the surprising transition from school to homeschool

There are many families who decide to remove their kids from school to bring them home to homeschool.

And there are some who always knew they would homeschool.

This episode is dedicated to the new(er) homeschool family that is bringing their kiddo home from school.

I’m going to share with you my experience transitioning from school to homeschool.

But first I want to share Michelle’s experience of overwhelm when she first brought her son home…

Michelle brought her kiddo home sometime during the pandemic and she was feeling challenged.

I asked her, what do you think your root for overwhelm is?

Michelle said, “I think everything! 😂 But seriously, almost everything. My house is a mess, I’m worried I’m not doing the best for my son, I’m pretty sure he has some sensory processing issues that I’m trying to navigate on my own. We have no homeschooling friends. And if one more person in my family says the S word! 🤦‍♀️ It also doesn’t help that I feel my extended family “quizzes” my son anytime they see him. My husband is also very little help so I think that’s pretty much my overwhelm! But I am grateful to have found you on Instagram! I thank you for all of the education, clarity and information you provide! I am brand new at this and pretty much on my own. I haven’t found a homeschool coop or group to join, unfortunately, so I am very grateful for you!”

So what’s my story of transitioning to homeschool?

I brought two of my kids home from school when my oldest daughter finished grade two and my second daughter finished kindergarten.

Since I knew we were moving provinces, therefore, making a huge shift in our family life, I didn’t take my kids out of school until almost two years after I decided I was going to homeschool.

And in that two-year period, I read and read and read about learning, learning styles, and how to homeschool. And I spoke to as many homeschool families as I could speak.

transitioning from school to homeschool: make all the memories you can and have fun!

But when we began homeschooling, one summery July day (because I was that motivated to start), I had a few surprises.

1. I had to learn not to be preoccupied with what other people think.

Because when you do something unconventional like homeschooling, people will share their opinions heartily.

But when you step off an unconventional path, you build your independence muscles, so other peoples’ random opinions will eventually not matter if you practice boundary keeping.

And you’ll also have an opportunity to question why you’re doing what you’re doing and how you’re doing what you’re doing. (So there is a value to other people questioning your opinion).

You can learn more about how to Learn not to care what other people think, homeschool mama.

2. I had to deschool.

This is a popular concept: deschooling.

It’s also a nebulous concept IMO. Because? There are so many definitions of this word by so many people.

To me, deschooling is just getting out of a schooled mindset.

That is all.

But also: deschooling is very very VERY challenging to do.

You’ve likely been conventionally schooled, or at the very least, you’ve been surrounded by a culture of conventionally schooled folk.

At core, you have to recreate your notion of what an education is anyways, and engage your kids differently.

You can include conventional school subjects or use the resources or have a chalkboard or use a curriculum. They can all have their place in some homeschools.

Do all of it. Enjoy every homeschool path you walk on.

But then ask yourself this: is it working for you? (& do that assessment yearly).

If it’s not, you’re going to have to change something.

My story of homeschool transitions, homeschool seasons, and homeschool bipolarity can be found here (at least one of them;).

By the way, I’m still trying to deschool after fifteen years.

If you want to practically deschool your homeschool, check out this checklist. I share how to use it in this post.

what is the surprising transition from school to homeschool? You'll likely be reading a whole lot more to your kids: but you weren't surprised here, ha.

3. I bought into a simpler, less culturally influenced lifestyle.

Sure, there were fewer fancy clothes (I didn’t feel compelled to shop at Gap anymore), though there were definitely more yoga pants for me and kids’ pajamas for my kids. No indoor shoes were required, of course.

But I also didn’t know about the most recent music influences or fashion influences or gaming or app preferences (obviously I didn’t know what the recent app preferences were because I was homeschooling before there were apps).

But because I didn’t have my kids in school, and was in my own solar system, I wasn’t aware of the coolest trends.

I learned I didn’t care anyway.

But I would learn that my kids when they became adolescents, would discover those trends still.

My natural tendency was to focus on what worked, not what was everybody else doing.

And if something didn’t work for us, we didn’t do it. If it worked for us, we did it.

Which meant we were a whole lot simpler because we were focusing on the things that really only mattered in our home & our family.

This is my story of simplifying my homeschool life.

4. I could schedule extracurriculars in the middle of the day because I could.

I could schedule extracurriculars in the middle of the day.

This was a marked shift in our family lifestyle.

That you could do extracurriculars before the school day was out, not have to vie for after-school appointments or after-school extracurricular activities, was revolutionary.

In those earlier years, my kids took violin lessons, voice lessons, and acting lessons. And we could schedule all of that before 4:00 o’clock.

The evenings were for quiet family time or fun activity times or just not really intense running around times.

Have you had those times?

You gotta get dinner, get into the minivan you’re gonna bring a kid to practice (but everyone has to go cause you can’t self-babysit at 6, 2, or infant).

I share about the extracurriculars in our homeschool and how to pay for them in my post What Does Homeschool Cost: What I Wish I Knew Before I Began Homeschooling.

