Burying the Big Yellow Bus

Burying the big yellow bus
Written by contributor Sarah Small of SmallWorld at Home

I have never, in a fit of the frustration that is unique to homeschooling moms, threatened to flag down the proverbial Big Yellow Bus.

But here is the flat-out honest truth: I have wondered every now and then if I should. My oldest son attended public school for kindergarten and first grades. As far as I know, he never desired for one second to go back. But there were times when he was in high school that I would think,

“Is this all going to work out right? What if we’ve messed up his whole life by homeschooling him?”

My daughter loved the Junie B. Jones and Ramona Quimby books. Most of the action in these series occurred at school. Such fun things happened there! Parties, plays, recess, glitter-laden Valentine’s cards. Walking home on tree-lined streets. Crossing the street with Henry Huggins. When she was nine, she saved up all her birthday money to buy a “Play School” kit, complete with name tags, report cards, and a chalkboard. Her dolls and younger brother would be her classroom, and I must say she was a natural teacher.

Sometimes I used to think, “This little girl would love to be in school.”

She’s in middle school now, and again, many of the books she reads and movies she watches take place in a school setting. She knows that kids in public school don’t randomly break out in song a la High School Musical. But every once in a while, she’ll say, “I think it would be fun to be around a bunch of people every day.”

And again, I wonder, “Are we on the right track?”

And then there is my youngest son, who is ten. I would be surprised if he has ever had a yearning to go to public school. For him that would mean giving up climbing trees in the middle of the morning, hopping on his bike at lunch break, and munching a snack while doing math.

But in public school, he would be the leader of the pack—the social pack, that is. He would be friends with everyone, and the teachers would roll their eyes and excuse his talking in class because he’s so darned likable. He’d be the prom king and the boy every girl wants to date. Every now and then, the thought crosses my mind:

“Is he missing some calling in life by not being in public school?”

I will admit to having these kinds of thoughts throughout these 11 years of educating my children at home.

Don’t we all wonder, every now and then, if they are missing out on something? It doesn’t take much for me to snap out of the “missing out” funk. We can watch the nightly news or peruse a few blogs to read stories about public education that make our toes curl. Hearing stories of abuse in my own area school system is certainly like throwing a bucket of cold water over my head.

But truly, it’s the positive results of homeschooling that convince me much more than the negative reports of what’s going on in public schools.

I have the benefit of seeing an outcome: my firstborn, my most experimented-upon guinea pig, is in college. Thriving in a college that is three hours away from home. I can tick off a list of all the things any parent wants:

  • his grades are excellent
  • he has self-initiative
  • he has a good rapport with his professors
  • he has friends
  • he can navigate in a large city without getting lost much
  • he seeks out cultural events
  • he eats at least two meals each day
  • he can do his own laundry.

Any parent would be satisfied with this outcome.

But the measure of success is so much more that what one sees on the outside.

Here’s the thing: He is embracing life.

He never learned that life is drudgery, that “school” is about waiting for the next Valentine’s Day party. He did not spend 12 years in monotonous routine dictated by the ticking of the clock and the buzzing of alarms.

He never learned that books make you sleepy and teachers are boring people, and that it’s always safest to fly beneath the radar. Photo by Princess K8 He has a deep love of learning. He never learned the art of regurgitation. He’s responsible, yet he has a heart of adventure. He’s willing to take risks, and he’s not worried about what people think. He’s unique and confident in his uniqueness. Because he grew up surrounded by unconditional love, he is emotionally secure.

Any fears that he would be labeled a weirdo because he was homeschooled are put to rest. No one cares; no one asks. And as much as he loves college, he enjoys being home with us, as well.

My husband and I have remarked to each other several times that, had we met our son in college, he would be one of our best friends. We would want to hang out with him. And what’s really awesome? He would want to hang out with us, too.

That bus can just keep passing us by. Whatever doubts I have now and then dissipate when I take but one minute to reflect on what really matters.

