If I could do it over again: 5 things to consider before sending a homeschooled child into full-time school

Some questions for homeschool parents to ponder:

  1. What are your academic expectations (read: grades)?
  2. Take advantage of the school’s parent portal to help your student navigate the workload.
  3. Ask your student about their connection to friends.
  4. Remind them to tell you if they are having a hard time or are not feeling good about school.
  5. Take it day by day, and month by month. Things change for students month to month.

Academic Expectations

This one is super important. I find that often due to our own upbringing and values our parents instilled in us, we have definite feelings about the level our children should operate at academically. When we homeschool we are more flexible because we know what they are learning in their homeschool curriculum. In middle school and above, the mastery of their curriculum comes in the form of one letter, A-F. Sure it’s reductionistic, but that is how it’s done. Now that I have two children in schools where other teachers give them those letters, I realize it’s only fair to lay out what I deem mastery to be. For each parent this is different

In searching my own soul on this, I have decided my kids getting a “B” or better is the goal. I have decided I do not want them –in general– to spend so much time in pursuit of A’s so that they don’t have time for hobbies. Having a wound-up teenager is no fun! I also tell them a “B-” is okay, but closer to a “C” than I like. If they come home with a grade lower than a solid B, we discuss it and figure out the gap in their studying strategy and work together to improve it for the next test.

Parent Portals

These online websites such as Schoology or Renweb allow parents to view their student’s progress. I recommend checking them at least every few weeks. Again, in homeschool, you know if your student’s work is late. In traditional school, the workload is like a game of Tetris, and your student may be under a wall of bricks quickly. Buy them a planner and verify they are writing down assignments. Ask them what they have due, and then verify the story for yourself on the portal.

Making Friends & Communication

This challenge is perhaps the most difficult of all. Chances are, the later you send your child back into a full-time school environment, the more difficult this will be. For my middle son, he did fine his first year back in school; then 5th grade, his second year back, was the most difficult. Part of this challenge was my fault; I got busy with my own work. My son is very shy, and would most likely not be considered “hip.” He was in a school where kids knew each other since kinder, which is not unusual. Most kids have been in the compulsory educational system since kinder; they are not as equipped to deal with a peer that is unique. He (and I) just did not keep friendship connections going. He is not one to ask for things from me. And I wasn’t really asking him how things were going. The red flag should have been that he was not invited to even one student’s birthday party in 5th grade. (Even now I want to go into a cave on this one.) My advice for other parents on friendship — tell your child to let you know who they’d like to get together with. Tell them you care and you’ll make the time. And keep asking them!

This situation leads to the fourth topic of communication. Bullying, problems with connecting, social media issues, drugs, etc, are all issues that are live when you drop them off for 5-7 hours each day. See this post for more backstory on this. It is vital that you express to your student that they should tell you if there is a problem. My line to my kids is now “Please let me know if there is a problem at school. I will not know unless you tell me.” I say this often, probably a few times a month; sometimes it does illicit a response.

Every Month is a New Month

This outlook is now one I adopt due to an experience with my daughter. In the 8th grade she was all caught up and had “B’s” or better. Then, she was in a musical that took up most of her free time with rehearsals, etc. She still was doing okay. The curtain closed on the musical, and only then did things get rough. She began to have late work in one class. As she was completing that late work, other work moved to a lower priority and she lapsed in another class. It was waves and waves of late work. Personally, after attending private schools where late work was penalized, I have strong feelings about late work which I discovered in the process of dealing with my daughter.

My takeway from spending time at Late Work Beach: In addition to telling my kids that I expect them to turn in work on time, every month is different for young growing minds. Maybe my daughter lost her focus after the musical was over. Maybe she actually does better when she must work at managing her time. In any case, I need to continue to stay of top of her progress. I need to assume that things might change; part of my job is to help navigate the work getting completed with decent mastery of school curriculum month after month and year after year. That is what being a caring parent truly is.

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