Answering Some Questions About Our Survey

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By R.L. Stollar, HA Community Coordinator

On Monday we released the first-ever survey created by alumni of Christian homeschooling for alumni of Christian homeschooling. The 2014 Survey of Adult Alumni of the Modern Christian Homeschool Movement, facilitated by HA’s parent non-profit organization Homeschool Alumni Reaching Out (HARO) in consultation with the Coalition for Responsible Home Education (CRHE), aims to investigate the life experiences of Christian homeschool alumni by collecting information that past surveys of homeschool alumni have not.

The response thus far has been amazing. In just four days over 2,200 individuals have completed the survey. Individuals from every single one of the United States have taken it, as well as individuals from the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. We have also received international responses, including individuals from Australia, Canada, Guatemala, Mexico, New Zealand, Portugal, Russia, Singapore, Spain, South Africa, Thailand, and the United Kingdom.

The survey remains open until Monday, September 15, 2014 at 11:59 pm Pacific time. To qualify to take it, you must be 18 years or older and have been homeschooled for at least 7 years in an environment classifiable as Christian. If you haven’t taken it yet, please do! And share with anyone you know who qualifies!

As the survey has picked up steam, a number of questions seem to be commonly popping up. So I wanted to answer the most common questions here.

Q: Why are you doing the survey?

The most significant alumni survey was from over a decade ago, commissioned by HSLDA and conducted by Brian Ray in 2003. As CRHE has pointed out, it involved a highly selective sample population and has been repeatedly presented in a disingenuous and inaccurate manner. Our goal is to (hopefully) get a more diverse, nuanced, and current look at the Christian homeschool alumni population. We also are interested in data points that previous surveys have never researched.

Q: Why is the survey limited to Christian homeschool alumni with 7 or more years of homeschooling?

The survey is limited in a number of ways simply because we need some basic parameters. We in no way believe that you must be homeschooled for at least 7 years to be an “alumni,” or to be impacted significantly (whether positively or negatively) by homeschooling. The last large survey of homeschool alumni (the aforementioned 2003 survey) was limited to alumni with at least 7 years’ experiences. Since we want our survey to provide a more up-to-date counter-balance to the 2003 survey, we decided to limit ourselves to the same experiential time length.

Q: Why is the survey limited to alumni of Christian homeschooling?

Only because it’s our area of experiential expertise as individuals and our focus as an organization! As the author of the survey, I was homeschooled K-12 in the Christian homeschool movement and I have limited firsthand knowledge of non-religious homeschool subcultures. I wanted to keep the survey as focused and accurate as possible — and to do that, I had to limit the survey to experiences and groups I know. That said, HARO would be 100% interested in doing a survey for alumni of non-religious homeschooling. So if you are such an alum, and would be interested in consulting with us and sharing your experiential expertise, please feel free to email us at homeschoolersanonymous@gmail.com. We would be happy to pursue the possibility of such a project.

Q: THIS SURVEY IS NOT REPRESENTATIVE.

So this isn’t a question, really. It’s more just a statement that a number of people seem to throw at the survey in an attempt to “discredit” it.

My response is: The very first page of the survey says, “As we are not randomly sampling the population, our results will be descriptive rather than representative.” So we state this fact upfront. For any survey to be representative of any given population, you need to have a random sample of that population. That is nearly impossible to obtain with the homeschooling population. Every survey conducted by Brian Ray’s NHERI and HSLDA are just as non-representative as ours. The difference is that, unlike Ray and HSLDA (usually), we will not pretend our data is representative. Hence our being upfront on the very first page that our survey’s results will be descriptive.

Q: Why do you ask “what gender were you assigned at birth?” rather than “what is your gender?” Or to put this in the remarkable language of one respondent, “F*ckin’ seriously? Why phrase it like that, p*ssies? I’m a male.”

Numerous individuals do not identify with the gender assigned to them at birth. You can take that as some sort of ideology and/or you can take it as the simple recognition that intersex and transgender individuals exist. We are not interested in erasing either of those populations — both because we object to such erasure inherently and because erasure will lead to less accurate data.

Intersex individuals, according to the Intersex Society of North America, are “born with a reproductive or sexual anatomy that doesn’t seem to fit the typical definitions of female or male.” Thus some are literally assigned a gender that does not necessarily correlate to stereotypes about physical anatomy. And yes, there are intersex homeschool alumni. Several of them have taken our survey. There might even be intersex students in your homeschool community right now. (Does your community daily erase their existence? Have ever you thought about that?)

Transgender individuals are, according to GLAAD, “people whose gender identity differs from what is typically associated with the sex they were assigned at birth.” Now, we desire to respect individuals’ gender identities. You might not. But the statistical reason why we ask the question the way we do is because simply asking a transgender person, “What is your gender?” (or as one respondent suggested, “the gender God created me as”) will not give us the data we are looking for. A transgender individual will answer that question with the gender they identify with, and not necessarily the gender they were assigned at birth. Our survey has a number of goals, and one of those goals is to analyze homeschool alumni experiences based on gender roles placed on children growing up. So regardless of what gender people now identify with, we need to ask this particular question in a way that (1) respects the existence of intersex and transgender individuals and (2) gives us the specific answers we need to do our analysis accurately.

Q: Aren’t the creators of the survey just angry ex-homeschoolers?

Well, I am the author of the survey. Let me introduce myself: My name is Ryan Stollar. I was homeschooled my entire life. I had a generally positive experience. I was a national award-winning high school debater. I got to tour the United States throughout high school and make friends all over the country. I have a B.A. and an M.A. I love my family. They have shown me that unconditional love is a reality. My family is also very supportive of HA and HARO: my dad is proud of what I do, my mom has contributed a post to HAmy older brother has contributed a post to HA, and my younger sister has promoted this survey. So no, the creator of the survey is not an angry ex-homeschooler. Get your facts right.

Q: What’s with the question about BDSM/kink?

Sorry to burst anyone’s bubble, but the answer to this question is quite simple: In some of our homeschool alumni communities, numerous conversations about BDSM/kink have arisen. A decent number of people seem attracted to or interested in such lifestyles and activities. I was merely curious to get data about it and see if there are any trends. Plus, it is a question that is never on surveys like these. Questions about frequency of porn use are rather popular on surveys of evangelicals, for example. Those questions have been done so many times and in so many ways. We would not be examining anything new. But I have never seen a survey address BDSM/kink. So that’s what’s up.

Q: What are you going to do with the data?

HARO as an organization is interested in using the data for educational purposes. For example: There are questions about if you struggle with mental health issues. What we are not going to do is make arguments like, “Homeschooling leads to _____.” Rather, we are interested in using the data to help educate and improve homeschooling communities. The data gives us information to say things like, “Out of this group of x many alumni who responded to the survey, z many have dealt with mental illness in their lives. One of the most common mental health conditions was q.” Such statistics can help tailor what sort of resources we focus on for HARO’s website, focus our efforts on educating homeschooling communities about the most common mental illnesses homeschool alumni deal with, etc.

Or take the abuse section, as another example: We’re not trying to — and honestly, we can’t without a representative sample — say how common abuse is in homeschooling. But we can say, “Out of this group, x many people have dealt with abuse in their homes, or even outside their homes, or knew people who were abused.” This data can help us communicate the importance of homeschooling communities creating homeschool co-op child abuse policies, educating people about the fact that abuse happens to homeschoolers (regardless of if it’s related to homeschooling), etc.

Q: Are you going to cast evil spells on the data so that it says things it doesn’t say?

No.

Q: ARE YOU TRYING TO BAN HOMESCHOOLING?

No.

If you have any other questions about the survey, feel free to email us at homeschoolersanonymous@gmail.com! And don’t forget to take and share the survey!

Calling All Alumni of Christian Homeschooling: We Have A Survey For You!

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By R.L. Stollar, HA Community Coordinator

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!

Go to www.HomeschoolAlum.com to learn more and take the survey!

Adult Homeschoolers Speak Out: Part Ten, Are the Stereotypes Better or Worse?

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HA note: The following series is reprinted with permission from Brittany’s blog BAM. Part Ten was originally published on July 11, 2012.

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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 MissingPart Nine, Do Former Homeschoolers Want to Homeschool? | Part Ten: Are the Stereotypes Better or Worse?

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Part Ten: Are the Stereotypes Better or Worse?

