Adult Homeschoolers Speak Out: Part Five, The Highschool Experience

Adult Homeschoolers Speak Out: Part Five, The Highschool Experience

HA note: The following series is reprinted with permission from Brittany’s blog BAM. Part Five was originally published on May 30, 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 Five, The Highschool Experience

Isn’t it funny that when you are going through an experience you can think, “Wow! This is awesome!” and then looking back you can think, “umm….wow. That could have been a lot different/better.” (Maybe that is how most of us feel about our adolescence….?)

This is kind of how I feel about my homeschool experience in high school. During those 9th-12th grade years, I loved being homeschooled. But now that I am 10 years post high school graduation (with a BA and MA under my belt), I have different feelings about what was good and what could have been better.

Many of the adults who participated in my survey felt the same way as I did but, as a majority, had a “good” experience academically and emotionally. However, the numbers were not as positive as when people looked back at their elementary/Jr. High years.

Here’s a little comparison:


Here is what some of them had to say about their positive academic experience in high school:

Beka R. 25 from KS: Good – I finished my high school curriculum somewhere around age 14 and then was able to do extra studies and college classes on political science and English to help prepare me for college. 

Jonathan M. 30 from TX: Here I know that I (in many ways) received a better education to prepare me for the real world. 

Elizabeth J. 24 from VA: We had the Abeka video classes, and we watched all of our classes on DVDs. Mom had researched the core classes of most high schools and what was required for colleges and we took, Math, English, Health, Science, History, Bible, Spanish, and my mom was in charge of PE. We has all of these classes every day. However, for the most part it seems very easy. I had a lot of control over my education because I was the one who was mostly in charge of studying and finishing assignments. Mom just graded everything. Other than that we were pretty much left to ourselves.

Nara N. 30 from NC: Academically: I was still above grade level. I graduated 2 years early at 16 and probably could have graduated at 15 except what would I have done then, too young to have my driver’s license even?

Bradley H. 23 from VA: Academically it was superb, from what I can remember . . . I was able to pursue science in a more rigorous fashion being homeschooled, and so I was able to prepare for college well.

Stuart G. 29 from VA: One of the best parts about my high school years was that it brought out an initiative to teach myself. My mom just gave me the books and the rest was up to me. For me, that was an important tool for me to learn, because I was learning self-discipline that would prepare me for higher level education and my career later down the road. I also began to help out with the education of my younger siblings, particularly in math. Perhaps this exercise was helping me better grasp fundamental concepts of certain subjects as well as challenging me to succinctly explain ideas, events, rules, etc. to my siblings. 

Many responders mentioned being taught high school subjects from other homeschool parents in a co-op setting; everyone thought this was a good experience. Also, many also said that they dual enrolled in college in their later high school years, giving them a head start on college classes.

As you can see from the statistics and these testimonies, many homeschool students felt that they had an excellent high school education.

However, here are the statistics for the “other side” of the story

  • 31% (13) of responders said their high school education was “not good” or “could have been better.”

Here are a variety of reasons they gave for these answers:

  • Felt under educated*
  • No guidance from outside adults (like a guidance counselor) concerning education*
  • Did bare minimum to get by
  • Could have been challenged more*
  • Parents not involved in education /  no accountability from parents / parents were too busy
  • Realized they could have achieved more
  • Difficulties and frustrations in math / science / English
  • Not as many opportunities as in a traditional school*
  • Didn’t try hard
  • Laziness (parental or personal)

In looking at all these reasons, I realize that the majority are not unique to the homeschool experience (the ones I marked with * are, perhaps, more related to homeschooling inadequacies than others). I wanted to put a star by “parents not involved” etc. but I realize that this is a gray area for many reasons:

1. If a parent is not involved in a child’s public or private school education, this could and may be a detriment to the student’s overall education

2. Many (if not most) homeschool parents encourage their high school children to be independent learners, and many students flourish in these opportunities (as seen in some of the quotes above).

3. I, myself, took charge of my own education from 8th grade-12th grade (picked my own curriculum, planned my lessons, was very independent of my parents in my education) and I turned out “fine.”


Lack of parental involvement is, I feel, one of the main reasons that my high school education could have been better, though at the time, I thought I was “amazing” for being “so responsible”! I’ll talk about the pros and cons of independent learning for homeschoolers when I write about homeschooling and the college experience.

If I was going to give any “take-away” advice on this point, I would say, “Kids still need their parents to be very involved in their education (pushing, encouraging, guiding, advising) in high school, maybe even more than in the elementary years.”

Emotionally, the stats between being happy homeschooling in younger years vs. high school are only 8 points apart.

19% (8 adults) said that they had a very negative emotional experience for these reasons:

  • Felt like they missed out on a lot
  • Lack of friends / no friends
  • Lack of social experiences
  • Family problems / Bad relationship with parents
  • Felt trapped by parents decisions
  • Wanted to fit in w/ others
  • Felt intense academic anxiety (not good enough)
  • Difficulty socializing w/ others (I’ll be covering this topic in a future post!)

