What to expect if they go back to school

Occassionally in an unschoolers life a parent will find it necessary, for their current situation, to put their children back into school - either public or private. Following are some posts on what happened when unschooled children went back to school.
Dianne put her son Nick into high school. Here is what she wrote:

Nick is missing WA state history and World Geography which will set him back in his credits for graduation so I cleared it with his guidance counselor to teach these over the summer. I figured I'd better get busy and find some books or a curriculum, so I called the principal to find out how to get my choices approved and how to be accountable so they would give Nick the credits. Guess what he said? I have done such a great job teaching Nick that all we have to do is bring in a journal and/or hs written work/portfolio in the fall and he will OK it. And by the way, did I want to use the school's text books for this?

Wow! Apparently he hasn't looked at Nick's math grade lately. It's not so good, but he is getting A's in band and science. So, I don't have to buy curriculum and the principal has more confidence in my teaching ability thanI do.


This happened with Melissa! When we put her into high school (when I was so ill) they just asked me to type a brief transcript with subjects covered and her current grades. Well...I never graded or tested her! We kept journals, but I never kept "records." I always knew how well she was doing because I was right there with her while she was learning :-).

Anyway, in my opinion she would have been getting all "A's" but she didn't want it to look like I was favoring her, so she gave herself B's. Several months later, on her very first report card EVER from public school, she DID get all A's and has continued to get them all this year, too! Now she wishes we would have given her the grades she earned on her transcript, LOL.

Whenever I sit in on one of her classes (she begs me to visit at least once a week), her teachers always take me aside afterward and tell me what a wonderful teacher I was! LOL. I always doubted my ability to "teach" but they think I should be teaching at the high school ;-). Most of them don't understand the concept of "self led learning." I've tried to explain how it worked with Melissa, but they just don't think it is possible until a child reaches college age. Strange!

Truthfully, Melissa's only gripe about most of the teachers is that they talk "down" to the students and have such LOW expectations from them. She gets so frustrated. But she continues to learn the way she was taught at home and it seems she is always ahead of her classmates. Everyone thinks she is so "brilliant." when really she is probably just as "smart" as they are. She is not a slacker, by any means. She just knows how to do the research and is very good at managing her time. You know, I've not once had to ask her if she has done her homework, LOL. She especially laughs whenever her classmates fight over who gets her as a partner for group projects.

I hope that most of you will be able to keep your children home with you for as long as you want, but if it become necessary to put them into public school you will be happily surprised to see how they soar. You may think you are not getting through to them, but when they are pushed into situations where they will sink or swim, they usually find their way quite well! I've heard many wonderful comments about homeschooled students from the public school teachers who've had them in their classrooms. They think we are working magic at home ;-). We even had a neighbor who is a teacher come over and ask a bunch of questions about our teaching techniques. She wanted tips from ME! LOL. In fact, the middle school principal lives across the street from us and loves to talk to Melissa . He's amazed at how social she is with adults. Go figure!


I'm afraid I had a rude awakening because I expected Nick to "soar" but he didn't. He is smart and he is not a slacker but he is very disorganized and undisciplined. He wasn't used to having deadlines. He is NOT good at time management. That is most of the reason we put him in high school. He was resisting me and not getting work done. He had never been tested and now we have also learned that he has test performance anxiety.

His teachers all love him and tell us they wish they had a room full of kids like him, but he is struggling with some of the academics.

He is the leader when it comes to group projects though. He has done a lot of them for science this year and has been partnered with kids who didn't do one thing and shared in the A Nick earned. Yes, they search him out to be in his group. I encourage him to invite the kids over here for work on group projects and I have met some great kids. I confess I like to help with the projects too. ;-) The most recent one was a puppet show where they had to teach 4th and 5th graders about rocks and minerals. They made sock puppets and did a great job. The kids loved it.

It has been a pretty good experience for all of us and I think I will have Adam more prepared when he goes to high school this fall. Unlike Nick he likes to write so he will be ahead of the game there.


Melissa's first semester was really tough on her...really. I felt so sorry for her and wanted to bring her back home so badly. But I was too sick and she was very determined to make it work. She, too, has test anxiety (something we never would have seen at home). But she's managed to trick her mind into thinking she's not taking a "test" but rather doing a "project." Whatever works, I guess. We kept telling her we didn't care what her grades were, just as long as we knew she was trying her very best.

Making the transition from homeschool to public school revealed many of her strengths and weaknesses...which we expected. It has been very interesting to see how each new experience has uncovered things about her that even she didn't know existed (good and bad). Fortunately (and unfortunately), Missy found that she is very much a perfectionist. She definitely pushes herself far more than I ever would. We have had to try and help her lower her own standards, before she stresses herself out to the point of overload.

She also found that although she didn't enjoy learning about certain subjects at home, to her surprise, she retained much more knowledge than she realized. Not that public school offered better teaching methods, etc., but rather she found that she HAD to learn them or fail the class. Come to find out, she did not like the idea of failing ;-).

