For HA’s next open series, we want to hear from those of you who attended college (whether for one year, four years, or even into a Masters or PhD program!). We want to hear about your experience transitioning from homeschool to college. Was it easy? Difficult? A mixed bag? No matter where on the spectrum from “no problem” to “so many problems,” we would love to feature your personal story.
Topics you could potentially write about include:
Experiences with socialization: When you stepped foot onto your college campus, did you realize you were (as many parents argue) well-socialized already? Or did you realize that you were not (and that those many parents misunderstood the meaning of socialization)? What sorts of difficulties (if you did experience difficulties) regarding social interactions and interpersonal communication did you have to deal with?
Experiences with diversity: If college was the first time you had significant interaction with people of diverse backgrounds (atheist, non-Christian, Buddhist, gay, lesbian, trans*, people from different cultures or ethnicities than you, etc.), what was that like? Did you have any stereotypes in your mind about those people that were deconstructed?
Experiences with academics: If you went to a secular college or a “liberal” Christian college, did you go thinking it would be a battleground for your soul? Was it? Were they any surprises you faced about how the college and its other students treated you?
Experience with studies: Were there any topic matters that you excelled at, that you didn’t think you would? Did you realize your homeschooling education was actually pretty well-rounded, or did you realize it was severely lacking in certain areas?
Experiences with your parents: Did your parents support your enrollment in college? Did you have to fight with them to be able to go? Were they eager to help you get financial aid? Or did they withhold necessary documents?
Another area you are welcome to submit your thoughts about would be advice you’d give a future homeschool graduate who is heading to college. Potential questions you could answer can include:
What words of encouragement would you share with that graduate?
What words of caution might you give?
Are there any books, articles, or movies you’d suggest that a future homeschooled college student experience before stepping foot on a college campus?
If a future homeschooled college student feels uneducated (or miseducated) about important life knowledge (such as sex education, relationship dynamics, pop culture, etc.), what resources would you direct that individual towards?
Do you have any suggestions to future homeschooled college students about how to make the transition to college easier?
To contribute your story or thoughts:
Please email your submission (or any questions you have before submitting) to our editorial team at: email@example.com.
As always, you can contribute anonymously or publicly. Let us know when you email your submission your preference in that regard.
The deadline for submission is Friday, September 18, 2015.
Homeschool Alumni Reaching Out (HARO), HA’s parent non-profit organization, is happy to announce our first-ever comprehensive survey: the 2014 Survey of Adult Alumni of the Modern Christian Homeschool Movement. This survey is open to any adult homeschool alumni (18 years old or older) raised in a Christian homeschool environment.
For the purposes of this survey, “alumni” designates everyone homeschooled for the majority of their K-12 education; in other words, for at least 7 years. The survey is open to anyone in that category, whether your experience was positive or negative and whether you are still a Christian or not. By “Christian,” we are including the broadest possible definition, including Christian-identified new religious movements.
The purpose of the survey is to investigate the life experiences of Christian homeschool alumni by collecting information that past surveys of homeschool alumni have not. We have done our very best to create fair, balanced questions without any leading or attempts to skew results. All results will be anonymous and used for informational purposes only.
If you are an adult alumni of this movement, we would greatly appreciate your involvement. We would also love for you to share the survey with your friends and former homeschool peers through word of mouth and social media. The more responses, the better!
“No true Scotsman is an informal fallacy, an ad hoc attempt to retain an unreasoned assertion. When faced with a counterexample to a universal claim (“no Scotsman would do such a thing”), rather than denying the counterexample or rejecting the original universal claim, this fallacy modifies the subject of the assertion to exclude the specific case or others like it by rhetoric, without reference to any specific objective rule (“no true Scotsman would do such a thing”).”
When my mother decided to homeschool us, we became homeschoolers.
We joined the local homeschool support group, my mother bought our textbooks at the state homeschooling convention, and we paid dues to the Homeschool Legal Defense Association. We joined a homeschool choir, homeschool art classes, and homeschool sports team. We went to homeschool park days and joined in on ‘homeschool day’ at Raging Waters.
To the other homeschoolers it was clear: we were homeschoolers.
The people my parents interacted with in a personal or professional capacity knew that we were homeschooled and asked us the normal homeschooler questions: “But what about socialization?”, “How can a parent teach their children subjects they don’t know?”, etc., and we answered them with the same responses homeschool parents and children publish on the internet today.
