too personal of a question:

Dad and Romona, you seem so Christ-like and loving to have done what you have done/doing (adopting)---What sin issues (if any) do you struggle with yourselves?

First, I'll say that if we are not struggling with sin, then we are not Christians. Short of heaven, we will always struggle with sin.

Ramona said, when I asked her this question, that her biggest problem is trusting God during this time of testing with her health.

For me, I would say that I struggle most with being a servant. I would rather do my own thing than serve my wife and family. I am also not nearly as patient as I ought to be.

Touchy question:

Do you, believe Christians should have a heart that should want to adopt? Do practicing Christians who live in nice homes and have the "American dream" (materialy)---should they, in your opinion, be adopting needy children in order to truly be Christ-like? Are you upset/disturbed with fellow Christians (who seem to have everything) that have not been willing to adpot?

First let me say that I do not see any Biblical command to adopt children. So I cannot say that someone is wrong to not adopt children. I think that the Biblical commands regarding care for orphans can be met in other ways than through adoptions.

On the other hand, I think our hearts should be where the Lord's heart is. In the giving of the Law to Israel, He made provision for widows, orphans, and strangers. At later times, He chastised Israel for their treatment of the same groups. In the New Testament His concern for orphans is reiterated in such places as James 1:27. Anyone who has no care whatsoever for orphans ought to examine themselves to see if they are in the faith. How their care, if it exists, is put into practice is dependent on how God has equipped a them to express that care.

I would also be careful not to make one facet such as care for orphans the litmus test for Christ-likeness. Each of us are only dim reflections of the likeness of Christ. If I am %0.00002 like Christ in the loving of the poor and disposessed and someone else is %0.00001, I have little to condemn them for.

As far as feelings, I would say that it is mostly just sadness that so many do not care for those the Lord cares for. That and they are missing out on all the blessings that these children bring.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Dad Answers Part 2

Paul Lamey asks:

How do you balance husband/wife time with individual time for each child? And on a more serious note: how many gallons of milk do you go through in a week?

Well, to answer the easier one first, we usually go through about 10 gallons of milk per week.

I am not sure if I can answer the other one. I would like to say that I had some great seven step plan that if followed, you would always give each child exactly the right amount of time. Unfortunately, life and kids are not that simple. Depending on the child, their age, their background, and what is going on at the moment each seems to need a different amount of one on one time and it changes from week to week.

I think the key to it is that we are constantly communicating with our kids. We actually talk to them, and they talk to us. Because of that, we know when one needs some individual time. One of the things I have learned is that each child does not necessarily need individual time as much as that just need time communicating with their parents. They do need time for some one on one, but much of what they need can be done in pairs or small groups.

As for husband/wife time, we do set time aside each day to talk.

I guess it comes down to the fact that we communicate as we "walk along the way." Communication is part of our lifestyle more than something we plan.

I hope that makes some sense.

Winding up

In this series of posts ((1),(2),(3),(4),(5),(6)) we discussed why we beleive that homeschooling is the best educational choice for older adopted foreign children. Each of these children has unique educational needs based on age at adoption, original culture, language, and prior family background. Thus their cirriculum needs to be highly tailored to reflect this. Traditional schools by their nature cannot handle such a idividualized course of study.

In addition, these children need time to bond with family, absorb the new culture and language. They also need to heal from any damage done by parental negect or abuse or from institutionalization. And this needs to be done in the safety of the home and prior to putting them into the social and relational interations they will find in the broader world. Homeschooling, by allowing the parents to control the pace, allows them to give the child this time.

Sheshe is in the hospital

Sheshe (aka: Ramona) is in the hospital for some tests. She appears to have a rare neurological disorder called opsoclonus myoclonus. It is usually found in kids which means it is exceedingly rare in adults. The condition has several causes and the tests are to try and determine the cause. We appreciate all of your prayers during this time.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Structured vs Unstructured Homeschooling

I ran across this interesting post, and it reminded me of the fine line we often walk when educating our children.

There are two extremes in the homeschooling world. One wants to let children just follow their own inclinations. The teacher is there more as a helper when it comes to education, just encouraging the child to explore nature and helping them to learn. The other extreme, is the one that thinks all learning should be structured with the choice of subject and material dictated by the teacher.

