I wrote about sending my son, who had been homeschooled his whole life, to high school as a junior. It’s hard to believe that was three school years ago.
I know there are many homeschooling parents who have wondered if they should send their children to school, particularly when it comes to high school. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to answer that question for you. I don’t know you, your child, or your school district. Even if I did, I could give you bad advice. What I can do is tell you what I learned from the process and tell you where to go for help in making the decision: God. He knows what is best for your child. He has proven Himself trustworthy to us. I believe He will for you, too.
I share what I’ve learned in case it will be helpful to you.
Public school isn’t always the enemy.
I had heard horror stories and I was terrified. Our local high school’s website said that homeschoolers would have to be interviewed by department heads to determine what grades they would be given for previous coursework. When we met with the guidance counselor, I was prepared for a fight. If the school planned on giving my child anything less than the grades he had earned, I wasn’t willing to enroll him!
We had submitted my son’s transcript and PSAT scores prior to our meeting. The counselor handed us an official transcript with all his courses and grades on it, just as we had reported. I said, “You’re just going to accept his courses and grades?” She said yes. Not only that, but she asked if my son wanted to enter as a senior because he had so many credits. He declined because he wanted to build up an even stronger transcript for college.
I don’t know if my son’s PSAT scores were taken as validation of his coursework or if this is how any homeschooler would be treated. I have heard of other homeschoolers being forced to repeat high school years.
In our case, the public school was our ally, not our enemy.
Public school can be validating.
I have heard the story of poorly prepared homeschool students entering public school and failing socially and academically many times. It’s a popular tale among teachers commenting on homeschooling online. I was worried that teachers would use my son to confirm that narrative.
Instead, my son came home and said that one of his teachers had this conversation with him:
TEACHER: “You were homeschooled right?”
MY SON: “Yes.”
TEACHER: “Your parents have done something right. You’re an excellent student.”
I just wanted to hug the man. It isn’t that I didn’t know that my son is a good student. It’s that I’ve never had my teaching of him praised. It was nice to hear.
My public school stereotypes were wrong.
Even though I went to public school, my views of it have changed as a result of the media and warnings from the homeschool community. I honestly expected a completely out-of-control morass of immorality.
I agreed to help serve lunch to the theater group at the high school. When I walked into the lunch room and saw everyone sitting and talking quietly, I was astonished. When I served the teens lunch and they all thanked me, I was again surprised.
Because my son is extremely social, he has introduced us to dozens of young people he met in the various groups he was in. It’s been a joy to get to know them. Many of them share our faith, which was another surprise. While they have shaken my public school stereotypes, I believe we have given them a non-stereotypical view of homeschooling, too.
My son needed to experience public school.
My son had a much different set of stereotypes about public school than I did. In his mind, public school was filled with cool kids who loved to discuss what they were learning and teachers who all loved to teach. I did my best to relieve him of those stereotypes, but it wasn’t until he went to school that he had a better perspective. He later told me that there were just as many weird kids at public school as in homeschool groups (ha ha), that there were kids in advanced courses who would play video games instead of listen and discuss, and that some of his teachers were just plain awful.
His funniest realization (for me anyway) was this: “I could have learned in two weeks what it took them a whole semester to teach.” Ahem. I told you so.
His saddest realization is that unkindness exists everywhere. As a homeschooled kid at church, his experience was that his friends who weren’t homeschooled tended to ignore him in favor of their schoolmates. I think my son hoped that once he was in school that this wouldn’t happen anymore. It did, in various settings.
I’m so thankful that he was able to learn these lessons while living at home. We had plenty of discussions about what he was learning and experiencing and his dad and I were able to give him guidance. Everything he experienced has also served him well in college.
While I’m thankful for the lessons learned by sending my son to high school, I can’t recommend it to everyone. I still have reservations about sending young people who aren’t strong enough spiritually, academically, or socially to succeed. My next three oldest sons do not want to attend public high school at this time. But if they change their minds or my younger children want to go (and the Lord confirms that decision), I won’t be terrified.
Have you sent your child to public school after homeschooling or are you thinking about it? Let’s chat about it on Homeschool Sanity on Facebook.
Check out what the other iHomeschool Network bloggers learned from their kids.
Your prescription for happier, healthier homeschooling
You'll receive occasional updates with sanity-saving ideas for your homeschool, family, and faith. Subscriber-only printables and discounts will be sent your way, too. You can choose which content you'd like to receive as well as the frequency.