We joined the homeschool debate league, for which being legitimately homeschooled (by their definition, legitimate meant: not attending any school) was an enforced requirement. When my mother hosted homeschooler debate conferences, it was unquestionable that we were homeschooled.
When we hosted homeschool game nights, homeschool dances, homeschool ‘Reformation Day’ parties, we were a celebrated part of the homeschool community. When a family friend’s daughter was struggling with school, her parents asked my mother to homeschool her for the rest of the year to get her caught up with her grade.
When my mother was frequently complimented on how ‘good’ her teenagers were, ‘not like teenagers at all but like little adults’, our homeschooling was the accepted cause. When I was admitted to community college and college, my homeschooling was clearly understood as my background. When I ‘graduated’ high school, we rented out a church with four other homeschool graduates, packing out the building and holding an elegant outdoor buffet for the homeschool community on the neighboring school’s lawn after.
For years after, I was accepted as a part of the homeschool graduate community.
I participated in the exclusive ‘Homeschool Alumni’ network. I connected with other adult homeschoolers and compared notes about our childhoods. Nobody questioned the fact that I had been homeschooled. Instead, it was celebrated as the reason for my intelligence, creativity, work ethic, and academic success. Due to my father’s unique position in our local community, there were – and there are – (and this is not an exaggeration) easily more than a thousand people who knew that I was homeschooled, that I played the harp, and that I went to Santa Clara University, followed by Oxford. Many of them knew my face, and possibly even name, as well. I was the homeschooling success story of Saratoga, California, and my family was a model family, one strangers regularly told me I was ‘so lucky’ to be a part of.
But the moment I say that homeschooling enabled my parents to hide abuse and neglect, all of these facts melt away.
I’m no longer a homeschooling poster child.
After all, no true homeschooler would abuse or neglect their child.
I was an aberration. My family was a one-off, virtually non-occurring instance. The families we knew in which the entire community softly murmured about how the children were sexually abused, or neglected, but did not report because ‘it would give a bad reputation to homeschooling’ or ‘the children would be taken away’ also become aberrations the moment I mention them publicly. The number of homeschoolers I personally knew via activities such as homeschool support groups or homeschool debate who were also mistreated, several of which have written for HA, has no reflection on the percentage of homeschool homes where mistreatment occurs. After all, they weren’t true homeschoolers either.
The true homeschoolers were the ones who gave their kids great educations and a great upbringing.
Every account of homeschool experiences should, we all know, contain a disclaimer: ‘not all homeschooling families are like this. Most homeschool families are loving homes that provide their children with an excellent education’. Except, we don’t have any evidence or statistics that this is true. So why is this a required disclaimer? How can we even make this statement at all?
It’s also appropriate to ask: what do the phrases “loving home” and “excellent education” mean to the homeschool leaders and parents who use them? They tell us that true homeschoolers spank their kids, sure, but not to an abusive extent. It’s just to teach them to respect authority. True homeschoolers don’t isolate their kids; they just keep them inside during school hours to avoid calls to CPS, and they protect them from worldly influences. True homeschoolers aren’t educationally neglected; instead, many homeschool girls are raised to succeed at the high calling of being wives and mothers, learning home arts such as cooking, sewing, and cleaning, and taught applied academics as well – for example, how to multiply and divide via cooking lessons, and geometry through sewing.
Start asking specific questions about the ‘happy’ home and ‘good’ education they describe, and an unexpected picture often emerges.
After I had been working with my therapist for three years, she said to me, “You had a truly horrible experience, but I don’t think it is a reflection on homeschooling as a whole. All the other homeschoolers I’ve talked to have had great experiences.” I responded, “Yes, but how many of them were graduated homeschool kids?” Her eyes visibly widened as she replied, “Actually, they were all homeschool parents. That’s a good point. I never thought of that before.”
Homeschool parents: stop crying ‘no true homeschooler.’ If you can’t, an echo of Shakespeare comes to mind: “Methinks thou dost protest too much.”
When I was in college, I was one of the participants who answered the NHERI/HSLDA/Brian Ray survey of homeschooling graduates. I don’t remember how I got the survey, probably via email forward from my mom, but what I do remember is sending an email to my family after taking it in which I said something about how I wouldn’t believe a thing from the eventual study results. Aside from the fact that an email forwarded among homeschool groups asking people to take an internet survey is a lousy way of getting a representative sample (especially when we’re talking more than a decade ago, when we were nowhere as close to ubiquitous computing as we are now and computer access was still largely along socioeconomic lines), the survey itself was rife with methodological problems.