Homeschooling is surrounded by stereotypes. Here are a few:

  • Long jean skirt
  • Weirdo kids
  • Socially Awkward
  • “Is that even legal?!”
  • “What about college?”
  • All homeschoolers are socially awkward
  • “There must be something wrong with the kids, otherwise the parents wouldn’t be doing that”
  • Religious fanatics

And the list goes on. When I wrote my socialization post, I said that the Number One homeschoolers got was “What about Socialization?”

When I was growing up, this was actually the Number Two question. The Number One question I got when I told someone I was homeschooled was:

“What’s that?”

Nowadays, everyone knows someone who has been homeschooled. But that doesn’t mean that stereotypes have gone away or even changed. So here is the survey question:

Do you think public thoughts/emotions/opinions have changed about homeschooling today? Briefly explain.

The answers I got were all over the board:

  • Yes!
  • No!
  • Um….kinda/maybe/sorta

Enjoy the answers below: they range from hilarious to bitter to though-provoking to wise.

37% or 17 adults said yes, public opinion has changed for the better.

Corinna R. 35 from VA: Absolutely! One of the common questions I would get was “You what?!? How does that work?” Now it is common and accepted and as a whole more mature. 

Jerusha C. 30 from VA: Yes! Very much so! My sister and I were like freaks to other people! And most of the other homeschool families we knew smelled like pee! Now it is much different now.

Stuart G. 29 from VA: I think it has changed. I believe home-schooling used to be considered abnormal. The stereotypes range from controlling religious fanatics to lazy families neglecting the true value of education, and everything in between. While these scenarios can be true, most of the time they are misconceptions, and I believe that more and more of the population realize that. Many now view home-schooling as a progressive approach, emphasizing the value of a self-tailored education.

Renee P. 30 from MS: When I was little and first started homeschooling it was kind of a new thing and everyone said I would never be able to get into college. I think homeschoolers have shown that this is not a problem anymore, and actually I don’t think it ever was. Seeing a generation of homeschool students grow up and be very successful, especially academically has helped. As homeschooling has become more popular more people know homeschoolers and they find them “normal”. I think that has helped change the image for the better. On the other hand as more people homeschool, more homeschool for the wrong reasons or don’t do a good job with it. When I started it was kind of a novelty and only people who were 100% committed did it.

Stacey M. 29 from WV: Definitely. Back in my day, no one had even heard of homeschooling and people assumed that my brother and I were mentally disabled and could not attend public school. I had to jump through many hoops and cut through a lot of red tape to attend college. In contrast, my younger brothers (11th and 12th grade currently) have no lack of social interactions and opportunities to do pretty much what they like. I’ve even noticed some comments on their Facebook about other kids being jealous.

Joshua M. 27 from MS: Yes. More people are willing to accept it as an alternative, even outside of the church.

Christy L. 28 from CA:  Yes, I think that homeschooled kids are seen as more “normal” today than they were in the 90s. I remember my family attending a homeschool convention in Wisconsin when I was in 1st grade and it was so weird…my brothers and I didn’t fit in at all, the other kids there were so extremely sheltered that they didn’t own TVs or listen to music other than hymns. Today, you do still find some homeschool families like that, but the number seems less.

20% or 9 adults said no, negativity and stereotypes are still very prevalent.

Kaitlin G. 22 from KS: No, people think that families who homeschool have something wrong with them and I feel like there are a lot of negative things associated with homeschoolers.

Beka R. 25 from KS: I think they have to a small extent – fewer people immediately judge a woman’s ability to teach her children now, and most know that predominantly, homeschoolers have solid academic backing. 

I think that many of the stereotypes about socialization still exist. I think the examples of “homeschooled homeschoolers” that people see are kids who would be weird in public school too… goodness knows there’s no shortage of weird kids in any environment! I think that there is still a huge and predominant bias against homeschooling. 

I do worry about some of the families who I see homeschooling sometimes… without a strong focus on academics, you’re really doing your kids an injustice. If they can’t read and write, what’s the point? Sometimes I see parents who seem a little lazy and that makes me very sad, not only for their kids, but for the future of homeschooling in general. 

Jeremy T. 25 from VA: As far as the public, not at all. People still think homeschoolers play and don’t do anything and aren’t social people at all. They can think what they want, but they will never know unless they experience it. 

Melissa G. 26 from VA: Not really. We’re still seen as overly Christianized families with too many children and absolutely no social skills. We’re just harassed less by the government now.

Matt W. 30 from OHThere is a stigma attached to home schooling that only Bible thumping fundamentalist Christians are the ones who home school their children. It’s my personal opinion that this still how the public views homeschooling. Technology and the internet make home school much more accessible and possible. I feel that most people would assume that if you are home schooling your child either the family is extremely religious or something is wrong with the child.

Emily M. 26 from FL: I still believe a lot of people have all of homeschoolers lumped into this big sort of dorky group of socially challenged individuals. I don’t often hear good things about homeschooling unless I go looking for it. Those that have been in the homeschool environment though, still often continue to sing its praises.

40% or 18 adults had mixed responses about how they think the public views homeschooling/homeschoolers today.

Laura H. 34 from NE: I think it depends on the location. Here in Nebraska there is usually a favorable reaction. I encountered discrimination while in Iowa though (e.g. “you’ll never be able to pass classes in college”) where it’s less common. 

Nara N. 30 from NC: Yes, it seems much more normal, and people know about it and what it is. There are all kinds of programs geared towards homeschoolers (like from the public library, community music schools, and public parks/recreation departments) and many more options (curriculum, online, hybrid w/public school) than there were. 

One bad thing, I think because it is easier to choose to homeschool, there are more people doing it now who really shouldn’t be, i.e. they are not committed to putting in the work to make sure their kids do school and learn. I don’t know an answer to this problem, because I do think parents should be free to determine their children’s education, even if they make a bad choice. It is not the government’s job to step in. 

Samantha C. 24 from MO: In some ways, yes. It’s not just for crazy religious nutjobs anymore, but it still seems to be considered pretty “fringe.” 

Courtney M. 22 from VA: I think that some people are realizing that homeschoolers can be somewhat normal people, but it is a slow process. There is still the stereotype in people’s minds to where a girl walks down the hallway in a T-shirt, jean skirt, tube socks and tennis shoes and the first thing people think is “she was homeschooled” and they’re probably right. Thank goodness I never had that kind of look, but I think there are enough homeschoolers like that still around who keep the stereotype “alive”. But I think enough “normal people” homeschoolers are emerging that they are not as rare as they used to be and people are getting more used to that.

Christine M. 31 from KS: Yes and no. It really depends on who you talk to. I do think that since there are more and more homeschooled students out in “the real world” now, people are seeing and hearing more about the positives of homeschooling (other than the going to school in your pajamas assumption) and realizing that we’re not all a bunch of unsocialized nerds who can recite the Declaration of Independence backwards but can’t carry on a conversation.

Jonathan M. 30 from TX: Yes and no. We are more accepted, but we are still thought of as odd.

Marybeth M. 29 from CA: The whole viewpoint and ability to homeschool has changed a lot over the years. There’s so much available to homeschoolers now, as far as co-ops, school activities and such. The stigma about homeschooling is either the kids are super smart and over educated or really sheltered. And both are true. I fall in the over sheltered category.

Bradley H. 23 from VA: To a degree. There are more “sects” of homeschoolers now (“unschooling” and others) which is a detriment to the practice. But I do feel that homeschoolers have proven themselves to be intelligent and resourceful, as well as able to function in the world. 

Megan W. 27 from GA: I think people are more open to it. When my grandparents found out my sisters and I were being homeschooled they didn’t tell anyone because it was so unusual. Of course there’s that group of people who think all homeshoolers watch TV all day and have no social skills. And there are homeschoolers who fit that generalization.

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Personally, I fall into the yes category. I am so glad that people actually know what homeschooling is today, that homeschool students have exhibited success both personally and academically, and that current homeschoolers have so many more opportunities today. I know lots of parents who are currently homeschooling or planning to homeschool and it just seems “normal.” Oh, how times have changed — for the better.

What about you?

  • Do you think stereotypes about homeschooling/homeschoolers are still very prevalent?
  • If you were homeschooled, do you think thoughts/opinions about homeschooling have changed for the better?
  • If you currently homeschool, what stereotypes do you fight against today?

Please feel free to comment or ask questions. I’d love to hear from you!

Also, if you feel that this post or series would be interesting or educational for others, please feel free to link to Facebook or other social networking sites. You can “like” this post with the Facebook button below.

