A Homeschooler’s Perspective
by: Aaron Ackerman
In the varied educational systems of the fifty states, there is one significant constant: homeschool is growing. Due to its increasing relevance as an alternative form of education in modern day society, many parents and educators are attempting to learn more of this classic, yet often misunderstood, method. This is a story of my homeschool experience and how it benefited me.
Having been homeschooled up to high school, I can say without a doubt that homeschool requires a high level of effort, particularly from the parents of the student. First of all, few students, however intelligent, can simply find books on the necessary subjects and glean information from them, especially at a younger age. I personally tried to hide my grammar book several times to keep from doing the school work. For homeschool to be a success, parents must be willing to guide the student and provide him or her with explanations of the material. To help them, multiple publishers and companies offer detailed homeschool curricula that contain instructions on the rate at which work should be done. If the child still seems to be unable to establish any structure to learning, he or she can enter into homeschool co-ops, a locally established system by which homeschoolers can, in a classroom environment, meet together and learn certain subjects.
One significant challenge to homeschool families is that parents can teach only what they know. I once wasted a long time during my geometry lessons trying to explain to my dad that a square was actually a form of a rectangle. Yeah, that got ugly, he must have thought that it was that new, left-wing “liberal” math (this happened in Texas). As the homeschooler reaches higher grade levels , it becomes more and more difficult for the parent-teacher to explain the curriculum. For this reason, parents who do not have the necessary levels of education sometimes find it necessary to homeschool only up to high school, then send their children to a public or private school. All three of my siblings used this method. Others meet the challenge by hiring tutors or engaging in online classes such as Khan Academy. There are occasions that the child is so self-disciplined in learning that he or she is able to comprehensively review the material with little or no parental guidance. Still, trust me when I say teaching yourself physics is one of the most painful things you can do. However short the time it lasts, homeschool remains a viable option, if the parents are willing to give the effort.
Perhaps one of the greatest concerns that many people have expressed to me is the worry that homeschoolers will become un-socialized recluses. The danger of reclusiveness will, of course, always be present. After all, all you have to do to find some goth or emo dudes is simply walk the corridors of your local high school. However, homeschool, is not un-socialized. In many areas, there are local homeschool clubs and events. Homeschoolers can join their local homeschool basketball or football team and play against private schools and other homeschool teams. I was on a basketball team for several years in high school. Local chapters of respected organizations, such as 4-H (in which I did archery), can contain a healthy homeschool community, and homeschool co-ops are often an option. Nevertheless, prospective homeschoolers should be aware that other avenues are closed to them.
More than a few state governments and public schools commit to punish homeschool families. In some states, homeschoolers are often barred from participating in sports teams at public schools, entering into any form of competition with public schools, or simply joining clubs in public schools. However, homeschool socialization has an attraction for many families, for the simple fact that they have some control over the socialization of the student, what kind of people he/she meets, and where the meeting occurs. I can’t generalize about every public school , but the first times I came into long-term contact with public school children I quickly discovered that there were words which I had never imagined to be. Parents may want some control to separate their child from a bad influence or trying to keep their kid from getting knifed in the restroom of the public school.
Of course, the most critical question when considering the homeschooling option is whether or not homeschool results in a quality education. There are many favorable statistics available for one who wishes to learn more. Naturally, there will be both nerds and jocks in homeschool. Some push it hard and graduate from college at 16 while others take it slowly as they’re practicing to be the next Michael Jordan. (By the way, don’t homeschool through high school if you want to play professional sports). Much of the success of any form of schooling relies on the student’s desire to learn. However, I can give a glimpse of the possibilities through my personal reflections. Homeschooling allows each person to work at his or her own rate. Having trouble with algebra? Take a little extra time during the summer so you actually learn the material. Is English grammar too easy? Then just speed through it, finish a few weeks before summer and focus on a different subject. No time is wasted in a classroom, listening to a boring teacher drone on.
I got a large portion of expensive college out of the way through online classes and dual-credit courses at a community college. Dual credit classes, for those who can handle higher-level coursework, provide an excellent preview of the classroom experience and make the transition into college much easier. So, how well does homeschooling prepare a student for college? SAT scores are what most colleges look at when accepting students. So as long as the parents are willing to make a transcript, the fact that they did homeschool for high school should not affect college admissions
My personal relationship with my parents is one of my favorite rewards from homeschooling. Of course, it’s tough. Like many, I have a struggle from time to time with other family members, but continuous parental involvement in the student’s education does much to positively influence a child’s character. .
The choice of curriculum by the parents serves to enhance the student’s learning experience, by choosing an education model over the indoctrination found in many schools today. The greatest advantage of homeschool is its simple objective, to learn the material. There are tests in homeschool, of course; but too many schools today focus merely on tests and deadlines, in which someone with a good head for guessing can graduate with low literacy and math skills. The personal aspect of homeschool keeps this from happening.
There is no such thing as a “best” form of schooling. The kind of methods and subjects of studying varies across countries, cultures, and individuals. Homeschool is not for every family and might not even be feasible in states that discriminate heavily against homeschoolers. Nevertheless, weighing the costs and benefits of homeschool, anyone can find large advantages to this ever growing movement. I know I did.
Aaron is 18 years old and a junior majoring in economics at Texas A&M College. He homeschooled in Texas and now lives in Alaska.