Celebrating high school independence (Back to School Week)

Contributor Amida writes for Journey Into Unschooling

This summer, my oldest child went off to college for the first time at thirteen.

Wearing a backpack filled with a simple folder, a couple of pencils, and enough food to survive the night if need be (two sandwiches, two fruits, two thermoses full of hot soup, snacks, a water bottle, and a dark chocolate bar), I saw him board the bus alone — his first time in one since he was three-years-old — and watched as he disappeared down the road for the next eight hours.

It was a scary moment.

For many, thirteen is no big deal. Heck, I was walking to and from school on my own years before that, as do many public school children. But most of the homeschoolers I know are somewhat sheltered in that respect.

Call us strange but we like to hang out together and do family things. I know all my children’s friends and peers and their parents (and brothers, sisters, and sometimes cousins and next door neighbor). For the most part, we learn together, and being such a close knit bunch, my children have had little opportunity or desire to be away for too long.

Granted, this isn’t the first time my son has been out of my sight. He does take and has taken outside classes on his own. Somehow though, the act of boarding the bus in the morning and not returning until evening feels like a rite of passage.

I had often wondered how I would handle the moment my child hit high school. Would we continue to homeschool? Would he be able to cope in a real (i.e. brick and mortar) high school if need be? It wasn’t that I doubted my ability to teach him, rather, it was a question of whether he would want more than a life at home. As it turned out, just into his teen years, he was well over a head taller than me, and bright as could be, with absolutely no interest in ending his homeschool lifestyle.

After considering our options, we decided it would be best to continue in our journey and supplement with courses at the local community college. After debating long and hard as to whether he would be ready for that step, or if we should wait a couple of years, I bit the bullet and enrolled him in a summer “trial class.” We picked a course he was completely confident in and would have no trouble with, because the real purpose of the class was independence.

Twice a week, for six weeks, he boarded the bus, and enjoyed freedom from his siblings and parents for an entire day. Before leaving the house, he had to go through his Daily Checklist, where “wits about you” rested right there between house key and cell phone.

Photo by LollyKnit

And just like that, he did it. For the first time in his life, he was talking about people I didn’t have a face to and keeping up with assignments I knew nothing about. Other than a quick warning to not eat strange brownies (it was college, after all), I kept my anxieties to myself and encouraged him to embrace his new adventure and hoped that I had prepared him with enough common sense to make it home safely.

As I look back at how we arrived at this point, I realize that I didn’t just send my son on his way without preparation (although at that moment, it certainly felt that way). In the course of our day to day life, we had actually taken baby steps towards that bus.

Starting from when he was eleven, we started letting go of the reins, first allowing him to stay home alone, then walking to the corner to deliver mail, followed by solo trips to the library, and eventually taking his siblings to nearby classes.

As far as schoolwork, he had already spent his eighth-grade year with college prep work through online courses. In addition, he has had some experience taking all-day classes from local colleges. This last step, of course, involved public transportation into another county with only a cellphone as our lifeline. He has stepped through to the world of the teenager.

As we head back to school next week (with two college courses), I am grateful for our opportunity this summer to ease into this new chapter in our life, and to be able to begin my son’s final years in homeschool by celebrating his newly discovered independence. I am also thankful for all those baby steps we took to get here and am excited for what’s to come.

I imagine the upcoming mornings when I wake up and stuff his bag full of food and make sure he packs his wits. I can rest assured that like many others in his shoes, he will be just fine. Hey, maybe high school and teenage years won’t be so bad after all.

What will you be celebrating this coming school year?

About Amida

Amida is the mom to three darn kids. She used to stress about state standards and test scores but has since come to her senses and enjoys blogging about her family's journey into unschooling.


  1. I was homeschooled through 8th grade and then went to public high school. We plan on homeschooling our daughter and I wonder what she’ll want to do for high school. I like reading about different paths homeschooling families take for the high school years. Thanks for sharing.
    Steph’s latest post: It’s okay if you don’t enjoy every minute

    • Me too!I love seeing what’s on the road ahead. Thanks for giving us a glimpse. What we are celebrating this year is potty training being mostly over with my youngest, and things settling into a bit of a routine. It’s feeling easier.
      CharityHawkins@TheHomeschoolExperiment’s latest post: { rest }

  2. First: I teared up reading this. Where he is is such a huge accomplishment!

    Second: I would love to read more about how you went from homeschooling to the online, higher education courses at the college. It seems my son will be going in the same direction, and I’m so unsure right now how the heck we get there!
    Angela’s latest post: House is almost complete!

  3. My oldest is getting his drivers license today. It’s frightening and wonderful at the same time. I love the increasing independence but dread the day he leaves us nearly completely. Thanks for this great post. I love the reminder about “wits about you”…I think we can use that!
    Jen@anothergranolamom’s latest post: White Pine Hollow Hike

  4. Thanks for sharing! I can’t imagine the feeling of letting goal. Both scary and so exciting that he is maturing at the same time! Thanks for sharing your story. Always helpful to hear how different people are doing it.
    Johanna @ My Home Tableau’s latest post: How to Get Better Sleep

  5. I’ve been homeschooling for 13 years now, and just graduated our oldest in May. I can’t remember a time when we weren’t homeschooling both of our boys, so this year is going to be a strange one for me. With my older one going full time to the local community college and our younger one a homeschooled junior, I’m getting WAY nostalgic about this whole home education adventure. ((sigh))

  6. This post made me feel teary too because I am totally in the middle of my son’s transition to manhood (he is 16) and it is a bittersweet process. But I really like how you point out that you’ve been preparing him all along, each time you’ve loosened the reigns, said yes to him branching out, etc. I so agree with this.

  7. Aaahhh homeschooling highschool… every year as we begin our school year I think I must blog about high school… but honestly now that we are deep in it the homeschooling is such a small part of their busy teen lives, as my kids literally fly, I am totally in awe… they discover classes to take and courses to join outside of home. What I have learnt is the line between homeschool and college is a lot less defined as the line between school and college. Somehow my oldest is gathering up college courses and finding amazing part time courses and basically venturing forth long before he is going to be finished with high school coursework!!!
    se7en’s latest post: What We Are Reading Right Now #2 – A GiveAway Post…

  8. This was so lovely and poignant. I really enjoyed it. My two are still quite young (8 and 4) and I wonder how we will make that transition. Thanks for sharing.

  9. Gasp! This is just the thing that’s been on my mind. Can I do it? Wow, thanks for sharing this!

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