Homeschool Alumni Interview: "My parents completely neglected my education"
I am a 23-year-old woman. I live with my parents and two younger brothers, who are 21 and 19. We are all Independent Baptists, both by the way we were raised and by choice. We’re a middle-class family, living in the Virginia suburbs outside of Washington D.C.My family began homeschooling my brothers and I when I finished 5th grade, age 10. My brothers were in 3rd and 1st, ages 8 and 6. We continued homeschooling until we all graduated.I am in my senior of college, neither of my brothers are in school. I attend a very small Baptist college, it was originally founded to prepare men to be pastors but it has expanded over the years to include an education program to train teachers. I am studying to be a secondary education major, focusing in English.
I am not and have never been employed. My middle brother works teaching children guitar, and helps our vocal teacher with voice lessons. My youngest brother works at a café, and is planning to a join the local volunteer firefighters.
Introductory Info About Your Homeschool
Reasons for homeschooling
Starting at kindergarten, my brothers and I all attended a private Christian school. When I was in the 5th grade, going on 6th, my father announced to my mother that we were going to homeschool next year. He had done a lot of research and made the decision before bringing it up to her. They then told us their plan. They hinted that they did not like something about our private school, and it seemed as though something had happened, perhaps a scandal in the high school, that influenced their decision. They never elaborated.
My parents attempted to create a classroom in miniature in our basement, complete with desks and a chalkboard. They quickly switched to unschooling. For my youngest brother’s last year of high school, they enrolled him in a homeschool co-op, which was exactly the same as a private school but it was held on a ranch, the teachers were parents, and they were not held to any normal standard.
My parents bought many books and programs, but they were never used.
Was homeschooling financially difficult on your family?
I have no idea.
Did you have the choice to attend another type of school?
No. I did not want to be homeschooled and tried to express my worry the first day the decision was announced, but I was told that this was simply what we were going to be doing now. I would occasionally bring up my concerns about the quality of my education over the years, but they were met with anger.
Do you think your parent/parents were qualified as educators?
They are very intelligent people, especially my father, but they had no idea what they were getting into and were in no equipped to be educators.
Take Us Through A Day In Your Life
There was no structure at all.
We slept when we wanted, played on the computers, with our toys, or outside all day. Occasionally we would accompany our mother to the grocery store.
All About Socialization
Did homeschooling set you up to be “well socialized?”
There were two distinct periods during my time as a homeschooled student. Shortly after we began homeschooling we distanced ourselves from our church (it was connected with our private school) and simply stopped going entirely. We met with a homeschool social group once a month, where all the children would give little recitals, or recite poetry, and there would be a lunch. I had always been shy so I did not do much socialization at these events. There were also no girls my age at these events. My other also hosted a little play date with two to three other homeschool families at our house once week. Some of the girls there were closer to my age, just far enough part to make a difference to a child, so they preferred the company of my brothers. There were also no girls my age in my neighborhood.
My brothers got quite a lot of socialization from the neighborhood boys and the weekly meetings, but from the age of 12 to 17 I was completely alone. I rarely left the house and had practically no friends. The single friend I did have was a girl I met at a homeschool picnic, but she lived just far enough away that we could not meet regularly. We emailed daily, and had a sleepover every few weeks or months, but aside from that I had no contact with anyone my age. I was completely isolated.
When I was 17, my mother discovered a homeschool theater group and enrolled my brothers and I in it. We were very reluctant but didn’t have a choice. For three days a week we were in a large studio with dozens of other children and teens. I had severe social anxiety, so during the first play I was miserable and did not speak to anyone if I could help it. After the first play, we began taking voice lessons, then returned to do a second play. I had gained a great deal of confidence this time, was much more comfortable talking to people, and even got a decent part in the show. Still, I did not really consider anyone there to be close friends, though I did develop a crush on one of the boys. We did a third show, and then I was too old to continue as I had ‘graduated’ high school. I was much more socialized but still had few friends.
Did you ever feel "weird" or "out of place?"
I never felt out of place because I only socialized with other homeschoolers.
When I was 17 we became involved in theater, and later singing. I enjoyed these a great deal.
I was always a shy and introverted child, even when I attended private school. However, then I was constantly surrounded by people my age, and developed several friendships. After being homeschooled I was totally isolated in my home. There was simply no one around who would be eligible to be friends with. Even when they were, such as in the theater group, I felt disconnected to people and did not how to be friends with someone. It was alien to me. My only friendship was primarily an online one, where we corresponded exclusively through emails and PMs, even though we met personally and occasionally visited.
Even now, I am much more comfortable forming friendships through a computer. I am socially competent and a confidence person now, but I don’t really know how to form or maintain a real friendship, especially with other women.
Society & Family
So far, I've never felt as though I've had to deal with ‘judgement’ from society about being homeschooled.
Did you dread being asked “what school do you go to?”
No. I dreaded being asked what grade I was in, because I didn’t know. I dreaded being asked what curriculum we used, because we didn’t use any. I didn’t mind telling people I was homeschooled, that part made me feel unique in a way. I did not like people asking detailed questions, because I usually had to lie.
What did your extended family think of the decision to homeschool?
My father’s parents did not react well to the idea, but they weren’t unsupportive. My mother’s family did not interact with us much, and did not really care.
For fun, what is the dumbest question anyone asked you about homeschooling?
I don’t really remember. Perhaps asking if we have prom in our living room. (I never got to go to any prom, but my brother were able to attend a homeschool prom with our theater group.)
