What do you see as the pros and cons of having been homeschooled? Do you feel that your homeschool experience prepared you well socially? Academically?
Homeschooling is right for some people and very wrong for others. Many people see homeschooling as the opportunity for indoctrination of their children. Others see it as the only path to educating their child, with the child having failed all other alternatives. I like the latter reason for opting for homeschooling. But, the fact is, most people that homeschool do it for strictly religious reasons.
My wife, Kristine sat on a homeschool board for a few years and witnessed the split of the homeschool group in that region of the country. What was the split over? Academics? Nope. Whether or not it was the right thing to require a statement of faith for a family to join the group. The “yea’s” won the day and the detractors had to leave. The detractors were a much smaller group and yet, when anything was to be done academically with tutors or extra classes taught by experts, it was this group that organized it. The “statement of faith” group was simply satisfied to have a sermon with a gym day.
That explains my view of academics in some homeschooling to a ‘t’. On a side note, my wife has gone back to school and has seen that her parents were miserable teachers. Miserable. Her writing competency was at the 6th grade level, as was her math.
For my family, the strength of homeschooling was in having our education tailored to our needs, giving my siblings and me the ability to do some subjects more quickly or slowly as necessary. One weakness, however, was that we didn’t have much internal motivation to perform for a parent rather than a teacher, so we did the minimum required and didn’t get challenged. For my brother and me, our enjoyment of reading gave us very high reading comprehension, so we ended up very well prepared for college classes despite doing most of our schoolwork independently. My sister has a much different personality and learning style, and she struggled much more with the experience of being homeschooled. She began to thrive academically when she was put in Christian school for high school.
Socially, all three of us were at a disadvantage from homeschooling, although my brother had the easiest time because he regularly hung out with other guys in his Christian homeschooling Boy Scout troop. In my case, I had only one friend from age 10-12, and then no friends again until I was 17. In my teens, I was terrified of social interaction to the point of trembling and feeling sick to my stomach, and I often wrote in my journal that I wanted to run away from society and become a hermit. I used to cry myself to sleep at night quite often, occasionally trying to get my mom to notice my tears by sniffing juuuust loud enough for her to hear as she walked by my door. When she came in to ask why I was crying, I would say something like, “I don’t have any friends” or “I don’t know how to talk to people.” In the morning, life would proceed as usual, quiet and empty.
The social effects of homeschooling are with me even today. First, I can still feel significant social anxiety in even the most non-threatening situations. I am particularly at a loss in group settings full of new people. What do I say? When do I say it? Whom do I say it to? How/when do I end a conversation? Even in a circle setting, when it’s my turn to say my name, my blood pressure skyrockets. Second, in the whole world, there is no place and no group of people where I feel like I belong. It’s like I was raised in a different culture, with the distinct difference that I can never go “home” to it. I’m permanently a foreigner; interacting in this foreign culture takes a lot of attention and effort. I’ve tried to catch up on the culture I missed…to watch the movies, to listen to the music, to see pictures of the clothing styles…but it will never mean to me what it means to you. People always use cultural references and nostalgia as a way to build community and connections between people; for me, they create distance and remind me how different I am inside.
Homeschooling did not prepare me well socially at all. I only had experience socializing with other people just like me, and had no idea how to handle myself around those who were different or in large crowds. Furthermore, when I went to college I found that I had a huge cultural disconnect with my peers to the extent that I almost couldn’t understand them. It took a long time for me to adjust, and in some ways I still feel like a cultural outsider.
As for academics, homeschooling served me pretty well. There were some holes in my education – while I read voraciously, I never actually had a literature course, for example – and some miseducation that I had to undo later – much of what I’d been taught about American history and about evolutionary science was wrong – but I nevertheless excelled in college. I think this was because my parents gave me a love of learning, taught me to think critically, and educated me well in the basics. That said, homeschooling has not worked as well for some of my younger siblings. I think that I had the benefit of having a fairly independent and motivated learning style, which allowed homeschooling to work well for me academically. Homeschooling has not served as well for those of my siblings who would do well having the challenge of other students or who really need the presence of an actual teacher.