Deschool your homeschool intensive

5. I could shop and do errands during the day.

(And find a way to make it a learning opportunity too!)

In other words, grocery shopping and visiting the post office, and going to the dentist became a family event.

And though, that made them a wee bit more stressful (okay, sometimes, a lot more stressful), these were times out for our family too.

We could learn about the world. We could do social studies in our actual communities not just in an “In Our Neighbourhood” book devoted to the elementary social studies curriculum that we would see only once in our elementary school career.

Instead, we saw it at least twice a week. In reality.

And when the kids visited the post office, they also learned that there was a difference between a regular post and an express post, there was a particular way to be polite and request help at the post office, and there were extra expenses expected any time we purchased something, aka taxes.

The kids learned to pay for their own treats at the cafe, learned to chat with the barista no matter how old they were, asked the barista for their drink preference, and determined how much change they’d need to expect when they gave a ten-dollar bill for a four-dollar drink. Plus tip.

Errands had an extracurricular nature all their own.

But expect that when we were out and about during the school day, we’d get asked, “Is there a day off school today?”

And every child would have to be reminded of their grade (which I figured out before we went inside the store), every child could get quizzed about random facts that even schooled kids didn’t know, and I would get the requisite response from other parents, “You homeschool! Yes, I’ve heard homeschooling: you’re kids will be so smart,” or “OMG you’re so much more patient than me!” or “Wow, I could definitely not do that!”

Oh, and since our homeschool family has spent so much time in the grocery store, I share how to How to Grocery Shop & Cook for your Homeschool Family.

6. I could homeschool any time I wanted.

I could start homeschooling in summer or start in October if we were traveling instead, not do formal academics at all, but travel instead, or homeschool all year long.

Since we spent seven years of our homeschool traveling halftime, and we usually were traveling in April and May or September and October, the formal season of our homeschool (or the formal activities that you might expect in typical home school) was almost never part of those months we were traveling. (Having said that, if you’ve traveled as a homeschool family), you know that every time you step out the door there’s a new learning opportunity.

(Even if it’s navigating international travel with four kids, learning about passports, packing simply, new languages, new customs, and learning how to occupy four kids at 10 at night for four hours in Heathrow airport, there’s always something to learn, for all of us, but I digress…)

I got to homeschool whenever it suited me in the earlier years which meant I was homeschooling all through the summer the first handful of years.

I discovered something I didn’t know when I had my children in school: learning happens all throughout the year and it wasn’t required to have a formal learning program.

If I could just watch when my kids’ eyes lit up, I would consider how I could expand on their interests. In other words, I encouraged it, and help them expand on that interest, and called that homeschool.

And I got as excited about doing that as they got excited with their interest.

I would look into how I could expand on their interest. But I definitely worked too hard on that search for learning opportunities.

I looked to find a…

  • writing opportunity,
  • read aloud,
  • potential science topic
  • potential history topic
  • maybe we could draw it on a piece of paper
  • we could create a diagram,
  • or do an experiment,
  • or write a blog,
  • or create a podcast,
  • or you wanna create a YouTube channel (cool!)
  • or go on a field trip to somewhere interesting? I’m on it!
At this point in my homeschool, I can take almost any interest and create an entire unit study on the fly). Are any veteran homeschool mamas out there saying, Amen?

I know now that my attempt at creating a unit study out of every one of my children’s interests was overkill.

It just wasn’t necessary.

And also, their present interest wasn’t necessarily going to translate into a career, into a small business by a twelve-year-old, or even last more than a few weeks. It was just the interest pursuit for now.

But it was awful fun, it was a learning opportunity for me as a homeschool mom to learn about learning, but it was definitely not necessary.

But what I did learn, is that learning happens in spring, summer, fall, and autumn.

Here’s a discussion on the actual season in my homeschool: The two seasons in our homeschool, formal studies or unschooling.

7. I learned that grades didn’t mean anything.

I didn’t have to assign my kids grades, but I’d make sure my kids knew they had a grade before we went out in public.

The only reason my children needed grades was to answer random strangers’ questions about why school wasn’t in today.

(Side note, I’m always curious and want to know the answer to why the only thing we ever ask kids is their name and how old they are).

But anywho.

You know you’re a mama when you want your child’s attention so you call out their name (& all your other kids’ names, or like me, have a name for all the kids that you’ve developed over the years on the fly…HaMaRaZa…also officially named Hannah, Madelyn, Rachel, Zachary).

You know you’re a mama when have to think twice about how old your kids are right now.

But you know you’re a homeschool mama when you have to think twice about what grade your child is in.

And in the beginning years, I was rather resistant to that question. I was offended even. WHY do the conventional educational energy and social construct have to influence my life & my family? We’re not in a grade, we’re homeschooling. You’re welcome. (This clearly is not every homeschool parent’s response to that question, but it was my defensive response in the early years).

