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Homeschooling as an alternative to traditional public school is becoming more mainstream throughout the United States and even in other countries around the world. A government study from the National Household Education Survey Program (NHES) found that 1.77 million students were homeschooled in 2012, an 18% increase since 2007.

Home schooled students encounter a unique set of challenges from those faced by children in public schools.   Children and teens often have trouble expressing or understanding complicated emotions, so their parents can help prevent problems by being aware of any symptoms being displayed by their children. It is important for parents to be aware of a homeschooled child’s behavior and watch for any changes in their personality which may occur.

Some homeschooled students experience feelings of isolation or have difficulty socializing with their peers. It is also natural for a student to feel stressed when making the transition from home school to a public school. Feelings of isolation and loneliness can sometimes lead to anxiety or depression. Sometimes children who feel isolated or lonely might appear sad, withdrawn or disconnected from activities that they used to enjoy. They may also react to uncomfortable situations with anger or hostility. It is natural for isolated children and teens to display low self-confidence or a lack of self-esteem.

There are some simple techniques which parents can use to help their children cope with these emotions. The most important thing a parent can do is to start a dialogue with their children about their feelings. Not only will this encourage them to open up about issues which might be bothering them, it will also let the children know that it is perfectly okay to feel complicated emotions. Many children are afraid of worrying their parents by telling them if they feel depressed or anxious; parents can help to reduce these fears by staying calm and showing that they are supportive and understand what the child is experiencing. If the child is reluctant to open up, try talking to them in a quiet and comforting situation, such as while taking a walk with them or cooking dinner.

Parents can also help children who are feeling isolated or lonely by helping them to socialize in comfortable situations with their peers. Many towns offer local homeschool groups or co-ops where parents and children can meet to discuss problems and techniques, and students can get support from other children who are in a similar situation. There are also many online support groups which are dedicated to helping homeschooled students to socialize and get help with whatever problems they are facing.

Participating in local community service and volunteer work can help to build a child’s self-esteem and confidence while teaching about empathy and kindness. Parents might also consider encouraging their child to explore a variety of other activities such as local 4-H clubs, sports teams, or other types of groups and classes.

Another situation which can be stressful for homeschooled students is transitioning into a public school after being taught at home. Some students are overwhelmed by the unfamiliar social surrounding or frustrated with the different academic expectations that they have to deal with. It can also be challenging for children to transition into the more structured environment of a public school or deal with teachers that they aren’t comfortable with.

Parents can make the transition easier by being supportive and staying aware of the child or teen’s emotions.  It is important for parents to listen respectfully to their child and give them a chance to express their opinions and emotions. Parents can prepare their children for the transition by discussing unfamiliar situations ahead of time so that the child will know what to expect when they attend the school. They might also inquire with the school system to see if the school offers any programs such as a school orientation day or peer mentoring groups. Parents can stay aware of what their child is experiencing once they start attending the school by asking specific questions about their day, such as who they ate lunch with, what they did at recess, or what their favorite or least favorite part of school was.

Homeschooling can be both an extremely rewarding adventure and a very challenging experience for both the parent and the student. With a little bit of patience and a commitment to communication, parents can help their children cope with whatever feelings and problems they might experience. Developing these healthy communication and emotional awareness skills will lay the groundwork for good mental health and important social skills that will last throughout the child’s whole life.

Colette Pressell

Colette Pressell

Colette Pressell is a freelance journalist from Michigan. She volunteers weekly as a trained counselor at Teen Central.net, a website that offers counseling and advice to at-risk teens. She was a homeschooled student herself for over 12 years. She can be contacted by email at sportsfann4life@gmail.com.