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.