View Full Version : Cold feet with a newbie HSing teen?

07-15-2011, 05:18 PM
Hi! I'm new here, and I thought I'd just jump on in with my "issue" to get some advice from you wise parents. My daughter is going into 8th grade. She's been very unhappy and stressed at our local middle school for the last two years, and has begged me to homeschool her or find her an alternative school (there are none where we live, so that option is out). She has always wanted to be homeschooled and I was the one who had been worried I wouldn't be able to meet her needs.
But after the last two bad years, I started really thinking about it, and decided hs'ing would be a great option for her. I got really excited doing the research when I realized what a better education I could give, and how she could thrive instead of just "surviving" the public school. DD was really excited, too -- at first. Now, with a month to go before the start of school, she's gotten cold feet.

She says all her friends from school think homeschoolers are weird, and that she will be shunned if she does it. She's very creative, artistic and doesn't fit in well in the local homogenous group of kids, so she already gets called weird a lot and isn't keen on increasing the frequency. She's also been labeled a bit of a misfit, so she doesn't have a large group of friends as it is and is afraid of losing those she has. She says she's embarrassed to have to tell people that she homeschools because where we live it's only for "kids with problems."

I've joined a local homeschoolers group that is very active, and we have lots of great activities and curriculum planned for fall -- but the truth is that kids her age are quite few in the group. I'm getting major resistance from her regarding doing activities with the group, since it seems like she's always the oldest one there.

We live in a very non-diverse, upper middle class, judgy suburb, and the kids are cliquey. We just moved here a few years ago for dh's job. DD has had a very tough time breaking in to the crowd and getting along socially as it is, especially with her unique qualities, and the public school caused her so much stress she had stomachaches every day and has had to see a therapist for anxiety. She is adamant that she does NOT want to go back to the ps, and yet she has these fears about hsing that I can't seem to work through with her.

If you pulled a child or teen out of PS and they had these worries, how did you assuage them? Did it work out? Were their fears grounded (did they lose their friends and have trouble making more)? Did they get last-minute jitters before the start of the school year? What can I do? What can I tell her? I really do want to try hsing because I think it will offer her so much ps hasn't, and I really believe she will thrive. But I don't want to make her do it. When I offered to start the year off hsing and let her go back to ps if she hated it at home, she said that that would be even worse, as once she went back to school she'd be a "pariah" (ie kids would tease her and she would be out of the loop socially).
She is normally a girl with a very strong sense of self, and she's always seemed to embrace her uniqueness in the past and not be too bothered by what the other kids think, so this is new for us. Do you think she is just nervous?

Sorry for the novel, and thanks if you've gotten to the end.

Accidental Homeschooler
07-16-2011, 11:30 AM
We have been in a similar situation with my dd. In seventh grade she went from a small neighborhood elementary to a large junior high school. She had stomach problems and weight loss and we had to find a therapist for anxiety also. She lobbied to be hsed and then changed her mind and then changed her mind again. So she started hsing the third trimester of seventh grade. That was in March.

I would not call her quirky exactly (that would be her little sister!), but she was definitely not with her peers as far as starting to be interested in the typical teen girl stuff. She had a hard time with all the group/clique stuff and it did not help that those groups had started shifting and rearranging. She is pretty quiet and introverted and being in a big school for seven hours a day had her coming home with headaches. Ps has always been a bit boring for her as her ideal learning pace would be faster than what they were doing in school. Junior high here, except for math, is very much “one size fits all”.

Hsing has been a trade-off. She is much happier and confident and that change has been pretty dramatic. Anxiety is pretty much a thing of the past. She did not hit the academics running. I was quite shocked that she didn’t jump at the chance to be “challenged.” But I think by fall she will be good to go. So that has taken a few months. She had a few friends at ps but maintaining those relationships is tough. She is out of loop so to speak. I don’t think that these friends decided that they did not want to spend time with her because she is hsing, but she was just not there. Summer has been easier but once her friends are back in ps in the fall it is going to be tough. We talked about this before we started hsing and she was ok with this trade-off. There are not as many teens hsing here as younger kids and while I am not giving up on finding some, it is not guaranteed by any means. She is going to take a hs fencing class in the fall and I have offered my kitchen to the home school assistance program through the local ps for their teen cooking classes.

We are also planning for her to dual enroll at the local high school in ninth grade. She can take three classes as a hs student. She will also be able to participate in extracurricular activities and is interested in theater so I will be encouraging that. I am hoping that high school does not turn out to be as traumatic, especially as she will not be there all day, as junior high was. If it doesn’t look like it is going to work for her we will go back to hsing and use the local community college for some classes.