I agree wholeheartedly. It’s not right for every child. When I sent my oldest to school in 6th grade, he had a lot of the same experiences that your son had. There was a day I was driving him home lamenting that I was not homeschooling his siblings as best as I could. He said, don’t beat yourself up mom. Even when we watched videos, they always had a moral quality about them and they were always something to learn from them. He then commented that I taught him how to communicate with adults and kids. He observed that many students lacked the skills and/or respect to talk with the teachers. One of our neighbors who was his PE coach said, whatever you are doing, keep it up. He is a great student and a great kid. I responded with, I think the most important thing I’m doing is correcting behavior as it happens.
Dawn, that’s so neat. I have gotten advice and encouragement from my oldest, too. Thanks so much for sharing your story. I should have written about this when I was terrified!
Fascinating! My boys went from public to home school, and they had a serious transition in learning how to talk to the other homeschool kids in our group. They were used to always talking about video games, but these kids don’t play them. It’s been an interesting year! I’m glad your son had a positive experience! That is encouraging.
That’s interesting. The boys my boys are friends with (who are homeschooled) DO play video games. It’s a big transition either direction.
I was wondering well see my daughter is having a little trouble in math and I was wondering is she ready for public school and what grade would be the perfect one to send her back in
Vanessa, I would prefer to send my children to high school as freshmen if that’s what I felt called to do. I do know people who have had good experiences at other grades and those who haven’t. I recommend Mr D Math if your daughter would like to get a sense of being in a math class while still at home.
Thanks for sharing your experiences. Every family (and child) has different needs and circumstances. It’s so important for all of us (homeschooling or not!) to be gracious with each other and ourselves as we navigate through our education choices. Great post!
I so agree, Amy. I wish I could say I was always gracious, but it’s certainly my heart’s desire now.
I’m so glad it was encouraging. One of the blessings of homeschooling is parents can decide what is best for their children.
I am so glad I stumbled upon this. My daughter is going into her freshman year at public high school this coming school year after being homeschooled for 6 years. I am terrified and heartbroken. I have a couple more months before I sit down with the school to enroll her and I have no idea what they are going to say to me or her! I am glad to see some encouragement here! Thanks!
I had the same feelings, Janee. Because she will be a freshman, I think everything will be just fine. The great thing is you’ll be there to help your daughter make the transition. Praying for you both.
My homeschooled son is entering 4th grade in the fall. I am sending him to public school from August to december so that I can take a semester of real estate courses. It is purely selfish, but he seems excited about it so I was grateful for this article. I hope it will give him a little taste of how the other side lives and he can learn for himself what his preferences are. I was always planning on sending him to public high school, so this will get his feet wet. My husband was homeschooled up to 10th grade and he feels that he went from one extreme to the other and didn’t have an easy time of it. Maybe we can avoid that by dipping in the school system a little at a time.
I’m so glad this post was an encouragement to you. It sounds like it’s what is best for your family. If you think about it, let me know how he does!
HSMOM – I am curious now…6 months later…how your son has done in public? I have a Kindergartner and a 2nd grader. The idea of going back to public (for my 2nd grader) is a little terrifying for me…
I did an interview at http://homeschoolsanity.com with him. He is a sophomore in college and he says that it was worth it to him to go to public school. I don’t think you should be terrified. 🙂 I never wanted my kids to fear school in case they needed to go. You never know what the future holds. I hope you have peace with whatever your decision is, knowing that you can ALWAYS change your mind.
Aww, Elizabeth. I get it. I miss my son at college, too. It’s tough being a mom! Thanks so much for sharing your experience. It helps other moms.
Thank you so much for this, I have read so many articles that public school is horrible and I was so scared. We have been talking about putting our two kids in public school for two years as we are expecting another baby and my husband is going back for his MBA. I know I need to trust in God for their lives, but this was also helpful. Thank you.
Lydia, I’m so glad it was helpful. I absolutely know the feeling. No matter what you decide, I know God will work things out for you and your family. I so appreciate your comment.
I think many homeschool parents would be surprised by how many public school teachers believe in the power of homeschooling children. As a teacher for 17 years I’ve considered homeschooling my own children. When I shared this with my colleagues they admitted they had considered doing the same. It’s not that we view public education as the enemy but we have an insider’s perspective of what our law makers policies do to do our children. We wish we had the freedom to teach our children in the ways they need to be taught rather than focusing on testing standards. I think there are many misconceptions on both sides of the fence.
