Q&A: Tips for Transitioning From Homeschooling to Public High School

After nine years of homeschooling, our son will be heading off to public high school next fall. It’s the right decision for him, and we’re all excited to see what new adventures school has in store for him. But we’ve got this last year of homeschooling together, and we’re going to make the most of every minute. I keep wondering, though: Is there anything I should be doing this year to help him get ready for school next year?

Making the switch from homeschooling to a more traditional school environment can take some adjustment, but high school is a big adjustment for many kids, so your son definitely won’t be the only one at his high school who’s figuring out how to navigate a new environment. And there are definitely a few things you can do help prepare your son to succeed in high school. 

Start getting comfortable with homework. The average high school student leaves school each day with three and a half hours of homework, which isn’t something most homeschoolers will have much experience in dealing with. You don’t have to jump in with hours of work every day, but giving your son a few independent assignments each week will help him start to get comfortable with the idea of homework. Homework also gives you an opportunity to practice note-taking and studying for tests and quizzes, both of which may be new features of your son’s educational life.

Get familiar with the logistics. High school means navigating a building to change classes, finding (and working the combination on) your locker between classes, managing your schedule—that’s a lot of new logistics to navigate. Most high schools allow visitors and hold orientations and new student activities leading up to the first day of school, so make sure you call ahead to get your son on the student mailing list. Just visiting the school, practicing using a combination lock, or studying a map of the hallways may help him feel more comfortable.

Ease into your routine. Right now, you have the luxury of slowly adapting to a new routine, so take advantage that fact. Your son can gradually get into the habit of waking up at an earlier time and build up the stamina to sit through seven hours of class time every day. He can also get into the habit of eating two meals—breakfast and lunch—to carry him through the day, which can be a surprisingly challenging routine change for homeschoolers who are used to on-demand snacking.

Boost his organization skills. Most high school expect students to be able to keep up with their own schedules and assignments, so encourage your son to take charge of his own schedule this year while you’re available to help him through any rough patches. Pick up a planner he can use to keep track of activities and assignments, and give him deadlines and due dates so that he can learn how to pace himself for school assignments.

Take a standardized test. One of the most effective ways to set your child up for success in high school is to make sure he can get into the classes he wants to take. A mom-made transcript won’t always carry the same weight as a traditional test score, so it makes sense to have your son take a nationally recognized standardized test to support his academic record.

All big transitions come with challenges, so however well you prepare your son, he may hit a few bumps those first weeks as he acclimates to his new environment. Be available and be supportive, and trust that your years of homeschooling have prepared your son for his chosen future.

This reader question was originally published in the fall 2016 issue of HSL.