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But I Want to Go to School! – How to Respond When Your Child Doesn’t Want to Homeschool

Question: Should I let my child go to a public school?

We’ve decided to homeschool this year, but my daughter is hearing all about school from her friends. Now she wants to go. What are my options or, better yet, is there a way to change her mind?

Answer: Yes, but you might not need to.

I Want to Go to School!

Grace Llewellyn, a homeschooling author, was attributed with saying the following,

If they go in, it will be with the freedom and the knowledge that it is their choice, and that they can just get up and leave if they want to. The knowledge that you have that freedom brings a whole different attitude to learning and to the entire school experience.

My children have always been allowed to choose public school. My three oldest (one now in graduate school, two college undergrads) took a few classes most years beginning in 9th grade. My fourth went to half-day kindergarten for half a year and now (at 16) takes musical theater classes at a performing arts charter school. Neither of my boys (13 and 10) has ever attended a public school. Yet.

In my experience, Llewellyn’s statement bears out. Kids who choose to go to school — and know they can choose otherwise — have an entirely different experience than those who are forced to do so. Knowing they can opt out if it doesn’t meet their needs — or they found out it’s not quite as cool as it sounded — changes the view entirely.

If you prefer homeschooling, here are some ways to get your child to prefer it as well:

  1. Accurately and honestly explain the differences between home education and public school.
  2. Be conscious of making your homeschool interesting, relevant, and (yes) fun.
  3. Find out what your child is looking for and see if an institutional setting is the best solution.

Provide What Your Child Wants

My oldest daughter, Jessica, attended a public school for two years before she convinced me to keep her home. She felt the schoolwork was boring and limiting, and said so often. But she did like playing at the playground, meeting other kids, and lots of positive attention and feedback from teachers and administrators. Because of that we  included park trips, support group activities, and neighborhood children into our days.

Make Sure Your Child Understand Reality

While attending a public kindergarten, the same daughter envied the kids who were in the after-school program! A crushing blow to a devoted stay-at-home mom.

One day I went to her school right at dismissal time for a committee meeting. She longingly watched all all the kids in after-school care running merrily out to the swings. But when the meeting ended, less than an hour later, we walked past the playground again on the way to our car. There, lined up along the chain-link fence, were four of Jessica’s classmates. They were hanging onto the top of the fence and looking longingly out toward the parking lot. As we passed, and Jessica greeted her friends, they said to her, “How come you get to go home and we don’t?” and “You’re so lucky!”

Here were her friends, who still had another couple of hours before they would see their parents, expressing their envy of her! She had just never been around long enough to see this transformation. The grass in the playground looked greener to her, until she got a little glimpse of what it was really like to be stuck in there. Many times since, she has thanked me for being home for her.

Experience Is a Great Teacher

On this subject, countless homeschool parents have said, “If they want to go to school, let them do it! They’ll find out soon enough what it’s really like!”

When Monica said she wanted to go to kindergarten with her neighborhood friends, I signed her up. By Christmas she decided she’d really rather be home. She didn’t hate school, but she didn’t prefer it. And if she had preferred it and thrived there, that would have been fine as well. As one mother said:

She learned much better by experiencing it than she ever could have through my explanations. If the child has the choice to stay home, he or she will have something very few school children have — freedom of choice — and I think that can make all the difference in the world.

Educational Peripherals

My second daughter, Belinda, told me she wanted to go to school when she was about seven years old. We sat down to find out why. After much consideration and thought (at first she wasn’t sure), she concluded there were two gaping holes in her educational life:

  1. Riding the bus
  2. Eating in the cafeteria

Within the week, we arranged to both ride a bus and eat in a cafeteria. It took exactly one experience with each to realize those secondary activities weren’t all that exciting after all. She was satisfied and decided she’d rather be home for the time being.

The Joy of Learning

My biggest concern about institutions is the attitude they seem invariably to produce. I can’t recall at what age it begins, but I don’t know of any 6th grader who isn’t at least beginning to think school is a drag by March. By that time they can’t wait to get out of “prison” for the summer.

I always did well in school, and enjoyed it in many respects. But after graduating from college, I had to relearn how to learn. It wasn’t until then that I realized how many things fascinated me. It also wasn’t until then that I found how inefficient schools are at actually educating.

Fortunately, when our daughter left school, she still had a desire for knowledge. She was still very curious. We never had to couch learning as a game (although we do play lots of games) because she loves learning.

Jessica came home because she convinced us that homeschooling wasn’t lunacy. But the advantages now seem so numerous. All of our children have have the opportunity to learn the things that truly fascinate them. What a blessing!

What would you do if your child wanted to go to school? What options do you see?

{ 13 comments… add one }

  • Martina March 20, 2014, 10:29 pm

    This is the perfect response and just what I needed. Thank you for giving such sound advice!

  • Sarah March 29, 2014, 12:52 am

    I love the two gaping holes you identified. : ) For my daughter, the gaping hole was, “hearing my shoes squeak as I walk down the halls.” Happily, we learned you can squeak your shoes at Harmons and Target. Thanks for the article!

  • Corinne March 29, 2014, 3:30 pm

    I’m embarrassed to say that I never though about giving my children a choice. I was forced to go to public school and so I forced my kids to go to public school, no matter what. I thought it was the responsible thing to do.

    Now I’m rethinking what education means and why I’ve always thought it has to be done a particular way.

  • Jennifer Bardsley March 30, 2014, 9:31 pm

    A choice you didn’t present is public school combined with limited Afterschooling, which is a happy medium my family has enjoyed.
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  • Alison Moore Smith March 30, 2014, 11:37 pm

    Jennifer, thanks for commenting.

