Help! My First Grader Wants To Go To School!
Homeschoolers come in all sizes, shapes and persuasions. Most of us don't homeschool because we think we know it all. We choose to spend more time with our children, in hopes of giving them the best start in life as possible. Self doubt comes with the territory. After all, our children didn't come with manuals any more than yours did.
Fortunately, our support groups provide a wealth of knowledge and expertise that money can't buy.
During a recent discussion on CHN's E-mail support group, an interesting topic came up regarding homeschooling a child who wants to go to public school. Michele writes to the group asking for advice:
I'm getting resistance to homeschooling from the person I least expected it from... my son! He is 6 and will be in first grade this year. He attended kindergarten in public school last year.
(My husband and) I can't wait to get started but I don't know how to positively spin it, other than the obvious (more time with Mom, learning in a fun exciting way, more "field trips" etc).
I should also tell you that he has autism, but is very high functioning. However, he really struggled socially (he just doesn't know it... ahh the one and only blessing of autism). He just keeps telling me he doesn't want me to be his "teacher," he likes his teacher. The problem is, kindergarten is a fun place for the most part (play, paint, sing). That is what his perception is of school. I don't know how to "sell" against it.
Has anyone else had this problem? I want to start on a positive, not trying to prove him wrong.
Thanks for any advice!
Homeschoolers are generally pretty helpful people and we tend to be an opinionated bunch, so she received quite a few excellent responses to help her with her dilemma. Laura responded with:
Have Fun Not School
I have some advice, don't tell him you are starting. Play games, do art projects, go on field trips, read stories, go to play dates, etc. After a few weeks you can tell him you have already been doing school with mom and how does he like having you for a teacher?
Depending on your homeschool philosophy, tell him there are times you are going to have him do worksheets, write sentences, or whatever your plans are. Start out slow and build up to what works for both of you.
Now that I've spouted off my thoughts, I will tell you I have some experience with this. I have 5 special need kids. The oldest has Asperger's and has been high functioning.
If you are going to the Expo, I am giving a session on homeschooling the special needs child.
Karen Taylor is the coordinator for the well-attended annual Family Expo sponsored by the California Homeschool Network held in Ontario, CA. She responded with sound advice only a seasoned homeschooler could provide:
Grown-Ups Make Decisions
I can't help with the autistic part, and I'm assuming that might impact how you will respond to him. There are many who homeschool autistic kids who will be able to offer the special support you need.
Many new homeschoolers face your same dilemma, however. For the general population of kids, the matter of fact approach will save a lot of grief. Education is a parenting moment, and is something that the parent decides for the child because they are too young to make that decision since they don't have the experience to weigh all considerations. Non-homeschooling parents make that decision all the time, without consulting their child.
Parents check out schools and decide which school and maybe even which teacher is best suited for their child. But, when it comes to homeschooling, society seems to think we should ask our little ones what they want to do. That's entirely too much pressure for the kid, and it also sets the parent up for a lifetime of the child calling the shots. Children are quite comfortable with parents making the grown up decisions, and there's a security in thinking your parent is taking care of things when you're young.
Kids don't need teachers, they need parents, and one thing I've noticed is that little kids can get a bit worried if they think they're about to lose their mom or dad and gain a live-in teacher. Some of you may find it's easier to not tell your child that you'll be their teacher, and it may be easier to tell them that some kids go to school and some kids don't, and they aren't. Period.
No asking if they will be happy since no one is happy all the time. No mention of teachers, although if asked, then you could say that teachers are not required and are people who are hired in schools when a lot of kids need to be taught at the same time, rather than at home. Years ago I read a feature story about a homeschooling family and the child called his mom "Mrs." during their "school" hours because Mom was not mom, but his teacher then. That's the extreme, for sure!
