'Password' to Success? A Story of a Cheating Homeschooler

How knowing my parents’ online habits scored me an easy homeschool "A"
By A.M. Ridgeway, on April 3, 2017 - In Their Words

True Story of a Homeschool Student who cheated

Being home-schooled has its advantages and disadvantages.

The advantage for me was that I was constantly alone while working, including without oversight from my teachers -- who in this case, were my parents. My mother was working, and though my father was a disabled “stay at home dad,” he was never awake when I was doing my school work. My school work was done through a computer program, long before it became in vogue to use the internet or computer for home-schooling purposes.

My Digital Homeschool Curriculum

To prevent the risk of viruses or “me looking up the answers for my tests,” I didn’t have internet attached to my computer. The program I used was fairly simple for both student and teacher with the teacher panel being able to change my grades, check my work, and ensure my progress. It was password protected, to ensure I couldn’t use any of the features.

For the student portion, along with the lessons, came hints for teachers to use to help me -- such as eliminating a wrong answer, or just showing the answer.

It was simple enough. I didn’t think anything about those options. I was horrible at math and my mom would tutor me when she wasn’t working, and to confirm her answers she would make use of the “show answer” option in the program.

I never thought anything about these options and I just did my work as I would. But around my second year in high school, I really began struggling. Math was growing more and more difficult between a learning disability that my parents refused to acknowledge me having, and the fact my mother wasn’t around to help.

I had found that over the years, my dad’s code for “the usual” when Mother asked the password for my schooling program was the password he would generally use online for emails and other web accounts. It was, as a general rule, mother’s first name and her birth month and day. If it wasn’t that combination of numbers, it was our zip code.

For the hell of it, on a test that I really couldn’t get any wrong answers on, I tried “the usual” on the option to give me a hint. Surprisingly enough, it worked.

So I decided to test this a bit more and try for the full answer. Just one wouldn’t hurt, right?

But then one became two, and the two multiplied to four, and soon it was the whole test. Then the whole unit of study.

Before I knew it, my grades in math were wonderful again. My parents never checked my grades anymore because they had full faith in me that I was doing a good job and would come to them if I needed help (a very untrue statement, as I was made to feel shame if I did actually require assistance). So, I was free to cheat all I wanted.

I at least made sure to get a few answers wrong to average my grades out so it wasn’t too suspicious that I was suddenly going from C averages to high As. I would accidentally forget to finish an answer (which counted it as wrong), or forget a number and only type x or y.

I finished out my junior year of math with an 87, which was good enough for my parents.

My Senior Year

When my senior year rolled around, I stopped caring about school entirely. Science was my most hated subject and math was only getting harder. I also was being forced to study religion, even though I was no longer religious (my family was not aware however). However, I promised myself I wouldn’t go down the same path I had before with my last year of school, even though it was so horribly tempting just to get my school work done faster and easier.

My schoolwork still wasn’t being checked, even though it was my last year.

But I broke my own promise. I decided that a little bit more cheating would save me sanity in the long run.

Initially, it was only for math, but soon after, I added science. I never needed the assistance elsewhere since my other core subjects were simply reviews of years past.

I continued to make sure I made it inconspicuous, getting answers wrong, misspelling words or forgetting answers entirely. My parents knew I was a clumsy typer and would just excuse it.

Cheating in Public School vs Cheating in Homeschool

So, what’s the big deal? Everyone’s cheated in public school. No reason for it to be different just because I had no classmates, right?

Besides, I’m surely not the first or last kid who has ever cheated while home-schooled. If parents aren’t watching their notes carefully, or looking at their child’s progress, who knows what they could access and find out?

To this day, my parents still don’t know that this is how I managed my last two years of school. And as long as they don’t look up my name and find this article, they’ll continue to be in the dark.

The fact that I was able to get away with so much while I did my schoolwork is horrible. Had I been in public school, I would’ve had the help I needed and likely wouldn’t have felt so lost when it came to math.

My Advice to Homeschool Parents

Do I regret what I did? Maybe.

I can’t really remember much of those last two years of math or the last year of science, but I do know I wouldn’t have been able to do it on my own. Mounting anxiety from my parents would have just made me feel bad about asking for help. I saw doing what I did as my only way out of school and managing to graduate in the time I did.

Although being alone, or left to doing schoolwork on your own can be an advantage, it definitely can come at its prices if your child is savvy enough to find their way around things. So parents, I urge you that if you ever decide to home-school, make sure you are giving your children the attention that they require. Make sure you do not, under any circumstance, make them feel guilty for needing help. Make sure to watch for signs of cheating or general tomfoolery as well, and make sure that you keep a close eye on how you handle learning materials. Certain states come down VERY heavily on homeschoolers, so make sure you’re on top of your A game -- both figuratively and literally.

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About the author: A.M. Ridgeway

A.M. Ridgeway is a Philadelphia-based writer who was born and raised in the dirty, dirty South. When she's not writing young adult romance (her preferred genre), she's working serving fine foods to fine people in Center City, or complaining about the lack of sweet tea in the North.