From Homeschooling to Public School: What I’ve Learned About My Kids and Myself {Guest post}

Hi! I’m Scooper and I blog at a la mode: a little scoop for every slice of life. I’ve known Julie for nearly 10 years. We have journeyed through a myriad of highs and lows together–raising children, navigating marriage, and making tough decisions about the ways we educate our children. Here is my story. She asked if I’d post it here today and truly, I’m honored.


Sharing our journey from homeschool to public school is a scary topic for me. First of all, the way each family chooses to educate children is a deeply personal decision. We toss around words like “conviction” and “calling” because our deeply-held desires for our children flow out of our values and beliefs. And that’s as it should be.

The second reason I’m scared is because I am so all over the map on any given day. One of my closest friends {who homeschools} knows I can’t really talk about homeschooling right now. I can’t dish about curriculum like I used to. I’m still a bit fragile over the whole thing. Homeschooling was more of my identity than I’d realized.

My own convictions are not that cemented, which makes feel wishy-washy. I’m afraid that if I write about how public school has been great for my kids {and for me} and then we bring one or all of them back home in the future, I’ll have to eat my words. And my big fat pride just hates that.

The third reason I tread very lightly on this topic is because when one person’s conviction is not another person’s, well, things can become dicey. Sometimes educational choices can feel like religion or politics. We can become cliquish, dogmatic, self-righteous, and graceless. It doesn’t always start out that way but it’s easy to understand why this happens.

When you homeschool, you’re in the minority and you desperately need community and encouragement. It’s hard, it’s still sort of unchartered territory, it’s not “normal.” You need your people. And in some circles or certain churches, public schooling {or private schooling} can place you in the minority. You need community and encouragement too. Because it’s also hard and you need your people.

For nearly five years, I had my people. Oh I still had plenty of friends and acquaintances who were doing public school. But for very practical reasons, our lives did not overlap as much. So now I have my people who are still homeschooling and my people who are public schooling. I know what it’s like to do both. And because my family’s “way” is very much in flux and that is so uncomfortable, I cannot even begin to tell you how unsettled I feel.

My homeschooling community was amazing. I actually had friends in various homeschooling communities but we all did that weird thing of not sending our kids to school. Being “weird” is what bonded us all. I went to practicums and conferences. I read lots of books. I researched. I felt inspired. But in retrospect I’m realizing that I was also indoctrinated. Yes, that sentence was passive. The truth is, I indoctrinated myself.

There is a fine line between inspiration and indoctrination. It’s not always one or the other but we need to be wise in recognizing when it shifts from the former to the latter. I tried to be wise. I am a natural-born skeptic. I tend to be analytical and discerning. But sometimes our emotions trump our brains. I think that happened to me a little bit with homeschooling.

I still love the idea of it. Love. I know {and envy} homeschool families who do it beautifully and who have raised the most amazing, equipped kids. And because The Man and I reserve the right to change our minds, I may be a homeschool mom again.

But I won’t be the same homeschool mom.

I know myself better. And I’d pay myself better too. I’m also more able to recognize when inspiration shifts to indoctrination and I will run the other direction. Fast.

But I don’t just know myself better. I know my kids better too. And do you know why?

Because I sent them to school.

That sounds counterintuitive. In fact, plenty of homeschool families told me that homeschooling allows you to know your kids better. And it does. But moms and kids can also fall into ruts when they’re together all the time. Familiarity can breed contempt {or at least annoyance} but it can also create blind spots. At least it did for me.

I’ve learned that my son is infinitely more motivated when he’s surrounded by lots of people. A true extrovert, he is inspired by social energy. At home, he was smart but sluggish, capable but distracted. Going to school brings out the best in him and he has a way of bringing out the best in others.

He loves his classmates and his teacher and they love him. He is full of compassion, near tears when he tells me about the kid who gets in trouble the most. He has an uncanny ability to see past kids’ behavior and analyze the ways in which home and academic struggles influence poor decisions and leave certain kids at risk. It sort of freaks me out. He’s only 8.

But he’s totally normal too. When he comes home from school, he tells me what he’s learned but more importantly, how many interceptions he caught during recess. Today he informed me that he’s #5 on the Heisman watch. {Who knew that 2nd graders have a parallel football universe?} We spent last week at the beach and when we returned on Saturday, he told me that he couldn’t wait for Monday. What’s Monday? I asked. School! I just can’t wait to see everybody, he replied enthusiastically. I’ve no doubt he’ll cry on the last day of second grade.

