White School District, Bi-racial Child

Updated on August 31, 2011
K.E. asks from Bernville, PA
31 answers

My oldest daughter is ready to start kindergarten. She is very highly sensitive child, and is very shy, likely due to the fact that she went through hell her first 3 years of life. We adopted her when she was 3.

She is bi-racial and we are not. We were fairly well prepared for this by the adoption agency. We have friends of all races that my kids see on a regular basis. She already knows that people will see her as black even though her birthmother was white. Of course, she doesn't have any concept of prejudice yet since she is only 5, but I have spoken to her about it on an age appropriate level.

I chose not to enroll her in our school district for kindergarten and instead will be home schooling her. I talked to the principal there and he flat out told me that all the kids are white. I looked into nearby private schools and got stats such as "3 out of the 500 students are a race other than white". Given my daughter's background and personality, I just don't think she can handle it yet. Having been abused and neglected, she has a very low self esteem in spite of therapy and everything we have been able to do for her. She has come a long way, but I just don't think she's ready yet. My sister-in-law thinks I am doing her a disservice and says "she'll have to get used to the prejudiced outside world at some point". That may be true, but she JUST turned 5 - is it really a big deal to wait another year? Opinions are appreciated, but please don't be mean!

As far as socialization is concerned, she does go to ballet class and Sunday School and story time at the library. At these things, the classes are small and she likes to be with the kids, but she really doesn't interact with them.

Edit: Just wanted to add the we live near the northwest border of the city of Reading. Almost all of our activities take place in the city which is very racially diverse. However, our school district encompasses land in the opposite direction so it is very very rural and a very "old-school" Pennsylvania Dutch population. I have checked with city schools and the suburbs with good schools and none will take us as this is not a "no child left behind" area.

K.

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So What Happened?

Thank you to most of you for your advice. To those who simply wanted to criticize, I hope you feel validated. Anyway, I will be homeschooling my daughter this year in a very good cyber charter school program that includes family groups that get together on a very regular basis. My local family group turns out to be very diverse too! I plan to keep my daughter involved in several activities that will allow her to build her self esteem and confidence as well as her racial identity.

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S.G.

answers from Philadelphia on

I did home school/cyber charter schools for 2 yrs, but my 2nd grade daughter wanted to be around kids. School in my part of philly is NOT AN OPTION. I kept searching till i found a school from k-12 straight through no changing schools. The children their are mixed (very mixed)blk,span,indian,white. my daughter loves it. For more info personal e-mail. S.

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M.A.

answers from Allentown on

Your school demographics are going to reflect the community in which you live. If your school district is primarily white, then it is a safe bet that your community is primarily white. That may not have occurred to you, though, since this is your first child in school. Don't sell the school district short because of your conversation with the principal. You asked for information about the demographics of the district and you got the information - that is not the principal's fault! The principal has no control over the demographics of the school.

My suggestion would be that you ask to observe a couple of the kindergarten classrooms. It is probably too late to attend an open house. If you hold off on school for a year, you can put that on your calendar for next year. Walk through the classrooms, talk to the people in the school - not about race - just to get a sense of what they are like as human beings.

You may find that there is a wonderful caring kindergarten teacher who will recognize your daughter's beautiful unique personality and not her skin color. I have to be honest - at that age, my daughter did not "see" skin color. You could tell because - when she would tell me stories about kids at school, I would never have been able to walk in to the room & pick them out because her descriptions were absent of skin color. Kids learn that from the adults around them - from the comments they hear them make. Kids learn prejudice from adults around them.

By & large, kindergarten teachers are warm & caring people who love children. That is probably one of the reasons they are in the teaching profession (the same holds true for most elementary teachers)!! I don't know a single person (teacher) with whom I work who would not be thrilled to have your daughter in their class (because of who she IS & not what she looks like) or who would not be appalled by anyone who did not treat her with kindness and respect. Remember, your school also has a guidance counselor (hopefully) who could also stay on top of any other issues that she may have because of the neglect she suffered as an infant/toddler. I would say that probably had more of an effect on her (& how she interacts with people - her shyness), at her age, than her skin color.

Talk to the parents in your community. Not about racial issues, but about the education their children are receiving. Ask about the teachers. What are they like? It is OK to request teachers, by the way, if you feel strongly about one in particular (it isn't always necessary, though). I've done it at times. Your daughter could have a wonderful experience in school, but you need to look into it further to be sure.

