From Homeschooling to Mainstream Education

Children Learning

So, as you probably know by now, we have always planned to be a homeschooling family. I believe in homeschooling, and it seemed to be a sensible option to best meet the needs of my highly sensitive child; a child who sometimes struggles in social situations, especially in large, noisy groups.

However, times seem to be changing.

My sensitive little man is now almost four years old. Not only do I have no idea where the time has gone, but I have no idea where this increasingly confident, smart, critically thinking, curious little boy has come from.

Don’t get me wrong; I’ve always known he was a smart cookie. I just had no idea he would be so… grown up, at this age.

I guess I just thought he would always be my baby. *sniff*

As each day passes he becomes more capable, more confident and more curious of the world around him. A year ago, he would refuse point blank to try any new experience and he often struggled on family outings to new places. Although he still sometimes has a hard time with these things, his bravery and willingness to give new things a go has increased tenfold.

He wants to learn. He wants to explore. And he tells me he wants to go to school.

Now, I know that at his tender age, he doesn’t really understand the commitment of school, or what it really involves, but as his friends have started school his curiosity has peaked. He plays ‘school games’ with his toys every day, and asks me about the kind of things his friends are doing at school.

When I ask him if he would like to go to school, his answer is: “Yes, but not today mummy. When I am five I will go to school.”

…So it looks like school may become a part of our journey a lot sooner than I thought.

I do have a sense of trepidation, I have to say – I fully believe in homeschooling and I have a lot of reservations about the mainstream school system – but I will not stand in my child’s way if formal education is something he wants to experience.

The good thing about this decision is that it’s not permanent. If he hates school, we’ll take him out. If he loves it, he can stay. There’s no pressure for him to choose either way. I have to say, despite my reservations, I am quite excited about the prospect of him possibly attending school. Because of my issues with depression, I do sometimes doubt my ability to provide a nurturing and stimulating environment for him. Self-care is incredibly important for me to be a good mother, and his attending school would take a lot of pressure off of me.

At the end of the day, all we can do is see how things go. But on the whole, I am excited about this new chapter in our lives. We are lucky to live in a fairly rural area, with a few very small, good schools nearby – one of which is much-loved by my husband, who went there himself as a child.

What choices have you made regarding schooling? Have you had to change your plans at any point? If so, why? I’d love to read your thoughts!


  1. M D says

    Children’s play reflects the world they see around them. They are mirrors. His play does not necessarily mean he wants to go to school but could mean he’s curious or interpreting something.

    Even if he did want to go, I would be cautious about letting your four or five year old make major decisions about their schooling or their lives. Don’t informed adults need to make those decisions? In today’s world, parents are really called on to be filters and protectors for our children: from poor quality food, media addictions, and even reductionist, test-oriented school systems which push developmentally inappropriate curriculums, for example. Boys especially need play protected until the age of six or seven (see The Trouble with Boys, a wonderful book by a Newsweek journalist) because they move so much more than girls. I would really encourage you to look into your local public school curriculum and consider whether this is the highest good you want for your child.

    • says

      Yes, I certainly understand where you are coming from. I of course want what is best for my child, and part of that is my own self-care. I would so love to be the kind of mother who thoroughly enjoys home schooling, but I do struggle with it and I find the responsibility rather hard to cope with.

      Additionally, I know he is very young to make the decision, but it is not a permanent decision. He will not go to a school whose values we do not agree with and he can choose to leave any time he wants. If he wishes to explore it, I will support him. If, when he is 5 (in fact he will be almost 6 if he chooses to start that year), he doesn’t seem ready, he won’t go.

      Thank you for your comment!

    • Karen says

      I don’t agree that when a child is closer to high school age that they can begin collaborating in the decision process around their education. Yes, we as the parents are ultimately responsible, but I’ve always taken the route of communicating and hearing my child’s opinion when I can. Obviously within reason, I’m not about to let my 5 year old eat chocolate for every meal, never brush her hair again, or watch Rio on continous loop (which is what she’d choose today if I asked her! ;) but I do feel I need to take her thoughts into consideration. My parents didn’t, all decisions were made for me, I was very rarely allowed to voice what I wanted or needed, and it’s something that’s made me look at how I parent. At the tender age of 5, she’s too young to make the final decision, but if she was telling me she wanted to go to school, after being at home, I don’t think it would be an issue to let her try it, and see if she liked it?

      • says

        absolutely. Children this young may not get to have the final say in important decisions but their feelings and opinions should absolutely be a part of the decision-making process.