My dd knows that she could go back to the junior high for 8th grade but absolutely does not want to. She does not generally like to talk to anyone about hsing and did not tell her friends that we were thinking about it. I think they were surprised but not judgmental. When she changed her mind and wanted to stay in ps it lasted about two weeks and she was ready to be done with it. I guess I made the choice to give her the decision. Maybe ps would be better for your dd this fall if she knows she can change her mind and has another option, that she is not trapped. Maybe she would get back and decide that it is not worth it and go with hsing. My feeling, and this is just me, is that it would be really hard to hs a child this age who does not want to do it. For my dd, it needed to be her choice. I hope this was in some way helpful and good luck to you and your daughter (and I guess I responded to your novel with another!).

Accidental Homeschooler
07-16-2011, 12:42 PM
Also, one of the great compensations for my dd for the challenge of fewer social opportunities is the time she has to follow her own interests. We can get her "school" stuff done in about three hours in the morning and she has the rest of the day to do what she wants. For my dd that has been cooking and she has also started a quilt. If your dd understood that she could spend her afternoons with her art or wandering through museums (if this is an option where you are) she may feel differently about the trade-off?

07-16-2011, 02:02 PM
Early adolescence is tough on everybody. Physically you aren't who you were just a few months ago so that's confusing and even the most confident of kids get shook up. For the rest of us it's even tougher.

You don't say what your dd talents are or where her interests lie, but making an effort to delve further into those could be a great way for her to both develop them and meet like minded folks. My 12yo ds just got his street performer's license so he's fiddling on pedestrian mall of a nearby small city. He's also playing music with as many different people as he can, especially fiddlers over the age of 80. Help her to think outside her age group. What after school activities are the school-ed kids involved in? Is she interested in any of those?

I understand her reluctance about the group, it's tough to always be the oldest. Maybe lay out the expectation that you're going to do x number of activities/month but she gets to pick which ones.

Probably once things get going she'll realize that it's going to be ok, but moving into the unknown is always hard.

Good luck

07-16-2011, 02:23 PM
I would also point out that it's not a permanent decision. She could agree to try for a semester, and drop back I to school if it doesn't work out. I tried to keep our curriculum parallel to the local schools for the first year for this reason.

Maybe I'm wrong, but to some extent, not having a lot if friends is easier if you aren't surrounded by big cliques all day long . . . You don't have to compare your social life to theirs, you can focus on enjoying the real friends you DO have. Also, look for classes she can take I the community around her interests, clubs, library sponsored activities, places where she may find other kids she might connect with.

Accidental Homeschooler
07-16-2011, 06:40 PM
Maybe I'm wrong, but to some extent, not having a lot if friends is easier if you aren't surrounded by big cliques all day long . . . You don't have to compare your social life to theirs, you can focus on enjoying the real friends you DO have.

I think this has been true for my dd, a case of distance providing perspective. It also seems like she has taken the attention/emotional energy that she used worrying about the group stuff and instead focused it on what she wants to do.

07-16-2011, 11:22 PM
I think she will succeed, she will 'feel' the success, and then she will realize her friends are envious of her ability to stay home! :-)

07-16-2011, 11:56 PM
I wonder if a little deschooling might not be in order so that she gets out of the mindset of what the public school student thinks they're supposed to be and how they're supposed to act and learn. That might help her not be inclined to judge herself against the others or worry about what they think. If you give her an environment that suits her learning style and personality, I think you'll have a better chance at success. You know her best, so you have the best idea of how she might learn and if this would even work, so take the recommendation with that qualification. You can both do it, though, I'm sure of that. Sounds like you have valid reasons for wanting to start homeschooling. Hope it works out!

07-17-2011, 06:29 PM
Thanks so much for the support and advice!
I do think it's mostly nerves - she tends to get very nervous around big changes, even if they are good changes.

She is a visual artist who sketches for a couple of hours every day, and she's looking forward to being able to pursue that with more time and classes. She also plays a couple of instruments (I am a musician and her stepdad is an artist) so she's anticipating more time to learn and play. She volunteers at the local library and hopes to take a martial arts class this fall, and I'm trying to get a weekly folk music jam together at our house. We haven't had much success with meeting other teens in classes yet, but I do feel pretty confident that if we can find the right places to get involved, she'll find her social "niche." It's just a question of convincing her of that.

And of course, I don't want to have to convince her too much -- if she doesn't want to be home this year, we won't do it. Honestly I do hope she decides to give it a shot, because her school has been driving me nearly as crazy as it's driven her, and I am hopeful that once she tries it she'll be reminded of all the good reasons she wanted to hs in the first place.

I've been letting her really decompress this summer, and we'll start out low-key in September. We also have a four-day environmental camping trip with other hsers in Sept, which I think we'll all really enjoy (I'm crossing my fingers that there may be another kid or two in her age group there).

Thanks again for the great advice -- if you think of anything else, I'm all ears!

07-17-2011, 10:46 PM
I hate that she is having cold feet but just remember that you, as a parent, can make a call for something based on it being what's in her best interest. It might not be popular for the short term but if you really feel it will be best for her then it will be great in the end. Our son has been a little upset about homeschooling this year and missing his friends, etc. Since we had already laid out the money for materials, etc and we feel it's best for him long term, I have put my foot down and said that we will be doing it this year and re-evaluate next summer.