As with many things, both exteremes are wrong. A child left entirely to their own devices will never learn to properly submit to authrority, nor will they ever learn to persevere in those things that are required for them to be successful in life. Imagine a father and husband suddenly quitting his job because he does not like what he is doing any more.

However, we must balance that with the recognition that each child is a unique creation of God. They are designed by God to glorify Him in ways particular to them. We must encourage them to seek God and glorify Him in their own way, within the bounds of what God permits in His Word. This should be the goal of every parent. This means allowing them to pursue some of their own trails through the woods of education. Balance is the key.

Dad Answers

An anonymous commenter who signs as WC asked several questions in my Go Ask Dad post. I thought I would answer them here, since not everyone reads the comments.

WC asks:
Financial questions:

How much is your weekly grocery bill?

Our weekly grocery bills run about $25 per person per week this includes food and other grocery store stuff. Obviously we buy a lot of things in bulk. We have three freezers that we use to buy food at low cost and keep until we need it. Likewise, we have an area set aside that we call our store where we stock bulk items. We then can go to some place like Sam's Club and buy things in cases and multipacks and leave them in the "store" until we are ready. My wife and my mom (who lives with us) are very good about coming up with cheap receipes.

Are you independently wealthy?

Well my Father does own the cattle that graze on a thousand hills (Psalm 50:10). As far as independently wealthy, no I have a day job. I am senior level programmer for a defense contractor.

As far as wealthy though, that depends on your definition. By American standards we would be considered middle class. However, I think by Biblical standards and the standards of most people in the world we would be considered wealthy. We can afford food, shelter and clothing and still have something leftover at the end of the day to do with as we choose.

For us to spend that excess on ourselves and not to help others, brings shame on our Lord. For what kind of God is He whose people do not care about those that He cares about, that is the widows and orphans of the world.

How big is your home?

Our house is about 4000 sq ft and has six bedrooms, one of which my mother stays in. We have been blessed to live in an inexspensive part of the country.

Do you worry about money/providing?

Seldom. God provides for us constantly. Everytime I try to get worried about the finances, He reminds me through His providence that He is there and will provide.

Do you have good health insurance?

Yes, we have been blessed with good health insurance.

Finally, to kind of sum up the financial issues, let me add some principles that I consider key.

1) It is not my money, it is God's money to be used by me in my service to Him.

2) If my priorities are God's priorities, I spend a lot less and accomplish a lot more. We do not need all the things the culture says we do, and once we realize that, we have a lot more money available to do His work.

3) If we seek after His righteouness, He will add all that we need.

4) If He wants you to do something, He will provide.

I hope that answers WC questions.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Go Ask Dad

I am going to start a regular feature on this blog called Go Ask Dad. This is a place where people can ask us any question within reason, and I will attempt to answer it. Many people often wonder how we do what we do, with eleven kids, homeschooling and most of them coming from different countries. If you are one of those, here is your chance to ask. We try to always remind others that it is all by God's grace, but still He has taught us things that might be helpful to you as you attempt one or more of the things we do. So if you have always wondered how a big family operates, or how you adopt a child from oversees, or how you homeschool kids who speak five different languages only one of which you speak, then go ahead and ask.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

One of These Things is Not Like the Others

One of the difficulties that parents run into who place their older adopted foreign children in traditional schools is that most of the people in these schools have very little experience with these kinds of children.  If they do, it is usually with ESL (English as a Second Language) students.  However, most of these children are not adoptees, but immigrants. The result is that they have very little understanding of their unique issues. Since these kids need curricula that are highly tailored to their individual needs, the failure to understand their issues results in them being misplaced within the system.

We often see these kids being diagnosed and labeled with problems that are simply the result of the other issues we have discussed to date.  For example one of our daughters who was adopted from a disruption was labeled as having “language delays.â€�  She was tested after having been adopted for about a year after having spoken another language for the first eight years of her life.  There was no reason to believe that she should be at an age appropriate level with regard to the language.  Yet she was labeled as such and placed in special education classes.  While she did need special help, she did not need to be treated as someone with a learning disability, but someone who is otherwise capable but lacking in the necessary skills.   In fact, when we looked at some of her school work from that time, we were impressed how far she had progressed at that point.  Now five year past adoption, it is obvious that she is in fact a bright girl, with no appreciable learning problems other than having been convinced that she had problems learning.