This series is at an end. I have one more post I would like to share, a rather controversial post. In the present post, I addressed stereotypes that the public has/had about homeschoolers. But I also want to address stereotypes or damaging attitudes that homeschoolers hold about non-homeschoolers, specifically attitudes and beliefs that I have had to overcome now that I am outside the “homeschool bubble.”

[Homeschoolers Anonymous previously published this other post of Brittany’s. Please read it here.]

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End of series.

Adult Homeschoolers Speak Out: Part Nine, Do Former Homeschoolers Want to Homeschool?

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HA note: The following series is reprinted with permission from Brittany’s blog BAM. Part Nine was originally published on June 27, 2012.

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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?

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Part Nine: Do Former Homeschoolers Want to Homeschool Their Kids?

When I started this series, the question”Do former homeschoolers want to homeschool their children?” was one that was very personal. In my current circle of friends, I know lots of parents who are currently homeschooling or are planning on homeschooling. But none of these parents were homeschooled themselves.

This observation then led to intense introspection: Will I homeschool my kids? As my boys are 4 (they will turn 5 in October), this question has produced a lot of deep conversations and some sleepless nights for me.  (I will answer this question at the end of this post)

I wanted to know what other former homeschoolers were doing. So, I was eager to see what the survey results would bring.

And I am eager to share these results with you now.

  • 45 people answered this portion of the survey
  • 18 adults have children ranging from 0-10 years old
  • 27 adults currently have no children

24% or 11 people said “No, they did not plan on homeschooling”

  • 5 have children
  • 6 do not have children

M. W. 30 from OH: Not unless we have to. I don’t want them to go through what I went though. I would consider home school until 7th grade but definitely not after that.

M. M. 29 from CA: I do not have kids, and when I do have them – NO. I don’t think I could do it, but more than that I don’t want to repeat the experience I had. 

Kaitlin G. 22 from KS: No, I want my children to be able to experience everything that school has to offer, however we will consider doing private school instead of public school depending on where we live. 

Kelly C. 29 from VA: I would like our children to go to private school if we can afford it when the time comes. If we cannot, then I will strongly consider homeschooling. My main concern is the patience it requires… I feel seriously lacking the patience department. My husband my actually be the one to homeschool if we decide to go that route. His job is flexible and he has far more patience than me and he is an excellent teacher.

Elina C. 25 from KS: I would love to, but I can’t. Tyler and I have moved to Germany to do missions work. It is illegal to homeschool your children here. I do have to admit that the German school system has very good structure. I am sure that I will do some side studies with my kids. Focusing on Creation Science, Bible and American History.

Others mentioned family situations that would make homeschooling impossible: joint custody of child(ren), financial situations that would not allow it, or the fact that a spouse did not want to homeschool.

31% or 14 participants said that they “Maybe or were unsure if they would homeschool”

  • 6  have children
  • 8 do not have children.

Elizabeth J. 27 from KS: I would love to, but I have compromised with my husband to say that it depends on the child and what the school has to offer at that time.

Christy L. 28 from CA: I don’t have kids right now, but if I do in the future, the decision to homeschool will really depend upon the child and where I live at the time. Right now, the thought of homeschooling doesn’t sound fun to me- but here in San Francisco the public schools are pretty bad, so if I still live here, we will either have to homeschool or move north. 

Chelsea W. 30 from KS: That is still up in the air…it just depends on so many things. I dont want to send my kids to public school if at all possible. We would like to do a private school if possible, but I may decide to homeschool. Just not decided yet.

Melissa G. 26 from VA: My decision to homeschool my children will be based on their personalities. If I have a child(ren) with a similar academic personality to myself, I will probably choose to homeschool. If I have a child(ren) with a more social personality, I may choose to send him/her to the local Catholic school.

Beka R. 25 from KSI plan to homeschool my children if I choose to stay home when they are born. If I choose to continue working, I will probably enroll them in a private Christian school. I really want to homeschool because I think that schools have gone so far from the inter-grade learning, where younger students learn faster and pick up more by being there when the older students are being taught, and because of the safety issues within public schools. My best friend teaches 3rd grade and the lock-downs and inter-student violence is really concerning. However I’m not sure whether I’ll always work, or whether I’ll stay home and homeschool, or whether I’ll do some combination thereof. Right now, I plan on working and enrolling my kids in private Christian school. But who knows, things could change. 

Corinna R. 35 from VA: My oldest is 4 and I’m not sure if we will homeschool her or not. I think it will depend on how we like our options. I don’t think that private school is worth the money and I see so many advantages to homeschooling. You can really make it whatever you like. Although I cringe when I see families not requiring good obedience of their children. Then I wonder if the public school would be healthier for the children. They would at least learn some boundaries. 

Anthony T. 27 from VA: We haven’t decided yet. I think it’s a good possibility though. The reason why I would want to is because I just value our role as parents to be the ones raising our kids and teaching them things… not just academics, but teaching them how to glorify God. Regardless of which type of school you put your kid in, you’re relegating that role to someone else. It may be that the person you relegate that role to is a great person and can do those same things, but part of me just thinks that the ideal scenario is for parents to do that. I don’t know though. I think academically, my wife and I could provide a better academic environment than our kids could get in a school. I think spiritually, it would be ideal for us to teach them. I don’t know though.

The responders who said “YES! They want to/plan to/are homeschooling” was the largest group. However, the numbers need a little pinch of salt, I believe.

44% or 20 responders said “Yes, They want to/plan to/are homeschooling” 

  • Only 3 families (6%) are currently homeschooling
  • 7 people who said “Yes” currently have children.
  • 13 responders had no children.

I believe the “pinch of salt” is needed because while people said they want to homeschool or even plan to homeschool, I think parents’ opinions often do change when they actually have children (either for or against). (Just my little 2 cents.)

Here is what the families who currently homeschool had to say:

Jenna C. 28 from KY: Yes, because I can’t imagine sending them off for 8 hours a day without my supervision and guidance. I feel a tremendous responsibility to shepherd them and lead them up in the truth of the gospel, and also to prepare them to be adults who can thrive in this world. I feel that that is best done, right now, by me being with them as much as possible. I also know my kids better than anyone, and I know how they learn the best and what they are struggling with. it makes sense to me to be the one to teach them. We may reconsider this decision in the future, but right now, this is what we feel is the best choice for our family and our children.

Christine M. 31 from KS: We currently homeschool our older two. We LOVE it! We are able to move at our own pace to keep the kids interested. They learned to read quickly, they have plenty of time to just be kids, and we’re able to slow down if we come across any trouble spots, but honestly, they are both way ahead of where they “should” be. I have a friend who currently has a daughter in 4th grade who is severely struggling because of her reading ability. Instead of being able to slow down, or even repeat a grade, the school has continued to push her forward so her “self-esteem isn’t damaged from being in with younger students”, seemingly ignoring the fact that she is struggling to read what’s required of her.

Jerusha C. 30 from VA: I just started homeschooling my oldest 2 children this past fall. [My daughter] went to public school k-5 but wanted to be homeschooled, and when she was in 3rd grade I started thinking and praying about it. I really didn’t want to because I my own experence but I felt God “calling” me to do it.

Other responses from those who said “Yes:”

Amberley A. 33 from WA: Chances are good that we will homeschool in the future (we currently have our children in a private Christian school – their grandmother teaches there and we get a super-amazing discount!), but we will probably homeschool in the future when she retires and/or for high school. The Christian school’s high school program is limited, and we also have quite a few things that we want to teach our children in high school that they won’t learn in any school environment because they are not traditional subjects. 

Stuart G. 29 from VA: We do plan on it. Honestly, we believe we can give our children a superior education – one that is tailored to their needs, talents, etc., and that goes much deeper than just reading, writing, and arithmetic. More importantly, I believe home-schooling will help us build stronger relationships with our children. Not that you can’t have strong relationships if your children are in public/private school, just that home-schooling might furnish more opportunities for such a relationship. 

Jenna N. 28 from KS: I (semi-ironically) became an elementary school teacher and after having been a teacher, I really can’t imagine having someone else have the amount of influence over my children that teacher’s have. Not to mention the colossal amount of time that is wasted in a classroom and my (slightly arrogant) attitude of knowing what I think teachers should be doing and if they are doing it the right way or not.

Emily H. 19 from GA: I do plan to homeschool my kids one day. Though it won’t be a perfect experience, I feel I have definitely learned from mistakes my parents made (and will carry on the successes) and would like to put it in action in one day.

