Sometimes homeschooled children want to go back to school and their parents wonder how to keep them interested in home education. This problem usually happens when the child previously attended school and misses his or her friends from there. Friends who go to school can easily provide the necessary outside influence.
We used to joke with our kids that if they don’t behave we would send them off to school. Every year we see more evidence that schools are terrible for kids who don’t want to fit in, with bullying by other kids and even by teachers. None of our kids are remotely interested in going to a school because there are just so many things for them to do and because schools are very limited in what you can do (basically, they are prisons). If the child is not aware of what schools are, you can explain to him how limiting the school is with respect to what he can do.
Take a Leap of Faith
I think the #1 problem for most parents is mental. They subconsciously don’t want to accept the fact that if their children are not forced to learn (or worse, left to their own devices), their children will never amount to anything. This is a very real and tangible fear that literally petrifies many parents and essentially ties their hands (and their minds), and leads them down the only path that they can accept that supposedly works: the path of school, or school at home (or forced schooling of some sort). They are so concerned that their children are not progressing or learning what everyone else is, that they simply don’t want to end up with their children turning into bums who don’t want to do anything and who don’t know anything (or so they may think).
This is nothing but wishful thinking. Even if your children go to college, there is no guarantee that they will amount to anything. But the fear is real because it is safer to be with the herd than to go against it. We fall into this trap sometimes when we don’t see progress happening fast enough. But if you believe that your children are more than capable of self-learning (and you provide them with the encouragement and resources to do so without intrusion and force), then your homeschooling will be a lot more fun for everyone involved. It takes a big leap of faith for some of us trained in the ‘classical’ system of schooling to realize very few things will be worse than school, and self-directed learning approach is going to work even for the seemingly lazy and uninterested children, given enough time.
Sometimes our kids complain that they are bored, but it usually comes down to spending time with them and doing some things together. Sometimes in pursuit of activities for the kids we separate too much, and have our own separate worlds, and I think that’s something to be careful about since kids can grow apart and become influenced by others who don’t have their best interests in mind.
Maybe the child simply wants to be around other kids? For this reason we started taking our kids to various sports and activities that require communication with others. Many homeschooling parents have their kids study online, but just doing online stuff in my opinion is not good enough because kids do need to talk with real live people periodically. So we will try to avoid the online curriculum and maybe do some of that as supplemental materials, but not as the ‘main course.’
Inspire a Vision
What goals do you try to achieve with homeschooling, and do your children share these goals? For many homeschooling parents, the end goal is to send their kids off to college. In my family, college is not the end goal. Rather, we try to inspire the kids to become entrepreneurs (which is easier to achieve when the parents are entrepreneurs themselves). That helps to discourage kids from wanting to go to school because you can simply explain to them that school does not teach entrepreneurship and the school model does not encourage anyone in any way to become an entrepreneur. School generally prepares children to be part of the workforce, to comply with set rules, to fit in and conform, to work in an office as a nine-to-fiver. If your child wants to start a company when he or she grows up, the traditional school model may even be detrimental to achieving that goal. No wonder that many celebrated entrepreneurs dropped out of high school or college.
School also takes away valuable time and energy and prevents one from mastering self-directed learning – an essential skill for any entrepreneur. I can attest to that from personal experience. I went through school, college, and a number of corporate jobs before starting my own company. In my first years of owning a business, I was anxious and didn’t know where to start and how to run a company. I didn’t have many of the skills needed and didn’t have much time to experiment because I was under pressure to start generating income to support my growing family. I didn’t know how to learn on my own and how to manage my own growth and development because school and college didn’t teach me self-directed learning. School and college only conditioned me to being taught and guided. But when you are an entrepreneur, you have to find your own path and invent your own curriculum, and no one is there to tell you what to learn and what to do. At best, school and college may teach you how to find a good job. But they won’t teach you how to find your own path to success at entrepreneurship because entrepreneurs, by definition, walk the path that no one has walked before and invent value that no one before has invented.
Had I started much earlier in life, I would have learned it all much more naturally, I would not have been under pressure to support my family, and I would have had a lot more time to experiment and learn by trial and error. That’s what I want for my kids. They are average kids with average talents, so I don’t expect any of them to become the next Steve Jobs or Bill Gates. Maybe they will, but I don’t count on that. I simply want to maximize their chances to become successful entrepreneurs, and in order to help them achieve that, I want to give them as much time as possible to experiment, to find what they love to do, to master the skill of self-directed learning, to explore, to start small companies, to fail and start again. The best time to do it is when they are kids and teenagers because they don’t have to worry about failing, losing income, and supporting their families.
That’s why we homeschool and that’s how we keep our kids interested in homeschooling – by sharing our vision with them and inspiring them to follow it. Most importantly, my husband and I live our vision by running our own businesses and learning on the way. I believe that the best way to get kids to share your vision is to lead by example. When they share your vision and when they are inspired to achieve the goals that you propose for them, they will be more likely to stick with homeschooling as the preferred method of achieving these goals.