What to Do if Your Child Doesn’t Want to Homeschool

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Making the decision to homeschool can be difficult. Choosing to shoulder the full responsibility for your child’s education can be an overwhelming feeling. The decision can be even more difficult when your own doubts are compounded by a child who doesn’t want to be homeschooled.

Our family experienced this about six months into our first homeschooling year when our previously public schooled second grader wanted to go back to public school.

It was so disheartening to hear those words because it was obvious that the one-on-one instruction afforded by homeschooling was working wonders for her, but we also wanted her to be happy.

What is a parent to do when your homeschooled student doesn’t want to be homeschooled?

1. Try to figure out what’s behind your child’s reluctance.

The first step in working through this homeschooling dilemma is figuring out what’s behind your child’s reluctance. A child who has never attended school may be enthralled with the portrayal of a tradition school setting that he’s seen on TV. Starting kindergarten may be viewed as an expected rite of passage by many 5-year-olds, particularly when it’s something most of their friends are doing.

An older child who has been in school may be missing her friends or the familiarity and predictable routine of a traditional school day. Kids may be missing particular classes or activities, such as art, music, or sports.

2. Discuss the pros and cons.

When my daughter wanted to return to public school after six months, we made two pros and cons lists – one for public school and one for homeschool. Both of us added items to each list. A homeschooling con for her was not seeing her friends each day; one for me was having less free time.

The cons for public school included the fact that school started so early and didn’t allow for one-on-one instruction. Pros included the big playground at public school and not having after-school tutoring every day for homeschooling.

After compiling our lists, we compared them and brainstormed ideas for fixing the cons for each. For example, we could arrange more frequent play dates with my daughter’s friends and visit the big public playground, but we couldn’t change the public school's start time.

Making the list validated my daughter’s concerns and I didn’t make light of any of them. After some discussion, however, it was clear that the benefits of homeschooling outweighed the benefits of public school for our family, and she agreed that she wanted to continue. Within a year, my daughter was singing the praises of homeschooling to anyone who would listen.

3. Look for ways to compromise.

There may be specific social or educational aspects of a traditional school setting that your child is missing. Consider if any of these voids could be filled while still homeschooling. Some ideas to consider are:

  • Co-op classes can provide the opportunity to forge friendships, cover topics about which you’re unfamiliar, or provide a group learning setting for activities such as science labs or drama classes.
  • Sports teams are available for your homeschooled athletes. There are recreational leagues for casual athletes and travel teams for more competitive players. Many areas offer homeschool teams. Other sports, such as swimming and gymnastics, are often not associated with schools to begin with, providing opportunities for homeschooled students to compete outside of a school league setting.
  • Private lessons may fill a void for activities such as music instruction.
  • Homeschool support groups can provide social interaction, group activities, field trips, and clubs.

4. Consider your child’s input, but remember that you’re the parent.

It’s always advisable to seriously consider your child’s input and address her concerns, even if the reasons seem childish. Homeschooling is, after all, something that deeply impacts your child’s life.

It is particularly important to carefully weigh his input if he is an older student with sound, mature reasons for preferring a more traditional educational option. 

However, it is important to remember that you are the parent. I don’t think I’d want to homeschool a child who was vehemently opposed to homeschooling without deep convictions and well-founded reasons, but ultimately we must each make the decisions that we feel are in our child’s best interests.

It can be disheartening, to say the least, when your child doesn’t want to be homeschooled. However, by keeping an open line of communication; acknowledging and addressing her concerns; and seeking out workable solutions, most children will begin to see the benefits of homeschooling and embrace it.