If you have a strong school system with good people, it is highly likely that she will have a wonderful experience in school. Check into it further to be sure. Sending your first child off to school is ALWAYS scary. It took everything in me not to follow my daughter's bus to school her first day...

(By the way - No Child Left Behind only provides for school choice under very limited conditions - very simply: persistently dangerous public schools and "Title I" public schools that are on improvement plans - it is unlikely that choosing a different public school is an option for you - you can check your district's "Report Card" to see if they fall under either of those categories.)

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L.S.

answers from Pittsburgh on

i think you, as mom, know what's best for your child. listen to your instincts.

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K.R.

answers from Philadelphia on

This reminds me of a story my Mom tells me (I don't remember). When I started 1st grade I came home from school one day and told my Mom that Erica and I were twins today - we both had red dresses and naturally curly hair. So, when parent/teacher day came around my Mom was looking all over for my "twin" with little blond ringlets. So, she was surprised when I introduced her to Erica, the only bi-racial girl in the school. I never saw a difference. I do remember her being teased, but only by one obnoxious boy and that was in 3rd grade.

However, you are the one who needs to make this decision. If you feel she's not ready, then it is probably best to keep her home for a year or so. There are home schooling groups that get together to teach certain subjects or sports, etc. Maybe a smaller group like that would help her to adjust.

Trust your instincts.

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K.B.

answers from Pittsburgh on

K.,

I think doing what is best for your child is the number one job of the parent. My husband went to kindergarden before he was ready and was held back becuase he goofed off in class. Having to spend an extra year in kindergarden while all her classmates move on can also be tramatic to a child.

I am sorry but i personally would slap your sister-in-law. My children are bi-racial. I am white and their father, my husband is black, My daughter goes to preschool(this is her second year) She will be 5 in July and she is noticing that people are different colors already. I dont know if its because she is interacting with other children or not. Out of her class there are 20 kids, she is the only bi-racial child, there are 2 white children and the other 17 are black.
I dont know if you thought about but have your looked into a preschool for your daughter? I know some of the private ones have half days, so many days a week. That may help her have more interact with kids her own age without you being there. Start off slow and then if she enjoys it you can let her go at her own pace. Maybe trying to get her into a preschool for the fall instead of kindergarden. I know preschool has helped my daughter out alot becuase before this she was at home with her brother and me and had no interaction with other kids. I didnt think she was ready for preschool but i went ahead with it and I am glad I did. She was able to go at her pace and not being forced to do something she wasnt comfortable with. her teachers are great and I know last year she was fine with her teachers but was quiet and withdrawn with the other teachers from her gym class, music class. One of ehr teachers had a baby last decemebr and they had a sub and she didnt get along with the sub becaause she wanted her teacher. I hope next year when she goes to kindergarden wont be a problem. Anyways if you ever need to talk or anything you can email me at [email protected]____.com/ Good luck and rememebr do what you think is best for your daughter. If she isnt ready dont push her. Dont feel like you need to just to make someone else happy and oh yeah slap your sister-in-law for her stupid commment. LOL!

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K.R.

answers from State College on

Speaking from a black point of view: I grew up in a 98% black area and didn't experience racism against me until I was around 19 or 20 years old. It was very traumatic for me and I'll never forget it. Therefore, I believe your daughter is way too young to be exposed to racism, especially after already living a traumatic first 3 years of life. I've also worked with at-risk foster children and youth who have low self-esteem and who live in an all-white area with a white family and are the only black children in their schools. I was the only connection they had to the black community and they clung to me because of that. It causes a poor self image and in most cases, self hatred because they feel they don't fit in and just want to look like everyone else and have hair like everyone else. I suggest waiting as long as possible to send her to that school. The older she is, the more time she'll have to become more comfortable in her own skin and with who she is. You, as her parent, must constantly let her know how beautiful she is as she is and there's nothing that needs changing about her, her skin color, or her hair texture, which I don't doubt you're already doing. The positive reinforcement and exposure to other people who are like her will help prepare her to stand strong and proud of who she is when she's the only one like her. I also suggest letting her watch black tv shows, listen to black artists like India Arie, not rap, teaching her about successful black people like Barak Obama, who is bi-racial just like her, and sometimes taking her places where there are nothing but black and other people of color, places where she feels she "belongs". Plus, I suggest you and your family learn as much about african, african-american, and other cultures as you can so you'll be equipped to answer her questions and teach her about her people. I appreciate your leap of faith in taking in a child of color and I appreciate you more for your concern of her well-being and your courage to bring up this issue. Keep up the good work.