Allison E. 24 from VA: Yes, I plan on it. I think it prepared me better academically and I want to give my kids that advantage.

Megan W. 27 from GA: As of now we are planning on homeschooling because, as of now, we believe it’s the best fit for our oldest. My husband and I want to have the final say on what our children are taught. Each year our kids are in school we will seek to make the decision that’s best for each of our children. 

Jonathan M. 30 from TX: Yes, because the more I look at the pathetic state of the recrutes coming in right out of highschool there is no way I would let my kids grow up that way. The other reason is that every time I hear about what they teach in schools it makes me fear for my kids.



Another responder said: Yes (or private Christian), I plan to (if I have children); I believe it prepares them academically for the real world better than public school; I believe it lays out foundations faith issues. 

The second half of this question was “If you do plan on homeschooling, is there anything you would do differently?”

While some responders said, “No, not really,” others gave many suggestions about what they would plan to do differently if and when they do homeschool their children.

The first three testimonies are from the moms who currently homeschool:

Jenna C. 28 from KY: I will be more intentional about training them in social interaction, and in providing opportunities for them to practice those skills. I will also be more involved in their learning, and will not focus so much on their “grade” but on how well they know the information. I will review with them and teach them how to apply the things they are learning to real life situations, not only during the lesson but in everyday life.

Christine M. 31 from KS: We do plan on giving them the option of choosing public school once they reach High School, and of course academics will take on a different look because there’s so much more available. But, overall my goal is to create socially active, politically literate, independent adults by the time graduation arrives. 

Jerusha C. 30 from VA: I have them enrolled in a correspondence school.

Melissa G. 26 from VA: MORE WRITING! And a greater emphasis on critical thinking over religious faith.

One Responder said: Yes, I would particularly focus more on spirituality (versus theology), concentrate on finding a church in which my children can thrive socially/spiritually, etc. Additionally, I would be more focused on classic education (more focus on foreign language, literature, etc.)


Megan W. 27 from GA: Yes. I will make lesson plans ahead of time and know what our goals are for the week, semester and year. There will be more structure then what I had.

Michelle D. 19 from KS: Can’t think of many, but perhaps I would involve my children in more group activities/co-op classes during grade school and middle school. I would not be afraid to allow them to have close friends outside of the family. 

Ruth M. 23 from OKI plan to implement a little more structure and hit math and science a little harder.

Corinna R. 34 from VA: I will focus more on academic excellence. The materials are so much better now. I don’t have to invent the wheel like my parents. 

Amberley A. 33 from WA: Well, there are quite a few things we want to teach our kids that I wasn’t taught – Greek, things about finances/running a business/real estate, Also – we want to teach Bible – not only the knowledge, but the application of what it says and why it is relevant in their life, and mission trip/witnessing practice and experience. 

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So, back to my original dilemma: Do I want to/plan to homeschool my children?

In past posts, I’ve shared very honestly about what I thought was great about my homeschooling experience and what I thought could have been different/better. Overall, I loved being homeschooled and think I had a positive experience for the most part.

But, I don’t really want to homeschool.

Here are my reasons (mainly selfish):

1. I struggle with patience with my twin boys and get frustrated very easily when I try to teach them things. I don’t want my lack of personal patience to interfere with the learning process or (worse!) cause them to hate school/learning.

2. I butt heads with one of my sons quite frequently. I think he learns better from other people.

3. I want to work. I really, really enjoy teaching writing and literature at our local university. I get a great deal of personal satisfaction from teaching (though I only do it part time).

My boys will be going to Pre-K this fall at our neighborhood elementary school. (It is right across the street from us!) Since they will not be 5 until October, they will enter Kindergarten next year. Though I could keep them at home this year and do “home” preschool, I am having a baby in October (we like that month around here) and I know that at school they will be able to get the social and academic attention that I will struggle to give them in the first few weeks and months after our baby boy arrives.

Reading through all of the surveys has made me go back and forth on my decision though. I definitely feel guilty about not wanting to homeschool, fearing that I will not be able to provide the “good things” that I gleaned from homeschooling:

  • I want to provide the Biblical education that I received through homeschooling.
  • I want my kids to have the freedom to pursue special interests.
  • And I do not want my children to be bored in school and lose their love for learning early (something my husband struggled with in public school).

However, I have come to the realization that teaching the Bible or about one’s faith is an option for every family, whether you homeschool or not.

I can still encourage my sons’ personal interests (plus, they will have other adults — teachers, counselors — who will also inspire them and perhaps provide insight and opportunities that I cannot).

The “being bored” thing is one I am concerned about. And I would more seriously consider homeschooling if I felt like my kids were starting to hate learning.

My husband and I agree that we will take our schooling decision year by year and we would definitely consider homeschooling in the future if we think that this will be the best option for our boys.

What about you? 

If you were homeschooled, do you plan on/want to homeschool your children?

If not, do you (like me) feel guilty sometimes?

If you do plan on homeschooling, what do you plan to do differently with your children?

Please feel free to comment or ask questions below! And please share this via Facebook or other social networking sites if you feel that this post or series would be interesting or helpful for others. You can “like” this post on the Facebook button below.

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To be continued.

How Bad Homeschool Research Hurts Homeschoolers

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Kathryn Brightbill’s blog The Life and Opinions of Kathryn Elizabeth, Person. It was originally published on July 24, 2013.

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.

Adult Homeschoolers Speak Out: Part Eight, The Best Thing vs. What Was Missing

Adult Homeschoolers Speak Out: Part Eight, The Best Thing vs. What Was Missing

HA note: The following series is reprinted with permission from Brittany’s blog BAM. Part Eight was originally published on June 19, 2012.

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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?

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Part Eight: The Best Thing vs. What Was Missing

If you homeschool or are considering homeschooling, sometimes fears or uncertainties or just generally being overwhelmed by choosing a curriculum, lesson planning, or keeping up with all that socialization can sometimes make you forget the “big picture” of why you wanted to homeschool in the first place.

This post is the “big picture,” the reasons that former homeschoolers list as the best thing(s) about homeschooling. The second half of this post is the responses of these adults about what they wish had been different about their homeschooling experience.

I hope this post encourages you and gives you some food for thought as well.

Survey Question: What was the best thing about homeschooling? 

Here are the top three answers:

  • #1: Closer Family relationships (15 responses/ 34%)

#2 & 3 are tied:

  • Flexibility (10 responses/ 23%)
  • Freedom to pursue interests (academic and extracurricular) (10 responses/ 23%)

Almost everyone mentioned more than “best thing.” I have divided all the responses into these five categories (the numbers listed are how many people mentioned each one):

Family

  • Closer family 15 
  • One-on-one time with parents
  • Greater appreciation for parents

Academic

  • Freedom to pursue interests (academic and extracurricular) 10
  • Ability to work at your own pace 7
  • Laid back schedule 2
  • Fewer interruptions
  • More time efficient
  • Better Learning
  • Reading
  • Never stopping the learning process
  • Getting college credit in high school
  • More attention
  • Learned how to think for oneself
  • Learning for learning’s sake and not for grades
  • Freedom to adapt to personal learning styles
  • Custom education
  • No wasted time on “busy work”

Personal

  • Flexibility 10
  • Promoting Independence/ independent thinking 3
  • Sheltered from bad influences
  • Reduced Peer Pressure
  • More confidence/ less social pressure
  • Having “real life” experiences
  • Self-motivation
  • Learned strong work ethic
  • Matured quickly

Social 

  • Being able to travel 2
  • More time for volunteering 2
  • Unique experiences (field trips, etc) 2
  • More free time
  • Meeting lots of different people

Religious

  • Bible Education 3
  • Closer walk with God 2
  • Faith integrated into every aspect of learning

Wow! So many “best things” about homeschooling! I hope these lists are encouraging to you.

The second survey question I asked in my survey was this:

Survey Question: Do you wish anything was different about your homeschooling experience? 

Here is the statistical break down:

  • 43% (19) said “No, they couldn’t think of anything they wished was different”
  • 56% (25) said “Yes, they wished ‘xyz’ had been different”

The answers were both fascinating and widely varied. I have divided the “Yes” answers into Academic and Social categories.

Academic:

J. M. 30 from TX: I wish my folks had spent more time on math and science. (even though I was ready for collage level study I feel like I could have done even better if we had)


R. M. 23 from OK: I wish we had done more science. 

M.G. 26 from VA: Looking back, I think that my education lacked any real writing component. However, I have compensated for it since.  