No regrets.

About SarahS

Sarah has graduated one child from homeschooling and is happy to have miles left on the journey with her 11 and 15 year old children. With a master’s degree in English/creative writing, Sarah enjoys teaching writing and literature classes at her co-op and blogs about learning at SmallWorld at Home.


  1. I read all these posts and i get excited about homeschooling my kids. I have two kids currently in public schools. My daughter is 12 and my son is 13 and let me tell you this, My children have been nothing but really unhappy and depressed . I’ve been thinking about homeschooling my kids, i know they are older now and i really do not know how to start doing this…I am very depressed watching the teachers fail my kids over and over even though i help them with every homework,essay,questions etc… I know my children are smart and do not deserve this failure in life. Can someone please tell me how to start homeschooling please? i feel if i leave my kids at these public schools they are going to grow up and be on depression pills and never accomplish their dreams in life, and i would never see their little faces with a smile like when they are at home with me. Help me please.

    • First…great blog. Enjoyed reading it! Thanks for the encouragement.

      To the poster….first, breathe! You can do this. It will be a transition for you guys, and your kids will need to “detox” a bit from public school life so give yourselves lots of grace! You might start out (especially if you were to start now vs say September) by going to museums or something “educational” together. Start with some field trips to have fun and “get to know” each other again.

      As far as what to teach….there are lots of curricula out there for homeschoolers. You could do online, workbooks, literature based…it’s really your choice. I use a literature based one (Sonlight) but we have four boys that will reuse it, so the cost isn’t as much when spread out (plus I don’t mind spending money on books. 😉 ). So just sit and think about what you want them to learn (world history was a big thing for me…I felt it had been lacking in my education) and then search for what will fill that for you.

      Don’t aim too high right now. It’s ok to go a bit low to get a feel for where they are educationally. It would be better imo to need to add on (say reading or math), than to have it too hard and stress everybody out from the start.

      I hope this helps and that you guys enjoy!

    • Texana and “me” offer great advice. I’d also recommend googling “deschooling.” There are lots of articles that will pop up. Since your kids have been in public school for so many years, you’ll ALL need to break away and not rush back into school-at-home. You’re doing a lot already by reading blogs, researching, and asking questions! Eventually you’ll come upon the kind of homeschooling that is a good fit for you and your kids. Maintain flexibility and enjoy the journey!
      Sarah at SmallWorld’s latest post: The Carnival of Homeschooling

    • Just… do it. I pulled my eldest out in 4th grade and have never regretted it. Neither does he! He NEVER wants to go back. Look for local groups for support for yourself and friends for your kids and just remember that you can most definitely do at least as good a job as the public education does. And? You’ll most definitely do a BETTER job.
      tracey – justanothermommy’s latest post: Sweeter than Honey…

  2. Oh, Daisy, I’m so sorry you’re in that situation! First, I would Google homeschooling and your state. That way, you will know what to do to do this legally. Then, just do it! Maybe you could start over the summer. As Texanna said, decompress from public school for a while. Take them to the library and let them get books on any subject that interests them. They don’t need book reports or anything like that. Just let them learn on their own.
    I believe that your children will do remarkably well. Try homeschooling for a while. See how you like it. There are so many benefits to doing this, not the least of which is building up their self-esteem after so many years of negativity.
    Best of luck! You’ll do just fine! Remember: you taught them to walk and talk. You can do it!

