Transitioning from Public School to Homeschool

After much consideration, you’ve decided to begin homeschooling. Those of you who are transitioning from public school to homeschool are entering a unique season. Our family made this decision in 2010 as we began our homeschool journey. We’ve had incredible ups and downs in the four years we’ve been at home, and I am slowly wrapping my head around the many things I wish I had understood prior to bringing our boys home.

Bringing them home from public school to homeschool

  • Every family will experience the transition differently.

You may be bringing your children home for different reasons than we did, but there are many things we’ll have in common. While I don’t have a formula for ensuring an easy and successful switch, I can share some of the hiccups we’ve moved through and some thoughts to consider that may make your transition more fun than challenging.

  • Our decision to switch from public school to homeschooling.

It was my oldest son’s 2nd grade year when we made the final decision to bring them home. We’d experienced highs and lows for the three years he attended our local public school. In kindergarten we were told that he was likely gifted, but that they could not offer him supplemental instruction until the 3rd grade. His 1st grade teacher was a great encouragement and tried hard to keep him engaged and challenged. His 2nd grade teacher saw him as a behavioral problem that needed solving. That same year our second son had entered kindergarten and what we experienced with him was very lukewarm. He was a cooperative student but wasn’t retaining anything. At the end of the school year he had not yet moved beyond using the pictures in books to attempt decoding. Our local school wasn’t the right setting for either of our boys, and we now had a daughter who was slated to start kindergarten the coming fall. After a springtime parent/teacher conference, my husband and I affirmed that it was time to bring them home and begin homeschooling.

  • The right time to make the switch is when the system is no longer working for you.

If I had it to do over again, I would not have waited for the end of the school year. We recognized fairly early into the year that our local school was not the right fit for our son, but we waited until the traditional break in academics to make the change. In hindsight, had we pulled the boys mid-year, we would have had more time for the informal de-schooling process that is absolutely necessary for the children and the parents. Our children needed to learn to complete academic work with younger siblings playing nearby. I needed time to encourage the relationships between my children, to turn their hearts towards each other.

  • Give yourself time.

Do not underestimate the change that will happen for both you and your children. Give yourselves grace! You will now have the roles of both mom and instructor. The little bit of ‘me time’ you may have had while your child was at school will now be gone, possibly taking with it the time that you pursued your hobbies and interests. Allowing for a little time to pass before jumping into formal academics will give you a chance to enjoy your time together. Informal instruction can happen through cooking, nature walks, and reading aloud while you get accustomed to spending more time together throughout the day.

  • Know that your teaching style and their learning styles may not match.

Before bringing the children home for schooling, I read any book I could get my hands on about the logistics of home instruction, how to choose curriculum, how to define learning styles and teaching styles. Unfortunately, I failed to see that what I had a passion for as an adult with years of schooling and real life experience behind me was quite different from the interests and learning styles of my children. The classical style appealed to my love of art and history, but for my children it was like torture when all they wanted to do was touch, explore, and experience. Once I realized that the ‘one-room schoolhouse’ was NOT a picture of my home, things began to get a little easier.

  • Have a plan but stay flexible.

I’m an artist by nature, and I move with the rhythm of current inspiration. As much as I love spontaneity, I need a clear plan in place before getting started. I’ve had a very difficult time adding in things through the year because we settle into a routine that we find hard to break from or make big changes to. While I’ll never do well with an hour-by-hour plan, having a monthly goal set and general schedule made allows freedom and flexibility for opportunities that arise through the year.

  • Know your support network.

There will come a time when you doubt the choice you made. It is normal. There are many times in the year when most homeschool moms watch that yellow bus pass by and daydream of sending the children off on it. You’re not alone, and you haven’t made a mistake. Call in your support and cheerleaders! Knowing you have willing friends and trusted confidants to share your heart with goes a long way in keeping you strong during the journey. One thing I remind myself of on those hard days is that we had clear reasons for bringing them home and we have to honestly ask ourselves if things would really be better if we returned them to the school system. Every time thus far, the answer has been a resounding, “No.”