The problem stems from the fact that the norms for most tests are based on some assumptions that these kids do not meet.  For instance the norms for language development assume that the child has had a single language for their entire life.   Clearly this is not true of these children. It is invalid to use a test for lifetime English speakers to evaluate such a child.

In this example, our experience has shown that the age at which the children start learning the new language can have a profound effect on their ability to pick up the new language. For instance we have been told and also observed that children who start learning their second language post puberty have a much harder time getting rid of their accents.   We also suspect that the original language can have an effect on the rate of learning, since some languages have more similarities to English than other.  To assign a label based on some standardized test in such a case is wholly inappropriate.

In our current system, once a label has been placed on a child, it can be very difficult to get rid of.  Schools typically receive extra funding for special education children.  This can lead to a hesitancy to remove the labels and thus lose funding.  Other factors play into this as well.  Unfortunately, with a label in place, it often forces the child into certain paths through the system.  If these paths are inappropriate, the child’s education can suffer.

Again the obvious solution is that someone intimately aware of the child’s strengths, weaknesses, and background needs to guide and direct the child’s education.  Homeshcooling provides the freedom to do so.

These children often do have learning disabilities or other issues that affect their ability to learn.  However, this cannot be determined by using the tests provided by the professionals.  These children simply do not fit into the populations that the tests were design for.  Only someone who can sit down with the child and see the difference between “struggling to learn the languageâ€� and “struggling despite the languageâ€� can make valid judgments with regards to their education.  Again the homeschooling environment is the perfect place for such evaluations.

Saturday, January 14, 2006


Once again, I am awed at God's timing, and so privileged to have been used by Him in the life of a child. Most of you know that I was scheduled to go into the hospital for extensive testing last Thursday. However, the hospital was filled and there was "no room at the inn" for me. At first I was frustrated, as I wanted to get the show on the road, but slowly I came around and saw the job that God had set before me.

God had brought a family to me that desparately needed help. The child was being disrupted and very much needed a good solid Christian home. (We do NOT facilitate disruptions on a regular basis, but rather make decisions such as this on a very individual basis. If anyone has questions about that decision making process, please let us know. Our foremost goal is always to counsel the families rather than help them disrupt.)

I spent many hours on the phone and keyboard, making contacts on behalf of this child. I prayed and prayed, and waiting for replies. None came. As God was silent, we began to wonder if perhaps He meant this child for our home, although we greatly questioned the wisdom of even bringing her here for respite right now.

Thursday evening, we talked to the kids about this situation and asked them to pray. We also asked them if they had any suggestions (since many of them had been in the same place at one time in their lives) or could think of anyone I might have missed contacting. Our daughter who was our first disruption adoption immediately raised her hand and called out the name of the family of one of her friends from Vietnam. I looked at her in amazement and said, "What a wonderful idea! What didn't I think of them?!" Of course, I know why now - God was allowing her to be a part of this wonderful process.

I called this family as early as possible the next day, and they were surprised, but indeed interested. Not only interested, but EXCITED about bringing in their 14th child, even though they already had 4 international adoptions in process. Contacts have been made and at this time it appears that this family will welcome a very troubled 12 year old girl into their loving midst soon.

What a blessing it was to have been a small part of making that connection. And to think - if I had gone into the hospital according to MY schedule, and the doctor's schedule, it would not have happened. God is so awesome, and we are so tiny.


"Getting to Know You..."

I was going to make a comment on Bob's post, but it would be too long, so I will just write something separately. As I told Paul, when he asked this question, "I am SO glad you asked!" When we lived in Tulsa, there was a family with eight children who went to our church. I was an Awana helper and was continually amazed that the Mom could bring her child into our classroom and know exactly what was going on with her. I just could not understand how she could know THAT many kids so thoroughly. So, it gives me great pleasure to now share with others just how that has worked in our own lives.

Well, it is facsinating to look back upon those feelings and see how far God has brought us (me). As His love multiplies with each child, so He also multiplies our ability to know these children and understand them. It indeed takes work and planning on our part, but the glory goes all to the Lord.

Right now, I could hold a conversation with someone about my kids and tell them what each one was like. I know their likes and dislikes, their hopes and dreams, favorite and repugnant foods, etc. I never would have thought that possible, with this many kids.

