Over the years I’ve written a little about my family and our schooling choices in this space. For the past five years or so, we’ve been homeschooling. We started pretty strictly but didn’t hit our stride until we embraced classical unschooling. We’ve been taking it one year at a time, each year looking a little different than the last.
Things are looking very different this spring: we’re not homeschooling anymore.
We haven’t always homeschooled our kids, and we’ve held our choices pretty loosely, trying to give each child what they need. My older three have been doing a cottage school (or university school, depending on where you live) for the past two years; my youngest started kindergarten at a school in our neighborhood last fall.
These have been good arrangements: they’ve been working for our family. But Will and I have been feeling for a while now that it was time to make a change.
To condense a long journey (that, I’m sorry to say, had moments of high drama, mostly on my part) into a few paragraphs: we started exploring full-time options a while ago. We wanted to get the lay of the land, but we didn’t feel ready to make the leap.
This year, we felt it was time. We made applications for the kids to start full-time school in the fall. They were admitted, and then the shocker: the school recommended they start immediately (as per usual, believing rolling admissions ease the transition). We had nine days’ notice.
After enough inner turmoil to fuel a Lifetime movie, we went for it.
The transition hasn’t been painless, but it has been good—far better than I dared to hope. And now that we’re largely acclimated to our new communities, schedules, and routines, I can see how much I learned in the process.
1. “Good for us” and “good on paper” are not the same thing. For well over a year, I envisioned my four kids happily ensconced at a local school not far from our home with a philosophy I loved. I could visualize our daily routines so easily. I thought about which street we’d choose when we moved closer.
But when we actually toured and shadowed and met with the administrators, it became abundantly clear that this school might be good, but it wasn’t a good fit. (I wish I could tell you I didn’t completely freak when I realized we had to go back to the drawing board.)
2. Keep an open mind (and bite your tongue). A couple of years ago a friend I’d previously only known on the internet moved to town. She asked me my opinion about grocery stores and dry cleaners and hiking trails and … a certain local school. I told her unequivocally that I would never send my kids there, and I was pretty outspoken with my reasons.
Can you guess where my kids are enrolled now? Yep. I thought so.
3. Trust your people, trust your gut. When Will and I found out that my kids were accepted—and that we needed to decide quickly (9 days!) if we wanted to start them immediately, we quickly reached out to a small circle of people who knew us or our kids really well, friends and professionals that we had a history with, who’d helped us walk through big transitions before.
We didn’t ask, What should we do? We did ask, Help us think this through.
We made lists, and asked ourselves lots of questions. We talked endlessly about our kids’ personalities. We imagined that the transition went well, or not, and asked ourselves why that would have happened. We asked what we would tell our best friends to do in a similar situation.
4. Mid-year transitions are more common than I’d realized. We were sure we wanted to make the switch, but we weren’t sure when. A mid-year transition sounded so disruptive, and highly unusual.
Yet when I started asking around, I was shocked to discover how many of my friends’ families had experiences such a transition firsthand, either because of a move or a transition like our own. A few teachers shared the inside scoop on the difference between onboarding a whole class in August and onboarding a handful of students in November or February. They were uniformly positive about the experience. I was flabbergasted.
We decided to make the leap: my kids started full-time school about two months ago. It’s such a relief to be happily settled, at least for now. Real life is never struggle-free, and I’m sure we’ll have some bumps (or worse) along the way. We’re not planning on making any changes anytime soon, but we’ll continue to hold this choice loosely, trusting that if, or when, the time comes to make a change, we’ll know it.
How have YOU known it’s time to make a change? What did you learn from the experience? I’d love to hear your stories in comments.