My kids each went to public school for a few years before we began homeschooling – one went through the middle of 5th grade, the other through the middle of 2nd. Because of this time spent in that environment, and being able to compare that to the freedom they now experience in homeschooling, my kids don’t generally feel as though they’re missing out on much. This feeling was reinforced when my oldest began talking to some old public school friends on Facebook and those friends talked about how bad the school they attend (the one he would be attending if still in public school) is and how they wish they could be homeschooled, too.
If your kids have never had any experience other than homeschooling, or if they only went for Kindergarten or maybe even just Pre-K, they may not remember or have done enough to feel like they had the experience. They may sometimes tell you they want to go to public school. And even though you know you’re doing what’s best, you might feel guilty or wonder if you should allow them to have the experience of public school.
Depending on what they use as their examples of what they want to get from public school, though, you may be able to give them what they want at home.
A few examples:
- “I want to make friends.” If they want friends, look around for co-ops and homeschooling groups. You may have to look a little beyond your immediate area, if you live in a rural area. Look in the nearest larger town or city or maybe even the next county over. If the co-op or group meets during your working hours, see if you can enlist a friend or relative to take the kids for you. If there aren’t any co-ops or groups already existing in your area (or within a reasonable driving distance), see about starting your own. Head to local parks, skating rinks, bowling alleys, etc., during school hours and look to see who’s there with kids around your kids’ age. Start conversations and see what happens.
- “I want to ride the bus!” First, let me assure you that even in public school, your kids could say this if you drove them to school (which, quite often, single parents have to do in order to make use of before and after school care programs so they can get to work). You can give them a similar experience by taking a city bus. Even if it’s not something you would typically do, or you have to drive from your rural area to the city, take a quick ride and get some ice cream or hit the bookstore. Naturally, it will be slightly different (having to pay to ride, for example), but it’s close enough.
- “I want homework.” This isn’t a common complaint, but I have heard it happens. If this is your kid’s reason for wanting to go to public school, you can easily accomplish this by giving them homework – assign them some work to do in the evening, and tell them it’s due the next day. And since it’s “homework”, that means the teacher isn’t there to help, so you can remind them that they can’t ask you to help them with it. 😉
- “I want a lunchbox/backpack/locker.” As parents, we’re relieved when we don’t have to find the right lunchbox or backpack for our homeschooled kids, and we don’t feel like they’re missing out on much with not having a locker when we remember the days of rushing from one class to another and needing to not only go to our locker to swap books but also to go to the bathroom. But sometimes our kids do miss that experience. So buy him a lunchbox and let him make a lunch up in the morning and put it in there. Get him a backpack – it could come in handy if you want to go to the park or the library for school, or you can use it to transport library books or other things for various reasons. And a locker? You might not be able to get him an actual locker, but you could always get him a plastic bin with a lid where he can store his “school stuff.” Look at it this way – maybe it’ll get you some more organization and a slightly neater house.
- “I want to play (football, soccer, baseball, etc.).” Depending on where you live, you may or may not be able to enroll your kids in team sports for the local school district. Even if you can’t let him play sports for the school, you can look around for outside sources. Pop Warner football is an excellent example that’s available in my local area, and Little League is great for baseball. What if, for some reason, you can’t find something that works for your kid and the sport he wants, or you can’t afford the fees and other expenses? Maybe you can find some other kids who’d be interested in playing with him. You might be able to get a small group together for a smaller scale game of basketball, baseball or soccer, and maybe even football. If it’s gymnastics or dance that your kid wants to do and you can’t find or afford local classes, check out YouTube for some videos that might help with some self-teaching.
We can’t replicate each and every experience they might have at public school – and in some cases, we certainly wouldn’t want to, and they wouldn’t want that either. But with a little thought, planning, and being willing to go a little outside the box and beyond your immediate area, you can often come up with a comparable alternative to anything they might think they want to go to public school to experience.