Tuesday, May 06, 2008

If You're Thinking of Sending Your Kids to School . . .

Around this time of year it seems like a lot of homeschoolers seriously consider the possibility of sending their kids to school (or back to school). Something about the spring and the weeks of being cooped up with our kids in the house tempts us to just hang it all up, call it quits, give the responsibility away to someone else.

It's important to point out that it's not necessarily wrong to send our kids to school; there are times, for some families, when that's the best choice. If you believe in prayer, you may need to pray about the decision, asking for God's will, and follow what you feel is His leading. Whether you believe in prayer or not, you may need to seriously consider the options. But it's also important to consider the situation with eyes wide open.

Susan is a friend of mine on an email list I'm on who some months ago had to make the difficult decision to send her kids to school. Certain health issues made the decision necessary, and she is confident for her it was the right decision. She recently posted this to our email list, and I thought it was really helpful in understanding what is really involved in choosing to send our kids to school.

. . . (M)y four children have been in school since January. It is a very small, private Catholic school. It is probably one of the best schools available when you consider everything (academics, class size, student behavior, etc.). But it is still school.

Here is what you can expect if you send your children to school:

The school will love your children simply because they are well-behaved. Expect your children to be one yr ahead if it is private school, two yrs ahead if it is public school.

You will be judged for your children's academic success. If your child breezes through with straight A's, they will compliment you. If your child is behind the class in learning sight words, you will be looked upon with disdain. If your child has learning disabilities you will cause resentment for making their job harder at the same time they conjecture that you made the LD's worse by keeping them at home. You will be expected to own up to either your great teaching skills or your lack of teaching skills instead of saying, "That is how God made them; we are just following His lead and doing the best we can."

Your children will get sick every week. You will be amazed at the number and variety of new illnesses that enter your home. Your children will not get as sick as the others, but if you have three or more, you can expect to have a child home sick every week in the winter.

You will learn to dread the morning Sick Evaluation. This is where you have to determine who is sick enough to stay home. You will have to discern which children are faking it. You will eventually make a mistake and send a sick child to school. That will cause you pain because your child will feel like she cannot trust you to care for her.

And you will get every single sickness that they bring home. Every single one. A job outside the home might not have enough sick days to support this lifestyle.

If your child is outgoing and friendly, then it is because "school is really helping him to open up." If your child is shy and quiet, then it is because homeschooling made her that way.

You will learn to feel the vibe from the teachers and school officials to easily discern how they feel about homeschoolers. On one hand you'll have teachers asking you for curric advice; on the other hand you'll have teachers dismissing any knowledge that you have about schooling. Some teachers will try to teach you lessons, like "Giving up Control".

Your children will notice their appearances and make changes. These changes might involve scissors and razors and beauty products. There will be much thought given to clothing, even if they wear uniforms.

Your children will learn new things that you wish they didn't know. You will become adept at defining interesting words at a second's notice, usually in the car. ("It means a female dog, and..."; "It means that someone likes the way you look and really wants to marry you.") You will be kept busy with letting them know that words like "dumb-butt" are not to be spoken in your house.

You will be playing catch-up. Your children will do things and you'll learn about them afterwards. You'll scramble to find out information and deal with it.

You will be going to the store about three times per week to get something that they need. You will have to do doc/dentist/etc appts after school hours when everyone is tired and cranky.

Your grade school aged children will only learn American History.

If you have to help with homework, you might want to keep your homeschooling curric handy, esp the math and grammar books.

One of your children might fall in with the bad crowd, where the conversations revolve around that intimate thing that married people do. If you are lucky, the bad crowd (which is frequently the mean crowd) will kick your child out and she can find some nice friends.

Your children will be tired and hungry after school. If they are quiet by nature, they'll need time alone. If they are very social, plan to spend the rest of the day listening to them and doing things with them. The social child doesn't get enough talking/doing in school, and the quiet child doesn't get enough peace and quiet.

Expect your children to need an earlier bedtime and more sleep.

There will be many hidden costs, such as school supplies and clothing.

You will notice a change in your house. It will stay clean. If you have boys you might even walk into the bathroom and wonder if they are still living at home.

You will notice your children becoming less active. They will be content to laze about even when good weather and God's gorgeous creation call them outside.

Some of these things I had never thought of. Others I knew, but it helps to be able to see them all in one place, doesn't it? Thanks, Susan, for pointing them out, and for the help it gives other homeschoolers in evaluating the real choices involved in homeschooling vs. regular school.


Shawna said...

She is right on the money!

We have made the decision for our son to return to school next year... but knowing full well what Susan was talking about because those were many of the reasons we pulled him from school!

We are however avoiding public school and have opted for a small (13 students) new (second year with teacher having 30 years teaching experience) Montessori school... some of the bad behavior issues can be avoided this way, and there is no homework. It is still somewhat child centered learning, food is to be homemade and sent with a cloth placemat, cloth napkin, and eaten with the teacher and other students together, and Montessori stresses independence and manners/politeness. Just to address a few of Susan's points.

As for the health issues... I was sick the entire first year I taught; one illness after another and the doctor stressed it was from being in the classroom and building my immunity system! Heck, I had two small children and thought I had already built my immunity system; what a wake up call!

Great post!

Marcy Muser said...


I'm glad you've found a small school for your son. It sounds like that will be a good opportunity for him. Are you going to go back to work, then? I'm going to miss you if you do! :)

Shawna said...

No, I am going to be working on some plans to open my own school, tending our much neglected finances and family plans, working on my writing, and taking some much needed quiet time.

My son is lonely being homeschooled; he wants to be around kids, he wants to be involved in school plays rather than community plays with different people each performance, and he wants to be involved in school government... and it was seriously straining our relationship at times.

This will give him a place in which to do those things and build friendships, but will not consume his entire day nor his evenings... and I can be as involved as I would like with the school.

Marcy Muser said...


I understand the part about being lonely. We've been involved in a weekly homeschool enrichment program every year since my older dd was in first grade, precisely to try to prevent that. This year she's in 6th grade, and besides the all-day-once-a-week program she has church and Sunday School, Wednesday night Bible study, an every-other-week co-op, and swim team three nights a week. She can handle being at home during the day when she knows there's something to go to almost every evening. :)

And our enrichment program has a drama teacher who used to be an actress; they put on a decent set of plays (at different age levels) a couple of times a year. This year both my daughters have starring roles in their respective plays.

That's one way we get around some of the issues you are facing. But it sounds like you have found a great solution in this little school. If I had something like that available, I'd probably send my kids to school too. :)