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. That is something I worry about immensely as we begin the process to start homeschooling. My daughter is very bright and I want to homeschool her. But somehow (whether it is well meaning family or the dreaded TV) she has the idea that the only place to learn is in school.

  2. Awesome post!
    Jenny’s latest post: Book Review- The Case of the Missing Mountain

  3. Wow! That was a great post with great timing for me..we do all wonder and even get so tired we think..how much easier it might be if they were in school..but my gut always says “No, silly your doing the right thing for your child!” and then I experience in the next moment exactly why I do it..it’s a wonderful gift to give our kids. Sometimes I wonder who’s teaching who! Thank you for the affirmation:)

  4. My oldest went to school before we homeschooled, so I never wonder what we’re missing :) However, she did suffer from what I call “The High School Musical Fantasy” when we started in Jr. High. Now she’s in 9th, and she tells me she’s so glad we stuck with it and wouldn’t want to go back to school for anything. Sweet!
    Angela @ Homegrown Mom’s latest post: Future Homeschool Teachers Homeschooling Girls Day 4

  5. Beautifully done! Thank you for the encouragement :) Our journey is just beginning, and as a former public school teacher, I have entertained similar thoughts from time to time. Yet, I see the priceless rewards of homeschooling as shining trophies without regret. I pay attention to the needs of my children in the ebb and flow of our day, and I am able to meet their needs where they are. It broke my heart so many times to NOT be able to meet the needs of my 200+ students whom I loved (taught high school). I can do that here, though, and I try to remind myself to not take it for granted when things are challenging. Thank you so much for posting some words from your heart, as well as sharing with us a beautiful success story of a confident young man. Great job!

  6. Yep. My husband and I had a conversation about that after dinner tonight. Our older child went to public school for K-1st and it was a bad experience. We know he doesn’t fit in the system, but perhaps when he is in high school, he might need something extra? And our daughter will be entering kindergarten next year. She would probably fit fine in public school, but there are so many other reasons why I homeschool than just academic fit. Hubby isn’t as sold-out as I am, and worries about me and my sanity, but I wouldn’t have it any other way right now.

  7. What a wonderful testimony and testimonial! The fruit borne in your family as a whole and the lives of the individuals is full of life and love. That more than enough reason to let the bus keep going. I love what Susan Card, wife of singer/songwriter Michael Card, says about why they homeschool: “We didn’t want to be strangers to their souls.”
    I Live in an Antbed’s latest post: Simply Giddy!

  8. Thank you so much for sharing this!!! I live in an area that doesn’t have a homeschool group so my support is limited. This blog almost brought me to tears because I have the same worries and the same fears! Thank you for sharing and letting us know that it’s ok to wonder but at the same time know that we are doing what is best for our children. And….I’ll try and stop dreaming of flagging down that bus! :)

  9. I know the feeling. Our public school is accross the road from us. It has less than 100 students, most of whom we know in our tight knit community. I know and get on well with all of the teachers. My children do some extra curricular stuff with the school and love every minute of it. There are times amid the CRAZY that is our life when I wonder…. But then, I see the flexability that we have and the personal attention I can give each child simply because I have them all day. I see them have TIME to follow their passions. I see my oldest get up when the house is still quiet and complete all her independent schoolwork before the house stirs. And I know, this is right for us right now.
    Jess’s latest post: Book Review- Out Live Your Life

  10. What a great post! Thank your for sharing.

    I especially liked how you described how your oldest embraces life, loves learning, and loves his family. These are the things I want for my 11 month old daughter. Not sure if we will homeschool but posts like this help me feel confident that we could do it if we chose.
    Melissa’s latest post: Basic Basil Pesto

  11. Thank you for this post. I try to look at the positives, but sometimes the other side just weighs down to hard and I fret I’m doing the wrong thing. Thank you for helping me remember the positives.

