Transition from Home Education to Traditional School

international school classroom

By World Family Education

Transitioning from home education to traditional schooling is a major life adjustment and involves several phases of adjustment. Your family will need time to adapt to the new situation, new expectations, and new roles. 

Read more about Transitions and how to handle them successfully from World Family Education. 

Moving from the flexibility of learning at home to a strictly scheduled classroom environment will be a challenge for many students. Your child may struggle with sustained attention, following school rules, and stamina for the longer school day.

Your encouragement and positive attitude are probably the most important supports your child needs to make this change successfully. Children usually reflect the perspective parents express. Focusing on the benefits of going to school will help your child stay confident as they navigate a new learning environment.

Be prepared to provide documentation to the new school about your child’s home education experience.  Closely documenting your home education studies and creating a transcript will help the school understand your child’s strengths and weaknesses. Most schools require documentation of courses and grades for admittance.

Below are some specific areas you will see differences between home education and traditional school followed by some tips to help with the transition.

Location

Traditional school is rather stationary with most educational activities happening on a campus. Students move around from class to class or spend most of the day in one classroom. Students usually have defined spaces for themselves, such as assigned seating at desks or personal lockers. Some spaces are more public than at home, such as bathrooms and locker rooms.

  • Students transitioning from home education will likely feel lost for some time, so help them become familiar with the layout ahead of time. Practice the transition between spaces and appropriate use of these spaces. 
  • Traveling daily to school will be a change for students used to home education, so make plans as a family for the morning and afternoon routines. 
  • It is important to let the student be independent as soon as possible, so make sure you do all preparations before school starts so that they do not have a hovering parent impacting their relationships.

Format

A traditional school usually expects students to sit in a formal classroom where the teacher is the center of attention. There can be many distractions in a classroom, and social distractions can be especially challenging. The main teaching methods are lecture, group work, textbooks, and some hands-on activities. The teacher focuses on the “average” student and works to help all students master the same content and skills. 

  • Work with your child before the transition to help them understand the value of sitting still and listening. Let them know about classroom behavioral expectations. If you think your child will struggle, talk with the teacher to develop a transition strategy.
  • As you get closer to the transition, begin to format your home education more like what the student will be transitioning into. 
  • Talk to your child about doing his/her best, rather than competing with other students. Coach them on responding to the teacher’s feedback rather than fellow students’ feedback. 

Curriculum

Traditional schools design their curriculum to meet national or international accreditation standards. It is meant to be systematic and consistent. Far more than just a collection of textbooks or resources, the curriculum includes all the classroom and extracurricular activities designed to meet these standards. Many international schools value academic challenges and achievement. 

  • Don’t be shy to ask the school about its curriculum and standards. These may be different than what you are used to, and you need to be informed. Make sure your student can meet the standards without undue stress. 
  • If you have the lead time, try to help your student make the transition by using similar materials and texts before they start the new school year. You may be able to borrow some of these from the school prior to the year starting. 
  • If you are unfamiliar with the work your child brings home and having a difficult time helping your child, consider getting a student tutor or asking the teacher for some explanation of the material. 

Assessments

Traditional school assessments help teachers understand how students are meeting certain standards. These can be based on the school’s own standards or on a national standard. Within classrooms, teachers give tests, quizzes, and other assessments regularly to monitor progress and give grades. These grades are kept in student records and used to determine status in school. 

  • You may need to coach your student on how to take formal assessments. This may mean taking practice tests in the different formats they will encounter. If possible, have your student take the same standardized test that your new school will use.
  • If you do not incorporate a lot of timed activities and assessments, you should begin to use these before the transition so that these do not become a source of stress. 
  • Make sure your student understands the grading system and its significance. If you do not keep grades in your home education system, you might want to start doing so to help with the transition.

Time

A traditional school has a predetermined calendar and daily schedule. There is little flexibility in this, as most schools must complete a certain number of school days. The structure of a typical school day includes blocks of time that define the amount of time spent on a subject or activity. During class time, students complete timed activities and follow deadlines for assignment completion. Grades are impacted by not following these deadlines.