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Y.L.

answers from Philadelphia on

I don't think you are doing a dis-service to her at all. What's wrong with homeschooling her? It seems like you really took a look at her needs and decide the best way to meet those needs. Good for you! There are also a lot of homeschool associations and groups for you to join if you want her to socialize more. The zoo also offers a lot of classes for homeschool children. I'm sure there are similar things in your area.

Good luck and keep up the good work! I really think only you know what's best for your child.

Y.

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D.M.

answers from York on

Hi K.,

I think you are right to keep her home the first year.

Have you considered small play groups for her?

My boyfriends daughter is going to be starting school in the fall and I just don't think she's ready. She's shy, and a little immature for her age. I'm doing what I can by working with her when she's here, and finding kids for her to play with. A large group I think is just to intimadating. Maybe this is to forward of me, but I'm still looking for kids Paige's age for her to play with. Maybe they could get together and play and help each other out of their shells.

Good luck,
D.

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C.C.

answers from Philadelphia on

i agree and disagree, maybe you could enroll her in a half day kindergarden so that she can get used to it and wouldn't have to dive totally into it. Or maybe you could try it first and see how she response to it, maybe that is something she might need to grow stonger. But if you think she also isn't ready because of her past which is very tough on a child homeschool her for the school year and maybe have her go to a summer camp/program for the summer and see how that goes and maybe will want to go to school the following year. what ever you choose the principal shouldn't have any say it isn't his child it is yours and you do what you feel is right.

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C.M.

answers from York on

I think that you need to do what feels right for your daughter. But, I also think that at this age the kids are less apt to notice the difference in skin color. Also, some kids just don't like the "new kid", so if you wait to enroll her, that could be a problem. Is the kindergarten half-day or whole-day? If she went half-day it might help her to get used to it, rather then waiting until next year when she would have to go all day. I'm sorry that your daughter has had to endure so much in such a short life, and I'm sure that whatever you do will be the right thing.

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R.G.

answers from York on

I also agree & disagree. I understand your wanting to shield her from all of this stuff, but she WILL have to deal with it eventually. Do you really want to throw her into 1st grade without going to kindergarden? I think she needs to learn to interact and be in a classroom environment before she goes into 1st. I'm not just talking socialization either, she needs to learn about the teacher & student roles and the "rules" of a classroom. I'd find the kindergarden I was MOST comfortable with and enroll her. Talk to the teacher before about your concerns - you should get a good idea of who to trust her with after an hour long meeting.

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L.H.

answers from Philadelphia on

Good for you for adopting. There are so many children out there that need it. It is a shame that there is so much put into the skin color that we are born with. And I am amazed to here that there are still schools out there that are still mainly white. You would think that people would stop looking at skin color. There are so many children and adults out there that are bi-racial.

I am not one for home schooling. But everyone has there reason for doing it. Are you going to home school the other children? And for how long are you going to do it for? When do you give a child a push into the real world? It is a scary place..We all have been out there and would rather stall in the walls that protect us.

Just stop and think on how long you are going to home school. Most kids at a young age don't see skin color. It is the parents of those children that do. If you are going only do it for kinder then see if you can become friends with the parents that she will be in school with for 1 grade. Help her make friends. Sometimes will help. And your are a brave women for taking on a child that has done nothing wronge, but has been put threw hell just because she was born in the wronge place. Best of Luck!!!

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L.T.

answers from Pittsburgh on

I think if you feel your daughter is not ready for kindergarten perhaps waiting a year to enroll her in school is a good idea. She will have another year to develop her self-esteem, coping skills, etc. It is possible that if you enroll her now she will have a tough time socially, emotionally, and academically. I know several children who would have just turned 5 upon entering kindergarten. Their parents chose to hold them back one year to allow them more time to "mature" and be better prepared for school. These children didn't have any problems from waiting a year. In fact a few of them grew and developed a lot in that year and we could all see that they were better equipped to handle school - following directions, paying attention, staying on task, playing well with classmates, etc.

