After years of educating my son at home, I transitioned him into a local high school at his request. Here's what I did to make that transition easy on both of us and ensure he continued to thrive in school.
Transitioning from Homeschool to High School
For reasons that I'll discuss later in this article, I chose to educate my son at home from first through eighth grade. It was a wonderful experience for both of us and one that gave him a firm foundation and lifelong love of learning. Transitioning to a local high school was tough, but with the help and support of our community he handled it well and continues to thrive.
Letting Go Was Scary
My son suffers from type 1 diabetes mellitus. He is insulin dependent and always will be. Due to his condition, he requires several tests, shots, and frequent meals to keep his glucose levels in check. Educating him at home made these tasks easier. In a public school setting, they would have been much more challenging.
Thanks to my son's stellar test scores, he had his pick of local schools and chose a technical high school for his diploma program. Not only was the curriculum in line with his goal of a career in information technology (IT), but the staff was also supportive and eager to help him in any way they could.
Sending him off that first day was tough, but I was confident he would be in good hands.
Adjusting Took Time
For years, I knew practically everything my son did from morning to night. We talked constantly, shared lunch, and knew each other's schedules by heart. Not seeing him for hours at a time was a shock to my parental system and took some getting used to.
I wasn't the only one impacted by his absence. He had been a part - however peripherally - of our preschool community his entire life. He was our lunch and story time helper and enjoyed teaching the little ones how to build castles and racetracks.
The children missed him, and it affected their moods for weeks after he left us.
My son also found the change in environment a little scary. He was surrounded by new people, and while this was exciting, for the first time in his life he felt self-conscious about his condition. Thanks to the support of school staff, he worked through those feelings and in time began to enjoy the experience.
Experiencing Guilt is Inevitable
Although we always knew our son would re-enter public school, it was inevitable that I would feel some guilt when it finally happened. I'm not the only parent who has, as Laurie Brody, Ph.D. helpfully points out. I was constantly concerned that I had concentrated on the wrong subjects, hadn't supported him enough academically, or hadn't given him a firm enough foundation to do well in secondary school.
That was bunk, of course.
Like any good teacher, I had thoroughly researched and prepared his curriculum to be in line with our state's standards. I had used resources like those developed by Lee Binz of the Home Scholar to ensure good recordkeeping.
I did my best, and so did he.
Still, I remained concerned that I hadn't done enough, but my son's grades and his teachers reassured me that he was doing just fine.
Preparing for Success
Getting ready for such a significant change required preparation. For parents returning their children to the public arena after homeschooling, I would recommend taking a few of the same steps we did to ease the transition - whether your child has special needs or not:
- Do your research. If multiple schools are available, take the time to choose the best fit for your child.
- Observe. Some schools will allow you to observe its teachers in action during an actual class. Such an option can allay many of the fears you and your child may have about the change.
- Introduce yourself. By introducing ourselves to our son's new teachers, we let them know that we were there to help if needed.
- Get your paperwork in order. Because of our son's special circumstances, having his paperwork together was essential to his health and safety. Even if your child doesn't have special needs, having all the paperwork filled out ahead of time will make the switch smoother.
- Know the standards. Most states require homeschooled children to be screened annually to ensure their education is up to snuff. If your student hasn't had those tests, schedule time with the school to make sure he or she is up to speed and will be ready to join peers.
- Let your child take the lead. Deciding to homeschool was a family decision. Returning to public school was as well. In both cases, however, our son took the lead and decided when he was ready to make the change. We both respected and supported his decision - even if we weren't entirely excited about it.
Being prepared helped us all remain calm during those first days and made our son's transition to his new environment a success. He loves his school and his teachers and has made new friends - all without the anxiety that may have come had we not taken those steps.
Making a Positive Choice
Despite the accompanying fear and guilt, sending our son back to public school was the right choice for him and us. He has a larger group of friends to interact with, enjoys subjects that I lacked the expertise to teach, and is more independent with his care. And, thanks to the extra work we put into finding the right school for his needs, he is eager to start each day and excited to learn new things. And because we don't spend every moment in each other's company, we appreciate the time we have together more, which might have been worth all the trouble it took to get us here.