    My big yellow bus just went by for the neighbor’s kids – I was happy to watch it pull away without my kids! :)
    Leigh Ann’s latest post: Wordless Wednesday- Prayer Shawl my first to give away

  12. What a wonderful post! I’m in the middle of a post-holiday slump, wondering if I have what it takes to see this journey through. Thank you for the reminder that there is a beautiful light at the end of this tunnel.
    Lori’s latest post: As Frosty would say- Happy New Year!

  13. I needed to hear that today! This has been a struggle in my mind all year as this is our first year homeschooling and our daughter went to public school for kindergarten. Thanks for dumping cold water over my head today:)

  14. Love this post. I have only sparingly ever brought up the big yellow bus (maybe 3 times ever and yesterday was one of them LOL!) because for the most part we all love learning together. I think your college student is doing fabulously- I would definitely call that success! Thanks for the great thoughts this morning.

  15. Lurv!
    Jessica’s latest post: No doubt in your heart

  16. Wonderful post, very timely as I have been dreading sending my oldest on the big yellow bus to kindergarten next year.
    Marci’s latest post: I Heart Coffee

  17. Yes, yes, yes, so much good truth in this post. Two things struck me, I have know this all along but I couldn’t put it into the right words. School taught me life was drudgery and it beat out my love of learning. It took me until my 30’s to realize that it didn’t have to be that way. Life really can be an exciting adventure and learning for the love of learning is amazing!

    There are many reasons I want to homschool my children but these are two of the biggies. Thank you
    Karen’s latest post: What Running Has Taught Me About Life

  18. Thank you so much for this post and for your words of encouragement. You have no idea how much I needed to hear these words at this season in our homeschool life.

    Thank you.
    Amy’s latest post: What Are Swag Bucks Mega Swag Bucks Friday

  19. I love this. Our son is in 9th grade this year and there are times I ask myself, is he missing out on something that could be life changing (in a good way) because he isn’t exposed to it in a high school setting. Then, I look at the whole picture. He is happy, thriving, and has never even asked about going to public or private school. Why would I want to mess that up? I’m happy to hear about your success with your oldest son. Great post today!
    Thank you!
    Debbie’s latest post: The Great Backyard Bird Count

  20. What an awesome post! My son is only 7 months old, but we are looking forward to being a homeschooling family. It seems like the first thing people think of is what they will “miss”. What a great reminder of what they may gain : )
    Sarah Gainey’s latest post: Little Month- Big Challenge

  21. You put into words what I’ve felt. But you’re further down the homeschooling trail than my family. It was so encouraging to read about your experiences. Thanks for sharing.
    Arianne’s latest post: Everlasting chocolates

  22. wow, this was really encouraging to read. I have to admit that I have threatened the big yellow bus in moments of frustration. My kids are 4 1/2 and 7 and neither of them have ever asked to go to school but, I do often wonder if they are missing out. Thank you so much for sharing this. I felt really understood as I read this. :)
    Gina M.’s latest post: Wordless Wednesday In My Neighborhood

  23. brava – i love this. our always unschooled daughter is 8, and has spent the last 4 days watching mythbusters non-stop, except for trying her own experiments. i LOVE unschooling. thanks for this wonderful, reaffirming article!
    wandering educators’s latest post: Ten Travel Top Tens

  24. Thank you so much for this! These were my very worries and concerns this week…. that I called up a veteran homeschool friend to get reasurrance I’m not “screwing my kids up” by homeschooling them :) how great to hear of your son’s success in college – definitely gives me hope as I journey through homeschooling my 5 and 6 year old girls!

