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From Public School To Homeschool: 9 Tips To Transition

By June 7, 2023January 18th, 20243 Comments

Only 2 months in and I don’t know if I’m cut out for this. I am struggling with the constant complaining or annoyance of having to “do school”. I have a 1st grader and I don’t want to spend all day schooling, but with his habits of lollygagging and complaints, it takes him forever to complete a simple task simply because of his negative attitude. Please help!! I don’t want to throw in the towel, but I’m sooo close!

Sound familiar? Here’s a little secret from homeschool mamas: Most, if not all, of us have thought at least once about quitting homeschool!

The task can be even more challenging if your children are coming from public school and are used to “doing school” a certain way. But take heart – you’re not alone!

Many moms have found ways to overcome these obstacles, switch to homeschooling, and thrive while doing so. Here’s a roundup of their best tips:

homeschool transition

Remember the first year is usually the hardest.

Your kids aren’t the only ones adjusting to a transition. You’re making a transition, too – from “mom” to “mom as teacher.”

Many homeschool moms say it took them 6 months to a year to get comfortable in their new roles. During that time, work on gaining your kids’ respect. You can also surprise them by implementing the next tip …

Try “deschooling” or approaching school differently.

As one mom writes, “Find a way to accomplish what you want in a different, more interactive way. Don’t just “do school at home”. Encourage an atmosphere of learning and he will do just fine…. And so will you.”

As one mom writes, which is especially relevant during the preschool years, “Play is still the largest way they’ll learn.”

A few ideas:

  1. Visit a park or coffee shop as a homeschool treat (hot chocolate and other goodies can work wonders!).
  2. Play games that develop educational skills. Board games, counting M&Ms, Legos, scavenger hunts, etc. can all be part of your curriculum.
  3. Work on life skills. Cook something that involves fractions and portions; explain the intricacies of lawn mowing and centrifugal forces; etc.
homeschooling preschool

While that’s going on, it also helps to:

Adjust your expectations on parental involvement.

Perhaps you didn’t expect your kids to need this much time in staying focused! It seems like you’re at their side 24/7 just to get pencils moving over paper.

Many homeschoolers have found parental involvement will shift naturally, depending on grade level.

For example, 1st- and 2nd-graders usually need a lot more time going over lessons with you by their side.

By grades 5 and 6, most children have made the adjustment to be independent learners. Even then, however, parents may still need to go over lessons to check everything has been learned and memorized correctly.

Is there also a specific area that your child is struggling in? Once you see the places where your child is dawdling or hanging back in, you can invest more of your time in those areas. Once they improve, they will probably need less time in that area.

Decrease the time spent in “official” school.

As one mom writes, “I’ve said to my second grader that public school is 6-8 hrs of schooling. While at home if he focuses, school is 2-3 hours and he gets to play much more. That did it for him.”

Increase the breaks in-between subjects.

Who says school has to take place in 8 hours like public school?

A lot of homeschoolers have found shorter study times, interspersed by frequent breaks, can boost productivity. One mom says she uses the break times to run errands around the house while her kids play – a win-win for all!

A general guideline is 15-minute breaks for every 1.5 or 2 hours, depending on grade level. Some kids like even shorter schedules, like 5-minute breaks after 15 or 20 minutes. Find whatever works best for you.

homeschooling with littles

Re-evaluate your approach, based on your child’s learning style.

If you’ve never heard the term “learning style” or learning preference, we recommend HSLDA’s introduction. Several moms have found that curriculum can be part of the problem if it doesn’t fit with your child’s natural way of learning and processing information.

Other moms have found creating an educational philosophy can also help them shape their homeschool in constructive ways that help both student and teacher.

Keep room for positive mom time!

Ironically we can get so caught up in “school” that we forget the reason we do it – to share life and learn together!

Take a moment just to cuddle, read and chit-chat without set agendas. For boys, it can be a time of playful wrestling. Even if they resist at first, who wouldn’t want some positive time with mom?

Act the part (even if you’re not feeling it right then).

One wise mom writes, “Whatever you do, don’t let a little one provoke you to exasperation. Remain firm and gentle, cool, and unruffled. Smile, give high fives, celebrate small victories.”

She cringes whenever parents say, within their children’s hearing, “I don’t know what to do with them!” From her perspective, children need to feel confident that their parents know exactly what to do (even if they don’t). Make sense, in a weird sort of way? 🙂

Bonus tip: Use your last name as a weapon, to encourage or discourage certain behaviors. Example: “We are Lanesmiths, and we don’t do that.” Or “Oh my! You will need to finish this page, because we are Rhodesons, and we always finish our homework.”

The younger your kids are (and the more unusual your last name is), the likelier they will accept such statements!

homeschool start

Don’t put unnecessary pressure on yourself.

We’ve all been there – setting expectations too high, transferring those expectations to our kids, then picking up the pieces after the inevitable failure.

Take time to invest in the important things – and even enjoy the ride.

“Looking back,” says one more mom, “I realize that I was trying to be too rigid. Homeschooling was new for me, too, and I had something to prove. If I could go back and talk to myself in those early days, I would tell myself to relax and above all try to make most of their school time fun. Sure, they will have to accomplish things that they don’t enjoy, but, even if it takes more time, enjoy what you can. … You are shaping them in ways that no other person can.”

This post was originally published in March 2015. It has been updated for timeliness and detail.

Shanxi Omoniyi

Shanxi Omoniyi (@ShanxiO on Twitter) is MPE's online content director. A homeschool alumna, Shanxi graduated from the University of Kansas with degrees in journalism and English. Her company, Wordspire Media, helps businesses and nonprofits share their stories through content marketing, social media management, and email marketing.