I recently got asked the question, “Do you think that you benefited from being homeschooled versus going to public school?” I get asked this question relatively frequently. Usually my answer will vary depending my mood that day. I’ve thought about the question but I’ve never given anyone a direct answer of how I believe homeschooling has affected my life. Therefore, I will flesh out my thoughts on the subject here for the benefit of both myself and anyone who has asked this question.
I’m often entertained when people find out about my educational background because their reaction is always based on either a stereotype of the subculture or personal experience with homeschooling in some way. One time, in middle school, when a tutor of mine happened to see me at my diving class, she pointed me out to the girl to whom she was currently giving a math lesson. She told me, later, that her student looked up in wide-eyed excitement and said, “She’s homeschooled! Where? Can she talk?” Growing up I would sometimes feel the need to defend myself or disprove these stereotypes of social inadequacy. After all, one of the big arguments against homeschooling is that, children kept at home won’t develop the social skills that they need from interacting with their peers. Now that I am an adult, I can take a more objective look at the development of my social life up to this point in relation to the stereotypical belief. It’s true, I was a little bit more awkward than the average kid, and I was quiet most of the time. I would get social anxiety in a room of people. However, when I went into public high school I found myself able to adjust surprisingly quickly and relatively easily. When my brothers followed me into public school from homeschool, they assimilated even quicker and more easily than I did. This leads me to believe that any social deficiency others may have seen in me can be attributed more to my introverted personality rather than my more isolated form of school. That doesn’t mean that I don’t sometimes wonder at what I would be like if I had gone to school from pre-k on, instead of starting sophomore year of high school. I do wonder if the challenge of being surrounded by large groups of peers at an earlier age would have brought me out of my shell sooner. In the end, though, it doesn’t really matter because what’s done is done and I will never know what could have been. What I do know is that being homeschooled with my three brothers and our best friends across the street is the kind of social group I would choose over a hundred acquaintances any day. The eight of us spent our childhood building forts and listening to our moms read to us out loud. Warm sunny days were filled with spontaneous hiking trips. Cold rainy days were filled with fresh chocolate chip cookies and reading parties. Somedays, if we were lucky, math would be measuring ingredients to bake and history would be watching the history channel while eating mac ‘n cheese. When I entered Reagan my days became routine, rain or shine. I was surrounded by disenchanted faculty and insecure, judgmental classmates. Not to say that it was all bad, just relatively speaking.
Another issue that is brought up when I compare my homeschool life to my public school life is the question of the quality of my education. One day sophomore year of high school, as we were wrapping up a chemistry experiment in 4th period, my lab partners and I struck up a conversation. It somehow came about that I had just come from being homeschooled the previous school year. One of guys at my table let out a small gasp and exclaimed, “But you’re actually smart.” I don’t have any concern about my intellect. Aside from some developed test anxiety, I’ve done just fine in my studies. I do believe that I would have better test taking skills if I had gone to public school earlier because they are so geared towards teaching you how you’re going to be tested on the material. However, I’m adapting and am successful on the majority of the tests I take. On the other hand though, I think I would have learned and retained my high school material better if I had learned it as a homeschooler because the smaller learning environment combined with helpful tutors was much more engaging for a kinesthetic learner like myself. In addition, there would have been less distractions such as social gossip or the encouragement to cheat on exams because ‘the work wasn’t worth it for information we would never use again.’ Nobody wants to sit behind a desk all day and listen to topics that don’t seem to be relevant to life currently. High school wasn’t very learning conducive, but I did get a critical lesson in leadership from student council. That’s something.
So those are the two forefront arguments that pop into play when considering the pros and cons of being homeschooled. I know there are others, but I don’t really care about them enough to write about them. You may have already inferred from what I have written that the simple answer to the question being discussed is, yes. I do believe I benefited from being homeschooled versus being sent to a public school. The reason I benefited from homeschool though is neither from the care free childhood nor the more engaging learning environment. In all honesty, I probably would have turned out very similar having gone to public school. I’ve met people with similar personality and interests who have come from the public school system. I’ve also met people drastically different from me who have come from a homeschool background. It comes down to the age old question of ‘nature versus nurture,’ which can not be definitively answered beyond subjective conjecture based on one’s background, in my case the homeschooled background. The real reason I believe I benefited from homeschool is because of my parents.
Although my dad is one of the hardest working men I know, he has never put work before his family. He is known in his company as the man who is completely devoted to his wife and children. He has established himself firmly as our cornerstone and he carries out this job with boundless grace and mercy. I never once doubted that my dad loved me growing up. He would regularly play king of the couch and Tiger Woods Golf on the PS2 with me and my brothers. He was the coach of pretty much every single YMCA sports team we were on, and, with multiple kids, that meant multiple sports teams at the same time while still being fully focused on his career. He did it willingly with joy. I don’t even think he had played more than a few matches of volleyball when I signed up for it, but he coached my team anyway. It gave me such pride to see my dad leading my team. When I was really little my dad would brush out my hair every single night before we went to bed. Every single night he would give us all a hug and say our bedtime prayers. During the day, he was able to work from home and would pop in to see how our studies were going when he took his breaks. As we grew, my dad worked tirelessly to ensure that we were all well provided for so my mom could continue teaching us without having a paying job. If he got offered a new position he would let it pass by if it didn’t benefit his family. If we needed help doing something, he would help us make it happen. He has always been there for anything we need. I have lost count of how many times I’ve called him during college because I was out of money or had another serious car issue. He has taught me what it means to have trust. He has taught me what it means to have patient mercy.
I don’t know from personal experience, but I’ve heard that being a mom is a lot harder than it seems from the outside. I believe it. Taking care of children is one of the most exhausting jobs I’ve ever had to do. Catering to their constant need to expel energy and test limits feels more like herding cats, and not the typical, tame house cats, more like a combination of kittens and cougars. My mother willingly stepped into this challenge as a 24/7/365 way of life. She forwent the eight hours of free time school would offer her each day because she wanted us to be brought up with good values in a fun environment filled with as much love as she could pour out on us. During the summer she would attend homeschool conferences and spend countless hours preparing to shoulder the responsibility of educating four children in four different grade levels. She sacrificed buying herself nice things so that we would have enough money for the books and sports at the local YMCA. She would give up the opportunity to meet friends so she could drive us to our sports practices and watch our games. And she did all this despite people around her telling her that it was a dumb idea and she was doing the wrong thing. You see, though, when I became old enough to go into school we were living in Louisiana at the time. Louisiana has had the lowest ranking public school system in the country for several years running. Feeling the need to ensure that we have a solid foundation of learning, and being a teacher herself, my mom decided to take up teaching us how to read, write, and do math until we moved to a better place for public schooling. However, when we did move the homeschooling was going so well and there was another homeschool family across the street from our new home. Not only that, but with homeschooling my parents realized that they had better control over the influences that would be shaping their children’s characters. So my mom kept homeschooling us, believing that God’s hand was in it. Over the years I watched her. As a little girl, I never really understood the full extent of her sacrifice, but I did see the affect that the stress had on her physically and emotionally. She started having chronic troubles with her back, and she would be exhausted more times than not. On bad days, sometimes, she would just sit and burst into tears. But even on the bad days she told us how much she loved us. She never let a day go by without telling us that she loved us and she believed in us. She has sacrificed her life for twenty-two years solely to benefit me and my three younger brothers. I can honestly claim that everything I know was given to me by my mother, because she was the one to teach me how to learn. I can honestly claim that I have known true love because my mother has laid down her life for me.
There you have it. The true benefit of being homeschooled. The total love and devotion of two parents in a society filled with an increasing amount divorced parents who are relatively indifferent.