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.