SOCIAL MEDIA

17 March 2015

Answering Questions About Growing Up Homeschooled

*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 intrigued:

Growing Up Homeschooled
*Yes, she's sitting in a desk in a pretend classroom inside a museum. Because our home has neither desks nor bulletin boards, so these things seem strange and exotic.

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.

46 comments :

  1. Thanks for sharing this! We've actually decided to start homeschooling this coming year (4k) to get our heads on straight and give it a trial run before kindergarten! We're excited/scared at the same time!

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  2. I'm nervous and very excited to homeschool my kids! I was wondering what curriculum does your mom use? I love homeschooling and can't wait to learn right a long with my kids. My husband was homeschooled up until highschool and I went to a private school. Both of us went to college-- I hated college as my brain does not work in such a an organized fashion. My husband loved learning! I hope I can teach my kids no matter who they are like--me or him or their own new personality!

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  3. I've wondered this alot, actually! Great questions and even better answers, love this post(:
    http://www.aswestumblealong.com

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  4. The two most widely used curricula in my family are Sonlight and A Beka. We like Sonlight best for the literature and the "heart for learning" aspect, but A Beka is better as far as really structured lesson plans, regular quizzes and tests, etc. A Beka is more like a typical Christian school curriculum. Of course we've picked out different books from different sources to supplement in particular areas according to interests and needs.

    Sonlight fits my own learning style best. :)

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  5. This is a really great post. I've been homeschooling my ten year old for the past 2 years and love it. Thanks so much!

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  6. Love this post! I always wanted to be home schooled when I was younger! As an artist it would have been more beneficial to be able to participate in more groups and activities that we geared towards self! I believe home schooling is a great idea and is something I hope to do with my children some day! I love the picture of you, so adorable! Thanks for sharing, learned a lot!

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  7. Thanks for sharing. With the current path our children's education is taking, I am concerned about a solid basis for my two boys. This is certainly an option!

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  8. Wow! This is super informative- thanks for sharing! My husband and I often talk about homeschooling when we have kids, but (mainly because we don't have any right now) we flip-flop a lot on if it would be the route to go when it comes time! -Dorrie @ Bear Den Plantation

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  9. As a homeschool mom, who was not homeschooled herself, I find this encouraging. Thanks for the insight.

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  10. I love your point about the freedom of schedule homeschoolers have. It would be nice to take local field trips whenever you want! Great thoughts, Rachel!

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  11. Great post! My (homeschooled) friend just started dating a guy who completed unschooling (after grade 3), and I was intrigued to hear more about his experience and the differences between that and homeschooling. So was your only time in the US after high school?

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    1. Nope, I was born in the US, and lived in 3 different states (Michigan, Kentucky, and Texas) before we moved to Malaysia. I think we moved around often enough during my really early years that I didn't develop a real sense of 'home' in the USA, and that made 'the return' post-high school difficult.

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  12. Sooo good! Thank you for answering my questions. It is extremely encouraging hearing fwho was actually homeschool and not just what people think.

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  13. It is so amazing how far homeschooling has gone and how it is now becoming quite 'normal'! Back in the days and not too long ago it was considered 'odd' and 'weird' and not 'normal'. I love that it has been brought to light.

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  14. This is great Rachel!!! The more I think about it, I see myself seriously thinking to homeschool when we have rug rats running around. You are definitely a good example of homeschooling done well! :)

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  15. It was really interesting to learn more about homeschooling! It's an area I didn't know much about, so very cool to learn the differences between the two. Sounds like a great option that offered a lot of flexibility to explore your passions, which is awesome!

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  16. I was homeschooled as well. I went to public school until 4th grade. I'm glad I was homeschooled. We were part of a local homeschool group so I feel like I was more social homeschooling than in public school ha. And I feel like I received a great education.

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  17. I'm so glad you wrote this. I was homeschooled for the majority of my school years and I'm still surprised sometimes by the questions I get - particularly the ones about whether or not I was properly "socialized" or if homeschooling made it hard to get into college. I really can't blame people for not knowing - there's still a weird stigma around homeschooling, but I enjoy dispelling the myths that people still get hung up on. We always had neighborhood kids as friends, as well as a ton of church friends, and my mom made sure we got to go to local homeschool events - for instance, every single Friday we got to go to "homeschool day" at the local roller rink, and we'd get to roller skate for 2 hours for dirt cheap with a bunch of other locally homeschooled kids. I got to play softball with the YMCA, then I played softball with my local public junior high's team...and on and on the list goes. I don't know that I'll homeschool our future kids (though I will NOT be putting them in public school so if there are no private Christian schools around, I'll probably have no choice) but I think back on those years fondly nonetheless.

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  18. Really wonderful, engaging, open post, dear gal. I wasn't home schooled, though I literally begged my parents to do so some years (I was bullied mercilessly, especially in grade school, which sadly no adults ever took seriously and it made the social element of those years often tremendously challenging for me; though I did always adore the academic side of things). I fully support home schooling and admire those who do it and were educated in this truly timeless way and who choose to give their children their early schooling through it.

    ♥ Jessica

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  19. Thanks for sharing and answering these questions! There can be so many misunderstandings about homeschooling that it is good to show people we can be normal, socialized members of society. :)

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  20. this was really interesting to read, thanks for sharing rachel! i'm so happy to hear it's been a positive experience for everyone involved and i would totally join you in the chant to read another chapter :)

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  21. Great post! My husband and I have been talking about the possibility of homeschooling our kids (our oldest is 2) and I love hearing about your experience as someone who has been there!