  2. Carina says

    I’m really pleased to hear that he is showing an interest in school – it’s not the hotbed of all that is evil that some make it out to be. I also think that it may help his sensitivities, as long as he has the right teachers. My son was also quite sensitive and on occasion he still is, but I have definitely noticed an increase in his confidence and he is a very popular child. Yes there are still times when he lacks confidence, especially at parties if there is some sort of structured entertainment like a performing arts party that he hated and refused to participate in – he would have been more than happy to just jump around on a bouncy castle for half an hour instead! But I was so proud at Christmas when he was standing right at the front and singing and dancing along with his friends to the nativity production very happily. As you say, if it doesn’t work out, you can homeschool, but I think it is an important experience for children to have. Good luck!!!

    • says

      Absolutely. There is a very fine line, I find, when it comes to dealing with their sensitivities. Encouragement is good, but forcing is bad, which is why (like you said) it’s important that they have the right teachers. I’m hoping that a small village school will be better equipped to help him, rather than a large school where it’s harder for them to provide individualised care. Thank you for your comment, it’s lovely to hear that your little man is enjoying school so much and is growing in confidence!

  3. Madeleine says

    This is exactly how I feel! I want the best for my child and I am willing to homeschool, but I felt I would rather give her a chance to try out school.
    Like yours it is a small, very local school, which I thought would be a good introduction to school.
    She too is a sensitive child, but I have found that although she is not really taken with all the other children in the class, she has made friends with one girl her age and almost all the teachers, assistants and dinner ladies.
    She has grown so much since September when she started, but yet there are allready cracks showing. She says she’s bored in class and that they play to much, which she isn’t enjoying with all the mixing with the other ‘wild’ kids.
    I have spoken with the teachers and I am hoping that we can work together to make it a pleasurable experiance for her… as long as she can manage it.
    I feel happy to know that I am giving her a chance to try it out herself and that if we decide to homeschool instead, she will be able to benifit more – maybe help me make it work better for her than public school is.

  4. gill says

    I love that you’re empowering him to make decisions at this age. He will grow up to learn that he has choices when so many children do not.
    I have said it before, I loved school, it might not be for every child but I love how you are so open to both ideas because that allows him to see that whatever happens it will be ok and the world isn’t just the polars of bad and good.
    Like I have said before you can always support his learning alongside school if you feel things are being missed out or like you say bring him out of school if it isn’t working or put him back into school if/when he is ready.
    I would love to homeschool but like you I am prepared to keep my options open. The other thing that you mentioned is the health and well being of the parent. Being a full time mother and teacher like any job means you need to be well to work. Another thing I think you are teaching him is that parents need to consider their own well being, their marriage/partnership as well as their childs. Best of luck whatever your family decides x

    • says

      Thank you so much for your comment Gill :) You’re absolutely right, nothing is black and white in this world, least of all when it comes to schooling. I think many people don’t realise that it’s perfectly possible, and fine, for a child to dip in and out of school as and when they need to. No decision is permanent, unless for some reason it needs to be.

  5. April says

    I love that it isn’t a permanent decision. We are lucky to have had wonderful experiences with our boys’ schools and they have always been happy to go. I am a firm believer that children can benefit from being around other adults who are not their parents, whether that is school or other activities. Sometimes they will listen to something that their teacher explains better, even though we gave the exact same explaination at home. I also love that you are involving your son in the process of thinking through what he wants to do. He may be too young to get the final say, but by including him in the process, you are teaching him to think through his reasons and teaching him to communicate them.

    • says

      Thank you so much for your comment! I’m glad that you and your boys have had a great experience at school :) I absolutely agree with you, time away from parents, when they are ready to do so, is very important. Learning to navigate the world in a safe space but without the 24/7 backup of mum and dad is an important experience, and although I don’t believe it should be forced before the child is ready, it’s an important step to take. That’s why I love our childminder so much – and so does Monkey :)

  6. Julie Lowenthal says

    It seems to me that listening to your child is the most important part, which you clearly do! Therefore whether they are home schooled, mainstream or any other form of schooling the child’s needs will, most likely, be met.

