In May of 2014, I graduated with my Bachelor of Honour’s Degree, with a major in Sociology. As I prepared to walk across the stage to receive my degree, I reflected on my experiences that had brought me here to this moment — from kindergarten through my final project in my fourth year of my undergraduate program. This was an accomplishment I never expected to achieve. Along my educational journey, I had family question the home education method, and occasionally I had even questioned it myself. The result of my home education was a success. As I walked across the stage to receive my Bachelor’s Degree, I realized that homeschooling did provide me with success. It provided me with the success I needed to succeed in post-secondary education. The following narrative will tell of my experiences and challenges that I had in order to get where I am now — currently completing my Masters of Education degree and beginning my career. After graduation, I hope to gain employment as a School Administrator or within the alternative learning spectrum. My ultimate goal is to eventually operate my own private alternative learning school to provide children with the individualized attention similar to that which I received during my education years. I hope to reach underprivileged students who do not have the resources or encouragement to be successful in school.
I was homeschooled from kindergarten through grade twelve. I never set foot in a public school classroom until I volunteered in one during my first year of university. Growing up, I was often asked “do you like being homeschooled?” I did not know how to answer, since I did not know anything other than homeschooling. I always answered “yes”, since I did love it and was not aware of anything else. I was a very self-disciplined child and completed the majority of my work independently.
My parents never pushed for me to attend college or university. My parents made it clear that it was my choice. Most of the pressure to attend stemmed from my extended family. I did not know what I was going to do after I graduated high school, so I applied. Obtaining acceptance to university was easier than I anticipated, although I did not know what to expect. I simply had to submit an essay and the transcripts my mom wrote that stated all of the high school courses I took. My dad was not entirely happy about me attending school, but grew to accept it once I was enrolled. My mom was happy I was going and dedicated much time to editing my essays.
My first week of university was extremely overwhelming. The feeling I felt when I walked into orientation is indescribable. Although it is a small school, there were still more people than I was used to. I found my seat amongst hundreds of other first year students in the gymnasium, and the program began. Orientation was very informative and I became less anxious and more excited as the day went on. The administrative aspect of university was explained along with what to expect in the classes. The following day was my first day of classes. Because I had spent some time exploring the campus on my own the previous day, I easily navigated my way to class. I enjoyed my classes and easily made friends with a few people. One friend in particular I made during my first week of university was in three of my five classes. I remember her frequently saying “I’m going to socialize you.” She did. She made the transition to university easier in that we quickly became good friends and provided me with companionship on a daily basis. At the end of my first week of classes, I felt extremely overwhelmed but confident that I would be successful.
My first semester was enjoyable, although burdensome. I learned how to be successful in university. One new experience university brought me was writing tests, as I did not write tests during my homeschooling years. I did poorly on the first two tests I wrote. After this, I researched different ways to study and figured out which methods worked best for me. Since this was a new experience to me, learning how to study for tests was one of the biggest challenges I faced. Being amongst several other students, up to 80 in some classes, was a huge change. After the first few weeks, it became normal. The adjustment was not as significant as people assumed it would be for me.
I feel that I was prepared for university because I was accustomed to learning and studying independently. Although homeschooling provided me with a sense of responsibility for my learning, part of my self-discipline comes from my personality. Throughout university, I knew what needed to be done by what date. I made efforts to complete the work in advance. My parents through home education helped to instill this into my character by encouraging me to set my own goals and routes to achieve them. Because of this, I became very self-disciplined from an early age. This transferred to my post-secondary studies in that I would become determined to complete the assigned work when it was given, rather than waiting until a later date. I did not feel as prepared as I should have been for the social aspect. I quickly adjusted to the many people in my classes, however.
I am currently completing my Master’s thesis before graduating with my Masters of Education. The transition to university from being homeschooled was very overwhelming. I adjusted more quickly than I anticipated. I felt that I was on par with my peers in terms of academics. Although my homeschooling experience was not entirely positive, it did provide me with the skills I needed to be successful in university.
As I’m sitting here contemplating my homeschool-to-college story and how to write about it, I think of all the other stories my homeschool brothers and sisters will have to tell alongside mine, and I think… “I’m one of the lucky ones.”
For all the positive stories of a seamless transition, I expect there to be war stories from those who had to fight for themselves. For every transition story, positive or negative, I expect that there’s an empty space where there is no story because you still haven’t gotten to go yet.
I’m lucky, because I didn’t just get to go, I was told to go. College was expected and prepared for.
Of course, I didn’t want to go. My argument was “If I’m just going to be a stay-at-home wife and mom, what’s the point?”
The argument came partly from my mother, and partly from my group of friends who weren’t going to be going to college. With them, I complained about how ridiculous college was, and said that I was only doing it because my dad was making me, thereby establishing my cover as a godly, submissive daughter despite the cesspool of worldliness I was about to wade into. Together, we justified my dad’s decision as something that God would bring good out of – maybe I would find a husband there.
Behind all that ideology and back-patting was a severe burn-out on all things educational, born of long years of being educated in a way that wasn’t conducive to my learning style at all. I was intellectually exhausted and completely unmotivated. But since it was verboten to critique homeschooling, and by correlation, my parents, I clung to the ideology. Cue more back-patting. Such a good little homeschooler!
Now I’m on the other side of college and I can’t believe how just-dig-a-hole-and-bury-myself-alive stupid I was being.
College was not difficult academically – the face-to-face setting and classroom interactions kept me focused and alert and my approach to picking a degree was a “path of least resistance” move.
It was not difficult financially – being from a large family with a modest, not extravagant, income made federal and state grants a certainty, and I had the support I needed from my parents to file and to fill in whatever financial gaps where left.
It was not difficult socially – embarrassing in retrospect to be sure, but at the time I was elated to have broader social access; I loved diversity even as I tried to squelch it by attempting to convert everyone; and honestly, I loved being the weird one in a given social group. It made me stand out as actually being someone interesting and unique, whereas in the more homogenized, acceptable weirdness of homeschool culture, I was relegated to the sidelines due to being female and shy.
Of course, it could be said that I shouldn’t have found college such an easy experience– what if I had picked a more difficult degree? If I went back to school today, it’d be in an entirely different field that I simply don’t have the necessary pre-requisites for. I would have to do catch-up work first. My homeschool education would not have been adequate. And my approach to socialization should indicate just how seriously inept my social skills actually were (and still are today, to be honest, though I’ve learned how to hide it).
But I’m still the lucky one, because I still have a degree, despite the rampant facepalms and stupidity, and that is enough to get me into the door of any public university should I pursue different, or further, degrees.
