Many people are shocked when they discover that I was homeschooled, but not because it’s too difficult to believe. Instead, I’ve found that most people in SoCal are rather uniformed about the topic in general. Whereas in Raliegh, North Carolina, where I grew up, it’s a rather prominent thing. In fact, it’s more of a stereotype than anything else over there.
However, I think there are a few things to clear up regarding the topic in general. To be homeschooled, or schooled at home is exactly what it sounds like. My parents undertook the responsibility to go beyond raising me and my three younger siblings physically, and also raise us academically. I admire their dedication, to be honest. Every homeschooling family is a little bit different, but there are certain requirements that every family must adhere to. I never got too deep into the legalities, but I knew what my parents were insistent on.
- One hundred eighty days: Somehow, someway, my parents had to record 180 days of school for each of my twelve school years. Now, some of these days could be field trips with papers written about them, or some good old fashioned “home-ec,” also known as cleaning the house and taking care of the kids. This sounds pretty simple, but when you include the regular interruptions of life, it can be rather difficult to retain enough discipline to accomplish this.
- Finish the Curriculums: I’m not sure how it works in school, but we had to purchase new curriculums every year for each individual subject. As I got older, I played a large part in choosing which curriculums I liked most, and once I reached high school, it was almost entirely my choice. However, when summer was on the horizon, it almost always became a scramble to get to the last page of each curriculum. In grade school, finishing was less important than it was in high school, but there was indeed a beautiful feeling that came with closing the very last page of those old Saxon Math books.
- Pass the Test: At the end of every school year, we had to take an assessment test to see what grade we fell under. A few times, this was done with a group of other homeschoolers; but in high school, we mostly went to a woman who was a schoolteacher at a nearby high school to take the test. Since there is less importance placed on your grade, I usually took the test without studying, to honestly see where I was, despite the instructions I was given to study. I was often surprised to find that I almost always tested out of my grade.
Academically, there are several advantages to homeschooling. I had the opportunity to pursue whatever topics interested me the most instead of being swamped by Common Core. Because of this, I pursued reading at college levels from the age of 10, and my sister and I delved deep into different sciences and the studies of marine biology. I quickly learned how to teach myself, and as I reached 8th grade, my parents rarely sat down to teach me anything. My regular school day consisted of reading the textbooks and answering the questions so that I could go do what I wanted to by noon if I woke up early enough. Also, there was no such thing as a bad grade. By this, I don’t mean that my mom marked 100% on every paper. Instead, if I missed a problem, school wasn’t over until I correctly answered every single one.
Socially, there are ups and downs to homeschooling. In grade school, my parents actually worked full time at a summer camp, so I was constantly surrounded by kids of all ages. We had several supplement classes and I was always involved in at least three different sports. When we left, however, it became more of a challenge to keep up friendships. Through this, I became more introverted and clung to a select group of friends. It gave me a closed outlook on life that I had to overcome on my own, but I also became much more decisive than my friends who did go to a traditional school. Almost all of my friendships were based on a mutual choice instead of circumstance, so they went much deeper, forcing me to learn how to communicate better. However, I was very much outside of every social loop that existed. Trends and social media were foreign concepts until I was 18 and out of the house. This made for an interesting adventure as I started life on my own, but I really enjoy the unique outlook it gave me.
As a homeschool graduate, I can say that there are many benefits to homeschooling, but also many challenges. I wouldn’t say that it’s for everyone, but there are many things I am grateful for. Homeschooling really shaped my life in a particular way, just as each of our experiences set up a foundation for the rest of our lives. If you’ve never met a homeschooler before, I hope you’ve learned something new. We aren’t necessarily aliens, but we aren’t exactly normal either.