The summer is ending and the school year beginning for those who are headed back to school. You’ve spent the summer cementing your decision not to send your child back to school this fall — or perhaps ever.
You’ve read everything you could get your hands on about homeschooling; you have chosen materials and curriculum; you have soothed the concerns of family and friends even while feeling a bit unsure yourself. You don’t know how the details will play out, but you are convinced that homeschooling will be a better option for your child.
Your child’s friends and neighbors are sporting shiny new backpacks and heading to the bus stop to wait for the big yellow school bus. They have new sneakers, new desk supplies, and a lunch packed in a fancy container. They are bubbling over with excitement and anticipation as they head back to school.
As they walk by, your child is still in pajamas, rubbing sleep out of his or her eyes. Breakfast seems mundane. It feels like any other old day at home. What day is today again? As the school-bound children get on the bus, it suddenly hits. Today is the first day of school, and your child is not headed there.
“I wish I could get on that bus and go to school with all my friends!”
Homeschooling is a big transition for both you and your child. Your child may grieve the loss of many aspects of the school experience. You might even be surprised at the things that he or she misses most. Even if school was a bad or mixed experience, there may be a sense of loss before the “new normal” is established.
Make it a point to ask your child what he or she is missing, and allow him or her the process of grieving and letting go.
If your child is feeling sad and missing school, here are some things to consider as you make the transition to homeschooling.
- Structure. In school, each day is typically heavily structured and predictable. Some children thrive on less structure (and that is one reason some parents choose to homeschool), but others have a deep need for solid daily structure to feel secure and function well. Pay close attention to your child’s individual needs, and consider whether they might need more or less structure in their homeschool day. Don’t be afraid to go through some trial and error to find the rhythm that works best for your child.
Social network. School is full of same-aged peers, and your child may be missing that regular social stimulation. Be proactive in reaching out to create a new social network of homeschoolers and other community members. Many homeschoolers gather at local parks for active outdoor play that looks and feels a bit like recess.
- Lunch. Some children really like having a packed lunch, and the foods you might put in a lunch bag might be different than those you’d make for consumption at home. Engage your child in coming up with a weekly lunch menu, and if it’s important to your child, let him or her “pack a lunch” each morning.
- Supplies. School-bound students end the summer armed with a pile of brand-new school supplies, often purchased to satisfy a list provided by the school. Does your child miss having new notebooks, pens, etc.? Good news! School supplies are often clearanced right after the start of school. New supplies can be exciting for homeschoolers, too.
- Teachers. Your child may miss having adult mentors around who are not his or her parents. Foster your child’s relationship with adults who are willing to take on a mentoring role, even if it is as simple informally helping a neighbor out regularly. Some organizations, such as scouts, provide a more formal opportunity for a child to interact with a mentor who is not a teacher.
- Adventure. Riding the school bus can feel like a big adventure for younger children. Older students enjoy field trips, special assemblies, and other school-sponsored activities. Weave some adventure into your homeschooling plans. If you live out in the country, visit the city and ride a public bus. Many museums, historical sites, and arts organizations allow homeschoolers the same privileges as school groups, so be sure to call in advance and let them know you are homeschoolers.
- Responsibility. At school, when parents are absent, students may feel more grown-up and responsible. At home with Mom or Dad around, old patterns might reign. If your children seem to be resisting your involvement, try giving them more autonomy. Ask them what they’d like to be in charge of, and give them the opportunity to try.
Transitions take time, and the transition from school to homeschool can feel like a really big deal to both you and your child. Take it as gently and slowly as you need to. Find some ways to mark the transition and ensure that the next few weeks are especially fun and enjoyable for both of you.
If after this year you decide to homeschool for next year as well, chances are good that your child will have embraced it and will be looking forward to it. And when the school bus goes by on the first day of school next year, you might well hear your child say:
“I’m so glad I don’t have to go to school today!”