Thanks for your perspective, Sharon. Many teachers homeschool so I think there is an understanding of what you’re describing in homeschool circles. We have a shared love of freedom, don’t we?
You fail to address the impact of Common Core though, which you cannot know since your son graduated prior to its full implementation.
Our state won’t grant credits for home school classes, so entering after freshman year is nearly impossible (while still graduating “on time”).
That’s true. Your state and your school district could keep public school from being a good option for you. My state has rejected Common Core, thankfully. I can definitely only speak to my experience with one child in one school at one point in time. Thanks for your comment.
Thanks, Christy. Glad it was helpful.
Hi, Melanie! I know that this is an old post, but I was drawn to it because of a couple of interactions I have had recently. My oldest is 10 and I’m not really considering public school at the moment. However, I have had two (virtual stranger) adults tell my children recently that the fact that I homeschool them means that I love them more than most parents love their kids. Now don’t get me wrong … I know that these folks were well-meaning and intended to be supportive. And I can’t say as I don’t appreciate a little love and respect for the blood, sweat and tears … but I have worked really, really hard NOT to instill in my kids a we-do-this-because-we-are-awesomeness-personified attitude! So helpful to read your experience. Especially helpful to read about your son’s realizations, too! Thanks for sharing this one!
You’re welcome. I was afraid to write about it at first (you know, a homeschool blogger sending her son to school), but it’s been helpful for a lot of homeschoolers who have to make tough choices.
Great post! Due to family circumstances, after 15 years of homeschooling only we’ve had to send our kids to public school and the experience has been…great! Quite shocking, which is sad to admit.
Renee, thanks for sharing that experience. There are plenty of homeschooling families who will feel led to choose public school and knowing that it’s not always a bad experience is helpful.
I just registered both my kids for Middle School because they wanted to go back and try. After finishing the preregistration I was told because my youngest didn’t take the LEAP test it might cause a problem. They about 20 minutes later my oldest was talking to the lady and she told him he might be able to test out of 8th and go on to 9th which I don’t want because this year will be adjustment year for him. Same with the little one. I know in my heart they can both test out to the next grade but they could use that adjustment year to get back into public school routine. Now they speak of testing my kids and now I am freaking out. What if I taught them wrong? We have common core in our public systems and I did not teach them common core at all. I did homeschooling for two years with them. I choose to not all my kids to get bully at their elementary and nothing was being done about it. My little one (well not so little but still in my heart). He is slower than other kids and gets tease for it.
They have to do a placement test. My nephew went back in the same parish as my kids and they put him in the grade he should be in. Mine has to do a placement test. I am a bit lost.
I did ask about when my youngest was in school and had to take any test he was allowed to take the test with a Special Education Teacher. I got no answer except ‘He will be fine its only two hours’ TWO HOURS. The kids can not sit for two hours without breaks at home. Oh BOY this will be interesting.
We use Switched on Schoolhouse home study program with them. Tomorrow I am giving them the placement test with the home school program to try to calm myself down. Wednesday Morning they test the school board’s placement test. I haven’t even told my husband yet because he already has anxiety problems that we are trying to get under control not alone my own.
Prayers for you. I know it has to be unnerving. But even if your kids are behind in some areas, I’m sure you can help them catch up quickly.
We’re just beginning this process with our two high school age boys. Please keep John and Joe in your prayers.
I will. And you, too.
i am a Junior in high school. I am a homeschooled student, and I have been since 3rd grade. I would like to transfer to the public high school in my town but i don’t know how to approach my mom about it. I want her to fully listen and take my reasons of why i want to transfer into consideration. Please help me think of a way to talk to her about it. (I am also a “social Butterfly,” as my mom calls me, so the social change from homeschooling to public high school wouldn’t be that hard. I am also expected to do a stressful amount of work for my homeschool program so the trimester work load wouldn’t be too bad. But i am ready for a change in my life. I have prayed about it and feel the transferring wouldn’t be a bad idea. I just need my mom to see that.)
Anika, my son told me he had been thinking of going to school and why. He didn’t demand it. That helped his dad and me make the decision. I recommend approaching your mom and asking her to pray about it. Make sure she knows that you appreciate her. If God wants you to go to school, He will change your mother’s heart. If she would like to talk to me, have her contact me. I’m praying for God’s will for your life, too. If the answer is no, trust God with it. He may have other ways for you to meet your social needs.