Adult Homeschoolers Speak Out: Part Four, Academic and Emotional Experiences, K-8
HA note: The following series is reprinted with permission from Brittany’s blog BAM. Part Four was originally published on May 28, 2012.
Also in this series: Part One: Why I Wanted To Write This | Part Two: Survey Stats and Large Families | Part Three: Top 3 Reasons Parents Homeschool | Part Four: Academic and Emotional Experiences, K-8 | Part Five: The Highschool Experience | Part Six: College? Prepared or Not? | Part Seven: What About Socialization? | Part Eight: The Best Thing vs. What Was Missing | Part Nine, Do Former Homeschoolers Want to Homeschool? | Part Ten: Are the Stereotypes Better or Worse?
Part Four, Academic and Emotional Experiences, K-8
Welcome (or welcome back!) to this series about the experiences of Adults who were homeschooled! Today we will look at what former homeschoolers thought about their schooling experience from Kindergarten through 8th grade and how they remember feeling emotionally (liked it, didn’t like it, etc).
I thought this post was going to be pretty simple to write. I had read through all the surveys once and was thinking, “Oh, everyone had such a good experience in these grades and they all loved it!”
However, after reading through the surveys for a second time and crunching some numbers, I realized that my first impression was a little (too) rosy.
Here’s the short version:
- 91% or 39 adults said their Academic experience was good (“Great!” “Awesome!” etc).
- Only 9% (or 4 participants) said that it “could have been better.”
Emotionally, the numbers were a little different.
- 65% of adults (or 28 people) said that their emotional memories were good (“I loved it!” “I really enjoyed it.” etc) or that they had no memory of how they felt (2 participants or 4%).
- 30% (13 participants) of adult homeschoolers said that they struggled with negative emotions concerning this time in their lives. (To see survey demographics, click here).
Here are some of the Academic testimonies from the survey:
Kelly C.; 29 from VA: I have really pleasant memories of my homeschooling experience as a child. My mom only has a high school education and I feel like with the curriculum she had and the homeschool community we were a part of that I was not slighted in the least from receiving a good education.
Elizabeth J., 24 from VA: I loved it! . . . We only had three formal classes: Math, Spelling, and Grammar. And the rule was, once you finished the set assignments for the day, you were finished from school. So most days we would start around eight in the morning and be finished by 9:30 or 10. There were other things that we did sometimes: Handwriting, phonetics, field trips (we visited probably every important or historical site in Virginia). Also my siblings and I read like crazy. We would go to the library every Friday and get as many books as we could carry and my sister and I would read each other’s books. But we all had to get one science and one history book and write a report on it.
Nara N., 30 from NC: Academically: my Mom always chose curriculum from all kinds of places and at whatever grade level was appropriate for us in each subject. My brother and sister (twins) did not even always do the same curriculum for each subject. I was basically always above grade level and never knew what “grade” I was in.
Matthew W., 30 from OH: For the most part everything was good. I enjoyed the benefits of homeschooling and we had a lot of friends that were also homeschooled. We were in some pretty good homeschool groups and took some cool field trips.
Christine M., 31 from KS: It was a good, very positive experience. There were times I wanted to try out public school, but I loved knowing I could be done with my schoolwork before lunch and spend the rest of the day creating, exploring, playing, and just enjoying being a kid instead of dreading the homework that would follow me home. I had lots of time with friends at church, co-op, and in my neighborhood. I also had lots of time to foster my interest in piano.
Stuart G., 29 from VA: Academically: Admittedly, in these first years of home-schooling there was some frustration because my mother was trying to navigate the new waters of schooling at home, and being teacher for all eight of her children. On the positive side, I was given the freedom to more seriously pursue subjects I was personally interested in. My curriculum therefore, was tailored to my needs and natural inclinations, which in turn, made learning more enjoyable for myself, and (I believe) all of my siblings.
Corinna R., 35 from VA: Academically I did much better than I would have otherwise as my parents were able to cater to areas where I had a harder time (like math) and also push me and provide extra opportunities where I was gifted (like music).
