Parents and families have more educational options today than ever before. And sometimes all those choices mean your homeschool family might decide to switch schools midstream—from home education to a private school or even to public school.
That’s the decision Melanie Wilson and her husband made when their 15-year-old son said he wanted to go to a public high school. It’s also the decision thousands of other homeschool families make at some point during their children’s school years.
That transition can be hugely intimidating, and that’s why we’re addressing it in today’s blog post. If you’ve thought about making the change to a public school, this post is perfect for you. But even if you plan to homeschool all the way through, don’t tune out the tips below! You never know when life circumstances will dictate a change. Let’s dive right in!
1. Keep detailed records
All homeschoolers should keep detailed records, even if you never plan to put your kids into a traditional school setting. Some states require that homeschooling parents keep an attendance log and maintain certain hours of school each day. Others are more lenient. But regardless of what your state requires, it’s best to maintain records of attendance, curriculum used for each year of school, grades earned, and any exam scores.
Being able to provide this information to the public school could make the difference between your child being placed into the grade level they should be or having to repeat a year or two of school.
2. Prepare for a classroom setting
Give your child experience taking notes and taking a variety of types of tests. The typical homeschool student usually doesn’t need to take a lot of notes, but it’s a valuable skill to teach your child once they are capable of reading and writing. If they end up in public school, you’ll both be glad you took the time to train in note taking!
The same goes for teaching your child how to take tests. You may want to make sure at least one curriculum you use in your homeschooling has a testing component to give your child some experience in being tested and understanding how to take tests. HSLDA has an excellent article on their website about teaching your child to take tests.
You may also want to have your child take a yearly standardized test such as the Stanford Achievement Test. Many private schools open up testing spots to homeschoolers. You also have the option to do the testing at home if you wish. One option is to sign up with a service such as Homeschool Testing Services.
3. Get the timing right
Some grade levels are better than others for enrolling your child into public school. I homeschooled my oldest daughter from 2nd through 8th grade and then decided to let her try public high school. It was quite easy to put her into 9th grade because we were not claiming that she had earned any credits. This put her on the same footing as all the other incoming freshman.
I have friends who enrolled 10th and 11th grade students from homeschooling to public school and it was not as smooth of an experience. Their children had to repeat courses already completed, which was frustrating to the parents and kids. Some schools will test students to place them, whether you’re enrolling in elementary or high school.
In Texas, where I homeschool, each school district makes their own decision on how to handle students who are coming from unaccredited schools. One way to get around this problem is to enroll your child in an accredited online school, so that if or when you enroll them in public school their previous work will be accepted.
4. Smooth the transition with an online public school
If you know for certain that you are going to enroll your child into public school, then you may wish to enroll in an online public school so that your child’s transition to public school is seamless. Be aware that online public schools are basically school at home, and expect the student to be in attendance for certain days and hours, to take standardized tests, and to adhere to other requirements that public schools have.
This is a good solution for many families who only plan to homeschool for just a year or two. An online public school is usually free, while an accredited online school has tuition.
5. Get wisdom from other parents
Talk to parents in your area who have put their homeschooled students into public school. They will be knowledgeable about the whole process and can advise you on what was helpful or what not to do. If nothing else, they’ll be able to be supportive and understanding of what you are going through.
Your family and friends who don’t homeschool may have a hard time understanding all the emotions and stress you and your child are under during this transition, so it’s important to surround yourself with like-minded folks.
Whether planned or unplanned, transitioning from homeschooling to public school can be an emotional journey for your whole family. Hopefully the tips we outlined will help you to navigate this transition as painlessly as possible.