23% (10 adults) had mixed emotions, meaning “I liked some things, but…”

Here are some reasons they gave for having difficulty emotionally (Some of the answers are the same as above. The difference between the two groups is that the above group had a decidedly negative emotional experience for the reasons given; the group below said that their experience had some good parts but also difficulties):

  • Difficulties w/ parents,
  • Lots of teasing from non-homeschooled peers
  • Felt awkward
  • Difficulty finding friends
  • Felt something was missing from high school experience
  • Difficulty w/ curriculum (more of an academic issue but for several students, this cause emotional problems as well)
  • Struggle with shyness
  • Really wanted to go to public school

It is great to see that, overall, homeschooled high schoolers have had good experiences both academically and emotionally. Somehow though, I wish the satisfaction rate was higher for both academics and emotions (even personally). As I stated in my very first post, everyone [in my survey] “turned out fine” and, at best, have worked through their limitations that came from homeschooling or, at worse, learned to accept this part of themselves.

The truth is, everyone goes through “crap” during the high school years, either in public, private or homeschool. The struggles for public/private school students are often very different — and not just the “unholy trinity” of sex, drugs and alcohol. Like it or not, homeschooled high schoolers still experiment sexually and are tempted by drugs and alcohol. But homeschool students often go through personal struggles that their non-homeschooled peers do not have to deal with.

What do you think? 

Were you homeschooled in high school? How was your experience academically and emotionally?

Do you homeschool (or plan to homeschool) your high school student? Do any of these results surprise you?

Please share your comments below! And feel free to share this post with others that may be interested or may benefit from this series.


To be continued.

16 thoughts on “Adult Homeschoolers Speak Out: Part Five, The Highschool Experience

  1. Lynda July 22, 2013 / 11:51 am

    Interesting data. As I was reading I find myself wondering what your sample size was. I went back to your 2nd article for that information. The reason that I was wondering was that your data is contradictory to my experience. Your data is also board toward Kansas which may partially explain why my experience with homeschooled students is different. I know homeschooled students who are 17, and are reading at the college level, but who have an 8th grade math level. I think this where your insight that patent involvement becomes important. if that same student were in a formal educational seeing they would have teachers who would be invested in their success even if the their parents are not. While if the homeschooled student is solely relying on patent involvement they can easily slip through the cracks. Having said that, I also know some incredibly well prepared homeschooled students. I truly believe that the parents make the difference. Also, as I’ve read more and more articles on Homeschool Anonymous it seems that add patents have more children their ability to effectively homeschool decreases. I just wanted to share my thoughts. My experiences are anecdotal at best, but I thought it worthwhile to share.


    • Brittany July 22, 2013 / 2:23 pm

      Thanks for reading and sharing your insights Lynda!


  2. Retha July 23, 2013 / 10:13 pm

    Have you tried, in your study, to correlate some experiences with others? For example, you stated that some homeschoolers were only children and some from large families. Did you try, for example, to see if small-family home schoolers were more/less likely to feel positive about the emotional side than those from large families?

    Or did you perhaps correlate academic experience to parent’s motives for home schooling?

    I believe that saying things like” “parents who home school for reason x is more likely to have children who do academically well than those who home school for reason y” or “children home schooled in large families are more/ as/ less likely to be happy with their home schooling experience” will be very helpful. Such things seem to be possible to extract from your data, if you did not do it yet.

    I would also like it if someone could correlate (un)successful home schooling to how much the parents believe in and teach gender roles, as that may influence how they teach girls.


    • Brittany July 24, 2013 / 4:54 am

      Retha, thanks for your comment! Since my data set is so small, it would be hard to make definite assessments about which family type is “ideal” for homeschooling from my survey results, etc. Plus, my methods weren’t “scientific” enough to make those deductions either, as I relied overwhelmingly on anecdotal/narrative/qualitative data.

      I would be very curious to see a study about homeschooling and gender roles. I personally have thought a lot about this and have considered writing about this topic.


  3. evelynkrieger August 4, 2013 / 9:29 am

    This is just a survey, nothing scientific, and I don’t think you can draw any conclusions other than many adult homeschoolers had positive experiences and some did not. There are so many variations of homeschooling, that it would be quite challenging to do any kind of meaningful study. We all reflect at our experiences and wish differently. Example: I wish my parents didn’t let me quite piano. I wish I went to public instead of private, or private instead of public. Hey, wouldn’t we all like to do college over now that we know what we know? My daughter has homeschooled since grade two. She has full choice in the matter and continues to choose homeschooling
    as she enters tenth grade. She’s thriving and that’s all that matters right now.


  4. snappert96 September 10, 2014 / 2:52 pm

    I know this is an old post, but wanted to throw in a comment. I am a homeschooling parent of four children. Our oldest just started college. We educated him at home through 8th grade and then he attended a private high school. While he did well, he continually expressed his frustration with what he considered “all the wasted time.” He often “wished he could be home schooled again.”

    I do think there were some gaps in his education at home. I also think there were gaps in his education at school. But once we realize that learning is not confined to the first 18 years of our lives, that is the beginning of wisdom.

    What do you think the statistics would be like if you questioned publicly educated adults? I don’t have 100% positive memories of middle school or high school. I had good academic experiences and bad. Great teachers and horrible teachers. Useful classes and worthless classes. I’m just not sure this type of “study” is useful in evaluating homeschooling as an educational option.


  5. Brittany September 16, 2014 / 5:56 am

    Thank you so much for your comment! My “study” was small and based on anecdotal evidence as well as my own experience. Other homeschooled students will have had different experiences too. 🙂 In speaking with friends and my husband (who went to public school), it has been easy for me to see that no schooling experience is perfect. I love what you wrote here: “But once we realize that learning is not confined to the first 18 years of our lives, that is the beginning of wisdom.” So true!! Very refreshing and freeing for parents (homeschool or otherwise) and students as well. Thanks again for your comment.


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