I know each and every experience is unique and that all of our children have strengths and weaknesses that are different from even their own siblings. One of the wonderful privileges of homeschooling our children (for however long is possible) is that we can be part of each learning experience and can see first hand the development and growth of not only their "knowledge" but their character, as well. We have the opportunity to help mold and shape them into compassionate, caring and loving human beings who can offer far more to this world than other children their age who are focused only on "pleasing" their peers. Sadly, many of these children are blind to the possibilities they have to make an impact on the lives of those who cross their path on a daily basis. Thankfully, we have found that there are teachers in the public school system who DO attempt to teach their students such things, but are sadly met with confusion, resistance, and even anger.

I guess my thought on this is that whether or not they "soar" academically cannot be a sign of our success as their teacher. I know that we all struggle with whether or not our children are learning all that their public schooled peers are learning. But I am hoping that we can change our definition of successful teaching at home to reflect those qualities that seem to be so apparent in so many of our homeschooled children...the leadership they display in group settings, the kindness they offer to those who are not valued by their peers, the compassion that seems to come so naturally to them, the respect and ease with which they communicate with a variety of age levels.. In a world that sees such qualities as "unusual," we at home see them as so normal and even necessary.


What a wonderful thoughts- thanks for sharing. It's true that those are some commonalties among all HS children I know. They may be good at "school" type subjects or not, but they almost always excel at the things you mention which are, of course, more important. I also find they have more common sense and are more sure of themselves when dealing with adults. My kids are always respectful, but not afraid to speak up & stand up for themselves with coaches/ teachers/ other parents...


You are absolutely right! I would not trade the last 10 years or so of having my children with me at home. We have a much closer relationship with our children than most of their friends have with their parents and I really treasure that. They are mature for their ages in a lot of ways and they do relate well to all age groups. My husband is very proud of the fact that I taught them all to read and if they never learn another thing, that is the most important, along with character, of course.

In our little corner of the world there are some good Christian teachers in the public school system. Nick's science teacher for one. I have met him and was very impressed with how enthusiastic he is about what he does.


Sending your children back to school after unschooling can have it's ups and downs. For my kids the transition was rocky at best. My two eldest boys had been homeschooled for 8 years - the last three of them as unschoolers. For Kevin, entering 11th grade, meant finding out what the other kids were learning and then coming home each night and going online so that he could "catch-up" on areas that he felt he was missing in. He's biggest complaint was teachers not being clear enough about what they wanted - assuming that all the kids just knew what they were talking about. Having never had to do a formal written report, when this came up in his English class he needed to be given more specific instructions on just how this report was to look. When I tried to give him an outline, he rejected my input and told me that his teacher didn't want that, but at the same time, he had no idea what it was his teacher wanted. Thankfully, since I worked at the school, I was able to talk with his teachers, explain about how Kevin needed their instructions to be very clearn and concise. Once this was established he "soared" (as LeAnne put it) and excelled in school - being promoted to 12th grade after his first quarter! His teacher's commented often that they wished half the class would be as diligent as Kevin was. His attitude was, I'm here to finish school so let's get this over with. It was an intense year for him with very little "social" life as he would come home and concentrate on school work, homework, learning more to stay ahead of his classmates. In his final quarter at school he became much more outgoing, being invited out with his classmates, joining the soccer team and hanging out with the guys.

Now my second oldest, Adam, 13, entering 8th grade...school was much more difficult. He never really relaxed into the whole social aspect of school. He did well in English, History, Science and Math - though at first it was a struggle for him (see "True unschooling" for more of his story). He hated P.E. with a passion and called the P.E. teacher "the mean guy". By Thanksgiving I realized that school just wasn't the best place for Adam, so we withdrew him to homeschool him again.

My daughter, Stephanie, went to preschool for K4 and K5, was unschooled for 1st grade and then she too entered the private school with her brothers for 2nd grade. She had no trouble at all transitioning into school. Her year off "unschooling" was a time for her to explore her own interests, which mostly included reading, riding her bike and exploring the jungles and beaches of Guam. She missed "friends" for she is very social and wanted to be around people at all times - Sunday school and church weren't enough for her. So school for her became a great social time. One thing I noticed with her...while all the other 2nd grade parents were helping their kids with their homework and quizzing them on their spelling words I never bothered. In fact, at times I would tell her forget the homework - she had 6 hours in school to do it and home time was for "other" learning. She still maintained an A/B average and made Honor Roll and Principal's list with no effort. One of her preschool teacher's once told me that you could put Stephanie in front of a rock and she would learn!

I believe that the unschooling lifestyle that we lead (for it is a lifestyle) has made my kids be able to learn despite the teachers, the environment etc. but because they have a desire to learn and a love for learning.

Colleen Smith, Guam




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