A Teen’s Perspective of Public School

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I have to start by saying our kids have been homeschooled from the beginning. A few years ago when we were moving across the country, our oldest was an upcoming freshman. We were moving into a high school that looked great on paper. I had a few good reasons for considering public school for high school.

One was that every homeschool-grown adult I met said they wished they had a teacher other than their mom before college. They all did well, but it had been nerve-wracking for them to walk into college level courses and must learn for the first time how to learn without Mom at their side.

Another reason I had was that I believe older kids should be spending time away from their parents. Don’t get me wrong, I am the #1 coach and influencer of my kids, even at the high school age. But I want them to start practicing life away from me. After all, as adults, they will need to get out from under my wings and fly on their own power.

I guess you could say I wanted to push them out of the nest, while still having four years to welcome them back to the nest when the sun sets each evening.

I thought public school would be much the same as it was when I attended, and so did my husband. With high hopes of easing my own schedule just a few years early, we signed him up.

He walked into his first day of school thinking he would be immersed in a large group of curious teens who loved learning, had interesting conversations, and would (obviously) know how to respect their teachers and pay attention in class.

The disappointment was immediate and crushing. The kids didn’t read books. They didn’t pay attention. They talked over their teachers. The most interesting story he came home with was of kids at lunch crushing crackers into crumbs and sniffing it up their noses. Although he laughed at their antics, it wasn’t the kind of interesting he had been hoping for.



He survived one semester of public school.

But is survival enough? Absolutely not, our kids deserve more than survival, they deserve to thrive, and so we let him come home.

He remembers public school as that horrible, dark, boring place where the learning was excruciating or non-existent. The only place he had ever been where there were no conversations. The place where real literature was nowhere to be read.

He came home and slowly woke back up to his love of life, learning, and reading. Because aren’t those all the same thing?

I know some teens venture into the halls of public education and have a completely different experience. But we all need to tell our stories, whether they turned out good or bad. So just know that what you think your high schooler might miss because of homeschooling might be a lot less than what they might miss because of public schooling.


Marla Szwast lives in Marietta, Georgia with her husband and six children. She has written articles for The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine. She is the author of Stepping Through History: Starting With You!, and a semester long fifth grade science course. Both courses are published online at She writes about home schooling, child development, neuroscience, and the history of education on her blog at:, you can also follow her on Facebook @jumpintogenius, or Twitter @MarlaSzwast, or Medium.

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"Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old, he will not depart from it" (Proverbs 22:6).