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

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What do you do when your previously public-schooled homeschooler says he wants to go back to public school?

It’s a statement that often sends parents into an understandable state of panic. I mean, it’s hard enough to decide 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?!

Homeschooled Child Wants to Go 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 difficult not to take the “I miss school” announcement personally.

Find Out Why Your Homeschooled Child Wants to Go to Public School

The first thing I would suggest is to 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 onboard with homeschooling when we began. However, it wasn’t long before I heard, “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 – are you ready for this one? Square pizza. These things weren’t deal-breakers to me, but they were significant 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 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 entirely new lifestyle is an adjustment for everyone involved. Like any significant change, it takes time to adjust.

Try a Pros and Cons List

Brianna seemed relatively happy at home and was flourishing academically. However, as Christmas approached and she continued to express a desire to go back to publ 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.

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

It’s been seven years now, so I know I don’t remember everything. I really wish I’d saved that paper. But I remember things like getting to sleep late and not having to stay after school on the pros list for homeschooling. There were things like the 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.

Make Some Adjustments

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. She decided that there was definitely more we could do to influence our homeschool experience positively.

We decided to stick homeschooling out for a while. Shortly after this experience, we got plugged into a fantastic homeschool group. Brianna met a girl who is still her best friend, and we’ve never looked back.

(Edited 5/29/18 to add: That friend? She was the maid of honor at Brianna’s wedding.)

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 is really going on. Give everyone some time to adjust.

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. If you do what you genuinely feel is right for your child, you’ll make the right choice for your family.

Has your homeschooled child ever want to return to (or try) public school? What did you do?

updated from an article originally published September 5, 2008

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Kris Bales is a newly-retired homeschool mom and the quirky, Christ-following, painfully honest founder (and former owner) of Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers. She has a pretty serious addiction to sweet tea and Words with Friends. Kris and her husband of over 30 years are parents to three amazing homeschool grads. They share their home with three dogs, two cats, a ball python, a bearded dragon, and seven birds.

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  1. 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. 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. 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. Hi
    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. 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. 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! 😀 Great job on your awesome and mature daughter!

  7. 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!”

    1. 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!

    2. Thank you Kristen. This really helps.
      I’m in the same boat as you Jennifer. 3 1/2 yo also. I mentioned my interest in homeschooling to my in laws and since then they have told my daughter about how she will be going to school and all the fun she’ll have! Ggrrr! So all the time now she is asking to go to school. She just wants to be like everyone else. Like her big cousins and neighbours etc. I actually caved today, brought her to see the local school and enrolled her in pre-school to start next week. I’m totally devastated! Hence the fact that I’m up drinking coffee at 3am. lf only I had to have read this first. I know how school can smother a child’s spirit and pressurise them unnecessarily. I have tried to explain to her about how we will have fun at home etc but she’s not having any of it. ?

  8. 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. 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. 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

    1. 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!

  11. Thanks so much for this. My 9 year old just began homeschooling this year and she often utters that she would like to be back in school next year. Partly because my oldest is in school and my youngest as well, because I eased into this journey with just her to wet my feet (as she asked to be homeschooled). Now my 1st grader cries to come home and he will at the end of this school year. I would like for my middle schooler to as well since I am paying private school tuition for him and feel I could offer much more for much less money, but when I mention it, he literally balls in a fetal position and cries like I stuck a dagger in his heart (what’s that about…uggghhh). He has always been in traditional school though. Boy oh Boy so much to juggle. So glad to hear this is not just coming from my daughter.

  12. I am in 7th grade, I don’t feel like I have been learning much because my moms so busy with my brother I have been teaching myself. But I stopped public school after 4th grade, and I haven’t made any friends, mom makes the effort with my little brother, he has friends. What should I do?

    1. You should talk to your mom. She may not know how you feel and I bet she’d be open to hearing your concerns. I know I’d want my kids to talk to me about stuff like that and I’d do what I could to address the problem areas. I’m praying for you, May, that your mom will be open to talking to you and that you can work something out. Let me know how it goes!