But since that defensive approach mostly necessitated a very long conversation, I gradually let go of my staunch unschooling dogmatic approach and decided instead to determine a grade for each of my children before we went into Save-On-Foods, our local grocery store.

What is a grade anyway?

Everyone knows that in a conventional school a grade generally designates similar-aged kids to learn about similar things.

But in a homeschool, on the very same day, my 4-year-old, my 7-year-old, my 9-year-old, and my 12-year-old might all be learning about the same thing: world economics and Broadway lyrics from Something Rotten, a discussion on bitcoin, reading about Mahatma Gandhi and Mother Teresa, (the Mother Teresa who wasn’t also their mother).

Naturally, these four kiddos are not processing the content the same way. But I learned that just because my son was four and my daughter was 7 didn’t mean that my daughter understood more. (I mean that four-year-old was killing it with chess every time he played his mama, and his mama was 40).

So how does one determine a grade in a homeschool? And who even cares? Not me, anyway.

Here’s how to homeschool more than one grade: a tale of four grades.

8. I learned to respectfully answer the “S” question: what about socialization?

My response to the S question, aka the socialization question, has had a progression of maturity over the years by me.

In the early years, I answered in three-point essays. (Remember that defensive response? It applied here too.)

And when I finally convinced myself that socialization in a homeschool is fabulous actually (because ultimately I think that’s what I was doing: trying to convince myself), I discovered that this ubiquitous question would indeed, forever be in my sphere.

So I should get comfortable responding in a respectful, matter-of-fact answer.

Fast forward 15 or more years and you can see for yourself they are lovely human beings that know how to be considerate of one another, look out for one another, speak respectfully to one another, (well, most of the time, but definitely in public), and they know how to have an interesting, engaged, authentic conversation with full-grown adults no matter how old they were.

So general public, what are you so worried about?

As a homeschooler, I definitely knew we were considered different because people asked about our lifestyle ALL THE TIME.

But we’re ALL different, right? Every family, homeschooled and schooled alike, comes from different homes, has different values, laughs at different things, and works at different things.

The act of doing something not-so-mainstream, like homeschooling, does indeed make us different though. (So different that we get plenty of time to think about why we’re different, why we’re doing what we’re doing, and if it’s worth all the effort swimming upstream).

This is probably why our children look different:

Our kids are learning that they are different because everyone is always asking about our different lifestyle.

Our family was not aspiring to be different. We were just honouring what we were and BEING it.

We wanted to homeschool for freedom:

  • freedom to personalize our kids’ education,
  • freedom to create our own social community,
  • freedom to create our own schedule and to travel too.

We’re okay if you’re different too.

Actually we kind of like it. It’s interesting when everyone is different.

How am I going to learn more about the world if we don’t talk about the things that make us different?

Be you! The world is better for us all when we are just being ourselves. 

Teaching kindness to our kids IS socialization.

Be it Muslim or Christian, Shambalah Buddhist or Hindu, most of us, minus an occasional psychopath, aspire to teach our kids to be kind to one another (arguably, the most important lesson in socialization).

Teaching kindness is learning to treat each other as we would have others treat us.

  • Be patient in Starbucks line-ups.
  • Don’t cut lines.
  • Understand your siblings’ perspectives, even if they’re frustrating to you.
  • Practice speaking and arguing respectfully.
  • Don’t interrupt.
  • Listen.
  • Tell the truth.
Oh, and when we teach them we are listening to them, they will assume others listen to them, and they’ll have something to say.

This is socialization.

Social opportunities aren’t the same as socialization.

Attending youth groups and religious observances, sports activities, art and music lessons, birthday parties and Christmas socials, summer camps and family BBQs, visits to the lake with friends, and vacations and trips around the world—these are social opportunities. Our homeschooled kids get plenty of ’em. In fact, they get more because they usually have more time in the day to attend them.

That schooled six hours a day, five days a week, nine months a year, class of twenty-five? There’s no magic sauce in teaching kids socialization there. 

Learning to be productive citizens of their society, charitable and community-focussed, we help to tailor an education that enables our children to be who they were meant to become and contribute meaningfully.

By far, the most difficult aspect of socialization is teaching our children, not by the words we use, the consequences we respond with when we’re trying to teach them to do things differently, or deciding how to help them learn kindness, but rather recognizing that they’re not taught by our words, but lessons and attitudes caught by our lives.

Who we are rubbing off on our children and creating their greatest socialization lesson.                                                       

By far the toughest work of home educating our children is understanding how intricately we affect their souls with the stories of our lives and the attitude of our hearts. It also happens to be one of the most compelling reasons to home educate: to imprint on our children the stories of our lives. Whatever work we put into their little lives, we will surely reap!

(But food for thought: why isn’t anyone asking about homeschool mama’s socialization?? That might be more concerning, don’t you think?)

So what was the surprising transition from school to homeschool? In a nutshell, my family life was endowed with a whole lotta freedom!

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Call to Adventure by Kevin MacLeod