Kellan A., 23 from KS: I really enjoyed it. I feel like I learned a lot and got an extremely good groundwork for the future.
O. G., 29 from KS: I thoroughly enjoyed being homeschooled. I think we had a great support group and I had a great relationship with my mom and sister. Academically I probably could have been challenged a bit more…
Emotionally, no one [in my survey] had a completely “bad” emotional experience. However, the ones whom I placed in this category indicated that they had struggled with negative emotions for about 2 years, usually starting around 5th grade. Others noted that Jr. High was a hard time emotionally (which is often a hard time for kids whether they are homeschooled or not).
Reasons cited for negative emotions:
- Wanted to go to public school
- Felt like he or she was missing something
- Felt different
- Didn’t feel “normal”
- May have lengthened struggle with shyness
- Was angry about being taken out of school
- Felt like parents had too much going on to help
- Lack of social activities
Interestingly, many participants tied their emotional experience to the availability of social experiences. (A note concerning interpretation: I had to use my personal judgement in determining the emotions behind the words/experiences in some of the surveys. For example, see academic results above where many just said, “I really enjoyed it.”).
I have included both positive and negative testimonials below:
Kelly C., 29 from VA: [T]he community that we were a part of was wonderful for me as far as socializing. I think there is a big misconception (among the non-homeschooled) that homeschoolers do not socliaze and for me that was not true. We were involved in many activities with other homeschoolers; I participated in 4-H, we had weekly get-togethers at the park or skating rink as well as field trips to various historical/educational facilities.
However, while Kelly noted feeling “wonderful” about these experiences, M.V. relates more negative feelings toward very similar experiences. This just shows that different students had different emotional needs.
M.V., 27 from KS: Emotionally, I had friends and social opportunities . . . I don’t feel like I was deprived of social events. At the same time, I don’t think I had much in the way of developmental activities. Sometimes kids this age get involved in a sport or a musical instrument: I had choir, 4-H and long walks through the pastures around our house, none of which were really conducive to developing my future skills and personality as an adult. I think the lack of developmental activities here contributed to more problems in high school.
Here is another contrast between experiences, this one concerning personality:
Nara N., 30 from NC: Emotionally: I think I did just fine. I’m naturally quiet/introvert. Sometimes I wonder if public/group private school might have brought me “out” more, but I think it probably would actually not have been good for me as a young child, and would have created a lot of extra stress in my early life.
E. H., 21 from DE: Emotionally, it may have lengthened my struggle with shyness, but it meant I was able to unfold in my own time and with invaluable personal/family/spiritual growth in the mean time.
S. M., 29 from WV shows a good contrast between someone who had a good academic experience but who struggled emotionally:
I was full of anxiety because I felt I was getting less of an education that my peers. I always felt educationally and intellectually inferior the entire time. Academically, I did well.
M.L., 26 from NE and M.D., 19 from KS both had positive experiences in earlier grades but struggled emotionally as they got older:
M.L., 26 from NE: The younger years I really enjoyed it, I loved being with my brothers while doing school, I felt challenged to always keep up with them . . . However with life changes, baby, sicknesses/health conditions in the family I felt that my education wasn’t as important as other things going on. Whenever I had questions about school, I felt like my mom had too much going on to help me. In 5th grade I really struggled with school, I felt like all of a sudden it was really hard, I didn’t understand it, it took me forever, I didn’t feel challenged to do well because my brother who had always been a year ahead of me was now behind me and the others were too far ahead so I had no motivation to do well it school. It was the first time I begged to go to public school, I thought, “even if I hate school, at least I would be with my friends.
M.D., 19 from KS: My view of homeschooling up to [5th grade] was fairly accepting. I remember a few moments of jealousy toward other kids my age who got to spend their days with their friends in public school, but for the most part homeschooling was normal for me, and I didn’t question it.
