My son is worried about “being different”

left-out-rejected-one-boy-stands-alone-3-teenagers-groupedDear GHF:

I pulled my son out of school at the end of last year and am so excited to begin our homeschool adventure. Unfortunately, my son feels differently. He was happy to leave school last spring when things were going badly for him, but it’s almost like he has forgotten what a nightmare it was and now he is insisting that he go back to school with “everyone else.” He doesn’t remember that the school and the kids were not a good fit for him, and is more concerned with “being different” than with his day to day well-being. How do I remind him of why we chose to homeschool without bringing up bad memories or making him feel bad about who he is?

~Concerned in Caracas

Dear Concerned:

This is a very common concern with kids who are beginning homeschooling; it’s a part of the transition process. He is leaving an environment where he knew where he was supposed to fit in and what to expect (even if it wasn’t good for him), and going into the as-yet-unknown world of homeschooling. He may have been unhappy in school, but it was a familiar unhappy. He doesn’t know what homeschooling will look like for him, and he is probably dredging up the worst clichés he can think of and assuming they will all happen to him. Moreover, if being like “everyone else” is important to him, then if he doesn’t know any homeschoolers, this will be just another way for him to feel different.

Probably the first thing you should do is find a local homeschool group and check out a few activities. A lot of families enjoy a regular park day hosted by a group, but for some kids that is too open-ended and they find more comfort in a planned activity that allows for a little structure and clear social roles to begin with. As he becomes more comfortable, you can broaden your participation. It will get easier once he has had the chance to see other homeschoolers “in action” and discovers a whole new opportunity to explore social relationships and find a place where he can fit in comfortably. Moreover, he can certainly continue any extracurricular activities in which he is already engaged, such as music lessons, scouting, or sports. In some states, homeschoolers are allowed to participate in school activities such as art, science lab, and band, as well.

In addition, your son will almost certainly adjust to homeschooling more successfully if you check in with him often about how he think things are going and what he wants to do. Allowing him to be a part of the planning and to have some control over his homeschool life will do wonders for his self-confidence, as well as reducing conflict and strengthening your relationship.

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