    I would love to home school my children, but never on my own, I would want to do it with a group of other parents where we could pool resources. I know that I do not have the resources – whether that be financially, organisationally, patience etc to be the sole or main teacher for my children. I personally know of some twins who have missed out greatly through being home educated – and are a 8 1/2 not able to read yet. This is due to the mother not really honestly assessing whether she was able to do this.
    My children started at Steiner kindergarden/school and then their father decided to take them out and put them in mainstream school. My youngest was not ready and could have done with a bit longer in the more gentle Steiner environment. Having said that, they are both thriving in a relatively small school.
    They are at times bored, and I have a lot of misgivings about some of the educational aims and objectives set out. But it is also true that many people working in Primary schools get this and soften greatly the difficulties. Also my children have opportunities that they would not have if I were doing it on my own. For instance, my daughter was recently starring in a play in the best local theatre. They are also introduced to a wider range of social and racial information/diversity than if they were at home – which I think is extremely valuable.
    My children know what my views are on mainstream education and I think this allows them to have greater objectivity and descern for themselves what is right for them (or not) within this system.
    Most importantly, I ask them, and neither of them would like to be home schooled at the moment – mainly for social reasons but also because they enjoy what they learn.

    • says

      This is such an important point you’ve made, Julie – Schooling is just one part of the educational puzzle. If the children are being raised in an environment that respects them as people, nurtures their strengths and supports them through their weaknesses, there’s really very little a school can do to ‘mess them up’, as it were. They will be far more capable of taking what they need to from the school system and leaving the parts they don’t need. Thank you for your comment!

  7. Karen says

    Schooling is such a personal issue. I always felt that kids should go to school, unless they didn’t have access to a safe school (for example, when we lived in Jordan and Israel, when the political/social situation was becoming difficult before the first Gulf war, my parents made the decision to send my brother to boarding school, with me, because my Dad had to stay, and my Mum couldn’t leave because of her job also, because it wasn’t safe for us children) and I thought home schooling was just a hippy fad, like breastfeeding beyond a year, cloth diapers and all sorts of things that I changed my perspective on once I actually HAD my own children and learned that there isn’t a one size fits all prescription for parents and children in any area of child rearing! ;)
    Personally, I don’t feel confident to homeschool beyond the basics. I taught my daughter the basics, letter recognition, numbers, colours, all that stuff, and social skills, we did (and still do) activities like crafting, painting, cooking, simple science stuff, but I don’t feel I have the skills, patience or capacity to educate my kids to a level where they’d be able to go to university, or further education, and that’s important to me, whatever they choose to be, I want them to at least have that option. I can barely cope with running a home, two children, and keeping on top of life, plus we may have another baby, and I don’t think it would be fair to try. I do believe that WE, not a system are responsible for our children’s education, so even though my kids will be in the education system, we are very involved, we chose the school very carefully, I have a good relationship with her teachers and the head of the school, it’s a good school, small, local, has a good mix of children from all sorts of backgrounds, and has done well in inspections. I do have friends who homeschool, and their kids are doing well, and thriving, and learning, and I’ve seen that it can benefit some children, but like all parenting it’s what is put in, home schooling is hard work, and I definitely can see why some families choose that path, for their children. I help in the classroom, attend as much as I can to stuff that’s happening, and I watch my daughter carefully, she’s very bright, very sensitive, and emotional, and if I had any concerns we’d make changes as needed. If I had to homeschool, I would, but for now, we’re happy.

    • says

      Thank you for your comment, Karen. I really do empathise with you on this, as you know I struggle too with just holding things together as it is, and most days I barely have time to brush my teeth – I can’t imagine trying to factor in lesson time, too! Because I have to work from home, there are times during the day where I have to put the TV on for a while so I can catch up with some work, and although there’s nothing inherently bad about that, I would rather they spent that time doing something more educational and healthy than watching TV.

  8. says

    My oldest was homeschooled until he was 6, when he decided he wanted to try “real” school. He had to make me a deal – if he wanted to go to school, he would have to stick it out the entire year, whether he liked it or not. He liked it and made the decision to return to school each fall since. He’s now a freshman in highschool. He loves school because his strongest intelligences (according to Howard Gardner) are logical/mathematical and verbal/linguistic. The two intelligences that public (or nearly any) schools teach to.

    My youngest is only 3, but I just do not see him doing well in a classroom environment. If he tries “real” school at some time, I do not think it’ll last very long. His deal with me will be to finish a quarter (or semester, depending) rather then a year. Though I don’t see him liking school, I could be surprised, so I’ll always keep an open mind!