I’ve learned that my daughter is crazy about science. She has recently declared that she will one day get a PhD in Biology and a Master’s degree in teaching. She’ll be an artist on the side. And though she will likely change her mind 17 times before she has to make those decisions, it’s exciting to see her excited. The girl has become enthusiastic and driven, thriving on the social and academic culture of school. She loves having different teachers who teach their subjects well and passionately. I’ve also observed that she studies for tests by recruiting a willing family member to be her “student” and then teaching the poor hapless victim her test material for as long as he or she will sit. It seems to work.

Though she can be quiet and appears shy, she’s demonstrated that she can be assertive when she needs to be, both with kids and with adults. She’s confronted meanness, frustrating group assignments, and missing {stolen} chocolates from her lunch box. And through all of this she’s learned that plenty of kids have home situations that don’t afford them the luxuries of two parents, intentional discipline, protection from things that 11-year-olds shouldn’t have to face, and a truffle or two in one’s lunchbox.

We’ve been able to process frustrating and unfair situations through the lens of grace. And this has been such a gift for both of us. In the words of Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird,

You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view – until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.

Sharing these observations about my kids probably sounds a bit braggy and indulgent. That’s not my intent. Truly it’s not. I’m simply bringing to light the qualities I couldn’t see so well when they were at home. Oh my word, my children have got their issues. I’m their mama and I see their mess in all of its glory. Sometimes their mess overwhelms me and like any other mama, I worry about them. I fight fear, I fret over grades, I desperately want them to do well. But that is no longer the primary goal.

Learning to climb into others’ skin…this is more important than learning math in just the right way or understanding history from a classical perspective. It’s more important than reading the greatest of books or being a National Merit Scholar.

Don’t get me wrong, they are learning math and history and science in ways that are engaging and effective. But they’re learning so much more. And so am I. The irony is that this sort of learning, this exposure to certain influences and unsavory topics, this is the stuff I wanted to protect them from. I still do.

But this is the world they will one day navigate without parental supervision and tutelage. So every day they get to practice being brave and true, loving and discerning. They will fail. They have failed. We all do. But every day they come home to me and we revisit the day. We “walk around in skin” and their father and I try to point them to truth and reaffirm our values. In many ways, we’ve become more intentional about these sorts of things since they went to school.

You see, we are still homeschooling but in a way that feels surprisingly richer and, I daresay, right. For us. At least for now. And I do know that come August, I may turn tail and run headlong back into homeschooling and want to delete this whole post. It’s possible. But this is where we are today and I’ve quit trying to predict the future.

One year at a time, one kid at a time, seeking God’s face all the time. That’s the motto The Man and I have adopted.

God gave us these kids years ago and we dedicated them back to Him, recognizing that we are mere stewards. He goes with them every single day.

I had not planned it this way. I thought I knew best. I don’t regret a single day of homeschooling and the lovely, messy days of togetherness we experienced. Writing about it in the past tense brings tears to my eyes.

It’s just that sometimes real life re-routes us in ways that feel like failure but are actually grace.


Thanks for allowing me to share my story here with you.


  1. Angela Kelly says:

    Thank you for sharing your heart. I also home schooled my three children but there came a time when we felt that God was leading us to send them to school. I fought tooth and nail and tried every angle to get them in private or Christian school. When it was all said and done and my children were attending public school I prayed for them that they would be blessed and protected and blossom in their education! I believe God spoke to me that day telling me that they were going to be the blessing! This happened five years ago and we have had ups and down but we have truely been blessed in public schools. One more thing, the other day God gave me another word. I heard someone say that Gid has been removed from the schools my kids are in these schools therefor God is there also! Blessing to you and your family. Angela

  2. I love this article. I think it is sometimes hard for homeschooling parents to consider any other option. And there is sometimes a shame factor when (if) they do decide to send their kids to public school. I’ve always felt we will take it one year at a time, one child at a time. Homeschooling for us has always been about experiences, and I wonder someday if we’ll send the kids to school for those particular experiences. Anyways, nice presentation of a multi-faceted issue, and glad you are happy where you are right now.

  3. Change is always hard to accept. It is definitely different. Every family needs to make their choice based on what God is saying to them about how to raise their children. I have seen successful families that homeschool and successful families that send their kids to public schools. This just might mean that the relationships with the families that do the opposite of what you do may suffer a tad because of the circles in which you run. This has been true for me. I have friends who send their kids to school, but our available time together has suffered because of the activities that we participate in are different. I do not judge them because of what they decide, but it limits certain opportunities. Good blog! You appear to be seeking to be understood.

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