And I’m lucky to have someone who made me do it, because for all that my dad was pretty awesome and deserves sainthood, there’s another story where someone’s parents were heinously misguided and kept their children imprisoned in patriarchy, isolated from society, and academically stunted.
And that’s unequivocally wrong and horrendous.
So to all the unlucky ones – I’m sorry. I don’t even have the words to express how frustrating and angering it must be. But you do, and I’ll be reading your stories. And to those who don’t yet have stories – I hope one day you will.
And to the lucky ones like me – let’s recognize our privilege, and be aghast that in this day and age, higher education is still inaccessible to some. Let’s fight for the educational rights of all and not rest in complacency.
And to the lucky, newly-minted graduates who are about to create a story: Don’t call your history prof a “liberal commie” just because he doesn’t teach revisionist history, mkay?
After some eleven years of homeschooling, overlapping with three years of local community college Gen Eds and art classes, my parents drove me and a few suitcases up to a medium sized public university, where they had met, married, been enchanted by ideas, and baptized as Christians. In the car, I read them excerpts from For the Life of the World, a book on sacramental theology by Fr. Alexander Schmemann, a Russian Orthodox priest. We talked about the way he insists that Christianity is not a religion, comparing it to the Evangelical slogan we had grown tired of, “it’s not a religion, it’s a relationship.” We appreciated the precision with which he laid out what he meant by that — what both “religion” and “the Church” meant to him, and in what way he believed them to be different, along with his obvious love for the sacramentality of Creation.
In addition to academic and life skills, I learned from my parents to be conscious of the intellectual and theological traditions we inhabit; the philosophical lenses though with we encounter the world. Their beloved philosophy professor, Dr. Wood, had studied under O K Bouwsma, who studied under Ludwig Wittgenstein, who was influenced by Kierkegaard, who was known to exclaim things like “shout it from the rooftops: truth is subjectivity!” and leave it to the reader to figure out the extent of his irony. Along with that, I inherited a tradition of beautiful theological fairy-tale tellers, myth makers, and mythopoetic enthusiasts (Inklings, George MacDonald, G K Chesterton, Antione de St. Exupery), and great, dense, thoughtful stories (The Brothers Karamazov, Les Miserables, Greek epics). By the time I went to college we had also started reading Eastern Orthodox writers, including some beautiful Byzantine, Arab, and North African theologians. We were a little snobby about self-consciously Christian books, from heartwarming prairie romances, to earnest pleas for courtship, to stifling Bible study booklets. We had read enough truly good books to recognize the mediocre or saccharine ones.
My parents were evangelical when I was growing up, because Evangelicals believed that the Bible was true, without equivocating, and so did they. Still, we never quite fit in. We were introverts in an extroverted church, engaging with a different intellectual tradition than most of the church. They were also passionate about education in general, not only homeschooling, and have both taught in public schools since I graduated.
In a lot of ways, my parents did homeschooling right, at least for me.
When I transferred to the university as a junior, I decided to major in Art Education because I had a lot of art credits already, but wanted an obvious job to do when I graduated. I had a mix of romantic excitement about books, ideas, and intellectual engagement, and cynicism about the College of Education. Despite some engaging classes in art history, wood fire ceramics, and argument analysis, cynicism largely won out within the institutional coursework. Education was a poor fit for my temperament, strengths, and life experience, which emphasized philosophical pondering over real world management concerns. Also, most of my courses assumed a good grasp on what public school classrooms are actually like, based on experience as a student, which I didn’t have. I spent a lot of time wandering around campus and pacing my dorm hall muttering to myself about “cognitive dissonance.” Transitioning from homeschool to college was much easier than from college to teaching in a public school.
One thing I do regret about my college experience is that it nearly extinguished my love for arts and crafts, which had been encouraged through near daily 4-H meetings. I’m good with my hands, at devising beautiful and occasionally useful objects, and also with my mind, at picking apart ideas and tracing them back to assumptions and reasoning. But postmodern, post-industrial art criticism is a precarious business, destroying as much as it illumines. I would regularly end up, in the course of art apologetics (the branch of art education aimed at policy makers, school principles, and the students who would prefer not to be there), concluding that visual arts can be true, good, and beautiful; they can be good for people’s creativity, observation skills, and appreciation of the world; they may come in handy for various reasons; but it’s more or less arbitrary what exactly students learn, or how exactly they learn it. And I hate enforcing arbitrary things on unwilling students. So eventually my own work began to feel arbitrary as well, and I largely gave up on it.
A few years later I got a Masters in Liberal Arts at a lovely little Great Books college with a long and venerable history (for America), because even though my degree had opened interesting, practical doors to me in the real world, I still felt I had missed out on my romantic ideal of what college should be. I got to read important books from the Western canon all day while sitting on balconies or in parks and watching the sky, then sit around a table and talk about them. It was delightful.
I got pretty solid grades, but aside from a few electives, most of my positive intellectual, spiritual, and social engagement came about through involvement as a catechumen at the local Greek Orthodox mission. There were theological books to be read, Byzantine liturgical chants to be learned, a complex liturgical tradition of feasts and fasts to practice, and a warm, welcoming little community made up mostly of first or second generation Greeks and students. My parents were supportive and interested in what I was learning. In my second year of college, they drove up for my baptism into the Orthodox church, and to bring my home for Christmas break, which included a week stay at a Serbian monastery.
Every now and again my Protestant high school, and later college, youth groups had talked about all the temptation I was expected to face in college, which never materialized, but it was a very minor part of my overall experience. The same people suspected icons of being idolatrous, which I was also unconcerned about. They invited me to a crafts class, college dinners, and a ball (where my neckline was deemed too low), and were pretty accepting of any perceived theological oddities.
It’s hard, and perhaps not even desirable, to trace back everything I experienced in college to specific causes, be they homeschooling, religion, temperament, or anything else. Was I somewhat awkward and naive? Yes. I still am, to an extent. Would I have been less awkward and naive if I had gone to a regular school? It’s hard to tell. Maybe. Has my awkwardness and naivety hurt me? Also hard to tell. Not in ways that are very important to me, I think. Maybe if I had gone to a good school I would have learned math and science better. Maybe then I could have taken a more technical major.Maybe I could be working in a neuroscience lab! In some alternate reality I’m well on my way to becoming an important neuroscientist. Or maybe not. Probably not.
Author note: Arielle was homeschooled K-12 and is currently a graduate student studying U.S. history.