I have been thinking about this question since Paul posted it and have come to realize at least one thing about how Bob and I approach our parenting duties: We consider our family to be our full time ministry to the Lord. Yes, Bob has a "day job", but our main focus in life is serving the Lord through these children. Now, do NOT get that confused with having a "child centered home", however. I don't think anyone who knows us would accuse us of that injustice. Our focus is not to make the children happy, but to teach them and train them in His righteousness. All parents know that this involves pain, as well as joy.

On a daily basis, how does that look? As Bob said, we talk to our kids a lot. Not just at them, but to them. We look them in the eye and discourse with them. Part of that is listening, of course. Decisions are made with much discussion of the issues surrounding them. We talk about spiritual issues, financial, boy/girl, modesty, dating (or not), makeup (yes, even Dad gets in on this), educational, career, friends, hobbies, to mention a few areas. And, yes, we talk a lot about my illness.

We also hug our kids. Physical touch is important, even with teens. Each child gives us a hug after prayers and before they go to bed - even the teenage boys!! The funny thing is, when we have teen visitors, they usually come around and hug us, too, and seem to enjoy it.

There are lots of unscheduled talks, both long and brief. We try to be there whenever they want to talk, but they do have to understand that we often have other things we are doing and they may have to wait. Interruptions are not tolerated, and respect is expected.

Bob also mentioned humor. This is SO very important, especially with teens. They already take themselves way too seriously. We have lots of "family jokes" and often find the kids groaning an "Oh Mommmmm," or "Oh, Daddddddd." Grandma gets in on it, too, as we often find her dancing in line with the kids at mealtime (you have heard of line dancing, haven't you?) or cracking jokes with them. Humor is a gift from God, and we are so blessed to have that tool to use as we parent this herd of cats.

Being around our kids 24/7 makes a huge difference, too. We know what is going on in their lives because we ARE their lives. Homeschooling allows us that. We have been able to let our kids show us their own strengths and weaknesses through our schooling, and this has helped them to build confidence that many of them have never had before in their lives. Some of them are still working on that, as it is a continual process.

We also do our best to understand who each child really is - as God has made them. When we discover an aptitude or interest, we try to encourage that through research, books, discussion, etc. It is not possible for us to allow each child to actually participate in lots of outside interests, but we do encourage them to develop interests within the parameters that we are able to allow. Sergei is a photographer, Tessa is a writer, Naomi is an entrepeneur... You get the picture (or at least Sergei does). We also allow our kids to see us share their successes with other people outside the family. We love sharing Kathryn's testimony with folks, for instance.

OK, I have to admit that I am the scheduler in the family. I am the maintainer, Bob is the creator. As we work within those schedules, we are able to allow our kids a great deal of personal freedom too, though. They know their duties, get them done, and then are able to pursue other areas of interest. How does this help us to get to know our kids, though? Well, it actually encourages them to develop their own personalities, so that we CAN get to know them. We have some who like to get up early, some who like to sleep later. This is allowed within limits, and helps us to better see who these persons are that God has placed in our home. Military like scheduling would not allow those freedoms, but "flexible scheduling" does.

Paul, does this help answer your question? If not, please ask it again, from a slightly different perspective and you will once again get lots more than you bargained for. ;-)


We have been noticed

We have been noticed for some of our comments on homeschooling. If you are interested in homeschooling, this site seems to collect good articles about homeschooling. Looks like a good resource.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Cat Herding 101

Paul Lamey our beloved pastor, counselor, and friend asks in our “Go ask your father” post; “I would like to know how you get to really know each child as a parent and maintain that one on one connection when you have so many. Do you have certain times set aside for one on one, or how does that work?”

First I would say that it is a team effort. Mom and dad both are involved in the kids lives and each sees different aspects of the child’s character and personality. As an example, mom usually knows better how they FEEL where dad usually knows more about what they are THINKING. A good deal of our conversation involves talk about the kids. We occasionally have “dates” where we talk about and plan strategies regarding the kids.