  • Start with an end in mind.

While year-round schooling is quite popular in homeschooling circles, it is a big adjustment for children (and their parents) who are already used to a traditional school calendar. Communicate from the start how you will mark milestones of the days, the semester, and the year. Having a never-ending day (or year) isn’t good for your child or yourself! Your final schedule may change, but knowing when breaks are coming up helps to motivate you to complete tasks. If you wish to school year-round, keep your child aware of when there will be breaks. Everyone needs some down time, and my experience has been that the planned breaks are great recharge times, while breaks that happen out of desperation or nearing burn-out are much harder to return from.

  • Have fun!

It will be challenging, but it truly is rewarding. The first time you and your child work through a great challenge together, like reading the first chapter book, solving a long-division problem (without a calculator), or that moment of realization that something they hear spoken of by someone else was taught to them by you, will make your heart smile and make the toughest days even more worthwhile.

What are some of your concerns about your upcoming transition? Are you a veteran of the public school to homeschool switch? What advice would you give?

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  1. I know L needs this change very much. I know I can do it. The only people who have been supportive, ironically, are the people at the public school.

    My mom thinks I’m already too stressed and tired. What she doesn’t understand is how hard sending L to school is. It takes 3 hours to get him ready (he has disabilities) and he comes home, sometimes, stressed and acts out. School doesn’t understand the emotional impact certain tasks have on him. I do… I can give him those tasks in shorter bursts, in a loving environment, with a destress period afterward.

    Some people are neutral on the idea, which is ok, but a lot have the attitude that I’m taking on too much. I don’t agree. It’s more work, sure, but better than sitting around waiting for the outcomes to hit my family and leave us reeling.

    Maybe I should try explaining it to my mom that way.

    1. Michelle, thank you so much for commenting. You are a strong and powerful mom and advocate for your son! It seems to me that you have not made a careless decision, but instead one that is fully realistic and well thought out. It is hard to have those you’d think are your team-members start out as those rooting against you. You have a healthy grasp on the knowledge that no, it will not be easy, but it is what is best for your family in this season. I pray you will be blessed in the journey!! Have you joined the HHM community on FB? It is a closed group for moms and a great chance to network with moms who ‘get it’.

  2. This coming year I will have a preschooler and a kindergartener and two more younger at home. While I am okay with sending them to preschool, as it’s only two hour a few days a week, I am really struggling with full day all day kindergarten. I keep teeter tottering on my decision because I can see how much my oldest truly enjoys school but then the negatives about the schooling system can be seen in her self confidence. What do you recommend I do or read to help me solidify my decision?

    1. Devan, we regularly hear from moms who sent their children to public school for kindergarten and then have trouble homeschooling them. The kids get used to being at school and they make friends with the kids there, and that makes it very hard for them to transition to homeschooling. My recommendation is not to have your child go to full-day K. I also recommend joining a local homeschool support group as soon as possible so your child can begin making friends and feel a part of the homeschool community. The negatives are in the public school even at K level, but they grow worse each year as the kids get older. It may seem harmless to send your child to school full time just for one year, but I honestly think it’s not a good idea at all.

      1. I ditto your reply to this mom. I sent my son to all day Kindergarten and all of the things you mentioned happened. He really misses his friends from there and I am having to desocialize him from that system before we can even start at home.

    2. How is the homeschooling network in your community? Can you chat with local moms about extra-curricular events and activities that are available? For us, transitioning boys home from PS to homeschool has been challenging. Finding a support system is a MUST, in my opinion. Our HHM community on FB is very helpful, but making it a priority to have a local group is important. If you do decide to bring your children home, finding out what it is that your children love about the school environment can be helpful. If they like the schedule, you’ll know that having predictable days will be beneficial over a more un-schooling approach. Does that help at all? Be sure to check out the HHM Mentoring Mom hangout each Tuesday, where you can have some veteran homeschooling moms discuss this topic.

