I was home schooled full time in eighth grade, and part time in ninth and tenth. Up until that time, I had been enrolled in our local public schools, where my dad was a teacher. I’d been having problems with bullying at my middle school (both by my peers and by teachers, WTF?!), and when my mother asked me if I wanted to try home schooling, I jumped at the chance. It sounded almost too good to be true. I could choose my own reading lists and projects? Sign me up!
We were not a terribly religious family by any definition at that point. We attended the Episcopal church a block from our house because it was closest, and I had a lot of friends who went there. Our home school curriculum was not based on conservative politics either. We did things like visiting the local National Park and helping them plant seedlings. We went whale watching. I researched my family tree as a history project, and read Lewis and Clark’s journals.
It turned out the promise to pick my own reading list was too good to be true. I loved to read, but my interest was mostly limited to fantasy fiction. I was allowed to choose books from a pre-selected list, however, which included such classics as 1984, Fahrenheit 451, To Kill a Mocking Bird, as well as various works by Mark Twain and William Shakespeare.
We also frequently got together with other home schooling families for Latin classes (our parents let us choose what language we wanted to take), and they all fell more into the hippie home schooler mold than the religious as well. One of my best friends was part of that groups, and we hung out together a lot. Many of us also took ballet classes together and participated in the Girl Scouts, so I don’t feel like I missed out on socialisation, especially when compared with the experiences I had suffered at my middle school. At the end of my ninth grade year, we organised a dramatic reading of “As You Like It” with an all-female cast and a five-year-old Duke. It was pretty awesome.
I was lucky to have two educated parents, and a mother who was able to stay home and teach my sister and me. My dad was a math and science teacher at the local high school, and my mother had an English degree, so we have most of our major bases covered right there. I also took some correspondence courses through the University of Nebraska, did a year a our local community college through the Running Start programme, and then went to the high school full time my senior year. By the end of all that, my transcript was a confusing mish-mash, and it was pretty much impossible to calculate my GPA, but I did well on the SAT and was accepted to some wonderful univerisities. After almost twenty years and some major shifts in my personal politics, I still feel pretty good about my home school experience.
Homeschooling has become a very polarized subject. It is my hope that the Homeschool Reflections series, made up of stories of actual homeschool experiences, both positive and some negative, may cut through some of the hyperbole. I have asked the respondents in this series to be analytical and to discuss both the pros and cons of their experiences, but I have not censored what they have written. My posting these stories should not be construed as endorsement the opinions expressed therein. What you read in this series will vary, but it is my hope that each installment will be thought provoking and have something positive to offer to the discussion.