    That is an option. But there’s a reason I didn’t offer that. In my opinion, public school is already onerous. Kids are in classrooms for six to seven hours a day, 180 days per year. It just does not take that long to learn what schools teach them! Add to that the fact that most schools have homework on top of that, and you’ve got CHILDREN working longer days than most adults.

    With kids already needlessly overburdened with a public school, I see adding on more afterschooling as far too much formal study and far too little for the child to think, play, dream, mess around, and find things they really love.

    Glad you’ve found what works for your family.
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  • littleyang June 24, 2014, 3:15 am

    I support homeschool, this is very helpful for kids, i think!

  • Margaret September 3, 2014, 9:29 pm

    I believe homeschooling can be good; however, if the homeschooling parent works long hours and is the only breadwinner, who home schools the child? The babysitter? The computer? I’m a bit concerned.

  • Alison Moore Smith September 4, 2014, 1:09 pm

    Margaret, did you mean to comment on a different post?

    In any case, if a single, working parent intends to homeschool, there would have to be some modifications made to the typical school model. While I don’t do this myself, I’ve seen it done successfully myriad times.

    Example #1

    A young child needs supervision during the parent’s work hours, obviously. Those hours needn’t be “schooling” hours, but s/he need to be provided for. Then homeschooling could be easily done during off hours.

    Contrary to public school models, following a typical elementary scope and sequence doesn’t take remotely 7 hours per day. Most of the time spent in a public school is not spent actually learning. Studies show that much time is spent on:

    • administrative issues
    • classroom management
    • waiting
    • lining up, passing out, turning in
    • reviewing
    • busy work

    In addition, schools on average spend inordinate amounts of time prepping for (data mining) standardized tests. Studies show that in addition to the 50 hours spent taking those tests, 100 additional hours is spent teaching to them. That amounts to about a month of dedicated school time per year.

    Surpassing public school academic expectations is a fairly simple task and children often do much better with more time to delve into their own interests, rather than having endless prescribed seatwork.

    Example #2

    An older child can usually work much more independently. Many public schooled children currently do much online work.) We don’t use those programs ourselves, because at this point, we still find them to be inferior to high quality texts or self-designed courses. But this is a common norm.) But whether online or not, an older child is usually capable of doing much work on on their own, following up later for questions, discussion, review.
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  • Michelle December 22, 2014, 12:25 pm

    Hi! I’m having a very difficult time deciding the best schooling for my son for next year. This year it was important for him to go to school. The things that are important to him are recess, PE, and the friends he has at school. Each of the homeschool co ops I’ve looked into only meet one day per week. I think there is GREAT value in interacting daily with others, and I even think there is greater value in meeting with the same people so that deeper, consistent relationships can be formed. Family is super important, and I do believe that, but we also need to form relationships with others.

  • George July 27, 2015, 7:06 am

    Hello. I’m glad I found your website. I am a homeschooling mom of two kindergartner boys. We all enjoy it. Only until they met our neighbors kids close to their age that I heard them always say they don’t want to homeschool and that it’s boring. This kind of broke my heart and brought me much thought of how to entice them back to our enjoyable homeschooling experience. We are expats based in Middle East (the strict part) and we don’t get a chance to go out anywhere unless my husband drives for us on weekends and after work for safety’ sake. On weekends we bring them to music school and swim school. But I know they need more exposure outside with other kids their age. I still will find out more on how to bring them back because I never want to force them. We still do it everyday but their interest seem faded. Hopefully, I will find some homeschooling families in our area. I wish it will be that smooth. Thank you.

  • Casey August 26, 2015, 4:52 pm

    My 5 year old daughter started talking about school about 4 months shy of her 5th birthday. She was determined she would start school on the day she turned 5. We had different plans. A month later, when school started up around us (and her one neighborhood friend went back to school), she began actively resisting homeschooling. Before, SHE would initiate just about every activity we did. Three weeks of near-constant whining, and I walked her up to the school one morning and enrolled her. She got to start that day (which was good because there was no way she was going to let that not happen). It was a Friday, and of course all weekend she begged to go back. Monday, happy as could be walking to school. When I picked her up after a 7 1/2 hour day, she was near tears. She almost cried Tuesday at drop off and pick up, and then this morning she begged to homeschool. I had intended on letting her see out the week before pulling her out, but when I picked her up today, she was sad we were going home. She told me the whole walk about how much she loves school. So, yeah, it looks like I’m going to be pulling her out and we’ll be back to square one! And, I have to pull her out because this is a terrible inner-city school with a lot of problems. I’m a little afraid of what she might get exposed to by other students if she’s there very long. Sigh. I hope tomorrow she wants to homeschool again!

  • Wendi December 1, 2015, 7:28 pm

    Casey, we’re in the same shoes. My 2nd grader wanted to go back this year for friends, he’s practically an only as his older brothers are 26 and 23. He wanted art, music and recess. Lunchtime and PE. He wanted the experience. I wish everyday that he wants to stay home again.

  • Sahnda October 2, 2018, 2:29 pm

    Great article and helpful! My daughter just started her first day back to public school after 5 years of homeschooling. She’s in 8th grade. She has already texted me from school saying how much she hates it because the kids are loud, immature, and annoying. And she said the work is stuff she has already learned. I told her she has to at least give it 2 weeks and then we can go from there. Going back to school was her choice and even though I hated the idea I knew I had to let her try it. If she comes back home I think she will have a new appreciation for homeschool and for me. It kills me inside hearing about how sad she is today. Hopefully these 2 weeks will go by quickly (:
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