J. D. 18 from VA: Sometimes I just wish I had a teacher to help me through situations that I didn’t understand the material.

M. W.  27 from GA: I wish there had been more structure and a more complete curriculum.

R. P. 30 from MS: When I got to high school I would go to the homeschool convention each year and pick out my books for the coming year with my mom. I then went through the text books pretty much on my own. I wish my mom had held me accountable a bit more because I didn’t end up finishing as much as I could have (although in the end I was completely prepared for college). Also we didn’t do science labs in high school, which I wish we had even though that tends to be hard. In WA state we have a program where you can go to community college for free for the last two years of high school and graduate from high school with an AA. I kind of wish my mom had pushed me to do that, but it may be that I wasn’t socially ready at that point. 

E. M. 26 from FL: I highly recommend co-op. I wish we would have done more of this early on in my experiences. It provided more structure. 

E. H. 19 from GA: Not much, just that maybe we had been part of the co-op longer and we had been stricter on keeping grades.

M. M. 29 from CA: I honestly kinda wish I wasn’t [homeschooled]. Although I wouldn’t be who I am today, but I really felt I was [robbed] in the education area. 

Social:

Several people mentioned that they wished they could have been involved with sports:

Kelly C. 29 from VA: I wish that it would have been easier to get involved in sports. The only option for me was a rec league and the one time I got involved in a rec league it was all boys (on a boy/girl team). 

Beka R. 25 from KS: I look at my younger siblings all involved in basketball, and I wish I had given it a shot . . . looking back I think I would have enjoyed that very much.

Samantha C. 24 from MO: Being able to be involved in competitive sports, like softball, would have been nice. 

Others focused on deeper social issues:

S. G. 29 from VA: I do wish I had been forced into more social situations. That could have made the public sphere less trying. Even today, conversing with people remains difficult for me; I believe my schooling experience plays a large role in that difficulty.

J. C. 28 from KY: I wish my parents had been more involved in my schooling and in making sure I was involved socially, not just by putting me into social situations but by training me in how to act in those situations.

B. H. 23 from VA: That I would have had a bit more contact with other homeschoolers, but I did have adequate social activities in Youth Group at Church. 

K. C. 24 from VAI wish that I had a better homeschool group in high school. Having a good local group is key to not feeling isolated. 

S. M. 29 from WV: I wish it had not been illegal at the time and that it had been more widely accepted. My brother and I were teased and bullied mercilessly by public school kids about being homeschooled. My two younger brothers have had a completely different experience because homeschooling is so common now.

O. G. 29 from KS: I kind of wish I had been pushed to try more things. I was a little timid. 

M. V. 27 from IA: I wouldn’t be homeschooled. I wish I’d been sent [public school], actually. If I had to still be homeschooled, I wish my parents had pushed me into doing things besides choir and 4-H and work, to try new things instead of just doing what was immediately available. 

I suppose another angle of this is that I wish I had spent more time doing things with people who were not homeschooled and who were not like me, so I didn’t have the huge learning curve post-high school graduation. 

I think this is an often-overlooked disadvantage of homeschooling: Sometimes homeschooling students get jobs or are pushed into service activities and spend too much time doing adult things before they are truly adults, and missing out on important kid activities instead. 

In my 10th grade year, my mom took on responsibility of two young boys for a lady in our church who worked; we essentially became a two-kid daycare . . . I didn’t enjoy it (I’m not much of a kid person) and school had to be fit in on the sides. I have heard my parents’ current pastor’s wife say that she prefers her daughter, who does like kids, to not always be babysitting, because she doesn’t want her daughter to grow up being a sort of pseudo-teen-mom. And I think that happened to me a little in my 10th-grade year. I also worked a lot (at the Y, which was fun), but sometimes that stood in for other social activities. I didn’t actually have to work. So, different: not so many adult activities, so soon.

Finally, one responder gave this answer which I though was really interesting (and I wasn’t quite sure how to categorize it):

C. R. 35 from VA: Yes, I believe that it is a really struggle for homeschooling parents to release their children once they are grown.   

I think these “wishes” are very enlightening. Some of them are more tied to being a “first generation” homeschooler than others. For example, there are more co-op opportunities and sports opportunities today than there were 15-20 years ago.

Perhaps these other academic and social “wishes” will help give current homeschoolers insight into where they can pursue conversation with their children or perhaps make changes.

What about you? 

If you were or are homeschooled, what is the very best thing about it?

As an adult homeschool alumni, is there anything that you wish had been different about your homeschooling experience? What advice would you give to homeschool parents today?

Please feel free to comment or ask questions! And please share this series if you think it would be interesting or helpful to others by linking to Facebook or other social networking sites (you can “like” this post by clicking below”)

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To be continued.

Adult Homeschoolers Speak Out: Part Seven, What About Socialization?

Adult Homeschoolers Speak Out: Part Seven, What About Socialization?

HA note: The following series is reprinted with permission from Brittany’s blog BAM. Part Seven was originally published on June 14, 2012.

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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?

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Part Seven: What About Socialization?

Ask any homeschooler (past or present) the # 1 question he or she receives about homeschooling and it will be this:

What about socialization?

Most homeschoolers will laugh at this question and give some rapid-fire answers about the number of activities they are involved in or how they are so busy that they have to squeeze school work in their socializing schedule.

I have been anticipating this post for almost a month now and I have thought long and hard about why this is such a hot-button issue for people. Any Google search on “Homeschooler + socialization” will reveal a barrage of blog posts and e-articles that all profess that homeschooled children are, indeed, socialized and even better socialized their their traditionally schooled peers.

The comments to such articles are even more revealing. Every reader seems to have an opinion on this issue and the comment battles that ensue would probably fit neatly into the movie “Mean Girls.”

So why does the issue socialization bother so many people, both homeschoolers and non, seeming even more important than academic success?

I believe this is because social apptitude is spotted, judged and/or pitied long before intelligence is ever assessed in most social situations. In plain English, this statement could read like this: “He is so smart, but….bless his heart, he seems a little awkward, doesn’t he?” (That was the polite version. You can make up your own, non-sugar coated statement here.)

The issue of socialization and homeschooling is so dynamic because, whether homeschoolers like to admit it or not, what they are doing is counter-cultural. It isn’t “the way” most Americans are educated or how most adults learned to interact with the world.

This is neither good nor bad.

It simply is.

But because it is “different,” it may and often does present some challenges.

My survey results revealed some of the challenges that adult homeschoolers have faced as they entered adulthood. The numbers are primarily positive (though perhaps not as overwhelmingly confident as most homeschoolers, both past and present, may think they ought to be).

I had two questions relating to socialization:

Survey Question: Are people every surprised to find out you were homeschooled?

67% (29) of responders said “Yes!” 

Most said people were surprised because they were “so normal!”

One woman said: “Yes! Just the other day a nurse was bashing homeschoolers and I turned to her and said that I was homeschooled. She was shocked.” 

16% (7) said people were “Sometimes” surprised. 

One adult homeschooler  noted that [u]sually [the statement] is followed by a question about being social and I have to try not to laugh, but most of the time people are positive about it!”

4% (2) said people were not surprised at all to find out they were homeschooled

11% (5) said the question either “doesn’t come up” or that they “don’t tell them.”

One man revealed, People think I’m crazy or some kind of weirdo. I don’t share this unless I have to.”

My survey question specifically about socialization was linked to the question about higher education:

Survey Question: Did you pursue higher education after high school? If so, what is the highest level of education you have earned? If so, do you feel that homeschooling prepared you socially?

(Looking back I wish I hadn’t attached this question to higher education because not everyone pursued higher education and, therefore, did not answer this question — though only 2-3 did not.)

The statistics for this question are as follows:

60% (26 responders) said Yes, they felt socially prepared for higher education/the real world.  

40% (17 responders) said either “No, they were not prepared” or mentioned difficulties they had 

Of the 60% who said “yes!,” a majority argued that homeschooling gave them a chance to interact and socialize with people of all age groups instead of simply interacting in peer-age groups.

Megan W. 27 from GAYes. I had always been exposed to different people and encouraged to interact with them.

Ruth M. 23 from OK: Yes, I don’t think I had any more difficulty socially than a person who had gone to a public school. Actually, I believe homeschooling helped because it trained me to be willing to branch out and meet different people, even if they didn’t belong to what I saw as my “group.”

