A poignant letter from a homeschool mom to her child’s new teacher in the event her homeschooled child needs to transition to public school.
If My Homeschooled Child Needs to Unexpectedly Attend Public School
“When I was a teacher, all the kids who came to me that were previously homeschooled were socially maladjusted in the classroom setting.”
I ran into a teacher friend at Walmart last night who used this as his reasoning for being adamantly against the homeschool movement that’s growing in our area (side note: two years later, he started homeschooling his own kids too – and has continued for many years now). And honestly, I don’t blame him for his opinion; I once believed the same thing. When I worked in public schools, I also labeled the previously homeschooled kids as weird and unsocialized. In my quick judgment of them, I wasn’t understanding of their desperate, confused, and often failed attempts to “get with the program.”
Of course, now that I have my own child in Kindergarten, happily homeschooling her, I realize how judgmental I was on those poor kids and their families. And I realized that should something happen to me, my children might be thrown into public schools, amidst those teachers who might judge them without even getting to know them first.
So, after another night of not sleeping with early-onset contractions (I’m currently 36 weeks pregnant), I’ve been thinking, and writing. I hope this letter inspires teachers in classrooms to give homeschooled kids a little more grace as they transition to public school.
To My Child’s New Teacher, in the Event She Must Attend Public School:
I was a homeschooling mom. I did it because I love my child, plain and simple. I wanted the best for her, just like any other parent. I’ve kept her out of public/private school for any number of reasons, and I guarantee you it was not to make her socially maladjusted. My end goal has always been to raise my child up in a manner in which she can be a confident, capable, respectful, and level-headed adult, able to function admirably and with dignity in a world where most people aren’t, and don’t. Yes, homeschooling is “different” but it’s not necessarily antisocial.
In your eyes, I have probably spoiled her.
I love my kid more than anything in the world, and yes, I probably did “spoil” her with love, attention, and the knowledge that she was worth everything to me. She is not going to be used to the fact that you have 30 other children to balance the needs of, and that you won’t love her as a mother would. That’s going to be a harsh reality for her to adjust to.
She’s used to more balanced and healthy social situations and activities.
Our daily routine often began with my child recognizing that her world did, in fact, revolve around her – her schoolwork, her spiritual and emotional development, her nutrition, her enjoyment, and yes, even her social experiences. She knew that my every thought went into making sure she received a harmonious balance of activities and experiences. She will naturally find it shocking that you won’t do the same thing for her. She also has been able to avoid places that have involved bullies and mean kids, and now she won’t be able to escape them.
She loves hard.
We had a very strong family attachment. My child loves me as much as I loved her, and we told each other all the time. We were respectful of each other, something that took years to instill even with our “protectiveness” from the more “socialized” kids and their families with which she has already been exposed. We enjoyed our time together, and we were our favorite people to be around and hang out with. My child loves her siblings, no matter what the age difference is, and yes, separation for a whole day from her “best friends” who love her unconditionally will probably be emotionally traumatic at first. She won’t know how to react at first when someone turns down her offer of love and friendship.
She has been raised to treat others with respect.
My child will be reasonably outraged when they encounter peers who are disrespectful of adults and their classmates; it will add to her anxiety and confusion in her new setting. After all, we’ve taught our child that love and respect are the most important things when communicating with others.
My child may seem shy or withdrawn from their “socially adjusted” peers, but she embraces differences, will stand up for injustice, and will not tolerate bullies.
She’s not socialized as you would recognize it.
We have very different views about what socialization means. My child may seem unsocialized and “different” from her peers, but my young girl can carry on a meaningful conversation with an elderly person about anything, and she can nurture and care for a 2-year-old who’s fallen and scraped their knee. She’s not used to conversations being limited to a discussion of the latest iPhone app, the most popular toys, or after-school cartoons. Those things just haven’t been ingrained to be important to her, and she will need some time to learn how to relate to her peers who probably don’t know how to talk about anything else.
She’s learned in a comfortable environment her whole life.
Don’t be surprised that my child may seem uncomfortable, quiet, and withdrawn as she goes through the transition to public school. She probably will not be comfortable in the harshness of an institution, following prescribed routines (Huh? Bathroom breaks only at 9:30 11:15 and 1:45?) and have, for the first time, limited access to educational resources (What? Only three library books at a time? Computer lab only once a week?). Nor will she easily be able to tolerate even the hard tile floor beneath her feet. She’s used to running around in socks and pajamas until 11:00 in the morning. She’ll probably be physically exhausted too, not used to the morning rush to catch a school bus at 6:30 in the morning. And she won’t be used to a 6 or 7-hour school day; she’s usually done by noon.
She won’t know how to raise her hand to speak or wait in line.
My child may not remember to raise her hand to speak, but she will know all the answers to your questions. My child may not understand the importance of completing homework assignments on time, but she can discuss topics with passion and accuracy beyond what you’d expect for a child her age. My child may not have “memorized” all her addition facts within 3 minutes yet, but she could calculate them in her own ways in her head at age three. My child may not excel in Writing or Spelling, but she has an insatiable desire to investigate and acquire knowledge – a natural love for learning new things.
What else would you expect, honestly?
What exactly would you expect from my kid? She’s had it great until now. Her life has been blissfully ignorant of what institutionalized life is like, and other children’s school experiences have been almost like a fairy tale to her.
She probably came to you her first day in your classroom with all kinds of excitement and anticipation of what it’s like in the “real world.”
Imagine her disappointment.
Now look at those other “socially maladjusted” kids who are already in your classroom – who have been in the “real world” their whole lives, yet still haven’t “gotten with the program.” Isn’t my child doing a much better job at adjusting, considering the differences in circumstances?
Imagine the strength, the dignity, the character required of someone, especially a child, to attempt to transition to public school. She’s thrust into an intimidating environment after all. Especially a setting about which she’s only heard exciting and hopeful things from her friends and family trying to prepare her for the experience. I’d be willing to bet that my child would have a lot to be personally proud of if someone recognized her adjustment period as what it truly is.
Love her through this transition, and help her succeed.
If you’re reading this letter, then there’s some reason I am unable to continue homeschooling my child. We knew when we began homeschooling that this might happen, as it does to many homeschooling families.
If my homeschooled child did get thrust into your classroom, I truly hope you’d offer her some grace and dignity as she adjusts. I understand your time and patience is limited, I used to be a public school teacher myself, but take a moment to really think about what she’s going through before you label her as weird and write her off as socially maladjusted. It’s not her fault, give her a chance.
Label me if you have a need to judge anyone, but not her. If you don’t squelch her strengths, and if you respect and encourage her rather than frustrate and hinder her, I guarantee you she will transition to public school and adjust more than well enough. That’s how she’s been raised – with enough love and instilled values that even hardships and discouragement can’t break her.
You have the power to make it easier for her. Open your heart, see her potential, and take care of this one. She’s been placed in your care for now. Prepare her for what’s to come, and help her to rise and succeed through this transition.
Your New Student’s First Teacher