  13. I have been homeschooling since October. At first it was working out but now I got a promotion and it was working because I worked nights. Now they switched me to days. I have no time to teach my kids:(. Do I just go enroll them back now or should I wait until the new school year? I don’t want them to be held back. Please help?

    1. I’m not sure what to suggest in that situation, Stephanie. You should probably check with their school to see if re-enrolling them is even a possibility at this point in the year. You might want to check out the article How to Homeschool if You Work Outside the Home so see if there are any tips there that would work for you. You may still be able to make homeschooling work with a little creative scheduling.

  14. Thank you for this post…my son has been homeschooled the last two years and thinks he wants to go back to public school for 8th grade. He misses his friends. I love the idea of making a pro/con list and really listening to his wants. My heart is heavy but I want to do what is best for him. 🙂

  15. Homeschooling is the last thing I’d ever want to relive again. I’ve been homeschooled sine I was 10 and have had literally zero friends and no social life since then. My dad didn’t exactly think “friends” were important so now I’m this socially awkward person starting college with no experience in anything. He just says I should get over it. 🙂

    My older brother was homeschooled too and now he’s in college. And guess what? He’s even worse than I am. And now, my younger brother wants to go back to school before he turns out like us, but my dad refuses. I’m just scared since he seems just a bit suicidal.

    So yeah, homeschooling sucks.

    Unless you have parents that actually care if you have a life outside of studying. 😀 😀

  16. I just registered both my kids for Middle School because they wanted to go back and try. After finishing the preregistration I was told because my youngest didn’t take the LEAP test it might cause a problem. They about 20 minutes later my oldest was talking to the lady and she told him he might be able to test out of 8th and go on to 9th which I don’t want because this year will be adjustment year for him. Same with the little one. I know in my heart they can both test out to the next grade but they could use that adjustment year to get back into public school routine. Now they speak of testing my kids and now I am freaking out. What if I taught them wrong? We have common core in our public systems and I did not teach them common core at all. I did homeschooling for two years with them. I choose to not all my kids to get bully at their elementary and nothing was being done about it. My little one (well not so little but still in my heart). He is slower than other kids and gets tease for it.

    They have to do a placement test. My nephew went back in the same parish as my kids and they put him in the grade he should be in. Mine has to do a placement test. I am a bit lost.

    I did ask about when my youngest was in school and had to take any test he was allowed to take the test with a Special Education Teacher. I got no answer except ‘He will be fine its only two hours’ TWO HOURS. The kids can not sit for two hours without breaks at home. Oh BOY this will be interesting.

    We use Switched on Schoolhouse home study program with them. Tomorrow I am giving them the placement test with the home school program to try to calm myself down. Wednesday Morning they test the school board’s placement test. I haven’t even told my husband yet because he already has anxiety problems that we are trying to get under control not alone my own.

  17. Thank you so much for this! I immediately spoke with my child, that claims he misses going to his old school, but after we made a list of pros and cons of PS, he realized that homeschool is the best choice! The ONLY thing he missed about his old school was his friend. We did set up play dates for his friend, but the grandmother never tried to contact me. Plus she never bothered to mention he moved back with his parents. I am going to join a homeschool group, but am trying to save money for the drive. We are in a small town, and we live 35+ miles away from the nearest group. This takes money to drive and participate, but I am willing to make it happen somehow. Plus, after going through this list, he says that he feels better and is looking forward to meeting new people He no longer misses his old school!! Thanks for helping me to stop taking what my child said to heart and giving great advice finding our middle ground.

  18. I very much needed this today. My daughter told me she wanted to go back to public school and I was heartbroken. But, she is an only child and just misses having friends around every single day. I can understand that. The pros and cons list is a great idea. Thank you so much!

    1. Oh, I’m so happy to hear that, Susie. I’m so glad that you found the article. I hope the pros and cons list works well for you.

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