Second we spend time with them. We probably watch an average of less than five hours of broadcast television a month. We do things with them and talk to them. Not always serious life changing stuff, but just hanging out kind of stuff. There is a lot of humor in our house, we joke with out kids. Laughter is very important with teenagers who generally take life too seriously anyway. We have described our household’s humor as Jakie Chan in the Brady Bunch and their Search for the Holy Grail.

Why is humor so important? It makes us accessible and real to them. We try to be transparent to our children. Letting them know that we are people just like them, with the same needs and desires. Our kids still know that we have authority over them, but that is a role God has given us, not a matter of our innate superiority or the fact that we are bigger and stronger. They must submit to us just as we submit to God.

Another big aspect is homeschooling. Homeschooling our children gives us much more time with them, allowing us to know them better. As a father I am involved in some portions of the homeschooling as teacher. I am also involved in all the planning for the school.

We also have time set aside during the evenings for Bible Study and prayer. Seeing and hearing their answers to questions give insight into what is going on in their heart. Also hearing their prayers can give clues as well.

As for scheduling time, I have never really been a schedule driven person. I do however seek them out fairly regularly to “just talk,” or to deal with a particular issue. The frequency will vary according to the child. For instance when our most recent child came, she needed a great deal of attention. I would often stay up to 12:00 or 1:00 in the morning talking to her. I probably still have late conversations one or two times a week with her or another child. Kids that are doing well can go for several weeks without having one of those kind of talks, but we still talk.

Another aspect is that we involve our kids in the keeping of the household. This does two things. First it gives us more time to spend on more meaningful activities, like interacting with the kids. Second, it gives us an opportunity to work with them, as they help with things.

Finally, we try to limit the amount of activities outside of the home. Our society is simply too busy with trivial things. “Distracted in Disneyland” as a missionary once said. Kids need parents who communicate to them the essential things in life more than they need to be able to play sports or learn a musical instrument.

I am sure that sheshe can add some things, but that is all I can think of right now. I hope that answers the question.

Why we adopt

Gunner, our former pastor in Tulsa’s son, and his wife Cindi have decided to embark on the wonderful adventure that is international adoption. He has posted the letter he sent to explain their decision. I want to quote part of it here (by permission) because it so eloquently expresses some of what sheshe and I believe about why we have adoption. If you want to read the full thing, you can find it here.

Rather, our reason for adopting is that “Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world” (James 1:27). The need of orphans in Africa is incalculable. Their “distress” is severe. And we have the Gospel, a family, and a home (in that order). Moreover, we ourselves have experienced the grace of adoption, and on a much grander scale. We were slaves of sin, and are now children of God (Romans 8:15). We were dead, and are now alive (Ephesians 2:1-7). God was our Judge, and now He is our Father. We faced a foreboding future in hell, but now we anticipate an abundant inheritance in heaven. God is the Father of the fatherless, and He has made Himself that for us. With all of this in mind, the thought of us not helping orphans is outlandish. “We love, because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19). For us, this means adoption.

There’s one other element at play. God loves diversity, and we love diversity with Him. Jesus Christ is praised in the book of Revelation because, as the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders cry out, “You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation” (Revelation 5:9). God’s family is colorful, because God is creative and because the bond of Christ is strong. We think this is beautiful, and therefore we desire for our family to mirror this every-tribe-tongue-people-nation diversity. The loveliest family in all the universe is God’s, and its loveliness is well-worth reflecting.
May God bless Gunner, Cindi, and the children they adopt.

Another Sergei Picture (photoshopped)

Educational background

This is a continuation of the prior discussion on why homeschooling is the best educational choice for older foreign adopted children.

A significant issue that most of these children have is their prior educational back ground. It is very typical that children living in orphanages will not have had an ideal educational experience up to the point they are adopted. In their home country they were typically in the public schools, if they were in school at all. Often these schools are inadequate because of the economic conditions in the country, or the fact that orphans usually do not have access to the better schools. Likewise, orphans are pretty much on their own when it comes to navigating the educational process. Without parents to guide them, tutor them, and otherwise fill in the blanks in the system, they have little hope for academic success.

In those less common cases where these children do thrive in schools, there education does not always agree with what they would have learned in our schools. For instance, the subject of history is very tied to the local culture. For instance our daughter who comes from China knows quite a bit about Chairman Mao, but very little about George Washington or Abraham Lincoln. She also was taught that the U.S. was NOT in World War II. Clearly she would have problems in an eight grade American History class. Things that here peers are assumed to know she does not. Likewise, facts that she considers true are consider false by her new teachers.