I remember middle school being the time when I really started questioning whether I wanted to be home schooled. I was becoming more involved in my church youth group and less involved in the home school group and because of this I was surrounded by kids who attended public school.
On the other hand, other adults recorded strong, positive emotions in looking back on these years:
Stuart G., 29 from VA: Emotionally: I was happy and enjoyed strong relationships with my siblings due to the fact that we were schooling together. Furthermore, my bond with my parents became stronger because of the increased time we were spending together. Especially effective was my father’s involvement in my education, which had not existed prior to home-schooling.
There was also a noted lack of turmoil that many of my peers in public/private atmospheres experienced. Because we missed out on much of the “drama” middle-school and high-school atmospheres cultivate, we were more at peace with ourselves (choosing things we were truly interested in without regards to what was “popular” at school, etc), and amongst ourselves.
Overall, homeschoolers [in my survey] looking back at their elementary and Jr. High years remember being satisfied academically and happy emotionally (though I think some of the responses concerning emotional satisfaction are very thought provoking).
What about you?
If you were homeschooled, what do you think about your academic and emotional experiences looking back at K-8th grade?
If you homeschool your children, what thoughts or concerns do you have about their academic and emotional lives?
Please feel free to comment and ask questions!
Also, feel free to share these posts on Facebook or other social networking sites if you feel that others would benefit from or be interested in this series!
To be continued.
This is interesting – I am reading as a current homeschool mom learning what not to do from the people on this board – you are all so helpful to me!!! Anyway my oldest daughter is now going into 6th grade. We have decided to let her go to public school and try it out. I hope and pray that she wildly successful, I worry because my middle school years in public school were anything but wildly successful.
I think that you are right in assessing the middle school time is hard for all kids regardless.
Coco Mama, so glad you are reading! Thanks for your comment.
I do not remember too much of my early education. My mother did not use grades. We all progressed through math and english as we were assigned and depending on how we did on my mother’s tests.
History and “Bible” (it was a whole subject in and of itself) were intertwined inextricably and I took it along with my older sister and brother (4 and 2 years older than me). I was told by my mom that I kept up with them even as a 3yo memorizing verses and facts and expressing interest in the subject matter.
I had a hard time in 7th grade with pre-algebra and so my mom had me do consumer math (which I found easy enough) before launching me into Algebra 1 at 14. I hated it and barely passed by her standards (80% minimum mastery). I refused to do any further math after that and kept my resolve (unless you count Chemistry and Physics).
Other than that I do not remember any issues with my childhood academically. We lived overseas, my father being a missionary, so our social interaction was limited by our social standing as well as color. I wanted more than anything to be accepted into my older sister’s peer group and was constantly having the door shut in my face. Being on par with her in one school subject made me think I was on par with her in everything else and it caused a lot of sibling tension and problems.
I always felt like my age was a barrier for me, causing me to be too young. I hated being little and wanted more than anything to be grown up, or “mature” as my parents called it.
Your homeschool experience sounds a lot like mine academically: no grades, doing “group” lessons, etc. I actually never received grades, except on math tests. My mom and I actually made up my high school transcript for college ::cringe::
As a current home school mom, I give spelling tests and math tests. For everything else we do experiments, projects, read and talk. If my kids know there stuff, they know there stuff. If they don’t we cover it until they do. So testing is not really needed.
Heidi, (it wouldn’t let me reply below your post. Weird). I agree that your method makes a LOT of sense (kids know their stuff–why test?) I think this method works well in elementary school and up to middle school. I think in high school standards of measurement become more important, especially if you child wants to go to college. I, personally, find the “testing culture” of public school annoying (at best) and perhaps even detrimental to learning (at worst) but the fact is that our educational culture, as a whole, relies on standards of measurement to show results, especially in secondary education (and beyond).
I do agree with testing in the higher grades, but I am not there yet. And my oldest is going to public school this year. She is a 6th grader and we are going to see if it is a better fit for her.
