Transition from Traditional School to Home Education

mom and child reading

By World Family Education

Transitioning from traditional school to home education 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. 

Beginning home education for the first time will feel quite different to a student used to the typical structured classroom environment. Students who have attended traditional school are used to learning begin regulated by the school system. With home education, a family can create a schedule and academic plan that works best for them.

Some families prefer to maintain a classroom-like environment in their home, with desks, scheduled subjects, and timed tests. Others choose to create a more relaxed environment, allowing their child to sleep later in the morning, have a flexible schedule, and spend more time on subjects they enjoy and less on the ones they don’t. Those choosing to “unschool” may not structure much instructional time at all.

Some home educators describe the first few months of homeschooling as a deschooling period. It’s the adjustment phase when your child adapts to a way of learning that isn’t managed by the traditional schooling structure. A series of good articles that describe “deschooling” is at The Homeschool Mom.

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

Location

The home education experience is usually stationary unless it is part of a family’s transient lifestyle. However, compared to traditional schooling, its location is very flexible. Most academic activities happen in the home, but a lot of learning takes place outside the home as parents intentionally build teaching moments into everyday life. Extra activities like music lessons are outsourced in the community. 

  • Students transitioning from traditional school may take some time to adjust to the more flexible learning location. They may have trouble treating the home environment as a serious study space. Including your student in the home education planning and set-up process will greatly help with this.
  • Help them adjust by designating study spaces and times before the transition. 
  • Students used to being in school may feel awkward being in public during the day unless they are prepared for this.     

Format

Home education can be highly customized to meet the needs of an individual student, and your attention can be fully on their needs. Distractions do exist in this setting, but usually not social distractions like you would find in a traditional school. Student interest can drive learning experiences, and your child is freer to explore topics they enjoy in greater depth. The flexibility of home education allows students to be further ahead or further behind in a skill than other kids of the same age. 

  • It might be a good idea to start your home education experience with a more formal format that will be familiar to your student. You can transition into a more informal or student-driven format as you get used to it. 
  • You may need to coach your student in how to understand and express his/her interests, and how to explore and learn more about them. 
  • Find some good assessment tools to help you maintain a realistic idea of your student’s progress in skills and content knowledge. These can be part of your purchased curriculum or assessments based on your home country’s standards (some are available online).  

Curriculum

Home education curriculum is often a combination of materials that a family chooses to meet their goals or because those materials were readily available. Families beginning their home education journey usually start with a packaged curriculum until they get comfortable with evaluating individual student needs and how a resource can meet that need. 

  • Make use of resources like World Family Education’s pages on home education to help you understand the approaches to home education and how to get started.
  • Don’t be afraid to use packaged curriculum at first, but embrace the freedom to craft an ideal educational experience for your student by mixing and matching curriculum resources. Make sure to get input from your student on what they need or prefer. 
  • Keep in mind potential transitions back into traditional school, and make sure that your student can make a successful re-entry into that system if needed. Make sure to keep your standards high and your academic program challenging.

Assessments

Academic assessments in the home education setting can be flexible and informal, unless the student is enrolled in a correspondence or online course or there is some state or national requirement for annual assessment. 

  • Use assessment methods that tell you what you want to know. Not all tests and quizzes that come with curriculum report what you want to know about your student’s progress, so don’t be afraid to get creative in how you assess progress. 
  • Be sure to include assessment formats that give your student experience in traditional formats for future transitions. Use timed assessments and activities to help train students in that skill. 
  • No matter what home education style you choose, keeping good records (grades, portfolio, etc.) is very helpful and should be a priority. 

Time

Home education is not usually limited to a calendar schedule and sometimes not even a daily schedule. While some countries define how many days students must be in school, ultimately a family decides what days those will be. Some families choose to do school year-round while others roughly follow a school calendar. The daily schedule for home educators is very flexible. Some families define time periods that are meant for academics and may even define specific times for subjects similar to traditional schools. Some families are much more flexible and may even concentrate on one subject each day. Timed activities and deadlines tend to be much more flexible than in traditional school. 

  • To help kids understand the choices you make in planning your home education calendar, include them in the discussion and planning so they understand the process and value of the choices. They may also have some input on how scheduling impacts relationships with other kids. 
  • Consider modeling a traditional daily schedule for the first year, slowly moving toward your desired schedule so that kids can adjust. 
  • Don’t completely give up the timed activities and tests or the deadlines. These will be important skills for your kids to have in their next educational experience. 

Discipline 

Home education presents a situation in which parent and teacher disciplinary roles are intertwined. For some, this can present a challenge, and intentional decisions must be made on behavioral and role expectations. 

  • Plan ahead and determine student/child expectations and how you will handle the role shifts during the school day. Eventually, that shift will feel more natural and may be quite minimal. 
  • Talk with your student about how the roles will change, and how expectations may be different during the school day. Make sure to get input from them on how this would look. 
  • In situations where you are the primary source of adult feedback for your child (dual roles of teacher and parent), be aware that you will have a major impact on your child’s self-perception. Be sure to differentiate your discipline for moral and character issues from your discipline for academic and behavioral issues.  

Organizational Skills

Home education provides an opportunity for the parent to design the progression toward independence. If this is not intentionally done, students at home may rely too heavily on parental guidance and assistance, and can be somewhat delayed in organizational skills. An extreme opposite situation can also develop in which a student is not given enough parental support and is entirely responsible for his/her educational organization and management. While some students are able to thrive in these extremes, the ideal is to be balanced and intentional in what is expected of students’ organizational development. 

  • Make sure you understand your student’s strengths and weaknesses when it comes to organizational skills. Make sure this is part of your planning process for home education setting, schedule, and curriculum. 
  • To start, it may be helpful to include some of the traditional school’s routine to help your student adjust. Make sure to include the student in this decision process. 
  • Provide increasing opportunities for the student to take responsibility for time management, and provide supports such as planning calendars and routine posters.    

Culture

The home education experience will certainly bring a family into a unique culture group that is focused on family education. While this will look somewhat different in different countries, if you can find other home educators, you will find community and a unique worldview. At the same time, families who are educating at home have an opportunity to engage local culture at a level that their international school counterparts may not be able to. Part of the education often includes local language and culture experiences, and can bring a very rich experience to the family. 

  • Be intentional about finding other home educating families in your area if possible. You can start by looking at World Family Education’s page Home Education Community Groups By Location.
  • Look for extracurricular activities that would highlight the local culture such as cooking classes, language classes, etc. 
  • Be intentional about cultivating your own family culture that blends its roots with its current location. 

Relationships

Home education is often viewed as isolating to kids, and many are concerned with the social implications this may have. However, it does not have to be isolated at all. Parents can be intentional about activities and groups for their kids to develop outside relationships and social interaction. While the home-educated student may not have as wide a social network, it has the potential to go very deep. 

  • Be intentional about designing social opportunities with adults and peers. This can be external sports, music or church groups, or coordinating time with other home educating families.  
  • Cultivate social bravery and initiative by modeling compassion and interest in others. In an international setting, cross-cultural relationships can be a life-changing, positive experience. 
  • Focus on family relationships and make sure that your family unit maintains communication and solidarity. 

Other Resources

Homeschooling for a Season — The Goodwin Journey explores the challenges of temporary home education while living internationally.

Transitioning from a Traditional to Online School — Advice from 21st Century Cyber Charter School for making the switch to online schooling.

What, When, Why & How of Deschooling — Time4Learning explores all aspects of deschooling. 

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