Confessions of a Homeschooler: Iris Rosenthal’s Story, Part Two
Iris Rosenthal blogs at The Spiritual Llama. This story is reprinted with her permission.
< Part One
Since my original post I have come to the realization that I have just scratched the surface on everything that I have to tell about homeschooling. One of the problems I have with home education is that there is hardly any regulation. During the time I was homeschooled, K-12, I never once had to take the SAT or ACT or any other sort of evaluation test.
As long as it looked like I was studying I was pretty much left alone. The only subjects my mother was constantly involved in were; math, spelling and english. Occasionally she would check my work in the other subjects, but for the most part I was left to fend for myself and once I reached the age of 15 any involvement from her pretty much came to a stop.
I often hear the argument that not all parents homeschool are like this and that my mom was doing it wrong. While that may be the case, I don’t think that this should be lightly brushed off. We are talking about the education of children here! It is my belief that whichever route you choose, it’s very important that your children receive the best possible education. Be involved, be a part of their lives, listen, be aware of what they are learning about and learn with them!
With the lax requirements in place for homeschooling it only flings open the door for cases such as mine to happen. So much for homeschooling being better than public school (for those who don’t know me, that was sarcasm)!
I know my story is not the only one, my brother & sister and close friends have also experienced the same lack of education and preparedness to function in the real world because of being homeschooled. However, I’m not here to tell their story for them, I’m here to tell mine.
My first full time job experience happened when I was 21 at a call center. Yes I’d had jobs previously, but they were just odd jobs and the people I worked for I already knew from either homeschool group, church or 4-H. So I was always within that bubble my mother had me living in.
While working at the call center I got to know people who *gasp* went to public school, it was then that I started to realize that there were holes in my education. I didn’t know any math beyond the basic add and subtract. I could barely multiply or divide. Forget fractions and algebra.
I also realized that I was spelling a lot more words wrong than what I originally thought I was. It’s pretty bad (not to mention embarrassing) when your manager brings back your vacation time off request (written in clear handwriting) and asks you to tell what words you meant to put down. I found myself sticking out a lot in all the wrong ways, and my judgmental attitude towards people who were different than me didn’t help with that at all!
I had never been around so many people from so many different backgrounds before, it was quite an eye opener and culture shock for me! I still remember the first time I heard someone swear. If I didn’t agree with something someone said or did I made sure to let them know that it offended me. If I knew someone was a Christian and I heard them say something that I didn’t believe a Christian should say I made sure to let them know how wrong they were.
Looking back, I was quite obnoxious and judgmental towards my coworkers at that job. It is no small wonder that barely any of them talk to me anymore and I can’t say that I blame them!
I am so thankful that I have learned since then and now at my current job I am known among my coworkers for being helpful and a team player. I no longer allow my homeschooling experience to define me, in fact I hardly ever bring it up. I don’t feel as though I should have to defend my education (or lack thereof) to anyone.
It is my desire that people know and define me by who I really am, and not as some “failed product of home education.”
I hope that by sharing my experiences I can somehow prevent them from happening to someone else. I remember how hard it was for me to adjust to being outside of the homeschooling bubble and in some ways, eight years later I am still adjusting.
If anyone is reading this and is going through that rough transition period from the bubble to the real world, just know that you aren’t the only one who has traveled that path. It may be rough now, but in the end you will be stronger and wiser for it!
While I managed to scrape by with a decent-ish education (I took physics, biology, chemistry, and math through Algebra 2), I still wasn’t monitored, supervised, or taught by either my mother or father after I hit my teen years. If I’d been in public school, I could have gotten into AP places and I might have had the math and science I needed to pursue any career field I was interested in, but I wasn’t, so my choices were severely limited.
The homeschoolers’ educations have holes you could drive a truck through, much like the Amish. The Amish who desperately wish to leave their cult find themselves woefully inadequately educated for life in the real world. Personally, I think the Amish bishops like their cult members to remain ignorant…keeps them firmly under control.
I am sorry that you had a rough home schooling experience, and maybe being in a public school would have been a great experience for you. Public school was a horrible experience for me and didn’t prepare me for anything. I went to school before home schooling was fought through the legal system; it was misconstrued as illegal then. I have horrible spelling (my friends have teased me about it for years) which is being corrected by the computer as I type, but, strangely, no one ever blames that on the schools I went to but on being part of who I am and what my abilities are. When the school was failing to teach me geometry and algebra (the teachers wrote on the chalkboard and talked and never turned around to see if anyone had questions or to see that most of the students were ignoring them and talking themselves and interfering with anyone who might have been trying to learn), my mother (who worked night-shift at the hospital and had to interrupt her sleep to do it) worked with my brother (who was in the same class by a strange co-incidence since public schools hate putting siblings into the same classroom) and me on our homework every night and taught us algebra and geometry. I was put in “dumbell” English and history and perhaps even the sections of math I took were the “dumbell” sections as well, and when I asked my high school counselor about college or college prep classes I was brushed aside, he didn’t have time for me. I found out later in life that all this was based on a state required standardized test that I was given in 5th grade which happened to be the week I had broken my finger and had to have surgery on it. Needless to say, I didn’t perform at my best on those tests, but those tests determined which classes I was put in for junior high, and then those classes determined that I wasn’t AP material and no one at the junior high or high school noticed that I was capable of more. So I finished high school confused as to why I didn’t know how anything about applying to colleges or for scholarships (that information was taught in the AP classes that I wasn’t part of) and discovered that I should have been looking and applying in my junior year. I discovered that I hadn’t even taken the classes I needed to enter college. I had to take remedial classes at the community college before I could even start taking college classes. So because of my personal experience and because of what I saw as a teacher, I home school my kids. My son is a national merit scholar and has received a 5 year, full-ride scholarship (he was offered several; he chose one only two hours away because he wants to be closer to home). He took dual-enrollment through high school and has completed 55 college units and all of his general ed requirements. He doesn’t know what he wants to do, but he has 5 years to experiment with different classes and internships to (hopefully) figure it out. Had he not chosen to go off to college this year, had he chosen to get jobs and figure it out first, he would have lost out on $157,000 in scholarships. My 15-year-old daughter starts her dual enrollment this year and most of her classes are online. My youngest is 11 and is home schooled entirely by me, though he does go to co-ops for interaction with friends. My sister’s daughter is also a National Merit Scholar but went to public school. But my sister did what she called “home schooling after school” because she had a similar experience as I did but her husband didn’t want the girls in public school and because she needed to work full-time M-F office hours. She was extremely active in her daughters’ classes and, like our mother, taught a lot of the material that the school (in their highly ranked school district) missed. I now tutor public schooled kids for a living; there are holes the size of ocean liners in these kids’ educations. They are lucky enough to have parents willing to pay me to fix these holes, but many, many kids in the public schools have parents who wont or can’t hire me to fix the holes…and I have a limited schedule and can’t teach them all. What I don’t want is the government getting to regulate what I can and can’t teach because everything the government touches (and I have worked in their schools) turns to crap!