June 7, 2010

Child Doesn't Want to Homeschool


I'm about to start homeschooling. This coming fall my oldest will be starting kindergarten at home. I know this is what is right for our family, but my son doesn't want to homeschool. The first thing out of the mouths of 95% of the people who find out he's five is, "Oh, then you'll start school this year. Aren't you SO excited?!?" Plus, all of his friends his age are going to school and everyone seems so excited that he feels like I'm cheating him out of a real treat.

He doesn't want to homeschool. He wants to go to school like his friends. There's only so much reasoning I can do with him . . . it's depressing to see him so unhappy with this before we've even started!

As parents, we rightfully, prayerfully make decisions for our family and hope/expect the children to march along happily. I think what we forget to ask is "cui bono?", which is Latin for "who benefits?" And that is a crucially important question!

We, as parents, can see what will be beneficial for our family in the long-run, but children don't see the long-run. Children live in the here and now, so it is our job to answer the "cui bono?" question with some real-time answers.

When people ask your son if he is starting school this year, give him something valid to reply. . . with enthusiasm! You are starting school at your house this fall. Does it look like it? Does he have a reason to believe that what you are doing is more exciting than what the school is doing? Who is benefiting by your decision to homeschool? Try to imagine yourself in your son's shoes. What benefits is he seeing that public school would offer, versus homeschool. Talk to him and write down what he says. Make a list of why school looks so appealing to him. Sometimes the reason is very simple and easily remedied. Once you have a list, you have your work cut out for you!

Do you have a school place in your home? A school room is ideal, but even a corner near the dining room table will do fine! Engage him in creating that school place. Hang a bulletin board, or just tape a big sheet of butcher paper on the wall, and use it for your school announcements: "Coming Sept. 1st . . . REPTILE EXPLORATIONS!" Have him help you decorate it. Cut out some pictures of lizards and snakes and stick them up. Make some green vines or leaves out of construction paper and make a border on it. Put up a calendar page that shows the months of summer, with a big red circle around your school start date and the "Reptile Field Trip" date. (Of course, if your son is interested in horses, or cars, or space, change the theme accordingly.) Post a daily schedule* that includes Recess and Snack Time. Some children really yearn to get out of the house into the bigger world, so plan field trips, time at the playground or park, nature walks, and library trips. Build some excitement for homeschooling!

A school name, school flag, school t-shirt or something like that will give him a name to reply to people with, and a sense that something wonderful is happening with his future school! Some children see the lunch pail or backpack, or new school clothes as a much desired benefit. When the back-to-school sales come around, and pencil boxes are 50 cents on sale, take him on a special shopping trip. He needs one new school shirt, a lunch pail or backpack (depending on what his friends are getting), and some fun school supplies. I take my kids shopping the sales, and let them pick out scissors, pencil sharpener, crayons, colored pencils. . . whatever is on sale. If you go to the back-to-school sales, you can invest $15 and get a huge return in enthusiasm!

Friends are the reason most kids want to go to school! If your son's friends are going to school, then you have to find some new friends that homeschool. Otherwise your son is going to feel left out, isolated and lonely. Find a support group that meets at least weekly. (Here's how to find LDS homeschoolers in your area.) Go to the activities and help him get to know the other children, and hopefully click with at least one boy that he can invite over for a play date. Offer to set up a "Lego Club" or some other weekly get-together that will draw other homeschooling children. Homeschooling goes so much better when there is a friendship and support network that I don't think I could homeschool without it. He cannot be expected to continue getting his social needs met solely with the boys in the neighborhood or church group, who are talking about what happened at school that day. That's the recipe for failure.

If one of the things on your son's list of going-to-school-benefits is "riding the bus", it's time to plan a trip! Anywhere on the local bus route will do: the pet shop, the museum, the ice cream parlor, the park. Have your son pack a backpack with lunch or snacks, and go stand at your local bus stop, even if you have to drive a ways to find one. Get on the bus and let's go! This is pretty exciting, if your son has never ridden on one! When you get off the bus, ask for a transfer pass. As long as you get back on the bus within a certain time frame (usually 2 hours), it won't cost you for another ride. I've done this with my kids and it made a distinct memory, and satisfied that bus ride need!

One of my friends was in your shoes, except she had already allowed her son to go to kindergarten, so persuading him to do 1st grade homeschool looked insurmountable. I remember the first Park Day she attended in my homeschool group—her son stayed in the hot van the entire 2 hours. That's been a year ago, and of course, he has made friends, and happily attends the weekly Boy's Club and Park Days that we hold. He has lots of friends and is an integral part of our homeschool group. It took some transition time and offering the hope of benefits: fun, adventure and friends, to persuade him but he is happily homeschooling now.