Maybe getting her involved in play groups or even a part time preschool or pre-k program will help ease her into the school environment and prepare her for dealing with others.

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D.C.

answers from Harrisburg on

I'm inclined to lean more towards your sister in laws viewpoint. I understand that she had a rough start but I really don't think that going to school is going hurt her. I think that you're making too big of a deal about the race thing really which means that your child will make too big of a deal about it.

I mean unless this kids that she goes to school with are completly locked away from the outside world they've seen other black people and probably won't make a big deal out of it. If this is the communtity she's going to be living in I would say it's best to get her used to it early. I mean, are the other activities she's invloved flooded with other races? Think about it, are the other activiteis she into predomintly white? Becuase if so, its something she's used to and not a big issue.

Kindegarten would be good for her socialization as well becuase it not forces but strongly encourages the group mentality. Everyone has to praticipate so that would break down the barriers in interaction.

I know you want to protect her but you can't protect her forever.

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L.C.

answers from Sharon on

K.,

I have to say that I don't think you have much to worry about. At such a young age I think that kids may ask her why her skin is black/dark, but it will be out of curiosity. It is probably more the parents, unfortunately, that will be judging you as the parent than the kids judging her as the child.

I would like to add that I grew up in a white school district (I am white). There were three black kids in our entire school. They were actually more popular than most kids because they had such great personalities.

Good Luck, and I think it is wonderful that you adopted kids!

L.

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H.B.

answers from Philadelphia on

As a black mother with a black child in a white school district I can appreciate your sensitiveness to this situation. And, I thank you for it. I also speak as a black woman who went from an inner city project when I was 13 to an all white school district in Radnor township. There were only a hand full of blacks back in the 70's.

And even though I adjusted, I went through an identity crisis. Whereas I had nappy hair, I was flinging my head as if I had a bang and hair like a white girl. It just seemed to be the gesture that all the girls did. When I took ballet lessons I tried my darnest to tuck my butt in so that I would have an almost straight back like the white girls.

It took a long time for me to come to an appreciation of my own beauty. Of my own features. Of the differences in people and races. I now am not ashamed because my butt is big and I have a deeper curve in my back. I love my nappy hair now and refuse to perm it. But, it took a long time to get to this place. When I went back to the projects to visit friends, they would say "you talk like a white girl". Now, I can appreciate the good education I got at Radnor. But as a teenager, i was ashamed that I spoke proper english and I started smoking cigarettes and using slang just to try to fit in.

So I share all this to say this. If you have the money and can find a private mixed school for her, that would be best. This would allow her to adjust to the differences in cultures and races. Then, at maybe 2nd or 3rd grade, she will be confident enough to handle an all white enviroment. However, it is very important that she learns early to love her features that are distinctly black. Although, by her being mixed they maynot be as prominent as an all black child. But, if you can explain to her the beauty of her hair and her nose and lips.

My son is starting to show signs of confusion. His father has custody of him. His father lives in a white neighborhood. Plus, his father is Arab. So, my son has an extra hurdle to jump. Being, black, arab and living in an all white neighborhood. When he comes home to a black neighborhood, he tries hard to act like he is black. It pains me to see him turn his hat backwards and try to talk slang. I try to explain to him that this does not mean he is black. And, I also discourage the behavior because that is not the aspect of being black that I want him to identify with.

But, it makes me wonder what he sees when he sees black people. Does the enviroment he lives in make him only see the street behavior? I run my home in a very positive manner. I don't along pants hanging off the behind and I don't approve of hats turned around backwards. But he seems to think that this makes him fit in when he comes home to our house. Go figure.

I hope I have helped. Please feel free to stay in touch.

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A.D.

answers from Reading on

We can never prepare our kids for the world that is out there, but as her mother you must do what you think is right.

My story: I am holding my twins back hoping that letting them be older than their peers in the same grade will help them to be more mature and acheive better in school. I did this for their self-esteem and to build their character. You , like me, must do what you feel is best for your child. But do not let your fears become her fears. My children's nanny is white/amer.indi. and her hubby is a very dark african american her children look black and have felt some predjudice but they have raised them to be strong and have an understanding of it all. Talking is the best thing you can do.