  3. I started at the end of my daughters 2nd grade as well. We decided to finish when the year ended. I wish I would have pulled her out when I made the dicision the middle of 2nd grade. I think it would have been better.

    1. Can you tell me why you wanted to pull your child out of school before the year ended? What benefit would this have? We are seriously considering home schooling as PS is failing to educate adequately. Im trying to see everything positive and negative about it 1st. TIA

      1. Hi Tami,

        Lisa no longer write for us, so she’s not here to see your question, but she did address this in her article. She stated that, had they pulled the boys mid-year, they would have had more time for the informal de-schooling process that is absolutely necessary for the children and the parents. She also explained that their children needed to learn to complete academic work with younger siblings playing nearby and that she needed time to encourage the relationships between her children and to turn their hearts towards each other. In other words, it would have given her several months at the end of the current school year and a few more months over the summer to accomplish those things.

        I can also add to this because, many years ago, I pulled my oldest child out of pubic school after the holidays and finished the year at home. That school year was going horribly for her, the teacher had very low expectations, her behavior wasn’t good because she was frustrated and upset for most of the day, and the teacher nor the principal would listen to my concerns and take them seriously. I simply didn’t see how it could possibly be good for my daughter to stay in that environment for several more months. It turned out to be a wonderful decision for my family! My daughter’s behavior immediately got much better, and the other children and I had time to adjust to our new situation before we started our new school year the next fall. We did begin doing some homeschool work with my daughter that I brought home too. Making that choice to bring her home helped my daughter so very much, but it also lifted a huge burden off of me. I had known for a while that I needed to bring her home, but I had been afraid to do it. Finally making that decision made me feel so much better! I knew immediately after doing it that it had been the best decision. It may not be the best decision for everyone, but for some, it’s absolutely the best. You have to do whatever you feel like is best for your family. And you have to learn not to worry too much about whether or not those outside of your family agree with your decision or not.


  4. We still struggle to figure out the proper way, I wish I would have never send her in. She was like your oldest, reading before she began Pre-K. She had extra help until she started 1st grade, and by 2nd grade she was getting bored. No problems, but internal issues were happening. Would of…Could of…Should of…

    1. What matters most is not what you could have done, but what you’re doing now. The reality is that there is no ‘perfect’. You’ve made the right decision for your family and moving forward in that is success!

  5. I totally agree. Homeschooling for the past 5 years I have learned to not stress, then I stress. I am just a worrier. I always look forward to make sure I know what I need to do now and hope my decisions are the correct ones. Let’s all hope the chidren are learning to succeed in their chosen paths in life.

  6. So glad I came across this! I will be homeschooling my 4th grade daughter for the first time this year because we are taking some time to travel. At first I was honestly dreading it, but now I am looking forward to the challenges and the rewards. 🙂 Thank you for the advance help!

  7. I am so glad that I stumbled across your post researching homeschool options, opinions, etc. The fact that you are an artist appeals to me so much because I feel like you will understand my concerns. My oldest daughter just started 1st grade this year. I also have two daughters that are four and two years old, as well as, a 7 mo. old son that are not yet in school. We are looking at next year, so I would have a 2nd grader, Kindergartener, and then two that aren’t “in school.” My husband is very PRO-homeschool and very supportive and wants to jump right in. He is willing to help out, but for the most part, this would be my baby during the day, as he is away working. I can find no negatives or issues that I don’t think can’t be overcome. I spent five years teaching in the public school system as an art teacher before I became a SAHM and my husband has a K-8 teaching degree. He is also a military veteran, so he is very organized, clean, and basically my polar opposite, so many times he doesn’t understand my left brain, “spontaneity”. I am not concerned (right now) about the transition so much, or even my children staying on task…I honestly worry about myself staying on task and having multiple children at totally different levels. I wonder, can I keep up a home, be a wife, be a mom, and their teacher? I know how very left brained I am, and at times I think, “If I could just stay focused!” Do you have any suggestions, tips, or encouragement in these areas?