No matter where in the world I am, I chat weekly with my mom, who homeschooled me for thirteen years and did a swell job. We both love stories, wordplay, and discovering what makes people tick. Thanks to the magic of the silicon chip, we bat ideas back and forth across thousands of miles, across oceans and borders.
As she often does, Mom recently shared with me something she’d read: an article that argued humans have a hard time processing competing narratives. We talked about how this jibes with what we’ve observed — how it applies to politics, media, personal experiences. We discussed how cognitive dissonance hurts, threatening our fixed realities, but also reveals complex truths.
After the conversation ended, I kept thinking. I thought about how my mom and I are kindred intellectual spirits, despite our differences. I thought about how glad I am that she spearheaded my K-12 education. I thought about how that article she shared was right; how narratives really do clash in the news, in my dissertation, in everyday interactions; how people struggle to reconcile those narratives, often refusing to do so, even if they’re not mutually exclusive.
Then it hit me: This concept of competing narratives, and of people balking at their coexistence, applies to today’s nationwide conversation about homeschooling.
Many “moderate” homeschoolers like my mom and me — those focused on academics, not ideology — lived an upbeat narrative of educational pioneering, with innovation and inquiry and open horizons. It was imperfect, but all in all, it was exciting and often vindicating. When we encounter the growing narrative about homeschooling’s dark side, mental turmoil ensues.
Sometimes that turmoil is just dismay at bad publicity, compounding the defensiveness that homeschoolers often feel: We have to prove we’re normal, successful, not a stereotype. Frequently, though, it’s true cognitive dissonance. If we’ve only seen hints of homeschooling’s dark side, or have sidestepped it entirely, we really are facing a foreign narrative and struggling to fit it with the story we lived. As homeschooling grows and diversifies, it’s even easier for today’s moderates to form like-minded communities, to chat online about learning styles and college scholarships, gather locally for field trips and science labs. It’s thus that much harder for them to accept the darker narrative.
So we moderates — parents, students, graduates — tell ourselves that this “dark side” comprises bad apples who’d have hurt their kids anyway, homeschooled or not. Or we tell ourselves that it’s a few fringe cults. Or we tell ourselves that homeschooling has changed, that the dark narrative only describes the past. We’ll do anything to escape the dissonance.
Deep down, though, I think most moderates — even in today’s factionalized world —know that the dark narrative is real, substantial, and present-tense.
We see the extreme speakers at statewide conventions, the harsh corporal punishment manuals at curriculum fairs, the leading homeschool lobbyists who make children their political soldiers, the neighbor who’s shaky on math but firm on religious or anti-establishment dogma. We read stories of trauma on ex-homeschooler blogs, even if that means skimming for a minute and leaving a “we’re not like that!” comment and hastily clicking away. We recognize that not all homeschooling parents prepare or care to teach academics, that some homeschool subcultures draw well-meaning newcomers into dangerous beliefs and behaviors.
I know the dark side of homeschooling is real because I glimpsed it growing up, and because some of my friends lived it. I’ve reconciled myself to the clash between their stories and mine. I remember the immense power over my future that my parents gained when they chose to homeschool; I know how lucky I am that they used it well; I can imagine what it would have been like if they hadn’t. But without concrete knowledge of homeschooling’s dark side and instinctive empathy for its victims, moderate parents may find it easier to look away, to quiet the cognitive dissonance and insist on the single narrative they know.
I ask them not to do that. I ask you not to do that.
Yes, I’m talking to you, moms and dads on the Well-Trained Mind forums, members of pluralist play groups, high-powered parents who write in the New York Times about your homeschool journeys, throngs of mommy bloggers who make me smile with your familiar accounts of history units and hands-on astronomy. You’re doing what my mom did. You’re doing a good job. You’re on the right track. But your child’s experience and my experience are not as universal as we’d like to think. For the sake of your child’s friends and the children you’ve never met, please come to terms with that sad, messy truth. Recognize that the dark narrative is also real, and then stand up for the vulnerable.
Standing up for the vulnerable means embracing accountability. I know that feels scary in some homeschooling circles, even the moderate ones. I remember sharing that feeling. But the measures that will make a difference are basic. At least one state, Pennsylvania, already has those measures in place, and homeschoolers there are thriving. Please learn more about the policies that reform advocates recommend — and the reasons behind each suggestion — rather than bristling at abstract “government intrusion.” The next time you’re urged to oppose a legal “threat” to homeschooling, please research what it really entails. Weigh the downside of a minor hassle against the upside of saving a child’s life or future.
As a moderate homeschooling parent, you can also effect change through the day-to-day. You can refuse to buy legal insurance from HSLDA, a far-right group that believes children have the same rights as chattel, and urge your friends to do the same. You can organize against the extremists in homeschool leadership, and perhaps assume local leadership yourself so that your sensible voice gets amplified. You can promote responsible homeschooling within your community, share best practices and flag bad ones, intervene when you notice a child is not safe or not learning, model fascination with the world rather than fear of it.
I’ll tell you now, with cross-my-heart honesty, that no one — not even my friends who wear the worst scars — wants to ban homeschooling. I’m confident that no one will try. But if anyone ever does try, I will stand with you and defend homeschooling, tell my positive story, shout from the rooftops about how wonderfully it can succeed. In the same way, I hope you will stand with me and stand up for the victims, for the reality of the uglier stories, for those who lived them and are living them.
Work to destroy that dark narrative, not by dismissing its existence, but by opposing the ideas and structures that allow it to persist.
Moderate parents, think of me as Dickens’ ghost of Christmas future, your own child all grown up. Keep up the good work, keep asking your kids what they’re thinking and feeling about their education, face the hard times with thoughtful humility, and know there’s an excellent chance your children will thank you, just as I thank my mom. Relish the prospect of deep, quirky phone chats fifteen years hence. What’s more, consider how your kids will not only thank you, but also feel immensely proud of you, when they learn you made the world better when you had the chance — that you fought cruelty and extremism, furthered kindness and accountability, and took a stand for their friends and peers who aren’t as lucky as they are.
HA note: The author’s name has been changed to ensure anonymity. “R” is a pseudonym.
I’ve been following Homeschoolers Anonymous almost from its creation when I first learned about it from Lewis Wells’ blog, CommandmentsofMen. Many of the stories written here have resonated with me, and I’ve shared quite a few on Facebook, especially those regarding HSLDA.
But a comment one of my friends left on one of my Facebook posts got me thinking.
