The topic of kids returning to school comes up often in the Facebook group. Sometimes it's due to the kids requesting, other times the family is undergoing changes and the educational path changes too. All kinds of reasons can make this happen. I want to share 10 tips with you, if your path is going to include sending your kids to (or back to school) after unschooling.
But I also want you to know, you're not alone.
And I know you may feel judged or sad that you didn't get the chance to make unschooling work.
About feeling judged... you did the best you can with what you knew at the time. You're not a school kid being reprimanded by the teacher - you're a parent that has a lot on their plate. And you were trying to let your child enjoy their childhood and live an autonomous life. One of mine did this, and I had a lot of mixed emotions about it. Remember that people who are used to conformity and using shaming tools to get people back in line are not your people. Ignore them.
About feeling sad... as a parent with grown "kids," I can tell you that life doesn't always go the way you visualized. And the sooner we learn to let go of the stories in our heads, the happier we will be. Deal with what is happening now. And see if there are still ways you can implement unschooling ways into The Present moments. You will have an entire lifetime to parent your child. Stay focused on what's needed Now.
With that said... let's move to what's happening and what you can do about it...
10 Tips for Kids Returning to School
- Avoid using the word “unschooling.” Call it homeschooling. From a legal standpoint, it is. And unschooling can freak people out - especially judges, school admin, and exes that want to paint you as a wacko.
- Don't panic. If the kids have to go to school, they’ll be ok.
Let the school know you’ve been taking an experiential progressive approach to learning and they might be behind in some things and way ahead in others. But that they are fast learners and you have no doubt they’ll catch up quickly. (All true.)
- Reassure the kids that they will be fine and that the school will teach them what they need and quiz them on the following Friday. Easy Peasy. No need to do some frantic prep to “get them ready.” It probably wouldn’t stick anyway because the stress level would be high and they don’t really want to do it.
- Use your time wisely. Use this time with the kids to connect with them. Remind them of their strengths and how much you love them. Use everything you’ve learned about unschooling to continue to prioritize the connection with them, after school, before school, weekends, holiday breaks.
- Be their Advocate Once they go to school, remember that your job is still to advocate for them. What the school wants is secondary to you listening to them and helping them navigate. You don't have to be a warden for the school in your home. If they really don't want to do something, so be it. Maybe you could help them, or maybe it's ok if they're just a so-so student. If you have stories in your head about “being called into the principal’s office,” you’ll need to work on that so you can put your child’s needs above your own fears and self-doubt. Fake it till you make it.
- Know what's required - and what isn't. Pay attention to the truancy laws and let your kids have periodic Skip Days to hang with you and recover from The Grind.
- Help them with homework. Do some of it with them. Remember that this is a process for them to figure out, and they don't have any say over it. Help them. Also remember that a) their grades don't really matter, b) they learn more about accomplishing things when they are things that MATTER to them.
- They don't have to be great students. Remember that their grades are not the most important thing. Their mental health is. “Passing” is good enough. They can get into college via community college even if they flunk out. If that’s what they even want to do. And you may have to unpack a little yourself, if you were an "A" student - it's not necessary for them to be.
- Get a therapist for them. This is especially important if the situation is being caused by divorce. The kids will have a bundle of emotions to work through and may not want to add more to your load. Help them have somewhere they can process. RoyaDedeaux.com is a grown unschooler that is a licensed therapist. (Just a suggestion) And, actually, lots of kids could benefit from therapy. Coming into a school after having been unschooled may be worrisome to them. Having an objective person to talk to is always a good idea - for all of us, really! But especially kids in transition.
- This could all be temporary. This may not be a forever thing. After the dust settles, you may be able to pull them back out.
So if YOUR CHILD is choosing school, don't take it personally. Think of it as "An Experiment." They may need to see first-hand what it's all about.
If your child is going to school because of divorce or custody issues, hugs to you! Do what you can to prevent the kids from being used as pawns - even if it's your ex that's really doing this. Focus on helping the kids cope with whatever is coming their way.
Need Someone To Talk to About It?
Sometimes you just need to talk to someone who's done this.
I've been through this with one of my own children wanting to "try" high school. I'm happy to brainstorm with you about how to cope with this new phase of parenting.
Let's set up a private coaching session to chat. You may need someone in your corner to help you wade through it all.