    1. Erin, all I can offer is support and encouragement. I get it, I truly do! I have been my biggest obstacle in our schooling journey, but honestly, it wasn’t until this past spring that I finally had that epiphany! :/ My husband is an engineer, as you can imagine I’m quite familiar with the struggles (but true blessings) of our seeming mismatch. I do have to work quite hard to keep myself focused and on-task and not lured away by all.the.pretty.things. 😉 I won’t deny that it is a struggle. This year I think I’ve finally communicated better to my husband what my support and encouragement needs are from him and through the summer he helped me lay out the year so that it made sense to both of us (mostly). For me having the ‘spine’ of our schooling in place and ready to ‘open and go’, will ultimately allow for the freedom of exploring more of the adventurous tangents. I’m looking forward to this year, planned for success! I hope you’ll come over to the FB community and ask more questions as they arise. We have a great support network growing there! Wishing you a great homeschooling future!

    2. I completely sympathize with your situation. While my children have never attended public school, I do have multiple children spanning different levels (3rd grade, 1st grade, a 4 y.o, a 2 y.o. and a 9 month old). I, too, am an artist at heart and have the same thoughts about staying focused. I think the best advice I can give you is to use your creativity to your advantage and don’t be to hard on yourself. The early years of education should be focused on being creative, learning through art and play, and being in nature. Don’t feel forced to have “school” at home. Find teachable moments in everyday life. We do about an hour total of actual “schooling” everyday (its mainly focused on learning to read) and it is done when the littlest ones are napping. Everything else is learned through everyday life and reading and conversations. You don’t need to cover everything that is taught in public school, as much of it is just busy work that has no real life implications. And if you find out later on that you missed something that your children really need to know, teach it then. That’s the beauty of homeschooling, your children will be able to learn on their own timetable, not when some government official thinks they should. Follow your child’s lead and interests, involve the littlest ones as much as possible (you will be amazed by what they pick up by just by observing) and, most importantly, enjoy this time with your children. By doing this, your role of mom and teacher are wrapped together.
      One of my greatest struggle comes with keeping up the home. The thing I try the most with this is to know that it’s ok for the house not to be clean all the time. Many times I have missed out of having fun with the kids in order to clean, and then at the end of the day I look back on that an feel bad about those missed moment. I have started asking myself, can this wait? Does this need to be done right this moment? I have found that normally I can get by by doing a clean up of the house about on hour before my husband gets home. Really, cleaning to much before then just becomes frustrating because the house is a wreck shortly after and will have to be straighten up again.
      As far as being a Wife goes, you will be tired at the end of the day, but you still need to make time for your husband. I struggle with this as well. But I do try hard to let him know I appreciate him. Its the little things, I find, that make a big difference. Little love notes in his lunch, greeting him with a smile and a hug instead of unloading all the struggles of my day as soon as he walks in the door (which I tend to do) or cooking his favorite meal for dinner.
      Mostly, just know, that YOU CAN DO IT!

  8. We pulled our 4th grader out of public school in the beginning of November this year. He struggled in school with ADD, learning disabilities in reading fluency and comprehension, and anxiety. I’m so glad we pulled him out when we did. He is so much happier(: my struggle is that I worry I am not teaching him correctly. Because of the ADD and learning disabilities he works very slowly so we don’t fit much in each day. When we pulled him out he was so far behind so we have taken several steps back. Most days I am mentally drained by the end of the day. Anyway, thank you for the encouragement (:

  9. Thank you Lisa for writing this!
    You perfectly voiced exactly what we had been struggling with, with our son. “…2nd grade year when we made the final decision to bring them home. We’d experienced highs and lows for the three years he attended our local public school. In kindergarten we were told that he was likely gifted, but that they could not offer him supplemental instruction until the 3rd grade. His 1st grade teacher was a great encouragement and tried hard to keep him engaged and challenged. His 2nd grade teacher saw him as a behavioral problem that needed solving.”
    I am so thankful the Holy Spirit did not relent the feeling of urgency to withdraw him from public school (we were going to push through to the end of the school year and start after a summer break.) We started home school just a few short weeks ago. My joyful, intelligent, kind, & thoughtful boy has returned to us! He used to come home from school so angry and frustrated and was constantly in some strained state mentally and emotionally. A huge burden has been lifted and it is awesome.
    Thank you!

  10. Hi,
    I’m new to homeschool and I’m worried about not having the correct curriculum for my middleschooler. He’s active, smart and very hands-on. I want to make sure I am teaching him all he needs to know to be on track with the kids his age. Can anyone give me suggestions on day to day routines and ways to teach him that will engage him?

  11. Seriously considering pull kids out of public school to home school. I have one in 3rd and one in 7th. Any advise for switching especially for a child soon to be 13?

    1. We started with 3rd, 4th and 7th grade. We had a summer to transition but did find there were a few things that popped up when the yellow bus came by and their friends were going to school.

      Find out your state regulations first. This will help you determine what you need to do.

      Learn about Deschooling (google the term) and take the opportunity to do so. Keep up with the basics: reading, writing, math.

      If you can find a homeschool support group locally, find one. Meet other families homeschooling. Ask if you can spend a day with them.

      While deschooling read about learning styles, different curriculum, etc. At this point in the year I’d skip buying curriculum (if it’s possible in your state).

      Listen to your 13yos concerns. This age is usually concerned about friends. So, be sure you provide plenty of peer-related activities to help.

      Enjoy the journey!

  12. Hello!
    My mom and I made the decision to take me out of school for 8th grade. I personally do not like the public school most of the time it goes to slow or too fast. Plus most of my good friends are outside of school so the school day is almost never fun. My mom is very old schooled (no pun intended) about this topic. The only reason I am doing homeschool this year is becuase I suffered a very bad blow to my spine from landing on my head during the high jump at school. (The teacher didn’t teach it correctly nor did they give us time to practice) Can anyone give me ideas on how to keep on homeschooling? Public school has never been stimulating and most of the time I come home angry and quiet which make my mom think I need to go to school more becuase I “need to socialize” all in all I dislike it. Can someone please help?

  13. I am and have been thinking about this transition for a few years now. I have 3 sons, a 13 year old in 7th grade, a 10 year old in 5th grade and a 4 year old in preschool. My concern is with the older boys. How will they feel about it? Up until 2 years ago, I was satisfied with the school system, but now I feel like they aren’t really doing much for my boys. I feel that I could do better, but then I have reservations like “I know nothing about teaching.” How will I be able to work outside of the house? I’m a nurse and I love my job, I love what I what do, but I love my kids more. My husband is military and is basically never home. My biggest hold up is my thought of not knowing what to expect. What if I can’t do it? What if I make things worse? Are these concerns and thoughts normal? Im so torn right now. Please help me…

    1. Sara, those feelings are very normal! Many families who transition from public or private school to homeschool have concerns like these. I would recommend talking to your boys about it to see what they think. It’s definitely easier to do if they are in favor. We have some posts on our site that may be helpful to you. We also have a private Facebook community where homeschooling moms can ask questions and get support, ideas, etc. Since it’s a private Facebook community, you’ll need to request to join. You can find the community here. Sometimes it takes a few days (or more) to get approved because we have so many folks requesting to join, but we’ll try to get you approved as soon as we can. 🙂 One of the articles that may help you is this one. Even if your husband is fine with homeschooling, the links in the article may be helpful to you.