  3. I love homeschooling too- but my oldest daughter has never experienced public school and she does get teased for being “weird”. Sometimes she wants to go to public school just to feel normal. I tell her that it is not a valid reason to try to appease rude and unsympathetic people. She is very social, and has never met an enemy. She tries to please everyone- all the more reason to not send her to school. But sometimes- for an instant- I wonder if one day at school would help her understand that normal is not all it’s cracked up to be.
    Aadel in KS’s latest post: My Father’s Dragon Lapbook

  4. We homeschooled before we moved to another state, and I entered public school in 2nd grade. Even as a gifted student, I was truant in 5th grade and was finally pulled out in 6th for half a year because I hated school. Loved learning. Hated school. Devoured books. Hated school.
    Fast forward. One of my final college classes as an elementary ed. major was Exceptional Learners, where I looked forward to getting some training on gifted education — the area in our school system that failed me. The class covered mostly learning disabilities, plus gifted, blind/deaf, and other “exceptions”. When the professor (head of the Ed. Dept.) went around the class and asked each student which “exception” they’d like to be placed with for his/her practicum, I said “gifted”. Her response flabbergasted me so much I wrote it down and have never forgotten it: “Gifted teachers aren’t really teachers; all of the kids want to be there anyway.” Wow. Such ignorance and bias from the head of the entire department? If I’d had any doubts, that sealed it: my kids would never be in public school. Even (especially?) after teaching in our school system (and later, at my alma mater), I’ve never looked back.
    We started easing into “school” activities this month, but my 4½ year-old can already read and do simple math. Send him away to school so he can get in trouble if he feels like jumping up and down when he counts? Heck, no.
    Hilary @ KatrinkaJane’s latest post: Rescuing Blemished Clothes

  5. Standing ovation with a round-of-applause!!!!!

    Loved what you said about meeting your son in college and being friends…I actually started crying.

    Thank you.

  6. LOVE this! Thank you so much for this post! xoxo


  7. Only OCCASIONALLY do I wonder. And then I remember all of the crap that they would be “required” to do in public school. I remember that the socialization in ps isn’t free – it’s structured and segmented and supervised. No thanks! I do wish I could find some good book series’ that aren’t all about school, though.
    tracey – justanothermommy’s latest post: Sweeter than Honey…

  8. To the poster thinking about homeschooling her 12/13 yr olds- go for it! I have a brother who was failing in school, and had all sorts of discipline issues at school when he was in 8th grade. My mom pulled him out of school early in the year (late September). She had NO plan, she told him he needed to figure out his life. Anyways, after sitting around complaining for a few weeks he took the initiative to purchase an math video game. He taught himself calculus, trig, and computer programming over the following months. He was put back in public school the following year- but continued learning these things on the side. At the age of 18 he started his own web design business that has flourished for the last 7 years– along with many other pursuits. Basically, he taught himself more during his 1 year at home (and learned more about himself, his interests, his drive) and was able to straighten himself out. It set his life on a different, much better course! Go with your gut and HS!

  9. I enjoyed reading this, it brought a tear to my eye!

  10. A most excellent and honest post. Although we’d always planned to home school — we sent our oldest to public school and now after 6 months, I feel like this is the biggest decision of our lives. Ya know? I think…this decision is going to determine who she will be, and at times, although I feel homeschooling is the best option, it is scary to think that I am setting the course for her life. But, that’s what I’m supposed to do. Crazy.

  11. I’ve been giving homeschooling serious thought for many of the reasons you mention. Additionally, we’ve begun to look at preschool options for my two year old (eventually three year old…sigh) and the ones that resonate with me philosophically are way out of our price range. So, for many reasons, homeschooling seems very attractive. But I see my quick learner, who devours books, gravitating towards the preschool classroom attached to the local rec center, loving the bus we take at the national park, and sometimes worry about what she won’t get to experience. I have to remind myself that there are tradeoffs for every choice, and a close family, a good education, and an undampened love for learning are things she will hopefully experience by learning at home, at least for a while. Thanks for sharing.
    Pamela’s latest post: On the Banks of the Shenandoah with my Daughter

  12. Thank you so much for your honesty and willingness to share your thoughts. This really hit home with me, just last night I had a freakout about the very subject of your post. Nothing like a well written piece to shake me out of my little drive to negative town.

