*Cue hipster voice(though I have no idea what that sounds like):
"I was homeschooled before it was cool."
In all seriousness, homeschooling resources and groups were much fewer
and farther between in the early 90s when my parents made the choice not
to put my siblings and I in a 'real' school. I asked around to see what
questions some of my blogging friends had about the homeschooled
lifestyle, and put together my answers for those of you who are
From Monica: "Was your mom already a teacher? Do you feel like you missed out on socializing with friends? Were you ever sad that you weren't in public school?"
No, my mom did not go to school for teaching. She is, however, naturally gifted at teaching. While she has taught Sunday schools, VBS, and Bible study classes since before I was born, she has often said that she learned more during her years of teaching us than she ever did in her own kindergarten-12th grade education.
I don't feel I missed out on socializing. With all my siblings, there was never room for loneliness. When I was little, I had a bunch of other kids to play with regularly. Instead of from school, my friends were sourced from church, or from my neighborhood, or else they were cousins or children of my parents' coworkers. Later on, my friends came from youth group and drama club. In high school, I developed a tight-knit group of friends that I spent time with several times a week (The majority of my close friends attended 'real' schools.).
I never thought I was missing out by not being in public school, possibly because I never knew the difference. In high school, particularly, I was pretty happy about not being tied down to a public school schedule, because it gave me freedom to travel with friends and family, and get involved in hobbies and activities that I would have had no time for if my days had been full of classes and my nights full of homework.
From Julie: "How can homeschooled kids get the full benefit of extracurricular activities when they aren't in a traditional school? Is a cohort/parent as the sole educator more effective than a certified teacher?"
There are lots of opportunities for homeschoolers to get involved in group extracurricular activities: some public and private schools allow the option for homeschoolers to sign up for after-school activities, other times, there plenty of options in the local community that families can sign their kids up for, such as community theater, dance or gymnastics lessons, or sports teams. In high school, I participated in the drama club at a local private high school, and also went on yearly trips with their team to participate in the SEA Forensics Tournament (where I won 1st place in solo acting my senior year). That was my area of interest--when we were little, Mom put us in soccer lessons for a little while, and we were in gymnastics lessons for about a year, but the stage is far more interesting to me than any sport. Chances are, you can find a way for a homeschooler to be involved in just about any skill or hobby he or she wants to be involved in (as long as you're willing to pay for it!).
I'm not sure I'd say a parent is any more effective than a certified teacher. I'd be more likely to claim that a teacher + 1 student is more effective than a teacher + 30 or more students. I've learned this to be very true from the teaching side of the equation--the students I tutor individually show improvement much faster than the students I teach in classes of 50 or more. Simply because in a large class, more time is spent working on crowd control and on answering other students' questions that aren't necessarily relevant to one's own needs. In college, I occasionally experienced frustration at having to sit in class while listening to 15-20 minutes of my classmates asking questions that they would have known the answers to if they'd read the textbook like I had--this frustration, was, I believe, a result of the fact that my homeschooling education had not prepared me to waste precious class time on inane questions.
Also, homeschooling doesn't require that only a parent can be a teacher. My family decided that for us, upper-level high school math subjects like trigonometry and calculus were best taught from DVDs with recordings of "real teachers" for each lesson. My dad is a mechanical engineer, and ought to know his calculus quite well, but he wasn't home when school was going on. When working on complex mathematics at that level, it was helpful to have a digital teacher explaining the concepts, but for geometry on down, Mom could handle it on her own. This is a really good solution for homeschooled students who want to expand their education into areas where their parents aren't quite comfortable teaching.
From NutriFitMama: "What do you remember most out of your years of homeschooling?"
I have vivid memories of the books that Mom would read to the whole group of us. If it was a good book, whenever she reached the appointed end of the day's reading assignment, we'd break into a rousing chant: "Read another chapter! Read another chapter!" Sometimes, this chant worked, and she'd continue reading, but other days, she would heartlessly deny our request and order us to work on our other subjects. Tragic, really.
From Mariel: "When do you start homeschooling? How do universities work with homeschoolers, can they go to major universities?"
My mom likes to start teaching early, and take a few years to get the basics of arithmetic, reading, and spelling really solid before moving on. I'd say homeschooling "started" when we were two years old and learning shapes and colors, and progressed naturally from there. My grade level was always slightly ahead of my age--I graduated high school at 16. However, after that, largely because of the logistics involved in living in the USA without parents and attending college as a minor, my parents have decided that all of the rest of the kids will not be attending college till they turn 18.
More and more universities are becoming homeschooler-friendly. The college I attended, Calvin College, was very welcoming to homeschoolers (and students applying from overseas, which also described my situation). My younger sister and brother have been accepted to the University of Michigan, and will start classes in the fall, while another younger sister is planning to begin her freshman year at a community college this fall. The biggest thing for homeschooling high school is to amass a lot of documentation. Keep great records of grades and classes taken on your transcript. Get documentation from the jobs you work and the volunteer projects that you're a part of. Develop good relationships with adults outside of your family so that they can write knowledgeable letters of recommendation for you (bosses, youth pastors, local community service leaders, etc.). Getting awesome scores on the SAT and ACT helps, too. If you can provide plenty of documentation that you're smart and you've been well-educated and have a well-rounded high school experience, you will have no problem applying for universities.
From Robin: "What was the biggest challenge for you going from homeschooling to college? Do you have any advice for the transition?"
For me, by far the biggest challenge in the transition from homeschool to college was simply the move from Malaysia to America. Being plopped down in the USA and trying to learn the ropes of driving (on the right side of the road!) and getting used to the general culture was far harder than the academic transition. I enjoyed the academic side of college very much--I had passionate professors who cared about the subjects they taught as well as their students, but I struggled with being half a world away from my family, friends, and hometown. The one area where I believe I was a little under-prepared was in realm of academic, data-based writing. In high school, I focused on creative writing, because that's where my interests lay, but I had to learn quickly about academic research papers and raise my standards quite a bit, because I'd never written a college-level research paper prior to attending college. Now, I think academic research is actually pretty fun, but during the first semester I was a bit disoriented, trying to figure out the library and database systems and my professors' expectations. Because of this, I've recommended to my mom to make in-depth research assignments a regular part of my younger sisters' high school educations.
If you guys have any further questions, feel free to leave them in the comments, and in this post, I will answer all questions in the comment section itself so that others can read the answers.