Long-time reader, first-time commentator. What’s missing from this post, of course, is a control group. Let me provide you with one from California:
Click to access Secondary_State_0911Main.pdf
According to the California Healthy Kids Survey (CHKS), “the largest statewide survey of resiliency, protective factors, and risk behaviors in the nation,” about 27% of 7th graders (and over 30% of high school kids) “feel so sad or hopeless almost every day for two weeks or more that [they] stopped doing some usual activities.” See Table A7.2.
I know the CHKS data does not match perfectly with the informal BAM survey, since BAM solicits experiences from grades K-8. But it does seem to show that homeschool kids struggle with negative emotions in an equal proportion to the population at large (although the “sad or hopeless feelings” that the CHKS survey identify seem to me to be more severe than the narratives that this post categorizes as “negative”).
I do think many of the perspectives on this blog are important. However, I would caution readers about the difference between correlation and causation. Childhood, especially adolescence, is a turbulent period for many regardless of their form of schooling. Sometimes the narratives on this blog are actually those of “Adolescents Anonymous,” which tell us little about homeschooling–except perhaps that in many respects homeschool kids are perfectly normal.
J, I agree with you. The survey I conducted was informal and based on qualitative/narrative analysis rather than quantitative analysis. My data set was small and, of course, didn’t offer a comparison between public school, private school and homeschooling students (or any other schooling options!).
Adolescence can be and usually is a difficult time for most children. And you are right that it is very difficult to to see the difference between correlation and causation. However, being homeschooled does adds a unique dimension to a child’s life as much about homeschooling (education, social, family dynamics) is very different from the ways that the majority of children in the USA are educated/raised.
One of the main reasons I conducted my survey was because I had never really talked to adult first generation homeschoolers about how they felt about their experiences. I was curious to learn about their opinions now they they had grown up and left the homeschooling “sub-culture.”
Thanks for your comment and link!
I appreciate the reply. I also appreciate the the narrative goals of your survey and don’t intend to detract from its value. Just adding to the conversation!
I’m not a homeschooler and am curious about your education in civics. What were you taught about our Constitution, if anything?
Lois, many homeschoolers I grew up with were extremely patriotic and would consider themselves Constitutionalists. The Constitution was right up there with the Bible in importance. Many of my homeschooled friends (including myself) had many portions of the Constitution and Bill of Rights memorized. Anyone else want to comment on this?
As a home school Mom we cover American history and government pretty thoroughly. In fact I had to work hard to find a curriculum that was not US History/Civics centered:-0 My kids are memorizing the preamble to the Constitution they are 5,7,9,12, along with other things.
I echo the other people here. America-centered homeschool curriculum is everywhere (see the newest addition of RonPaul/Gary North’s). I took/read/did at least 3 high-school level textbooks/courses about/on civics and American government and read through the Constitution and Dec. of Independence more times than I can remember.
In TeenPact I always lead my branch to victory in the Constitutional Power Grab.
Being anti-establishment/anti-government/extremely conservative/anti-democrat we learned only capitalist economics and all our books were critical or outright negative about socialism, communism, etc.
I grew up all my years in a non-Christian public school home. I learned too much American History, so when I started to homeschool I wanted my kids to learn about the whole world not just American history. In public school I learned a little about other places, like Egypt had the Nile and pyramids, I learned about Europe and European history. I once colored an African map and watched a movie about pygmy’s. In 10th grade I was super frustrated because the class was almost an exact repeat of my 7th grade American History class. I confronted the teacher and she confirmed my suspicion. She understood my frustration and encouraged me to take World History in 11th grade. So I did. We learned more European History. I was ticked. I graduated knowing nothing about the Far Eat except MASH was about the Korean War, the Vietnam war happened there, the Japan bombed us, China had a Great Wall that you could see from space (which isn’t true).
I choose my curriculum because I wanted my kids to know that there was a huge wonderful world filled with wonderful things – and some evil things too. And that the USA although I love it, is a relative small part of world history.
