I’m a little embarrassed to admit it, but if you look at my childhood from just the right angle, it sounds like a ridiculous stereotype.
I grew up in the mountains, a small town in Northern California. We had about a half acre to play on, but a good amount of it is covered by my dad’s fixer upper cars. I was homeschooled until middle school, and learned very little science until late high school. Yipes. I sound like a hick, don’t I?
In college, I felt defensive of homeschooling. I had a boyfriend that was convinced it was an awful system that should never be used, and I’ve found that when I come across an opinion that strong I almost instinctively jump to the other end as a balancing force (I’d like to think I would’ve been just as irritated if he’d claimed that everyone should be homeschooled).
My teacher-ed classes sometime brought up the topic, and while generally people were understanding occasionally there’d be some ridiculous person likening it to child abuse, so I still felt some defensiveness on the subject.
Now that it’s been over a decade since I stopped being homeschooled, I think I can offer a semi-balanced look back at how it’s helped, and sometimes hurt, me in both academics and the real world.
Let’s start off with the negative consequences, since that seems like what everyone is always interested in.
I was an awkward kid, and am now a semi-awkward adult. Yep, the stereotype holds true there. My mom took me to a few homeschooler social events, including some that forced me to do public speaking, but I always preferred hanging out on my own. My parents decided to send me to public school in middle school, which makes me question their sanity a bit because how does that seem like a good idea?! I got bullied a lot, came home crying frequently, and just generally hated public school until I got to high school.
But it doesn’t seem entirely fair to assume that homeschooling made me introverted, I may have already been pre-disposed to that. Correlation doesn’t equal causation.
I got to pick what I learned. While we had a pre-made curriculum for math and language arts, history and science mostly consisted of me flipping through my mom’s books and making assignments for myself. Which, as you can imagine, led to me not doing a whole lot in those subjects. (Whooo, laziness!)
Though now that I think about it, realizing we used A Beka books, I’m glad I didn’t learn too much “science” from them, as I would’ve had to try to unlearn that later (or even worse, I might’ve held onto them as facts, since it’s notoriously hard to relearn science).
I also never had to practice and improve my handwriting, which I’m having to try to alter as an adult and it really sucks. Blegh.
So those couple of things sucked, but let’s talk about what good things came out of this as well.
I got to pick what I learned. Wait, wasn’t that a negative? Well, yes, but it also meant that I got to find what I was interested in and run with it, which was mainly reading. By the time I entered public school in 6th grade, I tested at a twelfth grade reading level, and still read for pleasure as an adult.
I spent a lot of time on the Internet. Again, this sounds really bad. But my parents instilled in me an early understanding of personal safety on the web, so while I did talk to plenty of random strangers, I never gave out any personal information and erred on the side of blocking people if anything seemed off. Eventually, this led to me finding Neopets and a group of online friends. This was where I got to spend time practicing those social skills I didn’t get to work on in real life, while also learning some basics of HTML and design. As an adult, I’m now very comfortable with technology and the Internet, because I got so much practice early on.
I learned how to learn on my own. Once I hit 2nd or 3rd grade, my mom went back to work and I spent most of my days at my grandparents house. If I had questions, I had to wait until my mom got home, so I usually ended up figuring it out on my own. In middle school and high school this led to me often finishing my work in class and not having homework, and in college I was able to get by taking a bunch of general ed classes and only going to the ones I needed help in, moving me ahead to graduate early without tanking my GPA. (I’m not saying that’s a great idea, but it’s what I ended up doing)
I was highly reinforced for finishing my work quickly. As soon as my work was done, I got to go play. Bam, huge reinforcer right there. Unfortunately, I’ve always had a bad habit of rushing and making stupid mistakes. I still do it as an adult. Having to come back inside to fix my math homework started getting me on track to be more careful when I did math work in school, though it still took me awhile to get into the habit (and I’m still prone to rushing and skipping details).
As you’re probably noticing, there’ both positives and negatives… just like public school. Or private school. Or charter school. I think homeschooling was a good fit for me and that the positives outweighed the negatives, but everyone has different wants and needs for their education.
If I have kids, will I homeschool? Maybe. It would depend on our financial situation and if I could tear myself away from my job.
What kind of education did you get as a kid/teenager? What do you think the pros and cons of it were for you?