Family Tree and All About Me assignments…

27 Aug


I don’t follow Jen Hatmaker, but from time to time I have read her posts, such as her three posts on ethics after Kathryn Joyce’s “The Child Catchers” came out, which caused the people in the Orphan Adoption Movement (or whatever they call themselves) to get so upset. 

Yesterday, this FB post from her was linked too, on another page.  I read it, and then had to go back one FB post to understand what the uproar was all about.  It seems there were several vocal adoptee’s telling her she was wrong in emailing the teacher/school requesting a heads up when any family assignments were going to be happening.  The gist of their messages were that their lineage was their adoptive families lineage, and they didn’t have any adoptee grief, or issues, and basically that if she treated her kids like they were just her kids – all would be well

I liked that she stood up for her kids, I like that she addressed that everyone’s story is their own, and no-one should be tearing down someone else’s feelings, or stories, and criticizing them because their story is different.

I can see how Family Tree and All About Me assignments could be very be hard, especially if you were adopted at an older age, or are a transracial adoptive family (or both).  With the sheer diversity in families these days, I think it may be time to do away with these projects altogether. Surely, they can find something else to offer the entire class, that would teach whatever it is, that they want the students to understand from that lesson.  I’d be asking what they hope their students learn from them, and if they can’t give a good answer, then lobby to get rid of them altogether.





Posted by on August 27, 2014 in Adoption, adoptive parents


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20 responses to “Family Tree and All About Me assignments…

  1. kellie3

    August 27, 2014 at 2:59 pm

    I do not remember doing any projects like this in school. Maybe we did and my memory is just bad? I’m not sure. Surely, they could find an alternate assignment and sill achieve that learning objective.
    I googled and found the following PDF with solutions


    • TAO

      August 27, 2014 at 3:16 pm

      Kellie – I don’t really remember either, but based on the age when the assignment was given would elicit very different responses – at one age I would have used mom and dad’s families trees and not thought anything about it – but a different age, it would have brought up very different feelings, and I was adopted as an infant into a same race family. At the same time – everyone in my very small school knew I was adopted, so I wouldn’t have been forced to “out” myself to anyone…


    • Cherry

      August 27, 2014 at 3:25 pm

      The link has good diagrams, but unfortunately promotes ‘Positive Adoption Language’ (so as to ‘avoid hurting feelings’. Hmmm…)


      • kellie3

        August 27, 2014 at 3:33 pm

        I noticed that and skipped over it. I was more interested in the alternative assignments. Wasn’t sure if I should “steal the ideas” or copy and paste the link.


        • TAO

          August 27, 2014 at 3:44 pm

          It’s funny that feeling you get the moment you hear/read “Positive Adoption Language”…I feel anything but warm and fuzzy when that phrase comes up, definitely not positive for sure…


          • Paige Adams Strickland

            August 27, 2014 at 3:52 pm

            Agreed re the positive adoption language. I never mean to offend anyone, but I’ve been “protected” enough and had plenty of other parts of my life controlled. I want my freedom of speech.


  2. Paige Adams Strickland

    August 27, 2014 at 3:16 pm

    I HATED this project. Sure, I could BS my way through, but my heart wasn’t in it, and my learning experience was lessened because I either had to have “that different project”, if I wanted to tell the truth or the “faked project” if I based it off my adoptive family. What I learned instead of genetics or how to make a nice visual presentation on a big piece of cardboard was this: I was adopted as a baby and was the same race as my A-parents, therefore, I could get away with lying. People saw what they wanted to see. Unknowing people make assumptions based on looks.

    As a Spanish teacher, I have used this project concept for teaching “La Familia” vocab. I let kids choose. They can use actual family and photos or make a fictitious family or use a famous or TV family, just so they use a minimum of vocab and follow the general guidelines. I allow pets and best friends as well. I had a kid one time turn in his family all drawn to look like The Simpsons characters! It was my favorite project!



    • TAO

      August 27, 2014 at 3:18 pm

      Thanks Paige – I’d of loved the Simpson one too. I like that you give options…


  3. Tiffany

    August 27, 2014 at 8:47 pm

    I have thought long and hard about this for my daughter who is adopted. I think the trouble is that there is no one universal way to feel. Just because one is an adoptee doesn’t mean that one feels the same as all other adoptees on every subject or issue regarding adoption. There is no wrong or right when it comes to feelings.

    I decided that I will talk with my daughter about how she wants to handle it, and support her choice. I have read of adoptive parents going to the class to talk about adoption when their child was being teased about being adopted as well, and made note to offer that to her. I can imagine that would absolutely have horrified me as a child, but like I said, everyone is different in how they feel, and some children might want that.

    In regards to these kinds of assignments, we are blessed to be in an open adoption, so she could, if she wanted, work with her mother and father to complete the assignment. That might still make her feel isolated out and different though, because she would be sharing a family tree where she will not know most of the people, and that could be awkward and hurtful. I don’t think there’s an easy answer here for an adopted child, and I hope that my daughter will never have to do one of these.


    • TAO

      August 27, 2014 at 9:11 pm

      You are right- there is absolutely no one universal way to feel about being adopted. I can say that while I told everyone I was adopted – being the shy one – I don’t think I’d of liked either parent coming and teaching about adoption – but then I had a best friend through school who was adopted and had an older adopted sister in the same school so perhaps that made a difference.