    Having BTDT, I have a few pieces of advice for you if your son enters school: 1) Make sure they test him before just placing him in the grade that other kids his age are in. My oldest tested 2 years ahead of his peers. The school officials were all gung-ho for sticking my 6 y.o into a 3rd grade classroom, but I thought better. He went into 2nd grade. I didn’t want him bored to death with a teacher who was working on teaching 30 kids to read while he could read at a high school level, but I also knew that his maturity level wasn’t anywhere near that of a bunch of 8 and 9 y.o.’s. I’m glad he didn’t end up 2 years ahead – middle school and early high school are already hard enough for him socially being only a year younger (puberty has hit, but it’s been a while since his friends crossed that bridge!)
    2) Make sure it’s really him who wants to go to school. After my son started school, I found out that a few relatives were secretly telling him all of the “fun” stuff he was missing by being at home. They promised he’d have lots of friends who he could play with all day. They promised amazing field trips to the zoo, parks, museums. The way they described it to him, he’d be going somewhere fantastic every week. They told him that he’d get to play games on the classroom computers every day (this is the one that got him hooked – he LOVES computer games!) He was so disappointed after that first week of school. He kept going but, to this day, he holds a grudge against those relatives that duped him.

    HTH & Sorry for taking over your post!

    • says

      Don’t apologise, I really appreciate your advice! Thank you! I find it shocking that your relatives would say things like that to him, what an awful thing to do :( I have tried to talk honestly to Monkey about what to expect from school, he’s mostly excited about making things and playing outside, so I am trying to explain that he won’t get to make things and play outside all of the time, but that there will be plenty of that as well as other things.

      I think we may also do what you will do with your youngest, and tell him he can try for a term and then make his mind up. The last thing I want is for him to be miserable at school. And in the meantime I will hope and pray that we will have a windfall so I can afford to send him to the Stenier school!! :)

  9. Suzanne Powell says

    I admire your honesty. I often think people make presumptions about you if you make particular lifestyle choices, parent in a particular way etc, and then take great pleasure in knocking you down if you to comply with ‘their’ assumptions about you. Like many things to do with parenting, we have ideas before the kids arrive and then the reality of it often makes it difficult to fulfil. Homeschooling isn’t for everyone, neither is mainstream education. Some kids would excel in a home environment, but the parent may not, and vice versa. Ultimately your decision has to be based on your own and your son’s best interests. Whatever you decide, you and your husband, extended family etc will be his main educators; he will adopt your morals, principles and values.

    I have thought about homeschooling. However, now knowing my daughter and our relationship (and the more practical issue that I cannot afford to not work), I would not pursue this. I have recently been discussing a free school which is being set up in the local area with a friend, weighing up the pros and cons. It might be something you could look into, Imogen, perhaps becoming more involved directly with a free school? From a personal point of view, from my own experiences of schooling, with positive and negative effects, I feel very strongly that I want my daughter to be educated alongside her peers, from their varied backgrounds, cultures and lifestyles – it is not the education that i am most concerned about, rather that she learns about other people, from all walks of life, and appreciates the value that every person can contribute to society. I don’t want her to be ‘protected’ from life, but to engage with it and I believe she will be able to do this through her mainstream school experience.

    I hope you are able to come to a decision that both you and your son are comfortable with x

    • says

      I love your philosophy on this, Suz, I really do. Often the needs of the parent are forgotten or dismissed as being selfish, when really, attending to your own needs is mostly a selfless act. Neglecting our own needs can have catastrophic effects on our whole families. It’s hard, when your child is just a baby, to decide for sure what you will do because like you said, their personalities and the dynamic of the relationship between you has not yet matured. I love my son, he is a beautiful and amazing person, but our personalities do clash at times – probably because we are both stubborn and short-tempered! Since he’s started going to the childminder’s on a regular basis, we have been so much happier and appreciate each other a lot more.

      Thank you for your comments :)

  10. Motherfunker says

    There is no fixed right answer to your question because it is entirely personal to you and your child and you must heed your own wisdom and intuition above all else! I personally homeschool, I made sure that we had a really wide support network of other parents so the kids made friends with other homeschooled kids before they reached school age. Whilst they did briefly show an interest in their school- aged friends and what they got up to, we had a whole other peer group so that was a good replacement. Homeschooling works best when there’s a village or tribe of you – in our case, we are spread out over a couple of counties, and meet up in pockets or en masse weekly or monthly and us mothers support and help one another if the going gets heavy! I think both school and home have their advantages and disadvantages, their triumphs and their failures – neither is perfect, both are flawed. I’m not a home ed ‘utopian’ like some – the truth is its hard work, and some bits of it suck – just like school! It’s not like one is good and the other is bad – they can both be good choices if you work hard at making them work! But yeah, if you homeschool you need lots and lots of support, which is out there, but not often right on your doorstep…unlike the village primary which is a ready made community close to home. The ready made home ed community is absolutely there, support is absolutely there, but you have to travel to meet up’s, and psychological support and reassurance for yourself is available by way of fellow home ed mummy friends, forums, online communities, websites, blogs, home ed literature, magazines like EOS ( which I write for) and a whole bunch of other stuff etc. My advice is do whatever the hell you want – its your child! No-one knows your child like you do and if you think they’d be happier in school, do it! And as you say, if it doesnt work, theres always a whole bunch of options. Life’s too short to be unhappy :-) Best wishes, Motherfunker x

    • says

      Thank you so much for your comment! It’s really reassuring to read it, actually, because I have been feeling quietly guilty about the prospect of sending him to school, even though at the moment he is excited and on board with it. Support is absolutely the most important thing, and although there is a very small home ed community here, it is just that – very small – and there is only one organised meeting once a month which I’ve heard doesn’t always take place due to small numbers.

