Today’s Chat is with a mom whose family has grown in two different ways. She and her husband raised a biological son and are now raising children who came to their family through foster adoption. This is something near and dear to my heart as our family just increased by one a couple of weeks ago via foster adoption! I’m so very excited to introduce y’all to my sweet friend, Jessica Feliciano! She is tender-hearted, compassionate, and incredibly thoughtful; and in her “spare” time she helps run CM Soirée.
Tell us a little about your family.
I would love to! I met my husband, Hector in July of 1995, and we were married just three short months later. We welcomed our first child on New Year’s Day in 1997. I had always hoped he would be one of many, but after many years of battling secondary infertility, I made my peace with God about being the mom of an only child. I enjoyed homeschooling him for seven years before my husband and I decided to open our home to children from hard places by becoming foster parents. Our first placement was the most adorable sibling set of three, and in an instant, our family size doubled and life got all kinds of crazy. It was at this time that we decided to put our oldest in a private school to finish up high school, and I truly believed my homeschooling days were over. About nine months into our fostering experience, we learned that the three beautiful children who shared our home were soon to become eligible for adoption, and we were so grateful that God had given us the desires of our hearts in a way we never imagined.
We thought we were done. Our lives were blessed and full, and we hadn’t even given any more thought to accepting more placements. God had different plans though, and about nine months after the adoption was final, we received a phone call about two sisters who needed to be placed in a Spanish-speaking home. We were hesitant for about five minutes, just enough time for my husband to hear their story, before we said yes. There was just one little thing – they needed us to commit to adoption upon the girls’ arrival. Talk about growing our faith! It didn’t take long for them to steal our hearts, and 18 months after they arrived, we were officially blessed to call them daughters.
In three years, we had gone from a family of three to a family of eight! Since that time, our oldest has blessed us with a wonderful daughter-in-law and a beautiful granddaughter. People often ask us if we are done, but the honest answer is that God hasn’t led us to close that chapter of our lives and only He knows the answer to that question.How did you meet Charlotte Mason?
I had a very informal introduction to Miss Mason during the years that I was homeschooling my oldest son, but it wasn’t until my husband and I decided to homeschool our youngest five, that I would actually take the time to get to know her in a more personal way and come to the realization that everything I thought I knew about her methods was in fact just a big misunderstanding.
Thankfully, through a maze of rabbit trails, I stumbled upon a podcast hosted by three beautiful ladies that would ultimately become some of my biggest cheerleaders as a CM mom. I am sure if you have been reading this blog for even a short amount of time, you can guess that I am talking about the A Delectable Education podcast. It didn’t take me too many episodes to realize that Charlotte Mason could not be simplified into Living Books + Notebooking + Nature Study. Those are all beautiful parts, but if you end the equation there, you are missing the beauty of a rich and full education.
The discovery of ADE, led me to a Facebook group called A Delectable Conversation which eventually became Charlotte Mason Soirée. I spent months lurking in the background gleaning wisdom until I finally found the courage to start reading Miss Mason’s words for myself.
What do you consider to be your best find?
There are so many ways I could answer this question.
At the top of the list would be Jesus. I can’t imagine what a mess my life would be without his mercy and grace and faithfulness. He is absolutely my joy and my strength, and I am so thankful that of all the things I have found in this life, I found my Saviour.
Up next would definitely be my amazing husband. He keeps me positive. He is my biggest cheerleader. He says yes to all of the messy things God calls us to and rarely complains about anything. He was definitely worth the wait, and I am thankful everyday that I found him.
As an adoptive mom, the most helpful thing I have found is TBRI or Trust-Based Relational Intervention. It has changed the way I parent and has given me the tools I need to understand my children’s trauma and loss.
A Delectable Education podcast has probably been my most precious homeschooling find. Listening to it week after week encouraged me to really dig into the words of Miss Mason which has revolutionized our homeschooling journey.
In the kitchen, it has to be my Pampered Chef egg separator. I love that thing.
What is something you think everyone should do at least once in their lives?
