I know this is a homeschooling website, and I’m a homeschooling mom, but that free education option down the street looks awfully tempting sometimes.
I homeschooled my first two children all the way though high school graduation, but that last little bugger–she just HAD to go to public school.
Can homeschooling and public school education happily co-exist?
Here are some things to consider before you sign up:
1. Your Child’s Interests
Many school districts allow homeschoolers to choose classes. In 6th grade, Melissa took band and learned how to play the clarinet. Peter and Meg joined the high school choir. Call your school principal to learn their policies.
Be sure the public school will truly enhance your child’s education. Taking just one class every day puts your life on their schedule and restricts your freedom to do other things.
2. Your Child’s Age
If you are considering full-time public school, it makes most sense to start as a freshman because only high school courses and transcripts matter to colleges. Why put your child through school stress sooner than necessary?
But of course you can complete high school and create a transcript at home–you don’t need public school just for that.
3. Your Child’s Learning Style
If your child is good at taking tests and “doing the work” asked of him, he will probably succeed in public school. If your child is creative and artsy, he will probably not like school very much. If your child loves to dive deeply into a subject, public school will most likely frustrate him.
Hopefully, you can mix and match homeschooling and public school classes to get the best of both worlds. Public school classes can simply be one of your homeschool classes that you “farm out” to another teacher, just as if he were taking a class at the homeschool co-op.
And the best part? If a class isn’t working for your child, he can drop it.
4. Your Child’s Emotional Maturity
On the whole, teachers want your child to learn and be safe. It’s the other kids who are jostling for position, creating and maintaining the caste system of the school.
Can your child handle it? Will she be a leader or a follower? What is the crime rate at the potential school? Are you comfortable with the environment?
5. Your Willingness to Watch Closely and Stay Involved
Whenever your child takes classes away from home, don’t lose touch. Ask a lot of questions, help with homework and talk through things. Ask what she learned that day and continue to be a homeschool mom, finding resources and experts to help.
Our youngest, Melissa, has been a full-time public schooler for two years now, and she comes home for lunch everyday. It’s a great way to “touch base” and decompress a little. When she had to miss three days of school for a play production, I videotaped a particularly difficult class for her. She told me later that I was a big hit with the other kids. I like to think I was the coolest mom in the Sophomore class.
One Last Bit of Advice
You might want to join the Homeschool Legal Defense Association before you start mixing with the public school system. They give excellent advice and offer free legal services if you run into over-zealous school officials.
We live in a rural town in Central Illinois. There is only one small private Christian school and one public high school. That’s it. If we lived in a big city, we would probably find an active homeschool group and many schooling options.
Melissa wanted to be on a sports team. In 8th grade she joined a hockey team at an ice rink (an hour away), but she didn’t like that enough to keep her out of the school system. She wanted to play basketball and join the track team. And because of state rules about high school athletes, she had to take a full load at the public school if she wanted to be eligible.
After a lot of discussion, we decided that yes, she could go to public school. And so far, so good. She is about to start her Junior year with all A’s and B’s, and she is on the basketball team, the cross country team, and the track team.
I believed she had a firm foundation in her love of learning, and she had the emotional maturity to handle the other kids and recognize “the game.” I told her that school was less about education and more about learning how to play the game: follow the rules, stay out of trouble, and you’ll get the grades you need to move on to the next level.
She knows she can choose not to play the game any time she wants. During final exams last year, she was moaning and groaning. I said, “Hey, that’s great! You don’t have to take finals! Come back to homeschool!” Nope. Didn’t work. But it got her to study.
I used to think the two could not coexist and I admit, it’s not easy. But after two years, we’re both getting used to it.
What do you think about the role of the public school in a homeschooler’s life?