Good luck!!!!

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H.R.

answers from York on

K. - I think you are doing the right thing. This poor girl has been through enough at this point in her life. It sounds like the principal of the school is racial as well. I feel for you.
I grew up in an all white school too. When the first African American family moved into our district, it was strange for a while. The kids had no problem with it. In most cases, the kids only notice that there is a difference in color. Most haven't been taught the racial tendencies yet. So, your daughter would most likely be accepted by the children. It's probably the parents and teachers you would have to be worried about. It's a shame. But, I think you are doing the right thing for your child.

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S.S.

answers from Dallas on

I did not read all of the responses because there were so many but I just wanted to give you another choice. There are many child care centers that offer Kindergarten (full and half day). I know Kindercare does for sure and there are many others. This may be something to look into. There may be more of a mix of races at one of the centers. It can't hurt to look, right. I do think she should be with other children. Especially if she is so shy. My son is very shy which is exactly why I put him in public school and get him involved in as many activities as I can so he can learn to assert himself more and become a more rounded person (hopefully) later on. Good Luck!

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J.G.

answers from Philadelphia on

Hello!
Where do you live? I am American Indian, born and raised on the Blackfeet Reservation. I moved here for college, got pregnant and had my daughter, also by an Indian guy. When she was ready to start school, i was worried too. She's not white, not black and not hispanic and looks very much American Indian. I was worried too about her being teased or tourmented. I found a great little neighborhood school near me in University City Philadelphia. Her best friend in the whole world is half white and her father is from Algeria, her other best friend is half white and half black. They all get teased but not about race. Home shooling is a great idea and if I had more time, I would home school my 9 year old and the new one who will be here in August.
ITs hard to keep your kids safe, and it hurts like no other when they come home sad about things. I would love to talk to you more abotu this on other levels, I was adopted myself and had a hard time fitting in. You sound as though you rae doing EVERYTHING possible to make sure your daughter is secure about herself and happy, which is great!!!!!!!!! Please feel free to contact me if you want to talk more!
Congratulations on the upcomming finalization on yoru sons adoption!!!!!!!!!

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J.S.

answers from Philadelphia on

Hey K., if you feel that homeschooling is what you want to do then do it! People are going to have their opinions no matter what. It sounds like your daughter has been thru a lot and she is only 5. Keeping her in small group settings and close to home and your heart sounds exactly what she needs. You are doing the right thing. The world is nasty out there and even children can be mean. Protect her as long as you can and until you find the right school. What about Montesouri schools?
Good luck with everything!
J.

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K.

answers from Philadelphia on

You should definitely go with your gut - sounds like the right decision and I would do the same. The first 5 years are so important for a child to bond and feel secure. If she has not had that before then homeschool will be a great way to catch up on that. Blessings to you!

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J.B.

answers from Reading on

Hi K.,

If I were you, I would strongly consider finding a good half day Kindergarten program. If you are worried about her feeling isolated and alienated from the other kids, then the last thing you should do is keep her at home away from them.

My daughter goes to private school. It is not very diverse, but she has a few bi-racial students in her class, and their appearance has never been an issue for my daughter. All of those kids seem like they are very well liked and get along fine.

Of course, there's plenty of catty stuff that happens already at the Kindergarten level, but that's going to be anywhere. Homeschooling a child who is already shy will only make things worse in my opinion. You've introduced her to other kids through dancing and Sunday School etc. You've helped her get her feet wet and you sound like a great Mom so you'll be there to support her in Kindergarten.

Just my opinion, as a former teacher and a stay-at-home Mom who felt like I had my heart ripped out when I sent my first off to school. It's rough stuff for Mom's too. ;-)

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D.C.

answers from Philadelphia on

Hi K.-

I don't know where you live but in my school district there is a "No child left behind" law which entitles parents to enroll their child in any school they feel comfortable with. However you would be responsible for the transportation probably. You need to talk to an administrator within the school district to find out other options. If you feel uncomfortable imagine how your daughter will feel. Also the principal should have never said what he said to you. I would bring that to the districts attention. As a parent of 2 bi-racial children I know there can be struggles. I have moved my children out of 2 daycares because I was not comfortable with the lack of diversity. Good Luck!!!