I was homeschooled all the way through high school. When I would ask my parents why I was homeschooled, the answer they gave never involved religious reasons. I was a hyperactive child, and the preschool teacher I would have made it clear that she did not want any parental help with the 15+ little children in her class. Thus my parents decided it was in my best interest for them to teach me at home, at least for the first few years of school to ensure that I had good preparation. I think my parents planned to enroll me in public school at some point, probably once they felt the school subjects were above their reach, but that day never came. I remember asking a couple times throughout my young life when I’d go to public school, and my parents always had a different reason to delay.
To be fair, the quality of education I received was very good.
Both my parents have 4 year degrees; my father even has a science-based PhD from Stanford. I think the real concern for them was choosing a curriculum, building lessons plans, and being responsible for my younger brother’s and my education. I think as the years went by, they became more comfortable with the mechanics of homeschooling.
I’m not sure when it started, but religious fundamentalism started to creep into our house.
I know both my parents were Catholic growing up, but in college they found evangelicalism. Their faith, however, wasn’t rooted in a specific denomination; whenever we’d move to a new city they would find a church that agreed with their dogma. In one state we were Baptist, in another Presbyterian. I think they grappled with how to best instill their values in their children. I can’t recall what age I was, but I remember sitting through one of Bill Gothard’s seminars and also participating in a Growing Kids God’s Way workshop. Naturally, with these influences my parents gravitated towards a very authoritarian style of discipline.
It was several years into college before I could even entertain the thought that I may have been abused as a child.
Because of my parents’ involvement with HSLDA, they had carefully built the following mental roadblocks for me:
DHS is bad. Completely normal disciplinary actions are considered abuse by them, and if DHS even suspects my brother or I have been abused, they will swoop in, kidnap us, and stick us with a family that doesn’t want or care about us because we’re an inconvenience.
Psychologists only care about money; they will try to blame every problem on the parents and write scripts for imaginary issues.
But it all worked out.
Random people would always compliment my mother on how well behaved my brother and I were. People that knew us from church or other places were always impressed by how talented we were. I was a national merit scholar, went to university on a full scholarship, majored in engineering, and now work for a global leader in the oil and gas industry. I have a talented wife and a beautiful daughter.
I mentioned earlier that my parents first decided to homeschool me because of hyperactivity; I was diagnosed with ADHD as a child and took medication for it until I was around 12. My father was an excessive perfectionist, and both parents embraced an authoritarian style of parenting. By the time I got to university, I was struggling with depression and low self-esteem that oftentimes left me paralyzed with feelings of hopelessness and uselessness. While I graduated as an engineer, my grades were far from exemplary, and my current position is the result of years of work and preparation overcoming the hurdles I had graduating from high school.
Because of my lack of freedom growing up, I still have problems deciding what I want, and I am plagued with uncertainty and doubt every time I make a major decision. In short, I could not function in the real world and still have difficulty even today.
So I blamed homeschooling.
But as I began to think about my friend’s comment, I realized something: homeschooling is just a tool, a method of instruction, a means to an end. All the positive homeschooling stories combine with the negative stories to show that.
Like any tool, homeschooling can be misused and abused.
It is important to remember this as we chronicle the stories of our youth: that responsibility does not lie with the method of instruction but with the instructors themselves, whether they be our parents or those our parents look to for guidance.
I Am A Testament To Homeschooling’s Power: R.L. Stollar
Do you want proof that homeschooling can be awesome?
Then look at Homeschoolers Anonymous.
Along with Nicholas Ducote, I have organized an online community that — in less than five months — has received national media coverage, garnered over half a million views, received both the praise and the wrath of educational activists, and engages in dynamic social media activism.
I don’t attribute that to myself. I attribute that to homeschooling.
Now, some of you might be thinking, “Well, Ryan, of course you attribute that to homeschooling! You hate homeschooling. If you didn’t hate homeschooling, you wouldn’t have organized this community. How is that a positive?”
First, I don’t hate homeschooling.
Second, sure — if I did not experience negative experiences and observe other people have similar experiences, I would not have made Homeschoolers Anonymous. I’d be on the other side of this whole debate, scratching my head and wondering, “What is everyone upset about?”
But that’s not what I am saying.
What I am saying is that the skills necessary to pull this off – the skills of community organization, advocacy, communication, debate, and social media — I directly credit to my homeschooling experience. All things considered, my parents gave me an excellent education. For example, my mother is an amazing writer and editor. She put an extraordinary amount of effort — and skilled effort, not just energetic effort — into my writing abilities. We read awesome books as kids. We were encouraged to write our own stories.
I was even encouraged to write my own plays.
I wrote a full musical when I was twelve — “The Fun Factory” — and my mom cheered me along. Which is very gracious of her, in retrospect, because the musical is highly embarrassing to me now. My dad constructed an entire theater stage — a real one, with curtains and everything! (my dad worked for a furniture construction company at the time) — for me in the backyard. Along with other kids from our homeschooling group, my siblings and I put on a full-blown production.
That’s awesome homeschooling right there, folks.
I wrote a musical, my dad built a stage, a bunch of kids were creative and self-driven, and we put on a legitimate production for our parents. We even charged an admission fee that covered the costs of the production materials and the food provided during intermission.
That’s Writing, Drama, Wood Shop, Leadership Dynamics, Music, and Economics right there.
I was encouraged to be creative. I was encouraged to think differently. I learned to write and express myself. I did speech and debate. I was taught to pour my heart and soul into research and advocacy. When I wanted to learn html so I could create websites, my parents bought me a book. When I wanted to make research books as a summer job, my parents underwrote my business. When I wrote controversial things for my research books, my parents stood by my side.
And here I am, years later, using these very things — using creativity, technology, communication, and inner drive — to do what I believe in. This drive and these skills I owe to my parents and the homeschooling environment they created.
When I critique the Christian homeschool movement with well-phrased sentences and well-placed screenshots that go viral, I am a testament to homeschooling’s power.
When I am not afraid to stand up and denounce the leaders of the movement who value ideas over children, I am a testament to homeschooling’s power.
That power is not mine to claim.
I had a severe speech impediment for years as a child. No one understood me except my older brother until I was an adolescent. I went through intensive speech therapy. And to make life even more complicated, I was abused by one of my speech therapists. And if that was not enough, I am also an introvert. I am extraordinarily sensitive. I was even a kleptomaniac as a kid. I started shoplifting when I was 6 or 7. I didn’t know what I was doing. I was just a broken, confused, and scared little kid.
And yet through the love and selflessness and dedication of my parents, through personalized experiences that supported me and my unique temperament, I became a national award-winning debater who taught thousands of other kids speech and debate when I was but a teenager.
