Our experience switching from public school to home school – wins and losses – and setting goals for October 2017.
This fall, my three girls switched from going to our local public school to home schooling. Our local public school is excellent, so it wasn’t a straightforward decision. My son opted to stay enrolled in our local public school, and he is thriving there. The girls love home schooling so far. I don’t know if it’s something we will do long term, but so far, at least, it’s been a great option for them this fall. I’ve had several people ask me (in real life and online) about how this decision was made and how it’s going; I thought I’d take a minute to share here.
Switching from Public School to Home School
We have always had the amazingly good fortune to live in good school districts. My children’s classes maxed out at 24 students – much smaller than many public schools in the United States. Their teachers have been caring, intelligent, and dedicated to their profession. The students are almost always thoughtful and kind.
So Why Homeschool?
My three daughters are staying home for three different reasons.
Reason #1 to Homeschool: Not Enough Time
My eleven-year-old daughter generally enjoys school, but she grew increasingly frustrated over how much time was spent waiting in school. At the same time, schoolwork started to take up more and more of her free time so that she didn’t have the time she needed to explore the things she is personally most interested in. Parents of older children assured me that we were likely to miss out on very little academically if I pulled her out for sixth grade; many of her friends were leaving the public school for private schools for this year (possibly all of middle school). She has a church youth group, a choir, and (hopefully) a new chamber music group that gives her a solid social group. We decided to take this year off of school and go from there.
Reason #2 to Homeschool: Needing Space
My eight-year-old daughter has a lot of friends at school, and she loved her second grade teacher. But she is a big introvert, and every day she came home from school too stressed to do anything productive. When she learned her sister would be homeschooling, she begged to join. Like her sister, she has a church group and a choir that she belongs to where she sees other kids her age every week.
Reason #3 to Homeschool: Kindergarten
Most parents were overjoyed when our school district switched to full day kindergarten a year or two ago. I was conflicted. On the one hand, our local kindergarten curriculum is so rigorous that teachers have no time for anything fun when they have to complete the curriculum in a half day. Full day kindergarten gives teachers more time to work play and art and music into their days.
On the other hand, full day kindergarten is a long day! My daughter is a very young kindergartner. Unlike her siblings, she isn’t reading yet. Our school district spends hours and hours on literacy in kindergarten. I’m not a fan, because pushing literacy early is simply not backed by research. I didn’t mind so much with kids who were reading on their own, but with a child who wasn’t ready it didn’t make sense to send her into this program.
My five-year-old is very social, and she went back and forth deciding whether or not to homeschool. She is too young for her sisters’ church groups and choirs. She was thrilled to join a homeschool art class this fall and a gymnastics group. And she loves spending so much time with her older sisters!
So far, the decision to homeschool my daughters has been a big win! I enrolled them in a homeschool charter school, so they have access to some homeschool classes and funds to purchase supplies and classes. They also meet with a charter school teacher once a month, which they thoroughly enjoy so far (she’s very nice AND she is the one to deliver supplies purchased using charter school funds). Our big homeschool wins so far include:
Self Directed Learning
My eleven-year-old spent HOURS over summer break figuring out which curricula to use for school, and as a result she is thoroughly committed to her studies. Both she and my five-year-old are currently ahead in school work for the year.
Children need free time! School consumes so much of our lives. With homeschool, my daughters can get up at 6am and start working right away. If they work hard, they can finish their day’s work by 10am. On other days, they will intersperse play and creative projects with school work, finishing up around 4 or 5pm.
The free time has had an especially large impact on my eight-year-old. She loves to make things, and now she finally can! She finished this adorable felt pony this month – created using this cute felt pony pattern. Extra clay from her art class became this little clay doll. She’s even designing her own clothes!
My eleven-year-old uses her free time to edit the novel she wrote in July, work on her blog (her chocolate banana bread is divine), and work on programming skills for Alexa. She no longer stresses about cello practice eating up her free time, because her time is much more flexible. She’s also willing to tackle harder math problems without the social pressure of having to get it right quickly.
I LOVE the flexibility homeschool affords! We missed the entire first week of school this fall. Our public school was very accommodating about my son being gone, but it was very nice to worry about arranging that absence for only one child. If all of my children were home schooling, we could travel whenever and wherever we liked. Even without the travel component, I love getting things like my daughter’s cello lessons done in the morning rather than in the afternoon or evening.
More Family Time
My kids have always been friends, but homeschool is really bringing my girls together. I love watching them get to know each other better, and seeing how they embark on projects together. Since their brother is home less, they use a lot of their after school time to work with him on projects that he especially cares about.
What We Lose by Homeschooling
Every approach to life comes with trade-offs, and homeschool is no exception. Here are a few advantages public school still holds over homeschool in my opinion.
My girls are very good at getting school work done, but some kids do much better with a social learning setting. My son loves the way everyone does the same thing at the same time in public school.
In Silicon Valley, it’s nearly impossible to find non-competitive sports teams. School gives my sports-loving son the chance to play team sports without having to be good enough to make a competitive team. You can find this as a homeschooler, but you’ll have to do some research – or possibly set it up yourself.
Built-in Social Cohort
The shared experience of an American public school creates a relatively cohesive social cohort. Some kids will love this; others won’t. My son has an amazing group of friends at our public school. So far my daughters are managing to maintain ties to their closest school friends; we’ll see if or how this changes over the course of the school year. With homeschooling, you create your own cohort; we’ll do this over the course of the year.
Someone Sharing Responsibility
I do believe it takes a village to raise a child, and public school teachers and staff work hard to help all of the children in their schools! Homeschool places more of the responsibility on parents to build a village.
Setting Goals for October 2017
Settling my third grader into getting schoolwork done was one of my three goals for September. I solved this problem by switching out some of her school curriculum and setting out her books the night before with a nice checklist of specific assignments. She needed more interesting work in math, and more scaffolding in history. So far this new approach is working well.
I organized for our move during the first half of the month, then took a break when it became apparent that we won’t be moving in October. It does look like we can move in November, though, so that’s on my goals list for this month.
The Virtual Book Club for Kids is off to a great start. So far my kindergartner loves the activities I create for this series. Sometimes the older kids join in as well.
- Get the house organized and mostly packed up for our move. Gratitude and mindful living.
- Figure out how to work more daily physical activity into the girls’ days. Education.
That’s it for the month! What are your October goals? My friend Cassie links to some great organization tools in her October goals.
Do you send your kids to public school? Home school? A mix, like us? What do you see as the wins or losses, either way? Opinions and advice are always welcome in the comments and on my Facebook page. You can also tag me on Instagram. Sign up for my newsletter to receive more parenting tips, crafts, and kids’ activities in your inbox every week.