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  22. So interesting! I saw in a comment you wrote that you had A Beka as your curriculum. That's what I went through during my stint in Christian school. Anyway, I've always been fascinated by homeschooling and I'm planning to homeschool my own kids someday.

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  23. I LOVED being homeschooled! Thanks for debunking some of the myths and questions that are out there. :-)

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  24. Thank you for this very interesting post. My daughter is 2 years old and homeschooling her has been on mind for a while now but I work full time. I guess if it's God's will then it will be so. :-)

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  25. So neat!! Love hearing stories like this. I went to public school and always wondered the ins and outs of homeschooling! Great read :)

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  26. So well-written, as usual! I have a post saved up for when I graduate this May reflecting on my homeschool experiences. I think it's just so cool what you've been able to show for a home education!

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  27. I went to public school but being home schooled sounds like a really cool experience.
    Melanie @ meandmr.com

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  28. Love this, home school kids are very well educated!

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  29. I am switching over to the homeschool system next year as a student! This post helped me a lot! Thank you!
    Mikayla | www.aseersuckerstateofmind.com

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  30. I think one of the biggest reasons I like teaching at a Charter school more than the public schools is the teacher to student ration. When I taught at a public junior high, I had an average of 32 students in my class. I know have anywhere from 6-18 students in my class. It allows me to get to know them better and help them succeed better.

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  31. we love our charter school that is partial homeschool - LOVE it and so do our kids!

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  32. So much information, thank you for such a detailed post. I have been thinking of home schooling for my kids. This is definitely a lot to think about it.

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  33. As a fellow homeschooler, I loved reading this! Thanks for clearing up so many of the misconceptions. I was homeschooled all the way through, and it was great! I just graduated from the University of Florida and I would say I actually did better because of being homeschooled. It gives you a great work ethic! And I definitely didn't miss out on anything growing up. There is a large population of homeschoolers in my area, so we had our own sports team, went on field trips, participated in social activities and even had our own prom. I wouldn't trade it for anything!

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  34. One of my coworkers is considering homeschooling her junior high aged daughter. I think I'm going to share your blog with her!

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  35. I love hearing about other people's experiences with home school. I was only home schooled for my senior year in high school, and I loved it. I wish that I was home schooled for my entire education. I like the individual learning experience without all the pressure. I worked better like that.

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  36. Great post, Rachel! Those are good questions, and I think you answered them quite well. One of the reasons I really loved being homeschooled was that I could concentrate on what I wanted to learn, even normally "extracurricular" activities--like spending hours during school time playing chess to prepare for a big tournament. And I'm sure the books I chose wouldn't have been in any normal school's curriculum!

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  37. I grew up homeschooled. My mom did go to school to teach. I was only homeschooled though until 6th grade and then went to a small private school which made heading to college easy for me sine I had gone to middle and high school. My husband though was homeschooled all through until he graduated. His mom didn't go to college and she did a wonderful job with them! He also moved on to college wonderfully! I would love if you would stop by and share on my Friday Favorites linkup!

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  38. Yay for homeschooling! I think your statement that a teacher +1 student has an advantage over a teacher +30. My mom found a home school group that met up regularly for field trips and special group class sessions (like dissecting a pig's eye). That and church kept my sister and me properly socialized. I loved being home schooled but I don't think I'll home school my future kids. I'll definitely be very hands on with their education and will do extra studies outside of school.

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  39. This was a great read! I feel like home schooling used to be given such a negative connotation and I could never understand why. I wasn't homeschooled but my parents were teachers so we legit had a classroom at home anyway. I love hearing your perspective!

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  40. This was super interesting to read and I'm sad I didn't stop by sooner! I am seriously considering homeschooling my younger baby - my big girl is "in the system" and while I love it (small school, rural area, exceptional teachers and principal), many of the teachers are leaving because our enrollment is down and we might need to merge with another district. I do not want to merge with another district because that means less of the awesome, personalized stuff we have now. So I'm considering homeschooling....but it terrifies me and my "in the system" mind. Reading this reassured me that it is possible to home school and have a well-developed, intelligent, exceptional child who feels challenged, loved, and educated at the same time. Thank you!

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  41. I'll never quite understand why adults think the only way children gain social skills is to go to a traditional public school. I did know home schooled kids who had a hard time in social situations, but it was more evident of their parents (I also knew PS kids who struggled). My parents made an effort to find activities for us to participate in..I never felt like I wasn't socializing enough!

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  42. It's very interesting to read about this from the perspective as someone who was homeschooled, as I know several bloggers who are homeschooling their children. It sounds like you had a really great experience and it was perfect for you and your family! I can definitely see some of the benefits, particularly the more individualized attention. Thanks for sharing, stopping by from SITS.

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  43. Thanks for sharing your story. I'm intending to homeschool my two kids (ages 3 and 1) and I feel as if we have already begun our journey. I get asked all the time if I'm worried about socialization, but honestly, I feel my kids will be better socialized outside of public schools. Bullies ran free when I was in school (before the time of the internet, thank goodness) and I taught middle school for several years before becoming a SAHM. Kids are brutal.

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  44. Thanks for sharing on Monday Madness link party! Hope to see you next week :)

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  45. Great post! I homeschool my son and wouldn't have it any other way. My boy likes it and we have plenty of after school activities and such to participate in. It isn't hard interacting with other children or even having a social life either, which is always a question.

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