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I just went to my first official classroom only two weeks ago, and I have been schooling at home for the past twelve years. Homeschooling is widely misunderstood. I wanted to start shedding some light on what homeschooling is really like. This past week, I have heard from YOU – The Rising readers – and have loved your questions! I will be answering all of them today. I know that I cannot begin to speak for everyone. Keep in mind that I am speaking today only from my personal experience, or from the perspective of friends. I have full respect for all kinds of schooling. I am in no way implying that homeschooling is for everyone. However, I believe I should share from my experiences, because something so close to my heart is often ignorantly thrown under the bus – whereas, if more people knew the truth, they could discover something truly life-changing for their family.
First off, is it all awkwardness and illiterate children?
Most often, it is the exact opposite: kids and teenagers that are excelling, reading well, and are extraordinarily healthy socially. There are most definitely exceptions: some parents shelter their kids from the real world, normal social interaction, or they don’t stay disciplined. But most families that decide to educate at home are striving for a higher education, and don’t often settle for one that is below average.
What prompted your family to homeschool you?
There were definitely a few things that went into the decision. My parents were committed to upbringing a Christ-like child. By homeschooling me, they would have direct guidance over the kind of literature and worldviews my textbooks would be feeding me daily. My two older brothers graduated from public school, and my Momma had worked in the public school systems. Mom had witnessed poor treatment of children (either behind their backs or in their presence) that she saw hindered them in a place where they should have been actively flourishing. When I was ready for kindergarten, lots of our closest family friends were also homeschooling and they were huge influences. Because of our strong networking and support system to get us started, the decision was made easy.
What is your daily schedule like?
In my elementary years, my youngest brother was still in public school, so I would get up early in the morning and start with my schoolwork. Mom and I would do devotions together, and then we would dig in to my lesson plans for that day – which included unit studies like human anatomy and the rainforest, reading history texts and answering questions, dissecting sentences, art projects, flashcards for memorization, Mom reading a chapter of a classic book to me aloud, math problems, and science experiments.
In middle school, it became a balance of textbooks I could work through solo and still working side by side with my mom in some reading and all of my math studies. I slept in most days, and rearranged my schedule accordingly! Most often I would start school in the late morning, take a lunch break, and finish up in the afternoon depending on my work load for the day.
In my past three years of high school, Mom still made up my lesson plans, helped me whenever I had questions, and graded my papers. But, primarily I have taught myself through freshman to junior year. I’ve never stayed with a specific order in lesson plans – so as long as I crossed everything off in my lesson plans for the week, I rearranged the order however I wanted. I’ve worked a part-time job since turning 16, so more often than not I have worked half a day and then done school during the other half.
What are the differences in curriculum when compared to public school?
One of the many beauties of homeschooling, is that you choose your own curriculum! The biggest difference is that you can buy textbooks with Christian worldviews, no matter what the subject is. BUT, that definitely doesn’t mean all homeschoolers are Christians. You can choose whatever curriculum you would like, and most often I had a different curriculum for each subject based on my learning styles and preferences.
Do you still have to take standardized tests, get grades, have a GPA, etc?
I have taken many standardized tests over the years. My mom has always graded everything with discernment and grace, and she has figured up my GPA. As far as HAVING to take tests and show my grades, though, that changes from state to state. I have lived in Iowa, Mississippi, and Kansas, and every state law has looked different. In the standardized tests, I usually tested two grades above average in most subjects so we started to take them less often as I got older and moved to a state that didn’t require them every year.
Was there anything about public school that you felt like you missed?
Yes, of course! I will never go to a prom. I will never have a class reunion. When I went to public school sporting events, I always felt out of place so I eventually stopped going to them altogether. There are things I felt like I missed out on, but they aren’t things that make me regret my family’s decision. With every decision you make in life, you are saying no to really great opportunities for something you believe is better. I believe that is why I wanted to continue homeschooling, even though my parents always kept the option open for me to go to public school. There are things I missed, but there are also things that my public school friends missed out on that I had the opportunity to be involved in. Homeschooling fit just right for me, and although it’s hard sometimes to feel left out, I wouldn’t trade the long term impact that homeschooling has made for any of the short term things I may have missed.
Do previously homeschooled students typically find they are either under-educated or over-educated when later attending public school/a university?
I haven’t ever heard of a student feeling incompetent or under-educated when entering the public school or college setting. In the case of someone feeling a little behind, homeschooling teaches you to be a critical thinker and you are already accustomed to teaching yourself tough new concepts. This means that you have the skill to work independently on the things you don’t understand (which is especially vital in college), and you are able to think outside of the box when it comes to subjects that you were already well-rounded in.
Is there much exposure to the community during the time of being homeschooled?
This is ultimately a family-by-family decision. I was heavily involved in family life, church groups, homeschool group classes or parties, and community events.
Tim Tebow was homeschooled, and he explains it well in his book Through My Eyes:
Name three keys to successfully homeschooling.
Community. It is possible to homeschool without a support system, but practically and relationally it is best to have a team of people alongside you. Discipline. With great flexibility, comes a heavier weight of responsibility. Creativity. Make it fun! And don’t take the privilege of being able to school at home for granted.
What was your least favorite part about homeschooling?
By far, dealing with homeschooling myths and ignorance was definitely my least favorite part. Although I love to answer questions and abolish as many myths as I can, sometimes I wished that I could mention school without having to answer a list of often skeptical questions and face sometimes hurtful comments. Another hardship was not being able to contribute to a lot of my peer’s conversations when they were specifically discussing their sports teams and daily classes. Most of my peers only talked about school – which makes sense, because it is the largest percentage of their life and most of them have the same experience in common. I don’t feel like homeschooling was a hindrance in me making meaningful relationships (it taught me to be outgoing and intentional in a way that public schoolers don’t learn as naturally), but small group discussions were often challenging when everyone was consistently comparing teachers and projects that I wasn’t involved in at all. But my true friends always drew me back in and never let me feel excluded for long.
What did you like about being homeschooled? What was your favorite thing?
Maya Angelou said, “The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.” I loved the safety and flexibility of homeschooling. I don’t know what it’s like to be a homeschooled extrovert, but as an introvert it only added to my success. I grew up in an environment where I could be myself and broaden my mind without worrying about how I measured up to the kids around me. As I have just started learning in a classroom with peers, I am seeing the value in having a strong sense of self before entering an environment where you naturally compare yourself to others. I love that homeschooling allowed me to travel constantly, go slower when I didn’t understand, sprint ahead when a concept came easily to me, to teach myself effectively, to live a simpler life that wasn’t constantly defined by hurry, and that it enabled me to build rich and unique relationships with people of all ages.
If you didn’t have the opportunity to ask a question before this post, feel free to engage in conversation and drop your questions in the comments below. This post was meant to stand as a kick-off to opening up more informational and kind conversations on homeschooling! If you are interested, don’t let the conversation end here.
For more information on homeschooling, here are some links to articles and a video from homeschooler and recording artist Jamie Grace – some include humor, some include plain statistics. They are golden resources and hopefully they can clear up anything I may have missed!
For Statistics & Research:
Google search “homeschool statistics”