If you’ve been homeschooling, but have recently decided to send your child to a public or private school, you need to prepare yourself and your youngster for a significant transition. Even if your child is excited about the upcoming change, you can count on dealing with a little discomfort and even some stress as he or she becomes accustomed to attending school in a traditional classroom environment. Planning ahead and arming yourself with some tried-and-true strategies can make this transition a bit more manageable for both you and your child. Here are some things you can do to plan ahead and ease any fears your child may have:
1. Talk with your child about what to expect.
Once you’ve decided to make the change from homeschooling to a regular classroom, the first step is to talk to your child about what to expect. Of course, the main difference will be the presence of many other children in the same class as your child. Since he’s likely used to having the teacher’s (in this case—your) undivided attention, this will take some getting used to. Discuss some techniques your child can use to be patient when waiting for the teacher’s assistance.
2. Visit the school administrator.
As soon as you identify the school that your child will be attending, make an appointment with the school administrator. Introduce yourself, and explain your child’s academic history. Ask for a course guide or similar document which can provide you with information about the subjects and content standards you child will be learning as well as those she will be expected to know already. The sooner you do this, the better. If you have the information well in advance, then you’ll have a greater opportunity to ensure that your child is academically prepared for her new school curriculum.
3. Take a tour of the school.
If your child has never walked the halls of a “real” school before, it can be an intimidating experience. Plan ahead for this possible discomfort by taking a tour of the school prior to your child’s first day. The school administrator may be able to arrange for you and your child to take a guided tour after school hours or between classes. Becoming familiar with the new surroundings and atmosphere beforehand will help your child alleviate any stress he is experiencing about the upcoming transition.
4. Visit the classroom ahead of time.
Just as the school environment as a whole can be intimidating, so can a regular education classroom. It’s likely that your child’s former homeschooling environment will bear little or no resemblance to a bustling classroom environment in which the teacher must supervise and instruct many students at once. Making a point to visit the classroom ahead of time and learn some of the regular classroom procedures and routines can make the difference between whether your child feels overwhelmed on his first day of public or private school or whether she is able to assimilate easily into the new environment.
5. Ask the teacher for a syllabus or list of reading materials.
There’s a good chance that your child’s homeschooling curriculum was very different from the one he will be exposed to in his new school, but in order to find out for sure, you’ll need access to information regarding the subjects your child will be studying and if applicable, the different classes he will be taking. As you visit your child’s classroom(s), talk with the teacher, and ask for a course syllabus and list of required reading materials. If such documents aren’t available, ask the teacher to verbally explain what your child will be responsible for learning during the school year, and take notes as she talks. Then, make it your goal to help prepare your child as much as possible for learning the new material before school starts. The teacher may also be able to offer you some resources such as textbooks, worksheets, or online resources that can help fill in any gaps in learning your child may have prior to the new school year.
6. Find out who the students are in the class.
Students who have been exclusively exposed to homeschooling can find the social aspect of a regular classroom to be somewhat challenging. In order to lessen the impact of this potential obstacle, try to help your child make friends before school begins. If possible, get a list of the other students who will be in your child’s class. Reach out to their parents, and see if you can schedule a time for the children to meet and get to know one another. Making even one friend prior to school starting can make a big difference in your child’s comfort level and willingness to be social as he is introduced into a standard classroom.
7. Arrange a meeting with the guidance counselor.
The school’s guidance counselor can be a great resource as you attempt to prepare your child for the transition from homeschooling to public or private school. Not only can this person share some advice with you about how to make the transition smoother for your child, she can also schedule regular meetings with her to check in and make sure that the student is assimilating well to the new circumstances. In essence, the guidance counselor can act as both a coach and an advocate for your child as she goes through this potentially difficult change.
The move from homeschooling to regular education can be tough for many students. Like any other obstacle to overcome in life, however, preparation is key. Talking to your child as well as the administrators, teachers, students, and guidance counselors at the school is a great way to help pave the way for a smooth transition, ensuring that your child has the best possible chance for success in this new environment. Focus on preparing your child emotionally, socially, and academically for the switch beforehand, and try to give yourself and your child as much time as possible to get used to the idea and to implement strategies to ensure you’re both adequately prepared.