I've been away from the forum for ages, but in thinking about this situation, I thought this would be a good place to kick my idea around.
I have 3 children, ages 10, 8, and 3. When the 10 y.o. was littler, we tended toward unschooling, but over the years, we have become much more structured. (The opposite path of many families!) My oldest is pretty academic and wanted to "learn more", and my middle child really needs some structure to get *anything* done -- even stuff he wants to do. So that's where we are. Dd (10) is doing mostly middle school level work and homeschooling is going great for her. Her friends are mostly other homeschoolers and she's happy with her lot.
But I'm not so sure about my 8 y.o. ds. He's not in crisis -- he's learning and doing fine. He's below grade-level in reading, but he has been working very hard on that and is improving. I just sense that he isn't all that happy.
Lately he's been going on about not liking being the "oddball". He's never specified homeschooling as an issue, but when he complains that our Ford Windstar makes us "oddballs", I'm thinking that's cover for something else, kwim? Unlike his sister, his close friends are boys who go to school. He can find playmates at homeschool group, but he's never really clicked with anyone there and made a good friend connection. He's not really an "oddball" type at all -- he's good looking, funny, athletic and well liked by most kids and adults he meets. In addition to these complaints, his attitude has gotten worse lately. Not about anything specific, but just like he's dissatisfied and it's making him testy.
DH and I agreed that we should at least open a conversation with him about how he feels homeschooling is going for him. While we've never "put down" school in derogatory terms, we have
played up the benefits of homeschooling vs. school, so I worry that he may have an overly negative view of school, leaving him feeling like he has no good options. If he's feeling dissatisfied with homeschooling, I guess I would encourage him to have a sit-down (along with me) with some kids who go to school -- maybe his best friend who goes to public school, and his cousin who is a few years older -- to go over the pros and cons from a schooled kid's perspective.
Here's what I wonder if a good school can offer him (We have schools of choice and charter schools here, so we'd have several to pick from):
-- Structure above and beyond what I can offer, given my personality and 3 kids. (He seems to do really well with structure, as long is it is paired with fairness. He likes knowing the rules and the consequences.)
-- More interaction with other kids. He's a pretty social guy and he'd love seeing friends every day. I feel pretty confident that he'd make friends easily. The flip side of this is that I wonder if he'd get in trouble a lot for "socializing". I know he would have as a younger child, but I hope he has better control himself better now.
-- This last one is tricky. I've started several times and can't seem to word it right, so bear with me. I wonder if a non-parent figure could help him be a little more confident in his academic ability. Reading is really the *only* area he has trouble with. (Well, maybe some short-term memory stuff as well. I'm not sure about that. If we decided to try school, it would be next year -- 5th grade -- and we would work really hard to have him up to grade level in reading by then.) When his father and I compliment him on his math ability or other subjects, he doesn't believe us. He thinks we are only saying that because we are his parents. He calls himself stupid a lot, even though he seems to have a high opinion of himself in other areas, especially sports and "figuring out how things work". His sister is very book smart, so I think that has something to do with it, even though she never rubs it in his face. Maybe a little favorable comparison with peers and an encouraging teacher would help him realize that he's of totally normal intelligence? I realize this could backfire too, depending on the peers and the teacher. sigh.
My fears (besides all the usual ones about killing his spirit, excess conformity, etc.)
-- As I said just above, that he might get a negative message about his academic ability.
Actually, I think that's the only one. Any other negative experiences I can think of could be pretty easily remedied by going back to homeschooling, which I would be fully ready to do if it didn't work out. But if his self-esteem takes a big knock, that damage could be hard to undo.
I never thought I would be considering sending one child to school while continuing to homeschool the others, but here I am. I know the first step has to be a conversation with him. If anyone who has tried this has some insight into things we should consider or talk about, I'd love to hear it. We would probably send him to a public school with a good reputation, though I would look at charter schools as well. The only private schools around here are religious and we probably couldn't afford them anyway.
Thanks for reading all this if you got this far. I mostly just want him to be both well-educated *and* happy. I've heard grown homeschoolers who appreciated the benefits of homeschooling, but I've also heard those who are not sure that it was the right path for them. I want to be sensitive to my son's right path. That may be homeschooling, but I've reached a point where I'm no longer sure.