I hear this often: parents’ hesitancy to educate to the full potential that homeschooling permits with concern their child won’t be able to catch up if eventually placed in a school system.
On the one hand, parents experience the freedom to focus on their child’s individual needs using the method that works best for them. On the other hand, they worry that they’re not bringing their child up to par, so they resort to school-like methods “just in case” their child [re]enters the school system one day.
This “just-in-case” method raises alarm for me. I worry we’re losing the big vision on the altar of fear.
I think it’s fair to say that as homeschooling parents, we share the goal of wanting to prepare our children for life after academics. We want to be sure our children become life-long learners and that they fit within many diverse circles and are able to cope with many new situations.
As parents of neurodivergent or disabled children, we also want our children to be able to fit into a society that doesn’t fully understand them and their reality. We want to spare them hurt feelings, and we want to reduce the need to struggle further.
You may find yourself relying on the “just-in-case” method of teaching because “just-in-case” you send your child into a school system, they won’t be made to feel anxious/frustrated in this new environment since the books and worksheets will be familiar to them.
While these are valid worries, allow me to reassure you with the following words:
Don’t fall prey to a system within the freedom of homeschooling
The school system is a system.
It’s not real life. It barely even reflects it.
The last thing we want is for our children to “fit” into anything. Homeschooling allows them to be in the world so they can transform society rather than the other way around.
Having been both on the inside (as a teacher) and on the outside (as a homeschooling parent), what I share here is a reflection of my experiences in both worlds.
You have the freedom to tap into your child’s learning style (which may or may not include worksheets). Don’t limit education in your home. School teachers only wish they had the resources, time, and opportunities you can offer your child at home.
All children have to adapt to change on a yearly basis
Children who have always been a part of the school system face some of the same anxieties, frustrations, and struggles we homeschooling parents worry our children will face in the classroom.
Yearly, children are introduced to a new teacher (often many teachers), new classmates, and a new environment.
Teachers are very dedicated to their profession and offer the best to their students. However, each teacher brings a different perspective by providing a different teaching style to their students. This means, from year to year, children are made to adapt to many changes. Students experience initial anxieties and frustrations because things are different from what they became accustomed to the year before. It’s no secret that it takes a good month for both teachers and students to adjust to their new relationship.
Your child is no farther behind
You need not assume that your homeschooled child will be any farther behind than their public-schooled peers.
If you send your child to conventional school, they’ll be making those adjustments right alongside their peers (even if in their own way).
Your child has an advantage over other children
Children on an IEP in the conventional system are fortunate. They are already on the teacher’s radar because they have a file that explains all of the needs and recommendations to an already overwhelmed teacher. They often take action with your child first because of the reports and meetings that come along with your child.
Further, a neurodivergent or disabled child often has an aide/childcare worker assigned to them. They are given adapted materials and extra care and attention.
Your child will receive more support in all of the transitions/changes than most other children in their class. It’s a fortunate misfortune of the system.
Give yourself and your child credit
Finally, it needs to be said that homeschoolers need to be given more credit. You need to give yourself more credit. Your child needs to be given more credit.
In teaching your child within the freedom that homeschooling allows, you are expanding your child’s potential exponentially. Home education doesn’t have the limitations that a school system holds. Your child can explore the world with authentic tools and skilled people within authentic situations. A tremendous amount of learning occurs when textbooks are closed, and the mind is open to question and wonder within a natural learning environment.
Homeschooled children who are permitted to fly with their learning style can later enter the classroom and excel.
Your child is at a greater advantage than their peers.
- They possess life experiences unlike anything their peers have experienced in a classroom.
- They have internalized problem-solving by tackling many of life’s challenges head-on (and not only on paper).
- They can communicate in their way because they have been given time to express themselves (without the need to raise their hand and hope to be called upon).
- They have built profound relationships because family and friends contributed to their learning in meaningful ways (and not just on weekends and holidays).
- They were given one-on-one attention that they otherwise may not have received.
And, because of these experiences, they can shine in a classroom setting.
I worry that you may be holding back in your homeschooling. You may be clutching onto worksheets, textbooks, and tests because they most resemble what your child would use “just in case” they were to join a classroom one day.
Even if your goal is to send your child to school next year, consider the questions below.
Questions to ask yourself
Plan tomorrow’s lessons geared toward your child’s learning style—not toward the threat of a “just-in-case.”
- Why did we decide to homeschool?
- What is our ultimate goal for our child’s education? What is their goal for themselves?
- What is our ultimate goal for our child’s life? What is their goal for themselves?
- Do I want to be supporting life skills or forcing my child to fit into a system?
Now, facilitate and learn. Freely.