Me, the kid who couldn’t speak basic syllables correctly.
I’ve been fairly critical of homeschooling in a good number of blog posts over the past two years.
One thing I’ve been asked a number of times is whether, looking back, there was anything about my homeschooling experience that was positive. It’s true that Sierra of the Phoenix and the Olive Branch and Lana of Wide Open Ground, while generally critical of many things about homeschooling and their own homeschool background, have both written postsoutlining the things they found positive about their homeshooling experience. Can’t I do the same? So here it is, my attempt to write about the positives side of my homeschool experience.
But I’m going to warn you up front that I don’t think this is going to go all that smoothly.
1. Self motivation.
I’ve always been a very self-motivated person. There were some years I worked ahead in my subjects and finished all of my schoolwork for the entire year by the end of March. I was always extremely hard working and driven, and this followed me into college as well. No one had to make me study. My parents have always chalked my self motivation up to the fact that I was homeschooled—and I used to do the same. Indeed, self-motivation is one thing I always see listed as a benefit of having been homeschooled. But I’m afraid I no longer buy this—at the very least, it’s not this simple.
Even as I was self-motivated, many of my siblings weren’t. I watched many of my siblings procrastinate and drag their feet and sometimes flat out lie about whether or not they were doing their work. I watched them work all summer trying to catch up for everything they’d fallen behind on during the school year. There were several years when my siblings literally finished their math textbooks for the previous year a week or two before the next school year started. Even today, I see this same thing happening with some of my siblings who are still at home, being homeschooled. Some of them seem to lack self motivation entirely, and will only do their work when there is the threat of losing some privilege over their head.
Now after high school I attended a state university on scholarship. Because of my grades, I was enrolled in the university’s honor college and lived in the honors dorms. I suddenly found myself surrounded by a cohort of extremely self-motivated public school graduates. This confused me. I honestly had not expected to see that level of self motivation in the products of public schools. I had thought they all just did the bare minimum to pass standardized tests, because of the way public schools were set up, and that they weren’t self motivated like us homeschoolers. I was wrong. Yes, I know that these kids were honors kids, and thus not representative of the public school population as a whole, but still, they proved to me that you absolutely didn’t have to be homeschooled to be self-motivated.
So did homeschooling make me self-motivated? After thinking about it, I doubt it. Some homeschoolers are self-motivated. Some aren’t. Some public schoolers are self-motivated. Some aren’t. I have no idea what makes people self motivated, or what part is simply innate, a chance of birth. But I can say with confidence that, if the family and homeschool community I grew up in is any indicator, being homeschooled does not automatically make someone self-motivated. So yes, I was homeschooled and I ended up being self-motivated. But does that really mean anything? Probably not.
2. Love of Learning
As a child, I loved learning. I checked out books from the library, explored the fields beckoning from my back door, and taught myself to knit. The world was my textbook, and I loved it. At the time, I was taught to chalk my love of learning up to being homeschooled. And for a long time, I thought there was a connection. But I don’t anymore, and for—I think—good reason.
For one thing, being homeschooled does not guarantee that you will end up with a love of learning. I know a guy who was homeschooled K-12, and his experience actually stunted his love of learning. For him, homeschooling consisted of sitting at the kitchen table, or at a desk in his room, filling out workbooks. And that’s it. Every day for twelve years—thirteen if you count kindergarten. Nothing interactive, nothing collaborative, just workbooks. To this day, thinking of school or any sort of formal learning gives him mild PTSD symptoms. So this idea that being homeschooled automatically makes one love learning? Yeah, that’s absolutely false.
Further, the friends I made in my honors college dorm in college all shared the same passion and love for learning that I had—even though almost every one of them had attended public school. They didn’t just study what they had to for their classes, or just do their homework because they were required to. They went above and beyond and loved learning for its own sake, whether it was required or not. And they didn’t limit learning to their academic coursework, either. For them, learning was a part of life, as natural as breathing. Once again, this confused me. I had been taught that public schools stunt children’s love of learning, and also that attending public school causes a person to divide their life into learning—i.e. formal school—and not learning—i.e. everything else. But I found that, for these honors kids at least, this was absolutely not the case.
So did homeschooling give me a love of learning? In the end, I don’t think so. I think my love of learning came from my parents, not from being homeschooled.
They made it obvious that they loved learning, and they sought to make every moment a teachable moment—and in a fun way.
We were always learning things, whether it be gardening or carpentry or zoology or the culinary arts, and my parents encouraged us to love learning, and worked to make learning fun. If I’d attended public school, my parents still would have taught me to love learning. They wouldn’t have suddenly stopped making every moment of life interesting and teachable. They wouldn’t have stopped encouraging us to learn, and teaching us to see learning as enjoyable and just a part of life.
In the end, I honestly don’t think gaining a love of learning is determined by the method of education.
One thing both Sierra and Lana hammered on in their discussion of the positive aspects of homeschooling was the sense of freedom it gave them—freedom to follow their own interests and study at their own paces, and freedom from the constriction of a public school schedule.
When I look back on being homeschooled, this is indeed what I look on most fondly.
In elementary school, my mom set my schedule, including what I studied and when I studied it. However, homeschooling did allow the flexibility for spontaneous trips to the zoo, or spur of the moment park dates. In middle and high school my mom still set the subjects I studied each year—always asking me for input first—but I was free to determine when to study and for how long. I wasn’t required to have fixed hours, I was merely required to complete the textbooks I’d been given by the end of the year.
I loved this—like I said above, I sometimes rushed through and finished some or all of the subjects early.
I loved the flexibility of choosing when to study, and in what order to study. I frequently got up early in the morning and would set myself the challenge of finishing all of my seatwork—meaning things like math and science and vocab, but not things like free reading or debate research or music—by breakfast time. I wasn’t usually able to fit quite everything into that time, but I was always finished by lunch time, leaving me the afternoon free for reading or sewing projects or digging for medicinal herbs or baking a pie.
But—and this but is important—this freedom was limited to choosing when and at what speed and in what order to do my academic work. I wasn’t free to go to the mall with friends, or free to have a part time job, or free to randomly go over to a friend’s house. I wasn’t free to go anywhere at all. Because I was homeschooled I didn’t have an outlet away from my family. Instead, I was home all of the time, both home to have my comings and goings and friendships micromanaged and home to be on call as a junior mom 24/7. As I’ve mentioned before, my parents didn’t believe in teenagers. They expected me to go straight from child to adult, and I wasn’t allowed to do the sort of things normal teenagers do.
In some sense, was given the freedom of a two year old and the responsibility of a thirty year old.
