Before sharing we we put our kids in schooling after homeschooling, ’ll begin by stating what may be the obvious, but there is no perfect option when it comes to educating your children.
At least that’s been our experience this spring, as for the very first time ever we opted to put our three oldest kids into school after seven years of solely homeschooling.
Although we surprised a lot of people with our decision, it didn’t ultimately feel surprising to us. Different, outside of our norm, a learning curve for us and our kids — it was all of those things and more.
But it wasn’t a total surprise and this is why: because although we’ve never actually gone and done it, we’ve discussed and contemplated the idea of school myriad times before. We’ve frequently said we would never say never and just because the time hadn’t arrived yet didn’t mean it wouldn’t come at some point.
Several wise friends have encouraged me over the years not to hold tightly to any particular choice, but to take each year as it comes. None of us know what life will hold, and so we’ve come to agree with them that a “one year at a time” policy might be best.
That said, I thought it might be helpful to work through some of the questions that might be on your minds…
The reasons why we put our kids in school after homeschooling
Back when I was pregnant with our fifth child Oliver, I wondered if we might want to temporarily put the kids into school and began researching local school options last January.
After having such a great experience balancing homeschooling and work while traveling and spending some time in Europe, we came home encouraged and sure that we’d be ready to jump back into homeschool after summer, new baby or not.
What we didn’t take into account was that we’d end up spending 2 months living in Nashville and more time driving across North America, or that we’d spend 3-4 months this winter developing a brand new business with a model that was unfamiliar to us.
In other words, we got worn out (it could even be argued that we wore ourselves out; let’s just tell it like it is).
Whatever the case, by the time we hit January, we were plain old tired.
I had struggled with a lot of postpartum depression and anxiety this time around and was having a hard time doing life in general. Although we were more or less “keeping up”, we weren’t thriving and didn’t feel like we were giving the kids our best.
This brought us back around to the school conversation and within one short week, we knew it was the right decision for this season. We went forward with applying at a local private school that stood out to me when I looked around last winter.
The kids were quickly accepted and the school worked hard to accommodate us and make the process speedy. Within two weeks start to finish, we were dropping them off for their first day (whoa Nelly).
Why did we choose a private school?
This is too big of a conversation for this post, but one of the reasons we choose to homeschool is our belief that public school doesn’t offer the type of education we want for our kids.
We want something more individualized, that really works with their unique personalities, interests, gifts, strengths, and weaknesses, rather than an education determined by the average student (or even the lowest common denominator) in a large classroom.
We also wanted smaller classrooms and more hand-picked teachers. We preferred a world view that matched up more closely with ours. We wanted to be more involved and feel like we were part of a community where our kids were really known and not just on a conveyor belt that pushed kids through the system with a cookie cutter approach. We also wanted really solid academics and a more rigorous approach to particular subjects.
Though there really is no such thing as a perfect school (including the school they’re currently attending), we felt overall that this private school matched up more closely with our ideals for our family and our children’s education than a public school experience would.
And I’m sure I’ll receive flack for making that statement, but it’s honest if nothing else. I don’t think a public school education is necessarily a bad thing (after all, I’m the product of public school and I’d like to think I turned out OK), but I also saw and experienced the weaknesses of that school system growing up in it and it’s just not what I want for my kids.
Did we do this so we could work more?
Yes and no. For the rest of the winter, we did need to work more hours as we finished getting this new business launched and off the ground as well as possible.
Beyond that, however, we looked at it as a way not to work more hours, but rather to catch our breath and feel more refreshed and rested before jumping back into homeschooling again in the fall (at least, that’s our current plan).
We’re both trying to take one weekday off “work” per week, to do projects around the house, bring some more organization and stability back to our lives, and for me in particular, to practice a little self-care and spend extra time with our pre-schooler and baby.
We also needed the mental and emotional release that came by not carrying the burden of wondering each day whether we had done enough to educate our kids.
We needed to temporarily pass that off to their teachers and be available to support them, of course (because success in school is hugely dependent on the home environment), but not be the ones solely responsible for everything they needed to learn each week.
Having them in school means one less thing occupying our mental space and will give us the freedom to not worry about school or playing catch-up during the summer either (which we probably would have done had we kept homeschooling the remainder of this year).
Will we go back to homeschooling?
Yes, we plan to start up again this fall.
Taking this hiatus has definitely cemented the fact that I love having our kids at home and take so much joy in overseeing their education. There are many things I miss about it and we both feel that it makes more sense when it comes to our family’s values and lifestyle choices.
What do we like about having our kids in school?
- There’s something to be said for not having to worry about their education, and instead just getting to be plain old Mom when they get home each day. It simplifies our relationship to some degree.
- Although we still have a pre-schooler and baby at home, it definitely is easier to get work done without the noise of 5 little people (and the mess that follows).
- They’re enjoying making friends, something we’ve had a hard time doing since moving to our new community two years ago.
- We’ve seen some big improvements in the work quality with one child in particular, and another child is receiving special learning assistance that was really needed. We’re hopeful that by the end of this school year we’ll be over the hump with the two non-readers we started out the school year with, and having all three big kids reading independently next year will make a HUGE difference compared to how hard the first half of this year was. Part of the struggle this year was just a particularly difficult mix of our kid’s ages, specific needs, and overall household dynamics. Previous years had definitely felt easier than this one did.
What’s not so great about having them in school?
- It really messes with our evenings – we miss being more relaxed and just hanging out together. Now we have to fuss with things like spelling words, read alouds (both of which would have been done earlier in the day while homeschooling), homework for the eldest, making lunches, checking planners and signing permission forms, etc. We don’t see them most of the day then feel like our family time in the evening gets eaten up too quickly.
- It can still be a lot of work to keep up with it all – lunches, school activities, uniforms (for those in private school), homework in the evening, field trips, drop off and pick up, etc. I would say now that we’ve got the hang of it, the work load is definitely less than when we homeschooled, but for the first month it honestly felt like almost as much work and these days it still feels fairly significant. Putting your kids in school is different, but it’s not a cop out or a way to get off scot-free.
- We just miss them in general. They’re gone for almost 7 hours and that’s a pretty huge chunk of time.
- They have less downtime than they used to, and the younger ones in particular have had a hard time adjusting. Our introverted son especially craves quiet, creative play time and he struggles to get enough to meet his needs when he’s gone at school all day and sometimes we have errands or other events in the afternoon/evenings. Our extraverted daughters handle it better because they love the extra time with other kids.
- I’ve been rather shocked by the level of dramatics that play out in the classroom. One six year old darling can generate quite enough drama on her own. Put her together with 13 other girls and a heap of boys that act like, well, six year old boys… and it’s a recipe for tears and “she said this” and “she doesn’t want to be my friend”. Every. single. day.
- It cramps our style. We now have places to be at certain times, and can’t just take off for vacation or travels when it suits our family. I get that I probably sound whiny and entitled even saying that, but there are very good reasons we value the flexibility and freedom that comes with our entrepreneurial, homeschooling lifestyle. It’s hard work, but so worth it. Yet another reason we’ll be going back to it in the fall.
What have we learned?
- There is no perfect solution. Each educational option comes with pros and cons.
- We weren’t doing as bad a job as we thought. In fact, we’ve recognized that we were actually doing a pretty good job most of the time. Having the kids in school has highlighted some of their strengths and the benefits they’ve received from all these years of homeschooling are shining through.
- Deep down, we really love and value our unconventional lifestyle and are eager to return to it BUT it’s been a beneficial experience. Honestly, it was the right thing for us in this season. We have no regrets and we’re both grateful that we did it.