You've started seeing some of the signs.... a morning tummy ache, irritable behavior Sunday nights, or even straight up tears when it's time to leave for school in the morning. The middle of the year (January and February) can be some of the hardest times for children who aren't really enjoying their time in school. But so many parents are nervous about pulling their children out of school and starting homeschooling in the middle of a school year. How do I even do it legally? How do I make sure they don't fall behind? How do we create a new rhythm quickly? Isn't it better to "stick it out" until next year?
First of all, it isn't always better to just "stick it out." Sometimes mid-year transitions are what is best, and that is perfectly ok. It happens all the time and there's no reason to continue doing something that isn't working. If being in a classroom is causing stress for your child (and/or you), then sticking it out isn't teaching your child to stay true to a commitment - it's likely causing anxiety and fear around learning, which is exactly the opposite effect we're going for.
So, how do you know when it's a good idea to transition to home learning in the middle of the year?
- Talk to your child. What are they feeling? What is it about school that they aren't enjoying or is upsetting them? If there is just one particular thing that's causing a problem (fear of a certain subject or part of the day, for example) that you could address with the school, that might resolve the situation. However, if it's an overall fear or just a lack of wanting to be there, it might be time to consider homeschooling.
- Talk to the teachers. Don't underestimate your child's teacher's observation powers. If your child isn't wanting to go to school on a regular basis, set up a meeting with your child's teacher to talk about what they're noticing in the classroom. Has your child's demeanor or behavior in the classroom changed? Are they more reserved or less likely to participate? Look for any corroborating evidence that lets you know that this is probably a good time to transition for your child.
- Trust your instincts. Honestly, you probably already know the answer that you're looking for. If you strip away the concerns about "how" and "what will others think/say" what answer is left in your gut? Usually our instincts guide us in the proper direction for our kiddos. And the best news of all is that no decision about education has to be permanent. You can transition back to school anytime if that is needed.
Now, let's talk about the actual transition....
The first step is the legal part, and truthfully that's the easiest step! You'll have to check your state regulations, but usually it's as simple as notifying the school board of your intent to withdraw and homeschool. Your child's school office can absolutely help you with this and point you in the direction of the proper liaison/office to contact in the school district who handles homeschool registration.
Then begins the mental and emotional transition for your child.
Do not expect to jump right into "school at home" type of routines or activities. Your child will need some time to decompress and adjust to their new routines and daily patterns, and connection with you will be the most important thing that you can offer. In many circles, this time period is called "deschooling" and it is a space that you allow your child to adjust and set new expectations after a time spent in a classroom. In most classroom scenarios, children follow adult-structured timelines, routines, and activities, and unlearning that rhythm in favor of trusting their own instincts, following a natural learning rhythm, and getting to learn based on their interests takes some time. The common rule of thumb is to allow one month of deschooling for every year that your child spent in a classroom. This, of course, will depend on your unique child.... trust that they will let you know when they're ready for some more focused and structured learning activities. Not only does this process of mental and emotional detoxing help your child, it will help you and other members of the family adjust to the new normal as well.
Begin your transition by focusing on connection with your child. Spend time doing things together that you know they love, let them choose activities and excursions, and help them rekindle a passion for learning and exploring what they're interested in.
It is perfectly normal to expect some regression in communication and behaviors as your child decompresses and works through their feelings and emotions about this transition time. Respond with love, understanding, and humor. Don't take this regression phase personally or as a sign that you made the "wrong choice." Give your child time and space to work it all out!
After a period of focusing purely on connection, you can begin to introduce some new learning materials to the learning space in ways that allow your child to self-discover them through invitations to create, provocations, etc.
As your child begins to engage more and more with what you're setting up for them in the environment, you will have the opportunity to observe them and discover what they're most interested in learning about more in depth, giving you the opportunity to seamlessly transition to a natural learning experience at home!
This is a wonderful time to consider a natural learning curriculum like Your Natural Learner that allows you to follow your child's interests and needs in a natural, child-led way! Check out the Curriculum tab at the top of this page to see all of the amazing options available to you.