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Bye-bye, Homeschooling: Heading Back To Public School

Bye-bye, Homeschooling: Heading Back To Public School

By Mir Kamin

I announced on my personal blog yesterday that—after two and a half years of various arrangements for homeschooling through middle school—my son is going to start attending public high school, next month. My readers were unflaggingly supportive in response, mostly because my readers are awesome.

I am a lot of things (not all of them good, either), but I’m not dumb. I know that, in many ways, the decision to return a young autistic teenager to a crowded, diverse public school mid-year after years of homeschooling might appear… a little crazy. Heck, I’m willing to admit that it might be a little crazy. We have our reasons, though. And hopefully when all is said and done, it will work. Here’s what I’ve learned in the last few years of our flexible schooling that made it all possible:

There’s no such thing as the “wrong choice”

Please don’t take that as a blanket proclamation; I’m talking about when it comes to schooling and using our best resources to make those decisions, obviously. I don’t regret a single one of the schooling choices we’ve made for my son over the last three years, from keeping him in public school when things were rough to pulling him out to going to an almost-entirely-online curriculum. Each decision was made after weighing the available options and my son’s readiness at the time. None of them was perfect, but all of them brought him along to where he is now. When something stopped being the best fit, we made a different choice. Being able to adapt and not being married to any one choice as The Single Perfect Answer (don’t laugh; I totally would’ve believed that existed, years ago) has allowed us to give my son both a variety of experiences and render him a lot more flexible than he was when we started down this path. That’s huge for anyone, but especially a kid on the spectrum.

Do what works, not what “should” work

While the reactions to starting him back in public school mid-year have varied, some have clucked their tongues and suggested that’s a really tough way to transition back, and are we sure we don’t want to wait until next August? We’re sure. We’re sure in part because he’s ready now, and making him wait an entire additional semester has no benefit I can see. Mostly we’re sure because transitions are brutal for my son no matter when they happen, and to let him get the lay of the high school land and find his way mid-year is actually going to be easier, for him. He will feel like he sticks out no matter what; that’s just how it’s going to be, at first. But knowing that he only has to make it until May vs. “well, good luck for the next ten months” will be for him a much more manageable proposition.

Don’t take “no” for an answer (if the question is reasonable)

Another reason this mid-year transition is ideal for us is that it allows him to spend a semester attending school for only half the day. Thanks to the accredited online courses he’s already completed, there’s no need for him to be a full-time student this upcoming semester in order to stay on grade level. (In fact, he’s already ahead of where he should be, but more on that in a minute.) And I knew that the best way to smooth his transition back into the brick jungle would be to create a schedule where, at least in the beginning, his course load and required face time were a bit light. When I brought this proposition to the school administration, the automatic response was “I don’t know that we can do that.” Well, they can and they will. It took some more legwork on my part, to fully investigate the options, to contact teachers to ask their opinions, to later essentially present a schedule to the guidance department and say, “See? This should work.” But it worked because I smiled and said, “I understand there’s a lot to consider” and then I worked it out to where they couldn’t say no.

Don’t ask if you don’t have to

Technically, my son is in 8th grade. There have been many discussions over many years about allowing him to skip a grade or two, and aside from any logistics required by the school, it never felt like a good idea. Although my son would have little academic difficulty performing well above his assigned grade level, his asynchronous development has left him lagging far behind his peers, socio-emotionally, for most of his school experience. In addition, he’s always been one of the smallest kids in his class. Moving him up always felt like a recipe for disaster. But the homeschooling years have brought us leaps and bounds of progress in his ability to control himself and interact well with others, plus this year finally brought that growth spurt everyone said would show up eventually. Now moving him ahead a grade means putting him where he needs to be, academically, without a giant social rift between him and his classmates. (Make no mistake, he’s still in a different place, developmentally, than they are… but the gap is a lot smaller than it used to be.) After talking with some other folks in our district who’d gone through a similar school switch, and checking to make sure that he did indeed have as many class credits as a mid-year freshman should have, I simply… registered my son in 9th grade. I don’t know what would’ve happened if I had asked. I made the decision not to, lest it become One More Issue. (I have since confessed to the school official who is working most closely with us to get him situated, and her only response was, “Well good for him!”)

Do meet your kid’s needs, but be realistic

When my son used to be in public school, his special needs were served under an IEP, and for his virtual school classes, he was served under a 504 Plan. [More on navigating IEPs and 504s.] I expect he’ll have a new IEP at the high school, but we still have to go through the process of an eligibility determination, meetings, planning, etc. In other words, it won’t be in place right when he starts classes. There’s no way to speed up that process and grousing about it would only alienate the school officials I need on our side, so I issue frequent but uber-polite check-ins to see where we are in the process and give them the space to do their jobs. I hold firm on what we need right now while asking “How can we best make this happen before the IEP is in place?” So far it seems to be working.

Do view this as the next great adventure!

No matter what happens, no matter what trepidation I may feel about sending off mah baybee, I can wholeheartedly celebrate how far he’s come, his continued willingness to step outside of his comfort zone, and the fact that we’re in the very fortunate position of having options. I love that we’ve had this time at home, and I’m so, so proud of him for recognizing that he wants something else, now. No matter how bumpy the ride, he’s a brave kid, so how could this not be exciting? It will be a success, or it will be a learning experience and we’ll move on. He’ll be fine, either way. Better than fine—he’ll be great. Because he already is.

About the Author

Mir Kamin

Mir Kamin began writing about her life online over a decade ago, back when she was a divorced mom trying to raise two regular little kids and figure out what she wanted to be when she grew up. Now ...

