A friend worried that her son felt he was weird or unusual since he was homeschooled. He’d been pulled out of school because of issues in the school, but like most kids, blames himself and thinks he’s somehow not good enough for school. The fact that he doesn’t see many other homeschoolers around wasn’t helping. I think it really helps to show kids, as much as possible given your own situation, that homeschooling isn’t that unusual. Normalizing homeschooling can make the child feel better about himself. But how do you do that?
Some options that come to mind include:
Join a homeschool support group.
Homeschool support groups get together for social events, field trips, hanging out at the park, clubs, co-op classes, and more. Joining one is a great way to help parents figure out homeschooling options while the children make friends and see that they aren’t alone. (Some homeschool support groups meet online and while those are useful for parents, they aren’t as helpful for kids who want to be around others like themselves.)
Get some gear.
Kids who are in school often get gear with their school name on it–pencils, planners, t-shirts, pencil cases, hats, bags, etc. Those things help give them a sense of belonging. Think about buying some stuff that helps your child feel that sense of belonging. A lot of great homeschool groups will offer members the chance to purchase t-shirts or ID cards or other items with the group’s name on them or a witty quote on homeschooling. Crafty people will be tempted to make items themselves, but unless you are making them for several other kids, homemade won’t do the trick here. (Note: I love homemade and don’t like buying when I don’t have to, but sometimes making it yourself doesn’t do the job properly.) Not a member of a homeschool group? Find homeschool gear online. There are lots of places that sell things with homeschool messages.
Read about other homeschoolers.
For younger kids, some titles to consider include This is My Home, This is My School, I Am Learning All the Time, Kandoo Kangaroo Hops into Homeschool, I Am a Home Schooler, Charlie Goes to School, and The First Day of Homeschool. Ippie Unschooled is a book written by a homeschooling mom and a homeschooled twelve-year-old. Around the World in a Cement Boat is my own book that tells of my childhood sailing and includes stories of my own homeschooling.
Don’t forget when reading about historical figures that anyone who is described as self-taught or as having had no formal education would today be called homeschooled. Find lists of people, including scientists, historical figures, and celebrities, to read about can also help. Keeping some adult books or magazines on homeschooling around the house can help, too.
Go to events with homeschoolers.
There are homeschool conventions, such as a big one FPEA puts on each year in May in Orlando and smaller local ones such as PEC puts on in West Palm Beach in early August, where parents can check out homeschool curricula and materials, attend seminars, and more to the point, kids can go to some of these and see how many people are homeschooled. Check and see if they offer kids’ programs.
Find programs at museums, libraries, and other places that are geared to homeschoolers. For example, Legoland in the Orlando area has regular Homeschool Days with deep discounts for homeschoolers; your child can have some fun while seeing that businesses cater to homeschoolers and perhaps bumping into some other homeschooled kids. Look for events such as FPEA’s Homeschool at the Capitol.
Help your child understand that there are many, many homeschoolers, and he (or she) won’t feel alone. It can build self-confidence and let your child’s education move forward.