I grew up as the oldest of twelve children. There was always a baby in the house, and there were always toddlers and preschoolers who needed constant attention and help. When I think back on my time spent doing school work, the image I get is of sitting at the desk in my room doing math problems while also supervising two or three toddler and preschool age siblings playing nearby, because mom needed them out of her way so that she could teach the middle ones. For several years I was also in charge of all of the laundry for the family, and for a while I was in charge of all—yes, all—of the cooking. I was also expected to teach some subjects to my younger siblings, as a sort of tutor. My mom figured that teaching the subjects would help cement them in my mind, and also that helping with the children and housework was good practice for my future, when I would be a homemaker and stay at home homeschool mom.
All of this responsibility also meant that I rarely got to actually spend time alone with friends, or out of the house—in fact, when I think back on hanging out with friends, the image I get is of chatting with a friend while making mountains of peanut butter sandwiches and watching our 15+ collective younger siblings, our mothers having gone out for lunch together. I don’t want to give the impression that I begrudge my mother these lunches out—she needed them for her sanity! And besides, by that time watching kids came as second nature, and I savored what time I did have with friends, so the memories I have of chatting over mountains of sandwiches and quick roll counts of children to make sure we hadn’t lost any are actually pleasant ones.
So did homeschooling give me more freedom? In the end, I think it was a wash.
Yes, I had more freedom to set my academic schedule—when to study and what to study and how to study—and I thoroughly enjoyed that. But at the same time, because I was always at home under my mother’s watchful eye and able to be on call to help with whatever needed doing, be it children or food or housework, I had much less personal freedom than I would have had I attended public school. And when I compare my thoughts here to those of Sierra and Lana, I am reminded that Sierra was an only child and Lana was one of only four. So it’s not surprising that my experience here might be a bit different.
So, are there positive things I can say about my homeschooling experience? Sure. But every time I locate one, I end up finding a negative flip side. And maybe that’s why I haven’t spend a lot of time trying to draw out the positives.
I simply don’t feel that I can discuss them outside of the more nuanced context.
Homeschooling can help students develop self-motivation and a love of learning—or it can limit both of these. Some kids simply work best with formal teachers for each subjects, and with the firm academic deadlines formal schools provide. I’ve also seen cases where homeschool kids end up well educated in the subjects their parents find interesting, and not well educated at all in other subject—and this is something having the variety of teachers formal schools offer serves to counteract.
Homeschooling frees kids from the formal schedule of the public school—but it also places them 24/7 under the complete control of their parents, who may give them personal freedom or may, well, not. And besides that, some homeschool parents—like the parents of the young man I mentioned—simply reconstruct the formal schedule of the public school at home, just without the same level of peer interaction.
My best memories from high school involve dressing up in suits, sorting through philosophy books and shopping for office supplies for the next speech tournament. It was a dignified, serious existence.
And then there’s this photo — which I will get to.
A lot of this post may seem like it focuses on my parents more than homeschooling per se. However, from what I have seen the homeschooling experience is made or broken by the parents doing the homeschooling. Homeschooling was a lifestyle for our family. Everything — every experience, every family friend, every activity we did and book we read was all centered around my parents work homeschooling us. And they did that work with passion and care.
A Little Bit of Backstory
My homeschooling experience had its ups and downs. I loved the ups: Choir tours (all by my-middle school-self!) with my co-op friends; Highschool trips to Europe to visit the historical sights I’d studied for years; Family weekends at the Scottish Festival; Learning beekeeping… The ups were largely thanks to an amazing peer group that I adored and a good relationship with my parents and siblings.
The downs were mostly usual issues; teen angst, and the occasional tousle with my parents. I never felt like I really fit in with the more conservative majority of our social/church circle. My parents were alright with that. They never really fit in with them either. My parents were reformed, but they rejected heavy handed theology that sidelined women or centralized church authority to squash dissent and learning. Because of this we found ourselves moving often from church to church, even though my parents desire was to be active, participating members of a stable church community.
My family wasn’t perfect. A couple members of my extended family vehemently, sometimes explosively, disagreed with my father’s relatively liberal interpretation of “biblical patriarchy”. My mother, an educator and a passionate advocate of higher education for girls, was sidelined more than once from homeschool conventions for that perspective. My relationship with my father was sometimes rocky, but he has been more than willing to invest time in working through those issues with me.
Today, I value our relationship more than ever.
When my parents’ marriage ended three years ago, I was confronted with a mountain of baggage that was compounded last summer when my mother suddenly passed away to cancer. Now I’m left picking up pieces while building a life for myself in California, and I’m struck by the rich silver lining to all my drama.
My family wasn’t perfect.
But for all its imperfections I think that they got a lot of things right.
My parents home schooled me K-12, not because they thought they had discovered the perfect formula for parenting, but because they loved me and my brother and sister, and wanted to give us the very best of everything. And in the process they gave me, a lot of tools I treasure now that I’m on my own.
And that brings me to explaining the picture at the beginning.
I was a speaker/debater for all of highschool and I loved it. My biggest challenges, and best friends growing up were found there. One of the debate camps I helped coach had a ninja debater theme. Needless to say it was awesome. I believe that this is a carefully staged photo illustrating the mesmerizing power of effective criteria. Through homeschooling my parents inadvertently passed along a plethora of moments like this filled with possibility, wonder and hope, which I have only just begun to mine.
They have helped me sort the other wounds that I have received in the normal course of life.
School in your PJ’s?
Similar to many of you reading this, my education was largely custom built. Both of my parents were college educated, lifetime scholars with a passion for knowledge. My mother worked to bring education to life for us on a daily basis early on so we’d catch the passion too. History lessons about Egypt tied into real-life biology lessons as we dissected and mummified a frog – which we then placed for display in the handmade sarcophagi we’d done in the art lesson that day.
What kid wouldn’t like that?
Or in highschool we volunteered at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science for their new space exhibit, getting cutting edge lectures from NASA/NOAA scientists and then running cool experiments on a daily basis for the museum patrons. School was a wonderful time for me and my parents did a good job of teaching me not only tons of information, but how to find it and how to love the search for knowledge.
My mother was the primary teacher, but as we got into highschool years my dad took over languages and History. A Russian linguist for many years, he taught me Russian for high school language studies. Now I have a degree in Russian and endless cocktail conversation about my semester abroad in Russia to accompany it.
We also were not limited to classes taught by my parents.