Elizabeth H. 21 from DESocially, I am comfortable talking to a wide variety of people, both age-wise and culturally.

Jonathan M. 30 from TXYES!! I feel that I was better prepared socially due to the fact that while homeschooling I learned to sociallize with people of all ages. I have noticed that many people who went to public schools are locked into their peer group and have a hard time with people outside of their peer group.

Elizabeth J. 27 from KS: Yes, I had many friends, and lots of experiences that were similar enough to my public school peers that I had things to talk with them about. I was comfortable in the large groups of mixed ages and abilities, something that bothered a lot of my public school peers as they were used to same age grouping.

On the negative end of the spectrum, adult homeschoolers related these experiences:

M. G. 26 from VAAlthough I have no social skills, I can’t blame that entirely on homeschooling. Yes, homeschooling gave me very few outlets to force myself to be social, but since people make me nervous and I don’t like to be social anyways, that may have happened regardless. . . Social function is probably the biggest disadvantage.

E. J. 24 from VAThat is a bit of a difficult question because I was an extremely shy child. I was socialized. There was a group of about 50-60 homeschoolers that would meet at least once a week to play, and I was often around adults that my parents knew from church, work, or their hobbies. As a child, I was very comfortable speaking with adults and I disliked events geared toward children as I found them condescending. However, as an adult, I have had some small issues with relating to everyone. Whether this is because I was homeschooled, or because of my personality, I am not really sure.

R. P. 30 from MS: I had good social skills for dealing with people of all ages in a personal and professional way. When I went to college I greatly gained social skills with my peers. Part of that may be delayed because I was homeschooled. 

K. C. 24 from VA: There were some gaps in my social abilities, and felt socially immature for a while.

M. W. 30 from OH: Homeschooling set me back at least 2 years socially. I made up for a lot of it by getting a job at McDonalds my junior year in high school.

J. C. 28 from KY: I wish my parents had been more involved . . . in making sure I was involved socially, not just by putting me into social situations but by training me in how to act in those situations.  

Whether the response was positive or negative regarding socialization, nearly all responders seemed to define “being socialized” as:

  • Being able to talk to people of all ages
  • Having friends
  • Being involved in activities

While I think these three things are important, somehow these answers left me wondering: Are people really “socialized” if they have friends, are involved in activities, and can talk to people of all ages? Are these three things really what non-homeschooler are asking when they ask, “What about socialization?”

One woman wrote, what I believe is, an excellent response to this question. Though she had friends, close family relationships, outside activities, and a part time job while being homeschooled, she still said she was “Absolutely not!” prepared socially for life after homeschooling.

M.V. 27 from IA writes: Imagine human social lives like a game . . . In a real game, the rules are carefully explained. In society, the rules are unstated and must be figured out carefully (incidentally, they change from country to country and region to region). What kids need, then, is an opportunity to practice the game and learn what the rules are. 

High school, mean as it can be, gives them that opportunity. It teaches them to respond appropriately to peer pressure, to interact with the other sex, to behave appropriately at social events, to make small talk. 

Obviously, not everyone who goes to a public school graduates with a perfect knowledge of these rules, and not everyone who is homeschooled fails completely here. My sister, for instance, picked up social rules quite well. The fact that some people do fine, however, doesn’t change the fact that society does have rules and homeschooling reduces the opportunities by which to pick up on those rules.

Missing public school means that I missed four years of an opportunity to learn some of those rules. I had a very small circle of friends at [college] and had no idea how to interact with roommates; I started getting better in [grad school] and then [when I went to work overseas].

I found this response to be very insightful and true, in many cases. Learning social rules is difficult, and if one does not learn those rules as a child or teenage, then he or she must learn them (sometimes more painfully and embarrassingly) as an adult.

I can relate to this. Even as an adult, I sometimes lack insight into when it is the right time to ask questions, especially in a group setting. Growing up, “right now” was always the right time to ask any question! In college, I always forgot to raise my hand in a classroom setting, often blurting out whatever was on my mind, often to interrupt others or be reminded by the professor “to give someone else a chance to talk/answer.”

Although I have gotten better as I have gotten older (and wiser), I have even had difficulties at my job when, at a meeting, I asked a question that–I thought!–was very applicable. I was reprimanded later by my superior privately (much to my intense embarrassment). Knowing these “unspoken rules” of group settings continues to be difficult for me, though I am slowing figuring them out.

Another issue that I believe many homeschoolers struggle with socially can be related in this example:

C. M. 31 from KS: I was a bit green when it came to dealing with people who didn’t have my best in mind, and I found myself in situations in college that I would NEVER walk into now. 

I have found that many former homeschoolers (including myself) feel blindsided when they discover that in “the real world,” not everyone has their best interest at heart. Growing up, everyone had my best interest at heart: my parents, friend’s parents (all of whom were homeschool families), Sunday School teachers, pastors (let’s see, who else did I interact with….?)

As a child, this trust in others is healthy. As an adult,  naive trust in others can be disastrous.

After reading my “Homeschoolers Speak Out: the High School Experience,” one reader commented on the issue of homeschoolers making bad decisions, even after a moral upbringing:

“I am saddened by the (seemingly) higher rate of moral failure among our home schooled families (children). Is this because of over-sheltering? I don’t know.”

While I think over-sheltering may be (and often is) an issue, I also think it is also because some (perhaps many?) homeschoolers leave home believing that everyone has their best interest in mind. Many have made bad decisions as a result of naïvety, either in choosing friends, in dating or marriage, on the job, making large purchases, or making other life changing decisions.

Ultimately, socialization is a complicated issue. I do think that it is important for all children to have friends, opportunities for activities, and the ability to interact with both peers and people of all ages (yes, being able to interact with your peers is important!).

However, I believe that true socialization is more than that, including:

  • Developing working peer relationships (with roommates, co-workers, in general social gatherings, dating and marriage)
  • Developing conflict resolution skills with non-family members
  • Being socially aware of self and others
  • Knowing and acting within social “rules” (ex. Knowing when to speak, listen, respond, or just be quiet!)
  • Being able to navigate social situations with confidence
  • And more

I do realize that the above skills are not possessed by everyone, children or adults, homeschooled or not. But it is, of course, the hope and goal of parenting (and homeschooling!) to be able to socially prepare our children for life outside the home.

What do you think? 

If you were homeschooled, do you believe you were prepared socially for “the real world”?

If you homeschool now, what are some concerns you have about the issue of “socialization”?

How do you answer the question, “What about Socialization??”

Please feel free to comment or ask questions below!

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To be continued.

Adult Homeschoolers Speak Out: Part Six, College? Prepared or Not?

Adult Homeschoolers Speak Out: Part Six, College? Prepared or Not?

HA note: The following series is reprinted with permission from Brittany’s blog BAM. Part Six was originally published on June 4, 2012.

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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?

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Part Six, College? Prepared or Not?

When my 33 year old sister, Amberley, graduated from (home) high school, most people were very skeptical about whether homeshoolers could succeed academically in college.

Yet as first generation homeschoolers (families who started homeschooling right after it became legal in their states) started going to college, research was conducted that proved that homeschoolers, indeed, do very well in college!

My research for this segment of the survey supports this idea. I am very proud of the statistics for this portion of the survey as it shows that many homeschoolers pursue higher education and succeed!

As you will see from the testimonies though, not everyone felt prepared academically, even if they eventually did very well in the college classroom. I will share my [personal] story about feeling academically prepared after I present the data from the survey.

A brief note: I have both a Bachelors and Masters degree in English and currently teach at a University. That being said, many of my friends/ former classmates/ friends of friends who participated in this survey also have advanced degrees. Though I do know that many homeschooled students pursue higher education, the numbers may be slightly greater here due to my personal connections.

Survey Question: Did you pursue higher education after high school? If so, what is the highest level of education you have earned?

Results:

  • Associates: 4
  • Bachelors: 18
  • Masters: 9 (one has 2 masters!; one in Med school)
  • PhD: 1
  • Attended college but didn’t finish: 3
  • Currently in college: 6
  • Other (Cosmetology; ministry certificate): 3
  • Didn’t go to college: 2

The next question on the survey asked whether the adult felt prepared for college academically by his or her homeschool experience. Here are the results:

76% (32 participants) said “Yes”:

Samantha C. 24 from MO: Yes, yes, yes. The night before I left for college, I was terrified that the classroom experience would be too much for me. However, when I got to college, I realized that I had spent the last 10 years educating myself, stretching myself, and had developed a natural curiosity and a desire and eagerness to learn. Freshman year was actually frustrating because I felt that I was being “spoonfed” my education. I was on the Dean’s or the President’s list every semester.

