A note for the general public who may come across this post: I cannot ‘define’ homeschooling the way one may be able to ‘define’ any other type of schooling (with the exception of unschooling, perhaps), in that I cannot give a set schedule, a list of books or teachers, or even a list of general objectives universally recognized by the homeschooling community. Ex: Some homeschoolers will try to follow a public school-type schedule, some will not. Some will think it necessary to have completed Pre-Calculus by the end of high school, some will settle for Algebra 2. Thus, this post is based entirely on my own experience as a homeschooler — I will not try to outline how homeschooling works for my siblings or for my many homeschooling friends.
The joy of homeschooling as I experienced it was that it could be tailored to my needs as an individual. If one textbook or program did not ‘work’ for me — that is, it was not conducive to my learning, for various reasons — I could try another. That does not mean that I could simply drop a subject for reasons as lame as that I found it boring. But it did mean that I could go through three textbooks for Algebra 1 (Saxon, Jacobs, and Math-U-See) and decide which among them was the easiest to understand, so that I could complete the requirement, but also enjoy myself better than if I’d been forced to stick with the first.
I had a lot of time on my hands, and I believe that this made it easier for me to choose my major, as I had so much time to explore my interests and recognize which subjects — intra- as well as extra-curricular — I loved best. I would complete my basic requirements, and then be free to spend hours at gymnastics, karate, choir, and violin. Also, I could be as flexible as I wished within a required subject; I love to sew and cook, and I could count both as Science.
At first, Mom and Dad — mostly Mom — were my only teachers. As I grew older, it was important for me to begin to take charge of my own schooling, and I also began using video lectures and taking online courses. Mom and Dad will always be my first teachers for everything in life, but academically speaking, for the last few years of high school, my only teachers were the people giving my video lectures for Math (Geometry, Algebra 1 & 2, and Pre-Calculus), Chemistry, and Physics; my online teachers for Bravewriter and my Anglo-Saxon literature course; the authors of every written piece I have ever read; and my own self.
As it continued to become more necessary for me to be responsible for my own schooling, that also meant that I became more and more accountable to nobody but myself. I struggled with motivation. Within my own family, I had no competition, and while this wasn’t an issue for those subjects that I loved, it was difficult to stay on time with subjects that I disliked, however slightly. And even within subjects that I generally enjoy, there were times when I got ‘stuck,’ and would allow myself to stay ‘stuck’ for long periods of time. It was a great blessing to move back to Cincinnati in 2006. I had kept in touch with many of my friends from elementary school, and I was about to make a great many more through my youth group. It didn’t take me long to find out that I was behind my grade-mates in math and science. This proved to be a most successful wake-up call; I allowed myself to be motivated by the ‘competition,’ and ended up graduating a year early.
I have often encountered people who thought that I was unlucky to be homeschooled; they say I’ve been ‘brainwashed’ in one way or another. I do not mind their initial reaction; what irks me is that they refuse to believe the simple truth when I present it — and that is that I chose to be homeschooled. When we moved to Clarks Summit, I did not want to go to a new school. Every year since then, my parents have allowed me to decide for myself if I wanted to continue homeschooling, or attend public school. I have had six very obvious chances to go back to public school. I turned down all of them. I think that ought to speak pretty plainly about how proud I am to have been homeschooled.
The other issue people bring up is, of course, socialization. They ask how I make friends. Well, there is the neighborhood, for one thing. Then there is the fact that there are homeschooling groups, where homeschoolers can get together for both school-related and non-school-related activities. In my case, I have been very active outside of the home — I was a gymnast for eight years, up to five hours of training a week; then came Tang Soo Do, and I spent a minimum of eight hours at the school every week, usually more; I was in the Youth Choir (and eventually Adult Choir for five years), which required one to three hours of practice during the week, plus the actual Mass; in my last three years of high school, I gave myself heart and soul to my Youth Group. No one can tell me that I have been ‘missing out’ on socialization.
Furthermore, in terms of socialization — people-skills — I believe that homeschooling has provided better preparation for the world than public school could have, in that a public school student’s interaction with people outside of their age group is limited. Within school, they are limited to their interaction with their teachers and other students, the latter usually within a range of around 12 years at the most. Unless they come from a big family or have a job, this is usually the extent of their exposure. My exposure has allowed me to form very close friendships with people of all ages. I am as comfortable with parents and grandparents and small children as I am with friends my own age. Some of my peers even tease me as being a member of what they term the “mommy circle.”
Overall, I have absolutely no reason to regret my experience as a homeschooler, and I highly doubt that the years to come will give me any reason to wish that I had made different choices.