Well, I do think homeschooling can work if done right, but it just didn’t work for us. Not that my parents were intellectually incapable of teaching us, it’s just that they never used much of a curriculum other than my Dad’s personal opinion. So my big con is that I didn’t actually learn things you need to know in order to get higher education. Academically I wasn’t prepared to live in the ‘real world’ at all. A big part of our girl’s education was “homemaking,” where Mom taught us stuff like knitting and cleaning and cooking and all that stereotypical stuff. We were discouraged from studying things like math and science simply because my Dad believed it would put the wrong ideas into the girl’s minds – going out, getting an education, work, do a man’s job. At some point I think he wanted to keep us dumb so that we wouldn’t even have the chance to think about the situation we’re in. Make sure we do what we’re best at – being homemakers.
I think the social aspect of being home schooled is overrated. I can imagine that you might be just as socially prepared if it’s done right, but then again, coming from the P/QF background, I was in no way socially “normal”. The only people we ever had contact with were other fundamentalist homeschoolers and every family kept to themselves, so there wasn’t much going on. If I was different than I am the aspect of helping my younger siblings with their school would’ve certainly been positive, but then again I was so clueless about the things we had to learn myself that it was a huge fright to explain things to them. It just cost me a lot of energy to get through the day.
For school, we used Sonlight Curriculum, Rod & Staff, Beautiful Feet, Gileskirk, Apologia Science, and Alpha Omega LifePacs. I think I suffered in math due to lack of good teaching, but I was largely prepared for college because I taught myself how to learn on my own and how to manage my time. The point was not to ace the test–the point was to gain an education. And I thrived in college because of this mindset.
While I don’t necessarily endorse the specific curricula my parents chose for me, I feel that I came out with a real passion for learning and a delight in education. A con of this big-family lifestyle and homeschooling was that we didn’t get a lot of one-on-one tutoring unless we were seriously failing a subject. We were all expected to figure out how to follow the textbook and do the work of using it to teach ourselves. Mom was often too busy or tired to give specific attention to questions we had, and dad wasn’t ever available to help with homework unless it was for an intervention. For example: my sophomore year of high school, I read classics all day and drew and painted instead of doing my assigned schoolwork, and my parents found out after I’d “lost” three months of school by doing this. My dad stepped in and gave me a talk about using my time wisely and priorities, and then left the details of fixing this issue up to my mom.
I really loved the early years of getting my schoolwork done in the morning hours and then spending hours outdoors. I feel that homeschooling can give the freedom to explore topics that each child finds interesting. I feel that there are gaps in my education academically — I had very little science and history and no biology or geography. At some point education can be limited by the parent’s limitations. I have also found that many of the things I was taught were inaccurate, such as being told that we never went to the moon, I actually did not hear that there were multiple moon landings until recently, and even then I was sure that was a lie until I looked it up for myself.
Socially I feel like I was very limited, I still have a difficult time make friends today, or maybe more accurately I have a hard time believing that anyone actually wants to be my friend. There are many experiences that I haven’t had, so sometimes conversation can be awkward, because my upbringing was so different.
I am sure homeschooling could work very well if there were only a few children, and if the mother was very organized and had good support. This was not the case in my family. We had little to no structure, and until later, zero social interaction with other people. Homeschooling was a struggle for me, and it still plagues me today. I never made it past remedial arithmetic and am struggling to catch up in college. My reading and writing skills are excellent, but a lot of that has to do with the fact that I’ve always loved to read and write, so I never found it hard to learn. I think there are situations in which homeschooling could be good, but in my case it was not.
When I was a teenager, I did have serious social anxiety. It coincided with the depression and poor body image I developed after puberty. Since my church didn’t allow me to do anything about my looks (no makeup, no hiding my zits, no filling in my sparse eyebrows, no trimming my hair, no wearing fitted clothes) I was mostly very self-conscious and ashamed of my appearance. I also was the target of a lot of hostility from boys at Christian camps I went to, and the girls thought I was too weird and ignored me.
Now I consider myself 100% normal and confident. I can start up conversations with strangers. I know how to handle myself in a group of my peers, and I’m frequently the one starting up the loud music and cracking open the beer. I think I’m actually pretty fun to be around. I’m comfortable public speaking. This all came about through an excruciating five years of training myself to get over my social anxieties, however. I actually think going to public school would have made it worse, since I would have been faced every day with people I thought were normal and I would have been a serious loser with my baggy denim skirts and frizzy mane. By the time I got to college, I was already transitioning to listening to normal music, wearing tighter clothes, and trimming my hair. By my sophomore year, I was wearing jeans and makeup.