  13. Apples of Gold. A word of affirmation. Before I had children, I wanted to homeschool. After I had children I actually >longedcalling< to homeschool. But the answer was still no.
    So after much prayer and information overloads, a rough school year with my oldest–an acclerated, possibly gifted learner–whom simply does not fit inside the teacher'd box, and a reluctant kindergartener whom is right on track, but could be ahead with more one-on-one, my husband has finally agreed to homeschooling! And the relief in my heart is palpable! But. B-U-T! I am terrified that I'm making a bad decision, that I going to ruin them forever!!
    I keep waffling back and forth. I think though, after reading this, I have one less teeter in me toward public school. I've definitly got my lean on the other way!
    I keep praying for a clear, 100%, no-doubt-about-it message from God. "YES. I WANT YOU TO HOMESCHOOL." Instead I hear, "Step into this boat I'm in. Don't be afraid. Let's see where it goes…"
    A thousand times, thank you!

    • “I keep praying for a clear, 100%, no-doubt-about-it message from God. “YES. I WANT YOU TO HOMESCHOOL.” Instead I hear, “Step into this boat I’m in. Don’t be afraid. Let’s see where it goes…” – YES. Wow, what a beautiful concept for more than even homeschool. I had chills reading this – thank you for posting these words. (PS you’re going to be an amazing homeschool mama with that attitude!)
      Diana Stone’s latest post: Things That Make Me Happy

  14. My previous comment should read, “…lomged to homeschool. And last year, I actually felt a calling to do so.

  15. I think I may print this out so I can read it over the years! My 2nd grader’s last day of school is tomorrow and he’ll be HOME! I am so excited to begin (earlier than expected) and yet as I do, those exact thoughts you mentioned are surfacing (and helped along by others). Thank you!

  16. i began homeschooling at the beginning of this year and it is nice to be able to see my kids and me actually raise them i have plenty of days like this, some days i think im doing so well and others im like idk what i was thinking, i think part of my prob is that i dont know anyone my best friend (only friend really)moved away and i dont have any time to myself it is always with the kids dont get me wrong i love it but there is only so much i can take lol. we had a local homeschool group but they took the semester off for diff reasons so they dont meet anymore, i also go to church and that is about the only place the kids see other children but i feel sometimes that is isnt enough.. how else do you guys (in a pretty small town) get socialisation for yourselves and kiddos ?

    • Ashley, keep a lookout for other groups. You may find them on Facebook, Yahoo Groups, Meetup… Or reach out to some of the families in that local group you know about. Set up one outing or park date, and go from there. I started setting up a monthly nature walk with a few other moms, and now it’s a regular event and we’re starting to get new people. Also, local museums, libraries, or nature centers may offer homeschool programs. If not, suggest it! There are probably other families out there feeling like you, you just have to find each other!

  17. Hi, I just wanted to tell you that I saved this article for a must-read when I\’m having doubts about homeschooling or just having a bad day. This is an excellent article. It is well written and thoughtful. Most of all, it is encouraging to those of us with kids who haven\’t graduated yet, those of us wondering if we are doing the right thing. Thank you for your sound wisdom!! Blessings to you and your family!!

  18. I think this is one of my favourite reassuring blogs I’ve read in a while. This is my 3rd year of homeschooling, my son is turning 12 in the next Month. For the first time I’m exploring unschooling or in the very least eclectic schooling. That in the midst of ominous storm clouds looming over our right to Homeschool as we seem fit, here in South Africa.
    I so deeply desire for my children to experience far more of life than the text books that they see before them every day. I hate having school at home. I need to see my children thrive even more than they do so now.

  19. This is the author here, and first, thank you for all the kind words. I am so glad that this article is still getting shared on Facebook! I do want to say that, three years after I wrote this, these words are still all soooo true! My oldest son is now about to graduate from college. He has maintained his absolute love of learning all the way through. Last semester he studied abroad in Italy. He absolutely loved the experience there–traveling, going to art museums, etc. His only complaint was that his actual classes were “mediocre,” taught to a middle level student. He was excited to get back to the challenging courses at his college. And THAT is just one more reason that we homeschool: we don’t want a steady diet of mediocrity for our kids.