The solution to these problems are not easy, particular when combined with the language difficulty and cultural difficulties mentioned in my prior posts. Clearly, such a child needs an individualized curriculum and time spent with a teacher who will help them identify and fill in the blanks while correcting the “wrong” teachings from their prior environment.

Obviously, a classroom with twenty other kids is not the ideal situation for such a child. Teachers simply do not have the time to spend so much effort on an individual child. Also, most teachers in traditional schools do not have much experience with children coming from such a background.

Clearly the better solution is one where the teacher knows a great deal about the child’s background, strengths and limitations. A solution where the curriculum can be changed to meet the needs of the child. Where learning can occur at a pace that the child can handle, and it can be adapted to all the other issues these children are dealing with in there early stages in a new culture.

Clearly, homeschooling is that better solution.

In the next post, I intend to deal more with the difficulty that traditional schools have recognizing and accounting for the unique challenges the children face. Also, why care needs to be taken with regard to any testing that may be done to determine possible learning problems.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Go Ask Your Father

When sheshe and I were younger and only had a couple of kids, we were fascinated by big families. We could barely handle our couple of young kids and here they were with six, eight, ten or more. How could they possibly do that?

Along the way we actually asked that question to some and over the years we have become one of those families. So, if you have ever wondered, how big families do it, here is a place you can ask.

Ask any question you would like about how a big family operates, and we will try to answer. You may even earn a entire blog post in your honor.


"And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness." Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in my infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ's sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong." II Corinthians 12:7-10

I have to admit that it is a continual struggle for me to take pleasure in my own personal infirmities, but at the suggestion of an elder in our church, I have begun to keep a log of items that I can "boast of in my infirmities." I would like to share some of these with you, praying that you will see the Light shining through these current trials.

1) There have been previously unspoken declarations of love from some of our adopted children.
2) Numerous folks from church and otherwise are blessing us in various ways, with prayers and filling physical needs.
3)We have had the opportunity to train the kids to be a bit more self reliant in life skills.
4) I find myself relying more on the Lord for strength each day.
5) I am more accepting of the fact that I cannot do all that **I** want to do.
6) One child in particular has said that she has learned to "cherish" me more.
7) One other child has seemed more compassionate lately.
8) I am working on praying through decisions more than before.
9) God has helped me avoid the ever present temptations of sodas and chocolate (both of which make my condition markedly worse).
10)I have had opportunities to talk with some friends about God's Providence in good times and bad.

Those are just a few examples of some of the many ways God is working through my illness. I remain far from perfect, and my faith falters on a regular basis, but I always return to my Rock and Redeemer for strength and renewal.

Recently, a new symptom has given the doctors a possible clue to what is actually going on, and they plan on admitting me to the hospital for extensive testing once a bed becomes available. Please join me in praying that I will be able to glorify God throughout this time and that the tests will bring accurate results.

In the meantime, I will continue to add to my log as God shows me ways I can "boast in my infirmities."

Blessings to you all,
Ramona (sheshe)

The Shepherds Crook

I have added a link on the side bar to The Shepherd's Crook. These are some friends of ours who operate a ministry dedicated to finding homes for some of the neediest orphans scattered throughout the world. The are actually crazier than we are, they have fourteen children. Most are special needs of one form or another.

We participate in their ministry by acting as counselors for people having difficulty with their adopted children.

So drop on by and adopt a special needs child while you are there.

Culture Shock

One of the things that happens to a child when they are adopted from a foreign country can best be described by culture shock. Not only does the child have a new home and family, but everything in their environment has changed. Everything from foods to social customs is different. Things that they considered “right” are now wrong.

One humorous example is that, where some of our kids come from, used toilet paper is placed in the trash can, not the toilet. Suddenly, you new mom is freaking out, because you threw toilet paper in the trash. Isn’t that where it goes? Now multiply that by the thousands of different little things that are changed and you can imagine how easily such a child can become overwhelmed by all the changes.

Now introduce this child into a traditional school. They may look different, they speak a different language, they have different customs they are just generally different. And different is not what you usually want to be in a group of kids. Though homeschooling is often criticized because of its “lack of socialization,” most kids can do without the “socialization” that involves being the outsider who is open game for teasing and abuse.