  14. I am considering homeschooling my oldest next school year. He will be entering 4th. He struggles with school work and feeling like he fits in. He has a learning disability and ADHD. We had to fight very hard for the help he does get in school but we have reached a point where the school just can’t meet his needs. So I called the school today to discuss transition to homeschool or part time enrollment. I was very surprised at the blatant disrespect I got from the sped director. She told me that I could not teach him what he needs and he would be even further behind than he already is. I have my teaching degree and taught before I became a mom. I think homeschooling is the best choice for my son but I’m concerned about the transition back to public when he is ready. He will no longer have an IEP and I will have to start back over. On top of that I’m also concerned about retribution from the sped director as she holds grudges. I do not know which situation is the lesser of the two evils. Keep him in public school even though it is not a good fit for him and harmful emotionally just to maintain a good repore with the school or homeschool him and fight a new battle when he’s ready to return?

    1. Tessa, you are correct that this is a very difficult choice! But my question for you would be this. Why does he have to return to public school at some point? Is it possible to continue homeschooling him instead? When I pulled my autistic daughter out of public school many years ago (She’s now 20 years old. I pulled her out of public school to homeschool her when she was about 9 or 10 years old.), I discovered that what I was doing with her at home was far more effective than what they’d been doing with her (or NOT doing with her) at school. She never returned to public school, and she was much more successful at home than she ever would have been at school. If you feel like you must send him back to public school at some point, though, you’ll have to decide which you think is better or worse. It’s a shame that the sped teacher is the kind of person who causes you to have to worry about this! I wish I could tell you the correct decision for your family, but that’s a decision you’ll have to make. If you do decide to homeschool, we hope we can help you! If not, we truly do wish you and your son the best!

  15. I have a 5th grader who is gifted and a 1st grader who is very active and loves an auduence,. He is great at math but slower to read and write. I am certain that homeschooling is the way to go for my 5th grader. But the thought of homeschooling 1st grader scares me. I have a hard enough time getting him to obey me as it is. He is a “live for the moment and make people laugh” kid. What are your thoughts/advice and should they take the same curriculum? My friend home schools and loves the “Classical Conversations” curriculum. On a side note, we know that their learning styles are very different. My oldest took 6 weeks of swim lessons and didn’t even come close to learning how to swim. We put him in a one on one class and he was a pro after 3 lessons. When my youngest took the one on one claaes with the same teacher it was horrible. His behavior was awful and at the end of the summer he still wasn’t swimming. He understood enough to figure out how to swim on his own. We wish we had tried the group classes for him. It was a great lesson in just how night and day my boys are.

    1. It’s very possible that your boys might not enjoy or learn well from the same curriculum. Sometimes it takes a couple of years or so to find what works best for each child. It’s good that you know which one needs one-on-one instruction and which one might do better with more independent work, and it’s perfectly fine to work with them according to how they like learning best. My son (who graduated next week from our homeschool) has always wanted to work more independently, but my younger daughter (age 13) has always wanted me right there with her, and I’ve had to encourage her to be more independent as she’s gotten older. If you have questions or would like input from other moms, you might want to consider joining our private Facebook group where you can get feedback from other moms who’ve “been there and done that.” 🙂 https://www.facebook.com/groups/HipHomeschoolMomsCommunity/

  16. The advice I would give is the one given to me. Take the first year as a learning experience for you both. It’s ok to feel things out, change things up multiple times, and fumble through the first year. The feeling you get from being months in and still not sure of your decision will discourage you, but they won’t fall as behind as you fear. And may even be doing so much better than you thought. Let go of how you think it’s suppose to go and embrace the journey of finding out how your unique journey will go. I felt the same way. Turns out, my disabled child who was the reason we decided to do this, had skipped ahead a grade that first year. And in the 3 years since, he has skipped another. My other kids didn’t, but they have still blossomed. All of them are thriving. I’m so glad I stuck it out through my insecurities that first year. Give yourself patience and grace.

  17. Oh my goodness, this is great advice! It is so hard to let go of the public school mindset, but very freeing when you do!
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