I’ve kind of been wanting to get this off my mind for a while now. It’s not that I have anything to prove to anyone, it’s just I feel with the topic of homeschooling there are so many stereotypes and assumptions; some rightful and some fairly irrational. This environment, often unconsciously, creates a feeling of alienation and unfair isolation.
Homeschoolers are people too: with the same experiences, the same ideas and opinions, and the same skills as anyone who walked the halls of a brick-and-mortar school. The ridiculous notion made by so many that we are being deprived of social interaction, still, makes me mad. Not infuriated, just disappointed and mad. I’m mainly speaking from my own personal experience, as a homeschooler of three years. It’s not direct or blatant, and it certainly isn’t on purpose anymore, but I still feel like I am being incorrectly judged. That I won’t be as successful or decorated as people who get to go to homecoming, prom, graduation, etc. Who don’t sit at a desk all day surrounded by other kids they or may not like, listening to a teacher who may or may not be exceptional at their job. Who have their schedules and classes handed to them already.
I completely understand people often criticize what they don’t understand. It can be difficult for someone to wrap their head around something they’ve never experienced and accept it as true and valid. I certainly didn’t believe homeschooling was the way it has been for me when I went to brick and mortar. But that doesn’t mean you can’t support it. In fact, this uncharted territory should prompt research for a better understanding of the topic. This doesn’t seem to be the case, however, for most people who hold onto one idea and accept it as the only rational idea.
I’m not here to call people out, I just want to illustrate why homeschooling is a valid option for schooling! I know not everyone is comfortable in this type of schooling, just as not everyone is comfortable at their local high school. We are unique individuals with a unique set of preferences, traits, and beliefs. It is up to us to make the decision best for ourselves, regardless of what society dictates as valid and acceptable. There is not only one way to receive your education. Just because you school one way, does not make another way invalid and therefore unacceptable. Just wanted to say that first before I begin listing my reasons!
Homeschooling follows different guidelines, shall we say, as to how one receives their education. You aren’t necessarily going to a building with other kids with a set of classes each day, lunch at a specific time, and sports and gym weaved in. Even more so, the web of homeschooling possesses many different ways to school in itself. Parents can be teachers, a tutor is the teacher, there can be homeshool groups, online classes with or without teachers, textbook learning, etc. There are so many learning sources and so many ways to use those sources!
And these learning sources are just that: sources. They don’t create the schedule, the educator/student creates the schedule. At a brick-and-mortar, principals or superintendents determine the schedule for the kids (I believe). For me, I make my own schedule. I am online schooled, so while I still have teachers and certain requirements to finish my classes on time, it is still the same frame of mind. I determine how much school I need to complete in each of my classes for the week, how much time I want to spend on those classes per day, where I fit in my hour of exercise, my hour of guitar, my extra-curricular activities/lessons, along with factoring in trips (either to the tennis center, the grocery store, the library or something else) and my dog walking jobs. My mom makes sure I’m completing everything on time (unfortunately that isn’t always the case), and how I can catch up if I get behind. And it’s OK if I do get behind, because the weekends…well they’ve become school too (just an hour or two usually). I can get ahead too! The ability to schedule my own day allows me to factor in so many things I wouldn’t at a regular school, because my schedule has been made for me there. Here, I become more responsible, understanding my time is critical. I have learned time management, an important skill for life down the road.
Building from its flexibility, homeschooling has provided me with so many new and beneficial opportunities. Why it is acceptable to stay stuck inside all day, when you could be out playing tennis from 8-10 AM and experience the beauty of nature? Or when you could volunteer some 80 hours for a pro-tennis tournament other kids have to miss because they can’t miss three days of school in a row? Because I homeschool, I can go out and do something at any time of the day. All I have to do is change my schedule around to allow for this. At a brick-and-mortar school, I wouldn’t have been able to start my own dog walking neighborhood business. To some, that’s more of a summer job, but I can do it year-round. In turn, I have developed my money organizing skills and conversational skills with dog walk clients (who are all adults). I have hundreds of service hours and participated in many cool events (like Latin regionals forum and Latin itself–no school in my area does anything involving Latin). My online school even has clubs, and I have taken many leadership positions like secretary and editor, and have learned so much through the club members as well. In short, homeschooling has provided me with opportunities you could find at public high schools, or you couldn’t.
In addition to going places during the school day and doing things I couldn’t do if I went to school, I have met a wide variety of people from different backgrounds (and countries!). I made so many friends with those different kinds of people, online and in my community, and with that I have experienced different cultures and different ways of thinking in environments I enjoy. In middle school, I had a tough time making friends. I went to a small Catholic school, where everyone knew everyone since Pre-K, and I had missed that as a new kid. The groups were so closely-knit and intolerant that I felt alone. Not to say my experience would have changed at a brick-and-mortar high school (because it very much could have!). However, the friends I have met in my time as a homeschooler have been nothing but stellar. The blogging community, my online school clubs community, my tennis community and my youth group community are all groups of people I wouldn’t have known or have been as much involved with as I am as a homeschooler. These people have taught me such beautiful and sometimes difficult lessons, and for that I am grateful.