      You’re empathetic – you will be aware and that really is all that is needed…


      • TAO

        August 27, 2014 at 9:12 pm

        and sometimes, being different actually makes you one of the cool crowd…


  4. cb

    August 28, 2014 at 1:48 am

    I remember doing an assignment called “What makes me me” but that’s all I remember. I would imagine though that that title would encompass all experiences because a lot of facotrs and experiences go into “making us us” and for an adoptee, adoption is one factor and part of that experience.


  5. Yan

    August 28, 2014 at 12:46 pm

    I find doing my own family tree complicated today, and I’m not a schoolchild or being forced to do it. In my adult view (well, at the moment), my adoptive family is my family as far back as the people I met before they were gone. The ancestry isn’t mine. My biological family is mine much further back into the gene pool. This is not the same concept of family I’d have had back in grade school, though, and I think that’s what makes it complicated. An assignment with no wiggle room to define “family” (or fear of hurting your adoptive parents) can feel stifling to an adoptee, but what do you do if you see no way out of it without drawing attention to yourself?

    I’d imagine some level of complicated feelings for children with step-families, as well, so maybe it is time to generally rethink these family assignments in light of some changing patterns of family creation.


    • Beth

      August 30, 2014 at 1:58 pm

      I find doing my family tree, family trees, complicated too. There are so many ways to think about it. Now I know more about everyone’s ancestors than they ever have. I look at it like you do.
      I have found that I am interested in everyone’s ancestors tho LOL even complete strangers and friends. I like finding family links to my friends (and afamily, and in-laws) and I have found many links. It’s exciting to me when I find that connection that makes friends family, even if distant, even if by marriage. That may be a strange thing for some, but very understandable by me 🙂 It could be that I just like puzzles, and history, apparently a lot.

      These family assignments could use much more thought.
      Some New Math could be taught.
      Some new equations need to be added to the now old fashioned out of date original.
      If I weren’t so lazy I could probably come up with many actual new numerical equations to explain!
      No one likes learning “new math” I remember way back when it first came home in my kids homework, most parents were sort of mad about it! New math is complicated at first, we argued that it wasn’t necessary, we didn’t need to learn it, we didn’t need to look at math in that way. Computers were not commonplace then, there was like 1, maybe 2 in the world LOL Now most people don’t even know what “New Math” really is… Was. Can’t imagine what it would be like without it being commonplace, things would not work like they do today without it.

      I still wish or any ancestry program would let me list my four parents, my 8 grandparents, as they are to me, and have all four parents show at the same time. All of my family connections seen as they are, the whole equation, nothing hidden, no required choice of “preferred”.
      New math is needed for sure.


  6. Dannie

    September 5, 2014 at 7:44 pm

    Yep. I ask about that at school too.


    • TAO

      September 5, 2014 at 7:50 pm

      Dannie – and did they have an answer that was valid?

      Speaking of which – another post I saw was about an entire semester of “about you” themed schooling…has the entire curriculum changed so much?


      • Dannie

        September 9, 2014 at 6:06 pm

        In kindergarten E’s teacher has an ‘all about me’ questionnaire and then every child has a ‘star of the week’ during the year. The main purpose is for the kids to learn how to speak in front of their peers by saying what they like, who’s in the family etc. Keeping it in the present and relevant to public speaking it’s ok this year. I’m just looking out for family tree projects. Those are tricky and can be emotional. If I can speak without judgement, I even had a hard time with my sons daycare wanting a family tree filled out for their family month September. We’ve been having a lot of family problems with my stepdaughter and drug use and she isn’t allowed to do certain things if the whole family is around because the kids are young and don’t need to see that….so she chooses not to be around and is homeless at age 25. Obviously she is my sons half sister by genetics, and at this point based on last two months I wish I could just put E down as his only sibling but that isn’t correct. So family trees in general can be emotionally charged and not sure if elementary is the best place to add it to the curriculum. I find it best for history and genealogical tracking when everyone is in a level head. Ok we all have feelings so hopefully I didn’t sound too bad like an evil stepmother. :). But that’s the short end of it. Imo


        • TAO

          September 9, 2014 at 6:58 pm

          I’m not understanding why a toddler daycare needs a family tree – I can understand a list of who can and can’t pick up the child or call – but a family tree is not their business…

          No, you don’t sound like an evil stepmom – just a protective mom of littles too young to not be able to take care of themselves…

          BTW: have you taught your kids a password or phrase that is not something anyone would know??


          • Dannie

            September 9, 2014 at 7:02 pm

            The family tree is for the infant room. They are doing projects involving family. I get it’s cute and all but these are 6 weeks-12 mo old babies and infants.! Office has the list of who can ONLY pick up. This is for a theme month in S’ room


  7. Cherry

    September 6, 2014 at 10:26 am

    It’s funny how using Positive Adoption Language to ‘avoid hurting feelings’ actually only acknowledges and cares about the adoptive parent’s feelings. I personally find Positive Adoption Language extremely painful indeed. It dismisses or diminshes me and everything that me and my son are to each other, that profound level we are connected on.



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