At the same time, many of these children are just learning what it means to be in a family. Many have not known parents and need time to adjust to what that means. Combine these changes with the ones mentioned above and the child can quickly become overloaded.

Clearly the ideal would be to give them time to adjust to the culture, before putting them in large groups of people. It would also be preferable to give them time to adapt to a few new people at one time. Clearly the family should be given priority. All of these point to a situation where the child is kept at home for some time prior to introducing them into group situations.

Obviously, homeschooling fits this ideal.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Language the key to learning.

Continuing on in our discussion of why homeschooling is best for newly adopted foreign children

If we give just a moments thought to it, we will recognize that education cannot happen without some method for the teacher to communicate truth to the student. If the teacher and student cannot communicate, no transfer of knowledge can take place. Now take the example of the foreign child who is adopted and immediately placed in a traditional school. The child may be bright, she may even have had a good education in her native country, yet suddenly she is placed in a situation where she is asked to learn without knowing the language well. As you would suspect, such a child will typically have great difficulty keeping up with her peers in the classroom.

One of our daughters who was adopted from a disruption was placed in this very situation by her first adoptive parents. She was a top student in her native country. However, she was placed at the eighth grade level with a less than first grade mastery of English. Armed with an electronic dictionary and not much else, she tried desperately to keep up. However, most of her time was spent merely looking up words to see what the mean. But knowing what all the words mean does not imply you can make sense of the sentence or paragraph. Some classes such as mathematics do rely as much on language and were easier than others such as history which required larger amounts. Not surprisingly, she floundered in many of her classes. This was very frustrating to a girl accustomed to being the top in her class.

In the end the frustration contributed to many of her behaviors that eventually produced the disruption. Though there were other problems involved, this unnecessary burden placed on her did not make things easier.

The solution for children like this is to forgo those subjects which require a great deal of language until their language skills are up to the task. This means creating a individually tailored curriculum that focus on language acquisition. Other subjects can then be introduced as the language permits. Clearly, such an individualized curriculum does not fit well into a standard classroom situation. It can really only be done in a one on one situation between teacher and student. While these could be handled through tutors or special classes, if they are available, there are other things going on in the newly adopted child’s life that make homeschooling the better solution. We will discuss them in subsequent posts.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006


Disruption has been on my mind lately. January is when our last two daughters came to us through disruption. Then in the last couple of days we have received requests to help two more people considering disruption. It seems like a weekly occurrence these days.

When we started our adoptions, we had never heard of disruption. In our minds adoption meant the same thing as birth, that the child was yours forever. Sadly this is not how much of our culture views things. Children are possessions just like a car or a TV. And, just like a car or TV, if you don’t like it, you take it back and get another one. I guess it is not surprising that a culture which so readily accepts divorce and abortion would think nothing of making it easy to get rid of an unwanted adopted child. Sadly, it is almost easier to get rid of child you don’t want than it is a car.

Having given a home to three disrupted children, we have seen the devastating effects it has on the child. We have likened it to divorce, but that does not really capture the half of it. In a divorce, the person still keeps many of their friends and family. In the case of a disruption, a child loses their parents, their siblings, and all their friends. It is as if to them, everyone in their life has died. Even more is the fact that the child is not the only adopted child, and yet they are the only one disrupted. The implication being that it was the disrupted child in particular they did not want and not just any child. The child often recognizes this even at a young age.

Arise, O LORD! O God, lift up Your hand! Do not forget the humble.

Why do the wicked renounce God? He has said in his heart, "You will not require an account."

But You have seen, for You observe trouble and grief, to repay it by Your hand. The helpless commits himself to You; you are the helper of the fatherless.

Break the arm of the wicked and the evil man; seek out his wickedness until You find none.

The LORD is King forever and ever; the nations have perished out of His land.
LORD, You have heard the desire of the humble; you will prepare their heart; you will cause Your ear to hear,

To do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed, that the man of the earth may oppress no more.
Ps 10:12-18 (NKJ)

Yet God in His infinite wisdom has brought to us three daughters in this way. Beautiful, sweet girls, diamonds taken from other people’s trash bins. He is providing healing and to each, we pray, giving faith in His beloved Son. He is truly the Father of the fatherless. We are blessed to see Him work in them.