When you want your child to be happy with the decision to homeschool, while the whole world seems to be promoting public school, ask yourself: "cui bono?" Make sure that your decision offers benefits for your son that far exceed his needs for friendship, adventure, fun and learning—and you'll soon discover that your son is your biggest homeschooling fan!

*If you'd like some help creating a daily schedule, knowing what curriculum to use, how to set up your homeschool and what to do during homeschool for each grade from preschool up through high school, take a look at my Love to Learn Homeschool Handbook.

Diane Hopkins
is a homeschooling mother of 7, grandmother of almost 7, and author of a nationally award-winning phonics program for wiggly kids: Happy Phonics. Diane's blog, Heart to Heart with Diane offers encouragement and practical help to homeschooling moms. Her bookstore offers hand-selected, personally review resources for the homeschooling family.

6 comments - Add a comment below -:

Dana ♥ said...

Great suggestions Diane! I especially love the bulletin board idea! That would get the excitement going! Great post!

Jennifer said...

What wonderful suggestions! Nowadays my children, (8, 5 1/2, and 2), LOVE homeschooling and are a bit too anti public school, I'm afraid. ;) But back when my oldest was 4, she had 2 cousins her age that started preschool at the same time. She then looked a bit disappointed and asked why she wasn't going to school. The biggest thing for her was finding that homeschool group. She made new little friends her age that homeschooled and then she didn't feel left out anymore. We also played "makebelieve" school and pretended I was a schoolbus driver and we would sit on her bed with her younger sister and I would gently bounce the bed up and down as I pretended to drive a "bus" to school. We would also "pick up" a bunch of imaginary friends along the way and then when we got there I would pretend to be "Mother Goose", her school teacher. We'd have show and tell and everything. LOL It sounds really corny but she loved it and we still play it every so often.

Gabby said...

When all my friends started high school, I asked my mom if I could go to public school. My mom and I had some in depth discussions about why I wanted to go to high school. (Of course, now I think "what was I thinking!":)

It turns out that all I wanted a little more choice in my education, like you might get from going to high school and picking out your own electives. My mom was totally willing to accommodate that.

And I wanted to be out of the house a little bit more. Also easy to accommodate without resorting to public high school:)

Melody said...

I love that you have written this article Diane. I have seen families stop homeschooling because their elementary aged children wanted to go back to public school.

Call me mean but my attitude is 'I'm the boss and in our family we homeschool' There I said it. I know some people will think I'm a terrible mother for that but I'm quite comfortable about how that works in our home.

It is no secret in our family that my children would like to go to school however just as children learn what they can't get away with and what they can, my children know there is no use pushing the issue. The decision is made and I think that brings security as they don't need to always be fretting over the alternative.

My children (and most children) only want to go to school for the friends not for any real reasons that will improve their education or character or prepare them for life more adequately. Just like I wouldn't let my children eat chocolate all day because it is not good for them, I also won't let them make life-impacting decisions based upon childish frivolousness.

I've spoken strongly here because for our family, I do feel strongly regarding these issues. However, just as I want the freedom to raise my children as I feel is best for them, I completely recognise that all families have to forge their own path and that the dynamics within individual families effect their choices.

When I began homeschooling, I was given the advice to pray about it and get a testimony that this was the right decision for our family. So I took that advice and I did receive an answer from the Lord. I think that is where my security and determination to see this through, comes from. That answer is reinforced every day in our home as I see the benefits we enjoy because we homeschool.

I can't help but think that a child will be secure in the parents decision to homeschool when the PARENT is sure of their decision.

Suzuki Mom said...

Those are great ideas if your budget allows for them.

One thing we did with my son (while school was still in during the summer) was go to the playground during recess..... and then as the bell rang and the kids went into the school, I mentioned how nice it was that we could continue playing.

I also realized that my kids were watching a few kids shows that really setup school as some wonderful time (mostly a Kindergarten type setting) - and I took those out of what they watched....

Rochelle Barlow said...

I am so glad I found this post. I am in the midst of figuring out if this is what my family is supposed to do. I know my son is very excited to go to kindergarten with friends, on the bus, his teachers, and just being a big kid parts and have been a bit nervous as to his reaction to homeschooling. Silly, I know, but I am. It's a huge decision and I am grateful to read something so encouraging and practical for my family. When I tried to connect on the LDShomeschooling.org site it keeps asking me for a login and password, and obviously I have no way of getting that. It won't allow me to send messages out to the people in my area for more information.