Go camping! There is just something about getting away from the busyness of everyday life and getting out into nature for an extended period of time. It is something that my entire family looks forward to each summer. There is nothing that compares to the cool night air, the smell of a campfire, and the beauty of a night sky unadulterated by the city lights.
In fact, the last camping trip we took even inspired this momma to try a little poetry writing of her own.
Waxing gibbous nightlight,
Reminiscing by the fire
Of all the memories made.
Clothes three shades of dirty,
Bandaged hands and knees,
Thankful for the time we’ve shared
Camped beneath these trees.
Before Charlotte Mason, I probably wouldn’t have know what a waxing gibbous was, and I certainly wouldn’t have taken time to appreciate a serenade of insects.
Will you tell us a bit more about your family being grown through adoption?I touched on this a bit as I introduced my family, but it certainly wasn’t as picture perfect as that may lead you to believe. Adoption wasn’t part of our plan; not mine and certainly not my husband’s. In fact, it took my husband more than ten years to even consider the idea of adoption and even then, his initial yes was to fostering and not necessarily adoption.
A few years before we decided to look into fostering, we received a phone call from a family member pleading with us to take in our nephew that was facing juvie if they couldn’t find a relative placement for him. We knew his history, but we also knew that trauma was a huge part of his story, and we hoped that giving him half a chance would help him to turn his life around. He did great for about two years, and then he turned 18 and went back to the life that was familiar to him. We were heartbroken, but we were also radically changed.
God used this opportunity to give us a passion for children from hard places. My husband’s only request was that we start with younger kids, and although we know that all kids deserve a chance to live in a safe and loving family, considering the age of our biological son was a big factor in this decision.
It still took us a year or two to commit to becoming licensed foster parents, but once we took that initial step, God took us deep and although sometimes the trauma is messy and the pain is almost overwhelming, the blessing and joy of being part of something bigger than ourselves is beautiful.
What are some unique challenges you face in homeschooling “children from hard places”?
One of the challenges we have faced is trying to weed out bad habits and develop new ones. Because most of our children came to us as school age children and had to remain in public education until their adoptions were final, there wasn’t a lot of time to develop good habits before diving into our feast. That has slowed us down some, but I just have to remind myself of their personhood and continually meet them where they are.
Another big challenge for us in this season is meeting all of their therapy needs while trying to make time for afternoon occupations.
Currently, we have six therapy appointments scheduled during four of our afternoons each week. This means that a lot of our afternoon occupations require extra planning so we can take them with us. I will be honest – it doesn’t always happen and there are so many things that I wish we were doing but just haven’t.
The first time we met in real life was at CMI. What made you want to attend a Charlotte Mason conference, and why do you think it’s beneficial for home educators to try?
When I decided to provide my kiddos with a Charlotte Mason education, I knew I was at a disadvantage because I wasn’t coming to the table with a whole lot of knowledge or experience. I had been reading her volumes and listening to all of the ADE episodes that I could find time for, but I really needed to see some things in practice.
Being a veteran homeschooler, I knew that I wasn’t going to find what I needed at just any homeschool convention and although I had already registered for two of them, I decided that it would be much more beneficial to attend a conference where the speakers and vendors would give me the tools I needed to be successful this year. Had I gone to one of the other conferences that I originally registered for, not only would I have been tempted to second guess my decision to go “whole hog,” but I would have left discouraged because I would not have received the practical experience and knowledge from seasoned Charlotte Mason educators.
One of the unforeseen benefits of attending a CM conference has been the camaraderie I have established with other CM moms across the country. I may not have a local population of CM homeschoolers, but when I am struggling, I have a family of sisters to reach out to and they have been ready and willing to meet me where I am at and cheer me onward.
I know that conferences can get expensive, but I found the experience invaluable and would encourage every CM momma to get to one when and as often as they are able.
You’re a new addition to the crayon box! What color are you and why?
I think this is the hardest question of all! If you notice from my answers to the greatest find, I am not really good at making decisions. But, if I must choose one, I think I would be autumn gold. The hue of leaves on a brisk autumn morning always reminds me that there is beauty to be found in every season of life – even the ones full of change and loss.
© Answers 2017 Jessica Feliciano
Indeed there is beauty to be found in every season of life!