Pray that God will give us wisdom to counsel people to avoid disruption and that God will bring forward good Christian families to take these twice fatherless who are abandoned by their adoptive families.

Homeschooling vs School at Home

Before I discuss why I think homeschooling is the only reasonable choice for newly adopted foreign children, I want to make a distinction. That is the distinction between homeschooling and doing school at home. As homeschooling has become more popular, many people have started homeschooling without having thought much about it. To them homeschooling means doing school at home.

The problem is that the standard classroom was designed for efficient education of large numbers of students. Because of this the approach to teaching has been tailored to insure that most students get an adequate education. Unfortunately, that often means that only a few students get the best education for themselves. Students at either end of the spectrum often end up losing out. The students at the higher end are hindered by the pace required to allow the majority to keep up, while the students at the lower end are left behind because they are not capable of keeping up with the same pace.

Also, different students have different ideal learning styles. The traditional classroom favors some while impeding others because they do not fit the preferred mode of education. In the end, each child has an ideal way in which they can learn. A mass production methodology cannot service all these children well.

The problem then with schooling at home is that it often does not fit the needs of the child. It also can be very difficult for the parent/teacher as the kids are typically spread out over a much wider academic range than the traditional classroom. With more than one or two kids, the traditional school method can be almost impossible to enact because the teacher has too many different subjects to teach to too many students.

Thus true homeschooling needs to be different that just doing traditional school at home. The curriculum and methodologies need to be tailored to the individual child. The child needs to be given the tools to learn and then trained to self direct his learn. This requires more work initially, but often shows long term benefit by providing a superior education, often with less work on the part of teacher.

Saturday, January 07, 2006


Before I discuss the importance of home schooling with regard to older adopted foreign children, I wanted to discuss home schooling in general. To do that, we must first discuss the Biblical principles regarding the education of children.

Without going into the Biblical reasons, I believe that the following principles apply to the education of children.

  1. The goal of education is to teach your children to love God with all of their heart, soul, and minds.

  2. #1 cannot be achieved without the help of the Holy Spirit working through God’s Word.

  3. The primary subject of learning is to be the Godhead. Where the creation is studied without relationship to its Creator, no true learning occurs.

  4. The secondary subject of learning is wisdom. True wisdom cannot be learned without a proper grounding in the knowledge of God.

  5. Training for a life vocation is of lesser importance than #3 and #4. However, when properly understood, it is contained in the learning of wisdom.

  6. The training of children is first and foremost the responsibility of the father.

  7. It is not wrong for the father to delegate the responsibility to others qualified to teach a given subject, given that the other principles are obeyed.

  8. Each child is a unique creation before God. This implies that there can be no one sized fits all method of teaching. Each child must be evaluated to determine the best means of education them.

  9. Children must be taught how to apply what they know in non-Christian environments.

Based on these I think it is clear that, home schooling is a viable option. It is certainly not the only option. It is quite possible for a family to home school and violate any or all of these principles. At the same time, it is possible for a child to be educated in a classroom situation and all of the above criteria to be met. As a side note however, I do find it difficult to imagine that there are many public school situations that are appropriate because of #3 in particular. The main exception I see being older children who are firmly ground enough that they are ready to pursue #9 in the public school arena.

Next time, I will begin to discuss how these principles apply to older adopted foreign children.

Back, for now.

I am back, for now. As most of you who know us personally know, sheshe (the mother of the eleven) has been ill. She has a progressive neurological disorder that has the doctors stumped. Over the holiday’s she ended up in the ER twice and was admitted to the hospital once. She is doing better this week and we are grateful for God’s mercy in this regard.

I am going to post some thoughts over the next few days on why I think home schooling is the only reasonable option for the Christian adopting older foreign children. I hope to have the first one this evening.

Finally, I want to comment on sheshe’s illness. It is during such times as these that God shakes out many of our faulty ideas about Him. You see, too often we trust in what He does rather than Him. Not that it is wrong to trust in His provision, but first and foremost we must trust in His person. How is that different? If we are merely trusting in His provision, what happens when He does not seem to provide? If we are trusting in Him, we can say like Job “Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?" Though we do not understand His purposes, still our trust is in Him.