My memory is of a survey where I could tell exactly what answer they were looking to find, based on both the questions asked and the possible answers given for those questions. It was a survey that, even as a college student who had a positive experience and didn’t have the criticisms of the system that I do now, was so bad that I wondered why anyone would design it the way they did unless the goal was not usable data but a certain set of predetermined results.
If I got anything out of being homeschooled for twelve years by a math teacher, it’s a healthy appreciation for numbers. Numbers explain the world, or at least they can explain the world if they’re used correctly. Without good numbers, you might as well be stumbling around in the dark bumping your shins into the furniture. Bad numbers are even worse than no numbers; they’re like spreading Legos on the carpet while stumbling around in the dark with bare feet.
The HSLDA/NHERI numbers on homeschooling are like stumbling around on that Lego-strewn carpet. Aside from the aforementioned homeschool graduate survey, they also have test scores that they trot out to prove that homeschoolers do better on standardized tests than other students.
Except that the numbers don’t show that. What they actually show is the results of those homeschooled children whose parents not only use achievement tests (which isn’t all of them), who were aware of the NHERI survey (again, not all of them), and who agreed to submit their children’s scores for a study that they were already told was intended to make homeschooling look good. We have no idea how representative that group is of homeschoolers as a whole because it was self-selected and we don’t know whether that self-selected group in any way mirrors homeschoolers as a whole.
The modern homeschool movement is more than 30 years old and we still don’t have a good idea of homeschooling demographics. We know that they’re predominantly white and might be mostly religious (but even the religious makeup is hard to guess because the religious and the secular homeschoolers seldom run in the same circles). We don’t know what the socioeconomic makeup of the homeschool population is, and we don’t know the average education level of parents or a breakdown of those parents’ degrees. Without that, we can only guess at whether the socioeconomic levels of homeschoolers in NHERI’s test score data in any way represent homeschoolers as a whole.
Homeschoolers are fiercely independent even without taking into consideration that the religious ones don’t trust outside researchers because they’ve been told by HSLDA for years that outsiders want to hurt homeschooling. As for the secular unschoolers, they aren’t exactly fans of the establishment, which makes it hard to pin them down as well. Compounding the problem, the people the religious ones do trust (aka, HSLDA and NHERI) aren’t interested in giving good data, they’re interested in giving a good sales pitch for homeschooling. And so, we’re stumbling around in the dark knocking our shins into furniture and stepping on stray Legos.
There are a handful of small studies about adult former homeschoolers, but the rest is guesswork. We don’t have a good picture of the socioeconomic status of homeschooling families. We don’t really know how homeschoolers as a population do on achievement tests because we don’t have any surveys that aren’t self-selected. We don’t even have a good idea of how many people are homeschooling. It might be a million and a half, it might be twice that. We need good data and we simply don’t have it.
Are the kids I knew in high school who were all upper middle class children, mostly of parents with degrees in STEM fields, an accurate representation? What about the kids I knew when I was younger whose blue collar parents had no college and were passing their non-standard English dialect on to the kids rather than standard English grammar? Was my dad right when he always said that math was a weakness that homeschoolers needed to watch out for because the kids were being taught primarily by mothers who had been put on the consumer math track in school? Was I right when I used to tell people that the reason they thought homeschoolers were weird was because the normal ones who are in the majority didn’t advertise that they were homeschooled?
I don’t know because no one does.
And yet the Brian Ray/NHERI research keeps getting repeated in conservative and mainstream media even though it doesn’t actually tell us anything.
I understand why homeschool parents want to like the NHERI numbers; they help reassure them that they’re on the right path and not totally screwing up their kids with the homeschool choice. That’s why what NHERI’s doing with self-selected, unscientific research methods is so messed up. Parents, good parents, are relying on data that’s given a veneer of science but that may well be leading them to make educational choices that aren’t the best possible for their children. If math education, for example, really is the weakness for homeschoolers that my dad thought it was, homeschoolers need to know that so they can compensate for the weakness. If more than a fringe number of homeschool kids are having trouble fitting in with mainstream society because of the homeschool bubble, parents need to know that to correct for it.
With nothing but bad data to rely on, parents are left stumbling around in the dark hoping that they aren’t going to bash their shin on the corner of the coffee table or step on a stray Lego. That’s not serving homeschool parents well, and it’s certainly not doing anything for the kids.