  25. Thank you for posting this! I am just beginning to homeschool my daughter and I’ve received the “Why?” question asked almost incredulously when I have told some friends. I have questioned myself, am I doing the right thing? But time and time again I hear about the horrors going on in public schools, I know my own lack of education received when I attended, and my daughter is thriving. That’s the big one, she’s not even 5 yet and she knows all that’s needed for the Kindergarten year! And she’s happy. I do want to try to find some play dates or play groups where she can interact with other kids some, but she loves to learn at home and she is learning so much. I’m thankful to know I’m not the only one who occasionally questions their decision, but what you shared about your son in college gives me such hope for my daughter’s future! That is a goal I am going to keep in my mind so when the doubts come I can just remember the goal! :)
    Ashley’s latest post: Why Our Family Chooses Organic

  26. Beautiful post! I know homeschool parents worry about choosing the path less taken, but it seems to me that these are the same parents who are preparing their kids for life better than a public school could.
    I absolutely love that you feel like had you been in college and met your son you would be friends. That is wonderful and a testament to how well you raised him.
    Thanks for sharing your worries. It’s always nice to know you aren’t alone in fretting over such a major decision. Even after doing it for 11 years!!
    AprilS’s latest post: Physics 1 – Solving Problems Using Newtons Laws- Ropes and Tension

  27. I love this post! It was so encouraging to me as I can remember my mom saying on frustrated days of homeschooling, that’d she’d send us out to public school if we couldn’t get things in order. At times I’m tempted to make the same threat, since we have committed to homeschooling, it’s an empty and foolish threat on my part. My very social daughter talks about going back to the private school she attended for K4, for the sake of the class birthday parties and Christmas concert etc, not about learning. Some days it’s hard not to get discouraged, but I’ll always remember your comment about being friends with your son at college – I hope my kiddos grow up with a love of life and learning that it sounds like your son has. Thank you for sharing this with us! :)
    desilou’s latest post: let the light shine on your efforts

  28. I do think about this sometimes. I think my 6.5 year old would have fun going to school. However, when I assess the trade-offs I don’t think it’s worth it.

  29. As I am considering homeschooling my preschooler in the next year, I am thinking the same exact things, then I remember all the things I disliked about school, and what restricted my child self from learning to my potential, and then I don’t worry as much. Thank you for this honest post, it’s good to know that homeschool pros struggle with the same things.
    Ellie’s latest post: music

  30. Thank you – if just for the first sentence alone. At merely 5 years old, I have ALREADY threatened the boy with the dreaded yellow bus! Followed by hours of guilt, at least next time I know I am not the only homeschooling mother who has gone down that path. I live in a community that has been homeschooling for at least 25 years (a Muslim-American community). Their children, who are now college age, and the children on down from them, are my biggest motivator when homeschooling – they are phenomenal. Like your son, I would want to be their friend were I their age. Articulate, fun loving, studious, creative and more, they carry themselves with a dignity rarely seen in say 12 year olds these days. Thanks for this post and much success to your family!!
    Shannon’s latest post: Radical Homemakers

  31. Thank you so much, Sarah – for writing this and encouraging all of us moms of littles!
    Jamie’s latest post: Burying the Big Yellow Bus

  32. Awesome. I don’t homeschool yet, but posts like this give me the courage to try. Thanks!
    Wendy’s latest post: this moment

  33. I really appreciate having the perspective from someone who has seen the success of homeschooling. Our oldest went to k – 1/2 of 1st grade and the second oldest went to pre-k before we decided to homeschool. This is our 3rd year and I love how it works for our family. Even on the stressful days and having 6 under 9 home all day I know its the best choice my husband and I made for our kids.

  34. As a former public school teacher, this post is so helpful/interesting to me. I started informally homeschooling my daughter this past fall when she was almost 3 because she wanted to go to school so badly and was too young. Now I have discovered how much I love it and I am thinking about continuing. She still really wants to go to school however, so we are trying to make a decision. Thank you!