From very early on me and my siblings were involved in classes taught by outside tutors whether it was in a co-op setting early on, or a community college setting later in our schooling career. All three of us graduated highschool with at least a full year worth of credits from the local community college. Those classes were especially helpful for areas that my parent’s weren’t so prepared to teach like upper level math or chemistry.
Silver Screen Dreams
While many of my peers were limited in their consumption of media, my parents encouraged an active dialogue on just about any topic. I remember the awe in my friend’s eyes (and the horror in her mother’s) as 12-year-old me happily announced at lunch one day that I had seen The Matrix the other night.
Granted, my parents watched it with us and they had remote-edited a couple of scenes they didn’t think were totally appropriate.
But the fact remained that I was raised in a really rich creative environment. Movies were a part of my life from early on (I literally can’t remember I time I didn’t have all of the original Star Wars movies memorized). Natural next steps for me were interests in living out these movies somehow.
What started as imagination and play acting turned into a real passion for acting, writing and producing for both film and theater. My parents were delighted with my creative talents and encouraged my theatrical tendencies wherever they could, even though I know my mother in particular was a little worried about what might happen to me were I ever to pursue them professionally. As I grew however, she was willing to work through those concerns as I demonstrated that I was thoughtfully investing in my God given talents.
She knew she had to let her girl fly and she was willing to make that sacrifice even if it meant that she was a little uncomfortable.
That willingness on her part, to let me try things that scared her, was key in building a relationship that allowed me to actually grow up — not just get older under her watch. T
hanks to her encouragement early on I’ve had the tools and the courage to step out on my own now and go beyond just being a productive member of society. I’m chasing dreams out here in California and hopefully you’ll be reading my name in the credits of your favorite summer flick someday soon.
Learning to Speak My Mind
My parents also encouraged debate. But long before the competitive bug bit me, I remember my parents hosting “Soirees” at our house after church; potluck food, and a grab bag of topics to discuss ranging from literature to politics to science. I loved them and felt so grown up when I was included at 11 years old in the adult discussions. We’d invite the most interesting people we could find. My Dad often would actually seek out people with odd views just to have them over so we could have an interesting discussion. “All opinions are welcome here. If you have a problem with that, you can leave.” That was his rule.
Looking back, the group was mostly varying shades of conservative and the occasional communist friend of Daddy’s from the Tattered Cover Bookstore where he worked. (They liked us because we were all a little bit different. He liked them because they knew about Russia — his deepest passion in life.)
But while the opinions weren’t that diverse, those afternoons ingrained in me early on that everyone deserves a voice. Even if you think you don’t agree with them.
That attitude served me well as I emerged from the homeschooling community into a liberal college where I encountered people with actual differences in opinion. They weren’t scary to me. They were just different people – with opinions of their own. And since I knew how to listen, it didn’t take me long to figure out that “the world,” as many christian worldview apologists like to call it, is just made up of people like me; People who have passions, who have loved ones, who have been hurt, who have dreams.
And when the debate is over and the ideas are put to bed, you should still be able to sit down with them over a lovely meal and ask them how their kids are doing.
One of the Boys
I was kind of odd in our circle of girls, because I never got the romantic fascination with marriage and boys and Mr. Darcy. Frankly, if you ask me even now he’d have made a really boring husband.
But, that meant that after about 9 years old, a giant chunk of my good friends growing up were boys. Even in college they were often the most interesting (drama-free) people around. I’m sure that there were mothers who thought that was odd or inappropriate, but my parents were fine with it. They were great guys and I’m proud to say that I’m still good friends with many of them even after almost a decade in some cases and marriage in others.
I love them like brothers — totally inappropriate brothers who would let me rough house with them, who would play stupid games with me, who would match my banter word for word, who would take me swing dancing and who would talk theology, politics, video games and movies with me till dawn. I am deeply grateful for those guys in my life because I truly believe that without them I might not have been able to process the Daddy issues which are inevitable for any girl whose parents divorce.
In those friendships my parents gave me a piece of the external security net that has kept me grounded as I begin to live life as an independent adult.
Learning to Say, “No”
My parents’ marriage was far from perfect.
But, with all their issues, they were a rock of help for several families struggling with abuse. They worked so hard to provide a harbor in the storm. My dad partnered with other men to help mentor a few of the fathers who were struggling. My mother hosted bible studies and invited single moms over to learn how to make jams or study child development. They even included us kids in a limited fashion, asking us (never forcing us) to watch the young toddlers while my parents had coffee or dinner with one or both parents.
I was never really privy to details and for that I am grateful.
But in light of the little I did know, my mother made sure that my sister and I knew without a shadow of a doubt that we never had to stand for abuse whether it was verbal, physical or emotional. It was an especially important lesson to her because of the systematic abuse we observed all around us which was justified under the label of “biblical patriarchal theology.” When seeking help from many churches for their own marriage issues the constant refrain aimed at my mother seemed to be, “If you would just submit better to your husband, your marriage would be fixed.”
With this useless advice ringing in her ears, within our conservative circle there was no one able to help until it was too late.
When my brother was a senior in high school, my sister was finishing her last year of college and I was doing my first year of internships post-college, my parents finally ended their marriage. They had sacrificed much to try to make a home that was healthy for me and my siblings. And when they finally ended their marriage I was witness to another step they were taking, at least in part, for us kids; they had the courage — even in the face of the social stigma in the church against divorces — to walk away from the marriage so that they themselves could heal. Many people would see this result as a total failure. But as I watched both of my parents wrestle through that time, I saw two people emerge with an even greater capacity for grace and forgiveness than ever before.
The divorce was not a failure.
It was the first step towards healing and restoration.
Hindsight, Always 20/20
The area that I look back on with the most pause is just how much I held my parents up as perfect — especially my mother. They were responsible for introducing me to the most fascinating ideas, the most wonderful people and for sheltering me from as much of the junk theology as they could. So their opinion of me, their blessing, their respect was something that I not only wanted, but it was something that I needed on a deep and very unhealthy level.
This was something I didn’t fully register until recent years.
As I hit the later years of high school and throughout my college years I found my opinions shifting as I experienced the world without parental filters. I knew the filters they had applied had been applied in love, but they were filters never the less. My experiences began to show me that perhaps my parents aren’t infallible after all. Especially spending as much time as I did with the theater department at my school my perspective on LGBT issues, sex, drugs, alcohol, democrats, republicans, “world view”…. all of it was shifting in light of my new experiences —
And the thing that tore me up was that I felt I had no tools for telling anyone from my family.
At school I was one person, and at home I became expert at active listening, passive questions, sidestepping issues, or sometimes just lying to avoid telling my parents I’d come to a different conclusion than they had.
