I’ll never forget the moment when I was auditioning for a play and someone asked me where I went to school.
“I’m home schooled. Where do you go to school?” I said confidently.
“Oh you’re one of those people,” said this person and walked away.
That was the first time I realized that homeschooling was not the norm, and (unfortunately!) many people have reservations about this form of education.
In May, I will graduate from my parent’s home school. I was home schooled through my entire academic career to date ― with the addition of co-op classes and, for the past two years, community and online college courses through my state’s PSEO program.
I’m often asked if I think being home schooled has prepared me enough for going out into the “real world.” Let’s be real honest here: I don’t know... yet. I may come back to this platform next year and recant what I’m about to say.
However, I do know that being home schooled is an amazing opportunity that has brought me to a place as a member of the high school class of ‘17 that I wouldn’t have gotten elsewhere. Because of this, I wanted to share four of the gifts that I’ve received from my home school education.
1. A desire to learn for my own benefit.
My parents taught me and my siblings that if we want to succeed in our education, we have to own it for ourselves. They were always open to new schooling ideas when I proposed something I wanted to study. For example, sophomore year, I wanted to strengthen my writing skills, and after having strengthened my writing immensely that year before through the IEW (Institute for Excellence in Writing) program, I asked my mom if I could take a course using a higher level of the same IEW curriculum. When I decided I wanted to take some classes through a local college, my parents supported me. They gave me the freedom, and also great responsibility, of choosing my own courses and staying on top of my grades and necessary courses for graduation. This gift from my home school education gave me the freedom to curate an internal desire and responsibility to learn because I wanted to, not because someone was nagging me to.
2. A freedom to develop my passions.
I love entrepreneurship. Love. It. I think my parents recognized this, because instead of filling up my days with out-of-the house extracurriculars, they encouraged me to start my own piano teaching and summer camp businesses, and more recently, participate in Stanford’s Business and Entrepreneurship course over the summer and take part in the Technovation program to build an app and startup. Furthermore, I’m motivated to get up early and work ahead, so that I can spend my afternoons dreaming up business models and sending [way too] many emails to clients and employees. The more flexible schedule of home schooling has given me the freedom to develop skills in the non-academic subjects I’m passionate about.
3. A love for adaptability.
You want to know about a home school technique? Online learning? Community college classes? Weekly classes with peers? Classical approach? Done them all. With homeschooling, I was able to use programs that worked for me (go Teaching Textbooks Math!) for years and then stop programs that didn’t work and try something else. I was able to speed through several years of math in one year, while I was then spend more time during the summer working through physical science at a slower pace. Additionally, homeschooling gave me MANY opportunities to “roll with the punches,” such as the ability to work ahead if we had a family vacation coming up (major home school perk: being able to take vacations in January) and the flexibility to catch up in the case of family emergencies or illnesses.
4. A drive for excellence.
I didn’t realize that turning in assignments late (or not at all!) was something people did. It wasn’t until I started taking more classes outside of the home that I realized that not everyone was held up to the same expectation of excellence. The saddest part, though, is that no matter how high or low the expectations are, humans live up to them. If we are expected to do nothing less than our best, we strive towards that. If we are expected to turn in assignments late, disrespect teachers, or even just fail, we fall into habits of doing so. My parents’ and my own high expectations for my education developed a drive for excellence in me that wasn’t dimmed by low expectations, and I’ve seen the fruits of this drive already through standardized test scores and grades in classes outside of the home.
With all the good things I gained from my home school education, you’re probably wondering if there were any detriments. Obviously, nothing is purely good: I hit road blocks (I’m looking at you, 8th grade English) and I’ve felt out of place. Filling out college applications was a major pain as most applications are not targeted towards home school-ers... My mom happens to be my teacher, my counselor, my principal’s wife, and my mother, thank you very much. We believe in multitasking, college applications.
But I wouldn’t trade my home school education for anything.
I wish I could reverse time, and go back to that play audition.
Because I would love to look that person in the eyes, and say, “Yes. I am one of those people. Those people who learn for their own benefit, develop their passions, adapt and grow, and are freaking awesome. Rock on.”