  • Your family may be used to adjusting your school schedule to accommodate work or vacation plans. You will now need to plan ahead by looking at the school’s calendar and making sure your schedule complies with it. Most schools limit the number of days students can miss. 
  • You may want to start to structure your family and home education schedules to be more like a traditional school leading up to the transition to help prepare for the change. 
  • In general, you should be introducing timed activities and tests as well as concrete deadlines for students in your home education process. But this is really crucial leading up to a transition to traditional school. 

Discipline 

A traditional school has a standardized discipline policy, but within each classroom expectations may vary depending on the teachers’ culture and confidence. In a national school, these policies and practices will be heavily influenced by local culture and norms. 

  • Be sure to get a clear description of the discipline policy of the school, and talk to administrators about how issues are dealt with. It is a good idea to talk to other parents to understand their experience and observations. 
  • Make sure your child knows what is expected behavior (do you look adults in the eye, do you raise hands, etc.), and what the potential rewards and consequences will be. 
  • Keep communication lines open with your child, and work out a system that allows you to speak directly with the teachers. If possible, be specific with your child’s teacher when you ask about behavioral expectations and how they manage the class.

Organizational Skills

A traditional school will be systematic in its approach to building organizational skills and responsibility in the student. Schools will vary in how much support they provide for students and how much parental involvement they require. In general, students will be held responsible for knowing the routine, managing time, organizing resources, and completing tasks. Some schools will assist by offering organizational calendars and posting information in the classroom. There will be consequences for not being prepared or organized. 

  • To help kids transition into a school’s organizational expectations, implement similar expectations and strategies into your homeschool routine well in advance of the transition.
  • Make sure the student has a good organizational system in place. This can include some sort of folder or file system for each class, a homework and assignment calendar, and a way to ask for clarification or help. 
  • Closely monitor the student’s progress in organizational skills. Keep in close contact with the teacher or teachers to ensure the system is working. Maintain a clear communication routine with the student to offer support and guidance as needed. 

Culture

Any traditional school will certainly have a culture you will need to learn. In an international school, this culture blends the host country and the predominate culture of the teachers and staff. Interestingly, there is also a third cultural dynamic that can often be overlooked, and that is the general culture of international schools. The blend of international staff and students creates its own common cultural thread that’s felt in most international schools regardless of location. 

  • If the school does not already have a new student mentor program, make sure that your child befriends a classmate before the school year starts to help them in the first few days. 
  • Get to know the history of the school and its cultural background. Identify the cultural identity of your child’s teachers, and help your child understand the differences and similarities. 
  • Ask the school and other parents about how they engage in local culture and the opportunities for learning local language and customs.  

Relationships

The traditional school model offers a potential for rich social interaction and significant relationships with peers and adults. Most adults have been socialized in this way, so we are familiar with it and understand that there are challenges as well. Kids learn a lot as they navigate difficult relationships, deal with disappointment or conflict, and process social pressures.

  • Your student may struggle with larger group settings, so make sure the teacher is aware and has a plan. 
  • Maintain a strong line of communication with your child, and make sure you have a good way of knowing when they are under stress at school. 
  • It would be a good idea to spend time with your child’s new friends, either at school or by arranging social times outside of school. This will help you understand age-appropriate behavior and also let you see your child is interacting socially. 

Other Resources

Reentry: When Homeschool Students Enroll in Traditional Schools — PBS Kids explores the challenges of transitioning to traditional school and some helpful ideas.

How to help your home educated child adjust to school — Suggestions for the transition to traditional schooling from Expat Child.

Twelve Ways to Prepare for Middle School: Making the Switch from Homeschooling to the Classroom — TCKCare-ed.com provides helpful ideas to make the transition. Site is temporarily offline.

5 Tips for Transitioning from Online School or Homeschooling to a Traditional Classroom — Advice from Niche Resources for making the adjustment smoother.

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