“What do I do? My child wants to go back to school!“
I’ve heard this a few times since we began homeschooling, from parents whose children had previously been in a traditional school setting and it often sends parents into an understandable state of panic. I mean, it’s often hard enough to make the decision to homeschool in the first place. Then, there’s the second-guessing that you naturally do yourself…and, now your kid wants to go back to public school?!?
What do you do? Is your child missing something that you can’t provide? Have you made the wrong choice? Are you doing something wrong? It’s very hard not to take the “I miss school” announcement personally.
The first thing I would suggest is get your child talking. Why does she want to go back to school? What is he missing? And, sometimes you have to listen beyond what he’s saying to what he may not be saying. You also have to be prepared for some off-the-wall answers.
My oldest went to public school for two years. She was totally on-board with homeschooling when we began, but it wasn’t long before I was hearing, “I want to go back.” What was she missing? Well, friends are pretty much a given (and usually a hard one for a mama’s heart to hear), but then there were the other things — the big playground and, of all the crazy things, square pizza. Silly things to me, but important in the mind of a seven-year-old.
I alleviated a bit of the friends problem by inviting over former classmates for play dates and introducing Brianna to homeschooled friends. However, play dates aren’t quite the same and new friendships take time to grow.
You also have to keep in mind that you’re doing something totally foreign…usually to mom, as well as the child. I often tell new homeschoolers to give homeschooling at least one year. This totally new lifestyle is an adjustment for everybody involved and, like any major change, it takes time to make the adjustment.
Brianna seemed relatively happy at home and was flourishing academically, but, around Christmas, when we were still hearing yearning for public school, I finally did something that turned the whole thing around for us. I sat down with Brianna and we made two pros and cons lists — one for homeschool and one for public school. I even added some of my own pros and cons to each to get the ball rolling.
It’s been seven years now, so I know I don’t remember everything (oh, how I wish I’d saved that paper), but I remember there being things like getting to sleep late and not having to stay after school on the pros list for homeschooling. There were things like big playground, square pizza and seeing friends on the pros list for school. The cons for homeschooling included not having parties and not having as much free time during the day (that was mine! lol) and, for school, getting up early and not having time to eat lunch. How sad is that? Still, seven years later, Brianna often tells me that one of the best things about homeschooling is having time to eat lunch.
After Brianna and I were satisfied that we’d thought of all we wanted to include, we began talking about what we could do about the items on the list. For example, there was absolutely nothing we could do about public school starting at 8:00, but we could change the fact that homeschool didn’t have square pizza. Um, yeah, I was totally up to making pizza in a rectangular pan, if that’s what it took.
What about the fact that public schools get to have parties? Well, homeschoolers can have parties, too! Our annual Valentine’s party was born that night. The first year, we had about 12 guests. Last year, we had around 75. And, that big playground? Well, the one at the local park is pretty darn big.
By the time we’d finished discussing the list, even a seven-year-old could see that homeschooling was the better deal. I let her make the call and she admitted that there was definitely more we could do to positively influence our homeschool experience.
We decided to stick homeschooling out for awhile. Shortly after this experience, we got plugged into a fantastic homeschool group and Brianna met a girl who is still her best friend and we’ve never looked back. The kid who used to be concerned about square pizzas and big playgrounds is now the kid who has been known to try to convince total strangers that they should homeschool their kids. (Yes, it’s encouraging, as a mom, but often a little embarrassing, too!).
So, if you ever hear those dreaded words from your homeschooled child, remember: try not to take it personally. Get them talking and listen to what really seems to be going on. Give everyone some time to make the adjustment. Ultimately, however, remember, you have to do what you think is best for your child — be that homeschool or a more traditional school setting. You know your child better than anyone else and as long as you are always doing what you truly feel is right for your child, you’ll make the right choice for your family.