      It’s also very refreshing to read a home edder acknowledging that it can be really hard work at times. You read some blogs and articles, and get the idea that it should be an endlessly joyful experience, happy mothers at home enjoying their crunchy bliss with their children without ever feeling overwhelmed or losing their tempers. Truth is, we are all different, and just like you said, what works for one may not work for another. Thanks so much for your comment, it’s much appreciated :)

  11. Mr Bryn says

    While we have a while to go before we send our wee miracle to school, we have already started thinking about this. We are leaning towards main stream schooling but have not ruled out home schooling. Regardless of what we do we will be like you and take a keen interest in our childs education including listening to what she thinks and feels. And if things are not going that well we will be the type of parents that will be down at the school trying to work with them to come up with a workable solution. I think regardless of the choices made the most important thing is to take a keen interest in your childs learning (in and out of the formal system) and not leave it to someone else to worry about (as i have unfortunately heard some parents do for various reasons).

    • says

      Thank you for your comment! You’re absolutely right, as parents we are the ones responsible for our child’s education whether or not we send them to school or teach them at home. Good luck with your schooling journey, it sounds as though you guys are very well prepared!

  12. Mandy says

    I totally respect your decisions as a parent, but I would caution you that a child of his age should not be the determining factor to what you and your husband decide to be best for him. I was home schooled, and believe it to be a fantastic way to teach children. I will say though, that I will not be home schooling my children, unless God changes our hearts. I think education is so terribly important, with each child, it may be a different decision, because of how they learn, and what you feel like God is leading you to do. Mine are currently in preschool, and it was a very hard decision to send them! I take seriously the responsibility of how we shape and mold our children, and what we put in their little minds. I don’t think that one way or the other is the answer 100% of the time. :) Hope this helps! Praying for you and your family during this time of contemplation.

  13. sploop says

    I was homeschooled too but am not homeschooling my own kids. Nor do I plan to. There is a lot of dysfunction in the HS world, too, and I don’t trust myself to do it and not re-enact the worst parts of my childhood. (my mom was really, really trying hard to be a Great Mom, but it’s possible to try so hard you can’t even cover the basics anymore. There is a lot to be said for Genuinely Good Enough!)

    Plus, my kids simply adore their schools. :D My oldest is seven now– he looks and IS so grownup, getting on his bus in the morning. He dresses himself, makes himself some buttered toast, brushes his own teeth– without TOO much prompting ;) — and then trots off to live this part of his life that really has nothing to do with mine at all.

    It’s really a beautiful, thrilling thing. Someday he and I will be peers, hopefully friends– not a mommy and a baby, and right now we are somewhere in between.

  14. Rona says

    I think that it’s great that you are letting your child take the lead. There is nothing wrong with being ‘alternative’ as a parent but when it begins to bother me is when people put their opinions and principles ahead of the wants and happiness of their child. I think that you should let him try it out, I think it’s good for a child and it can give them confidence to do things apart from their parents. Of course if it doesn’t work out then he can always go back to homeschooling. I feel that parents are looking for a school education to give more to a child than a school often aims to. A lot of things ultimately are for a parent to teach anway.

  15. says

    There is no one-size-fits-all in regard to education. It would be easy if there were, but, there simply isn’t. Things change, situations change, people change. I just try to be prayerful about everything (school decisions included) and have faith that, where ever we end up, we need to be. Some kids thrive at school; some thrive at home. Ultimately, most thrive where ever they end up.

  16. Meghan says

    My daughter is such a social butterfly, I knew that school was going to be important for her. While I do believe socialization can be done well while homeschooling, I just didn’t think it would be enough for her. She is almost done with third grade and is thinking she might like to be homeschooled. We will see, allowing kids to make their own decisions is great when they really understand what they are choosing and are doing so for good reasons. I think one of the biggest pros to our public school experience is being praised and motivated by someone other than mom. Mom’s are always #1, but being praised and supported by someone who isn’t so connected is a big confidence booster. On the flip side, it is a one size fits all kind of environment.

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