Homeschool Reflection: Not the Only Way

A guest post by Tess

I am a woman in her early twenties who was homeschooled from kindergarten through high school. My experience with homeschooling was mostly good, and leaving out schooling choices altogether I should first probably say that my parents were always unconditionally supportive of me and invested in my education, so I realize that my growing up experience most likely would have been good regardless of education style.

My mom has a degree in special education and so teaching had already been her passion for a long time before she began homeschooling. She was always really enthusiastic about educating my two younger sisters and me, so I think that that was a major factor in the experience being successful. She also was able to find all subjects interesting and teach them well, from history to mathematics, so I never felt like I was lacking in any subject (with the exception of foreign language, which we were never very consistent with.) My immediately younger sister and I would often learn things together and had lots of free time to just play in our house, explore the backyard, and build forts and tents and all sorts of things. I don’t remember ever having issues with being bored when I was elementary-school-aged.

On the social side of things, I will say that I definitely found it hard to interact at times with others in public/private school, especially in middle school. Middle school was the age that both my immediately younger sister and I started integrating ourselves more into “normal culture” rather than only homeschool culture, which took a long time, since we really didn’t have much interaction with non-homeschool world. We had always participated in activities such as dance classes with non-homeschoolers, but our day to day interactions with that peer group were often limited to that. One thing that I think I missed out on was having a good group of friends with similar interests. I was really into math and science, but to be considered normal, I usually had to pretend to be interested in only “feminine” topics when we hung out with our group of homeschooling peers, and it was that group with which we spent the most time. Once I got to college, it was amazing being able to meet people with whom I shared lots of interests.

In high school I took classes at the local community college and had a lot of fun with that. I got my two years of mandatory foreign language classes there (which I enjoyed so much that I ended up minoring in a language in college), as well as a lot of math and science courses. It took all of a couple days to get used to being in “real classes” with accountability and I really enjoyed both the academic side and the social side of my experience with that. I can imagine how school in general at a public or private school could be fun, considering my experiences both at the community college and later at a four-year university.

I think that the most negative effect that homeschooling had on me was that it led me to believe that it was the *only* good way to go about education. I would read articles online from sites such as Vision Forum Ministries, claiming that homeschooling was the only biblical way, and further, that homemaking was the only biblical role for women, and just get depressed and scared. My parents didn’t actually hold these views, but these views certainly were common in the community, and I think that in my mom’s efforts to defend her own homeschooling decisions, she helped to reinforce these ideas at times, albeit mostly unintentionally. This was very worrying for me because I knew I didn’t want to be a homeschool mom. I always knew I wanted a career, and indeed homeschooling helped prepare me very well for that, so I always kind of assumed that I could never get married then, since homeschooling was the only good option and I didn’t want to do that with my life.

Today, as am both seriously dating someone and making my way through graduate school, with aspirations of becoming a professor, I am slowly stepping away from the idea that homeschooling is the only way, though I’ll admit it’s still a pretty tough idea for me to shake at times. I am not at all unhappy with how my parents handled my schooling. I thought—and still think—that it was great! However, I can now see from my peers that homeschooling is not the only way to get a good education, and I know that if I were to try it, I would not be my mom. I realize that this probably seems pretty reasonable and obvious, but for me it’s still kind of an exciting way of looking at things. I can now say with confidence that I think the Vision Forum et. al. people are wrong and that their ideology is ridiculous, and for some reason that’s a pretty sweet victory to me.


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. 

HSLDA on those “Radically Atheistic” Public Schools
Anonymous Tip: Meet the Lawyer
On Coming When You’re Called and Fear-Based Obedience
How HSLDA Talks About Abuse
About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.

  • Lana

    Love this story. It reminds me of what happened with peer pressure in the homeschool movement. Even if you tried to stay out of the legalism, it bit you in ways. One reason I give my mom a break is I know deep down she hated the pressure from the community as much as me.

  • luckyducky

    I think this is the most reasoned pro-home school discussion I’ve read and probably representative of a lot more of the people who home school (though less so of those who home school K-12 or any extended period of time). My city’s school district has just regain accreditation after several years and has several schools with terrible reputations (though a few with very good reputations) and, as a result, I have several friends and acquaintances who have elected to home school while on waiting lists or figuring out other options. Very few have done it for extended periods of time and it was always about providing decent education in a safe place.

    The problem — and it doesn’t go away with electing *not* to home school, home schooling is just the most extreme example — is the inward focus of approaching education like this. It is all about the individual and not about the community. I guess you can debate the value of public education as community building but I think it is an important one. And that it doesn’t go away just by electing not to home school is an important point that I admit to sheepishly. Certain private and parochial schools are selected for the same reasons and have the same effect of isolating children of “others” whatever the “other” might be (religious, racial, SES) and even public schools — moving to the suburbs for the “good schools” or even the magnet school system in city districts.

    There was an article in the NYT today criticizing NYPS’s Gifted & Talented program — students are placed in G&T classrooms rather than a pull-out system. The problem is the G&T classrooms are disproportionately white and middle class and the traditional classrooms are disproportionately minority and lower SES. My children are in a G&T school within a public school district. I don’t know for sure how the racial breakdown works out, it doesn’t seem as extreme as the NYT article paints the one school, but I do know that the SES change is pronounced. The school has lost a lot of Title I funding (based on the % of students received free or reduced lunches) as it has transitioned from a traditional school to G&T. It keeps many of us in the school district — with all the social, political, and financial resources middle class parents can bring to bear — but it isn’t the same as sending our kids to the neighborhood school. It is all about balancing the obligation to community vs. the obligation to our kids.

    • AztecQueen2000

      I homeschool because of that problem. If my kids attended school, the only non-Jewish people they would interact with would be manual laborers or our cleaning lady. This way, they go to events with everyone.

    • Uly

      Actually, NYC also has a pull out system for gifted children who for whatever reason are not enrolled in the G&T program. Not all schools offer this, and it is not as widely known as the other gifted programs (yes, that is plural, we have one for elementary with two cut-offs and another in middle school unless you are in an elementary school that goes through middle school….) but it does exist.

      • luckyducky

        Sorry, I mistyped. I assumed, when reading it, that NYC has a similar system to my local school district — we have G&T magnet schools (NYC classrooms) but for kids who either don’t make the lottery for the magnet schools or elect to attend another magnet or neighborhood school, there are pull-out programs. I think it is based on state law that the districts have to serve *all* eligible students if they offer any programming at all (not required to for G&T) but it doesn’t specify how.

      • Uly

        In NYC the pull out programs (really a form of extended day) are run at the discretion of the principal, and in truth not all of them know they can do that.

  • camden

    A sweet victory indeed Tess. Thanks for sharing!

  • TicklishMeerkat

    I wasn’t homeschooled and don’t even have children, so about the only way I run into homeschooled kids is through online gaming. I’m glad Tess and this series in general is here to balance out the rather lopsided view I used to have of homeschooled kids.

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