Sunday, December 10, 2006

My experience home schooling

I was home schooled as a child.  Many people have asked about my experience, especially about the "social life" that I may or may not have had.  In this post I share my personal experience, and discuss interesting topics such as my social life and why I feel that home schooling can be a great thing for kids, depending on where you live and your situation.

A brief sketch

I was home schooled from when I started school till I enrolled in high school as a Junior.  After just one year of high school I left (technically making me a high school dropout) to take a few classes at a community college for a semester before attending Brigham Young University, and later graduated with honors and magna *** laude with a B.S. in Information Technology.  My older sisters had a very similar path, except that one sister didn't do high school at all on the way to BYU.  Not graduating from high school was no problem, as the university we attended had procedures for considering home schooling applicants who have no transcript from a high school.  I have three younger brothers and a younger sister, and all old enough have begun their BYU experience.

Likes

Being home so much with my six siblings gave me the chance to become best friends with them.  Yes we squabbled like most siblings do, but when we needed someone to talk to, the first place we turned was to each other. 

I was able to learn as much as my peers who attended public school, but in about half the time (3-5 hours of study per day and having no homework left to do after that).  I really liked that I could excel at my good subjects and take longer on my worse subjects without feeling belittled for the natural differences in each individual.  I found I especially liked math and science, which made it possible for me to take AP Calculus BC (and get a 5 on the AP exam) and AP Physics in my one year of high school. 

I gained a self-study habit that has benefited me greatly.  Rather than being dependent on the teacher to expound a specific discipline to me, I could read it out of a book and get about as much or more out of it than the lecture.  I carried this with me to college and read the books before lectures and found even the most challenging courses easier than most of my peers. 

I appreciated not being exposed to the filth, drugs, sex, language, bad influences and dangers of the public schooling system.  Plenty of my peers tried to tell me that that part of life will get you sooner or later and it's an important part of growing up to have to face it.  My feeling then and now is that yes, they will confront you sooner or later.  I'd just as soon take it later.  I prefer the indoctrination of family values I received at home while I'm young, so that I had that foundation to keep me solid when I left for the "real world".  It has served me well.  Absolutely no regrets there.

Dislikes

Some subjects are best done in larger group settings and/or in a lab.  Chemistry is one example.  It's hard to have a chemistry lab at home.  My parents bought us a chemistry lab "kit", but I don't think we ever opened it.

There were a couple of other subjects that were pretty undeveloped for me.  Geography is a very poor subject for me.  History is patchy, being pretty solid in a few areas with large holes in others.  Oh, and sports.  Well none of my family are very athletically-inclined.  We're not unhealthy, but we never did get much into sports.  These areas I lacked are my own fault, but my suggestion to future home schooling parents is to be firm when getting your child to study areas that aren't his/her forte.  It's ok to be slower in those areas, but don't let those areas be neglected entirely.

Once I got to my advanced math courses, my mom could no longer help me.  This caused no small aggravation to myself when I would be reading a chapter on a difficult new concept.  Sometimes I would get stuck on a problem and bang my head against the table (metaphorically speaking -- usually) for days just on the one problem before understanding dawned.  I'm glad I was in high school to learn calculus.  That would have been killer. 

I loved my one year of high school.  It truly was the most fun year of my life to that point.  I wonder how many more of those great experiences I would have had if I had been public schooled my whole life.

Discussion

My mom was not an expert in every subject, but where she was not an expert she would bring in excellent books and would either teach us out of them or give them to us to read and teach ourselves.  Sometimes, like in my advanced math courses, I would essentially administer my own tests, grade them and then learn from my mistakes and do better next time.  A bad idea?  Maybe for some kids.  It worked for me.  My AP, SAT and ACT test scores prove it. 

Sports

In some states, I'm told, public schools allow home schoolers to participate in extra-curricular activities like sports teams.  California in particular seems to snub home schoolers and we were not invited to join the local public school with one foot in home schooling and one in public schooling.

Social life

This topic is really deserving of its own post, as I have lots to say here.  Did I have a social life as a home schooler?  Yes, certainly.  As much of one as a public schooler?  Of course not.  Most of my socializing actually came through my church, with daily early morning seminary and 3+ hours of Sunday worship services.  Plenty of peers to interact with daily. 

Since home schooling and social misfits are often paired together in people's minds, I wanted to do an experiment (being the scientist at heart that I am).  I figured that if I was a social misfit and didn't know it, I didn't want to socially blow it at the start of my 4-year university career.  That's one reason I decided to go to high school for a year before going to college.  I could get my feet wet in the social setting that everyone had been telling me I was missing and see how I faired.  Well, I did quite well, I think.  I joined the audition choir, loved the people I sang with, joined a couple of other clubs, and had lots of friends who I miss dearly.  I enjoyed high school so much, in fact, that I decided to stay for a second year.  My parents would not let me though, reminding me that since I had already taken senior level classes I really would not be furthering my education by staying.  So off to college I went.

I will post separately on my theory of correlation vs. causation of home schooling and social misfits later.

Workload for Mom

Assuming a bread-winning father, the mother is the one who carries the bulk of the burden of home schooling her children.  It takes a great deal of determination (and therefore some solid reasons for choosing to home school in the first place) to enable a mother to see it through.  So much time, sweat, and yes even tears.  I honor my mother for the incredible effort she went to for what we both believe was giving me the best education possible.

Money

If only the government would give tax rebates for home schooling your own kids... the public schools sure get a nice amount for each enrolled kid.  It only seems fair that since home schooling families pay the same amount of taxes as the public schooled ones that the home schoolers get the money that the public schools would have received. 

That money would help offset the cost of textbooks and other school supplies that now must be incurred by the family instead of the school.  Well, at least home schooling gets you a really small classroom and a lot of one-on-one attention from the teacher.  And no one every steals your lunch.

Summary

To wrap up, I am very grateful my parents for choosing to home school me.  Now that I live in Washington, I want to find out the laws regarding home schooled kids taking part in some classes and/or sports offered by a nearby public school.  I also want to investigate the quality of those classes and schools.  Ultimately my wife must have the veto power over the choice to home school since it will require so much sacrifice on her part. 

I would love for my kids to be home schooled.  But I don't think that it is the only way to go.  I have plenty of very good and smart friends who were public schooled.  It depends on what the parents can do and the school environment in which you live. 

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