When Homeschooling Isn’t Forever

Father helping daughter with homework in playroom
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It was a frustrating meeting with my daughter’s first-grade teachers. It was almost the end of the school year and I was trying to determine the best options for my struggling reader who was doing well in other subject areas. The first solution offered by her teachers was to promote her to second grade where she “should catch on to reading by the end of the year.”

When I questioned how one more year of the same ineffective reading instruction techniques was going to help, the second solution was offered – she would be retained in first grade where she would be “a leader in the class” – albeit a very bored leader who, with the exception of reading, had already successfully covered all the material being taught.

Thus began our trial year of homeschooling. My plan was to keep my daughter up to speed in the areas in which she wasn’t struggling while focusing on a different method of reading instruction to shore up her area of weakness. We vowed to evaluate the merits of continuing to homeschool versus returning my daughter to public school at the end of the year. 

Many homeschooling families begin on a trial basis. Others know that their foray into home education is only temporary. Temporary homeschooling may be the result of illness, a bullying situation, an impending move, an opportunity to travel for an extended time, or a myriad of other possibilities.

Whatever the reason, there are some steps you can take to make your homeschool experience a positive one while ensuring that your student's transition back into a traditional school setting is as seamless as possible.

Complete Standardized Testing

I’ve talked to homeschooling parents who have returned their children to public or private school.

The majority of them stated that they were asked to submit standardized test scores for grade placement. Test scores can be particularly crucial for students re-entering public or private school after 9th grade. Without these scores, they will likely have to take placement tests to determine their grade level.

This may not be true for all states, particularly those who offer assessment options other than testing for homeschoolers and those that don’t require assessments. Check your state’s homeschool laws to see what may be required of your student. If you know – or are fairly certain – that your student will be returning to school, ask your school administration exactly what will be required.

Stay on Target

If you know that homeschooling will be temporary for your family, take steps to stay on target, particularly with concept-based subjects like math. Because our first homeschooling year was a trial run with a distinct possibility that my daughter would be returning to school for 3rd grade, I purchased the same math curriculum that her school used. This reassured us that she would not be behind in math if she returned.

You might also inquire about the learning benchmarks for your student’s grade level and the topics that will be covered in the upcoming year. Perhaps your family would like to touch on some of the same topics in your studies. 

Have Fun

Don’t be afraid to dig in and enjoy your temporary homeschool situation. Just because your child’s public or private schooled classmates will be studying the Pilgrims or the water cycle doesn’t mean you have to.

Those are topics that can be easily covered on a need-to-know basis when your child returns to school.

If you’ll be traveling, take advantage of the opportunity to explore the history and geography of the places you’ll be visiting in a first-hand way that would be impossible if you weren’t homeschooling. Visit historical landmarks, museums, and local hot-spots.

Even if you aren’t traveling, take advantage of the freedom to follow your child’s interests and customize his education during your foray into homeschooling. Go on field trips. Delve into topics that captivate your student. Consider ditching the textbooks in favor of living books.

Study the arts by incorporating visual arts into your homeschool day and by attending plays or symphony performances. Take advantage of classes for homeschoolers at places such as zoos, museums, gymnastics centers, and art studios.

If you’re moving to a new area, make the most of learning opportunities as you travel and upon arrival in your new home.

Get Involved in Your Local Homeschool Community

Even though you won’t be homeschooling long-term, getting involved in your local homeschooling community can be an opportunity to forge life-long friendships for parents and kids alike.

If your student will be returning to the same public or private school at the end of your homeschool year, it makes sense to make an effort to maintain school friendships.However, it’s also wise to give your student the opportunity to foster friendships with other homeschoolers. Their shared experiences can make homeschooling feel less awkward and isolating, particularly for a child who may feel caught between two worlds in a temporary homeschooling experience.

Getting involved with other homeschoolers can be especially helpful for a child who isn’t especially excited about homeschooling and may perceive homeschoolers to be weird. Being around other homeschooled kids can break the stereotypes in his mind (and vice versa).

Not only is getting involved in the homeschooling community a good idea for social reasons, but it can be helpful for the temporary homeschool parent, too. Other homeschooling families can be a wealth of information about educational opportunities that you may wish to explore.

They can also be a source of support for the difficult days that are an inevitable part of homeschooling and a sounding board about curriculum choices. If needed, they can offer tips for tweaking your curriculum to make it work best for your family since completely changing any ill-fitting choices likely isn’t feasible for short-term homeschoolers.

Be Prepared to Make It Permanent

Finally, be prepared for the possibility that your temporary homeschooling situation may become permanent. Our trial homeschool year took place in 2002, and we've been homeschooling ever since.

Even though your plan may be to return your student to public or private school, it's okay to entertain the possibility that you may fall so in love with homeschooling that you decide to continue.

That's why it's a good idea to enjoy the year and not be too rigid in following what your child would be learning in school. Create a learning-rich environment and explore different educational experiences than your child might have in school. Try hands-on learning activities and look for everyday educational moments.

Following these tips can help your child be prepared for his re-entry into public or private school (or not!) while making the time that you do spend homeschooling something that your whole family will remember fondly.