A mom recently sent me an email to say that she is thinking about home schooling her son for a year or two to allow for opportunities that aren’t possible because of the cultural pressure to “keep moving fast and forward without much time to reflect and be centered.” She also asked some excellent questions:
How is Natalie adjusting to high school? Has she gotten a lot of questions from kids or been viewed negatively?
While she was homeschooled, how did you make sure her social skills didn’t get neglected? Did she have opportunities to work and play with kids her age?
Here is my answer to her email and her questions:
Two years of home schooling during the middle school years was a huge gift we gave ourselves to stop, to slow down for reflection and to enjoy learning, our relationships, and the world around us, and to find a sense of balance that we could then apply to life after our adventure, which has included high school.
Natalie is enjoying high school so much. The adjustment period after two years of home schooling was about three weeks. The short period was due in great measure to searching for and finding a high school that emphasizes kindness as much “smartness” (see my chapter excerpt “Warming the Heart vs. Guarding the Heart” on the website).
The high school also approaches learning in a similar way as we did during our two years. For example, the high school does not separate social studies and English. Instead, they teach a humanities class, where geography, history and literature are connected in a world-based curriculum. This is what we did during our “Applewood School” adventure. You can see an example on our website (see sections on our Virtual World Cruise, including an article in the issue of the “Applewood Quarterly” that is on the website).
The student body at Natalie’s high school is small: 270 in four grades. There is a strong sense of community with the entire school meeting four mornings a week for the first 15 minutes of the school day. The teachers are incredibly present, active & available. This is absolutely the opposite of my high school experience. I don’t remember seeing my teachers outside the classroom and I never felt I could meet with them outside class time. Also, the school feels like a safe community. Ever since my high school days, when I remember not feeling safe about going to the bathroom, I look to see how safe it feels to go to the bathroom at schools. I’ve decided that if adults take children’s sense of safety and security seriously, they will make absolutely sure that the bathrooms are clean and safe.
Also, the school has made well-being a priority (which is important to us). School starts later than any other high school (8:30 four days a week, 8:45 one day a week).
In an era when one hears about crazy amounts of homework, the amount of homework tries to be reasonable (it’s more than I was assigned in high school, but less than students are assigned at other schools, and it is never busywork or irrelevant to the next day’s in-class learning).
We were only able to find what we were looking for — warmheartedness, integrated and creative discussion-based curriculum, and an appreciation for the importance of health and well-being — at one private school. The school is unique among both public and private schools. I would love to see this model followed elsewhere. And, the other kids think it’s neat that Natalie was home-schooled for two years and many have said “I wish I could have done that.” Many have shared their terribly unhappy and stressful middle school experiences.
During our two years of home schooling, Natalie did not feel socially isolated. In fact, I write in the “Two in the Middle” book about our conversations about friendship and socialization. Natalie made the humorous observation prior to our final decision to home school that “three-four hours each day with people my age is fine, but seven hours a day is too much.” We knew that she enjoyed spending time with people of all ages, and so home schooling allowed her to do some things with kids her age (dance class twice a week and weekend visits) and also with a wider range of ages (knitting and sewing, yoga class, music). Interestingly, a couple of elementary school friendships grew stronger, as the girls wanted to come spend time at our house (I think taking a step away from group dynamics and peer pressures in their traditional school setting might have been a relaxing break).
If you decide to home school for a year or two, many communities have home school groups, which provide activities and even field trips for both social time and shared learning experiences.
For us, being released from a hyper busy schedule allowed us as parents to help Natalie nurture interests and social contacts that are joyful.
Thank you for the wonderful questions. We love to hear from readers. Please write to us either via a comment to a post (we publish a new post twice a week) or email.