EMME MAMAS: Talking Homeschool, Foster Care, Adoption and Motherhood with Jennifer

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Jennifer is wearing The Faye Dress in Pacific Blue

We have loved getting to know Jennifer and admire the way she cares for her children. She offers great insights and wisdom to mothers who are homeschooling and/or considering Foster Care. 

Tell us a little bit about you.

I’m Jennifer, 30 years old living in the woods in Maryland with my husband and three, soon to be four, children. I’m a Photographer, Homeschooler, Foster/Adoptive Parent and Vintage Thrifter.

What inspired you to homeschool your children? 

My husband and I were both homeschooled for our first few years, so we always saw it as an option, although it was never really something I was super excited about. There was a good bit of hesitation at the beginning. Ultimately, we just gathered books, signed the forms and jumped in. Its not easy being a one income family, especially in Maryland, but the amazing privilege of being home with my kids has been nothing short of amazing. There tends to be a divide between school life and the rest of life and we really wanted to blend these in our family as much as we could. We want our kids to see their education not as something to be used off in the future someday, but as their life right now.

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So many mothers are now homeschooling for the first time this year. Do you remember what it was like your first year homeschooling? Any advice for them?

As we started to figure out school for our oldest son Owen, we wanted to provide schooling that allowed for the blend I mentioned earlier. We loved our private school experience, but we saw that our lives were spent there, and we wanted to have more of life spent with our children and more of their lives spent outside of academics. I was introduced to the philosophy of Charlotte Mason, a British educator, researcher and writer, and her philosophy helped me to see that I can provide a beautiful education to my kids right at home by creating “an atmosphere, a discipline and a life.” Education is so much more than academics and once I realized and embodied this, it truly set me free to enjoy something that was very daunting at the beginning! I would encourage new homeschoolers to get organized but know that no amount of manipulatives and homeschool stuff can replace simply learning, enjoying and spending focused time with your kids. Let them be kids and watch them!

What are your favorite resources for homeschooling?

We really enjoyed using The Peaceful Press Curricula for our first few years of school. It is very simple yet full and a great way to introduce formal learning in the early years. We are now using A Gentle Feast as well as The Good and the Beautiful and absolutely loving both of those resources. I’m pretty minimalist when it comes to homeschool stuff, so we keep it pretty contained, except when it comes to books! Thrift stores are my favorite resource. 

You’re also a foster/adoptive family! That is so incredible and so, so important. Can you tell us a little bit about your journey as a foster and adoptive parent?

We became Foster Parents after considering adoption and just seeing how the need is so great right in our backyard. We got licensed in early 2017 and had a few short term placements until we got the call for our little Javier. We met him the day he was born and ended up adopting him this past February! We still have a really close relationship with his family and strive to make this a relationship that we all will have forever. It’s been an incredibly challenging 3 years but seeing how God has paved the way through the entire story has been awesome to watch. Even when we thought Javi was heading home, we could see goodness there, only by His grace.

I attended fostering training years ago as an intern in my undergrad and learned so much. One of my favorite one-liners from a training that has always stuck with me is to be “a good-enough parent, not a perfect parent.”  Do you have any phrases or words of wisdom that you think about often? 

It was helpful for me to remember that in Foster Care, it is perfectly fine to feel conflicting emotions all at the same time. So much of the past three years was full of both joy and sorrow and I would often not know how to process what I was feeling. But through counseling, I was able to see that life in general is never black and white and its ok to lean into either side of your emotions at particular times. So when I could, I really tried to empathize and be sensitive to the sorrows of this story and other times I had to work hard to feel the incredible joy that was set before me. It’s weird to think of those emotions as a choice, but I think that helps to process them and to understand that they will always be there.

What is something you’ve learned from the children you have fostered?

Its is a little basic but, I’ve learned that kids are something special! They leave a mark on you no matter how long or short they’ve been with you and that is a beautiful thing. Sometimes it can feel like baby-sitting, but you will not forget their face. I find it amazing that children are so simple, yet absolutely magical and full of beauty. 

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How can women be supportive to families in their community who are fostering?

Tangibly, meals, short babysitting and random coffee drop offs are always welcomed by foster families. But even more than tangible help, emotional encouragement is really important, but it comes with a caveat: foster families are legally obligated to confidentiality, so supporting someone without expecting to know the full story of what’s going on is really, really appreciated. It’s so awkward for us when people ask questions, even with the best intentions, and we have to constantly say, “I really can’t share anything about that.” So just being there for us with what we can share is just a real blessing. Maybe starting questions with, “It’s ok if you aren’t able to share, but…” Even that makes it a little easier on foster families and still keeps that connection:)

Do you have a favorite routine or activity that you do with your children?

I have always loved talking to children as if they are adults, so once I had my own, I really enjoy the times we spend snuggling or in the car when we can have deep conversations that wouldn’t come up if I baby talked to them or kept difficult things from them. Treating them as full people where they are right now is really important to me. Foster care has been an amazing way to explore hard things with them right next to me, asking questions and working through situations and ideas together. 

What helps you when you feel overwhelmed by motherhood?

Prayer has been a huge help to me when I feel overwhelmed by motherhood. I am definitely a “Highly Sensitive Person” so three messy, loud, kids running under my feet while I manage so many other things besides helping them thrive can definitely be overstimulating! Taking deep breaths and praying with my kids is a great way to self-regulate and truly helps us get back to a place of connection. My husband is such a support to me as well. He has worked from home well before Covid and we love this set up for our family. He loves to play hard with the kids and encourages lots of outside time and exploration with them. I enjoy thrifting, so he pushes me to find times when he can take the kids for a morning while I shop around our local stores. He is so thoughtful about encouraging me to find time to continue learning for myself and pursuing things that help me grow 

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Jennifer is wearing The Faye Dress in Pacific Blue

Favorite recipe lately? 

Anything from Once Upon a Chef lately! A friend introduced me to the cookbook and it has been a staple this summer. Her grilled chicken recipe is insanely good and simple. 

Where can people follow and support you? 

You can find me on instagram @jmtrovato.

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