The internal dissonance didn’t really come to a head until I met the love of my life. His name is Dylan. We met in Stage Combat learning to sword fight. It was awesome. And really quickly we became fast friends. He was the adventure I’d always hoped for in the moments when I dropped my usual “one-of-the-guys” act. He was kind and smart, better read than anyone I knew, a professional athlete, on a full ride scholarship for acting and passionate about making a positive impact through politics.
But he was also a Democrat, a former player with the ladies, and I had no idea where he really stood on the spectrum of religion but I knew it wasn’t nearly “christian” enough.
I was terrified to bring him home.
I didn’t even tell my family I was dating him for about a month. I knew in my heart that our relationship was healthy, that I was growing and that I trusted him with my life even with our differences. The fact that our friendship was based on a choice to be invested in each other rather than a checklist of intellectual compatibility was freeing. But my parents didn’t know how to handle him. They were shocked by my choice because for about 7 years I’d been hiding behind my silent nods.
They didn’t know me anymore because I had stopped letting them in for fear of losing them.
I had to learn to speak again.
And this is the juncture at which I find myself today. My mother passed away last summer, so I never got to finish letting her back in. But my father and I are watching our relationship slowly heal. I still have the need for approval of people I respect — but I think that’s more me than any homeschooling-bred need for perfection. And I’ve finally been able to be honest about my choices — choices that I make on a daily basis using so many of the tools that my homeschooling experience gave me. I would never give back that experience. The glue that held it all together and kept my parents from being dysfunctional task masters, or chronic busy bodies with a messiah complex was that they loved us kids and wanted the world for us. And they sought every day to live out a faith that convicted them to serve, love and empower.
That is perhaps the greatest example that they left me.
And while I now no longer really identify as a conservative as they did, I carry that passion of theirs with me. And I carry a faith that I have inherited but have also grown to own as mine. In many ways I’m still the crazy kid in the photograph: Obviously not totally put together, but self possessed enough to fake it till I make it — and wise enough to love the journey along the way.
For that, I have my parents and my time homeschooling to thank.
The fluke of my birthdate put me either the youngest or the oldest of my class, and after being the youngest in kindergarten my parents decided to homeschool for a year before first grade. That year went so well that they homeschooled for another, then another, reevaluating each year. My mom thoroughly enjoyed the experience and my dad supported it wholeheartedly, though was not often involved in hands-on teaching. I have one younger homeschooled sibling, but I’ll focus on my experience.
In 4th grade I started doubting my academic competency due to lack of comparison. I spent a half a year in public school for 5th, and after discovering that I was, indeed, on track academically, begged to come home. We homeschooled through middle school and I entered public high school in 9th grade. I went to a private Christian university and a public university for a master’s and PhD. I’m midway through my PhD.
First, I want to point out some social-location factors that positively frame my homeschooling experience. The big ones include my family’s upper middle class economic status, my parents’ education, our family size (2 kids), large suburban location, and Christian faith.
Had those variables been different I would be telling another story.
My mom homeschooled as a Christian but I missed out on the quiverfull/CP, Vision Forum, etc. My parents decided to avoid those circles. There is a family story of going to a homeschooling event where a couple of the other dads talked seriously to my dad (whom they had just met!) about the small size of his quiver.
His snarky response was, “Actually, my quiver is full! It’s a two-arrow-holding quiver.”
Early on, we used some Bob Jones and Abeka history, but that got ditched, especially as more homeschool resources were made available each year. I got my fair share of gender roles at church, but it wasn’t Christian Patriarchy as such.
I will start with what I see as strengths of my homeschooling experience. First, we were often not at home. We had season passes to the aquarium, the zoo, amusement parks (yep – when other kids were at school!), tickets to anything appropriate for kids at the city’s performing arts center, state parks, library programs, art, science, music camp. Plus, my dad’s work requires travel to cities around the country and we would all go along and tour each city’s historical and cultural landmarks during the day. My parents’ approach was “180 school days per year, distributed as necessary,” so we didn’t follow the public school calendar and continued through summer.
I thrived in self-directed, participatory learning.
I’m reading Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed this week and I missed out on what he terms the banking model of education, where the student is an empty account into which the expert teacher makes deposits (till high school and college, at least). In contrast, my mom always talked about how we all learned together.
I often participated in setting the agenda, and she provided the resources and helped guide the investigation. It was that way as far back as I remember. Clearly, there was stuff I just had to learn, like cursive and long division. Still, I had the freedom to say if a method wasn’t working and I wanted to try it a different way. I read like a girl possessed, mostly uninterrupted, completely uncensored. If it was at the library or Barnes and Noble, I had access to it. I was well-prepared for honors and AP classes in high school, the SAT, then the honors college, on the GRE, and now in a PhD.
No academic regrets.
Socially, I largely avoided some challenges and my parents orchestrated good opportunities to form relationships. I got a very low dose of the girl-on-girl relational violence of adolescence. Given my social location, this was a real threat. Since I was relatively chill during the day I had lots of energy for after school activities. I participated in competitive soccer, Girl Scouts, a children’s chorus, church activities, and community theater. When I did enter public school in 9th grade, it was new and fresh. I didn’t develop senioritis and I wanted to get to know all kinds of people. I didn’t have as many labels to apply to others as my peers did. Also, with our homeschool peers, there was no age hierarchy for building friendships.
There were some things I had to compensate for later. In a word: algebra.
Saxon Math was awesome for word problems, critical thinking, and the basics. Except later, I really needed someone to explain how to solve for X and my mom’s skill set didn’t extend there. Math in high school was a battle. That said I am now proficient in statistics, which I am constantly using in my PhD studies. I will never catch up from missing the peer-to-peer sexual education that happens during middle school.
For example, I only know, like, four words for semen and I realize there are about a thousand in current use.
I don’t consider this a deficiency. I know I miss some social queues.
Transitioning to a 2,300 student high school was a big adjustment. Here’s what was hard: asking permission to go to the bathroom and having requests denied, stopping in response to the bell, even if the algebra question on the board was left unanswered, the sheer noise of the lunchroom, hallways, etc., bomb threats and lockdowns (this was Columbine-era), learning how to respond to different teachers’ expectations and methods, academic competition, watching discrimination happen, being “made” to do stuff by authorities (like fundraise for a new football field house), and the amount of wasted time. I came home really tired each day.
That said, I’m so glad I did it. I really enjoyed many of my teachers and the new subjects I took, as well as the friendships I developed. Playing soccer was fantastic, as was my involvement with the FFA.