So you’ve decided to homeschool. You’ve convinced your spouse, you’ve done your research, you’ve planned your schedule… and your child announces that she’s heartbroken that she’s not going to school this fall.
This is actually a fairly common scenario for homeschoolers with young children. Part of the reason is that the media is filled with back-to-school talk this time of year. Part is often that young children see their playmates going off to school. Television shows like Arthur and many picture books also do a good job of “selling” kindergarten to young kids, too.
The good news is that it’s also a fairly easy problem to remedy. Here are some suggestions.
Find out what part of going to school appeals to her. For a surprising number of kids it’s riding the bus! If it’s something like that, arrange to ride the city bus or something similar to fill that need. One homeschooling mom I know even painted a truck on her farm yellow and drove the kids around in it while delivering hay to the sheep. For some kids, the attraction may be getting school supplies or getting to “do” school or even homework. Let her know she will still get to do all of that stuff if she likes.
Limit the school propaganda. There’s a big push when kids are preschool age for school in their environment. Watch his surroundings and try to limit the pro-school things like Arthur episodes, books about the first day of kindergarten, etc. The whole idea of these things is generally to convince kids of how great school is because many children are scared, but it can also appeal to kids who would otherwise have no interest. Even checkout clerks tend to fixate on “are you going to kindergarten next year?” and similar talk. Level the playing field with your kids by steeping their environment with other, more interesting topics.
Find some homeschooling friends to get together with. It can be hard for child and parent alike when the child’s playmates all seem to be marching off to preschool or kindergarten. It’s probably the most bittersweet time for many homeschoolers. On one hand it is finally becoming “real” and the adventure is truly beginning in an official sense, which is really exciting. We tend to be full of so many plans and dreams at that stage. On the other hand, there’s a sense of loss of those old friends and worry about whether it’s the right decision.
This phase passes quickly though. This time of year of this age is just really steeped in school mania, but it’s very short-lived. One homeschooling friend of mine had a rough time when her oldest daughter was “supposed” to start preschool and all of her friends started. The children all told her daughter how much fun they were having and the parents really talked up the preschool. Within a month or two, the moms were pulling their hair out about their kids refusing to go. For those first couple of months she felt really conflicted, though.
Don’t hedge the subject about going to school. Enthusiastically tell your child that she gets to homeschool and tell her all the great reasons you decided to do it. Point out that she can learn as much as she wants and she can help pick out what you do together. Reach out to other homeschool families so she has peers doing the same thing. Read “David Goes to School” together and point out all the stuff that David gets in trouble for doing that homeschoolers are allowed to do. (Poor David! He has to ask to go potty. He gets in trouble for looking out the window and thinking. He doesn’t have anything to draw on so he draws on his desk (uh oh!) and has to clean it up. He’s not allowed to do art except at art time. Look how happy he is to get to go home to Mom!)
Make homeschooling so fun that it’s an easy choice for him. We had a “Not back to school” carnival in our yard every year on the first day of school for years. In the Mankato area, there’s a Not Back to School picnic on September 8. Other homeschoolers go to the zoo, an amusement park or a homeschool party. Go on lots of fun field trips. Do lots of cool experiments. Talk about how lucky you are to get to do this stuff together instead of her being in school.
Lastly, let her know that you will “play school” with her any time she wants. Some kids like the idea of sitting at a desk and raising their hands, having circle time and things like that. If that’s how she’d like to do it for a while then she may be happier having a “school at home” set up for at least a while. Let her know that she has control of how you do this together and you’re going to make sure it’s fun.
This is your child’s first big exposure to peer pressure, but you can pretty easily thwart it with a little fun and some good communication. Make this the first step in a grand adventure together and no school could possibly compete!
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