Mir Kamin began writing about her life online over a decade ago, back when she was a divorced mom trying to raise two regular little kids and figure out what she wanted to be when she grew up. Now her life looks very different than it did back then: Those little kids turned into anything-but-regular teenagers, she is remarried, and somehow she’s become one of those people who talks to her dogs in a high-pitched baby voice. Along the way she’s continued chronicling the everyday at Woulda Coulda Shoulda, plus she’s bringing you daily bargain therapy at Want Not. The good news is that Mir grew up and became a writer and she still really likes hanging out with her kids; the bad news is that her hair is a lot grayer than it used to be.

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  • […] in all the nitty gritty details, but if you ARE, today at Alpha Mom you can check out the extended dance version of how/why we made this happen. And it’s all fine! Good! Perfect! I will just be over here breathing into this paper bag […]

  • Mary K

    December 10, 2013 at 3:44 pm

    Go, Mir! And Go, Monkey!

    You’ve approached this through much thought and consideration AND have developed all the smart techniques for dealing with the labyrinth of the public school system/government regulations/powers-that-be.

    Such a great next step!

  • Megan A

    December 10, 2013 at 9:50 pm

    My mom pulled me out of school in the middle of 8th grade to be homeschooled. It ended up staying that way for about 2 years before we both realized it wasn’t going to work. It was a little challenging transitioning back into public school, but it ended up being the best option. Good luck with your transition!

    • homeschooled kid

      September 27, 2015 at 11:45 am

      i wish i was you. i was pulled out when i was 13 and started being homeschooled. its now going onto 1 1/2 years of homeschooling but i hate it. i told my dad but his answer for going back to school was no. at first my other family members were not pleased i was going to be homeschooled (besides my dad) but now that they no i wanna go back to school they are all saying i must continue even if i don’t want to. I’m unhappy but all they want is for me to achieve their requirements. no one understands why i want to go back to school. now that I’m 14 my dad thinks i want to go back to school coz i wanna boyfriend but thats not it. i don’t even have a phone! sometimes i wish i didn’t live at all. and that thought runs through my mind a lot. i am honestly running out of hope. i really really really wanna go back to school. the only reason i agreed to do homeschooling was that if i didn’t like it after a year of homeschooling i can just go back to school. and after a year i told him and he said no. what kinda parent does that to their child. i would do anything to make my child happy(if i ever have any) but they want me to do my gcses 1 year before my actual date to do them and then go to sixth form before my actual age to do so?!! i told him i miss school life and being able to take part in pe lessons and have homework with deadlines and have friends and be the confident popular self i was before but my dad always has a solution with everything. he says ‘ u want friends… join yoga club?!’ i mean what 14 year old wants to do yoga. i honestly just break into tears knowing that i can never be normal again… anyone got any tips that they would like to give me in convincing my parents to send me back to school…. pls  i don’t no wat i could do any longer….

      • Mir Kamin

        September 27, 2015 at 5:21 pm

        I’m really sorry to hear you’re struggling. Any chance of having a calm, sit-down conversation about the reasons why you’d like to return and what requirements (if any) your dad would want you to meet for that to happen? If not, maybe ask if you could all see a counselor together—sometimes a neutral third party can be helpful in helping a parent to really hear what you’re saying.

        Please don’t give up hope. Nothing is forever and even if everything feels awful right now, there could be a solution right around the corner. I hope you’re able to find it very soon.

  • Pam F.

    December 11, 2013 at 1:59 pm

    My mantra when people discuss educational options is that you can always change your mind or your plan. I think you are doing a great job evaluating what your family needs and adjusting as necessary. Good luck!

  • Home School Education | Start Your Home School

    December 14, 2013 at 12:28 am

    […] Transition From Homeschool to Public School Education | Alpha Mom two and a half years of homeschooling, my autistic teen is embarking on a new adventure. Here's why, and how we're hoping to make it work. […]

  • Andrea

    August 30, 2014 at 3:57 pm

    I am almost in tears reading this. We have decided after homeschooling our three (two of which are twins) for most of last year and the beginning of this year that we are sending them to school. My 8 year old has been in public school before we decided to homeschool and our twins have never been in public school. I’m struggling not feeling like a failure, but my husband and I just came to the conclusion that it wasn’t suitable for our family. It was more a realization of what I can and cat handle and I was forcing a lot and in turn I, along with my kids were just really unhappy. My kids are absolutely ecstatic at the idea of going to school. I just feel like I let them down and let the rest of my extended family down. My parents think homeschooling is the only way to go and I know they will be disappointed and have their opinions on it, to which I will have to explain our decision and I don’t want to be in a position of having to explain my parenting decisions to my parents. So yeah, all this to say I’m confident in our decision, yet still just struggling as I feel like I let everyone down. Your post encourages me though and I’m glad it I found it. 🙂

    • Mir Kamin

      September 1, 2014 at 2:53 pm

      Andrea, it sounds like you’re making the best choice for your family, and that’s awesome. Best of luck on this next chapter!

  • Terri Clark

    August 3, 2015 at 10:00 pm

    Thanks for this awesome article. I have been homeschooling our soon to be 12 year old daughter for the last 4 years. She went to kindergarten and 1st in public school. It was her decision to return to public school for middle school. I have been a bit reluctant(did I mention she has Aspergers?). She is excited, though. We went to talk to the school today and got paperwork an an appointment later in the week with the guidance counselor. My daughter usually has trouble making decisions but this seems to be a no brainer for her. So I’m looking at it like we are still homeschooling in a way because I will help her with her work. It will just be in the afternoons instead of mornings and someone else will be giving the assignment, which is kind of a relief. And she will get more of the peer connection that she craves. So, best wishes to your family and your son and thanks for this article.