  35. Antoinette says:

    I subscribe to and enjoy your regular blog. I loved the things you love about homeschooling your children. In fact, I wished I could be home schooled when I was a girl. But I think you’ve really given the public school system a bashing. While I had problems in school now and then, and a few teachers I outright disliked, I had excellent educators, and my public school education served me better than that private school education that many of my adult friends had at great financial expense to their parents. I, too, have a teen aged son in college, doing all the right things, on another coast. I seriously considered homeschooling him, and did a great deal of research with friends who home schooled their own very bright kids, but he wanted nothing to do with it. Even when he struggled, he preferred to do so in the hustle and bustle of public school. With my other children that may not be the case.
    Homeschooling is great for the people who choose it, but it’s not right for everyone. I never learned that life was drudgery, because my parents modeled that it’s exciting and full of challenges.
    The idea I am trying to express, is that all parents teach their children, whether they do so formally or less so, whether their child attends public, private or home school. All parents should be putting the time and effort into making learning, choice and adventure part of their child’s everyday life.

    • I’m glad you have a son doing so well, Antoinette, and that you made the right choice for you and your family. That is all anyone could hope for!

      I think Sarah did a beautiful job here of sharing what’s been right for her family and her kids, and I don’t see any type of bashing in this post. We live in an imperfect world – with neither homeschooling or public schooling being the “ideal.” It’s all about finding what is right for our own families.


      Jamie ~ Simple Homeschool’s latest post: Burying the Big Yellow Bus

    • I love your last line “All parents should be putting the time and effort into making learning, choice and adventure part of their child’s everyday life.” I didn’t consider the post “bashing” but it did feel a bit like the opposite of homeschooling is hating learning, books, and a life of drudgery.

      Like you, I was never homeschooled and I always loved learning – still do! Loved reading, thought life was exciting and enjoyed being challenged by my teachers and my peers. People need to do what works for them but it is unfortunate that so many homeschooling parents seem to equate public school with disengaged kids who have no desire to learn.

  36. Hi….enjoyed reading this….I have graduated two children from our homeschool and had the same questions many times during those years. I have had the same wonderful results and it has all been so worth it….both my children have turned out to be wonderful, free thinking, life loving, responsible young adults. I am just about to start homeschooling our youngest this September…homeschooling is a lot of work but so worth it!!!
    Sharon’s latest post: Thursday and Friday

  37. This is so well written (and formatted). Love everything about it. Doubts are normal. I didn’t face them so much in earlier years, but they certainly creep in the farther we go. It’s wonderful to hear the testimony of those whose HSed kids are (successful) in college. I feel we are on the right track and must simply continue the course. To turn back would be a waste.
    Jimmie’s latest post: Feb 2011 Art for Homeschool Contest

  38. What a lovely story! I always enjoy hearing about HSers who have grown up. My oldest is not yet 13 but I already have such a feeling with her and with the others of loving who they’ve become. I *like* being around them. Other adults and kids alike really enjoy their company. And they love to learn and are just neat people. :) We must be doing something right!
    Alicia’s latest post: Candy heart homeschool

  39. Molly Hyde-Caroom says:

    What a wonderful post! It’s so nice to hear success stories of homeschool! I love that everyone has spent so much time thinking about what is the is the right path for our children and ourselves. I have definitely had times that I wonder if I am cut out for this or if my children are missing something by not being in public school. More often, however, I realize that they can get the personalized attention that they need and the consistency that I feel is important, at home (we move a lot due to my husband’s career). I love posts like this because it reaffirms my choice and allows me to know there are so many others out there who have the same questions. Thanks so much!

  40. I am on the other side of the fence, where my children are currently in Public School, but we have a goal to start homeschooling, this summer, with my son (he’s a high schooler next year). Believe me… your children are not missing out on anything. Somedays, I really think the only thing the school, my kids go to, cares about is Attendence #s and the scores on the Map tests. Oh, and Fund-Raising….ugh!!! Instead of trying to find out why my daughter still can’t read at the age of 9…. These are the things that keeps me on track of attaining my goal…which is, to bring both children home to be educated.

  41. Yes! We started homeschooling 3 years ago and I wonder from time to time if this is the best thing for my children. But, you are right. We just had schools being locked down and the parents unable to get to thier children for hours and hours, due to shootings north of us (in Los Angeles). I looked at my husband and laughed out loud, “Yet, one more thing to which we don’t have to subject our children.”