    Anyway, just wanted to step back into the conversation after a few years and encourage you all to KEEP GOING!!
    Sarah Small’s latest post: It’s the Carnival of Homeschooling!

  20. Thanks so much for this article. It was an encouragment to me as I am taking two of my kids out of school (we have done both public and private). Sometimes I get down on myself and my kids. None of us are high achievers when it comes to school. Yes, two of my kids are good students and get all A’s. I’m not sure if I really value this! My sister just called to me that her second child (as was her first child) was just admitted to one of the best HIGH SCHOOLS in the country. It’s grades, test scores, and interviews that got him one of the coveted spots. I’ll admit, I had a pang. It hurt when she told me. I felt disappointed in our lack of accomplishments. My kids are not on that road of “success” or “achievement”. They really won’t be now that I’ll be homeschooling them. In my heart, I just want them to find their God-given gift and go with it. I want them to love Jesus, and to walk humbly before Him. I want them to be men of integrity. But in weak moments (as when my sister called), I doubt myself, and I wish I had chosen the path of academic excellence and high academic achievement. I’m struggling and I’m not so sure I’ve made the best decisions for my kids. Thanks for sharing what matters. It encourages me!

  21. I am so happy that I have stumbled upon this blog! ! We are struggling with the idea of homeschooling our 8yr 2nd grade graduate. Every point you talked about is my fear. She’s an A student, class social butterfly that all of the teachers and students rave about. I fear her personality changing or her becoming depressed by not having friends around. Then I know that her anxiety levels during times when inclement weather causes lessons to get behind which means being rushed to leatn or memorize just to pass the tests.
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts and journey.

  22. Love this

  23. I could second what you already know… I’m a successful homeschool graduate (I did grades 1-12 at home) and now I’m preparing to start homeschooling my oldest (grade 1). She’s very social and she did Kindergarten at school, so I admit that sometimes I think maybe she’d have more fun at school… but school isn’t just supposed to be fun. I want her develop that love of learning that you talk about, and I also want to encourage her curiosity and develop skills that I know I learned as a homeschooler that my school friends didn’t (self-discipline, housework, baking, cooking, etc). Thanks for sharing!
    Bonnie Way’s latest post: One Smooth Stone by Marcia Laycock

  24. Hi.
    I love your blog. You must be thinking what I am thinking. yesterday I was on fb and a friend posted their child finishing up valentines day things. I am not a huge valentines day advocate. I would rather not celebrate it, but I do not judge others for enjoying it. Just not my cup of tea. What I did not like is how you stated, waiting for that valentines day party. I could stand the emphasis on Valentines day. Its all fine and dandy to have fun, but jeez let up on it a little. Not only are they waiting for that one event, they are all learning that we all must get valetines from people we like, and the anxiety build up. What if you are forgotten. Anyways I also remember the anticipation for the 100 days of school. I love celebrations but it was like the one thing to look forward to And schools are limited but I am glad I took that big leap of faith and started homeschooling. It was a lot of anxiety and I realized now looking at my daughter, yes she misses having friends but she is so happy.
    Its not easy but its fulfilling. Its not in vain, not just doing something to do it.

  25. Samantha says:

    So glad I came across this article! My eldest is 4, and while we have been loosely schooling at home, I feel like this is IT, as she would be going into preschool at a public school. I constantly wonder if we are doing the right thing. But then I remember how I felt about school… The things I learned and the things I didn’t. And the problems my husband had because he’s dyslexic, And it makes it easier.
    As does your article! Thanks for the pep talk.

  26. Thank you for this! I am about to start homeschooling my would be first grader. I must say that I was feeling the anxiety with the Back to School rush but after reading this piece, I feel more at peace. I know in my heart this is the right path for us, but my family has NOT been very supportive. Thank God my husband has been on track with homeschooling since we first discussed it. He has been my rock through this! :-)

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