Good luck to you regardless and I hope it all works out for you!

07-28-2011, 12:57 PM
Could you do a sort of "dry run," and have a day or two of school now, so she can see what it will be like? Sometimes the anticipation of something new can be stressful, and this could help her so she knows what she's in for, and maybe defuse some of her fears.

07-28-2011, 07:18 PM
We've been talking a lot about it, and it turns out it was just nerves. She's feeling a lot more confident now, and excited about all the good stuff we have planned for the year. It helped that we were able to find a hsing group just for teens, and some activities that she can do to help her meet other kids.

I know she's going to continue to get nervous here and there until we get into the year, but we discussed it and decided that I would hold firm no matter how nervous she gets, because we really want to do this. We have been doing some of the activities already, and she's been able to give her math and some other curriculum a try and see how she likes it. It's really only the social thing that is worrying her, and we won't know how that's going to go until we get there.

Thanks so much for your suggestions and support. I look forward to getting more tips as we go along!

07-29-2011, 07:44 AM
You've gotten some great advise here already. You said your daughter gets cold feet with new changes. How is she after changes have been implemented? Do you continue on because she's adjusted (didn't seem to be the case with middle school) or do you go back to how things were? (again not necessarily the case with middle school). My suggestion is to set things mentally in concrete giving both options to homeschool yet can go back to ps. Use a "contract." This will help get rid of some of her anxiety by putting it in black and white. Make up a contract of homeschool trial. State on the contract that you and the dad will do ABC in regards to homeschool, extra-curricular enrichment, social activities, etc. and she agrees to give it a go for the period of time that the contract stipulates, as Cara suggested, 1 semester. Also have the contract state that at the end of the contract if the student so decides at that time, she will return to the ps middle school ( of course with all it's problems that prompted the homeschooling decision). I would also include that the contract can be renewed if both parties agree. By having a contract she knows she has an out if it isn't working or if outside pressures make her give in to ps (i.e. social cliques).

Here's an exercise to do: get two pieces of notebook paper. Divide each down the middle making two columns. At the top of one page write "Brick-n-Mortar School" this represents both public schools and private schools. On the other page write "Homeschool." For each page's left-hand column write "pros" and on the right-hand column write "cons." Now, take a week to carry these two pieces of paper with you (and a pen or pencil). Every time you or your child thinks of something positive or negative about ps or homeschooling share it with each other and write it down on the list. At the end of the week you should look at the lists, one column will be longer on one page and the opposite column will be longer on the other. There your student will find her reasons, rationale, and motivation to go with that form of schooling. Add more sheets of paper to the list if you have to. Number them to help keep count. Chances are that if it is a positive for one it will be a negative for the other so you may be writing things down twice (such as the con "social drama with peers causes distraction and anxiety" of ps vice the pro "no social drama to cause distraction or anxiety" for homeschool)

07-29-2011, 12:10 PM
I am so glad I found this thread. I will be homeschooling both my children for the first time this year. My ds is 12 and would be starting 8th grade in August and my dd is 10 and would be starting 5th grade.

We will be homeschooling because my ds BEGGED to be hs. Both my kids are gifted, and though we don't have a "formal" diagnosis, I feel my ds is twice exceptional. I think for a while he has been feeling the pressure of "conforming" to behavioral expecations which are unnatural to him. He is highly gifted, muscially gifted, very artistically inclined and a wonderful student. But I think he feels that he is "always in trouble" and is constantly "judged", not by his friends but by teachers, administrators, etc...At the end of this school year he just announced he would not go back :( He would love to go to a performing arts school, but they are just not an option where we live :( So basically, we are hs because he asked for it.

My dd just sort of followed. If my ds and I were not going to be there in school, she would rather be hs with us too.

I am SUPER WORRIED about them doing well, especially maintaining and maing new friendships...something I am at a loss for as to how to go about doing!!

I am even more worried becasue I truly felt they were doing amazingly in the school they were in. They are both exceptional students, have a great social life, are happy...BUT if my son asked for this change, I want to support him however I can..

PLEASE, any advice you could give me as to how to make this successful for them, and enrich their friendships would be truly appreciated.


07-29-2011, 09:10 PM
Thanks for the input, mommykicksbutt! (And may I say I love your avatar ... dh works for George Lucas so we get a lot of Star Wars around here.)

We have both made pros and cons lists. DD's was very helpful in pinpointing her worries, especially. I love writing things down in lists.

As for her anxiety: After she has started something new, if it is a good situation her anxiety goes away. With middle school, it was different because she wasn't nervous before she started that, but after some (a lot of) adjustment time, it still was not a good fit for her.

I love the idea of the contract -- she knows she can return to ps in the spring if she chooses, but I think it will help her nerves to see it in black and white.