    Many of my children’s “friends” who attend school are sneaky, liars, rude, foul mouths, downloading porn to their parents computers, Googling things they shouldn’t be AND people ask me, “What about the socialization?” My only response, “You say that like it’s a good thing?!?!”

    We can’t go to a restaurant without people coming up to us and telling us that our children are so well-behaved. They never fail to use “thank you” and “please” to the servers and the servers/owners/managers always thank US for coming in.

    Thank you for this article. I think it hits a nerve in any homeschool parent.

  42. YES! YES! YES!
    thank you!
    Jennifer’s latest post: Recipe for Disaster

  43. john cummins says:

    Unlike my sister, I never wondered for as much as 1/1000 of a second about the “yellow school bus”. There were many reasons we homeschooled, the first being that we wanted the best “education” for our children. However, I honestly see no other choice that maximizes education. The state schools steal from others in the name of “free” education, a clear violation of the 9th commandment. The “choice” we have is to defund these “free” schools. If people want to have schools for their own philosophies they can either homeschool or start private schools but please, please don’t allow the state to usurp the clear responsibilities of the home and church in educating children for one blessed second MORE!!!

    A homeschooling Dad of his kids all the way to college (never having them in a state school for one second!)

  44. Thank you so much Sarah. Just the encouragement we moms with younger children need to hear.

    Honestly, my children have no interest in going to public school. They are way too independent and creative in their thinking and everyday routines to want to sit down and do what someone else wants them to do for the better part of their day.
    Even my two especially social children have expressed no interest in going.

    Certainly, they do stuff I need and want them to do throughout the day but they know my job and my commitment is to support their learning, to help them grow in skills and experience in what they are interested in doing.

    My husband and I also feel that if our children want to spend most of their day elsewhere (at this young age) then something isn’t right at home. Home should be “where it’s at” and we strive to make this reality.

  45. Sarah, I love this post! Thank you for the reassurance. There are days we all need it.
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  46. I didn’t worry at all about “missing out” because of homeschooling until we moved. Our current home is in a rural area with a teeny tiny homeschooling community and not alot of resources unless you want to spend all day driving in to the city. We also have no neighbors within a quarter mile and the kids have no neighborhood friends anymore. So the “missing out” that we’re having trouble with is the social thing. It wasn’t a concern back in the suburbs, but here it’s more of a problem.
    Mothering From The Maelstrom’s latest post: ADHD For You And Me

  47. I love Love LOVE this post! We are still relatively new to this – only our second year – but I definitely share some of your views here. Very inspiring, well done! :)
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  48. I was so glad to read this. We’ve unofficially been schooling this year (Before Five in a Row) and are starting Sonlight PreK this fall. Chloe loves it. But she does talk about when she is bigger and goes to a big school. She’s such a little socialite that I wonder if I’m being unfair by wanting to homeschool.
    I’m glad to read that there are others who wonder and guess at times too.
    I know she can have a wonderful social circle in a homeschool group and I know all the reasons and benefits associated with it but sometimes I just have a niggling little doubt.
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  49. Awesome post-came at the perfect time-when school is getting a little tough and we are gettin ggrumpy from the super cold temperatures outside. Thank you, I wil be pulling this out often in the coming weeks.

  50. Thank you so much for this post! Unfortunately, my children love those big yellow buses…I can probably count on my fingers the number of times they have boarded one, but the thrill remains. I took my daughter out of school in the beginning of her first grade year (last September) and trying to navigate the challenges of dealing with her missing the lineups, cafeterias, class parties, etc., to trying to find the right curriculum for her, to hoping I didn’t make the wrong choice — has not been easy. I appreciate posts like these and hope I can remember that I am not alone and that homeschooled children like mine will be just fine. Even better than fine. :)

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