You know, Michele, I'm wondering why the Kindergarten teacher can't remain your son's teacher and you his mom. Perhaps it can be explained that yes, Mrs. Teacher is special and she will always be his kindergarten teacher and he can still see her or write to her sometime, but the school rule is that she must now teach new 5 year olds for one year. I don't know that you want to try to replace her, or call yourself his teacher because in his mind, she's the best, and that's okay. Basically, school was for one year, and now it's over, and he will be doing other things. I'm also wondering if autisic kids (like all kids??) do better with year round life learning as opposed to taking official breaks in their routine. Nothing says that home educating needs to look anything like school!
Maybe homeschooling could be compared to vaccinating. We all make the decision to vaccinate or not, and we do it without our young child's help. If you asked a 5 year old if he wanted shots, we know what the answer would be because he doesn't have all the information, and only knows it would hurt! So, we do the research and make the decision without worrying our child about it. If we decide to vaccinate, we make an appointment and just do it, and we don't ask the child if he's happy with or decision. If we decide not to, we just say nothing. Home Education can be the same way.
Karen makes some very good points. Young children don't have the life experience that parents do and generally will fixate on one particular point, in Michele's case it was the love of his teacher, for my son it was playtime with other children. It may be entirely something else for your child. The important thing is to talk opening with your son or daughter. Try to understand their concern and address those topics. Don't try to complicate the matter. Young children are normally pretty straightforward and don't require lengthy explanations, just honest answers to their concerns.
Of course, I had my own thoughts on the topic, which I added to the discussion:
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Children Go Through Phases
I have a grandson who is autistic as well. He has trouble transitioning from one situation to another. Having a routine is very important to him, change can create stress, so making the transition as smoothly as possible is essential to his well-being. You have received some terrific advice, so I won't go there. I just wanted to remind you that he is six. My son went through a phase at this age, where he thought he wanted to go to school as well.
We discussed it with him, to try to ascertain his mind set. His main objective was that he wanted more children to play with. I explained to him that children who attend public school are constantly being reminded by their teachers that they aren't in school to play and that play time is strictly limited.
We made more of an effort to get him around more children. It's not easy living in a small community with very few homeschoolers and those that do, generally homeschool through churches or charter schools.
My point is that at six your son has an idea in his head that is probably more connected with his love for his teacher, than for the love of school. Just keep him busy, have fun and let the whole school issue drop. I doubt he'll notice. Most six year olds aren't very good judges of time.
Enjoy having your son home.
The past couple days my own son has been in heaven because all the neighboring vacationer's are up here. He's had lots of kids to play with. It's been very entertaining listening to them interact "on their own." We've had so much flack from relatives that we were a bit concerned about how he would fare in "society." We need not have worried, he handles himself very well. I'm so happy.
This same topic is likely to come up from time to time with your child. Just because he or she voices their concerns does not mean you need to run right out and enroll your child in your local school. Sometimes they are just toying with the idea, playing what-if. Sometimes they just want reassurance and at other times your child is looking for your guidance and leadership.
It is at these times, it helps to "know" your child. If you are in tune with them, you will know how to react and how to address the situation. Don't panic. Take a deep breath and address the issue in an age appropriate way.
It's hard to stand by and watch insecure parents give in to their children's whime and return them to the local school district at the first sign on dissatisfaction in their child. I'm not saying a parent child never yield to a child's wishes or that a child should never be re-enrolled in school, just that the decision needs to be looked at from all angles and the parent must ultimately make the best decision for his or her child and not cave in to pressure from the child (especially if the child is 10 or under).
The older the child, the more decision making power they should be given. As our children grow and mature they must be given the ability to learn to make good decisions for themselves. A young person who has never been allowed to make decisions will be at a distinct disadvantage once they leave home. As many of you have heard me say time and time again, home should be the proving ground, the place to comfortably make mistakes.
Resources For Educating Little Ones
- Learning to Read - What are the basic steps?
- The Road to Homeschool: Making The Big Decision
- Home Preschool Curriculum Guide
- Reading: The Easiest and Best Homeschool Curriculum
- Reading Curriculum Ideas
- Links to Free Online Books
- Purchase Gently Used Children's Books
Updated: September 25, 2006