At times, we make a decision for our children in the moment that seems good, but turns out to be not-so-hot. It takes a grownup to have the resolve to change our mind—even when it comes to school.

Q: I homeschool my 13-year-old son. We are fairly new to our current city and have recently made friends by joining a local homeschooling co-op. My son was asked by his new friends to join an additional homeschool co-op called Classical Conversations.  We were told it would be no trouble for him to join even though there were only 12 weeks left in the program. I had to change curriculum in every subject to adjust to their sequence, but I allowed him to join.

I now see that it was a wrong decision made hastily. He can’t keep up. Thus far, he had been progressing academically, but he worked slowly. Now his school day stretches into the evening. To stay in this group, we will have to school all summer to catch up.

To me, staying in this program is like erecting a building on an incomplete foundation. He was not ready. And next year, in Challenge B, they use a Logic program that is designed for high-school. My son is just not there. Because of his new-found friends, I feel bad about jumping ship. Frankly, I am overwhelmed. I should have taken more time to look closely at the program to see if it was a good fit. I guess I am now looking for some outside perspective.

A: Why don’t you simply stop? You’re miserable, your son’s miserable. Yes, he has some new friends, but at what cost? Isn’t that part of the reason you homeschool—so that you can change horses midstream if necessary?

I don’t see the downside to dropping out and taking a week or two to figure out what to do next. You can do classes through the summer if you need to catch up but better to have something that’s not overwhelming and way too challenging for you both than to continue this course. You don’t want your son to start hating school. You can always see about maintaining the friendships outside of the co-op too by inviting kids over to your house and by encouraging your son to continue the friendships by email/text too.

Why don’t you simply stop? You’re miserable, your son’s miserable.

This also brings up an important lesson for us all as parents. We need to have the guts at times to say, “You know what? This isn’t working out and we need to quit doing X.” X can be ballet lessons or an afterschool program or a club or what you do about schooling. All too often we have a “must follow through” mentality that often overrides our commonsense.

But how do you know when to quit? Here are some general guidelines.

  • If the amount of time left is longer than a month, then consider dropping out. You can generally hang in there for a few weeks, but longer than that can seem like torture.
  • Your child is exhibiting signs of discomfort beyond just not wanting to go. Stomachaches, headaches, crying, or withdrawal are signs that you should stop immediately.
  • It’s making you miserable as the mom. We often discount our own discomfort, but if you’re cranky every Tuesday and Thursday because of taking your son to soccer practice, then it might be time to explore alternative transportation options—or to have him quit.
  • You can see the long-term consequences of continuing. For the homeschooling mom’s case, she saw that continuing with the co-op would disrupt their entire summer—and very probably harm her son’s well-being.

Above all, don’t be afraid to quit or have your child stop an activity mid-stream. This isn’t recommended in every situation, but that doesn’t mean you can never remove a child from a sport, academic situation or other activity.