Marybeth M. 29 from CA: I think the only way it helped prepare me was in writing papers and the variety of those papers. I was really afraid of being “secular-shocked” after being Christian sheltered for my entire life. And that I would be behind academically. I don’t remember being behind, and only one class was very anti-Christian.

Renee P. 30 from MS: I was very scared about starting community college. I had myself convinced that I wouldn’t know what to do in a classroom and I would fail school. However after I walked in sat down I never had another problem. I was very prepared academically and did very well in all my classes in college. I felt I had adequate background and I also knew how to learn.

Nara N. 30 from NC: Homeschooling was superior preparation for college because I already knew how to work on my own; lectures by professors were gravy to my college education because I could basically teach myself most material from a book already. I was also used to mastering material on my own so it was natural for me to do this in college. Working independently was an even bigger part of grad school.

Many, many adults noted that they were prepared for college because they already knew how to be  independent learners and take initiative for their education.

14% (or 6 participants) said that homeschooling “Sort of” prepared them for college: 

Grady S. 26 from FL: Yes, but not prepared for the classroom atmosphere. I did take a couple classes at the community college before; that helped but [it was] still different.

Megan V. 27 from IA: Mostly. I am relatively smart anyway, and I am also naturally good with words. So although there probably were gaps in my education, I didn’t sense the gaps incredibly well; I picked stuff up. I think the biggest lack was actually in writing. In high school, my mom and I had re-read papers to see if they were “awkward.” I went into college revising papers by checking to see if they sounded “awkward” and then discovered that was a really horrible way to write. I spent a semester getting Bs and Cs before I figured out how to actually revise papers. 

That said, I think I got lucky because I have smart parents who made me do school and read the books and take tests . . . The testing and results culture in the public school may be difficult and ill-advised for many respects, but by and large, teachers there know how to train students to meet expectations and follow directions. This is not something I believe is taught in homeschooling, or even in Christian schools. A homeschooling family is, by their very nature, the maverick of the educational world. And although kids need to be taught to think for themselves, it is equally important to guarantee that they do in fact think – something that not every homeschooling family is prepared to teach their kids.

M. L. 26 from NE: No and yes. I struggled a lot, but I still managed to graduate with a 3.8. I felt like I wasn’t prepared to juggle all the classes and assignments, I struggled with writing papers, which was something we rarely did. 

Once I was in college, I felt like I missed out on so much!! There were classes I just loved like my literature class. I took it with a friend who was also homeschooled and we both felt like we were cheated and there were so many classic books and writers we had never heard of. I did awesome in most of the class, but when it came to our test it was all essay questions and I froze, because I had never done anything like that. My teacher was so great and so encouraging; she thought what I wrote was great but I gave up on the test. I really wish I had more guidance in writing, to pursue that interest and I would have loved to developed those skills….

Another participant said: Most definitely; the only aspect that was negative was that I didn’t have to study in college which led to a bit of undisciplined learning in post-graduate work.


My note: So many people said they struggled with writing because they received no instruction in it while homeschooled! Sadly, this was also my own experience. However, as I am now an English teacher, I strongly encourage parents to help their homeschool students learn how to write (or find someone to teach them!). If you are in Lynchburg VA, please email me (bmeng@liberty.edu).

9% (4 participants) said that they felt that homeschooling did not prepare them for college: 

M. W. 27 from GA: I didn’t feel very prepared. I had never been in a formal education setting in my life. I had never written a paper until I was in college. My family and I would discuss things, so I was very good at communicating but unprepared for all the writing.

M. W. 30 from OH: I had a hard time adjusting to college. By the end of my freshman year I had it figured out . . . I had some serious disadvantages in high school and college starting out. I have been able to get past most of them now.

S. M. 29 from WV: Not necessarily. I think I would have excelled in any academic environment. I was more prepared for the independent study of college, but that just have been the way my parents chose to homeschool me.

E. M. 26 from FL: I felt I was behind in some areas, not to put my Mom under the bus but areas where she was weaker tend to still be my weak points. It’s difficult to teach someone when you get just as frustrated as them due to not fully understanding the topic.

I think it is wonderful that 95% of the adults who took this survey pursed some sort of higher education. 60% have earned a Bachelors degree or higher! I think current homeschool students and parents can take comfort and heart in these numbers.

My Story: I do not think I was prepared academically for college but….

I was the 3rd of 5 children. My oldest sister (Amberley, mentioned at the beginning of this post) completed high school through a correspondence program, so her diploma is from an accredited private school. My second oldest sister, Chelsea, had no desire to pursue a degree from a college or University (her love was Cosmetology, which she trained for; she is now working in a salon as a stylist).

Neither Chelsea nor I used the correspondence school that Amberley used (I am not sure why). I remember picking my own curriculum and being in charge of my own schooling from 8th grade-12th grade. I took traditional high school math and science courses (Algebra, Geometry, Biology, Chemistry).There was no high school co-op offered when I was in high school, though we did get together with a few homeschool families for science labs.  I don’t remember taking history (although my elementary/Jr. High history studies were excellent). We did Rosetta Stone for French (It didn’t stick) and continued in our Bible curriculum (always excellent).

I never took a literature course in high school, though I did read books (there was no discussion or papers). The only writing instruction I received was when I took Composition I at a local college my Senior year. Ironically, I wanted to be an English major because I loved to read and write “stories.”

Once I got to college, I did well, although I had a lot of academic anxiety about what it meant to “do well.” (Ultimately, I graduated with a 3.7 GPA in undergraduate and a 3.9 in my MA).

College was my first experience with taking tests (we didn’t take any beyond Math tests), taking notes, writing papers, working in groups (hated and still hate this!), and getting grades (we didn’t get grades in our homeschool either. My mom would just assess where we were and had us repeat the work if we didn’t know it yet).

The only time I felt like college was “hard” was in a Spanish class. It was my second semester (first semester I got a B and didn’t learn a thing–very “absent minded” professor!) with a very strict and rather compassionless professor. This class required a lot of speaking out loud in front of others. I was morbidly embarrassed of doing this, of making mistakes in front of others–which I did frequently because I was so self-conscious. I cried multiple times in class.

After seeking tutoring, going to the professor for help, and spending 4-5 hours on homework assignments, I ultimately dropped the class. In reality, I just couldn’t handle the fact that I wasn’t good at something (homeschooling often encourages students to pursue the subjects they are good at and to just “get by” in the others) and I was socially embarrassed in front of my peers.

Perhaps being involved in more group learning during my homeschooing years, such as a co-op (or being in a traditional school setting) would have helped me in this situation. I’d like to blame the teacher (he was pretty harsh) but I know my own insecurities and lack of preparation also contributed to this failure.

In my English classes I actually blossomed. I finally had an outlet for all my thoughts (but was reminded by several professors in several classes to “let others have a turn to talk”….ugh. Socially awkward homeschooler, right there!). I did well on my papers (I only recall one C on an English paper in my whole undergraduate career)–though not due to my writing skills. (I had good ideas. I feel like I really learned to write when I got to grad school).

Honestly, I don’t believe I was prepared academically for college, especially in my chosen field (woefully unprepared in writing and critical thinking!) but I got by because homeschooling taught me to be an independent learner and I was extremely self-motivated. These were the gifts that homeschooling gave me (though I feel that my “real” education began when I went to college and when I pursued my masters degree).

What about you?

After being homeschooled did you pursue higher education? Did you feel like you were prepared academically? 

If you homeschool your child, how are you preparing him or her academically for college?

Please feel free to comment below or ask any questions! Also, please share this post on Facebook or other social networking sites if you think that this series would be beneficial to others!

The next post will be about whether homeschoolers felt socially prepared for “the real world” — yes, I am going to tackle that huge question, “What about socialization?!” The survey results are extremely enlightening and thought provoking! Please keep reading!

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To be continued.

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.

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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?

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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:

Academically:

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.”

But.

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.

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To be continued.

Adult Homeschoolers Speak Out: Part Four, Academic and Emotional Experiences, K-8

Adult Homeschoolers Speak Out: Part Four, Academic and Emotional Experiences, K-8

HA note: The following series is reprinted with permission from Brittany’s blog BAM. Part Four was originally published on May 28, 2012.

