I currently have four kids in “regular” school, three in homeschool (and three not-yet-school-age), so I often get asked why we transition our kids out of homeschooling, and how we make the decision when to do that. This post is my answer to that question. <note: all kids, and all families are different, your experience may vary>
I was a reluctant homeschooler to begin with, and I homeschooled for many years as a pragmatist rather than an apologist for homeschooling. For an introvert with many many children and a visceral aversion to waking a sleeping baby, homeschooling seemed like the only practical decision I could make. There were always things I loved about it, but I kinda always half figured I’d just put them all in a regular school if only we had a good option for that.
Then, one year, homeschooling my oldest went so very badly that we spent the next year driving him nearly an hour to a school every morning, and the school was so great that the next year we moved to be closer to it. And it was finding that really wonderful brick and mortar school, and discovering what a good fit it is for our family, that solidified my commitment to homeschooling.
So here’s how I see it now . . .
I LOVE homeschooling in the early grades. I like the flexibility of setting our own schedule. I like being a part of all those early learning milestones. I really like have older kids around to help with little kids. Even more importantly, I like solidifying sibling relationships as my children’s primary friendships in their early years, and our family culture as their primary influence. It works really, really well for us.
Then . . . around age ten or twelve, most notably for my boys, it stops working well for us. Very dramatically. More on this process here, but in those “tween” years I have noticed a very fundamental shift in the way my boys respond to being bossed around all day by their mom. It made me think about the fact that, historically, boys of this age would have been sent out to be apprenticed, or off to boarding school. And I was like,
For our oldest four kids, we have used a classical Catholic homeschool curriculum through grade school, and then sometime between 6th and 8th grade (depending on the kid), we’ve transitioned them into a classical Catholic brick and mortar school. It’s been a really successful approach. I haven’t experienced the tween push-back to the same degree with our daughters so far (the eldest are currently 16 and 10), but I still think this approach is the right one for them as well.
It feels like concentric circles. Our kids’ lives and educations start out very family-focused. We mindfully shape their earliest worldview. We are picky about the curriculum we use, and the Mass we attend, and the books they read, and the shows they watch, and the music they listen to, and the friends they spend time with. We teach them not only to read and write, but also how to interact with other people, how to work hard, how to handle adversity and frustration and success. We are careful of the influences they get from entertainment, and we teach them how to be discerning in their entertainment choices.
Our family culture firmly established, they’re ready to make the jump into the next circle of influence, that of a carefully chosen community. The school to which we send our kids shares our faith, and our devout practice of it. The teachers and other parents share our primary goal for our children, although we don’t all approach parenting in exactly the same way, of course. And while no school is perfect, a school that is TRYING is so so important to us.
Because in the tween and teen years, it’s natural and appropriate that kids would start to look outside the family. It’s often characterized as “rebellion,” but it doesn’t have to be that. It’s just looking past mom and dad and asking, “What do other people think about stuff?” “Is my family’s way the only way?” “What do *I* believe about the world?” Having teachers and friends and other parents who share our same fundamental worldview is a huge blessing in this stage. My kids can have new mentors, new influences, new people who can share their own approach and their own experiences, but not undermine the foundation we’ve worked to establish.
And then, at some point, we have to trust them to venture into the wide wide world. For some kids, they could be ready for this responsibility after high school, for others, a more nurturing college (or college alternative) environment is going to be beneficial for them. But then, we just have to hope (and pray) that we’ve prepared them to meet the challenges that they’ll inevitably face to their faith and morals and character. And to be there to help them dust themselves off if that becomes necessary. This part is all conjecture (well, and advice from trusted friends) at this point, as our oldest is a senior in high school this year.
But, I can say so far, so good for our kids on the circles of influence approach. This isn’t the only way to raise faithful adults, of course. But it’s *a* way. That you might want to consider for your family.
So, what do you think? Have you noticed these same stages in your homeschool kiddos? Have you expelled anyone? And for moms who are sticking it out with homeschooling, please share your wisdom with us in the comments!