I keep tabs on our local school district because I have had foster kids that attend pubic school. From 1-12 they had 10 years of USA history. Then 1 year of Ancient History and 1 year of World history – both in the junior high. About 4 years ago they decided to add 1 more year of US history and remove World History. I was livid! So I canned the Superintendent. He said he understood my concern and he was a history major. BUT only US history is on the standardized tests for IL AND I was the only parent in the whole district with any concerns and my kids did not even attend the school.
I would not worry about USA histroy/Civics in homeschool or public schools, I would worry that US students know that they are a little part of the history of the world and there is much much more to know and understand.
Heidi, Most of the history taught to me through homeschooling curriculum and at conferences was horrible. I worry often about the history being taught in homeschools, especially any American history that purports to be “Christian.” American history simply is not Christian and cannot be told in that light without doing it a tremendous disservice. I do agree with you that an international perspective would be good. So would you want your children (if they were in public school) to learn about Islam and Bhuddism and major world religions?
I want my kids to learn about other world religions and again that is why I choose Sonlight. Sonlight was created for Christian missionaries so it is an evangelical Christian home school materials – but at least 1 year they were banned from a Colorado home school convention. That said, there is a whole year – about 5th grade – that you study the Eastern Hemisphere. So you study lots of world religions and such. In 1st & 6th grade you learn about Greece and Roman religion/mythology. In my extended family we have people who are Wiccian, so we talk about that too.
I don’t know if you are interested but this is an overview
and reasons not to buy
This is so off the topic of the thread now, I did not mean to highjack it. I think it is wrong to teach history from one view and I don’t like it happening in any kind of schooling situation, but it happens for so many reasons. In home school, often because what the publishers offer is not so good. But also because parents lack of knowledge of history, they just go with what their books say. But the schools teach to the test and the tests are limited. I had 2 great history teachers in my schooling – but both American History- and a dad who told me many stories of history. My Dad telling me stories in the car taught me way more about history then I ever learned in school.
Being satisfied with education is pretty subjective. I scored far above average on half the SAT and 50ish pts below average on the other half. Some people would say I obviously had a good education, based on some measures of success so far. I’m not sold. I would have had a more rounded education in a formal school setting, with teachers who knew how to teach subjects my home teacher struggled with. Subjects I had a natural affinity for, but was too far behind people who were entering STEM programs. With some hard work to catch up, I’m competitive for some good grad programs. But my years of boredom and frustration in post secondary could have been avoided.
Only one more of my graduating class has gone on to pursue stem. Everyone else does lawn care, is employed by a church, or tries their hand at wedding photography. Happy memories of time with family or fun assignments, satisfied more or less with life now, ok. I’ll accept that. Afforded all the benefits of excellent suburban schools in our cities (seriously, mine was top ten in the state)? No. Minimally adequate education for middle class students in a first world country? Nope. The functional illiteracy for my class is, at best, in line with the rest of the county. These are poor to fair educations that people are overcoming – slowly, slowly people from my hs group are getting degrees. They’re intelligent, hardworking people who are a step behind – learning things in their 20s, in college, that they should have had a foundation in in their teens.
The people who homeschooled in our group and had kids follow a normal trajectory knew their limitations and put their kids in pu
T their kids into public or private schools by high school.
I would consider homeschooling my kids for a couple years if they needed it, b/c I do believe it can be a good choice in certain circumstances. But there should be performance standards and educational oversight. All kids deserve the life long opportunities that come with a good education. Homeschooled kids would have a really good shot if regulations and the culture of the movement changed
Fascinating discussion. I am a prof at a Christian college. Of all the students I have had so far that have told me they are homeschooled, I couldn’t tell them from their peers in the classroom. They DO have some, um, social freedoms; ie riding their bikes down the hallways of buildings- why not?
My kids are pretty bright, and I’m considering homeschooling them. However, and I’m sorry to be snide but I must speak truthfully, comments such as “if they know there stuff, they know there stuff” (misspelled TWICE) give me such a bad taste in my mouth…