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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?

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Part Four, Academic and Emotional Experiences, K-8

Welcome (or welcome back!) to this series about the experiences of Adults who were homeschooled! Today we will look at what former homeschoolers thought about their schooling experience from Kindergarten through 8th grade and how they remember feeling emotionally (liked it, didn’t like it, etc).

I thought this post was going to be pretty simple to write. I had read through all the surveys once and was thinking, “Oh, everyone had such a good experience in these grades and they all loved it!”

However, after reading through the surveys for a second time and crunching some numbers, I realized that my first impression was a little (too) rosy.

Here’s the short version:

  • 91% or 39 adults said their Academic experience was good (“Great!” “Awesome!” etc).
  • Only 9% (or 4 participants) said that it “could have been better.”

Emotionally, the numbers were a little different.

  • 65% of adults (or 28 people) said that their emotional memories were good (“I loved it!” “I really enjoyed it.” etc) or that they had no memory of how they felt (2 participants or 4%).
  • 30% (13 participants) of adult homeschoolers said that they struggled with negative emotions concerning this time in their lives. (To see survey demographics, click here).

Here are some of the Academic testimonies from the survey:

Kelly C.; 29 from VAI have really pleasant memories of my homeschooling experience as a child. My mom only has a high school education and I feel like with the curriculum she had and the homeschool community we were a part of that I was not slighted in the least from receiving a good education.

Elizabeth J., 24 from VAI loved it! . . . We only had three formal classes: Math, Spelling, and Grammar. And the rule was, once you finished the set assignments for the day, you were finished from school. So most days we would start around eight in the morning and be finished by 9:30 or 10. There were other things that we did sometimes: Handwriting, phonetics, field trips (we visited probably every important or historical site in Virginia). Also my siblings and I read like crazy. We would go to the library every Friday and get as many books as we could carry and my sister and I would read each other’s books. But we all had to get one science and one history book and write a report on it.

Nara N., 30 from NCAcademically: my Mom always chose curriculum from all kinds of places and at whatever grade level was appropriate for us in each subject. My brother and sister (twins) did not even always do the same curriculum for each subject. I was basically always above grade level and never knew what “grade” I was in.

Matthew W., 30 from OHFor the most part everything was good. I enjoyed the benefits of homeschooling and we had a lot of friends that were also homeschooled. We were in some pretty good homeschool groups and took some cool field trips. 

Christine M., 31 from  KSIt was a good, very positive experience. There were times I wanted to try out public school, but I loved knowing I could be done with my schoolwork before lunch and spend the rest of the day creating, exploring, playing, and just enjoying being a kid instead of dreading the homework that would follow me home. I had lots of time with friends at church, co-op, and in my neighborhood. I also had lots of time to foster my interest in piano.

Stuart G., 29 from VAAcademically: Admittedly, in these first years of home-schooling there was some frustration because my mother was trying to navigate the new waters of schooling at home, and being teacher for all eight of her children. On the positive side, I was given the freedom to more seriously pursue subjects I was personally interested in. My curriculum therefore, was tailored to my needs and natural inclinations, which in turn, made learning more enjoyable for myself, and (I believe) all of my siblings.

Corinna R., 35 from VAAcademically I did much better than I would have otherwise as my parents were able to cater to areas where I had a harder time (like math) and also push me and provide extra opportunities where I was gifted (like music).

Kellan A., 23 from KS:  I really enjoyed it. I feel like I learned a lot and got an extremely good groundwork for the future.

O. G., 29 from KSI thoroughly enjoyed being homeschooled. I think we had a great support group and I had a great relationship with my mom and sister. Academically I probably could have been challenged a bit more…

Emotionally, no one [in my survey] had a completely “bad” emotional experience. However, the ones whom I placed in this category indicated that they had struggled with negative emotions for about 2 years, usually starting around 5th grade. Others noted that Jr. High was a hard time emotionally (which is often a hard time for kids whether they are homeschooled or not).

Reasons cited for negative emotions:

  • Wanted to go to public school
  • Felt like he or she was missing something
  • Felt different
  • Didn’t feel “normal”
  • May have lengthened struggle with shyness
  • Was angry about being taken out of school
  • Felt like parents had too much going on to help
  • Lack of social activities

Interestingly, many participants tied their emotional experience to the availability of social experiences. (A note concerning interpretation: I had to use my personal judgement in determining the emotions behind the words/experiences in some of the surveys. For example, see academic results above where many just said, “I really enjoyed it.”).

I have included both positive and negative testimonials below:

Kelly C., 29 from VA:  [T]he community that we were a part of was wonderful for me as far as socializing. I think there is a big misconception (among the non-homeschooled) that homeschoolers do not socliaze and for me that was not true. We were involved in many activities with other homeschoolers; I participated in 4-H, we had weekly get-togethers at the park or skating rink as well as field trips to various historical/educational facilities.

However, while Kelly noted feeling “wonderful” about these experiences, M.V. relates more negative feelings toward very similar experiences. This just shows that different students had different emotional needs.

M.V., 27 from KSEmotionally, I had friends and social opportunities . . . I don’t feel like I was deprived of social events. At the same time, I don’t think I had much in the way of developmental activities. Sometimes kids this age get involved in a sport or a musical instrument: I had choir, 4-H and long walks through the pastures around our house, none of which were really conducive to developing my future skills and personality as an adult. I think the lack of developmental activities here contributed to more problems in high school.

Here is another contrast between experiences, this one concerning personality:

Nara N., 30 from NCEmotionally: I think I did just fine. I’m naturally quiet/introvert. Sometimes I wonder if public/group private school might have brought me “out” more, but I think it probably would actually not have been good for me as a young child, and would have created a lot of extra stress in my early life.

E. H., 21 from DEEmotionally, it may have lengthened my struggle with shyness, but it meant I was able to unfold in my own time and with invaluable personal/family/spiritual growth in the mean time.

S. M., 29 from WV shows a good contrast between someone who had a good academic experience but who struggled emotionally:

I was full of anxiety because I felt I was getting less of an education that my peers. I always felt educationally and intellectually inferior the entire time. Academically, I did well.

M.L., 26 from NE and M.D., 19 from KS both had positive experiences in earlier grades but struggled emotionally as they got older:

M.L., 26 from NEThe younger years I really enjoyed it, I loved being with my brothers while doing school, I felt challenged to always keep up with them . . . However with life changes, baby, sicknesses/health conditions in the family I felt that my education wasn’t as important as other things going on. Whenever I had questions about school, I felt like my mom had too much going on to help me. In 5th grade I really struggled with school, I felt like all of a sudden it was really hard, I didn’t understand it, it took me forever, I didn’t feel challenged to do well because my brother who had always been a year ahead of me was now behind me and the others were too far ahead so I had no motivation to do well it school. It was the first time I begged to go to public school, I thought, “even if I hate school, at least I would be with my friends. 

M.D., 19 from KS: My view of homeschooling up to [5th grade] was fairly accepting. I remember a few moments of jealousy toward other kids my age who got to spend their days with their friends in public school, but for the most part homeschooling was normal for me, and I didn’t question it. 

I remember middle school being the time when I really started questioning whether I wanted to be home schooled. I was becoming more involved in my church youth group and less involved in the home school group and because of this I was surrounded by kids who attended public school. 

On the other hand, other adults recorded strong, positive emotions in looking back on these years:

Stuart G., 29 from VAEmotionally: I was happy and enjoyed strong relationships with my siblings due to the fact that we were schooling together. Furthermore, my bond with my parents became stronger because of the increased time we were spending together. Especially effective was my father’s involvement in my education, which had not existed prior to home-schooling. 

There was also a noted lack of turmoil that many of my peers in public/private atmospheres experienced. Because we missed out on much of the “drama” middle-school and high-school atmospheres cultivate, we were more at peace with ourselves (choosing things we were truly interested in without regards to what was “popular” at school, etc), and amongst ourselves.

Overall, homeschoolers [in my survey] looking back at their elementary and Jr. High years remember being satisfied academically and happy emotionally (though I think some of the responses concerning emotional satisfaction are very thought provoking).

What about you? 

If you were homeschooled, what do you think about your academic and emotional experiences looking back at K-8th grade?

If you homeschool your children, what thoughts or concerns do you have about their academic and emotional lives?

Please feel free to comment and ask questions!

Also, feel free to share these posts on Facebook or other social networking sites if you feel that others would benefit from or be interested in this series!

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To be continued.