Key Insights & Invaluable Knowledge
This section is going to be a lot of quick, key points that are especially designed for homeschool parents to use as "takeaways" from your experience.
The best parts
Best parts about your homeschooling experience: I had a lot of free time to read and play video games.
Opportunities you wouldn’t have had in public school: None whatsoever.
The worst parts
Worst aspects of being homeschooled: I did not receive any kind of education. I’m not even sure if I have a highschool diploma, though I remember submitting SAT tests.
How did homeschooling limit you?
My parents completely neglected my education. I am awful at math, it has taken years for me to catch up on what everyone else knows about history, I want to be an English teacher but there are a lot of basic concepts of grammar that I just don’t know or can’t understand. It limited my choices of college. The one I attend is technically accredited, but it is not enough for me to get a job teaching in a public school in my state.
What did you miss by not attending school? An education.
Do you think homeschoolers have less exposure to new experiences, ideas, and fields of study? Sometimes. No family is alike. Some homeschoolers will have wonderful opportunities, some will have none.
Focusing at home
I had nothing to focus on. Now that I am in college I have difficulty focusing and keeping on track. When I was in kindergarten the teacher wanted to have me tested for ADD, but my parents refused. I wouldn’t be surprised if I do have it.
Did you ever cheat?
When we would do the end-of-year tests I was very good at everything but math. My father would walk me through each problem until he had essentially done it for me. My brothers could barely read until they were teenagers, so my parents no doubt cheated on their standardized tests for them.
Transport back in time and give advice to mom/dad before starting homeschool
I honestly don’t know what I could tell that would convince them not homeschool me. They don’t generally believe they are wrong about anything.
I would try, though.
Best pieces of advice/tips for other homeschool parents?
Take a cold, hard look at yourself and be honest about if you can actually do it. If you have the willpower, the motivation, the skill, the knowledge. Because you probably don’t.
Pieces of advice for homeschool students?
Take initiative. It shouldn’t be your job to teach yourself, but you might have to.
Some of your "favorites"
Favorite high school homeschool book
I read a lot on my volition, and that started when I was still in private school. The Eragon series, Wuthering Heights, the Redwall series, and a few others stand out as favorites.
Favorite book from your early years
I was obsessed with Redwall.
Favorite curriculum or course?
I never went through one.
Anything to stay away from?
I wouldn’t know.
Is there a subject you were glad you could tackle as a homeschooler?
Creative writing. I was able to research it on my own based on what interested me, and I learned a lot.
Anything you would highly recommend to a homeschool parent?
Just teach your kids. Please.
Did religion tie into your education and curriculum?
My family is Baptist. I believe my parent’s motivation for homeschooling us was primarily in the interest of our academic success. There were plenty of good Christian schools available to them.
The relationship between religion and education
In general, religion can be a good thing. It can motivate students to learn about the world God has created and hone their skills to the best they can be in order to glorify God. In homeschooling, they are far too closely intertwined.
Do you think that your parent’s religious beliefs were forced upon you?
Yes, but they also wanted to make sure I knew why they believed these things and I came to my own decisions to also believe in them.
Homeschooling’s Impact On You
Yes, I do think I was “sheltered?”
Did homeschooling help you become a lifelong learner?
Maybe. If I want to know something I’ll look it up. But I’m not very good at paying attention to lectures.
If you could do it over again, would you pick homeschooling?
Will you homeschool your children?
Most likely not. I feel I would be far better equipped than my parents are, because I am actually training to be an educator. But I would rather not.
What was the most formative/impactful thing about homeschooling?
At the time it was nice being able to do nothing but play video games and sleep in.
So homeschooling gave you more free time?
Too much free time.
Let's talk about life directly after graduation, college.
Did homeschooling prepare you for college, academically?
Not in the least. I was terrified of college, even as a child.
Looking back, would you do anything differently to better prepare yourself academically?
I would actually get an education.
The college search as a homeschooler
I did online research of a few different colleges, but figured there was no I would be able to get in. I was also afraid of leaving home and living in a dorm. My pastor recommended I apply to the small Baptist college he founded with two other pastors. Their only requirement was that I was a Christian, so that’s the one my parents and I picked.
What was the application process like?
Very short. I don’t remember if I had to provide a high school diploma. I had to write my statement of faith/Christian testimony, and list a few people the school could talk to as references. That’s it.
Any schools to stay away from as a homeschooler / apply to as a homeschooler?
Please, please, please, make sure your school is accredited and will actually count for something in the real world.
How should homeschoolers prepare when they reach their last few years of high school?
I really have no idea, I have no experience there.
An Open Platform: Your Final Thoughts
This is your opportunity to voice anything else you wish to say:
I am frustrated. I am angry. My parents neglected my brothers and I but still believe they did a wonderful job. My youngest brother couldn’t even read until he was 17. I will be getting a practically useless college degree, and neither of them have the intention of going to college, and honestly I don’t believe they would even be able to if they wanted. So many times as a child I tried to confront my parents about their neglect, and I was yelled at. My mother blamed me for not teaching myself, when I was 12. She doesn’t understand why all of my friends are online, after spending my entire teenage years in almost total isolation. They didn’t have the decency to teach me how to drive, and at 23 I have to harass them into helping me sign up for a driver’s ed program.
I feel lucky that my life isn’t worse. But if they had just swallowed their pride and admitted they were too lazy and incompetent to teach me, none of this would have happened.