My 7 year old son started 2nd grade this week and it’s a big milestone for him because he’s making the transition from homeschooling to public school. We homeschooled last year using the K12 curriculum, which I LOVED by the way, but we’re new to the area and my son wanted the chance to meet more kids (and for some reason he was really, really excited about the chance to eat lunch at school). It’s going to be an adjustment for our family for sure. The first night my son was so excited he couldn’t fall asleep until after midnight. The second morning, I couldn’t drag him out of bed. I’m not sure public school was exactly what he thought it would be but I’m hoping once he adjusts, it will be a good experience.
The Difference Between Homeschool and Public School
We had a unique homeschooling experience. Our family was in the process of moving out of state and we spend some time living in timeshares while we figured out exactly where we wanted to be. That gave us the chance to explore areas that were brand new to us and turn homeschooling into an adventure. For our ocean science unit we dissected seaweed on the beach and went on a whale watching tour. For the desert unit we went camping in Moab and discovered desert plants and animals up close. We read book after book after book and counted money until it was second nature.
My son was homeschooling for 1st grade but as a family, we all learned (my 4 year old can tell you all about ancient Egypt now). We didn’t do many worksheets though and while we tried to keep some semblance of a routine, we mostly followed a child-led daily routine, focusing on the things that were interesting to the kid’s at the time. Public school requires constant classroom management and the one-on-one attention that my son is used to is simply not possible. Education happens in the closed environment of the school, and requires kids to a learning style that may not be ideal for them to be successful.
Homeschooling allowed my son to work at whatever pace he was comfortable with. Public school follows a stricter schedule. We’ve spent quite a bit of time over the past few days wondering if we’ve done our son a disservice by helping him progress beyond his grade level – until we realize how silly that sounds and that we just need to help find a way for him to continue to progress, where he is at and not where the class is, at public school.
One of the things that frustrated me the most when my son attended kindergarten in public school was that I felt out of the loop. Beyond a few vague details I got at the end of the day, I didn’t know what he’d spent his time doing and what he was learning on a daily basis. I felt disconnected from my child. He had a life apart from our family, which is healthy and normal, but I wanted to catch a few glimpses of it from time to time. At the end of the year I was shocked to hear that my son, who had known how to read before entering kindergarten, was still working on his ABC’s every day at school. It felt like a waste of a year. I’m determined not to make that same mistake again this time. I’m going to be as involved as I can be and make sure I’m aware of the material that is being covered in the classroom and if it doesn’t meet the needs of my son – I’m going to step in and make some changes.
Being Defined as a Homeschooler
Transitioning to public school has been an adjustment for all of us because it doesn’t just involve the student, it involves the whole family. My family grew closer together through our year of homeschooling than we ever have before. The experience taught us to rely on each other and taught us how to learn together and progress together. I think we all miss that a bit. My younger children miss having their brother around and I miss seeing the boy who has grown into such a responsible, caring child.
There’s no denying that homeschooling is lifestyle. For over a year I’ve defined myself as a homeschooler. It’s changed the way my family has looked at every day experiences. Everything is an opportunity to learn. There’s almost a sense of loss at not being a homeschooler now and I didn’t expect that. Homeschooling is a full time job and while I won’t complain about being given some extra time (my laundry pile will surely appreciate that) it’s a huge adjustment. I’m homeschooling my younger 2 for preschool (keep an eye out for our week by week preschool lesson plans that you can do at home) because I don’t see the purpose of sending a 4 year old who is nearly reading and who knows his addition and subtraction tables to preschool but things have changed and we’re not quite a homeschooling family anymore. I feel very mainstream all of a sudden.
I used to think the baby stage was the hardest part of parenting. I’m quickly realizing that parenting gets a lot more complicated as kids get older. There are so many schooling options available now and I’m glad that I’m aware of them now. I don’t know what my children’s educational future will hold but I do know that we have choices and we won’t be afraid to make changes if we need to.