Help! My Child Wants to Go Back to Public School!

This post was originally published on September 5, 2008. I am republishing it because I know it’s a conversation many new-to-homeschooling parents may be having with their children this fall.

 “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. It’s a statement that 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?!

Tips for handling the public school to homeschool adjustment

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 difficult 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 answer for a mama’s heart to hear), but then there were the other things — the big playground, class parties, and, of all the crazy things, square pizza. These things weren’t deal-breakers to me, but they were very 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.

Help! My homeschooled child wants to go back to public school!

You also have to keep in mind that when you begin homeschooling, you’re doing something totally foreign – usually for Mom, and the child. I often tell new homeschoolers to give homeschooling at least one year. This totally new lifestyle is an adjustment for everyone 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  last one was mine! {grin}) For school, the cons included 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.

Edited to add: Brianna maintained the “time to eat” pro for homeschooling all the way through graduation.

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 to make this homeschooling thing work.

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, we both agreed that homeschooling was the better deal. A lot of parents may not agree with this, but that first year was a trial run for us, so I let her make the call and she agreed 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.

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  1. Carletta says

    I also tell people to give it at least a year when leaving public school. It’s such a huge transition!

    I’m glad you stuck it out and are encouraging others too as well. Often after that first year, people don’t look back!

  2. Kim says

    My daughter and I had a similar discussion, and like you and your daughter, after really exploring her reasons, weighing the pros and cons and helping her find ways to to experience some of what she felt she was missing, she was back on the homeschooling train with me full speed ahead:)
    Thanks for posting!

  3. Anonymous says

    Thank you for this. I have been homeschooling my daughter for only a month, and found myself in tears, ready to pick up the phone and re-admit her back into public school…I needed this post!! Thanks!

  4. luvjezuz says

    I just found your blog. We are a new homeschooling family and this has been one of our struggles this year. My son attended public school last year and misses his friends, and pretty much everything else that you talked about (except the square pizza ;)

    I found not only this article, but your entire blog very helpful. I've bookmarked it.

    May our Lord Jesus bless you in the coming year,

    Amber F
    Northern CA

  5. deldobuss says

    I had that struggle when my oldest daughter was 7. She had been homeschooled her entire life, but she had been hearing how "awesome" school was from some friends. This made her insanely jealous of what they had. We had a few talks and now she realizes the pros and cons. She never wants to go to school now! Thanks for this, I will recommend it to my friends who are struggling with this problem.

  6. Yeidi says

    Awesome! Thank you very much for sharing this. I’m not even a mom yet but I’m constantly thinking about the future and I really like the idea of homeschooling. One of my pre-conceived fears was having problems with having my future child see why it’s better to homeschool. Thank you! :D Great job on your awesome and mature daughter!

  7. Jennifer says

    What would you say to a child who has never been to school? My daughter is 3.5 and (by UK standard practice) would be starting school in the autumn. I’m not planning to send her, and I’ve explained this to her as “I want you to have time to learn about the things you’re interested in, and I want you to have time to play.” The problem is that she has an adored friend a year older than herself who started school this past September, and my daughter wants to be “just like Anna!”

    • Kris Bales says

      Jennifer, that’s something that I haven’t dealt with personally. My oldest went to K and 1st grade because she wanted to go to “big school” and because my husband wasn’t on board with homeschooling at that time. If he and I had been in agreement about homeschooling, I think that’s what we’d have done, in spite of my daughter’s desire to go to public school because, ultimately, it’s up to us, as parents, to make what we feel are the best choices for our children. Public school is such a part of our culture that it’s expected, even by our kids, that they will go to school. That doesn’t mean it’s the best choice for them.

      My younger two have never desired to go to public school.

      That being said, we live in an area with decent schools, at the elementary level anyway, so if my daughter had really disliked homeschooling, it’s not inconceivable that we would have let her return. I’m not sure since it wasn’t an issue for us. The bottom line is, you’ve got to make the decision that you and your husband feel is best for your family. I know it can be hard. I wish you the best!

  8. says

    Lovely post … I found the first year of Home schooling was the toughest adjustment since then my DS who has been at school says he will never go back, that was nearly 8 years ago. My DD who has never been to school is curious and has voiced an interest, she loves trying out new things so it is her personality talking. Conversation is also our best tool in getting a handle on what she feels is lacking, once that is established it’s normally a doddle to fix.
    Claire x

  9. Michelle says

    So glad to find this article! My daughter went to K and most of 1st grade in the public school, when numerous problems made me decide home schooling wasn’t going to be just a dream any more. She is now after 6 months telling me she wants to go back :-( She misses other kids, and the playground, and parties. We are going to do the pros and cons list, and I’m hoping she sees the benefits outweigh the problems. Thank you for posting!

  10. Cheryl says

    I woke up this morning with overwhelming sadness. My daughter wants to go back to public for all those reasons (including lunchtime) lol. She attended public school from K-2 when I finally got my husband on board with homeschooling. We are in our second year and she wants to go back. :( I felt like I failed her so I woke up with a heavy heart and started searching for help. I’ve been googling for quite awhile only finding too many over thinking opinions that just confused me even more. Until I read yours. I can’t thank you enough!!!
    So many years after posting that you are still helping so many with your REAL LIFE words!!

    Thank you thank you. We will start our list today

    God bless

    Southern Calif

    • Kris Bales says

      Thank you so much for your comment, Cheryl. I’m so glad this post is still encouraging and helping families through this difficult decision. Whatever you decide, you haven’t failed your daughter. Even if you ultimately decide that homeschooling isn’t the best fit for your family, I guarantee there will be memories from these last two years that you’ll both treasure – and it could be that, years from now you’ll still be homeschooling and encouraging other families who are going through what you’re going through now. Best wishes today as you work on your list!

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