At the same time, I am given the ability to watch the news during the day, as certain powerful and ground-breaking new stories develop and unfold. It’s very educational and intriguing. I read stories, watch videos–I firmly believe homeschooling has broadened my understanding of the world I live in, through the people I have met and the encounters I have had. At school you can’t be on a computer all day, and you usually learn big news when you get home from school after it’s already happened. I appreciate news stories and current events, so I guess that’s a plus for me. I’m not saying I wouldn’t meet different people in high school. But high school is like another world in itself, full of drama, pressure, and expectations on a more minimal scale than the real world. I like to say I get more first hand experiences with the real world than many of my peers I know do.
That’s right, it has! My mother has told me college is similar to my schooling process, in the fact I make my own schedule and am responsible for getting things done on time. My homeschool friends who go to college have gone into it with that kind of ease; some of them only have one class during the day, or classes in the afternoon and free time in the morning. They are already familiar with how to handle that. At high school you have your whole schedule written for you, but in college you have more leeway in making decisions. I’m not a college student and I can’t confirm this on my own, but my parents and other college friends have given me an idea of what to expect, and I think I will transition quite easily! Of course it will still be very different than high school, but my scheduling will be flexible as it is now.
This leads me to another point: I am responsible for my schoolwork completely. Sure, my teachers will notify me if I’m behind on the number of assignments I’ve completed, but that’s after a week of no submissions or activity in the course. Every day I have to sit down and motivate myself to learn. That can be extremely difficult when I feel like watching YouTube all day. It’s something I am still struggling to overcome, but these three years have helped me develop the discipline to say no to myself, something important to be able to do through life. I also have to learn to stay focused–if I fall asleep, there won’t be a teacher there to say ‘Wake Up!’ as my social studies teacher used to say to students asleep during a boring video. If I fall asleep, I am the one held accountable…by myself. I hear friends all the time say, “I could never homeschool. I’d spend hours doing nothing.” And I have at some times. But those hours wasted have had their consequences, and I’ve learned to strongly avoid the will to procrastinate. I believe this discipline will be useful not only in college, but in having a job and other aspects of life.
Like I’ve said already, homeschooling is flexible. But it’s not only flexible time-wise, it’s flexible subject wise. At my friend’s high school, she has her AP courses picked out for her. I feel bad she has to deal with AP Bio when she’s not a science person. I, on the other hand, know my limits. I’m able to pick my own courses (with the public education standards in mind, of course), and I’ve picked AP courses I know I will enjoy, ensuring increased success in the course. Now, studying habits are a bit more lenient. I have had worried in the past about how well I will perform on AP exams with weak study habits. But I got a 5 on my first AP exam last year, so it was okay! Not only this, but some classes aren’t offered at my local public high school, such as the Latin language. My online high school does offer this, and I can also use time to study and learn from educational shows as well (like on the National Geographic or History channels).
Overall, I have the freedom to learn. Not the freedom from learning, but the freedom to decide what is true and what is wrong in my courses. I know teachers sometimes use their personal politics to influence a class, which can twist facts. But my online teachers are only here to help me if I don’t understand a concept in the course, and as I learn in the lessons I have the ability to do further research (via the lovely Google) to confirm the content in the lesson is accurate (especially in history and politic classes). While I respect difference of opinion, I am free from bullying and intense arguments that could arise in the classroom. I have the freedom to be myself and believe what I want to believe without pressure. That is a beautiful thing, my friends.
And as I’ve said, homeschooling has given me the ability to meet people from different countries and cultures, so my withdrawal from high school politics has not made me ignorant. It has made me more educated and confident in my beliefs.
This leads me to my final point. I am a more independent person. I have my friends, but I don’t rely on them wholly. I know what it’s like to feel excluded, to allow drama into my life. Homeschooling has given me the ability to step back and look at the bigger picture of a situation. I have become more analytical and less emotionally attached where it isn’t necessary. I have more time to reflect, determine, decide. Because of this, my friendships are better constructed and healthier. I make smarter decisions (as best as I can), and I have avoided peer pressure extensively. There are still struggles and temptations I often give into, but I have found myself less and less worried about the opinions of others, except where it truly matters. My viewpoint has matured so much, and while I can’t say this is because I’m just growing older or because of my homeschooling experience, I know my environment has partially contributed to this. I’m not fully prepared for the world yet (who is?) but I feel like homeschooling has helped me.
There are days I imagine what it’s like to be in high school, to take part in the cliches you see in movies, or what you hear from your friends. I have struggled to be proud of my schooling, but this year I am especially grateful for it. Homeschooling is not for everyone, but it is for those who are ready for the challenge, and who want to excel in things public school would hold them back in. I wouldn’t change what has happened to me. I hope my points have helped paint a better picture as to what homeschooling can offer for students.
I thank those of you who have read this entire post. It’s longer than normal, but I had much to say. Please, respond in the comments what you think about this topic. I’d love to chat with you, whether you are a homeschooler or not. Let’s talk!
Pax in Christo,