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J.Y.

answers from Pittsburgh on

I don't know as I have never been in your position, but I commend you for making the choice to adopt diverce children. I can say that my daughter at age 5 went to a learning center on a college campus in Dallas that worked with the hearing impaired. They also accepted children without impairment and there were many of the researcher's and doctor's children there. You would not believe the ethnic diversity! My daughter even had a friend who had been in the country from China for 1 day when they met and they hit it off right away. All this to say I don't think a single one of them noticed there was anything different about anyone. Even a young lady with a trach tube and a dysmorphic face was as much a part of the group as anyone. I think your instincts will be your only guide, but maybe you could try it for a month or two and pull her out if its difficult. She, and the other children, may surpise you.

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S.H.

answers from Philadelphia on

I'm sorry if this is too blunt. If you shield her from everything you will cripple her for life. If you put to much emphasis on her skin color, she would start to question it. Let her be a child and see things not as colors but as people. You shouldn't need to worry what race your child is, she's your child. And mom, your child will feel your worries and start to worry like you. So stop and just let her be a child.

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D.C.

answers from New York on

Hi K.,
I hope all is well with your little girl and is honestly hurts inside that a child can experience racial comments at such a young age. I have a 5 year old who has experienced being the only black child in school and it is horrible towards her self esteem! At the end of the day it is best for bi-racial/ black children to be in a more diversed neighborhood as it is very hard for other children to accept them as "being different". As of now im thinking about relocating to a city area just to have my daughter enjoy life growing up as a kid. Please remember racism comes from the home and not the child :( .

Have a good one.

D.

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A.M.

answers from Washington DC on

Sorry about your diliema. I am confused though when you write that it is not a NCLB area. What does that mean? All public schools are covered under NCLB in order to receive federal funds.

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S.N.

answers from Philadelphia on

K.,

I see nothing wrong w/what you are doing. It's your job to love and protect your child and if you feel this is best for her then by all means go with your heart. Yes she will have to learn to deal w/these issues but I agree that at 5 and given what she has been through now is not the time.

Good Luck w/the upcoming adoption and w/the two girls.

S.

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T.M.

answers from State College on

I think your decision is 100% taking her best interest to heart! I homeschool my son and it's the best decision I have ever made as a parent to-date! Are you in Pennsylvania? Compulsory school age in PA is actually 8 years old, so you aren't even required to provide the district with a portfolio or affidavit until she is 8 years old.

Keep her home, keep up the great job of keeping her active and introducing her to peers (remember, "socialization" in regards to attending school with other kids her own age is a misconception - there will never again be a time in any person's life when they will be grouped with 20-30 people of the exact same age once they leave school. Genuine socialization means the ability to mix it up with people from every demographic, be it different ages, financial demographic, racial, gender, etc.). Sounds to me like you're making a great decision and doing a fantastic job!

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G.T.

answers from Philadelphia on

hi K.,

i am bi-racial and let me tell you-it's no picnic! i went to predominantly white schools my whole life. i've always been shy and still am. i was teased too. but who hasn't? as much as we want to protect our children, our jobs are also to prepare them for the world. the world is an ugly place. children will find things to tease each other about and it only gets worse with age. the older the kids the more they are aware of differences and the more they have to tease each other about. your daughter is going to be bi-racial for her entire life. she unfortunately needs to learn to deal with it as soon as possible. if she gets teased, use it as an opportunity to teach her how to deal with these types of problems. use it as an opportunity to research her black culture and history and the beauty that lies within that. i'll be honest with you. most of the teasing that really affected me growing up was the teasing i received from within the black community. i didn't look like them. i had nice hair and light skin. the things they wanted but couldn't have. they could except it from a white person but it hurt to see it on a "black" one. i was accused of thinking i was better than them because of my looks and of trying to be white because i used big vocabulary words. white kids were mostly facinated by my looks and wanted to play with my hair! being bi-racial is hard because you are never going to totally fit in with either race. the white kids aren't going to know she's white and she won't be black enough for the black ones. this is an uphill battle that really should be tactled as early as possible. i can tell you that being the new kid is hard as well and most kids entering kindergarden have their own insecurities. they all end up being friends and by the time teasing starts she will at least have made some friends already and will have that support system.

i hope this helps. it's not just my opinion, it's my journey.

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